Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Books I've been obessed with...

So, my grandfather died, and my car was hit by a truck, and the insurance companies are still giving me the run around, and I'm taking three classes, and working, and my comprehensive examinations are THIS WEEK, and what have I been doing?

I've been reading: non-academic pleasure reading. (Also, I cleaned the bedroom, which is way more impressive than it sounds).

So, what have I been reading?

David Weber's Honor Harrington series:

This is some seriously good hard science fiction with a distinctly militaristic bent. And awesome. Honor is a (female!) strong, capable warrior, who kicks ass, takes names, and has a treecat. Yep. The first novel On Basilisk Station is available free from the Baen Free Library, which I love more than bagels. And I really like bagels.

J.R. Ward's The Black Dagger Brotherhood series:

I lovingly refer to this as my vampire porn crack. Exceeding well written, this series could boil a river in midwinter. Yes, it is that hot. The female characters have minds of their own, and the new take on vampires (they are actually a separate species, and can only be sustained on the blood of the opposite sex of vampires) gives this paranormal romance an interesting twist. The series is not perfect (same sex attraction is not addressed until the most recent book, there is some gender role stereotyping, especially in the behavior of the male characters) but it is well worth the read. Start with the first book, Dark Lover.

Tamora Pierce's Alanna the Lioness series:

Man, I love these books. They are young adult books that I encountered in high school, and are excellently written, with one of my favorite female knights ever. Alanna doesn't want to go to a convent, and her twin brother, Thom doesn't want to become a knight. Instead they switch places, and Alanna becomes Alan, a page in training. Alanna has to work for her shield, both against her size, and against the Duke of Comte, who she distrusts with good reason. Plus, there is always the chance she could be discovered before she earns her shield, and be sent home in disgrace... Alanna's coming of age is documented with grace and bluntness, and watching her struggle with love is moving. I still want to be like Alanna when I grow up.

So, that's some of what I've been reading, for the past few weeks.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Prejudice and other unpleasant surprises

I was not expecting to be hit by a car. I was not expecting anything at the moment, I suppose. I was driving home, just making my way through one of those immense parking lots that sprawl in all directions, and are always mostly empty.

There was a line of cars parked in the fire lane, and I drove around them. As I did so, the truck pulled out, into the passenger side of the car. My neck was whipped around, and all I could do was utter the words " Oh no, not again." This was not the first car accident for me, and the specter of months in rehab for my already injured back and neck flashed through my head.

I pulled into a parking spot, afraid the truck that had hit me would just drive away. But no, the vehicle pulled up just a few spaces down from me. And that was when I noticed that the driver was Hispanic. It was only much later that I had a chance to think about the upwelling of anger and blame that came into my mind, visions of illegal drivers without insurance, angry men yelling at me, no one believing me. I was frightened, and shaken up, but all my fear and angry were directed at the poor man who had run into me. And, part of it was because he was Hispanic.

Typing this, I'm aware of how it sounds. It sounds awful. It doesn't sound like how I would like to think of myself. It sounds like racism.

But I, mindful of how I was treated the time I accidentally ran into a woman's car, was polite. I may have been a bit short, and insist on calling the insurance companies, as we stood there is the blazing sun, but I tried not to make what had happened worse.

I did the best I could.

The gentleman could not speak English, and my Spanish is almost nonexistent. His daughter translated for us both. There was no screaming, or recriminations. Mr. Martinez (not his real name, of course) was terribly polite, admitted it was his fault, and inquired into my health. He promised that he would pay for the damage out of pocket, if the insurance company would not cover it. We shook hands as we parted, and I continued my drive home.

As I drove, I began to think of how surprised I was at his actions and kindness to a complete stranger, who he may have sensed was upset with him. I found myself thinking that for a Hispanic - I caught myself. It was only then that I started to think about my instinctive reaction, anger, and fear. I cried, both from the events of the past hour, and from the realization that, despite a liberal background, and a host of classes on just this sort of thing in college, I was a racist.

I had made judgments about Mr. Martinez from the moment I saw him, and was amazed when they were proven wrong. I can't do much about my reaction then, but I owe Mr. Martinez an apology. And I owe it to myself to be aware of people as people, rather than react to their ethnic background.

So, now, in addition to my apology, a thank you: Thank you Mr Martinez, for being a wonderful person yesterday after you hit my car.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A memory

Setting: High School

His name was Robbie. The diminutive only made him seem casual, instead of young. He was not child-like, which (come to think of it) might have been part of the attraction. The corruption of innocents came later. He rode the bus home with me, just three stops from the last one, which was mine. I was always at the end of bus routes, it seemed.

He swaggered, and smoked, and had slightly unkempt hair he was forever pushing out of his eyes. We had nothing in common. Yet somehow, I conceived a lust for him. Perhaps is the was the classic air of the bad boy from an earlier day; a greaser, almost, with his muscle shirt, decidedly working class family, slick hair, and pounding music. He sat with his legs spread, and the outline of his cock would brush against the fabric. And I lusted after him.

I had a boyfriend, and had been having sex for almost a year. I wanted all the time, obsessively. I lusted after Robbie. I flirted with Robbie. Some days he would flirt back, and some days... nothing. Which might have been part of the fascination. I found adoration boring. But I wanted to be wanted.

I invited him over, while my mother was at work. He brought over a Metallica CD, played "no leaf clover". We kissed. He tasted of cigarettes, the cranberry juice I had offered, and sweat. Bitter. He touched me for a while, and then I sent him home. Three hours of late night phone calls later, and nothing was said about that night again.

I thought of Robbie today, a song on the radio sending me back to high school. I wonder where he is, what he is doing. But not enough to try to find out. The taste was bitter, and I didn't want more of it.