Day 3: FALL

(A Schmoth)

As I walk to my internship in the DC morning, there are no leaves. There are no colors turning around me. The Golden Triangle cleanup crews handle that quickly. I do not smell apples or pancakes or hear crunching leaves underneath my feet.

I smell coming rain, and the euphoria and dejection following an election, and cars. I hear cable news, the news I had long rejected, blaring from every screen. This city sleeps, but only because its maddened with self-referential power when it wakes.

There are few nods, few handshakes, few acknowledgments. But still I sing of the modern city, for even where I do not see Joy, He is there.


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DAY 1: Yogato

DC is both cold and clear, two things my SoCal youth lacks. Ambling down 17th, I was as dark and cold as the night around me – justice denied, reconstruction stopped, fear and hatred and unhappiness trumping sanity.

Walking down into the yogurt shop, I saw joy – smiling figures from my past and new faces, dressed in the muted but charming style I’d come to expect from professional twentysomethings in the frozen East. Karaoke, trivia, and sweet white chocolate goodness melted into a ridiculous self-forgetfulness about politics and power and the future – even in the roiling heart of the furnace.

Thanks for texting me, J.

PS: Props to the Giants; it’s good to see San Francisco guaranteed at least one win this year.

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Day 55

Dear Audrey,

I hope that this letter finds you well and that a steady diet of Thai food hasn’t impinged on your health. Not that I fear it would – I’m Indonesian, after all; I knock back satay and peanut sauce with the best of them. You’re from Morro Bay, though – I don’t know how “your people” can handle hot foods.

I’m joking, of course; I really miss your mom’s habanero-apricot jam. I miss you more, though. I got your postcard and the monks on the front tickled me pink (you would send me a postcard with monks on it.)

DC is a lovely town. I wasn’t too fond of it at first, but it grows on you. The Library of Congress was my primary selling point; you know me and books (and there’s something charming about all the alabaster and marble in that part of town.)

Apartment life is good, though it brings out the worst in me – oversleeping, laziness, insomnia, and the like. I’m adapting, and I’m sure I’ll be fine before my research paper begins to press on me.

Which reminds me, class + work = intense. I don’t know if it’s my usual mid-quarter nerves kicking in or if it’s the electricity in the air inside the Beltway, but I find myself more stressed and more nervous every day. Or maybe it’s the overloading I’m prone to – paper, internship, elective, organizing (all unpaid, of course!) and the part-time job I’m scrambling to find. Or the other loan I have to take out. Or the way my money keeps disappearing. Or something else. It happens.

Still, it’s great to be here; it’s a really affirming and challenging place to be and it reminds me where I’m planning to do. No life-changing stuff, yet, but it’s a good place to be, though I miss you (and the whole LA crew) terribly.

Stay safe – nd mark your calendar. December 11th. Be good.



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Day 42: Handyman

Dear God,

I need a new iPod. And a fresh set of perspectives.

It’s mystifying what distance, a couple refreshing hours, and some music do to a situation.

Forgive me for losing it. Bless you for finding it. Keep me right.

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Day 41:

I regret nothing after meeting you. I was in a place of despair and I found a letter. A letter found a bus. A bus found you. I found purpose, again.

And purpose brings me here, to a Fresno-sized swamp that plays at being Rome, where I sleepwalk through sharp-elbowed yuppies running off cliffs.

Is there really any purpose to this? Writing is whistling into a tunnel with a train coming; organizing is arguing about the direction of a burning house.

Sometimes, I envy you for leaving so early. It’s a cruel decade facing us.

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To the students in 31 states and at 28 actions and at God knows how many campuses,

I will be going to class tomorrow. But I support what you are doing and I will contribute, where and when I can, to promoting accessible, affordable education for California, the US, and the world.

I hope all of you who can march do so. I hope all of you who can vote also do so – building power is even harder than planning actions, and let us not discount the ballot’s power for as long as we can wield it. Study your Senators, Governors, Representatives, state legislators, county board and municipal functionaries. Push them on their commitment to education, to schools, to students and teachers. Vote accordingly.

While rallies and public examples can certainly assist us (as Schwarzenegger’s prioritization of education after last November showed) we must vote to create a legislative majority that understands and responds to our needs and our pressure, from the State House to the White House.

So go to rallies. Go to teach-ins. Go to march-ins. If you feel you’d be better served in class, stay in class and start to organize your classmates.

But please, for your sake and mine, vote.

And don’t stop there. Maintain this frustration, this urgency, past November; the struggle for education is tied to the struggle for safe and healthy communities, for jobs, for life more abundantly in every situation.

Strike to defend education October 7th.

Vote to defend education November 2nd.

Work to defend education from this day forward.

We were taught that a better life begins with education. Give your self a chance for the former by demanding the latter.


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Day 35: SELF

When Sukaton considers roads he’s trod

From SoCal to the District’s alabaster

It seems the opposite of a disaster’s

What I have had, through fate, or luck, or God.

Though fate dictated that my native sod

Remain beyond, however tight my grasp or

In short, that no neighborhood be my master.

And so, from coast to coast my brood did plod.

Pennsylvania, California, home?

The Steelers and the Dodgers cast some hooks.

The Union and Republic stake their claim

But frankly, standing in between I roam.

My roots are people, teachers, friends, and books.

Perhaps my rootlessness there finds its blame.

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