Sirenita Lake

Sirenita Lake
San Francisco, California,
November 04
I am married in a committed, open relationship that is the anchor of my life. I'm a former high school English teacher, former software technical writer, and graduate of the late, great public interest law school, New College of California School of Law. I'm now on permanent disability from conditions that have finally eased up enough for me to begin exploring the world, at least that part which I can access emotionally, with the recklessness of a teenager. An important part of my life remains my work as a counselor for tenants with legal problems. The rest of the time, I indulge in outrageous adventures in sex and love, which I occasionally write about.


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APRIL 26, 2012 7:12AM

My Absurd Arrest

Rate: 45 Flag

I came to, or woke up, or whatever I should call the process of becoming aware of my surroundings, in the Yavapai County Jail in Prescott, Arizona. At first I was confused, then I knew I was in jail. My chest tightened with fear. Why was I there?

I started crying, I don't know why. I'm not a big crier, and certainly not when I get busted for something. If I did something and got busted, my reaction was a kind of resigned defiance. I certainly would not cry as if someone were being mean to me. I'd been arrested four times before. Twice I was put in juvenile lock-up, once with a young girl who didn't seem scary at first, but told me she was there for attempted murder. She claimed it wasn't her, she just held her sister's wig and earrings during the knife fight. She was kind enough not to mock my truancy charge. 

I'd been locked up ten years earlier in adult jail for illegal hitchhiking. I was in a cell with six other women, one of whom was young and seemed respectable, another of whom was elderly and demented, while the other four were hard luck, alcoholic trailer trash who scared the shit out of me. I'd been arrested and released, not a moment too soon, at a college sit-in. My fellow protesters, aflluent white revolutionary youth, were workng my last nerve. Prescott was kind enough to lock me up all by myself, with no scary or tedious cellmates. 

But I started crying. It was a culmination. I had been flunked out of the local college nursing program, for reasons that could only have had to do with racism. They don't like my kind in Arizona. A black law school professor explained it to me (black people have always been kind to me in explaining my rare run-ins with racism, a problem I don't often deal with in the Bay Area). I was "Mexican" (I'm of Salvadoran descent, but the Arizonans of the time made no distinction) and I had a degree from Berkeley. I was the smartest person in my year. It was an affront to my white, fundamentalist instructors.

In spite of my straight A's, I managed to be kicked out on the basis a bad subjective evaluation. I had fought the decision in an academic appeal to the college, which consisted of my professors testifying to my failings. When it came my time to speak, it turned out I had no right to speak. Nurses at the local hospital wrote letters of support, and my English teacher--I took Shakespeare for fun--tried to wing it by presenting my case, since he, as a professor, was allowed to speak. But I had no chance at all. The decision was made that my inadequacies were vast and I had no business being in the program.

I had made a (to me, not the patient) fatal mistake. One mistake, in the last 10 minutes of the semester. We were required to be checked off on a list of hospital procedures. After adjusting drips, doing dressing changes, even performing a gastric lavage, I failed the task of handing a pill to my patient. As the semester wore on, the nursing instructor made herself extremely scarce. She blew me off when I asked to be checked off on procedures. She was setting me up to not complete my required procedure check-offs.

Fortunately, the RNs on the floor could also check you off. I went to them and they got to know me and were willing to help. I had dispensed medications under the supervision of the floor nurses many times, and never missed a step. But the school refused rather arbitrarily to allow me to be checked off on medications by the floor nurses. On the last day of the semester, after I had tried for weeks to get the nursing instructor  to check me off on medications, she finally agreed to watch me administer medications during the last 10 minutes of the semester. 

Though I'd done this many times under the supervision of the hospital nurses, this time, feeling pressured and nervous with the hostile instructor, I forgot to check my patient's arm band. In my defense, we only had one patient every week. I had checked his armband several times that day. But it was a routine step that you had to learn to do by rote, even if the patient was as familiar as your brother by then.  

While this was a required step, the teaching staff routinely overlooked this oversight if the student was able to identify the mistake. I'd seen that happen. The instructor would say, "Did you forget something?" "Oh, yeah, the armband." Pass. Except that one time. Several students, shocked that this happened to me, wrote letters to the academic committee saying that they had passed that procedure in spite of not checking the bracelet. In fact, if a student really screwed up medications, they got a do-over. Except me. 

It was something about me. I realized the ultra-conservative, evangelical nurses of the school did not like anything about the annoying Latina from the Sodom and Gomorrah town of San Francisco. I was told not to ask questions in class. I was accused of "flirting" with a friendly patient (Latinas are over-sexed), when what I was doing was going over his rehabilitation history for my semester clinical report. I wrote a killer report, which the instructor never read. A student who flunked his report, a requirement to pass the course, was given time to get help writing it and turn it in that summer.

I could not do anything right. When I advised a maternity patient that it was not a good idea to beat her 4-year-old with a stick (as instructed by the Bible) I also reported the conversation to the instructor. I said I did not think she was an abuser, but maybe some counseling would be helpful. My final evaluation concluded that I did not respect the patient's religion. When I asked if there was a known dangerous level of radiation (actually a conversation a couple of students took part in) that question made it to my clinical evaluation as "questions the authority of doctors to order tests." There was nothing innocuous or even laudable I did that was not recorded as a serious failing.

When the year started, there were quite a number of Indian, Latino and black people. At the end of the first semester, they were all out except for one smart, perky, white-sounding black woman who came into the program with a certain amount of clinical experience. I was supposed to flunk out the first semester, too, but I protested and forced them to re-write my evaluation. The second semester, they were ready for me. I simply wasn't going to pass the clinical evaluation, no matter what I did.

I would have gotten a devastating review no matter what, but I handed them a legitimate issue when I forgot to check the guy's armband. The fact that the requirement was not enforced, and that the hostile situation and last minute nature of the test made it impossible to repeat the procedure, did not mitigate the fact that I had forgotten that one step.

So I was feeling pretty worthless. I had tried to fight. I had even spoken to a young lawyer in town who was so outraged by the case that he offered to take it on contingency. I felt somewhat validated by his take on it, and by the level of support I got from nurses I worked with and fellow students. But ultimately, it was my fault. People like me, female, minority, unintentionally abrasive, not having a sense of my proper place, are not allowed to make mistakes. 

Other bad stuff was going on. The guy who I had moved to Arizona to be with had withdrawn from me, while at the same time playing on my guilt to pursuade me not to have other relationships. I gained 20 lbs from the stress. I drank every day. Three drinks were all I allowed myself on weekdays, but weekends were another story. Sometimes I went to one of the historic bars (mahogany bar brought by sailing ship around Tierra del Fuego!) on Whiskey Row. I would drink light beers out of caution, so I could drink steadily and stay in control.

I had already had one experience back home of getting a ride from a bar that ended in a high-speed police chase where I was seriously injured. I still wanted to drink but maybe with less excitement. When I wanted hard stuff, I had it at home. I don't remember being a whiskey drinker, but I do remember drinks with ice, so I must have been doing scotch, or possibly rum. Tim hated my drinking, and I figured he had a nerve, as miserable as he had made my life. 

I met this guy from around town, about my age, mellow, cheerful, not pushing any kind of relationship, just wanting to hang out. I knew Eddie for a very short time, as it turned out. Tim was on a rare out of town trip, and I was alone for the weekend. Eddie asked if I'd like to go to a brunch gathering with him, a regular Sunday thing at the home of his friends. There was food, and they served vodka and grapefruit juice.

Strangely enough, I was never wrong about a guy I trusted to keep his paws to himself. Still, guys got me in trouble other ways when alcohol was involved. I went to this party just to meet some new people, people not from nursing school who did not know of my lost battle and disgraceful expulsion from the school. The party was in a subdivision rather far from our rental, which was closer to town. I decided to take my own car and follow Eddie. I was cautious. If I didn't like the company, I could leave and not disturb Eddie. When we got there, the folks were indeed kind of boring, though I remember little of what was said. I was offered a vodka and grapefruit. I said, sure. I figured it was similar to a Bloody Mary, which I'd had at restaurants a few times. While I was not fond of early drinking, a vodka and juice drink was kind of a breakfast tradition. I would have just the one. 

I was handed a drink which tasted mainly of fruit juice, though I later learned it contained five shots of vodka. I like grapefruit juice. I found it refreshing. I drank it in about 10 minutes. By 20 minutes, I was feeling strange. I was drunk, but not like any other drunk I had ever experienced. I passed mellow, overtook tipsy, and reached the state of sick, dizzy intoxication within 20 minutes of walking in the door. Oh, I did not feel well at all.  I asked Eddie to take me home, as I did not think I could drive. He refused, saying he wanted to stay at the party. That was, I suppose, our deal, but I was in trouble and he left me to fend for myself. I excused myself, saying I wasn't feeling well and went out the door.

I saw my car in the street and left it there. I was fortunate in that, of all the delusions I was capable of when drinking, thinking I could drive was never one of them. My cars had to get used to being abandoned at other people's houses until I could sober up and reclaim them. I have no sense of direction, but I chose a direction and walked and walked. Somewhere along the route, I noticed that I was not carrying my purse. Could I have left it at the house? Could I have dropped it? I never got it back. At that moment though, I realized that I did not have a key and that Tim wasn't home. I didn't have a friend in that town that I would just drop in on. My last conscious thought before I woke up in jail was, "I'll just break a window." This is what my family did when we got locked out, broke a window. I thought everybody did that.

Something went wrong, crazy wrong. Whatever I did, it must have been bad. Too much noise? Drunken antics? Hysteria? Or perhaps this was just what happened to outcasts and misfits. You go to jail, because jail's for hopeless fuck-ups and failures, and it's especially appropriate that you don't even know how you got there. I started crying, out of fear and despair.

"That's right, let it all out. That's the best thing to do." The young man's voice, soft, came from around a corner, from a cell that was hidden from me. Apparently, men and women were separated by a bend in the hallway. 

"Who are you?" I asked, humiliated that anyone had heard me cry. "I'm sorry, I thought I was alone."

"Don't be ashamed. I can't tell you how many times I've cried in jail cells." It was the first kind, understanding, supportive statement I'd heard since moving to Arizona. Simple kindness from a stranger in another cell. A miracle. 

We talked. He asked what I was there for and I said I had no idea. He advised me to call the guard and ask. I did, and I was stunned to learn that I had been arrested from trying to break into a house on Terrace Road. What house? The deputy consulted a report. "It says 922 Terrace Road."

"But I live there!" 

The cop was dismissive. For one thing, I had no purse, and no ID. For another, I was not charged with breaking and entering, or trespassing, or anything that could be tied to the address. I was charged with disorderly conduct. I later learned that the cop who arrested me claimed on his report that I had assaulted him, though I was not charged with assault or resisting arrest. They gave me the catch-all charge, something easily justified.

Still, I was indignant. I realized by then that I had been stinking drunk on my one drink, and very likely had trouble explaining myself (which, as hungover as I was, was still a problem) but surely when the police understood the situation, they would let me go.

They did not. The deputy, giving me typical cop legal advice, told me my choices were to plead guilty, pay a $50 fine and go home, or wait another day for court to be in session, plead not guilty, have bail set, find a lawyer, and fight the charge in court. By now, my boyfriend was home. He was willing to come get me and bring $50 dollars. I had to get out of there. I agreed to pay the ransom.

Meanwhile, the young man was still there, and we continued to talk in between negotiations with the cops. He was a protected witness, a drug snitch. He had a handler in Phoenix, and the DEA had placed him in Prescott jail for his protection. But he hated it there. He said it was the worst he'd ever been in. The cops loved to fuck with him. The food was terrible. They would not let him contact his agent. Would I call the agent for him and ask that he be moved? Of course I would. I memorized the agent's name. 

Sometime that morning, an older woman was placed in a facing cell. She was there for passing bad checks. She had a daughter that she wanted to notify, but she lived in another county, and the Yavapai County Sheriff's Department did not allow phone calls outside of Prescott and environs. She had no way of contacting her daughter. Would I call her? 

Those were my first clients. They gave me something to think about besides my horrible situation. Eventually, I was taken to court, where I bitterly pled guilty. A board judge ordered a $50 fine. Tim paid. He was surprisingly gentle when he understood the situation, though I think he secretly blamed me as much as I did. 

I did not forget my promises. I called the DEA agent in Phoenix. I told him that it was urgent that he move his witness. He said, "Ok, I'll handle it." I called the daughter of the incarcerated woman and told her that she needed to bring a couple hundred dollars and she agreed. I wish I could have done more to be sure that they got out. 

The next day, I got a call from Eddie apologizing for not taking me home when I asked. "Uh, that's ok." I didn't want to get into it. I no longer trusted Eddie. 

But he was sincerely apologetic. "This wouldn't have happened if I had taken you home."

"What wouldn't have happened?"

"You wouldn't have gotten arrested." 

Shit. "How did you know that?"

"It's in today's paper." 

In the newspaper. Where everyone from the hospital, the school, could read it. Why did I cry in the jail cell? For the same reason I wanted the earth to swallow me. For the shame. 

Strangely, I felt no guilt at all. I had not done anything. Things had happened to me. But I felt the daily shame of being an outcast in my environment, of being unwanted and not tolerated for reasons I would understand later on, but which at the time I thought had to do with my innate inferiority. The only redeeming aspect of the whole debacle was that I was able to be of service to my fellow inmates. 

I never told anyone about it, not friends, not family. I have a million stories, many of which are funny whether or not they make me look good. But that one carried a special charge of shame, and it was for years my skeleton in the closet. When a close friend confided that she had spent the night in jail for reckless driving, I could not bring myself to tell her that I'd been in jail, too. The shame defies logic. 

Shortly after being arrested, I packed my struggling Volvo wagon and came home to San Francisco, where people like me are unremarkble and anonymous.  Within a few years, I was onto my next career, teaching. I pushed the incident into an unvisited corner of my mind. 

When Henry Louis Gates, Jr. was arrested for breaking into his own house in 2009, my experience, which I'd largely avoided thinking about for 30 years, came back to me. I decided to to speak about it, to exorcise the shame, make it a funny story. After all, it was topical. Me and Henry Louis Gates. The hilarity of becoming blackout drunk on one drink. The absurd futility of trying to argue to the cops, "But it's my house!" I can tell it as a funny story. 

But I can't write it that way.  


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And that's why I don't trust grapefruit juice!! Always gets me in trouble too!! ~nod~

Stupid nursing school!! HISSSSSSS!!!

Ugggggh...this is such a sad story, Sirenita. It is so confidence-eroding to be pre-judged, and nothing one does can get past it. Even if one knows inside it's not true, it's so humiliting and discouraging, so easy for it to become a downward spiral. I worked in different hospitals, and each place, each floor even, has its own culture; so much depends on the leadership and the tone set by the people in charge. Some places are so open and inviting and professional, and some are like you describe. What a loss for you, and also a loss for the nursing profession, and all the people you would have helped. Thanks for sharing would have been such a wonderful, compassionate nurse, Sirenita Lake.
p.s...sorry, I didn't mean to diss the hospital where you trained; hospitals are just where I've encountered the most your case, it was the school that was totally off the Tink says it best, HISSSS!!!
Terrific storytelling here, Sirenita. What an experience! As far as breaking into your own house, I've been there too. When my mother and brother moved out of our rental house in Jackson Heights, a friend, her boyfriend and I returned to the house to get some appliances, records, furniture, etc. The landlady who lived on the top floor had bolted the door fromt he inside so I couldn't get in. She wasn't home, so my buddy hoisted me up to the side kitchen window, which I broke, and then dove in headfirst. My neighbor opened her window and shrieked that she was going to call the cops. My friend said, "But it's Erica, you know her." She said, "That's not Erica, that's a boy!" (I had short hair at the time). Anyway, the cops came and eventually so did the crazy landlady who told me I owed her for the broken window and that the refrigerator belonged to her (a lie), so I left it there.
Stories like this make me realize how lucky I am to be a white, more or less Anglo-Saxon male. People from Jan Brewer on down will swear racism doesn't motivate anyone in Arizona, not back then and not now, but that's of course a crock of shit. What's worse is that, as in that school, it's not a matter of the ignorance and prejudice of random individuals; it's systemic and entrenched at the institutional level. And as a side-note, what kind of assholes serve someone a 5-shot cocktail without telling the person?
You couldn't tell it as a funny story because it damned well isn't one. Eddie needed to have his ass kicked for one. Two, I learned late in life that something in grapefruit can double the potency of certain other chemicals, certain medications. Maybe it has a similar effect on alcohol. I used to love grapefruits and juice but since I learned that I've avoided it.

As usual you've written another spellbinder. Your narrative skill is so natural reading you is like hearing you tell the stories in a conversation.
My daughter, who is a medical assistant at a large hospital in Colorado, has gone through a lot of what you described here. She tells me all the time about the second-class, harsh treatment she and other Hispanic medical assistants receive. They are treated condescendingly, held to higher standards, and never invited to social events outside the hospital. Thankfully, the doctors are nice.

My daughter was born in South America to a college-educated Mexican-American mother who is a writer and a Venezuelan father who is an engineer, and the nurses she works with don't believe her, and constantly challenge her ethnic background and experiences.

They want to put her in a box filled with their own narrow, preconceived notions about Latinos. And, like you, she's pretty. Now, that's one hell of an ugly mix: bigotry, cattiness and class consciousness based on false assumptions!

For months she felt sad about work, until I finally helped her to see that it was "their problem" and not hers. It requires a lot of internal strength and strong psychology to overcome the eroding effects of bigotry, racism, prejudice and small-mindedness, a lot of times by people who have had far fewer life experiences, less education, and are operating with much less gray matter, common sense and plain old human decency.

I have friends in Arizona, and I'd be terrified to drive through that state. I haven't been there since the 1970s, and don't know if I could ever go back. At least here in Colorado I can trace my family back to pre-statehood. No one can mess with me here.

Hi Sirenita- left shaking my head a little here.. ok a lot. Aghast really at that the non-native whites that took over Arizona are such freaking insecure bigots. Just can not imagine this degree of condescension, although have seen it, though to a lesser degree personally, for being from rather on the wrong side of the tracks economically.
Glad you made it out of there back to SF where people like you are 'normal.' What the fuck? Wow..
Of course your writing of this was spectacular, as per always.
I felt like I was there with you. It's horrible to be ostracized for any reason, and women can be just awful to each other. I still don't get that.

Tim sounds like my ex boyfriend. Bleh. Glad that things have turned out well for you.

P. S. I thought maybe you had gotten Nana arrested while he was visiting. :0P
Based on the news from the last couple years, it doesn't sound like white Arizona has changed much since your arrest. Except now you might have woken up on the other side of the Mexican border.
Exceptionally well told, no way to put a comedic spin on this story. You fought the good fight, did nothing to bring on this kind of abusive treatment, you just wanted to be a nurse and help heal the sick, wth. I'm so sorry.
arizona...that says it all.
the apple doesn't fall far from maricopa county
they knew you were from berkeley-
they would have burnt you at the stake if you stuck around for it.

is it possible you were slipped something in that drink? "nice guys" & "their friends" have been known to do naughty things like that-
especially to girls they think "less of."
Jail may have been the safest place for you that night.

I'm not cynical-
I've heard things about arizona...
Bad things.
ow, just ow all around. and we wonder why people get completely fed up
Tink, some of us have a problem with grapefruit juice and should just stay away from it.

clay ball, it's always a delight to see you. You write the best, most thoughtful comments. The hospital wasn't even the problem in this case, though I know exactly that you mean. I've been in units (as a patient) where if they didn't kill me, it was not for lack of trying where another unit is just fine. I would have made a kick-ass nurse, though probably should have been a doctor.

Erica, I see you've also led a life of crime. I do counseling for tenants (which is the only use I put me law degree to) and have heard the wackiest stories about landlord imaginable. I'm sure you'd believe them.

Nana, you hit the nail on the head. I was horrified at the whitening of that year of nursing students after the first semester. It was not based on merit. I remember this one white girl, who apparently was well-liked by the teaching staff. She was dumb as a rock. I watched her get checked off on medication dosage, where she struggled so hard that another student was allowed to help her. On a test. The med was insulin. Insulin dosage is one unit to a cc. How many cc's is 10 units? Took her 20 minutes, and I watched the same nursing instructor deliberately look away when she cheated. They wanted her to pass.

Matt, who knew? Grapefruit juice. I will avoid the shit. The story could be funny if you didn't know the context and the feelings that the incident evoked. But making it a funny story would not have been true, though I may start using a sanitized version as dinner party entertainment

Deborah, my god. Your poor daughter. My story was back in the 70s and it's still realistic today. In fact, Latinos are if anything more vulnerable today, since many of us are perceived as "illegal." You're completely right about needing a strong psychological grounding to distinguish the crap that people project on you from reality. I did not have that in my 20s in Arizona. Your comment helped me understand the inexplicable shame that incident caused me for years.

Trig, I fled home, where I am inconspicuous. I actually do believe that a lot of the crap people catch is based on class. The part some folks don't understand is perceptions of class can link to race, as Deborah mentioned. But being white and working class will result in a lot of unwarranted assumptions imposed on you about your attitudes, brains, and lifestyle.

Phyllis, bleh to your old boyfriend! Inorite, women can be awful to each other. What's up with that? As for nana, I carefully gathered discreditable evidence against him while he was here, but unfortunately the police were not interested in taking my report. So I might as well reveal it all in comments. In San Francisco, he drank cognac, demanded pecorino cheese in his frittata, and downed many lattes. Plus he likes pretty flowers more than any tough guy should. But it wasn't enough for an arrest.

Stim, that makes my blood run cold. Though my English is native, I do not look like a white girl. With no ID you could end up in a ICE dungeon with no phone call.
Asia rein, thank you. I'm someone who always looks at their failures with a very unsympathetic eye, but even perfection would not have been enough. After that experience, I learned to project a toned-down image of myself, which helped me survive a couple of other situations. But I'd like to have lived my life as me, not imitating a sweet, perky, non-threatening girl.

AJ, who knows? I've never had that reaction to alcohol, even chugging it. (Yes, that was a high school thing.) It's not cynical to recognize that AZ is a deeply racist place and not a healthy place to be Latina. I've been there to visit my white husband's aunt and some of the places I love most in the world are there. But since their immigration law, I'm boycotting.

Julie, yeah, it was totally discouraging. I had no survival skills at the time. You need armor.
this story is told with a maturity and irony that only
a good goddamn citizen
can who believes all the bullshit about land of the free
and opportunity & whatnot...the usa is a confederation
of localities, all with their own prejudices , norms, values, etc...

at least you met some good people and found the meaning
and purpose of your life, just as i did
in my brushes with the law:
mental health advocate..

ha: "she just held her sister's wig and earrings during the knife fight."

you did, and continue to do, "solids" for these societal victims...
i find them to be the best people i have ever encountered,
with grievous weaknesses
societally engendered
that make them often act out of character...meanwhile
the rich get bolder & more vulgar...
the politicians fall like dominos in scandal after scandal...

enough to make a guy or gal drink!
oh, shit, never vodka though.
that is the devil's brew..only blackout i ever had....
yeah-beauty can be found there
but we gotta boycott the place.
it's the only choice they've left us.

i used to like the sound of
"boycott arizona until sheriff joe is out of office"
until i heard he was retiring in california-
you know he's not RETIRING-retiring.
he's just going to spend more time spreading hate.
i wish we could close california border to hate-mongering idiots.
gotta go, or I'll be late for work, but was ruminating on this in the shower and can't let it go
It's too bad you didn't go back to school. I got kicked out for something I do every day now *rolls eyes* Reapplied, got back in and finished. Where I work, I am the only white nurse on my floor, and it's a good thing because the women I work with respect and teach me, unlike the bitches in school.
Dunno if you'd ever want to go back, but if you do, push through. Don't let them win, cause you would be (can tell from here) a wonderful psych nurse, and probably many other different types of nurse.
AJ, Joe is not welcome here! CA is an agricultural state. I seriously doubt that this state would entertain a law like Arizona's, but keeping the poor scared and pliable is another story.
You lie, Sirenita Lake! I wanted Cheez Whiz in my fritatta, but all you godless secular humanist organic San Franciscans had was pecorino, so I had no choice. Also, I only go around flowers when work requires it, so kpffft! But now, since you had to go there, I'll recount what I witnessed at the In-N-Out Burger joint; we each got a hamburger, mine was a double and Sirenita's was a single, but she grabbed the first one that came out of the bag and without bothering to ascertain which one it was, and quicker than it takes to type this, in two bites she'd reduce it to nothing but a sad little rim of bun. Needless to say, I was appalled such a tiny woman could murder a double hamburger that ruthlessly, and I felt fortunate none of my fingers were near the zone of voraciousness when it happened.
James, I read your comment over and over. So much quotable stuff there. Yes, there are great people who reside in the underclass, and they are far from perfect. Stress, fear, anxiety do not create behavioral paragons. They/we get angry, drink too much, get discouraged and walk away from situations they need to deal with. You have to have some hope, and we are rapidly diminishing the supply of hope. And yeah, vodka. Never touched it since. Stealth booze has earned my undying hatred. What's up with jello shots?
Julie, you're great and thanks for the encouragement. It's way to late for me to become a nurse. I was a teacher, the best job in the world. I'm working on being a lawyer now, if I ever get around to taking the bar. Meanwhile, I give free legal advice to renters on housing law. Keeps my soul tuned.
Nana, *you* lie! Well, sort of. Well, ok, it happened. How was I to know whose hamburger that was? You set me up by handing me a hamburger, innocent look on your face. It was a trap! Yes, it's true, I get hungry. Someone hands me a hamburger, I eat it. Do you deny that you took a bite out of my hamburger? Do you deny that you considered eating it, only it had onions?

That's the difference between you and me. My weapons are cognac and pecorino, yours are hamburgers. Here in SF, we are inventing ever more sophisticated weapons to use against Kansas boys. You have no chance.
Kansas 'boys?'

Hilarious, you ate his double!!
Trig, I did not finish it! It was only two bites. I gave him back the other half.
Other half? It was nothing but a stump!
Nana, you exaggerate! It was half. The smaller half, maybe. Think of the weight you lost.
oh jello shots! usually offered by a scantily clad waitress with
ability to bend mens' minds...

you say i deliver quotable stuff, cool!
ha:"Stress, fear, anxiety do not create behavioral paragons."
no, but behavioral pogroms.
how ya like that?
James, I like it. It captures the annihilation of personality that characterizes certain kinds of poverty.
returning to the party,
so sorry, to spread more poop:
but even amidst the Sheriff's claims
that he has "no intention of resigning"-
RUMORS have it that Escondido (San Diego)
is his retirement destination.
'member when he went to Rancho Bernardo?
couple of years back?
concerns have been circulating
in SD since then
and have you heard about
the Escondido PD's partnership with ICE
in "Operation Joint Effort."
ICE spokesperson,"It's a 'local' partnership."
(terrorizing local Latinos)

bottoms up & boos (v. cheers) for Cali if these rumors are true.
I'm now picturing you assaulting a police officer. Thank you for that.
I read this this morning Sirenita and really loved it. Very honest...

The allusion you made to the "white-sounding black (student nurse)" reminded me that though its effects are pernicious and straightforward, how racism is manifested in the US, is a very much more complex subject.

For me, inspite of surface appearances, whatever their coloration might be, in general, the US has a very serious problem with situations/people/things that fall outside any presumed status quo. It pretends to be a society of intimates, or vast clusters of desperate intimates, these clusters heavily dependant on the maintenance of certain shared pretensions, within a collective hermeticism. Good neighbors who hardly know each other yet are quick to call 911. At base a classist society, with wealth (even if only perceived) the great inoculant and most potent motivator, and the notion and illusion of christian forgiveness a therefore vital opiate.

A few years back, I happened to be in Miami after a very rough trip in February, delivering an Argentinian sailboat from Venezuela via Antigua, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas; across the Tongue of the Ocean, across the Flats, and then across the Gulf Stream, dodging one blistering cold front after another. We arrived in South Beach, Miami exhausted. After a brief rest, I went looking for a phone. About a dozen or so years had passed since I was last in the States and I was completely bamboozled by the phone "system" (scare quotes) there. Finally I saw an old fashioned pay phone (!) just outside a slightly "upscale" chinese restaurant in a little alcove, so I went in to change some quarters. I suppose I was looking a little wind blown but definitely not desheveled or unkempt. As I always am, I was very polite.

I still can't get over the initial, total dissing I got by the wait staff, none of whom could speak English or Spanish, just ignoring me completely, and then the haughty and arrogant manner in which the svelte looking evening gown clad chinese matron, diamonds on her fingers, dismissed me, refusing to make any change, even as the register stood wide open and stuffed with coins... I was speechless. I paused outside on the sidewalk examining my reflection in the window pane, looking down at my clothes, at my shoes, still trying to figure out, what was wrong with me ...and a way to call my Trinidadian wife to let her know I was safe... back here again, visiting my truely alienating country of birth... for a very short while.

Apologies for rambling.

Saludos ~
Trey, if you decide to use this in an art film, I'm happy to sign a release. I could even do a bit of acting. How about me slapping the cop with my fish tale?

Interrobang, class is the big marker. Race is an indicator of class, though clothes and speech and attitude also count. Sometimes whites feel discriminated against in certain racial environments. I can tell you that what blacks and Latinos and Asians do to each other is far worse than anything any white person experiences in a casual encounter. The poor and not-so-minority groups are often thrown into work situations with poor working conditions, where they compete over the most minimal privileges. Being a black person or Latino does not mean you understand prejudice or that you have mastered your own. However, the difference between white and non-white experience of racial prejudice is that white racism is embedded in institutions. But yes, every group is capable of acting shitty to members of other groups. I live in an area of less racism than other parts of the country, and I'm often shocked at the stuff that goes on away from our Bay Area bubble.
Trey, that was "fish tail" though I'm sure I can tell quite a fish tale, too.
I took your meaning. It works either way though; "Mermaid Bitches Revenge; A Fish Tail" is no less effective than "Tale of a Submissive Cop and his Dirty Nightstick."
For God's sake Sirenita, step away from the aromatherapist!
Wait, nana, I'm negotiating a contract here!
This now turned tawdry??
Sheesh... still happy he got the small burger, and maybe the stump.
I got here early but didn't have time to comment. This is great storytelling.
Tequila. Now that will get you too.
First time with that I came home I beat and knocked and beat on the door and my roomie wouldn't open it for me.
"Open the door damn it !" I was yelling. I got so ticked off at him. I climbed a tree next to our second story apartment,went out on the branch, jumped over to the second story window of our place, grabbed the sill and pulled myself up, then fell into the kitchen.
The door was unlocked.
interesting story, serenita. i've been in prescott, and you're lucky to have gotten your SF liberal self outta there with only minor wounds. it is a red red red place, sez me. whew.

hats off to a woman who can eat half a double in-n-out in two bites, even if it was only the small half. :)
AKA, that was as athletic as it was unnecessary. Tequila gives you superhuman skillz.

Candace, Prescott is where the Foursquare Church had a float in the Easter parade with a crucified guy on it. It's so pretty, and it's scary as hell.
There was a time I didn't drive drunk. Had a yellow Honda CVCC liftback but so did a lot of other people then. Went and slept in someone else's, yet didn't get arrested. Imagine my surprise when my key didn't work in the morning.
well written. but I bet if the nursing teachers/admins saw your blog, they'd be even more convinced they made the right decision. haha. heres the deal-- a sense of shame is a very important human attribute. there are people without it, and theres a word for it. they're generally called "narcissists" or worse. anyway though, knowing quite abit about you from your blog, I suspect that you might have flirted with somebody or something. not that that would be a justifiable disqualification. lets face it, not all authority is legitimate or fair. maybe not even that often.
VZN is right; you must have flirted with the wrong person, that's the only way a Latina could have been so discriminated against. For shame!
Trig, that's hilarious. Lucky the owner did not show up.

vzn, WTF? I must have flirted with someone or something? That's quite an assumption. I really am capable of things besides fucking, such as acting in a professional manner in a professional setting.

Drew, inorite? I must have done something for those folks to cop an attitude.
This is one of those stories that, if you heard it about someone else, you might not believe. It's almost surreal. Talk about life going from bad to worse then blacking out, waking up in jail, not knowing what you're there for, finally finding out you broke into your own home - and pleading guilty to it. Kafkaesque in every sense of the word, Sirenita, and still funny.
I love it when you write something. You are a weaver of magic through words.

I felt your shame even as I wanted to convince you to shake it off. The funny (or not) thing is, the people in this story who should be ashamed of themselves very likely never gave their actions a second thought.

I have missed you. Please write more.
I didn't find this at all funny, but I guess that's because I'm Latina. I did however find it to be a compelling read and frought with honesty.
Margaret, you've caught the flavor it it. Kafkaesque and surreal. Punished for trying to get my drunk ass off the street and into my house. I can tell it as a comedy of errors--which it was--though really processing it results in a different version.

Natalie, I'm a lazy writer, and then there's something else. Maybe it's the risk, talking about difficult shit. In the past, those times when I wrote, it was strictly essay, which I was very good at. Nothing personal, just analytical stuff. Now it's my project to spit out the memories, and sometimes that is a difficult birth.

Miguela, these stories about other Latinos make us feel vulnerable. We are educated, well-spoken, middle class, and yet stuff can happen because some people don't care who you are, just what ethnicity you are.
Wow. What a story. Of the real life variety, to boot.

Such a domino effect. One crappy system begets another. And you were the pawn, the victim.

Well-told, captivating. Depressing but in a good way.
From what I know of Prescott-- you have two choices: Evangelicals, or bikers. Probably better to hang out with the bikers. They probably know how to keep the Evvies in line.
What a story. Our world is many things, and unfair is definitely one of them. Also, you seem to have had a lot of adventures.
A very hard story well told.
Beth, "depressing in a good way" is one of my favorite characteristics of good writing. Life is dark. I find overly cheerful stuff more depressing than the depressing stuff.

Steven, I didn't know any bikers then, but I bet I would have happier hanging out with them.

Caroline, so good to see you. Yes, I do have a lot of adventures. I didn't realize how many until I started writing on this site. I think it's a result of being slightly dysfunctional, being a striver but never quite fitting in, and seeming to like the edge better than the middle.

Scylla, thank you. Saying the hard stuff is kind of what I'm going for these days, though it sometimes feels like digging stuff out of my flesh without anesthesia (which I've also experienced in real life).
I read this weeks ago and it made my head spin. I never got back to commenting although I found it compelling and literally unforgetable. Kind of surreal yet totally believable. A wonderful accomplishment in turning a horrible experience into a touching, moving, revealing, and compellling story. I see that as your just revenge! You have vindicated yourself in a way no one can deprive you of. You have had the final say on what happened and you have triumphed over this hellish injustice. Right on!
Donegal, it's a huge compliment that you took the time to come back and comment. I do feel that I've triumphed over that situation, living well now and more importantly, making a contribution to my community. Nothing refutes the accusation of worthlessness like being useful to others.
Dear SL, It's good you didn't waste your life in nursing, as perhaps I may have. Women of all classes and races are hardest on themselves and the infighting, backbiting, and hateful acts exchanged on a daily basis among this group of 'professionals' is not to be believed.

I know you likely will never read these words, but I tip my hat to you for being able to say you've left a legacy here. I've copied a number of your bon mots and snippets of wisdom into my e-journal going back a few years, and that part of you will live on. Thank you for that, and your willingness to be vulnerable here, with us, your readers.

"People like me, female, minority, unintentionally abrasive, not having a sense of my proper place, are not allowed to make mistakes." I identify only too well.
Arrested... many times... convicted only twice, because I was guilty. First time desperate, young and stupid, second time driven mad by a broken heart. R&R