Quince Dresses

In 8th grade, I was instantly fascinated when I first learned about Quinceañeras in a short essay in my Spanish textbook. As described by the book, a Quinceañera is a lavish party of wedding-proportions to celebrate Latina girls' fifteenth birthday. Families save money for years to pay for an elegant dress, limousine, and reception of epic proportions. Because it seemed so absurd, I wanted desperately to attend. Of course, growing up, I did not know a single person of Mexican heritage, so I never had a chance to be invited to such an affair, though I was able to attend the affluent white alternative in the form of my Jewish friends' Bat Mitzvahs. They're both cultural events tied to a religious ceremony with a large price tag attached, except that at Quinceañeras there are more tiaras and fewer yarmulkes.

Once I moved to California, I met people who had actually attended Quinceañeras, and I lived vicariously through their tales. I made it my goal to eventually be invited to a Quinceañera so I could experience one firsthand. On one occasion, a friend and I heard of a Quinceañera occurring nearby and considered crashing the reception. Instead, we developed a working title for a screenplay: Mom, I'm Pregnant and It's My Quinceañera. In combining a cultural rite of passage with an unexpected biological one, it had all the workings of a dramatic, captivating film. Unfortunately, a couple of years ago, someone else seemed to think so, too. Quinceañera is a film with that precise story line, but with a less catchy title if I do say so myself.

While I still haven't been to a Quinceañera, I came as close as I ever have this past weekend. As a teacher to a predominately Mexican-American student body, Jessica has attended several Quinceañeras, not that I'm totally jealous or anything. One of Jessica's students lent Jessica the "official" video of her Quinceañera, and of course I didn't turn down the offer to view it. When Daniel saw the DVD's cover, he asked if it was a porn. I can't fault his misperception because the grainy, low-quality photograph of a young woman making a sultry pose with a showy cursive pink title could easily be slipped into an adult film store without notice.

The video was nothing short of ridiculous. It starts with our almost-fifteen-year-old in what looks like a slip while frolicking on the beach and splashing in the water. Later at home, she pretends to fall asleep and with the magic of some special effects, she wakes up wearing her dress. Then she poses with it on a bridge, in a meadow, etc. According to Jessica, this girl is a rebellious anarchist type who didn't even want to have a Quinceañera, but here she was primping and posing, playing the part of debutante. It made me feel a little sad.

Skipping ahead (we fast-forwarded, too), the reception was the best part. Here, our birthday girl and her escort (her much older cousin! Jessica claims that that's customary) dance, as do about twenty of her friends. For weeks, these kids rehearse choreographed dances to perform for the girl's family. Alas, these kids aren't on So You Think You Can Dance, they're more like a couple dozen Cloris Leachmans, minus the bravado. They all act a little too-cool-for-school, not wanting to seem as if they're enjoying themselves or the odd dance moves that they're doing to differing beats.

As I stared with wonderment at the lack of synchronization, I noticed that kids are also outfitted nicely, with the boys in tuxedoes and the girls in matching "bridesmaid" dresses. It occurred me that since friends tend to be of the same age, a lot of these poor kids must have to go through this ritual and literal song-and-dance several times in the span of a year. Jessica acknowledged that my theory is true, and that those girls have to buy those dresses each time, an expensive undertaking for the girls who are asked to be in several Quinceañeras. If they can't afford the dress, they have to turn down the offer to be in the reception.

This conversation inspired a new screenplay idea:

Miley Cyrus stars in:

Quince Dresses

Premise: When Miley's father gets a job promotion, Miley's whole family must move from their entirely Caucasian small town in the Mid-West to an exclusively Mexican-American community in southern California. After some initial trouble adjusting, Miley's quest to make friends works a little too well, as she finds herself being asked to participate in numerous Quinceañera celebrations: fifteen to be exact. Amassing a collection of frilly, unattractive dresses, Miley must deal with her jealousy of always being the bridesmaid, yet never being Latina enough to have a Quinceañera of her own.

Conclusion **WARNING -- SPOILER**: As Miley begins to throw a temper tantrum, her father throws a surprise Sweet Sixteen birthday party where Miley is permitted to wear a slutty outfit rather than an unflattering dress, shares a keg with her friends, and is gifted an expensive new car. In the absence of choreographed dances, religious ceremonies, and cousin-dating, Miley's party is a raving success, elevating her to the status of the most popular girl in school.

Let me caution any would-be idea poachers that while I was willing to let my Mom, I'm Pregnant and It's My Quinceañera concept get away without a fight, I will sue you aggressively if you try to make Quince Dresses. This'll be my million dollar idea, and it'll be the only way I can afford to pay for my own child's Quinceañera one day. That's right, you can bet that regardless of my kid's gender or ethnicity, my kid will have a Quinceañera; after all, you only turn quince años once! Plus, it might be the only way I ever get invited to one.


Keeping Track

On invitation by Andrew, I've spent two of the past three Sundays at the local race track. If you're picturing NASCAR, you're thinking the wrong kind of horsepower. I'm talking real horses, the creatures whose hooves are used to make gelatin and are infamous for fucking Catherine the Great to death. (All right, both of those are just urban legends, but at least you know what I'm talking about.)

As someone whose only exposure to horse racing was the Kentucky Derby, I severely overestimated the class level at the tracks. I anticipated women in sundresses and big floppy hats and equally dapper men, but in actuality, the tracks are fairly trashy. Filled with litter and vice, it's a little skeezy, in spite of the fact that the horses were probably purchased for more than most homes. Mind you, I'm not putting the tracks down, this odd atmosphere actually put me at ease.

On Sundays, it is Kids' Day at the tracks, which meant special deals: one dollar entry, one dollar hotdogs, and one dollar beers. You know how the kids love cheap beer. I did, at any rate, and got four at a time. But I did feel bad for all of the kids I did see present. Some parents can't afford a babysitter since they blow all of their cash at the tracks, evidently. Sure there are horses, but it's not exactly a petting zoo. The kids inevitably get bored and resort to "horseplay" if you will (and please do - the horse puns don't end here); bringing children to the tracks is only slightly more humane than locking them in the car with the windows up.

Horse racing is an odd ritual, because races only occur every half an hour, with each one lasting about a minute altogether. It all happens so quickly that I can't even orient myself and don't realize which horse has won until they put the results on the screen. In the last twenty seconds, everyone else starts screaming as if they understand what is happening - and they probably do - so I join in and yell whatever, too. I'm such a dirty conformist.

I realized that in order to have more investment in the activity, I needed to put some money on the line. You know me, I am partial to low stakes gambling. There were a few issues, however. For starters, I didn't understand the betting system. I found a machine, but didn't understand how to make that work either - it made no (horse) sense.

Finally, I went to a booth with an actual person in it, pled ignorance, and ey helped me put my money on my horse of choice, Schill. (As I explained to myself, I felt like a bit of a shill just for participating.) When the race finally occurred, Schill came in second place and I won $2.40! That's more than two beers. I still didn't really understand what was going on, but I knew not to look a gift horse in the mouth.

The next race I picked Always Auditioning, because as someone avidly seeking new employment, I feel that I, too, am always auditioning. As it turned out, Always Auditioning and I also have bad luck in common, and I lost my bet. Things turned around the next race when I won $4.60 off of Pirate's Charm (can you really bet against a pirate?) third place victory, but then I got cocky and lost all of my earnings in stupid subsequent bets. I wasn't just not picking winners, I was picking last-placers.

My favorite part of the horse races are the horses' names. They're so clever that it makes me want to own a horse just so I can name it. Of course, I'd just want to keep changing its name each time I thought of a new witty phrase, and have no real desire to actually race it, so don't let me follow through on this impulse, please. One of my favorite horse names, Kayakitiyak, belonged to a 50-1 long-shot, on whom I lost some dough. My ultimate favorite, however, is Princess Integrity, because I like a woman with honor. It turned out that this horse is actually a male, but that only makes my fondness for Princess Integrity even stronger.

On our next trip to the tracks, I first bet on Be Realistic (ARG) because I like to consider myself practical. The "(ARG)" part indicates that the horse is from Argentina, but Allison and I liked pronouncing the ARG as part of the name, perhaps an homage to Pirate's Charm that won us money last time. Apparently, we were the ones not being realistic, because the reality was that Be Realistic was a shitty horse and we lost our money. That left us wailing "ARGGGG" in frustration.

Then I switched my betting strategy, looking not for money, but life guidance. Seeing as I'm at a crossroad trying to decide where to live next, I put money on two potential locations "My City by the Bay" and "L.A. Devine." Neither won, so not only did I lose more money, but it looks like I'm going to have to look for signs elsewhere.

Down on my luck, I was prepared to grab a noose and be hung like a horse, but then I changed my betting strategy one last time to one of compromising my values. I chose the ones with the douchiest names, like Brendolyn and Uncle Jeep, at which point I had a few consecutive victories. Sure, I sold out, I'll never be the Princess Integrity I wish I could be, but I would have managed to recoup all of my losses, were it not for the dumb side bets I kept placing with (and losing to) Adam.

I could break down each bet even further, but I don't want to beat a dead horse. If Princess Integrity weren't such a horse on a high horse, she he could beat a dead horse in a race. In fact, that's probably the only way he'd be able to win. Apologies, Princess, that was a low blow; I'm just horsing around.

My firmest memories of the races will have nothing to do with gambling, however, but of my friends. Andrew managed to take a nap in the middle of it all, which was a remarkable feat. I wouldn't have taken any odds that that would even be possible. At another moment, we all were so hungry we could eat a horse. Given the situation, though, that would be tacky, so we settled for scavenging for half-consumed pizza, popcorn, soda, and beer that strangers had left behind in their seats. Yeah, that might actually be tackier than eating a horse, but none of us expressed qualms about eating rejected leftovers. While it might not ever elevate us to be royalty of integrity, if you ask me, that's a true sign of good friends.


Try Really Upholding the Sanctity of Marriage

Allison, rationalizing necrophilia: "''Til death do you part' is such a fucking cop out."



Kevin: When did you get basic cable?
Andrew: About two weeks ago when we got broadband Internet.
Kevin: No more dial-up Internet? Welcome to the rest of the world.
Andrew: Thanks. I love YouTube.


Now and Later

Lena: Want a Now and Later?
Kevin: No thanks, I have a root beer barrel in my mouth.
Lena: Well then, don't have it now, have it later!


Say Cheese

Gramma is living proof that your face really can get stuck like that.

Nevertheless, her milkshake still seems to bring all the boys to the yard.

(I found this photo in a pile of junk at a flea market.)


Election Reflection

I cried on Election night. Barack Obama's victory was touching in ways I hadn't anticipated; though it has been expected as of late, it is quite a powerful thing to see it come to fruition. While I am not a Democrat, I have been swept up in Obama's momentum. Although I don't agree with all of his politics and methods, (still I'd hazard our perspectives correspond the majority of the time), I view him as a great leader and a great person, someone who listens to multiple perspectives, prescribes to rational thought, and isn't afraid to admit he has been wrong. I wish these qualities didn't seem so unique and refreshing, but I cannot deny having grown jaded (along with the majority of the country) through this previous administration. Despite being a habitual cynic, I, too, feel the oft-touted "hope" that comes with this new administration and am excited at the potential for greatness.

The day after the elections, I heard an interview with Ralph Nader on Democracy Now and winced a bit. I voted for Obama because he is as pleasing of a two-party candidate that we've had in recent history and I wanted to say I was part of what I hope will be amazing change, but up to the end I still contemplated casting my vote for a third-party candidate, as I feel it is the best approach to creating legitimate, long-term change. As Nader listed reasons why I still feel like I compromised my values by voting for Obama, I questioned my choice. Rather than let it get to me, however, I've resolved to give it a year. I have so much hope and positive energy, for once I'm going to put my faith in what seems to be a promising situation and not let lingering cynicism win out.

As for Prop 8, good gosh. I didn't cry over that one, mainly because I anticipated it passing, though I had been cautiously optimistic. The truth is that this vote was just one battle in what will be an ongoing war, regardless of which side succeeded.

I didn't get to address the latest comments made before the election in the original thread because other aspects of life got in my way, but I would like to thank the debaters again for their participation. Predominately, we took the discussion way beyond the cop out approach of "You're intolerant!" "No, you're intolerant!" and at the very least I can say I thoroughly understand some of your points of view, regardless of whether I've ultimately agreed.

Commenter Katia asked that if Prop 8 didn't pass, we still revisit this issue in the future to discuss the consequential threats to religious freedoms. I think it's a worthy discussion to have regardless of the outcome and subsequent lawsuits/court decisions. I have been moving/traveling and haven't able to closely follow what is being filed by whom and who is protesting who, other than hearing that a lot is happening. As I expected, there's been a lot of backlash. I think it's fair to say there's always been latent hostilities between gay rights advocates and certain religious institutions, however, after recent events, a face-off has ensued. Someone sent me a link to this site Mormons Stole Our Rights. So now we have two angry groups (note: I wouldn't characterize everyone in this movement as angry, however) trying to deprive one another of rights. It seems to me that both groups would be better off if they let one another be rather than try to restrict the others' lives. Tickle me naive, but perhaps a truce can be reached.

Though I've taught Sunday School in my younger years, I can hardly call myself a Biblical scholar, so I've mainly avoided using scripture to contradict scripture. Besides, as someone who doesn't follow scripture, it might even be hypocritical. That said, I did find this video linked from FourFour about the Bible's statements about homosexuality coming from religious officials to be interesting:

Anyway, let's hope we remember to practice what we preach and tolerate one another.

I have hope for the future, I really do.


I'll Even Spring for a Limo, Provided Obama Puts Out

Todd: I still can't believe that, for once, the candidate with the most money is finally on my side. When did that start happening?
Kevin: I think the reason is that Obama is actually a great candidate, somebody that's actually worth getting excited about. People give their money to someone when they don't feel like they're settling. No offense to Gore and Kerry, but they were like taking your fourth choice to prom.