The Bees of Phnom Penh

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Buzz buzz buzz, be there in ten

Buzz buzz buzz, get on the road

Honk honk honk, car on your left

Stop sign, stop

Yield sign, yield

Green light, go

Buzz buzz buzz, I’m almost there

Ring ring ring, I’m right outside

Go go go, keep up with time

Pat pat pat, pull over there

Buzz buzz buzz, back on the road

Blink blink yawn, caffeine all gone

Beep beep beep, so many bees

Buzz buzz buzz, some just like me

Buzzing and buzzing and buzzing

Onward we go, onward forever

 

The Way of Things

        Hop from the lily pad and Frog landed on the soft cool earth. Hop forward into the grass that tickled against his skin. Hop high onto a reed and swing low amongst the pond weeds. Before Frog hopped away, he heard a buzz. Excited, Frog scanned in hopes of finding food flying around him. He was hungry now and delighted at the thought of a fly. Buzz buzz buzz, but no fly was near. Then Frog stared forward and between two reeds was a large web. How silly, thought Frog, spiders do not buzz. He trained his eyes across the web, but found near it’s center a dragonfly and not a spider. The Dragonfly jittered and struggled to be free. What luck! A treat for Frog and practically served to him. Before Frog could flick out his tongue, the dragonfly looked straight at him with alarm and spoke.

Oh! Hello there!

Frog was stunned, did that dragonfly just speak? To me?

Dragonfly continued,

I suppose today is a very unfortunate day for me, but, at least it is a fortunate one for you.

Frog was astonished,

You can speak?

Dragonfly smiled sweetly,

I do.

Frog muttered to himself

How strange….

Dragonfly replied,

Is it?

Frog began to compose himself,

I have never met a dragonfly who could speak, or any insect really

Dragonfly looked puzzled,

Come to think of it, neither have I! You’re correct indeed to say how strange, how very strange…

        Frog did not know what to make of what was happening. He was merrywell going to eat the dragonfly and now he is having a conversation with it! He even forgot how hungry he still was.

Well how funny this all is! I must admit I’m full of conflicting emotions, with you being the first soul I’ve ever spoken to, as well as you being a frog who, well, looks rather peckish and me…well let’s leave it at that

Dragonfly said in a rush, half giddiness half dread

Frog was still awe struck and remained still

Dragonfly noticed his hesitation,

If I could dare to ask you a favor, would you be so kind as to hear a story? I’ve had a story on my mind for the longest and no one to tell it to.

Frog remained stunned and without fully knowing it, had nodded in approval

Dragonfly began,

A long time ago, when magic still filled the earth, there lived a Dragon…

        And for what seemed like all afternoon, Dragonfly spoke eloquently about a bold dragon whose life was woven with adventure, misfortune, courage, love. It was the most wonderful thing Frog had heard in all his life.

How lovely! What a charming tale! I never knew you could be such a splendid story teller.

Exclaimed Frog

Dragonfly smiled again,

Thanks very much, I appreciate your kind words, especially in these last few moments. If I am to die, I am glad to have left a part of me. Please, tell the story often and think of me if it pleases you.

        Frog knew he would eat the dragonfly, but he also knew how much of a loss it would be to the pond if he did. She had a special quality about her that Frog knew was incredibly rare these days, let alone that she could talk somehow. It had been ages since Frog spoke or thought so much, and with a dragonfly no less. There was no debating it, however, for it is the way things are; the dragonfly has been caught and frog is hungry.

Frog became solemn and stone faced,

I believe I will remember you as long as I live. I will tell your story and I will think of you.

        Frog became extra sad upon wondering if there would ever be another soul he could tell the story to. Until today there had only been his food buzzing about, the fish below the lily pads, and the occasional bird who flew and fluttered in the trees above. None of whom had ever uttered a word to Frog. And here, now, there is a dragonfly, caught in a web, telling lovely stories before she is eaten. She ceased jittering and had appeared almost relaxed and serene.

Frog broke his stone-like facade,

What is your name?

I am Eowyn.

Frog looked visibly sad now.

Eowyn. I am Alfred.

        Eowyn bowed her head politely and said no more. She looked into Alfred’s eyes. Her eyes were not pleading, but friendly. Two friends saying farewell. A moment passed and swelled. Alfred began to imagine freeing Eowyn. He thought further and he imagined asking her to visit him from time to time, to tell more stories, to keep him company. The sun was setting and the moment had swelled completely. In its bursting Alfred broke his gaze from Eowyn’s and lashed out his tongue.

        The moment after was empty and Alfred was hungry no more, maybe even for the rest of the evening.

        Alfred looked around and was alone once again. He had been alone before and it gave him no grief then. That was before he knew time without loneliness. He wept briefly and then began to speak aloud to no one and no thing in particular, hopping along

A long time ago, when magic still filled the earth, there lived a Dragonfly…

A type of love letter

Sylmar. The east-most corner piece of the San Fernando Valley. At first glance, the city isn’t much to look at. It’s dusty, surrounded by freeways, bordered by mountains, and filled with plenty of mom and pop restaurants/shops that don’t give off that quaint small-town vibe that should come with a description like “mom and pop”. No, there isn’t a “folksy” aesthetic here, but there is something more honest. Everywhere there is a grit. The people aren’t mean or unapproachable. You just see hard work and long hours and perseverance and a slight worn look about everybody. It’s humility. It’s working two jobs to feed five mouths. It’s clipping coupons for groceries. It’s roses by the freeway and fruit on the corner. Grandpa, grandma, mom, dad, big brother, big sister. Everybody does their part and you can see how they wear it.

The kids don’t have the grit yet. They go to school, they play, they ask for toys and games and ice cream, but they carry on their backs the dream of a better tomorrow. It’s not their dream, but their parents. A large burden that they don’t know of yet, but the rest of us know, because we put it there. For now, the childhood innocence serves as a visual balance to the adulthood around them. It’s what makes Sylmar unique from other cities in the San Fernando Valley. You see a very specific people here and I don’t mean the dominant hispanic demographic. The buildings are boring, the shops are plain, but the people are strong. There is a resilience that emanates from each glance that is also drawn in the lines of their faces, each one telling the story of how that resilience came to be.

Sylmar is almost spartan. It’s not a place to do things. That’s what the freeways are for, to take you places where you can do those things. Sylmar is a place where you become into something. Witness people in a metamorphosis that takes them hungry and turns them into self-sustaining champions; where people open their doors to see mountains and then climb them. You can’t help but revere people like that. This city was made for and by them. A community deserving of respect and pride. The lucky do not live here, the ultra-rich do not live here, only the meek and gritty. They live here and they live a hard life, but a good life. I hope while I’m here, I get the opportunity to do the same.

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I took this shot and thought “what great pals they must be” Nothing about their clothes, or the way they stood, or what they appear to have been saying, or where they were going, gave me the impression that they were best buds. I just thought it would be nice to assume they were, for the sake of it being a nice thought. I have incredible friends, whom I’m eternally grateful for, and I think everyone should have that. I bet these two are as thick as thieves in their own way, so I wrote them some haikus.


A peckish feeling

Low rumble in my stomach

Seeking an answer

One can be lonely

Reach out for good company

Eat ramen and talk

Remember that time?

Ridiculous pair are we

Expect nothing less

Laughter flows throughout

Warm broth greets hunger kindly

No concept of time

Perfect adventure

Look forward to many more

I’ll let you know when

Great Divide

A look inward; deep down into the compressed maze of muscle, tissue, organs. I look at my heart and tug a string. A low note. Barely audible, but I can feel it, vibrating gently. I try to gauge what melody it belongs to and hope that it’s a happy one. I pluck again, and on the second listen I hear it. A melancholic song about confusion, shame, fear, longing. It’s a familiar song, but I don’t enjoy listening to it, although I know I should hear it more often. So I listen this time, making sure I pay attention. I owe it to myself to know.

The song ends and I think on it. My name. Yes, it began with my name. First, then last, repeating continuously: brandon mata brandon mata brandon mata brandon mata.

I thought harder and it sounded more: English Spanish English Spanish English Spanish.

Then: American Mexican American Mexican American Mexican.

I couldn’t make it out fully though. Trouble is, I don’t speak Spanish fluently.

“What are you?”

Mexican-American. Practically first generation. (Then I show the math) Mom’s full Mexican, Dad’s half, making me roughly three quarter this one quarter that. The fractions don’t mean much though. I can’t even roll my ‘R’s.

Speak Spanish to me. I hear the words and immediately I cannot interpret. Quickly, I replay the words in my head and suddenly it makes sense. It’s almost deja-vu. From the outside perspective I look lost for a moment and then reply “Oh, Im doing good, thanks” Most of the time I reply back in spanglish, some of the time just english. More often than not Spanish comes rushing out from someone and I only hope Mom is there to translate. “¿Porque no te hables?” Well, you see, I’ve been told I used to, but it never sounded that great, and I caught on to that. As a kid I decided “I’m no good at it, so I should stop trying” I didn’t want to be made fun of. Now that child’s fear has turned into this man’s stubbornness.

It’s too late now, I tell people. I lost it. In honest, it’s still because I am afraid. I am “75%” Mexican. I don’t want to be rejected by 75% of myself. So at family gatherings I continue to listen to the roundtable discussions of gossip and dilemmas, but I only listen and try to think of the words to say. Everywhere else, I make it a habit to find any connection to Hispanic culture. “Oh no, you don’t want to buy carne asada from Vons!” “Oh yeah, right, my last name means ‘kill’ in Spanish” “My favorite Mexican artist? Selena, duh” “Hey, illegal immigration is a complex dilemma, and I don’t appreciate you making it sound so one sided”

I want to know my heritage, to embrace my culture. I know it’s on me to make a genuine effort. I owe to myself to know. I’ll continue to play the song that I’ve ignored before. Maybe, the song is in Spanish, maybe it always has been. I aim to sing it one day, hopefully soon.

An excerpt from one of the many short stories in my mind

“Dez got on the main road and as effortlessly as he could drive, he began to lose himself in thought. A haze crept over his brain as he drifted from thought to thought, ‘If I wanted I could be a fireman right?’ remembering that time a friend had described the rigorous physical tests firemen endure. Sure, he probably had to tone up some more but he could pass those tests if he really tried. Dez had gone his whole life as a king of hypotheticals, a master of ‘what ifs’ because he always came to the reasonable conclusion that he could, if he really tried. Would he be a fireman though? He thought more seriously now. Firemen have a real chance of dying on the job. Run into the flames and never come back. Dez realized the amount of courage he would need to really be a fireman and he wasn’t interested in a deep analysis of himself to conclude he could be that courageous if he really tried.

The thought was put to the back burner and he came to a stop light. One lane over, Dez locked eyes briefly with the man at the wheel and became transfixed. The man broke eye contact and stared at the red light ahead, while Dez continued to study the man. ‘He almost looks like me’, he pondered. ‘I wonder where he’s headed; where he’s coming from’ Dez became suddenly aware of everyone and attempted to fathom every possible story they all had. Where they’re from, where they’re going. The light turned green and Dez shook off the brief existentialism. As a speeding SUV barreled into Dez’s tiny corolla, Dez stopped thinking about anything at all.”

So it begins

They say “write what you know”, and for someone like myself, I wonder what the hell that might be. So for now I come to one definite conclusion: I am average. I know average things; I’m the common layperson. Now what does that mean for the future content here? Not too entirely sure, to be honest, but I like to talk about a variety of things: inner monologues, daydreams, television, film, hypotheticals, short stories, confessionals. I mean, it’s your typical blog, but I look to find a uniqueness in me. Maybe.