Busted Halo
November 28th, 2002
A Thanksgiving Story

You know the routine pretty well. Getting ready for Thanksgiving means much planning, shopping for a lot of food, and with me there was the over-achieving cooking for two days straight.
Thanksgiving was also a time when we made sure we invited friends to dinner who were far from their families. So we always ended up with a houseful of people—there was my girl friend the Puerto Rican New Yorker Buddhist, who always got into heated discussions with the Argentinean film student. At the table was also the six-foot-four Black musician who imitates the Muppets singing show tunes with my four-foot ten best friend, the daughter of a former ambassador. My single friends made a pretty nice Thanksgiving picture, not quite…

November 26th, 2002
A Lesson in Checking Your Nostalgia

Yes, it’s official. Freddy’s dead. That’s what I said. This is the story of how I was painfully notified.
I was planning to call my cousin Jim to wish him Happy Birthday. Rather than do something traditional, like yawn through the garden-variety version of “Happy Birthday,” I thought it would be better to sing it like Fred Flinstone’s Water Buffalo lodge buddies sang “Happy Anniversary” to him and Wilma. Surely you recall that episode? It went a little something like this:
“Happy anni-versa-ry. Happy anni-versa-ry. Happy anni-versa-ry. Ha-ppy anniversary. Happy happy happy happy happy anniversary. Happy happy happy happy happy anniversary.…

November 23rd, 2002
Thanksgiving Was Not the Über-Holiday for Us

It is November, and I am barreling headlong into the end of the year. But first, I have to make it past the Thanksgiving table.
Growing up working-class and Filipino here in the U.S., Thanksgiving has never felt to me like a real holiday. Or rather, it has never as big a deal to me as to my Anglo and African-American friends, whose families have lived here for generations. Not because it’s a secular holiday with its own mythology, because it’s easy enough to give it a religious backdrop. You could even say that, as Catholics, we celebrate Thanksgiving at every Mass; after all, that’s what Eucharist means.
In our house, though, Thanksgiving was just another day off from school or work. We really could…

November 23rd, 2002
Honoring God's Gift Through the Practice of Yoga

Winter in Ontario and I couldn’t touch my toes. I was plopped on the kitchen floor, legs spread in a ‘V’ and hands stretched towards my feet. My spine was stiff. My muscles ached. I stared at my ankles and thought, ‘This cannot go on.’
It wasn’t that I was out of shape. Rather, it was another Canadian January and the snow and cold had kept me indoors. With the exception of skating, I hadn’t been active and my body was beginning to slow. My limbs were tight. That morning, when I tried to stretch and could not, I knew I needed help. I needed yoga.
Yoga who?
Yoga is an ancient Indian exercise that incorporates controlled stretching postures and deep breathing to tone the body and soothe…

November 20th, 2002
Women with and without Kids

Most women raise children. And some don’t. Those of us who don’t set sail for a different kind of life. Is the journey a chosen one or not? Are you a woman if you don’t have kids?
For Denise Carlson not having children was something that just happened. She traveled, focused on her career, was involved in theatre for a long time. In Los Angeles, she currently develops movies for the Disney Channel. Her 20s and 30s whizzed by.
“I’ve had a great time,” Denise says. “I got to have an extended youth. I didn’t have to take care of anyone but myself.”
Saying she’s a late bloomer, the mother question now tugs at her. After a friend adopted, she started thinking…

November 20th, 2002
Recent Immigrants Remember Their First Thanksgiving

Like the original Pilgrims who were themselves newcomers to this continent, Thanksgiving is best understood through the eyes of more recent immigrants hundreds of years later.
My Cuban dad says he liked the holiday from the start. A young man in his early 20s, he was living with his family in Georgia after they left Cuba because of political turmoil. During his first Thanksgiving more than 40 years ago, volunteers from their new parish knocked on the door. In their hands they carried a turkey and a basket of goodies.
“I immediately liked Thanksgiving,” says my dad, Manuel Hidalgo. Free food!
More importantly for my father, the food was brought by people who were welcoming him and his family to their…

November 20th, 2002
pc muñoz and the amen corner a good deed in a weary world (beevine records)

What is a good deed? What’s the point of trying to be good in a world that’s clearly a mess? And how do you even begin to do that?
These are the themes that pc muñoz and the amen corner tackle in this, their third CD. This San Francisco-based music collective cook up a provocative—if uneven—stew of spoken-word, funk, gospel, and experimental electronics that gets your head bobbin’ to the beat and nodding thoughtfully to the lyrics too.
The CD takes the form of songs interspersed with or introduced by spoken word snippets that seem to be excerpts of man-on-the-street interviews. Average people are asked: what is a good deed? And then a song follows, as if to illuminate the thought just offered.…

November 20th, 2002
Women with and without Kids

Most women raise children. And some don’t. Those of us who don’t set sail for a different kind of life. Is the journey a chosen one or not? Are you a woman if you don’t have kids?
For Denise Carlson not having children was something that just happened. She traveled, focused on her career, was involved in theatre for a long time. In Los Angeles, she currently develops movies for the Disney Channel. Her 20s and 30s whizzed by.
“I’ve had a great time,” Denise says. “I got to have an extended youth. I didn’t have to take care of anyone but myself.”
Saying she’s a late bloomer, the mother question now tugs at her. After a friend adopted, she started thinking…

November 19th, 2002
Across the Lines Beer Unites Us

Some people hate it, some people love it.
Some people call it an evil in our society, while others revel in it.
No, I am not talking about reality television. I am talking about that usually amber liquid known as beer.
About a month ago, around the world, people celebrated this wondrous concoction during the Oktoberfest celebration. In the spirit of those festivities, I am not going to write about the history of beer. Nor will I write any in-depth analysis of how it is brewed. Finally, I won’t even write about the differences between the various forms that this elixir can take. Rather I will keep this simply to why I personally enjoy the “fruit of the hops.”
Now, being of Irish heritage, some may claim…

November 16th, 2002
Homecoming Weekend

It seems like most couples get a “pass” during the first year of married life. This is the time when they simply get to know each other, spend time together, laugh, enjoy each other’s company. There are fewer responsibilities, and children haven’t entered the picture yet; the couple is free to discover and have fun. It’s the honeymoon period.
Our first six months of marriage, on the other hand, have been characterized by continual hospital visits. Shortly after our wedding, Mike’s mom was given a 30% chance to live, and had to undergo some very serious surgery. Marion’s dad then had open-heart surgery. Her grandmother had some heart problems that landed her in the…

November 11th, 2002
A Chilean Community's New Home for Poor Seniors

Pride pulsated through my veins, turning me into a third-grader with Attention Deficit Disorder as I anticipated the inauguration of the Casa Acogida (“Hospitality House”). The house is a project that was four years in the making—an alternative to the substandard rooms (wooden walls and dirt floors) that elderly adults who come to my center often call home. Full of vivid colors and intricate ornaments, the house is a refurbished beauty that ten abuelos will eventually call their own. The only missing aspect of the project is a non-elderly resident in charge of the daily routine of the new community.
The Hogar de Cristo (“Christ’s Home“), the social service agency where I…

November 7th, 2002
Beyond Empty Calories to Real Spiritual Sustenance

Oatmeal is not a favorite food of two-year-olds. Mine wasn’t too thrilled to see it arrive on the breakfast table this morning. He ate grudgingly, intermittent spoonfuls hitting the table and floor. I cajoled it into him, bite by bite, nudging the bowl back every time he pushed it away.
It would have been a lot less hassle just to slap a box of Reese Puffs or a couple of those frosted toaster treats in front of the kid. Or any other of those morning-time goodies that fill our supermarkets, such as breakfast pizza or one of those frosted, sugar-dipped, marshmallow-laden “cereals” always prancing across our TV screens. All fast, easy, and purportedly tasty, at least to kids.
Junky breakfast food…

November 5th, 2002
Meditations on Who Wears—and Irons—the Pants

Are we allowed to say “housewife” anymore? I doubt it’s ever been a flattering word — brings to mind frumpy ladies in hair curlers with ambitions no grander than getting good deals on rump roasts at the local supermarket. My overachieving parents raised me to look upon the fate of housewives, homemakers, as rather unfortunate. Having a successful career was a very important thing. Much of the other stuff could be muddled through. Suppers could be thrown together; nannies could be hired. From my mother, there was always this unspoken but unmistakable plea that I should never marry the type of man who expected cooking and cleaning and having his pants ironed.
My mother cried through my entire…

November 3rd, 2002
Salma Hayek as Mexican painter Frida Kahlo in Julie Taymor's Mesmerizing Film

Salma Hayek beautifully portrays the joys and anguish of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo in Frida (Miramax).
The film reveals the gutsy-ness, persistence, brilliance, and pain of one of Mexico’s most renowned artists.
A promising and charming 18-year-old university student, Frida’s life takes an unexpected tragic turn when a 1925 trolley crash leaves her spine broken and leg mangled. Up to her chest in a body cast, her family is uncertain Frida will ever walk again. Determined to live?even from the confines of her bed?Frida energetically paints self-portraits by looking into a mirror her parents rig for her.
In time she succeeds in walking again. And soon Frida persuades established muralist Diego…

November 3rd, 2002
A U.S. Military Training Center Taught Latin America's Most Notorious Torturers and Assassins

At the School of the Americas protest in Fort Benning, Georgia, on November 16th and 17th, people wore T-shirts that borrowed the words of President Bush: “All known terrorist training camps must be shut down–start with the SOA.”
Since 1990, people gather every November in outrage at the existence of this Army training school by U.S. design, with U.S. government funding and–since 1984–on U.S. soil. The existence of a school whose lessons have largely been how to destabilize, torture, and kill, is especially repugnant in the current American climate of anti-terrorism.
SOA graduates from Latin American and Caribbean countries–too many to count–have given the orders for or carried…

November 1st, 2002
Shedding Light on All Souls Day

This year, to shed some light on All Souls Day (November 2), I had planned to write a beautiful, lovingly heartfelt tribute to my deceased uncle who was a Franciscan priest. If anyone deserves the full Busted Halo treatment, it is he. My tribute was going to be extremely uplifting, very Catholic, quite educational and inspirational. Then I had a dream, and my plan went south.
I dreamt of my dead grandmother on my mom’s side. In my dream, I went to hug her and tell her I loved her, and when I pulled back, she bit my nose. Hard. I’ll spare you the details of the dream, but let’s just say that when I woke up, I was less than thrilled at this R.E.M.-sleep raid on my face. Needless to say, I plan to take this up with…

November 1st, 2002
Electric Cars and Public Health, Yesterday and Today

Can a government honestly say it’s an advocate for the public’s health while siding with the auto industry against electric cars quotas?
It’s doubtful given the ill effects of smog and pollution from gas guzzling automobiles. Nonetheless, the White House is now supporting the automobile industry in its legal bid to eliminate requirements that auto manufacturers sell electric cars in California.
Here’s irony for you: California is home to some of the nation’s most smog-choked communities. Want more irony? Leaders in Washington have been clamoring about dwindling oil reserves and voted for a war on oil-rich Iraq (Iraq possesses huge areas of promising but unexplored oil…

November 1st, 2002
In Mexican Tradition All Souls Day is Dia de los Muertos

This autumn one group of Americans has chosen their Halloween costumes and bought candy. Another group is painting skulls and looking through scrapbooks for favorite pictures of dead relatives.
All Souls Day is the Catholic holiday commemorated on November 2, following All Saints Day the day before. But in Mexican and Mexican-American culture, Nov. 2 is also known as Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos?a celebration to honor relatives and ancestors who have passed away.
Dia de los Muertos honors the continuous cycle of life and death, says Marisol Torres, an art teacher at Self-Help Graphics in East Los Angeles. People of all ages make papier-mach? skulls, bright yellow tissue flowers, and Mexican decorative…

November 1st, 2002
Choosing Catholic or Public for Your Kids

My friends tell me that in their youth there was a pretty radical rivalry between Catholic school kids and public school kids in “CCD.”
I’ll take their word for it, because Latino kids like me were on “holy over-drive”
—we went to both! My mom was not taking any chances, and come to think of it, maybe she was right. I did choose to become a theologian.
But let’s say you don’t envision a life pouring over ancient religious texts for your children. How do you make certain that their education is the best it can possibly be? Which is better, Catholic school or public school?
When I became a mom, that question gained new meaning. It is not a question I can answer with a simple,…

October 31st, 2002
Halloween and a Childhood Discovery

When I was about ten years old growing up in Havana, my friends and I made an awesome discovery.
We had been rehearsing for the Christmas pageant in the church basement, and one day during our explorations between scenes we opened a previously unseen door to the unexpected. In the room, in the half-light from the high basement windows, we could see faces.
Yikes We jumped back in the doorway. Some of the figures were standing, others leaning, some were missing their hands, all of them stared at us with impenetrable glass eyes.
These statues stored in our church basement probably spanned 300 years, each shrouded in inscrutability. In Latin America, Spanish Catholicism had mingled with the indigenous and given us this…

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