Friday, March 28, 2014

Feline Friday: Animal Care Services

A286239

A285731

A225783

A262441

ginger2

Last week I volunteered at Animal Care Services in San Antonio, the city's main animal shelter, to take photos of the cats. All of these adorable animals are available for adoption in the Cattery.

I was pretty nervous at first - the workers were doubtful that I'd be able to get any good shots. But they were helpful opening cages, and nudging the cats back and forth, trying to get their attention, etc. Totally a team effort, and fun.

Gradually, I became more comfortable opening the cages on my own, and with lots of patience, I got some good shots. It feels so good to know these kitties have a better chance at being adopted now that they've put their best paw forward, so to speak. :)

I feel so grateful for all the help I received getting the feral cats in my backyard spayed and neutered - this is my small way of giving back to the wonderful community of workers and volunteers at ACS, Best Friends Society, SNAP, and the Hill Country Animal League that made that possible.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

In Memory of David Alejandro

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

“I have decided to stick to love... Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

“Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.


Fifteen years ago, in November of 1998, a few days after Thanksgiving day, David Alejandro, my best friend's brother was killed. He was a kind, sweet, and infinitely talented man with a goofy streak. We'd often watch MST3K all together, go to movies, and hang out when I was fresh out of high school and into early college. I remember always getting this sense when I was around him, that he was the kindest person I'd ever met. You know those people, if you've ever had the grace to meet them - rare people.

He played in a cover band called The Maxx at bars like Acapulco Sam's, rendering 80's music so perfectly, you'd forget you were listening to a live band. The feeling I had most often around David as a young woman, was that I was safe. He was like a brother to me, and just like my own brothers he was protective, patient, and kind.

David and his family encouraged me in my talents - when the Alejandro family saw that I liked to sketch, Steph's dad gave me stacks of beautiful art paper he'd been saving for his own work. David saw a small print I'd done in art class and said he'd love to have something like that for his new recording studio. The studio was built into a vacant leasing office, in the middle of an old apartment complex, behind a movie theater. It was certainly nothing fancy from the outside, and the inside was clean and spare. He'd saved every penny to invest in the sound equipment. He showed me the bare wall where my print would hang, and he insisted on paying me a fair price for my work. I knew he was trying to teach me to value my art and have confidence in myself. But I thought of all the rides I'd bummed off of him, as a penniless college student without a car, all the meals I'd mooched off of him, Steph, and Steph's family, and I couldn't take money for it.

I'm so glad I didn't take David's money for my painting. Because it hung there for just a few months to a year. I wasn't there with him when he died, none of us who loved him were, but I remember it gave me great comfort to know that my painting, at least, was there.

The painting was a simple black and white print: on one side, a man, surrounded by the moon and evening stars, and on the other side a woman, whose long hair becomes the rays of the sun. The two figures lean into each other, as they each realize that neither is possible without the other. I made it to memorialize the love I felt for my high school boyfriend - my first love, whose skin was so dark it was like he was always standing in the moonlight. I poured nothing but love into that piece, and I remember the long summer days I spent, painting it bit by obsessive bit. In the end, if nothing else, I feel that all the love I poured into that piece was there with David when he died.

I remember one evening, probably after a late night of eating bean and cheese tacos and sopapillas with honey and powdered sugar at Las Palapas, one of our favorite haunts, he took Steph and I round to see his new studio. He took out his acoustic guitar and started playing, and Steph and I sang a little. Steph has the real voice, mine was a small, unsteady voice. He listened carefully to my voice and told me kindly that it was a good one, then told me ways I might sing a little stronger. David was like that. He was always encouraging, always seeing you where you were, and trying to push you further.

Then David started playing, and for the first time I heard his voice, unaccompanied, without a band- and the whole room filled with the sound of it. If you've ever had the gift to sit a few inches away from someone really talented play and sing, you know what I mean. I have never, and still, to this day, ever heard a voice so clear, so beautiful, and so strong. When he sang, the simple beauty of his voice brought tears to my eyes. I remember that moment, like it's locked in space - it's one of those moments that tells you there's something more in this world. Unnerved by the beauty we'd witnessed, we filled the air nervously with jokes and laughter.

At David's funeral, the entire church was filled, and St. Anne's is a big church. I looked around and realized that the same way he'd encouraged, protected, and cared for me and for his family, he'd encouraged, protected, and cared for all the people around me. I'm sad to say I've been at many funerals in my life. But there is a feeling you get, when you're at the funeral of a man who was so loved. It's like the warmth and glow of love surrounds you. I think that was the day I began to understand how special David was.

The Alejandro family is like my second family, and I can see how it took that kind of family to make that kind of man. Some of the happiest times of my life have been spent in their living room, cracking jokes, watching movies, eating popcorn, telling stories and always, laughing. But there is never a moment in all of their gatherings that David's loss is not felt.

In one of my darkest moments, on the day that was hardest for me, I found by chance, the words of Ray Jasper's cousin. She filled her post with hope and light and comfort, and all of her words came from the Bible. For the first time, after all the articles and comments I'd read and obsessed over for weeks, I felt peace. I believe in God, and it is only this belief that has brought me hope and sustained me. Seeing that we can believe in the same God, and have comfort in the same hope, spoke to me. In the end, it doesn't matter that Ray Jasper never said he was sorry for killing our David.

My painting came back to me, I can't remember exactly when, but not too long after David's death. The boy I'd memorialized in that painting I broke up with in college - though we met by chance in New York, just one year before he died, too, in 2009. It strikes me that all I have left - all we ever have left, is love.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Thoughts on Ray Jasper and my friend, David

Recently a last statement from Ray Jasper, a man on death row has "exploded" on the internet. He makes all kinds of sentient points about the justice system, the prevalence of blacks in prisons, and his letter has been described as well-written, thoughtful, and heartbreaking.

Well, it's heartbreaking for me, but for another reason - Ray Jasper is the man who killed my best friend's brother, David Alejandro. David was a kind, bright, talented, amazing man - a wonderful brother to my best friend, and like a brother to me.


My best friend and her brother David

Please, anyone who has read and shared Ray Jasper's statement, read this statement by the victim's brother, Steven Alejandro:
http://steven-alejandro.kinja.com/a-discussion-of-the-ray-jasper-death-row-issue-from-a-f-1536676452/1536918396/+hamilton_nolan.




We miss you so much David, and I send my love to all the Alejandros. I pray that you be remembered not just for the way you died, but also for the beautiful way that you lived.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Feline Friday: mystery kitty

Untitled

From time to time, I am visited by mystery kitties. This gorgeous kitty has a beautiful, glossy coat with markings like an ocelot, and she is HUGE. For reference, I have pretty big honking feet - at least 9 1/2 and she dwarfs them. Her fuzzy paws are big and adorable.

Untitled

From the moment she arrived at my doorstep she did nothing but purr and roll around at my feet, begging to be pet...

Total ham.

I'm guessing she must be related to Freckles, Pickles, and Sofia, but due to her size, I think she must be older than them. Maybe she's their mother?

Untitled

Look at that beautiful, shaggy coat! She is well-kept and gorgeous, is never hungry, and only appears every few weeks, so I'm assuming somebody owns her.

Untitled

I love the pointy lynx-like tips on the edges of her ears. What a lovely mystery kitty she is.