#hiremeplz: I’m a trivia night champion

Tweeting my desperation will probably not land me a writing job. Desperation is a strong word anyway; let’s say that I’m highly motivated instead. While that tweet was fueled by the free beer I earned for knowing things faster than other people, in vino et cerevisiae veritas: there is truth in wine and beer. (Also, I’m proud of myself for barely remembering how to decline Latin nouns but also worried I did it wrong. Come at me, language nerds!)

I can’t figure out how to put that on a resume but I can write a blog post about it. So, here are the reasons why you should hire your friendly neighborhood trivia champion, based primarily on my experience at Trials Pub:

  • (I drink and) I know things.

Being good at trivia doesn’t just make me a repository of random knowledge, though that definitely helps. “Write what you know” is a writing cliche because it’s true. That doesn’t just apply to creative writing, either. It’s important to be authoritative as a writer; your audience needs to believe that you know what you’re talking about. Being a sponge for supposedly trivia knowledge makes me just knowledgeable enough to sound believable about almost any topic.

  • I can manage my time.

A deadline is a deadline. Time management is just as important in trivia as it is in writing. At Trials, the quiz is a list of twenty questions that have to be answered in twenty. Sounds like I should spend one minute per question, right?

Wrong. The first thing I do is I go down the list and knock out the questions I know, which never takes more than five minutes. That gives me about fifteen minutes to wrack my brain to try and remember the capital of Guinea-Bissau (it’s Bissau; the obvious-ish answers always get me), what position David Bowie singles peaked at on the charts, or the name of a Shakespeare play that I haven’t read but am vaguely aware of.

  • I’m a team player.

Spoiler alert: I don’t win trivia night by myself. Just as much credit is due to my delightful boyfriend, James. The real secret to our success is that our areas of expertise are different enough that we make up for what the other lacks. Jim’s grasp of politics, music (though not pop; that’s all me!), science, and B-movies is stronger than mine. I go for the sports, literature, pop culture, and history questions.

The Teacher's Pets

The Teacher’s Pets: proving that couple that slays together stays together.

However, we’re also just knowledgeable enough about the other’s interests that we can help each other out. He’s talked me out of answers that I’ve been convinced I’m right about and vice versa. Knowing when to listen to someone else and when to stick to your guns is key in any career. In writing, it’s the difference between being a pain in your editor’s ass and letting them take over your writing and your voice.

  • I’m a problem solver.

I can guarantee that every night that I’ve won trivia, I’ve had to make at least one guess. Trials always has one Shakespeare question but my English degree doesn’t mean that I know them all by heart.

Last week, the Shakespeare question asked for the name of the play starring Helena and Bertram. I was stumped. But! There were context clues in the question that helped me guess. Having a male and female lead implied a comedy since Shakespearean comedies are all about chaos in the beginning that ends with order and matrimony. The names didn’t sound Italian (or, as I said at the time, “Those names are hella boring. It’s probably set in Britain.”), so it probably wasn’t set in Italy. All I had to do think of a play that I hadn’t read and probably wasn’t set in Italy, and I’d have a good guess. I chose Measure for Measure because I knew it was a comedy and it sounded British.

It turns out that I was wrong and the comedy I was looking for was All’s Well That Ends Well. However, my reasoning was sound. It’s not like I guessed something completely wrong like Richard III (one of the histories) or Timon of Athens (a tragedy). While in trivia answers are either right or wrong, in writing and the professional world, there’s a bit more leeway.

  • I’m consistent and persistent.

Many trivia nights reward consistency. Trials doesn’t just crown a winner every night; at the end of four weeks, a monthly winner gets chosen as well. Winning thirty bar bucks is great (and we’ve done it a few times) but my eyes are on the big prize: the sixty bar bucks the winner of the month gets. You don’t have to win four weeks in a row. Being consistently on the podium can be enough to take the monthly prize.

Speaking of persistence, it’s back to the job hunt for me. Hit me up with your thoughts, job offers, and thrown gauntlets to challenge me at trivia in the comments or on Twitter @lavender_ink.

 

The Second Life of Fantasy Quidditch

Le roi est mort, vive le roi. The king is dead, long live the king. I came to bury fantasy quidditch, now I come to praise it. Have I beaten you over the head enough with my literature degree? Yeah? Okay.

If I really believed fantasy was dead, I wouldn’t have signed up to TD two fantasy tournaments this summer. I knew that MLQ was going to replace fantasy as the source of competitive summer quidditch because I was paying attention last summer. Even as fantasy shifts to smaller scale events, my philosophy as a TD this summer is that fantasy needs to focus on fulfilling the needs of the quidditch community that MLQ doesn’t. So, here’s what fantasy quidditch can do for you:

  • New friends!

Remember your first fantasy team? I do! Shoutout to Chris Beesley’s Snow Cup V Blue Barracudas for being my introduction to the world of fantasy quidditch. It was my first time playing quidditch without any NorCal players, period. I vaguely knew Anthony Hawkins and Hannah (from YouTube! so talented!) Moroz because SJSU seems to *always* play LBFQ when they’re at the same tournament but otherwise these people were complete strangers to me.

No longer. Bees and I bonded over being involved with quidditch in our late twenties and eventually got me invited to Ref Haus, a quidditch community that I cherish. Anthony went from being that vaguely intimidating guy with resting bitch face (sorry Ant, but you do) to one of my favorite quidditch people because he is so damn kind. Erin and Nelson from SHSU are the reason that the Bearcats are my favorite Southwest team. She’s a hard working team president (something I appreciated and understood) and his snaps are delightful. Steve and I are two English/history/geek culture nerds in a pod; I never leave Utah without at least saying hi and giving him a hug because tweeting at each other isn’t enough. Speaking of tweeting, Tyler is one of the rare Ducks fans I can tolerate on Twitter. Emily intimidated me a little when SJSU played Tufts at World Cup 7 so it was really cool to see her ball out on my team and then play games at the Snow Ball afterparty. I may have teared up a little when Duston hugged me extra hard after I put his hard earned West Regional medal on this year. Gina is a perfect human; talented yet humble on the pitch and off. Daniel’s a really good ref that I’m always happy to see, Justin flew all the way from Hawaii, Micah is my secret #fitspo Instagram goals, and I am gripped with guilt because I barely remember Kellie except that she was really nice.

You didn’t come here to read about me gushing about my teammates (unless you’re one of them, hi guys!) but there is a point to my fangirling: I bet you have those kinda feels about your first fantasy team, too. Why would you deprive the quidditch players of the future of that joy? That community building and bonding are why I started Hella Fantasy. NorCal quidditch has a not undeserved reputation for drama and I understood fantasy’s power to bring people together. I think it worked. At least a little. Fantasy tournaments, like lowercase-q quidditch, aren’t magic.

Afterparties are ~*magical*~ though. At this point, even Snow Cup, the gold standard for fantasy tournaments, is an excuse to go to Snow Ball… and the Snow Ball afterparties. The social value of fantasy tournaments is more important than ever now that the sport has grown beyond the point when you can know everyone in quidditch. This is why planning the West Fantasy afterparty stresses me out far more than running the tournament itself.

  • Player development

Yes, I put a social benefit before this. There was a time when scrubs like me could play on the same team as all-star players but the advent of MLQ has put a dent in that. That being said, it’s not completely behind us. West Fantasy managed to draw some big names, Funky Fiesta definitely did. Also, since fantasy teams are smaller, players see more game time than they otherwise would on a 21-player roster.

I’d write more about this… but I’ll always be at best a surprisingly spry for her age role player and at worst an ancient bench riding scrub. Liz the Player is the only quidditch version of me (versus Liz the RC, Liz the TD, Liz the ref, Liz the team manager, etc) that just shuts up and lets other people tell her what to do. There are plenty of other people who know better than me on this topic; go read their stuff.

  • Referee development

I would not have passed my field test last October if I hadn’t refereed at unofficial events, including Hella Fantasy and Northwest Fantasy. It’s not just about knowing the rules; it’s about taking command of a pitch. For someone like me, who is extroverted but really just wants to be everyone’s mom/cheerleader/fangirl, burying that instinct and learning how to put on my ref brain took time and practice. Fantasies offer the feeling of a real game (because who doesn’t like winning, amirite?) without the consequences of screwing up an official game.

This was my one of my biggest reason to make sure that West Fantasy happened this summer and the #2 reason I’m going to Funky Fiesta as a non-playing volunteer. (The #1 reason is partying, obviously.) I know I need to brush off the cobwebs of summer and practice using Rulebook 10.

I’m also virtually certain I’m not a Tier 1 referee, so I’m going to need to field test. I’m far from being the only one, either. The consequences of not having field testing early and often at the beginning of the season lead ref shortages in the middle of the season that end with me taking an overnight Greyhound to SoCal to referee nine games in a row. I mean, I love SoCal (yes, really!) and getting paid, so it worked out. That doesn’t mean I want to repeat that ordeal.

As important as referees are, I’ve found that it’s harder to schedule snitches lately. With snitch certification on the horizon, I know that some of the West’s best snitches don’t have game film focused on them. So, in an effort to get more snitch volunteers and get the best snitches paid this coming season for their priceless contributions to the game, I decided to offer snitch film to snitches that volunteer for West Fantasy. Sure, snitches still have to pass written tests. That’s on them. All I can do as a TD that wants the best snitches she can get is to offer them film so that I can offer them money later.

  • Testing other ideas

You’d think I would have learned my lesson after my last mention of Vancouver Fantasy got me not one, but two salty Quidsecrets. Let’s not pretend any of us are above reading Quidsecrets, either. It’s a trainwreck but one that no one can look away from. <sarcasm font> Especially not me, the West’s fearless leader galloping in on her high horse. Gotta know what the angry peasants are thinking. </sarcasm font>

Anyway, you would be wrong. I did mention I was a masochist, didn’t I? I actually think the tackling tweaks at Vancouver Fantasy are a good idea for the same reasons that fantasy tournaments are good for fledging referees: they replicate the feel of a real game without actually being a real game. Quidditch Canada didn’t just come up with finishing tackles with two arms on a whim. I have seen plenty of terrifying one-armed tackles.

Since it’s #ScheerkWeek, I’ll provide this example:

 

EEK!

photo credit: Paxton Quade Casey — edit: Apparently this isn’t Scheer, but why let the truth get the way of a good hashtag?

Illegal? Oh, absolutely. Dan Marovich is a big dude but he’s not a vicious dude. He’s a teddy bear, really. He’s also a fierce competitor and finishes his hits, which is why I drafted him. However, it’s hard for a big guy to finish a tackle and not make illegal contact with an opponent. If Dan had the option to completely wrap Scheer, would he have taken a penalty that led to gray getting ahead of purple and eventually ending my hopes of finally making bracket play at a fantasy tournament? Maybe not. I think there’s an argument that completing a tackle with both arms is potentially safer. Why wouldn’t Quidditch Canada’s gameplay department collaborate with a fantasy tournament to test the idea before deciding to include it in the regular season?

Rules aren’t the only thing fantasies can test. Ethan Sturm’s article on gameplay formats got my attention because yes, I have become complacent in my use of formats. Pool play to bracket play is relatively easy to schedule. So, I commit here and now to use a different format at West Fantasy this year. I may or may not have a large scale event in mind for next season (no promises but coughLAOpen2.0cough) and I need to see how other formats feel for me as a TD.

Thanks for reading, everyone. I don’t always write about quidditch but when I do, my blog gets way more hits. So, come back and read my other stuff! I’ll probably even write about quidditch again before the summer is over. (Conferences. They’re good for you.) See you at fantasies and MLQ matches coming to the West Region near you.

Fantasy Quidditch is Dead

Chances are that if you’re reading this, you’ve probably attended a tournament I’ve directed or you’re going to later this summer at West Fantasy. If that’s the case, please don’t panic about the clickbait title. Keep calm even as I repeat myself:

Fantasy quidditch is dead.

Okay, let me rephrase. Large scale fantasy quidditch is dead. We’re talking major events like West Fantasy and THE Fantasy that drew in players from all across the region and beyond. There’s not one smoking gun and I’m not here to point fingers. What I am going to do is break down how I think fantasy quidditch got here. (Spoiler alert: fantasy quidditch is only mostly dead and I plan on channeling my inner Miracle Max in a blog post to come.)

  • Quidditch has grown.

As I look back on the three years of quidditch I’ve been a part of and prepare for a fourth, I think I can safely say that my time has seen quidditch shift from its idealistic infancy to its terrible teens. Yes, quidditch may have just turned ten, but it has far more in common with the growing pains of puberty. Our growth is uncomfortable, uneven, and awkward right now. You have a developing region like the Northwest in the same league as the perpetual powerhouses of the Northeast and Southwest. All those regions emerged at different times and along different trajectories, which makes for awkwardness when we look at quidditch as a whole. Incoming self-deprecating humor: It’s like when I shot up to my adult height in the summer between sixth and seventh grade but didn’t really need a bra until I was a senior in high school. Eventually, all that growth evened out and I became a fully developed adult, but not without coping with a stretch of awkward years.

There are also just more people playing quidditch, period. When I first started playing in NorCal for SJSU, it was 2013 and the Skrewts had just spawned the Skyfighters as a B-team. Now it’s 2016, they’re separate squads, and there are 5-6 community teams in NorCal (depending on how you count). SJSU was the first NorCal team period, founded back in 2010. The 2015-2016 NorCal Quidditch Conference featured eleven teams. I’m not saying that NorCal is typical (far from it), but it is a snapshot of how quidditch has grown just in one part of the country.

All that growth changes the nature of fantasy tournaments. You can’t go to one and see all your quidditch friends anymore because there are so many more quidditch friends to have! Fantasy tried keeping up with massive two-day tournaments like West Fantasy used to be, but that growth led to other things, too.

  • Major League Quidditch

Like I said, I’m not here to point fingers. However, as the TD of this year’s West Fantasy, I can’t avoid the subject of Major League Quidditch. It certainly was the first thing on my mind when dates for the tournament were being considered. Northeast Fantasy didn’t even happen last year, and I didn’t want to be the regional coordinator that saw that happen to West Fantasy.

But even before the LA/PHX series was moved, MLQ was already impacting fantasy quidditch. In 2015, there was no MLQ west of the Mississippi. West Fantasy and THE Fantasy had enough player demand for two days of quidditch featuring twelve and fourteen teams. Meanwhile, Northeast Fantasy didn’t happen. MLQ filled the need for high-level summer quidditch.

In 2016, West Fantasy has become a one-day tournament of eight teams. Now, before you cry that it was moved to NorCal, THE Fantasy hasn’t moved from Austin and it also is shrinking down to eight teams playing over the course of one day. There once was a time when people would travel for fantasy quidditch because it was the highest quality quidditch of the summer. Now, the best players (or the real West talent, as Quidsecrets would say) go to MLQ.

As a fantasy tournament director, all I can do is try and avoid scheduling conflicts because there are only so many referees. Not everyone will make an MLQ team, so there will always be some demand for fantasy.

  • Being a tournament director is the worst.

I must be a masochist because I love tournament directing. However, that doesn’t make the above bullet any less true. I was at a Stanley Cup Finals game watching the Sharks lose when I found out that the MLQ series had moved… because MLQ players were asking for refunds. I was already upset about what I was watching on the ice, so I’ll let you imagine how I blew my stack when I figured out what had happened. Luckily, I gave myself a day to calm down and figure out how to run West Fantasy on a smaller scale. Everyone has been nothing but understanding about it and I can’t thank you all enough for understanding that I like being a tournament director but that I also have some semblance of a life.

I’m not here for sympathy for me. (I’m not that self-involved.) Instead, Paxton Casey (THE Fantasy) and Serena Cheong (Vancouver Fantasy) have had to deal with players behaving badly and you should be pissed about it.

Why? Because I said so. I mean, who will step up to be the tournament directors of the future if this kind of behavior is considered acceptable?

As THE Fantasy shrank, someone posted a scathing comment in the event page telling Paxton (who has been a champ in coping with the changes to THE Fantasy, just putting that out there) to “get your shit together in order for this to be somewhat successful.” That person has since deleted their comment and I don’t feel vindictive enough to out them and post the screenshot I have.

Then you have the whole Vancouver Fantasy explosion over Quidditch Canada testing rule changes at the event. I’m going to be spending my next post talking about why experimenting at fantasy tournaments is actually a good idea, but that’s not the point I want to make here. The point I want to make is that prominent Northwest players decided that getting on their soapbox and going on about how two-armed tackling and new hard boundaries are going to be the death of us all on Father’s Day. Serena probably spent the day worrying about it instead of focusing on her family and her life. It’s what I would have done because no one signs up to be a tournament director unless you want to contribute to making the sport better.

If you had any respect for the thankless work a tournament director does, you’d message them saying you don’t want to referee anymore and save your thoughts for a blog post or an article (which eventually did happen). Event pages are for event information, not blowing up your tournament director’s phone while playing Soapbox Sadie.

Okay, time to come down from my bully pulpit. If there’s one thing that drives me up the wall, it’s people who complain about quidditch (or anything else in life) but don’t have solutions. I’m saving those for part two: The Second Life of Fantasy Quidditch.

(Featured image: Snow Cup VI Team Aussie, because they’re the only reason I’m not winless as a fantasy GM. You guys were great!)

Dia de Portugal, Camões, e das Comunidades Portuguesas: Part 2

Luís_de_Camões_por_François_Gérard

Luis de Camões wasn’t some poet scribbling down his musings from his ivory tower. He was a certified badass. He’s not winking at you; he lost his eye fighting the Moors in Ceuta! His military service also took him to Goa, and later he was offered a position in Macau. On his way back home to Portugal, he was shipwrecked near Cambodia. According to legend, Camões let his lover drown because he was using both hands to hold the only manuscript of Os Lusiadas, the Portuguese national epic, out of the water!

The name Os Lusiadas comes from Lusitania, the Roman province that more or less matches Portugal’s borders today. Portuguese still refer to themselves as Lusitanians. Luso- is the prefix used to denote a thing as being Portuguese, in the same way that Sino- is used for Chinese.

Lusitania_SPQR

Check out the opening lines of Canto I:

As armas e os Barões assinalados
Que da Ocidental praia Lusitana
Por mares nunca de antes navegados
Passaram ainda além da Taprobana,
Em perigos e guerras esforçados
Mais do que prometia a força humana,
E entre gente remota edificaram
Novo Reino, que tanto sublimaram.

Translation by me, more literal than lyrical:

The arms and Heroes marked
That the western Lusitanian shore
By seas never before navigated
Yet passed beyond Taprobana,
Through dangers and grueling wars
More that what was promised by human strength,
And amongst remote peoples they built
A New Kingdom, a sublimation of both.

If that doesn’t sound familiar, check out the opening lines of Virgil’s Aeneid, translated from Latin by A.S. Kline:

I sing of arms and the man, he who, exiled by fate,
first came from the coast of Troy to Italy, and to
Lavinian shores – hurled about endlessly by land and sea,
by the will of the gods, by cruel Juno’s remorseless anger,
long suffering also in war, until he founded a city
and brought his gods to Latium: from that the Latin people
came, the lords of Alba Longa, the walls of noble Rome.
Muse, tell me the cause: how was she offended in her divinity,
how was she grieved, the Queen of Heaven, to drive a man,
noted for virtue, to endure such dangers, to face so many
trials? Can there be such anger in the minds of the gods?

The key difference between Os Lusiadas and the Aeneid is revealed in the opening line. Aeneas writes of “arms and the man” (emphasis mine). Os Lusiadas, on the other hand, speaks of “arms and heroes“. While the great Greek and Roman epics are about singular men, Os Lusiadas is the story of the Portuguese people as a whole. Their epic journey is the conquest of the seas and the founding of the Portuguese Empire, just as the Aeneid is the chronicle of Aeneas’s journey and his founding of the Roman Empire.

While Juno is Aeneas’s enemy and Venus is his patroness in the Aeneid, in Os Lusiadas the divine clash is between Neptune and Venus. She advocates for the Portuguese to Jupiter, while Neptune tries to defend his dominion over the seas. Considering that the Age of Discoveries is the only thing American school children learn about the Portuguese in school, I think we all know which side Jupiter chose.

The two epics are further paralleled by their structure. They both start in medias res. Aeneas arrives in Carthage and then tells Dido about how he got there. In Os Lusiadas, Vasco da Gama arrives on the east coast of Africa after rounding the Cape of Good Hope. There, the King of Mombas welcomes him and asks how da Gama and his crew arrived. Instead of telling his story, da Gama recounts Portugal’s history, and how it led to him and his historic voyage.

This democratization of the epic is why I think it’s a better example of a national epic than the Aeneid. Virgil makes his poem all about Aeneas because he’s trying to get in the good graces of Emperor Augustus. Camões, on the other hand, makes it about the Portuguese people who came before and after da Gama. It’s about the nation, not just one man.

The last canto of the poem describes da Gama and his men returning home, but not before a pit stop at Venus’ Isle of Love. Canto X is so steamy that it was censored out of the poem during the Estado Novo dictatorship! Okay, it’s really not that bad; dictators are just prudes. It’s a shame though, because the sea goddess Tethys (who also becomes da Gama’s lover) predicts the accomplishments of Portuguese explorers yet to come. Os Lusiadas was published about eighty years after da Gama’s journey, so Camões had the benefit of hindsight when writing those divine predictions.

He also had foresight. Portugal was reaching its peak as a world power when Camões finished Os Lusiadas, which ends with a warning to King Sebastian to maintain Portugal’s glory. Instead, the young, heirless, and allegedly mad king died fighting the Moors in Africa at the Battle of Alcacer Quibir, and Portugal fell into the hands of Sebastian’s closest relative, Phillip of Spain. Elizabethan scholars might know him as Bloody Mary Tudor’s husband. Portugal would remain a Spanish possession for eighty years, but would never return to her former glory.

The impact of Camões on the Portuguese language and psyche can’t be underestimated. He is to Portuguese what Shakespeare is to the English language. Portuguese is even called “a lingua de Camões” because it is his language. Every Portuguese author after him was inspired but him. His fingerprints are all over the Portuguese literature that came after him.He also wrote plays (they’re okay) and love poetry (surprisingly beautiful). I’ll leave you now with my favorite love poem of his:

Amor é fogo que arde sem se ver;
É ferida que dói e não se sente;
É um contentamento descontente
É dor que desatina sem doer;

É um não querer mais que bem querer;
É solitário andar por entre a gente;
É nunca contentar-se de contente;
É cuidar que se ganha em se perder;

É querer estar preso por vontade;
É servir a quem vence, o vencedor;
É ter com quem nos mata lealdade.

Mas como causar pode seu favor
Nos corações humanos amizade,
Se tão contrário a si é o mesmo amor?

My translation:

Love is the fire that burns unseen;
The wound that aches unfelt;
It’s a discontent contentment
The pain that maddens painlessly;

It’s not wanting more than to be wanted;
It’s solitude surrounded by people;
It’s never settling for contentment;
It’s care that is gained in the losing;

It’s wanting to be willfully imprisoned;
It’s serving who conquers, the conqueror;
It’s what kills us loyally.

But how could your favor cause
Human friendship in our hearts,
If love is so contrary to itself?

Dia de Portugal, Camões, e das Comunidades Portuguesas: Part 1

Once upon a time when I was attempting to blog about my summer studying in Portugal, I wrote about Dia de Portugal. Shoutout to my buddy Patrick for remembering my old blog and reminding me of that post and how much it means for me to share this day with people.

Unlike the Fourth of July, Dia de Portugal isn’t the anniversary of Portuguese independence. Portugal has a couple of days that you could call an independence day:

  • June 24, 1128: The Battle of São Mamede: Dom Alfonso Henriques beats his mother and her lover in battle, takes over the County of Portugal
  • July 26, 1139: Dom Alfonso Henriques acclaimed King of Portugal, because who wants to be a Count when you can be a King?
  • October 5, 1143: Kingdom of Castile and Leon (not Spain! Spain wouldn’t exist for a few hundred years!) recognize Portugal
  • May 13, 1179: Pope Alexander III recognizes Dom Alfonso Henriques as King of Portugal
  • December 1, 1640: Portugal, which had become part of the Spanish Hapsburg empire after the death of King Sebastian I, declares independence from Spain
  • April 25, 1974: Carnation Revolution, Estado Novo dictatorship overthrown

So, for those of you keeping score at home: Portugal is way older than Spain. It also is not part of Spain, though it was for eighty years that we don’t like to talk about. Now you know better, and you can never ask me if Portugal is a part of Spain again. Cool? Cool.

With all these choices, Portugal did something different. Portugal Day instead marks the death of Luis de Camões. He wrote Os Lusíadas, the Portuguese national epic. (Think the Portuguese version of Virgil’s Aeneid.) As if I wasn’t already proud of being Portuguese, the literature major part of me that will never die loves that Portugal celebrates itself not on the anniversary of a battle for independence, but in memory of a poet. For more about Camões, check out Part 2 of this post.

After 1974, the day was expanded to include the Portuguese communities abroad. As a Portuguese-American, this is my day, too! There are nearly 1.5 million Americans of Portuguese descent… which is only about 0.5% of the American population. I like to think we make up for it by being loud and proud of our immigrant heritage.

In spite of our small numbers, we impacted American culture more than you realize.  John Phillip Sousa? He might have written Stars and Stripes forever, but his father was Portuguese! Emeril Lagasse? BAM! His mom’s Portuguese. Steve Perry? Don’t Stop Believin’ that he’s one of my people, too. I could go on, but I’m starting to sound like the Wikipedia page on Portuguese-Americans. Yes, that’s a thing.

 

 

I Didn’t Vote For Hillary

It’s true; I didn’t. In 2008, that is. Never mind that I have been in the tank for her for years. Not just back then, but all the way back when she was the First Lady. I didn’t vote for Obama, either. I didn’t vote in that primary at all because I thought my vote didn’t matter in the larger picture of the primary, there was no Senate race so I wasn’t worried about Boxer or Feinstein losing their seat, and most apathy inducing of all, I believed that the outcome was a foregone conclusion. I live in California. Not only that, I live in one of the most liberal bubbles of California, the Bay Area. I wasn’t worried.

I’ve regretted missing that election in the eight years since. So, when I got to cast my ballot for Hillary, I felt like I was making up for lost time. Yes, Hillary did win that race by a narrow margin, so it’s not like I blame myself for the outcome.

The thing is, I didn’t just vote for Hillary today. I voted for Zoe Lofgren, Kamala Harris, Jim Beale, Josh Barousse. You might not know who those people are, but that’s okay. I do. I want them to represent me in the House of Representatives, the Senate, the California State Senate, and the San Jose City Council. They’re going to have a far bigger impact on the liberal bubble I love living in that whoever sits in the Oval Office.

2008 Liz didn’t get a chance to help choose who protected her liberal bubble from popping, and that was a mistake. I haven’t missed an election since, nor do I mean to. (My brother channelling his inner Shame Nun when I finally confessed my sin of civic duty to him is enough of a deterrent.)

When the AP announced yesterday that Hillary was the presumptive nominee, even though I knew I was voting for her, I was upset. It felt a ploy of the 24-hour news cycle to get ahead of the elections on Tuesday. Worse than that, it felt like voter suppression. How many other versions of apathetic 2008 Liz might have been deterred from voting from that announcement?

On this day in 2008, Hillary conceded after a hotly contested primary, but only after fighting until the bitter end and making the case that she was the better nominee for the general election. I fully expect Bernie to do the same. The convention hadn’t happened yet, but Obama had won the popular vote and the support of the superdelegates. She read the writing on the wall. Once she did concede, the acrimonious primary was set aside and she went to work for the Obama administration. She still got to have a voice in the running of the country.

I voted for Obama that fall because he was the better candidate; voting for the first black president was a bonus. I am looking forward to voting for Hillary this fall because she is the better candidate. Voting for the first woman president is a bonus, but it not the primary reason why I wanted to vote for her in 2008 and why I voted for her today.

She’s pragmatic and has a vision of incremental change. I’m not much of an idealist and I don’t believe in revolution. She did what she had to do in what has always been a hostile environment for her. I respect that. I emulate that myself as a leader. That’s what I want in the leader of my country.

Hillary is also willing to compromise and play ball. She did that with Obama, after all. As good as it feels to be on the other side of the equation,  I hope she looks back on 2008 and offers Bernie a place in her administration. I hope Bernie looks back at 2008, at a race just as contested as this one has been, and takes her up on her offer.

 

The Death of the Hockey Gods, or, Liz Becomes an Atheist

In case my mother reads this: in spite of my rare church attendance, no, I have not actually become a godless heathen. I’m still as Catholic as I was before this epiphany. I just came to understand atheists better… though Sharks hockey.

Let me backtrack a little bit. A few days ago, during those glorious days for Sharks fans when we’d finally made it to the Stanley Cup Finals but hadn’t started playing (if you can call what’s happened in the past two games playing) in them, I was hanging out with my boyfriend, brother, and my friend Sarang. Sarang asked about my altar to the Hockey Gods.

Every year during the playoffs, I would clear off my dresser and build it. I would carefully stack the pucks I collected from every playoff series, drape my collection of rally towels in an aesthetically pleasing manner, fan out the tickets I had saved from the few playoff games I had been to (that the Sharks had all won), arrange pins and other Sharks paraphernalia. Finally, I would present my sacrifice: a plushie of Wildwing, the mascot of the hated Anaheim Ducks, hung on a noose tied to a Sharks hockey stick. That wasn’t even the extent of my hockey superstition. I also did the usual things of never saying the s-word during a game and never reusing a shirt or jersey I wore when the Sharks lost. (Luckily, I own a lot of Sharks shirts and a handful of jerseys.)

I laughed at the question, not because I thought it was silly, but because I hadn’t even thought about my yearly tradition. Well, almost yearly; last year the Sharks didn’t even make the playoffs at all. “Oh, I stopped doing that,” I replied. “I guess I don’t believe in the Hockey Gods anymore. Does that make me a hockey atheist?”

“WHAT?” Sarang asked. I might as well have said I didn’t believe in the Immaculate Conception anymore. (Not to the confused with the Virgin Birth, the Immaculate Conception is the idea that the Virgin Mary was conceived without sin. Yes, Mom, I do still believe that.)  Even my brother looked concerned.

“I mean, it’s not like I’m gonna start saying shutout in the middle of a game or something. That’s just rude.” I continued.

“Yeah, like a real atheist,” my hitherunto silent and actual Atheist Boyfriend™ said.

I probably didn’t pause for long, but it certainly felt like a long time. I’ve been with my boyfriend for about a year now; it’s been a great year. I’m not going to beat you over the head with how ridiculously compatible we are (but we totally are and it’s gross and wonderful), but I’ve always had one concern about the future. He’s an atheist. I’m Catholic. I may not visibly practice all that much, but it’s a core part of my identity and irrevocably tied to what it means to me to be Portuguese.

I always worried that it would blow up on us in the future. If we got married. If we had kids. (We’re 31. These are thoughts we have.) Yes, religious-nonreligious marriages have happened before and will continue to happen, so really, we’re not all that special. It was just that the atheist mindset was completely alien to me.  I didn’t think I’d be dumped for my beliefs; I worried that the intolerant one would be me.

Then, I got it. The Sharks were doing well because they were finally clicking, working hard, and yes, getting lucky sometimes. I just didn’t believe that luck came from capricious gods that needed to be appeased. I didn’t believe that luck would be revoked for breaking a taboo. After all, hadn’t the Sharks finally made it to the Finals without my help?

All at once, those worries that I would give up a good thing because of my inability to understand were gone. I did understand, at least a little bit. “Yeah, exactly.” I replied. “I’m not going to be a dick about it.”

“Exactly,” he echoed.

So, thanks to the Sharks for helping me understand my boyfriend (and so many of my other friends!) better, and thank God for making sure that the two of us were in the right place at the right time to find one another.

(Seriously, we were never single and in the same place geographically until we met. Even though we’re the same age, grew up in the same city, had friends of friends, and mutually nerdy interests. I can set aside the hockey gods, but not my Catholic and cognitively dissonant belief in free will and fate.)

(wrinkles)

I know I joke about being or feeling old a lot, but it’s a relative kind of old. Going to college in your late twenties/early thirties and being involved in a sport where players over twenty-five are a rarity will do that. It’s less that I feel old and more that everyone around me just seems so young in comparison.

That being said, I have been lucky enough not to look my age. I laughed off my white hairs as they came in. They first appeared in the underside of my hair before spreading across my forehead, forging a silver tiara of experience. Two furrows dug into the space between my eyebrows, shallower lines started crossing my forehead, and crows feet began to radiate from the corners of my eyes. None of this bothered me.

So why is it now that I can’t get over the two curves that have carved themselves around my mouth? I didn’t notice them at first because I only spend so much time staring at my face. I think I only noticed because I got my makeup done for my graduation pictures and the foundation I was wearing settled into the creases.

Now I can’t stop staring at these two parentheses around my mouth. Yeah, parentheses. It’s like they’re surrounding everything I’ll ever say for the rest of my life, making my words superfluous additions to a sentence that you could ignore if you wanted to.

If I could do anything to make them go away, I would. But I can’t. They’re not going anywhere. If anything, there’s just going to keep getting deeper every time I smile. All my thinking wrinkles never gave a second thought; it’s the lines born from smiles that are making me frown. The irony is definitely not lost on me.

Thirty-one isn’t old by any means. But it’s not exactly young anymore, either.

A New Chase

Why am I resurrecting a blog I only made because it was assigned to me in my Career Writing class last semester? Well, a lot has happened between then and now. Being graduated a semester early (why yes, I am the using the passive voice; I was the object of that action and most certainly not the subject) kicked off a rough liminal period that left me with a lot of uncomfortable free time to think about who I’d become now that college was finished with me.

So, the big question: Liz, why aren’t you teaching?! Didn’t you go to school to learn how to do that? Yes, I absolutely did. However, I learned how to do a lot of other things along the way. I (re)founded one magazine and worked on another with a far more prestigious pedigree. I got into research and translation theory, fell back in love with the Portuguese language, and flirted hard (we’re talking third base at the very least) with the idea with the idea of going to Portugal to become Dr. Barcelos. I found quidditch and got deep into the organizational aspects of it. That’s not even taking into account the things I did for my major. I wrote. A lot. Research papers and blog posts and poems and literary analysis and creative nonfiction and short stories and articles. I didn’t just possess a piece of paper with the ink still drying on it; I had options.

I got myself back into school as a credential candidate, but it was more out of sheer stubbornness than anything else. I wasn’t going to let San Jose State dump me; I wanted to set the terms of our parting. I started learning about what it took to be a high school English teacher while I was teaching Portuguese classes of my own at POSSO. I started seeing the toll the profession takes on young teachers like my brother, Steve. His passion for teaching and his calling to work with high school kids is unquestionable; however, so is the toll his job takes on him. He’s tired, he’s stressed, it’s expected that he go above and beyond every day even if his compensation doesn’t reflect that.

I respect the profession as much as I ever did. I think that’s why I took a step back. I’d be in my Methods of Teaching English class wishing I was anywhere else. I was more worried about planning tournaments (my underemployment this spring has a lot to do with the uptick in NorCal quidditch tournaments) and growing the sport than I was about writing lesson plans. I wanted to keep writing, not necessarily teach others how to do it. Teaching is a vocation and I realized that I might not have the calling. Considering that I’d spent the past few years pursuing that vocation, it was a terrifying thought.

So, to escape my fear, I started a new chase. I applied for editorial jobs, anything that needed a Portuguese speaker, event planning positions, and above all else, anything that would let me make a career out of writing. I sent out countless applications/resumes/cover letters, interviewed at a few places that you may have heard of (including “the world’s biggest search engine”), and eventually I even got to choose between offers.

This time last year I was secretly resentful of all my friends that were graduating. I would have never predicted the year that was coming up for me: that I’d meet someone, that I’d graduate sooner than expected, that I’d organize a quidditch conference and work for the league, and that I’d be doing content writing for a startup that I never knew existed until I started this new chase. Atlantis might be impossible to find, but I don’t think happiness and success should be. This is something I can be happy doing. Maybe next fall I’ll find the time to go back to teaching Portuguese. Teaching will always be something I love, even if I don’t make a career out of it.

I used to think that Liz Barcelos was not a quitter. I’m not sure if that’s the case anymore, but if it means that I’ve gotten better at deciding what I want, then I’m okay with a little quitting.

Graduation Hurdles: A Dialogue

Part One:

Me: Hi! I have my graduation paperwork for my minor to signed.

Office aide: Great, I’ll leave it for Professor [Redacted].

Me: Thanks! (leaves office)

*phone rings on elevator ride down*

Me: Hello?

Office aide: Yeah, your paperwork is incomplete. You need your unofficial transcript and a personal statement.

Me: But I didn’t need that for my major paperwork!

Office aide: Professor [Redacted] won’t sign anything until you bring it all in.

Me: Seriously?! Ugh, fine.

Office aide: We apologize for the inconvenience.

Part Two:

I had to ditch a class to make it to my Portuguese advisor’s office hours to get my minor paperwork signed. It feels like a defeat because Portuguese was supposed to be my second major. However, SJSU’s jungle gym of bureaucratic obstacles killed that idea last spring after I had already committed myself to staying an extra year to get that second major. Not that I hold it Professor Adão: she did all she could to make it happen for me. Instead, she soothes my calm nerves and signs my pile of paperwork (minor form, substitution forms for all the independent studies classes I took) so I can take it to the foreign language office for the chair, Professor [Redacted], to sign.

I don’t even want to see him. He tried to talk me out of a second major, talk me out of grad school, and then didn’t lift a finger to help when I decided that’s what I wanted anyway. I wouldn’t even be surprised if some of the hurdles I had to jump were his doing. Portuguese is only a minor at SJSU, but the World Languages and Literatures department website said (up until I started asking) that a special major could be provided if a student took extra classes and built an approved program.

Professor Adão gives me a hug as I rise to go and she sees the paperwork trembling in my hands. I make my way to the World Languages office, make small talk with the office aide, and internally cheer as I walk out, the last hurdle between me and graduation nearly overcome.

So, you’ll imagine my dismay when I pick up the phone and realize it’s the WLL office. “But I didn’t need that for my major paperwork!” You know, the important part of graduation.

“Professor [Redacted] won’t sign anything until you bring it all in,” the (probably overworked at this crucial time of year) office aide replies.

But I’m livid. Professor [Redacted] STILL WON’T STOP GETTING IN MY WAY. “Seriously?! Ugh, fine,” I snarl into my iPhone, nearly knocking over a girl as I stomp out of the elevator. I don’t even listen as the poor aide tries to offer an apology. Instead, I hang up, just needing to lash out at someone.