Wednesday, August 26, 2009

¡Viva Sanchez!

Today is an exciting day for me as a New York Jets fan, because head coach Rex Ryan has named rookie Mark Sanchez to be starting quarterback. The Jets had moved up 12 spots in the 2009 NFL Draft to select Sanchez fifth overall. He was in a quarterback competition with fourth year veteran Kellen Clemens. I thought Sanchez had outplayed Clemens in both training camp and the last two preseason games, so the starting nod is well deserved. Besides, he’s the future of the franchise and the face of the team in the 21st century.

It’s not only a great day to be a Jet fan, but a Latino as well. Sanchez has the chance to be the NFL’s first Latino superstar at the sport’s premier position. Yes, there was Jim Plunkett who won a Super Bowl with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders and currently Jeff Garcia and Tony Romo. But none of them are full-blooded Latinos. No, I don’t mean to seem jaded in any way, but it’s significant that Sanchez is a third generation Mexican American on both sides. He has a huge Latino following in California and hopefully, with success, he’ll have an even greater following in the NFL.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

I'm back again with my latest installment of Teaser Tuesday for Daughters of Earth, this time with chapter 7. Here are the previous teasers: chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter 3, chapter 4, chapter 5, and chapter 6. In this chapter we're in 2012. Dassah and Leah, both 18, are now combat soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Their unit is at a bar celebrating Dassah's promotion to sergeant. Leah asks to talk to Dassah outside. Note, Ephraim is Leah's boyfriend.


The salty sea air pleasantly contrasted the stuffiness of the bar. The promenade overlooked the beach and was a quick stroll away. Cobblestone paved the promenade flanked by metal railing, with benches throughout, and decorative stone archways.

“Sorry about Beitar Jerusalem,” Dassah offered.

“No, you’re not,” Leah retorted. “They’ll get Maccabi next time.”

“No they won’t.”

Leah pinched Dassah in the arm.

Dassah grimaced. “Why’d you do that for?”

“For being mean.”


“Are you upset at me for any reason?”

“Besides your act of violence?”


“No, why would I be?”

“No reason.” She paused. “Well, there is a reason. You’ve seemed distant since you came back from the course. That’s the same time you found out I was with Ephraim.”

Dassah shrugged. “And?”

“And, is there something I should know about you and Ephraim.”

Dassah huffed. “There never was a me and Ephraim.”

“I don’t mean that. I mean, do you like him?”

“He’s a cute guy and he’s fun to hang out with.”

Leah stopped walking. She rested against a pillar of a stone archway with hands behind her back and ankles crossed. The light breeze wafted through Leah’s curls and tickled the base of Dassah’s neck. They were alone on the moonlit promenade.

“I didn’t mean it that way,” Leah said, her voice soothing. “I meant do you want to be with him?”

Dassah watched the waves hit the surf. “No.”

“Then why do you look at us at times like you’re angry?”

“I do?”

“Yes, you do.”

“I’m not upset at you.”

Leah clasped Dassah’s left hand. She rubbed her fingers over the scars. The hair raised on her forearm. Dassah didn’t like when someone touched her scars, but she didn’t mind Leah doing it now.

“Look at me,” Leah said softly. “Tell me what it is.”

Dassah turned to her. The purity of Leah’s beauty disarmed her. The faintest of moonlight glinted in her large brown eyes framed by long, ashen lashes. Her sumptuous full lips, slightly parted as if ready to speak, beckoned Dassah. She had kissed her fair share of lips before, but none had enthralled her like Leah’s.

She slipped her right hand under Leah’s thick hair and caressed the back of her neck. Leah’s eyelids became heavy. Dassah leaned down and tenderly kissed Leah’s lips as if she was made of fine porcelain and might break if touched. Leah didn’t move. Dassah kissed her again, this time opening her mouth.

Dassah gripped the pillar with her left hand and pressed her chest against Leah’s bosom. They continued to kiss and Leah ran her fingers through Dassah’s hair with both hands till she held the crown of her head. Her shawl fell back from her shoulders. Dassah’s heart quickened and her stomach roiled.

Leah dropped her hands to Dassah’s shoulders and pushed her back. “No, we can’t do this.” She clutched her shawl closed.

“Why not?” asked Dassah incredulously. “I love you, Leah, I always have.”

Leah shook her head. “Not like that.”

“I do.”

“You told me you dated boys in high school.”

“I did, but I also dated girls.” She sighed. “Mainly girls.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t know how. In Tel Aviv, it’s easy. No one cares. It’s very open there. My parents got over it when I told them. They let me go to clubs until three in the morning and I met girls there. My parents are more worried about terrorists after what happened to you and me rather than me getting into trouble.”

“But why couldn’t you trust me to tell me?”

“I didn’t know what you’d say or think of me. We know how your parents are. To them, being gay is like eating pork on Yom Kippur.”

“They’re my parents, but you’re my best friend. We’ve been through life and death together and will face it again in the army.”

“I want more than friendship.”

“How many girls have you been with?”

“Why do you want to know?”

“Because I want to know if you plan for me to be one of the countless girls you’ve been with.”

“Absolutely not. The others would be gone from my memory. You’d be the only one I’ve ever been with. There’s only you. I love you, Leah. There’s no one else I’ve ever loved more.”

“I love you too, Dassah.” Leah ran the back of her fingers down Dassah’s cheek. “But not in that way.”

Monday, August 17, 2009

District 9

Saw District 9 over the weekend and I loved it. It’s the best Sci-Fi film I’ve seen since the first Matrix movie. Like the Matrix it used familiar themes and took them in a different direction, and the result is something that seems unique and extraordinary. It’s stunning that this film only cost $30 million to make.

The premise is akin to the 1988 movie, Alien Nation: aliens are marooned on earth in the past in a major city. In Alien Nation, the extraterrestrials were marooned in L.A. three years prior and were humanoid. In District 9, however, the city is Johannesburg, the aliens arrived 20 years ago, and they look like giant crawfish (hence they are referred to by the derogatory name “prawns”). Plus, the prawns live in absolute squalor in a shanty town.

Newcomer Sharlto Copley plays the main character Wikus Van De Merwe, a bureaucrat from Multi-National United (MNU) which is in charge of District 9. Wikus heads a task force assigned to relocate the 1.8 million aliens (originally 1 million arrived but multiplied over the years) to a new “District 10” camp located 240 km from Johannesburg. While District 9 is a slum, District 10 is little more than a concentration camp. While Wikus goes about his mission in an inefficient and callous way, something goes horribly wrong and he becomes the subject of a harrowing man hunt.

I don’t want to give away more of the story without ruining District 9 because while there are no “twists” per se, the joy is in the journey. The movie is not predictable and the viewers won’t have a true idea where the film is going, but in the end it makes all the sense in the world. First time director Neill Blomkamp (who also co-wrote the film) has done a masterful job and hopefully audiences worldwide will enjoy it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

I'm back with my latest installment of Teaser Tuesday for Daughters of Earth, this time with chapter 6. Here are the previous teasers: chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter 3, chapter 4, and chapter 5. In this chapter we are "back" in 2067. Naomi is attending the big Monday Night Football match between Yasmin's Tel Aviv United and their archrivals, Persepolis Tehran in Tehran.


With the start of the second half, Naomi returned to her seat cheering as usual. There was something different now, however. To her far right, she saw in the splash of red a stern-faced, dark-skinned woman wearing a red sweater staring right at her. When their eyes met, the woman looked away. Naomi scanned to her far left, and there was a blonde woman wearing the same red sweater and she was also staring at her. Like the other, she looked away once their eyes met. This occurred a couple of more times, which unnerved her. Even the baby showed her displeasure with a few kicks. She—or he—will definitely be a footballer.

If she hadn’t been pregnant, she would have gotten up and confronted the two women. Their ogling would have also not bothered her as much but for her pregnancy-induced mercurial temperament. With the baby squirming and her stomach churning, Naomi felt nauseous and dizzy. The taste of bile in her mouth made her want to vomit. There was only a half hour left in the match with United clinging to a one-goal lead, but she didn’t think she could make it to the end. Besides, she was also exhausted.

Naomi leaned over to the FSA special agent. “I’m not feeling well, Kaila. I want to go.”

“Will you be okay, Ms. Abravanel?” the agent asked.

Naomi nodded. “I just need to get back to the hotel. I’ll be fine.”

“Whatever you wish.”

Naomi left a message for Yasmin with another spouse. She spied at the two women in the red sweaters as she left. Now, they made no effort to conceal their attention, fixing their eyes on her as she disappeared into the tunnel.

She looked over her shoulder a few times as she and the agent made their way to the valet parking lot outside the stadium. Thankfully, she didn’t see the two women.

The car was already at the valet stand. The car was the FSA’s standard black Mercedes-Benz EL550 electric sedan on loan from the local field office. Naomi missed the Bentley, but the Mercedes served its purpose.

“Is everything okay?” the agent asked her.

“Yes,” she replied tersely and got into the backseat of the sedan. The stadium was only about eleven kilometers west of the hotel, and Naomi stared out the window the whole way, admiring the vacillating colors of bright lights and flashing billboards in downtown Tehran.

They shortly arrived at the Grand Hotel Tehran. Agent Rajoub held Naomi’s arm as she trudged through the plush lobby to the elevator. Getting inside was a great relief to her and she sat down on a bench as they rode it up to the penthouse suite. The hotel had two such suites with an adjacent guest bedroom flanking a single corridor facing the elevator. Only the penthouse guests have access to the floor by use of the thumbprint scanner on the elevator and their suite or room doors.

The nausea and dizziness were gone by the time they reached the penthouse floor.

“Do you want me to walk you to your door, Ms. Abravanel?” asked Agent Rajoub.

“No, I’m fine, thank you,” Naomi said, smiling thinly. Her voice was hoarse from the match. “It’s right next door.”

“Just call if you need anything,” the agent said and went into her room.

Naomi’s eyelids were heavy and she let out a wide-mouthed yawn. She waddled to the penthouse suite down the hall. Her feet had swelled up from all the walking and standing she did today and her back was killing her. She checked her watch and it said 10:45. There was still ten minutes left in the match, which meant she could catch the rest of it on the holomitter. She opened the door and it slammed behind her.

The suite was dark, which was odd. The lights usually turned on once the front door was opened. She passed through the foyer, flung her purse onto the settee once she entered the living room, and called for the lights to come on but they didn’t. The city lights glinted off the furniture’s gold inlay through the large double-paned windows and glass door overlooking the terrace. She peered out to the luminescent skyline dominated by the Milad Tower on this clear night.

She called for the holomitter to turn on, but that didn’t respond either. She huffed and waited for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. She squinted and felt her way to the settee to get her purse. She pulled out the PAD, unfolded it, and tapped the screen to turn it on, but it didn’t work.

“Shit, what the hell’s—”

The hairs on her nape bristled and she slid her eyes to the right.

Oh, God!

There was someone in the room with her. She couldn’t see her, but she knew she wasn’t alone. She opened her mouth to scream, but the sound caught in her parched throat. Her heart thumped against her chest, and she grimaced from a violent baby kick. She swallowed hard and her teeth chattered.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Congratulations, Justice Sotomayor!!!

Congratulations to the soon to be Justice Sonia Sotomayor of the United States Supreme Court. This is a momentous day for America and Latinos in this country. For me, as a fellow Puertoriqueno from the Bronx, I'm doubly proud.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

I'm back with my latest installment of Teaser Tuesday for Daughters of Earth, this time with chapter 5. I'm finishing up the editing process. Here are the previous teasers: chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter 3, and chapter 4. In this chapter we are "back" in our time, specifically, April 6, 2009 with the brilliant Palestinian Israeli citizen Dr. Sanya Al-Assad. She is the future inventor of BHB which secures womankind's survival. Right now, she works at a woman's clinic in the Negev Desert of Israel providing medical care to disadvantaged women, be them Palestinian or Russian and Ethiopian immigrants. She's the focus of a BBC News website expose. The interview turned to politics and Sanya spoke her mind.


“You’re doing a lot for this diverse collection of women,” the reporter said.

“I do what I must,” Sanya replied.

“If a Palestinian State is ever created, will you live and practice medicine there?”

“To teach and train, perhaps, but this is my home, my roots are here. Why should I move? A Palestinian State alone does not solve the deep-seeded problem of division. The Arab minority in Israel shouldn’t have to leave the country to find equality and justice. We’re second-class citizens here. You know how hard it was to find an apartment when I was in medical school in Tel Aviv? No one wanted to rent to an Arab. We should have equality with the Jewish majority, the rights of full citizens.”

“There’s the notion of, ‘if you don’t like it, then leave.’”

“That’s the American way of thinking. In Israel, when Israelis think something is unjust, they challenge it.”

“But you say you’re not Israeli.”

“Irrelevant. People shouldn’t sit on their hands when they’re faced with injustice. If you want a better life, you don’t run away to find it, you make one where you are. That’s just my opinion.”

“So, you’re opposed to those Muslim leaders here who refuse to recognize Israel and advise their followers to boycott national elections.”

“Of course.”

“Including Hamas and Sheik Salah, the leading Palestinian cleric in Israel?”

“They’re not the only obstacles to peace. Look at Israel’s new right-wing government. Look at the new foreign minister. He wants to deport Arab Israeli citizens like myself to reduce our numbers in this country. He wants to divide Jews and Arabs into two culturally homogeneous states. Only Arabs who pledge loyalty to the State of Israel as a Jewish state—not a state for all its citizens be them Jewish, Muslim, Christian, or Druze. This oath plan is directed at Arabs like me, and it’s insulting and unabashedly racist.”

“But you really can’t compare Hamas to—.”

“Violence is not the answer, regardless of who’s committing it.” Sanya’s cheeks flushed with anger. “Teaching our children that violence is the answer is reprehensible. Having children’s programs on Palestinian Television teaching children to say ‘Death to Israel!’ and that Allah will be proud of them if they die trying to kill Jews is obscene. Yet, I’m not here to criticize my people to an Englishwoman, and you’ll show your readers how bad we are and divide us into groups of good Arabs and bad Arabs. ‘Oh, she’s a good one.’ Frankly, I couldn’t care less what your readers think of me.”

The reporter sat forward on the seat with hands clasped in front of her. “No, I’m not trying to make Palestinians look bad or paint you in any favorable or unfavorable light. I apologize if you’ve gotten that impression.”

Sanya took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She didn’t know why she had gotten upset. If she didn’t care what the reporter’s readers thought of her, why did she get riled up? Yet, it was more than that, and she had been on edge for some time. The strain of watching Palestinians suffering from a distance and only being able to provide limited help had been growing.

“I didn’t mean to be discourteous,” Sanya said. “These are just difficult times. I take to heart what has happened to my people, and the future looks doubtful.”

“Do you think there’ll ever be peace?”

“In my lifetime? I don’t know. There have been 30 years of peace between Egypt and Israel, but for Israel and the rest of the Muslim world? There needs to be a seismic shift somewhere for that to happen.”

“Do you see yourself at Soroka Medical Center in five years?”

“No.” She sucked her teeth. “Shame on me for saying that so quickly; it gives the wrong impression. My hope is that once my residency is over, I can transfer to the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv. I love Soroka and the people here, but Sheba’s Joseph Buchman Gynecology and Maternity Center is arguably the leading Ob/Gyn center in this part of the world. Their commitment to developing new reproductive technologies and research in gynecology, perinatology, onco-gynecology, and infertility is unparalleled.”

“Would your husband be coming with you?”

“Of course. Where would we women be without our men?”