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Monthly Archives: July 2010

Pepper Likes to Rant About US Immigration

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Did I mention that Mr. Lee Hales is a furruner? Mmmhmm.

Indeed, as we speak he is perhaps sleeping or drowning his leg cramps in watered down Qatar Airways cocktails somewhere above Europe, heading for America after 21 months in South Africa, his country of origin.

Mr. Lee Hales, it should be noted, is a taller than average white dude with a full head of hair, so he is obviously going to embark  upon a sinister political career which will span decades and advance the evil one world government.

Dun dun duuuuuuuuun.

But I’m not really here to talk about that, amusing though it is.

No, I want to talk about your friend and mine, US Immigration. Oh tri-headed hydra of my nightmares, you are really fucking crazy!

Now, let me be up front and clear about what I think of immigration related issues. Let me just start by saying, it wasn’t undocumented workers who destroyed the economy. Ahem.

I think that if we want to solve our problems with illegal immigrants (and lets face it, when people froth over illegal immigrants what they really mean is OMG latina/o, hispanic, chicana/o) we need to actually address the deeper issues that have created this mess. One is the corruption, crime and poverty in the countries that illegal immigrants are fleeing.  And let me be clear, I believe that the US IS PROFOUNDLY COMPLICIT in those problems. How so?

Our desperate burning need for cheap ass goods, which can only be produced by abused laborers.

Also the fact that we are the largest end market for illegal drugs.

I have visited Mr. Lee Hales twice, and while I enjoyed South Africa, and found it beautiful and would even live there under the circumstances of my choosing, it was definitely not home. Not in a bad way, but not home. During our Kafkaesque trudge through the bowels of the USCIS, NVC, and finally (and worst) the US Consulate in Johannesburg, there came a point at which I had to consider the reality of moving to South Africa for an indefinite period,just to be with my husband.

This, thankfully was a moot issue. But it really made some things very emotionally real to me, about leaving one’s country.

It really sucks when you feel as though all other options have been closed off. No, really. It sucks.

People are not leaving their families, their language and their homes to come to our hostile, often racist, generally xenophobic but otherwise pretty nice country on a fucking lark.

Ask yourself how bad it would need to get for you to leave everything behind?

If you don’t think you would ever consider doing it, period, even in the face of starvation, no matter what nightmare scenario occurred, leave me your address, as I will be sending a large hirsute spider to slap the idealistic bullshit patriotism right out of you. EIGHT TIMES.

So yeah. There’s that.

Then there is this other little problem. If undocumented workers were not able to find employment anywhere in the US, they wouldn’t come here, and they wouldn’t stay. Someone is hiring them. Lots of someones in fact, because we are blithering out             one side of our mouths and eating cheap delicious Avocados through the other.

Which why this hubbub about illegal immigrants is really just old-fashioned racism. Because if it was about ANYTHING else, we could and would crack down on companies and individuals hiring undocumented workers. But we don’t, because we need the cheap labor and goods.  As to the idea that illegal immigrants are using our barely extant social services, well, go ahead and try to get state assistance without a Social Security number. Now try to somehow get a social security number illegally. Now go do it somewhere where you barely speak the language. No, please try it. I’ll wait.

And anyway, even if there were a ton of illegal immigrants using social services, let’s be real about who primarily needs social services– mothers and children. If you are the kind of person who really thinks that the inherent worth and dignity of a person hinges on where they happened to be born, well, I don’t know what to tell you, because it is random freaking luck that you won the privilege lottery. I for one choose not to blame the poor, oppressed and exploited (especially, you know, after they have completely fucking uprooted themselves in the hope of pulling themselves up by the ‘ol bootstraps) for their situation. But then, I’m a filthy socialist pinko bitchface. Motherhood is hard, and kids deserve basic food, medical care and education. I do not fucking care where they happened to be born.

Which brings me neatly to some of the barriers to legal immigration, of which I have intimate and godasmywittness perhaps carnal knowledge (I paper cut myself a lot these past couple of years).

We are going to talk about marriage based visas, because that’s what I know, and that’s considered the “easiest” route to permanent residency, by many people.

There are some issues, people.

Firstly, gay american citizens or permanent residents? Fuck your “pursuit of happiness,” you don’t get to sponsor the foreign-born love of your life, even if it was totally legal to marry them in their country.

This is a huge violation of basic rights. And you know, I don’t give a shit about how much two dudes makin’ it freaks you out. I personally loathe the scent, texture and taste of olives. They smell like socks and unwashed gentlemen business to me. They taste like dirt, to me. But many, many people, of all ages, gender presentations, cultural backgrounds and ethnicities love them some motherfucking olives.

The point? I don’t get to arbitrarily declare olives the fruit of the devil and campaign to have them banned. That would be completely illogical.

It is equally illogical, that solely on the basis of gender, which affects not one other fucking person, (other than insurance companies, if you subscribe to the corporation as person theory), marriage, and by extension immigration sponsorship rights, are denied to American citizens. I would also argue that since single people pay higher taxes than marrieds, gay people are effectively suffering taxation without rights, tea partiers, ahem, cough cough, but that’s a whole other post.

So yeah, that’s the first profoundly fucked up thing about marriage based immigration.

Number two?

Money.

Fun fact:  You must make a certain amount of money each year to sponsor your spouse for a green card. Why? Because fuck you poor people! You deserve nothing! NOTHING MWUAHAHAHAHAHAH!

Oh, and because the Government really, really wants to avoid giving any kind of state or federal assistance to non-citizens, until they have worked 40 quarters, and presumably will have paid in enough taxes to bother giving a shit about.

I do understand the purpose of this law, in re: ensuring that immigrants are not buying green cards, but despite understanding the conceptual framework, I find it absurd. Also, the poverty guidelines are such that really, people could still easily be tempted to engage in sham marriages. I don’t believe this particular scenario is common, simply because it takes a long time to get a green card, and it’s really not worth the hassle for someone you don’t love. There are definitely squicky import-a-wife services, but those marriages are considered legit, because its American dudes who being squicky and that’s cool. I guess.

Poor people have a right to be married, and two heads are better at escaping grinding poverty than one.

This, in turn, ties in to the fees.

Ah, the fees for immigration services. Not counting any attorney’s fees, it costs a cool $1200 in filing fees, processing fees and medical exam fees to get a green card.

Again- poor folks have a right to marry who they choose, regardless of where that person is from, and sponsor them for permanent residency.

These barriers to entry were high as hell for me, as a broke full-time student working part-time at the Evil Finance Company from Hell. I just squeaked by the annual income requirement. Getting together the money for fees caused significant delays in our process. It sucked. I missed Mr. Lee Hales every single hour of every single stupid, stupid day that we had to be apart. I felt guilty and awful when we had to wait months to be able to shell out for fees. I felt worse when we had to choose whether to pay the fees, or for me to come visit him, after being apart for nine god damned months.

It was not fun. Having to prove that your love is real to people who don’t care whether you live, or die in a tragi-comic pickled pigs foot cannery accident– the very definition of Kafkaesque un-fun.

Finally, the process itself is not transparent. Because there are three agencies involved, it can be confusing, frustrating and rage inducing to navigate through.  I couldn’t afford to hire a lawyer, so we muddled through things ourselves. Yes, there are sources of information on the internet, no they are not always helpful or accurate.

I have pretty decent language skills, but I struggled with some of the ambiguous and deliberately obtuse shit that the immigration authorities threw at us.

And those are some of my major issues with the most basic aspects of immigration. I plan to write a full on guide at some point, in the hopes that some poor soul, lost in the bureaucracy will find it helpful. I also plan to talk about what I think they could do to improve the system, at some point.

But soon it will be time to pick up Mr. Lee Hales, and begin RUINING AMERICA BWAHAHAHAAHAHAHA!!

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How Paprika and Pepper (Should’ve) Met: First Edition, Part Two

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I found him in a health food store. He was barefoot and ankleted, surrounded by shelves of herbal supplements. His careless facial scruff and cloud of unwashed hair suggested nights of near-catatonic yearning and countless viewings of High Fidelity—and yet he held himself with what I initially considered a regal bearing, in the way that cavemen without clubs sometimes look civilized.

I was young and strobe-light-addled, a rave girl cliché with an addiction to rainbows. I wore candy necklaces, pleather everything, and hoisted my pigtails above my ears with a full spectrum of scrunchies. My pink lipstick and blue hair fought like two siblings on a roadtrip. As you might have guessed, health food stores weren’t exactly my scene, but my vegan roommate had sent me on a mission for carob chips—a task I would normally have scorned, but which I felt guilted into performing after accidentally feeding her cat MDMA.

He shuffled sensitively across my path, then back again, cradling eco-friendly laundry detergent and kava kava in his hirsute arms. I suspected him of macrame. Eventually he made his approach, peering up from beneath his furrowed unibrow to ask, “what’s your real hair color?”

“What? I was born like this,” I answered. “I was conceived amidst toxic waste.”

He blinked. His eyelashes were long and oddly clumped; they looked like tassels.

“Your jokes are a cover for your insecurity,” he said, then punctuated his statement with a nod.

“Okay.”

He asked me to dinner. I said yes. At the time, I considered it a social experiment; now, I can only look back in shame.

He took me on a tour of the street vending community, where he filled my arms with felafel, corn dogs, and ice cream cones that melted down my spandex-sheathed arms. It wasn’t quite dinner, but it was whimsical. He tried to hold my hand as I shuffled along, but ended up twining his fingers within a pretzel. He massaged the salt right off; it drifted like snow in the chill night air.

“Would you like some nectar?” he asked. “It’s home-brewed and potent.”

My gag reflex activated and the corn dog I had been eating shot out of my mouth. He chortled and shook his head.

“You misunderstand,” he smiled, and, with his free hand, unscrewed the cap from his faux-Navajo canteen. “I make my own mead. It’s kumquat-infused and peyote-spiked.”

He held the canteen to my lips. I tilted my head back and imbibed.

I can’t explain the taste. It reminded me of wet, congealing laundry—of rotting, bug-infested fruit—of mold. It slithered down my throat and lay coiled in my stomach, waiting to strike. My mouth filled with the taste of impending vomit, but I choked it down and sucked a scoop of ice cream off a waffle cone in desperation.

“It’s layered with so many notes,” I said. “How did you get such depth of flavor?”

He laid his hand across my breastbone. “It’s all in here,” he said. “You have to put your heart into it.”

“But that’s not—the location—never mind.”

We kept walking. He ran his hand down my spinal cord and whispered Dave Matthews lyrics in my ear (hike up your skirt a little more, and show the world to me). I was cold and entirely too sober, so I suggested we go to a rave. He acquiesced, but looked unsure.

I took him to my favorite spot, a former-slaughterhouse-turned-nightclub with bouncers dressed in latex fetish gear, who handed out free ring pops and glow sticks. P and I shuffled around on the dance floor, until he dragged me off to the side and gazed deeply into my drug-blurred eyes.

Strobe lights divided his face into neon triangles as he said, “I get it now.”

“Get what?”

“Why you are the way you are.”

“And?”

“You’re afraid.”

“Afraid of what?”

“Of being who you are.”

And there was so much noise. So many lights. The pretzel rhetoric abused my already chemically-bruised brain. I couldn’t think straight.

Don’t judge, alright? We’ve all done stupid things. And sometimes, those things are people.

His apartment was oppressively warm and thick with the smells of beef jerky, Drakkar Noir cologne, and crisp mountain waterfall. Half-melted taper candles waved jauntily from the necks of old Reisling bottles; the candles were curved in an oddly phallic manner, making the white drips that had solidified on the bodies of the bottles suggestive at best. He poured me a tumbler full of peach Arbor Mist, a shot of Black Velvet for himself, and insisted we toast to Fidel (may he rest in peace). His frayed, white lace curtains added a touch of maudlin poetry to the scene.

In his bedroom, a brass Buddha watched us with solemn, heavy-lidded eyes. I saw our faces reflected in a dozen crystal balls, and then he whispered, “I can see your future in them. I can see the bliss.”

Bliss in this case meaning ice cubes and refrigerated massage oil.

I don’t know what made him think numb skin would be sexy. I don’t know who gave him the idea or why his ice cubes were shaped like chrysanthemums, but the moment that frozen flower began its slow descent down my forearm, I leaped away with a ferocity that made him jump and ultimately resulted in my knee to his manbits. In the background, Cat Stevens crooned his sympathy.

“You prefer warmth?” he mumbled.

“Doesn’t everyone? Jesus fuck, man.”

“I’m sorry.”

I wished he wouldn’t talk into my neck.

“You want me to warm you back up?”

“If you can.”

And thus commenced the least fulfilling massage of my life. He started with my ankles and moved to my knees—then my ribcage, then back to my knees—and, after a brief detour to the parallel islands of my ears, ended at my knees. Even now, when I look at my knees, I sometimes hallucinate thumbprints.

Anyway, after about ten solid minutes of vigorous erogenous-zone-missing, he sheathed his mancandle in a creepy spiraled condom that transformed it into something vaguely resembling a corkscrew, looked at me quizzically while I explained that Vaseline does not in fact work as a lubricant, and assaulted my cervix with a fervor usually reserved for prom night. Over his shoulder I caught the cold dead eyes of a stuffed frog; it judged me silently, like the nuns who scolded me for wearing combat boots with my school uniform.

I apologized to Jesus. P mistook it as praise for his technique and thrust unrhythmically on.

The nuns were right.

I awoke the next morning to the smell of scorched marmalade. I found him in the kitchen, attempting to fry toast (he didn’t have a toaster); his scrambled eggs bore a crust of wheat germ, and lily pads of mold floated in his coffee pot. He presented me with a breakfast collage—random bits of food, oily and congealed, thrown together on a chipped mauve plate. I swallowed without chewing, as Che stared down with silent contempt.

“I have to go to work,” I mumbled. “I need to—things. There are things. So many things.”

He took my hand. “Last night was beautiful for me,” he whispered. “I want to give you something to remember me by.”

“Just so long as it’s not sperm.”

He ignored that, but grabbed one of his Reisling bottle candleholders from the shelf above his sink. “I made this,” he said, “while daydreaming of a girl like you.”

At which point I took the bottle and ran.

That night, suffused with shame, I posted a rant on Craigslist. “Drakkar Noir? Really? And Cat Stevens? FUCK YOU.” I fell asleep at my computer, P’s candle dangling limply beside me.

In the morning I found a message from Pepper: “Fucking crystal balls.”

How Pepper and Paprika (Should’ve) Met, First Edition

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So. Pepper and Paprika, the blog that we’ve  been planning to create and not really quite ever getting around to, has finally been birthed from the glorious forehead of the gods, and it’s time for introductions.

I’m Pepper Lee Hales. I’m not nice, but I am fun. I’ve known Paprika for years, and find her witty, pretty and  delightfully bitchy, otherwise known as the trifecta of friend qualities.

Paprika and I will be doing a feature on how we (should’ve) met approximately whenever we feel like it. We will also write about serious and silly things, and run this place like the Dicatrixes we not so secretly are.

Without further ado, the inaugural post:

It was the early ought’s, and I was in (redacted) during that halcyon time in my life when cheap beer with olives in it and black cotton thongs seemed so authentic, yet so glamorous. There was a shitty club called FauxRoux’s (patrons obnoxiously insisted on pronouncing it Fox Rocks, I kid you not) that had Thursday night Clamato and Bud Light specials and free Nacho’s from 7-9. This was during my brief stint as a junior journalist, proofing notices and classifieds.

I was enjoying the nectar of the immortals that is bar nachos when I met the guy we will call P. Now, my general Thursday night ritual was to affect a world-weary slouch in my boatneck white tank top and visible bra straps and quietly observe the lifers and other flora and fauna (middle-aged partiers in matching turquoise suede fringe jackets, AFLAC salespeople with pink drinks and peeling sticky tags, other young poseurs in their corduroy bootcut jeans and drunks in dirty nylon windbreakers) from the corner of the bar. FauxRoux’s would host an open mic on Fridays and pack the rafters with fresh-faced college kids scoring indie cred, but on Thursday’s it was all 70’s power hits and smoke seasoned with other peoples lung crud.

Then P. sauntered in. I say sauntered because that kind of guy never does anything else. Sauntering non-chalantly may as well be his raison d’etra for life. P looked like a refugee from 1995, with long, fluffy, sensitive dude hair, a scraggly chin strap and the kind of vaguely expressive hands that are always on the verge of playing the bongos naked.

I cannot claim that I didn’t know better, even during the olives-in-the-beer epoch of my life. And yet. When he sauntered over and started telling me my aura was incredibly warm and topaz colored, it seemed like an adventure, a lark–after all, how bad could a date with this scruffy, slightly smarmy hip-u-gee be?

He still had a beeper, which should’ve been my first clue that shit was about to get weird. He took me to a tiny, dirty, poorly lit Thai-German fusion restaurant run by a bored white guy and a waitress with the deepest fake tan ever to grace the Midwest.

We shared some bratwurst stuffed spring rolls with a bizarre peanut flavored sauerkraut sauce and he kept grabbing my hand, staring into my eyes with profound though unfocused intent, and running his fingers around my palm in circles whilst saying things like “Your fifth Chakra is emerald, and you are destined to become a Bodhisattva of infinite mercy…” in a strange lisping whisper.

“You know, we’ve been running  a weekly add for a yogi…” I rejoined, balling up my hand and making a silent vow of temperance and chastity that would tragically die at the hands of the devil called Vodka.

Now, you may say to yourself, sure, he sounds a little kooky but not that bad surely?

Just wait.

His pervasive cologne, a mix I imagined as copious Drakkar Noir with grace notes of Patchouli and some kind of musk the source of which I chose not to think about, was soul numbing, and I felt like a deer caught between headlights and uncontrollable giggling. We left the restaurant and went from bar to bar, and I lost personal space with every jello shot, until I found myself staggering up the outside stairs to his cold water flat, conveniently located above a print shop and video rental place.

He mumbled something about destiny and stuck his tongue in my ear as soon as we stumbled through the door. The essence of unwashed dishes and sweaty laundry co-mingled with soy candles in ocean breeze and evergreen fresh as we tripped the drunk fandango (speaking of which, remember the adds with the paper bag people? So funny.) across his rattan rug and  past shiny vinyl bean bags and finally, into the den (there’s really no other word to do it justice)  of P.

It was dim and bizarrely humid. This, I would find was due to an LED fountain in the corner with the Gamelan and brass Buddha. It was one of those plastic affairs that cycles through blue, red and green and develops a calcium scum no matter how clean you keep it.  He lit a candle with a match and a flourish and hastily kicked yesterdays boxers under his rumpled single bed. The glow of a computer with one of those under the sea screen savers bathed his sensitive ponytail in an incredibly unflattering light. A head shop wall hanging fluttered limp and defeated over the window, blue and gold in all its tye dyed celtic knot glory.

The shelves were littered with cast polymer dragons, fake crystals and blown glass mushrooms, and he had tacked a poster of Che Guevara to the ceiling above his bed.

I sat down and drunkenly kicked one clog (shut up, it was only just barely not the nineties) off and into the bamboo bonsai by the door.  He fumbled with a joint, sat down cross-legged, peeled off my sock, and began rubbing my foot against his scraggly chinstrap while making quiet honking noises.

I giggled, probably from a contact high, and fell back onto his hemp sheets, determined to stare down Che, while P tried to seductively run his hand up my unshaved leg.

“Please, oh god please, take off your clothes,” he mumbled with an urgency that hardly seemed warranted. “I just…ohmygod you’re like a Godess…like, like Vesta! I just want to see all of your bountiful gifts…” I giggled at the unfortunate and surely mistaken allusion to the virginal goddess, and with a half kick to his face, stood on the bed and shimmy bounced out of my low-cut Levi’s and french cuff button down (for that touch of class). At which point one of the springs in his obscenely thin mattress snapped.

“Just, just like, sit. I just want to worrrrrship you.” He said, now in a breathy rolling near falsetto.

He had somehow managed to get his ponytail stuck in his ekoostik  hookah t-shirt, and flailed there aimlessly for a full thirty seconds before finally extricating himself and revealing a torso the shape and color of a new potato. I wobbled on the edge of the bed, poking at the sunken spring with my foot and whipping my hair (I had the Jennifer, don’t judge) around for reasons which are now lost to me.

“Eeeeeeecstaaaaaasyyyyyyy” He chanted nasally, fumbling around through his desk drawer and then waving a bottle of what I assume was vegan organic fair trade hemp massage oil aloft in victory.

What followed was one of the worst “massage” experiences I have ever been blessed to have.  I laid on my stomach, and he dumped oil on my tailbone, heels and the backs of my knees. Those, by the way are the only spots which he “massaged.” It reeked like rotting carnations and felt like maple syrup and turpentine. He breathed heavily on me and kept repeating “Kuuuuuundaliiiiiiini you are my goddeeeeeessss” over and over.

I’ll spare my esteemed audience the worst details, but suffice it say it involved a strawberry dental dam which never the less resulted in a wicked yeast infection, some kind of weird nubby condom and the windsock effect. He also squeaked. No, you read that right. Full on hamster squeaking. Also–for the record, Che judges. Oh yes, he judges.

He insisted on awkward cuddling and snoring gently into my hair, and he somehow hid my underwear in the night.

The next morning, I woke up to the smoking wick of a moonlit meadows candle, a wicked hangover and the taste of kool-aid and Roquefort in my mouth.

“Um…hey. Morning” He mumbled, delicately untangling his hair from my remaining earing.

“Yeeeah, I uh, um…There’s a thing…I’ve got to get to…so…”

I kicked around for my clothes and decided that speed being the better part of valor I would go commando for the length of a cab ride home. As I trot-ran out of his hideous flat I caught a moldy whisker encrusted bathroom and terrifying kitchen out of the corner of my eye.

If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably wondering what the hell this has to do with Paprika. Carry on. The rewards are rich.

I was wont to click through the Craigslists rants on slow workdays, back in the days when prostitution was gloriously unfettered, and we  as a nation still hadn’t spent our budget surplus. And in that fertile soil I came upon a glorious shining light, in the form of this post:

“Who the hell ‘massages’ the back of your knees!?! f (redacted).”

It was Paprika. She too had found herself in the mystical fantasy forest of P’s bedroom and succumbed to his dusky eyed charms.

I laughed until the warm glow of admiration and camaraderie replaced my bafflement and hangover, and sent Paprika an e-mail. The rest is the history of our glorious revolution.

Now, just so everyone is clear, that is fiction. That was how I SHOULD’VE met Paprika. Her side of the same story is pending. Enjoy!