The Farm Animal Analogies Continue

A dog who barks rarely bites. – Basque Proverb

The people who yell or make lots of threats rarely do anything, spending most of their energy on telling people off.

Photo Credit: Andy Carter

Photo Credit: Andy Carter

Take my dear aita for example. I love him to death, but boy can he get riled up.

I got my nose pierced a couple of weeks ago. When he finally noticed (it took him an hour), he yelled and yelled. And Aita is not usually one to yell. He told me I was ugly, that I looked like a bull, that I was stupid.

He let off steam by trying to shame me. But I just let him have his moment, because I had a good feeling most of his frustration was rooted in the fact that he could do nothing about it. Maybe he really was that upset over the piece of metal in my face, but I think his overreaction stemmed more from his inability to control me than any deep-seated aversion to face jewelry.

So don’t worry about the people who rage. They just whine, yell, and threaten because they do not have the power or desire to do much else.


Coming Down From Boise

San Inazio banner

Whereas I cut my Elko trip short, I turned Boise’s San Inazio weekend into a little vacation, choosing to stay Thursday through Monday. Here are the highlights:


Arriving at noon and immediately dying from the sweltering heat and 20% humidity of Boise (it was 61 degrees in SF), my old music camp friends took me floating down the river. It was an excellent way to relax, cool down, and get acclimated.

IMG_1155In the evening, my hosts for the weekend drove me outside of Banks, Idaho to a shady spot called Skinny Dipper Hot Springs.

Being a nature-deprived city kid, I had never seen a hot springs before let alone soaked in one. But hey, Mother Nature’s jacuzzi? I was so down to take a dip.

This place was amazingly secluded, not visible from the road and requiring a half mile steep uphill hike on a rocky trail to get to it. The view was spectacular. Well worth the trek!

Although I was initially grossed out by the algae all over the water that no one had warned me about, the hot springs were a big highlight of the trip for me.


Photo Credit: Amaya Oxarango-Ingram

And when we got back late, Amuma had a feast of spare ribs, potatoes, and rice pudding waiting for us! Living the life.


IMG_1163I started the day off right once again with a massage and Reiki session from my friend and Hella Basque photographer, Amaya Oxarango-Ingram. Multi-talented, Amaya is an entrepreneurial massage therapist with her own practice called Therapeutic Touch based in Meridian, Idaho.

If you’re in the Boise area and in search of a great massage therapist or just a way to release some of those super tight muscles from the craziness of the weekend, check out her Facebook page or email I felt so relaxed and comfortable during and after the session that I never wanted it to end. Super professional and very talented, check her out.

At 7:00 began the Class B paleta goma (a.k.a. pala) semi-finals–San Francisco vs. Boise. The fronton was a hot box with separate cheering sections side by side. San Francisco won and advanced to the finals Saturday morning.

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After the game followed a round of the long awaited, much coveted croquetas and solomo sandwiches at the Oinkari fundraising food booth. (For those who don’t know, the Oinkaris are Boise’s Basque folk dancing group.)


Photo Credit: Sasha Sklyar

Being Family and Friends night, it was a quieter evening on the block, which gave me the opportunity to reconnect with my cousins who came for the weekend. I discovered a second cousin I hadn’t seen for at least five years traveled to Boise for the Class A paleta goma finals. He introduced himself to me, and I responded with a plucky “Hi. I’m your cousin.”

Reuniting with family is one of the many things I love about Basque festivals.

Heading into Leku Ona‘s bar on the corner of the Basque Block, I found three Jeans from California. Hella Basque guys with hella French names. So solid.

Jean-Luc, Jean-Louis, Jean-Michel

Jean-Luc, Jean-Louis, Jean-Michel

Wanting to keep Friday as an early night to conserve my energy for the Saturday night madness to come, I headed out around 10:30. (We introverts need to do things like that.)

Continue reading

Fiction Fridays: Chino Picnic, Part 5

My main writing project at the moment is a young adult novel about a fictionalized Basque American folk dancing group.  Every Friday, I post excerpts from my novel draft.  Get caught up on the last installment here.

A little after midnight, the bar announced last call and the band ended their set with a rendition of “Twist and Shout” for the youngsters and their parents, their only remaining audience on the dance floor–the dancers jumping, skipping, and bobbing around in the center of the concrete floor, their parents watching on from the stands. Mother hen Estelle Larramendy sat among the dance parents, slightly engaged in their conversation but mostly bored. She looked out at the dancers, admiring their youth and energy, while wishing the band would stop playing so they could all go home.

It had been a tediously long day for her, but she stayed till the end for her family’s sake. She knew the girls looked forward to this dance all year and that it was one of the rare occasions when her husband, Gerard, would cut loose and reunite with his out of town friends from Fresno, Bakersfield, and San Francisco. Personally, she enjoyed the lunch but then mostly ran out of things to talk about by the time the dance performances started at 3:00 PM, not being the type to brag about her children’s lives as if they were her own. So she spent the day listening to other moms’ stories and hoping for any snippet of interesting gossip. By midnight, she was beyond ready to go home.

At last, the song ended to the disappointment and whining of the dancers for one more song. The parents got up from their seats, standing at the ready while their children said their goodbyes. As one of the moms gathered the kids together for a group photo, Estelle went to the bar in search of her husband, finding his black beret easily in a group of old Bascos. His eyes lit up when he saw her.

“Woop! Here’s the old lady!” Gerard exclaimed with false fearful surprise, slapping his right hand to the side of his head and falling back a few steps. Playing the whipped buffoon was his go-to comedy, and his friends laughed heartily at the act. “Ready to go?” he trilled in his thick accent. Continue reading

In Flight to Boise

Photo Credit: Amaya Oxarango-Ingram

Photo Credit: Amaya Oxarango-Ingram

I’m taking the weekend off again to live it up in Boise, Idaho for their San Inazio Festival.  Boise has the largest concentration of Basques in the United States (according to Wikipedia–take that with a grain of salt), so their annual festival packs plenty of people and plenty of fun.

One of my favorite Basque American events of the season, San Inazio is three days of everything the Basques love to do: eat, drink, dance, sing, watch handball and weightlifting, visit with friends, and play games.  Oh yeah, and I guess there’s mass in there somewhere too.  Click here to see a full schedule of events.

I’ll be cheering on my cousin Jean-Luc playing for San Francisco in the paleta goma finals, and I hope you will be too!  Definitely say hi if you see me (or most likely, hear me yelling obnoxiously)!  I’ll have more Hella Basque stickers to give out, so hunt me down, snap a picture with me, and collect yours.

Fiction Fridays will continue here tomorrow, as regularly scheduled.  Also, check the Hella Basque Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for updates throughout the weekend.  I’m fairly confident I’ll have service in Boise, so I won’t be stranded like I was in Elko.

Posts will resume on Tuesday, July 30th with a weekend recap.  That’s right, I’m taking Monday off to recover.  🙂

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Are You Aware of What Comes Out of Your Mouth?

What is in one’s heart comes out of one’s mouth.
– Basque Proverb

I spent much of my high school and college years trying to fight this idea that you can’t hide your feelings. I would be guarded, not saying what I really thought or felt for a lot of different reasons–to avoid making people uncomfortable, to be liked, to prevent an argument, to evade punishment, to act like I belonged. And what did I really get for all of that silencing? Many painful years of depression and anxiety.

After years of having yoga teachers drill into my head the importance of recognizing and acknowledging your feelings, I now do my best to not let things sit in my heart for too long. Come to think of it, that approach is what has led me to writing more seriously. Because life can be so much more liberating when you allow yourself to feel.

When we don’t, I can tell you from experience that holding things in can turn us into very passive aggressive people. While we may think you’re sweeping things under the rug, any resentment or silent suffering will inevitably come out into the world in some way–snarky comments to your friends and family, emotional overreactions to minor annoyances, general irritability and negativity as you go through your daily routine.

When we’re not at peace with yourselves, we can’t be at peace with those around us. So the next time strong emotions come up, let yourself feel them. That doesn’t mean that you have to yell at the next person who makes you angry, but maybe you can find the time to sit and try to figure out the source of that anger and a way to process. For me it’s writing, for others it might be drawing, painting, walking, talking to yourself, running, cooking. Find an activity that makes sense for you, one that allows you to let off some steam.

Feelings are normal. They’re part of being human. So take a tip from me: stop fighting them and start dealing with them.

Have You Let Berri Txarrak Blow Your Mind Yet?



Berri Txarrak is a Basque rock band from the Basque province of Nafarroa, and they’re kind of a big deal. They’ve won numerous awards in Europe for their music, and SF Station calls them one of “the two best rock bands from the Basque Country.” Although they formed in 1994, I only heard of Berri Txarrak in 2005 when they came to San Francisco to play a show for a handful of people at the Irish Cultural Center.

And they BLEW. MY. MIND. Before being introduced to Berri Txarrak, I thought all Basque music was boring old folk songs full of accordion music that my aita loved to play on family road trips. But I was wrong! I had found a band with as much energy and raw emotion as my favorite American bands, all while singing (and shouting) in Basque.

Even though I can’t understand any of their lyrics aside from a few curse words, music lovers don’t need to speak Basque to feel the power behind Berri Txarrak’s words. Music is a universal communicator, and I only really understood that by listening to Berri Txarrak for the first time.

To add to my adolescent delight, I discovered their track “Denak Ez Du Balio” features vocals from Tim McIlrath of Rise Against! Two of my favorite bands all in one!  Have a listen in the YouTube clip below.

If you want to let a little Berri Txarrak into your life, their Myspace has 50 free tracks for you to listen to, or go to their website to read more.

Now that I’ve shared my all-time favorite Basque band with you, I’d love to read about yours in the comments. Let me know:

Who is your favorite Basque music group or solo artist?

The Politics of Dancing: It’s Never Just a Dance


With Boise’s San Inazio festival just around the corner, I want to share some thoughts on dancing.

When someone asks you to dance at a Basque festival, it’s never just a dance.  Unless the person in question is a really good friend of yours, chances are the person asking wants your tongue in their mouth by the end of the night.

[Sidebar: Even if you are really good friends, there still might be a chance they want more.  It’s usually safer to dance with really good friends who have significant others, but even that’s no guarantee there’s no sexual undercurrent there.]

It’s a historical fact that dancing is a form of foreplay.  Or the precursor to foreplay, if you will.  A dance invitation from someone is a sexually charged request.  This goes for boys as well as girls.  (I love how assertive our girls are.)

One dance can turn into five in the blink of an eye.  And those five often lead to lean ins (or actual dance floor make outs, if you’re into that) and furtive invitations back to hotel rooms (see: Afterparties).

So the next time someone asks you to dance, remember that the request is a veiled declaration of desire.  This person wants to spend time with you, touch you, and get their heart rate up with you.  Now doesn’t that just scream sex? Continue reading