Fiction Fridays: Oh, Brother

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.

When she got home, Brigitte immediately locked herself in her room to call Maia and tell her all about the auspicious turn in her luck. Yet once Maia answered, Brigitte quickly reconsidered. She did not want to jinx what she and Patrick had going, and in truth she did not entirely trust Maia.

As best friends, they shared everything with each other, tales of boy drama included, but Maia also had a big mouth when it came to Basque people. If she told Maia about lunch with Patrick, Brigitte feared the entire dance group would know in two seconds. With Patrick being a private person, that would surely put an end to their budding friendship.

So she held her tongue and asked Maia what was new with her.

Maia sighed. “Just failing history and got into a huge fight with Joe the other day.”

“What about?” Brigitte already knew about Maia’s dismal grades. Unlike Brigitte, Maia did not place much importance on schoolwork. She was the type of person who would much rather go out or do something fun than try to focus on academics, or any of her other responsibilities, for that matter.

“He found out I made out with his friend Rob. Do you remember me telling you about that kickback from a few weeks ago?”

“I think so. You mean the one at the empty house with the pool? The guy with the long hair?” Brigitte ventured a guess. Maia went to a lot of parties.

“Yeah, that one. It was no big deal, and Joe was too busy macking on some drama geek all night to even know what I was doing. But someone told him and he freaked out.”

“What did he do?”

“He just ranted about how he was never going to take me anywhere with him again, that I didn’t deserve to hang out with his friends. He called me a slut like a million times.”

“That’s so ridiculous,” Brigitte empathized. “What’s his problem?”

“I don’t know. This was only the second friend of his I’ve hooked up with. It’s not like I’m going around trying to steal his bros away from him. We were just having a good time.”

“Totally. He way overreacted.” Brigitte pressed the phone to her shoulder and picked at her nails.

“Yeah, but it still sucked to have him talk to me like that,” Maia continued. “That was on Wednesday and he hasn’t talked to me since. He just walks around the house pretending he doesn’t see me.”

“That’s so messed up,” Brigitte judged.

“Totally. And there’s nothing I can really do about it.”

“Have you tried talking to him?” Bruno jumped down from the window seat and stalked over to the bed. He nipped at Brigitte’s foot dangling over the edge of the bed. She shook him off and brought her legs in to sit cross-legged.

“Yeah, but he just blows me off—he’ll say something rude or just walk away. I mean, I know he’ll get over it eventually, but it’s just so weird. It’s not like he and this guy were super close, so I really don’t get why he feels entitled to be pissed. Like I did something to him.”

“He’s just pissed. I’m sure he’ll come around. And hey, at least your brother used to talk to you. Adrien just locks himself in his room all the time, playing video games and God knows what else.”

“That’s still going on?”

“Yeah. At first I thought he was just really into this new game, but it’s been months now.” Bruno snuggled up to her side trying to make peace, and she stroked his back forcefully. “I try to talk to him when I see him, but he’s always so grim. It’s like everything we say or do annoys him. We only really see him at dinner, but even then he just rolls his eyes at everything.”

“Well, puberty was bound to catch up with him at some point,” Maia concluded. “Maybe the middle school attitude is just kicking in now.”

“I don’t know if it’s puberty though,” Brigitte worried. “I wonder if something else is going on. I know my mom’s stressed about it. She always looks so sad when Adrien goes back up to his room.”

“That’s too bad. Love Estelle.” The line sat silent for a moment. “Why did Adrien quit the dance group again?”

“I don’t know. He just quit everything all at once—dance, soccer, basketball, track.”


Brigitte sighed. “Yeah, it was unexpected.”

“And your parents let him?”

“What could they do? He refused to go to any practices.” Brigitte thought it was a shame that he quit everything. If he had quit to do something else, that would have been one thing. But instead he chose to waste away in his room.

© 2013 Anne Marie Chiramberro All Rights Reserved


Aita Calls Bullshit on My Swearing Habit

After weeks of not checking Hella Basque and relative peace in the Chiramberro household, Aita read the recap of Jacqueline and Chris’s wedding.

The only thing he had to say about it: “You used ‘bullshit!'” Aita did not approve of my choice to drop two swear words in the post. Out of a 2,214-word piece, those were the two words he singled out. He told me I shouldn’t write swear words, because it isn’t polite. He said using swears diminishes my class and that I should aim to be classy.

This seemed pretty rich to me coming from the man who taught me to fully appreciate the word “bullshit” in all of its glory. In conversation, Aita and I swear together and it’s hilarious. But somehow writing swears down on the Internet is too much for Aita to handle. I guess he wants the world to think his little princess is classy.

He would rather I put on a false persona for my blog, to present myself as someone polite and dignified. But what’s the fun in that? And where the honesty in that?

If I’m angry or feel strongly about something, I’m going to probably include some swear words. It just helps to get my point across. I’m not going to pretend to be cool with things when I’m not. I’ve tried that and it hasn’t really worked for me.

Although some of the posts on this blog can be pretty fluffy, Hella Basque is not about sugarcoating our microcosmic Basque world.

Here is my commitment to you guys to keep swearing and writing passionately, despite Aita’s disapproval. As a reader, I appreciate when writers are honest and vulnerable. So here I am on this little blog of mine, striving to be the kind of writer I would love to read.

The Basque Equivalent of “Sticks and Stones”

The pain caused by the tongue is the hardest one to cure.

– Basque Proverb

Original: Mihiaz egiten den mina, da azken sendatzen dena.

I’m not so sure if pain caused by words is the hardest to cure, but I definitely think it can take the longest to cure. How many times in our lives do we obsess over the negative things people say to or about us? Those words can stick with us for a long time.

I’ve definitely wasted a lot of time holding on too tightly to the insults people have thrown at me, forgetting all of the times I was complimented or recognized for my strengths.

home baseI actually didn’t talk to someone I now consider to be my one of my closest friends (“home base” from Gardnerville) for years because of something he said to me once. And what was the point of all that hurt? Holding that grudge just cut me off from an amazing potential friendship and kept me stuck in a place of feeling like a victim in my life.

So I encourage you all today to think of a time when you felt victimized or belittled by something that was said to you. Remind yourself that your value is not determined by other people’s opinions. Breathe and be grateful for your present life.

And think of the person who threw those strong words at you with love and compassion. They might just be your best friend one day.

Wedding Recap!

with the bride and groom

I didn’t go into this weekend’s festivities with the intention to write a post about it. I figured weddings are private events and that I was invited as a friend, not as a blogger. I figured I was on vacation!

But at the request of the bride and groom, Jacqueline and Chris, here I am about to tell you all about their hella Basque wedding. The recap of the actual wedding is after the jump, so click the continue link at the end of the post to find the Sunday heading.


I flew into San Diego bright and early on Saturday morning. I felt like such a grown up, for as much as I’ve traveled solo in my short life, I had never rented a car before this weekend. I cruised up the San Diego coast to Carlsbad in my little blue Yaris, windows down and blasting Top 40. Life was good!

La Jolla Cove

That afternoon the families of the couple hosted a beach pre-party. Being accustomed to cold and windy Northern California beaches, I was not entirely prepared to face the fiery inferno of Southern California beach heat. The sand burned my feet! I was sweating! It was a little too much for me.

Not being big on swimming in the ocean and being a big fan of the motto “modest is hottest,” I wore a sundress to the beach. And I paid dearly for that choice in buckets of sweat. But thank God for our lovely hosts, who had an endless supply of non-alcoholic drinks (Caprisun! So nostalgic), fruit salad, hot dogs, and other snacks.

Other than the insufferable heat and massive leg sunburn I acquired, it was a really nice afternoon. I met some of the groom’s family, the groomsmen, and reunited with my Chino boys. Even though I had seen them all a short six days before at Chino picnic, it’s always cool to hang out with Basque kids outside of a Basque event. It’s a totally different vibe.

Sadly the bride and her bridesmaids only showed up right at the end of the beach event, as they had been running last minute errands all afternoon. Still, it was lovely to see her for a bit before the big day.

Since we were covered in sand and sea salt, the Chino boys and I showered (separately, not together) back at the hotel before dinner. We spent an amusing evening at Pizza Port, a popular local pizzeria and brewery. Various college football games played on the flat screens throughout the establishment, and we witnessed some heated discussions about football. Grown men yelling at strangers about sports… I don’t get it.

It took the place an hour to get us our two pizzas, as it was completely packed. Fortunately for us, the guys in the kitchen messed up our order so we got a free pizza! In the end, we ate a little too much. But it was freakin’ delicious.

Pizza Port

Then we went back to the hotel to jacuzz ‘n’ booze, but the hotel brochure lied to us about the pool opening hours and the pool guy kicked us out after ten minutes. Such a wild night! Continue reading

Fiction Fridays: McDonald’s, Part 3

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.

“Why don’t you have any friends?” Brigitte’s tone conveyed a deep concern.

Patrick furrowed his eyebrows in confusion and let out a soft, nervous laugh. “What do you mean?”

“Wow, that came out wrong. I’m sorry,” Brigitte quickly apologized, her face flushing a deep red. “I just mean that you get along with everyone and you’re super outgoing, but it doesn’t seem like you have many actual friends.” Patrick’s expression went blank, and Brigitte worried she had lost him. “I mean, you hang out with people, don’t get me wrong; it just doesn’t seem like you’re very close with any of them.”

Patrick sat in silence for a long while, looking out the windshield into the half empty parking lot. He squinted a bit due to the sunshine’s reflection on a nearby sedan, the only car near them at this point. The lot had cleared out in the time they had been sitting there. It was nearly three o’clock, long past the lunch rush.

“Yeah, I guess that’s true,” he finally mustered, dropping his gaze to his hands. “But Daniel’s my buddy. He’s really the only guy I trust.”

“What’s that about?” prodded Brigitte. “Didn’t you used to have more friends?” She searched his face for the answer but could not read his expression. His eyes darted around the cab of the truck nervously, as if he desperately wanted to escape the discussion. Yet he sat still.

“I did have a buddy all throughout elementary school—Jack Sanders. Once we got to middle school though, things changed. He started hanging out with these other kids, the popular crowd, you know. Completely left me behind, like I didn’t even exist. He acted like we were never friends.”

“I’m sorry. That’s really rough,” Brigitte sympathized. On the one hand, her heart went out to Patrick as someone who had also experienced the sting of rejection, but on the other she was thrilled by his response. This was the most information about him he had ever shared with her. This was deep and this was real. He was sharing his problems. He was vulnerable.

“It’s okay. What can you do, right?” Patrick shrugged off her sympathy. “That just sucked, so I decided to never let that happen again.”

“It’s not like it was your fault though.”

“No,” he agreed. “But I let myself think he was my friend. So now I just have lots of buddies, guys I can hang out with, have a good time. But if one of them gets busy or finds new friends, it’s not a big deal.”

Brigitte’s heart leaped at the breakthrough. She was beginning to understand a little bit more about this boy who had intrigued her for so many years. But the more she learned, the more she wanted to know. She felt sad for him. It did not seem to her that removing oneself from the possibility of friendship with others was the way to go, even with his sad tale about Jack Sanders.

“I guess that makes sense,” replied Brigitte with reserved approval. She was not about to tell him she thought that was a very sad way to live. “Something similar happened to me when I got to high school. One of my best friends from camp–well, you know her. Frankie from Salt Lake.”

“Oh yeah. That was the girl who got left behind at the water park during Reno camp, right?”

“Yup. That was her,” nodded Brigitte. “Anyway, we kept in really close touch after that camp. Called each other once a week and talked for hours. But then once freshman year started, she stopped calling, stopped texting, didn’t return any of my calls. Totally fell of the grid, like she was stonewalling me. And I had no idea why.”

“People suck,” Patrick declared matter-of-factly. He took the straw out of his empty cup and chewed the end of it. The red and yellow striped plastic tube stuck out of his mouth like a farmer’s stalk of hay.

Brigitte beamed at how simply Patrick summarized it all, yet she recognized the blanket statement as an attempt to end the personal nature in which the conversation had turned. His reluctance to talk about anything of importance amused her now that she had small piece of privileged information. She wondered if Daniel knew about Jack Sanders.

Patrick pointed out the time.

“When did it get so late?” Brigitte exclaimed in surprise.

“I know. Time flies,” Patrick remarked. “I should be getting home though.”

“Yeah, me too.” Brigitte felt like she could sit with him for many more hours, but she was not going to be one of those needy people. She recognized that Patrick probably had other, better things to move on to.

“See you next weekend.” Patrick leaned in for a hug, and they embraced in one of those awkward seated car hugs. Despite the odd angle, Brigitte was ecstatic. It felt like an act of charity for him to hug her—one that she wholeheartedly welcomed and appreciated. It was the perfect end to their illuminating conversation.

“Definitely.” They pulled away, and Brigitte dug through her bag for her car keys. As she held the handle to open the door, she turned to remind him to watch her show on Wednesday night. He smiled and assured her he would tune in.

© 2013 Anne Marie Chiramberro All Rights Reserved

Big Fat Basque Weddings

Marriage. That’s a hella Basque institution, isn’t it?

I’ve heard of young people in the Basque Country rejecting marriage, choosing cohabitation as the preferred way to form their relationships. But here in the United States, the Basque wedding is alive and well.

This past weekend in Chino, a woman I had just met wanted to know if I had my eye on anyone. She asked me if I wanted to marry a Basco. I joked with her, “Sure! But I haven’t met any worth marrying!”

What about you?

This question comes up several times in the life of a Basque American. I remember it was even a poll question posed to campers at music camp in 2002. The older generation always seems hopeful when they ask. You know they want you to say yes. They just want to see their culture preserved and perpetuated by the young people in the communities they worked so hard to build.

These are things that can be done without Basque intermarriage, but they might be more easily accomplished if we all kept it in the family, so to speak.

Even if we pretend marrying a Basco doesn’t matter or think cultural affinity is not a politically correct way to choose a mate, a lot of us would like to marry within our culture. Finding a Basque person to settle down with would make things easier.

Other Basques already know what to expect from your overbearing Aita(txi) or Ama(txi). They already have friends at Basque events, so you wouldn’t have to go through the routine of introducing them to the culture and to your social group. They could be your mus partner without hours of instruction ahead of time. They get the whole Catholic thing and know how to behave in church. You could easily agree that your children should join the local dance group, go to Udaleku, and learn how to play handball or pala.

These things seem superficial, but to some of us they are very important. Having a Basque partner means intimately understanding one another’s background and possibly less negotiating over cultural activities (in theory).

I am honored that this weekend I get to witness and celebrate the wedding of my friend, Jacqueline. We met as teenagers at Udaleku and over the years, we have: traveled to Boise for San Inazio weekend, worked at two Udalekus together, and run a half marathon with a couple of other friends to raise money for the American Cancer Society in honor of our friend, Jaime Brown.

Exhausted after a long Udaleku in San Francisco

Exhausted after a long Udaleku in San Francisco

Plain and simple, Jacqueline is an amazing person with whom I’ve shared some great and challenging experiences. She deserves all of the happiness in the world, and I’m sure her Amatxi and Aitatxi are pretty happy she found a nice Basque boy to marry.

Oh right. Did I mention she met her fiancé at Bakersfield picnic? How cute is that?

I am so happy to share in their joy and show my support for their union this weekend. So happy that I will take a three day break from posting on Hella Basque.

The last installment of the McDonald’s chapter of Fiction Fridays will appear here tomorrow, but don’t expect any blog posts Saturday through Monday.

Congratulations, Jacqueline and Chris! May your life together be filled with love, caring, respect, and hella Basqueness.

Keep Your Friends Close

One who is everybody’s friend is nobody’s friend.

– Basque Proverb

Original: Guztien adiskide dena, ez da inorena.

Some people seem to have a million friends. You know the ones: the party people, the social butterflies, the Facebook friend collectors, the social media addicts.

Sometimes all of that friending can lead to exhaustion, feeling drained, as if you’ve given all of yourself to others and there’s nothing left for you. If we’re so focused on being there for everyone, often we’re not fully available for our nearest and dearest when they need us most.

In the case of social media, extensive time making connections online can make us feel disconnected to the people right in front of us. I see this every day in people sitting in a group with their faces glued to their phones.

Rather than tell us to stop making friends, I think this proverb teaches us to focus our attention on quality over quantity. It’s great to have lots of friends, but make sure a handful of these friends are people who will have your back. By extension, be a good friend to those closest to you. Always know who matters most in life.