Fiction Fridays: Discord at Dance Practice

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.

The following weekend at dance practice, Patrick delivered the promised DVD to Brigitte during one of their many water breaks at the clubhouse bar. Brigitte accepted it, beaming at his thoughtfulness and the opportunity to be a part of his life in some small way.

“You remembered,” she cooed.

“Of course. I told you, it’s only the greatest movie of all time.”

“That’s a bold claim.” Maia snatched the case out of Brigitte’s hands. “Reservoir Dogs?” Her upper lip curled into a sneer. “Never even heard of it.”

“You should watch it with Bridge then,” asserted Patrick.

“Pass.” She rolled her eyes and handed the DVD back to her friend.

Ignoring Maia’s rebuff, Patrick turned his attention back to Brigitte. “You have to watch it tonight.”

“Okay, sure.”

“Seriously. Let me know what you think.” His eyes connected with hers.

“Okay,” she laughed, a subtle blush creeping into her cheeks. Margo could tell her sister loved the attention. “Did you watch my show?” asked Brigitte, as she placed the DVD case on the bar.

“Oh yeah, I did.” Patrick nodded coolly, his eyes darting to the bottles of liquor behind the bar. “Watched a few episodes online.”

Brigitte took a sip of her water with an unsteady hand. “What did you think?” Her doe eyes studied his face, as he continued to avoid her gaze. Continue reading

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.”

“Weird.”

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

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.

On the Road to Chino

Chinooooooooooooo, I’m coming for you!

This weekend is literally one of my favorite weekends of the year. I am celebrating my 10th consecutive Chino picnic. Where does the time go?

Chino picnic is my all-time favorite Basque American picnic, and Chino people are my all-time favorite Basques. I’m even writing a novel about it. Could you already tell I love Chino?

I am beyond excited for this weekend, but I’m trying to keep my expectations low. Yes, there will be downtime. It will probably be too hot for this San Franciscan to bear. I will probably experience boredom throughout the day tomorrow. But those things are all manageable, since Chino picnic is consistently awesome.

I realize I haven’t really explained yet why Chino’s Labor Day picnic is amazing. So if you’re wondering why I love it so much, here are a few reasons:

  • So many young people come out for Chino picnic! The dancers have been nothing but nice to me over the years, even when I was that random girl from San Francisco who didn’t know anyone. I’ve made a lot of good friends in Chino, merely by showing up to the picnic every year.
  • I usually only get to see my amazing SoCal cousins once a year at Chino picnic.
  • The dance is usually really lively, since Chino has such large dance groups and the picnic attracts many people who love to dance.
  • People bring their American friends for the dance. I always meet new people at Chino picnic, and the new faces keep things fresh and fun.
  • I LOVE CENTRO BASCO. Love their dinner, and I die for their breakfast on Monday morning. I also love when they keep the bar open after the dance. Perfect for afterparties!
  • There’s a skate park across the street from the Chino Fairgrounds. I try to get away from the picnic in quieter moments (after lunch or after the dance performances) to watch the skaters. It’s a cool way to break up the traditional picnic day, and it gives me a minute to recharge before the long day and night ahead.
  • Handball games at the Aphessetche trinquet. Although they’re not hosting games this year and showing Domingo Ibarburu at the fairgrounds instead, the handball games are usually a highlight for me. Aita and I would go together–him for the games, me to sip on a Coke and see who’s around. It’s a chill way to lead into the weekend.

Basically, everyone should go to Chino picnic at least once. It’s amazing.

The parents and I are getting an early start this morning, as Chino, California is about a 7 hour drive from the Bay Area. I won’t post tomorrow or Monday, but look out for the Chino recap on Tuesday.

Also, like and follow the Hella Basque Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for updates throughout the weekend.

If you’re going to the fairgrounds tomorrow, I’ll be handing out the last of my Hella Basque stickers. Get yours before they’re all gone! If you don’t know me, look out for my Jaime scarf out on the dance floor tomorrow night. Say hi!

Fiction Fridays: McDonald’s, Part 2

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 large man with two small children in tow, resplendent in the delight inspired by their Happy Meal toys, walked in front of the truck. Looking over, he noticed the two teenagers in the front seat and eyed them suspiciously. He gathered his children and quickened his pace.

Brigitte smiled at the man’s uneasiness. A warm glow spread over her as she imagined he probably thought they were a couple, hanging out in Patrick’s car because they would soon be making out. Her eyes darted to Patrick’s soft lips and passed over his distracted eyes the color of a deep lake covered in a layer of early morning fog. She wondered what it would feel like to kiss him, as a wave of arousal passed over her. As quickly as the thought entered her mind, she tried to forcefully push it out. Those thoughts were good for nothing more than making her nervous, and she needed to act like a cool and, more importantly, normal human being so as not to embarrass herself.

“I don’t think you ever told me… What are your plans for next year?”

Patrick’s eye twitched slightly at the question, and he fixed his gaze on a spot outside the front windshield. “I don’t know. Probably just go to Chaffey. I don’t really know what I want to do, so I don’t see the point to spending a bunch of money on a four year school.”

“Sure. Makes sense.”

Brigitte started ripping up the spare napkins, amassing a little collection of confetti in the sandwich wrapper in front of her, while Patrick changed the subject. It was a mindless job that subconsciously helped her focus on the present moment, redirecting her attention to the situation at hand. She needed the distraction, as she had the tendency to let her thoughts get the better of her—fantasizing and imagining what should be happening or what she wished Patrick would say, panicking over what she should say next to keep the conversation going, or falling into despair, thinking that he was only being nice to her because she was probably the only one free to hang out that afternoon.

“Would you stop that!” Patrick cried in frustration, stopping abruptly midway through the story of his homecoming dance sophomore year. He lunged at her and ripped the napkin out of her hands.

“Hey!” Brigitte cried in protest, stunned at his outburst. “What gives?”

“I’m cutting you off. It’s really annoying to watch you do that.”

Brigitte smirked and picked up one of the bits of paper in front of her. She pinched it with both thumbs and forefingers, threatening to rip it.

“Don’t you dare,” Patrick warned sternly.

She raised her eyebrows and ripped the piece in half, keeping her gaze steady on his face. He threw his head back and groaned, as if it were tortuous to be in such tight quarters with her. At this reaction, Brigitte laughed with glee.

“That’s what you get!” she gloated. Continue reading

Ski Lodge: If Summer and Winter Had a Baby, It Would Sound Like This

During Jaialdi 2010, I met a cool Basque American kid from Portland named John Barinaga at Leku Ona‘s bar. I don’t remember much from that night, but these are the things I remember:

  • I thought he was cute.
  • He didn’t know many young people.
  • He was getting drunk at the bar with his dad.
  • His dad kept telling him to dump his girlfriend because I was a lot nicer.
  • I introduced him to my friends because he didn’t know many young people.
  • And because I thought he was cute.

Fast forward three years later, John lives in Brooklyn and plays guitar in an up-and-coming band called Ski Lodge.

Image

I don’t want to sound like a groupie here, but this band is actually really good. Ski Lodge is like The Smiths meets dancy surf rock. At first I wasn’t too sure how that combination sat with me, but it quickly grew on me.

When I listen to Ski Lodge, I imagine Morrissey sitting on a beach in an ironically worn Hawaiian shirt, sipping on a Mai Tai trying to have a good time, but ever compelled to sing about his sorrows like a pre-teen girl’s diary entry. Because he just can’t help it.

Doesn’t that sound like fun? Give them a listen.

You can keep up with Ski Lodge through their websiteFacebook, and Twitter, or download their debut album Big Heart on iTunes now.