Tuesday, May 30, 2006

(another) first day on the (another) job

Training Schedule: 8:00 a.m. til 4:00 p.m. today, Wed, Thurs, Fri and next Monday.

Excellent part: cool people, non-scary general manager, district supervisor everyone obviously loves, teamwork, wonderfully detailed training (5 days of it, eight hours a day!), great restaurant, busy lunch hour, good co-new-workers, delicious food, dozens of new people to make friends with

Suckrat part: hayfever allergies kept nose running and sneezing from 10 a.m onward, had wet kleenex pressed to my face almost entire three hours I was following Pat (a server) and supposedly learning from observation, 10 mg. Claritin plus 10 mg. generic lamogatrine did NOTHING, was in health code violation the entire time, finally sat down to the fun part of training - tasting! - and was served wonderful Chinese food plus cocktails, beer and sake for two hours AND COULD TASTE NONE OF IT.

extremely discouraged, have call in to doctor, can't complete next four days of training without ability to taste.

F@#$!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Success

1. My new SERVER job at a downtown, corporate restaurant starts tomorrow.
2. The against-all-odds relationship with my new boyfriend (boyfriend) is almost five months old.
3. Today I weigh 124 lbs and have reached my first weightloss goal.

My life finally doesn't suck!

Except don't these things sound more descriptive of the life of a 25-year-old rather than a 40-year-old? Yeah, I think so. My life is definitely about 15 years behind everyone else's, except for the other slow people (like my boyfriend).

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Sleep Factor in Weightloss

(I posted this last August, but I'll do it again since I'm currently on this weightloss kick.)

Finally, a way to fight obesity that isn't about dieting and exercise -- make sure you get enough sleep! An article in the July/August 2005 issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter (scroll down the homepage to "2005 Highlights" and download the PDF "Special Feature: Perchance to Eat: How Sleep Affects Your Weight") says sleep deprivation, for as little as two nights in a row, causes an increase in the hormone that triggers hunger (ghrelin) and a decrease in the hormone that causes satiety (leptin).

Lack of sleep also messes with your metabolism. When the brain notices the decrease in leptin, it interprets it as a sign of starvation and slows the rate at which you burn calories. So not only does a lack of sleep cause you to feel hungrier, it causes your body to burn fewer calories! A nightmare situation for those of us who are trying our best to fight American blobitude.

How much sleep are we talking about? The article reports:

And researchers at Columbia University in New York City found that people who slept six hours a night were 23 percent more likely to be obese than people who slept between seven and nine hours. Those who slept five hours were 50 percent more likely -- while those who slept four hours or less were 73 percent more likely -- to be obese.

So turn off the light and get some sleep already!

Monday, May 22, 2006

"How Many Months?"

Last month I was making some copies at a UPS store. It was a sunny, warm day so I had taken off my sweater and was feeling relaxed in a pair of black, elastic-topped slacks and a tucked-in pink cotton shirt. The Latino guy at the cash register couldn't have been more than 20 years old. I told him how many copies I had made and stood ready with my coin purse. He casually asked, "How many months?"

I frowned slightly in confusion. He said, "You know, how many months?" and he made a half-dome motion with both of his hands over his stomach.

Now my frown cleared, replaced by wide-eyed horror as a feeling of shame washed over me. All I could do was stare at him, my eyes getting bigger as the full insult slammed into me. Now he saw his error and quickly said, "Oh, uh, never mind. Uh, that'll be seventy-four cents," as if resuming our transaction would pull my focus away from the social train wreck he had just caused.

I slowly lowered my gaze to my coin purse, but my look of horror and feeling of shame persisted as I raised my eyes to hand him the money. The young guy tried again to fix his mistake, "Uh, I take it back. I, um, take it back." Oh, this guy was a quick thinker.

Somehow in spite of his taking it back, this guy's presumption stayed with me for a couple of days, the sick horror congealing into lingering shame and ever-ready self-loathing. I've always hated my stomach. Even during my thinnest schoolgirl years, it's been the one body part that sticks out, the first place any extra fat goes. Of course I look pregnant. Of course.

I've heard that as women get older, our spines contract slightly, often causing our abdomens to protrude. Menopausal (and probably pre-menopausal) women also tend to gain weight in the abdomen, our weight shifting as our hormones change. The "pooch" (as Jo Anne calls it) is natural and inevitable, and at a certain point in a woman's life people stop seeing it as a possible pregnancy and recognize it for what it is: the natural shape of the older woman.

Unfortunately, I have been cursed with perpetually looking about 25 years old (seriously, I know you guys don't believe me, but I hate looking so young and this is just another reason). And I don't tend to look overweight since my arms, legs and face tend to look slender. So yeah, I guess my distended belly looks pregnant. Pregnant. One thing I've never even wanted to be.

...hate my body...self-loathing...hate my body...self-loathing...

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Details

Before this fat-under-siege plan I was probably eating between 2200 and 2400 calories a day (I'm 5 feet, 2 inches).

Motivation: Last summer's shorts and jeans no longer fit!

5/1/06 Weight: 130
Daily Calorie Goal: 1900 (maximum I allowed myself)
Daily Exercise: 40-50 minutes of cardio plus 40-60 minutes of either resistance training or Pilates or yoga. At least six days a week.

5/9/06 Weight: 130
Daily Calorie Goal reduced to 1700 (to get this fat MOVING)
Daily Exercise: unchanged.

5/19/06 Weight: 126
Daily Calorie Goal changed to 1800 (more humane. 1700 is HARD)
Daily Exercise: unchanged.

Short-term goal: 125 lbs. by the end of the month.
Final goal: 122 lbs. by mid-June (but weightloss will be halted if my face starts to deflate or I start to lose bustline).

Friday, May 19, 2006

I'm no baseball fan

...so when my boyfriend invited me to come with him and some friends this Monday to a White Sox game, I was non-plussed. I'm more of a Cubs supporter, but I figured why not see the Sox? I like the people who are going and it'll be fun to hang out.

Today it hit me: there's just one baseball team the Chicago White Sox had better not be playing this Monday and that's the Oakland A's. I was raised in Walnut Creek, California, just 20 minutes from Oakland. The Oakland Athletics were THE team when I was growing up, the only sports team to which I've ever developed any real attachment. Even though I care nothing about sports, even though I just want to blend my California-tinted personality in with the midwest and be a Chicagoan til I die, this is the one situation in which I just wouldn't be able to root for the Sox. If the Chicago White Sox are playing the Oakland A's...well, I just don't know what I'd do.

So I just checked the White Sox schedule. O, the timing. O, the coincidence. O, the bad luck. NOW what do I do? I can't root against the A's. I just can't.

According to Athletics Nation: An Oakland A's Blog the A's have been doing well this season. How do I sit in the stands with White Sox fans while rooting against their team? Will I get my Northern California ass kicked? Will I deserve it? Will Bob really make me wait out in the car? Joel, anyone, advice?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

I Have a New Job

I want to be excited. I want to be relieved. I want to be proud. I have found my new job!

But my employment has been so F#$%-ED for the past six months all I can manage is a weary, tentative feeling of gladness. I wonder, will this job fall through, too? It's a restaurant that's been open for 10 years, but so had Nick and Tony's been. Will this new place fold up within a few months (like N & T's)? Will the general manager turn out to be emotional and obsessive (like at The Grillroom)? Will they not have enough shifts for me (like Bar Louie)? Will I be job-hunting again within three months? I want to be excited, but really I'm just...well...glad. I'm just glad.

My employment at the new Indian restaurant will be over as soon as I return the uniforms. I left the owner a message today saying I'm sorry, but I had to move on (and pay my rent). This week I'd heard nothing from him about training, dry runs or an opening date, so I figure they're still working things out. And it's time for me to work somewhere else.

Anyway I think I was pretty much doing my usual, irrational 180 degree turn: when I have a bad experience with a job, I try to find a job that's completely different from that job. When Arthur Andersen went under, I was so traumatized I looked for a company that wouldn't be like Arthur Andersen AT ALL. And I succeeded. Unfortunately I also eliminated from my workplace all the things I had loved about Arthur Andersen and I spent two miserable years at a sad, solitary desk on the 30th floor of the Prudential building.

This time it was the combination of Nick and Tony's going under and the nightmarish experience I had at The Grillroom, that made me think I needed to get away from corporate, downtown restaurants. So I fled to the northside where I found this small, neighborhood, privately-owned Indian restaurant. The people there were great, the concept was excellent and I loved everything about the place, but I suspect that after working shifts there for a few weeks, I would have started to miss the large, corporate, downtown restaurant environment I really did enjoy at Nick and Tony's. I suspect that by taking the job at the Indian restaurant, I once again eliminated all the things I'd loved about my previous job. This time I would have missed the downtown location, the large and vibrant team, one of the best general managers ever (which was Bob, ahem), and the one thing I TOTALLY NEED AND CRAVE: a corporate organization with strict rules and procedures, plenty of staff support and thorough, time-tested training. Right and wrong answers. I need right and wrong answers!

I will be returning to ALL of these things (except for Bob as my general manager) at my new job which is downtown at a large, corporately-owned and run restaurant, not far from Chicago's main shopping district. Training starts the day after Memorial Day. Hooray!

I suspect I just needed a break after the bad experiences I had with Bar Louie and The Grillroom. Since my last day at The Grillroom was April 14th, I've had a nice, long vacation and I'm ready to dive back into the downtown restaurant scene. It looks like things might have -- what's the idiom? -- oh, yeah, worked out. Like when making a homemade apple pie works out after you finally toss the whole thing in the garbage and just go buy a goddamn tub of ice cream.

The right direction

Okay, in the past several days my bathroom scale has reluctantly conveyed that I have lost almost four pounds since the beginning of the month, although the big scale at the gym says it's been two pounds. So I'll call it three pounds and I'll take it! Losing three pounds in two weeks isn't bad. Please notice, it took a solid two weeks of dieting (calories reduced by 29%) and exercising (1-2 hours every day) before the scale registered any change in weight. For some horrible reason, at the start of a diet my body doesn't show gradual change gradually. It shows NOTHING for days and days and days and then all of a sudden it drops a couple of pounds. It makes the beginning of any weightloss effort horribly frustrating, but it's why my fat-under-siege plan has steps 7 and 8: don't give up!

There is also some very positive movement on the job front. I've been called for several interviews and will have more news soon. My life is finally moving in a positive direction on all fronts. FINALLY, MY LIFE MIGHT BE ON THE BRINK OF NOT SUCKING.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Fat

There are an incredible number of blogs devoted to the experience of being overweight. Kelly at Shake What Ya Mama Gave You has compiled an impressive list of them on her blogroll. My short review: the bloggers at Fat Girl Says Freedom and The Fat Girl are the most skilled writers I've found on this subject, but no one beats Fatty McBlog for pure sardonic commentary and a complete lack of interest in actually losing anything.

I have to admit, it's tempting to start logging every detail of my current fat-under-siege activities, although I'm sure just as many people would find that boring as would find it interesting. Why does this subject pull the focus of so many people? Maybe self-esteem is hard to measure and impossible to quantify, but people like me find some relief in our ability to witness and document the changes in our bodies. Maybe weighing and measuring pounds and inches is the closest we can come to tracking self-esteem.

I'm drawn to these websites similarly to the way I'm drawn to watch an obese person walk down the street or drawn to look at the latest report on how fat Americans are. I'm relieved to not be that size, but I also know how easy it is for me to gain weight and how little time it would take for me to become obese. I'm looking at the obese person, but I'm also looking at myself and what feels like my genetic and cultural destiny to be fat. Also, many of us have the same self-sabotaging mechanisms, so the pain I find on blogs about being overweight sounds very similar to my own pain. I have the same self-loathing when it comes to body size and food, it's just not as noticeable by others.

Also, people use a fixation on food the way I've used a fixation on other things in my life. The Fat Girl blogs:

Being fat is not crippling anymore. Being fat does not make me an outcast anymore. And that means that fat never did those things. It means that the problem was not fatness, but the way I thought about fatness and about myself as a fat person.

I totally did this with the lonely-and-manless thing. I believed I was pathetic and that I didn't have a real life because I had no partner. Blogs about being overweight really express the same pain everyone has. We just have it about different issues.

Fighting off weight gain takes a lot of energy and effort, but I do it. I believe most slender American women over the age of 35 are working hard to stay trim. I know I am. How many of us are motivated by fear of obesity? Probably most of us.

It's a damn crime that so much of our consciousness is taken up with concern over weight. How much more could we be accomplishing as individuals and as a society if we weren't fixated on losing and gaining and losing and gaining? Time, money, energy, sweat, thinking about food, trying not to think about food, trying to think about anything other than what I can eat and what I can't eat. It goes on and on and it's every day and when I consider living like this until I die it becomes another reason life just seems too hard.

Thousands of years ago survival required humans to constantly search for food, every hour they were awake: hunting, foraging, gathering, fishing, looking for new sources of nutrition. Without such obession, human beings wouldn't have made it. Is this the inevitable outcome? After who-knows-how-many millenia, with high-calorie food in abundance wherever we turn, our previous fixation on getting enough food has turned into an obsession with resisting it? Is this really a natural preoccupation and I should just accept it and stop bemoaning the brainpower I'm losing to counting calories and evaluating food choices?

I'm speaking specifically of the American food experience. The U.S. isn't dealing with large-scale genocide and famine. Our problem with food is the opposite of most countries'. I hate how easily we've waddled right down the high-fat path of huge restaurant portions, chips and soda everywhere and sugar-sugar-sugar. Our American ability to sell anything to each other combined with our genetic predisposition towards fat and sweet has created a culture of blobitude in which almost every adult I see could stand to lose some weight, the "freshman ten" have become the "freshman fifteen" (I swear when I started college in 1984 it was just ten pounds that girls tended to put on during our first year in college), and even toddlers appear overweight. We have created a nightmare for ourselves.

I'm so glad to see that we're starting to come to our senses with the withdrawal of soda pop from the schools and Walt Disney Co. finally breaking away from their evil pact with McDonald's Corp.. Can we get this under control, this marketing of high-fat crap so that we can then market weightloss crap? And can we turn it around so that we don't export this bullshit market to the rest of the world along with Coke and Quarter Pounders?

Celebrate every chance you get

The job hunt is going as well as can be expected: I've been responding to restaurant ads and a couple have asked me for an interview, so I'm happy.

And I've FINALLY made some headway on the fitness front: after 12 days of my fat-under-siege plan, yesterday the weight scale finally registered that I weigh one pound and a half less. A pound and a half after almost two weeks! Celebrate! I celebrated by taking the day off from exercising (but I did NOT celebrate by indulging in extra calories. That kind of response is dangerous).

Weightloss! It takes so long to get even the beginning of a change. I've learned that I really have to be strictly dieting (daily calories cut by 29%) and exercising (1-2 hours a day) for a good two weeks before getting even the smallest change in actual bulk. If I (starting at a little less than 130 pounds), working hard, take two weeks to accomplish the loss of one lousy pound, no wonder no one ever loses weight. It's goddamn hard!

But I'm sticking with it. I am two months away from my 40th birthday and I WILL get back to the size I was before Christmas. Damn it.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Two Bloggers Meet Face to Face (no way)!


Mick meets Reg, originally uploaded by regrodriguez.

(I'm re-posting this with Mick's photo of us. His version of the story of our meeting is now on his blog (whiteroseboy.blogspot.com). Note: my hand rests on his shoulder, which is physical contact that I, an uptight American woman, am comfortable with.)

One of my steadfast commentators on this blog has been White Rose Boy, also known as “Mick” on his blog (whiteroseboy.blogspot.com). Mick lives in Yorkshire, England and there’s no natural reason why the two of us would ever wind up in the same physical place. But we did. Mick is apparently a big fan of Chicago and he likes to take regular vacations. His latest visit to my city took place this past weekend and he invited me out to dinner.

I was depressed the day we met. My new restaurant still wasn’t open, I’d just worked a three-day office temp assignment that was now over, and I was feeling like the pathetic loser of the universe for being unable to earn a living. Un. Em. Ployed.

But even in depression I like to stay social, so I made my way over to Joey’s Brickhouse on Belmont Avenue where Mick and I were meeting. He stood up as soon as I walked in and he greeted me warmly. Too warmly for me, an American. In a global context, Mick was right in step with people from Latin American countries, European countries, hell any country EXCEPT the U.S: he moved to greet me with a hug. But since I’m a cold, frigid American (remember, Mexican culture hasn’t rubbed off on me that much) I received it very stiffly. Should I apologize because I prefer handshakes? Okay: I’m sorry, but I’m an American who prefers handshakes.

We got past that and sat down. I told Mick I was feeling depressed and he was very nice about it (his mood seemed fine). I also warned him that because I was feeling like crap, I would be ordering dessert. This actually seemed to satisfy him since apparently Mick is not averse to indulging in sweets at the end of a meal (I had a banana split and he had the cherry cheesecake).

I don’t know if you could have predicted it (although anyone who reads Mick’s and my blogs might be able to), but the only obstacles to having a good time were presented by me. Fortunately, Mick seems to be one of those guys who is pretty even-keeled and easy to get along with. Thank god the world isn’t made up of moody depressives.

Once we got past the introduction and warning, we actually had a very good time. He was already well on his way to collecting good stories about things that had happened to him on this vacation and he gave me a preview (you’ll have to wait for him to post them on his blog). We discussed work, relationships, ways England and the U.S. are different, how he likes games and is competitive and how I don’t like games and am resigned to losing all the time. We talked a bit about the immigration march that would be happening the next day, and we had someone take our photo with his digital camera (I was glad because my camera has died) so there’s documentation that this meeting actually happened. Our photo should show up on his blog eventually (maybe he'll be back at his computer in another week). And at the end he gave me a box of chocolates, I guess to thank me for my initial gloom, pessimistic view on life and for letting him pay for everything. As you might also guess from reading his blog, Mick is very nice guy.

So that was the summit meeting between the White Rose Boy and the Chicana on the Edge. Nothing to be afraid of. I’m still amazed that I met a blogger face to face. Thanks for dropping by, Mick! Let’s do it again.

job offers

I'm back on the (RESTAURANT) job search and as usual I interview like a dream and my resume is excellent and people want to hire me. Getting the job is never the problem. Making a decent decision about which job to take is the problem. If my last three job decisions have sucked dog penis (four decisions, if I count Nick and Tony's), how do I trust myself to make a good decision this time?

It's kind of like the years I spent dating: guys loved me and wanted to be my boyfriend, but I failed over and over and over again to pick the right one and manage to fall in love. I suck at life in general.

Would someone like to be in charge of my life and pick my next job? Wait, I can't trust myself to pick the right person to be in charge of my life either...

p.s. I've reduced my daily calorie goal by 10% because dammit, I will move this weight. Sorry this blog has temporarily degenerated into whining and calorie-counting. Even my wonderful new boyfriend wanted to throw me out the window earlier tonight. I hate spring, especially this month. Always have.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

frustration

My new restaurant still isn't open and it isn't looking too good for it happening any time soon. Temp work is very unsteady. I haven't been fully employed since Nick and Tony's went out of business at the end of December. What the hell is this bad luck?? From Bar Louie to the Grillroom, from bad to worse, trying, trying, trying to find THAT JOB where I can happily work full-time, where I can happily just settle in for a good oh, YEAR or two -- is that too much to ask?

I suck! My employment life sucks! F#$%!

Initiate jobsearch. AGAIN. My boyfriend says I should just go for an office job since this restaurant thing is obviously just not working for me but I don't want to work in an office. This is my Mr. Restaurant boyfriend, telling me to just go for the office job. Why should he have all the fun?

I JUST WANT TO BE A WAITRESS. That is such a humble dream, such a low-level ambition. To be a waitress for f#$%'s sake. Why can't I do it???????

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Monday, May 08, 2006

International No Diet Day, May 6

I wish I'd known about International No Diet Day before it happened on Saturday. Established in 1992 by Mary Evans Young, director of the British anti-diet campaign Diet Breakers, on this day we are all to:

Take a day off from whatever crazy diet plan you are following and instead honour listening to, respecting and responding to your body's unique hunger and satiety needs.
Celebrate the beauty and diversity of ALL our natural sizes and shapes.
Affirm everyBODY's right to health, fitness, and emotional well-being.
Declare a personal one-day moratorium on diet/weight obsession.
Learn the facts about weight-loss dieting, health, and body size.
Recognise how dieting perpetuates violence against women.
Honour the victims of eating disorders and weight-loss surgery.
Help end weight discrimination, sizism and fatphobia.


What better way to spend day six of my new diet plan! But fortunately, this IS what I did on Saturday, without even knowing about INDD. I took a day off from my diet and had a fourth of an 8-inch, three-layer raspberry cake and several brownies. MMMmm...

But I'm back on the plan now.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Blob

I’ve located the extra weight. Two weeks ago I posted that the weight scale showed a gain of several pounds, while my tape measure didn’t show much difference. It’s because the weight has gone south. I was focusing on the wrong half of my body.

Okay, so now that I’ve identified the parameters of the problem, it’s time to get serious. A few years ago I had my major struggle to lose weight and although I reached my goal and maintained it for a good couple of years, I’ve done some backsliding in the past several months. I guess everyone does and that’s called life. While I recognize that at 5 feet 2 inches and 130 pounds, I do not count as overweight, I also know that repeatedly saying, “So I’ve put on a few pounds. I’m fine!” is exactly how you become overweight. Say that once every few months and pretty soon I’ve gone up a clothing size, then another, etc.

Since I refuse to give in to the inevitable American blobitude (even if it is inevitable), I’ve come up with a plan for (re-)losing the extra pounds and getting back to my ideal weight. I figure it's easier to lose eight pounds now than to lose twenty pounds later. Some of these are the habits I used years ago to lose weight, but the first four are new.

1. No eating in front of the tv or computer screen.

2. Sit down to eat.

3. No desserts or snacks with refined sugar after 3 p.m.
This is because I’ve noticed that the later it is in the day, the more sugar upsets my digestion, but it’s also got my calories down.

4. If it doesn’t have significant fiber content, don’t eat it. This is mainly because I’m in constant battle with my eliminatory organs, but it’s also got my calories down.

5. Keep doing the stuff I already do: exercise every day, drink only water, learn to love fresh fruits and vegetables and lean proteins and lowfat dairy foods, forget about fried foods, fast foods, highly processed foods, coffee, alcohol and fatty meats.

6. Keep a daily log of every single bite and swallow and stay within my calorie goal.
I do not enjoy this, but I have to admit I can’t lose a significant amount of weight without this kind of vigilance. Each day the calories I burn have to outnumber the calories I consume. Keeping a running total is the only way I can be sure I’ve got the equation right.

7. Don’t give up when there’s no change in weight after a week.

8. Don’t give up when there’s no change in weight after two weeks.
But if there’s still no change after that, then it’s time for me to figure out what’s going wrong (cheating, using incorrect calorie values, etc).

9. Don’t give up when I’ve been losing weight, but then the weightloss stops and I “plateau” for a week or two.

10. Eat this way even when I'm away from home, especially in restaurants! This is critical because I know where the weight gain mostly came from: it came from having a relationship (incredibly) with a guy who tends to say, "Let's just eat out." Indulging in all of it, from appetizer to dessert, is fun and fine when it happens once every few months, but not when it's a couple of times a week. Duh.

I’ve been following this plan since Monday, with no change in weight so far, of course. I’m committed to sticking with it and shedding several pounds by July. I will not celebrate my 40th birthday having started the inevitable slide towards American blobitude.

Or I will celebrate my 40th birthday having started the inevitable slide towards American blobitude. There could be some biological aging reason why this weightloss will be harder than previous weightloss. It's entirely possible that I might turn 40 in despair over my slowing metabolism, failure to lose anything, and the start of the slide. I'll just try not to think about it.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Immigration March, Chicago

I'd never been part of a political demonstration that felt more historically significant, politically urgent or personally important. I marched from Union Park on Chicago's westside into downtown with no ambivalence at all, no vacillation about the issues and no doubt about whether or not this was the best action to take. I spent my first hour of participation (which didn't involve much movement) looking at who was there -- families, teenagers, students -- and listening to the chanting. I read signs that invoked Emiliano Zapata, Che Guevara, Lenin, the bible. The crowd was so thick it took an hour just to leave the park. Marchers alternately moved at a slow crawl and stood still, until we finally cleared the first corner. Only when we got on Randolph Street could we really be said to be walking.

I'd never attended a demonstration with more strollers. How those kids were content to sit in their tiny vehicles for the duration of the two to three hour march, I don't know. American flags outnumbered Mexican flags, people passed fruit and sandwiches, almost everyone was there with someone else (I attended alone, but I didn't feel alone). All of the marchers looked and sounded Latino until we got downtown, where I saw people of other backgrounds joining us. I didn't hear anything but Spanish for the first hour, and it was only at the end of the second hour that I noticed marchers who weren't speaking Spanish or English. I think they were Russian (or maybe Bulgarian or Slavic). We were lucky that the pathetic Chicago forecasters got it wrong again and although we marched under a solid cloud canopy, it never did rain on us.

It was only when we reached the financial district that I got a sense of the numbers. In the canyon of Jackson Street, lined on both sides by steep granite buildings, the chanting and gritos echoed. I closed my eyes and stretched my hearing, reaching for the boundaries of the noise and energy. There were none. As I moved in that flow of enthusiasm and sound, it sank in that this march was about an issue so much more fundamental than jobs or health care or education. It was about who is allowed to be here.

People who believe immigrants are taking over, gutting the system and ruining American culture want to shut down the border (as if that's possible), send as many Mexicans "back" as possible and make sure that the only immigrants who get to come don't bring their traditions or language with them. It's an opinion that stuns me with it short-sightedness and paranoia. To truly consider the power and violence of that fear is overwhelming to me, but I believe I can take it when I consider the raw strength of the spirit I saw today. If we have to counter that paranoid fear -- muscle for muscle, argument by argument -- I believe we can do it. We're big enough. And today I'd like to think that in the course of American history fear has reigned, but it has never won.

Anybody else have 1o de Mayo experiences? I'm checking blogs right now.