God, how long have I been basking in the glow of hyperbole?
It’s like I don’t know any other way to express myself or view the world. Everything to me is:
It’s all just a cover-up, really. This endless search of non-information that clutters my brain, distracting me from the narrative that I really want to express, not just to the world, but to myself. If there is anything to offer as a resolution for 2015, it is to abandon the hyperbole and focus on what matters in defined terms. Fuck these endless social media streams, I want truth again.
I haven’t been too eager to promote many entries on this blog of late. It’s been a combination burn book and teen girl journal for weeks. “This family member talked so much shit about my me!” or “Those family members had the nerve to make it all about them!” or “This date was just another Harry Houdini! Now you see him! Now you don’t!” I bet even Taylor Swift would go, “Fuck bitch. Get a new theme!”
What happened to self-reflection and understanding, to humor and positivity?
What happened to the last third of 2014?
Well, a lot.
John Kander and Fred Ebb composed a song for Martin Scorsese’s “New York, New York” called “The World Goes ‘Round.” I’ve had it on a loop these last few weeks. It helped shape what I decided to write today, summing up exactly what sort of year many of us experienced in 2014.
Sometimes you’re happy, sometimes you’re sad
But the world goes ’round…
And sometimes your heart breaks with a deafening sound…
Somebody loses and somebody wins
And one day it’s kicks, then it’s kicks in the shins
But the planet spins,
and the world goes ’round….
I thought a lot about what this closing blog entry of the year should contain. But, as I sit here in my bedroom (More teen girl imagery. That has to go in 2015), I find that I don’t want to replay any of it. I want to focus on the reality that the world will continue to spin — and that hope matters.
My boss Alan and I got into a rather revealing discussion about hope, an ideal my friend doesn’t seem to think exists.
But I do. I really do.
Hope, like love, has lost its power. It’s a brand. It is a campaign logo. It has been appropriated by the self-help contingent, those annoying life coaches and magazinespeak spinners. It is that blanket statement too many of us use to cover up our woes, disappointments and our other beautifully weak and frail moments. “Don’t worry. There is always hope.”
Hope, like love and happiness, takes effort. It takes work to NOT let yourself fall prey to the myriad of distractions and stupidities that dominate our daily lives. You can’t use hope blindly. Hope needs to be seen clearly. It isn’t like prayer. “I hope” is not like talking to God. You are talking to yourself. You are being your own source of faith and courage to face the challenges that we face. And the challenges, particularly at this age, will arrive with the efficiency of a high speed train.
Hope, like love, is not for pussies. And hope needs to be taken back from the legion of those wanting to cash in on our gorgeous neuroses for their own gain. Before any of us can begin to understand just how important love is in our lives, we have to reeducate ourselves in the power of hope. Where there is hope, you will find love. You will find them exactly where you left them before you let all the static of modern life cloud your own beliefs and true self.
In a few hours, 2014 will join the album of detritus that is memory. It will be relegated to the tales we tell whenever we reunite. Those who are lost, will be remembered. Those who hurt us will be reviled again, but ultimately forgiven because they just don’t know any better. Those who made us laugh, will make us laugh that much harder. And we will all be glad that we survived to tell the tales again and again.
I also found great comfort in another song, one composed by Hans Zimmer and Trevor Horn for the film “Toys,” performed by Wendy & Lisa and Seal. It features this lyric:
This is a Time to be Together
And the Truth is somewhere here
Within our love of People
At the Closing of the Year.
I spent these last months in a state of free fall. I haven’t hit ground yet, but I see it below. I have not lost sight that it is with my family and my family of friends, new and old, here and abroad, where I did find my truth in 2014.
I can’t wait to find out what I will learn in 2015.
Wednesday, December 31. Written and posted from Wayne Avenue Manor in South Pasadena, CA.
En ver las imágenes desde Mexico últimamente, siento una tristeza muy profunda. Se ve miedo, rabia, caos y desesperación. Ha llegado el momento de enfrentar la corrupción y violencia que ha deteriorado la imagen del país.
Vivir con miedo es inaceptable en un mundo moderno. Pero donde hay miedo si se puede encontrar esperanza y el deseo de rechazar lo que nos agobia. No pretendo comparar mis propios miedos con los que se vive en México hoy. Pero si recuerdo el poder que se realiza cuando pierdes el miedo y empiezas usar una voz alta y clara. Es lo básico de nuestro ser.
Era el año 1977 y ese verano fue el momento que terminé mi primera decada como Jorge Carreón Jr. Durante casi 10 años, me quedé con la determinación de vivir al lado izquierda del centro. Solo pensé en cultivar los intereses que eran cualquier cosa menos lo que era normal en Pico Rivera. No tenía muchos amigos, pero eso no me importaba. Quería perderme en todos los libros y películas que podía procesar antes de regresar a la primaria en el otoño. La mayoría de los niños tenían ganas de ir al parque, tomar clases de natación o tener días lánguidos en la playa. Yo quería saber más del artista moderno Andy Warhol y leer mis libros de Nancy Drew. Pero mis planes se quedaron en supsenso cuando mi papá me dijo que yo iba con él y mi hermana a visitar a su familia en el D.F.
Era como si el pusiera un alfiler en el globo de mi sueño de verano.
Así que fui, inocente al siniestro plan que mis padres habían inventado sin mí. Papá sólo tenía dos semanas de vacaciones de la fábrica. Eso significaba que junto con mi hermana, quien mantuvo la primera de una vida de secretos, tendríamos que quedarnos con nuestros familiares durante todo el verano. ¿Y cuándo llego el momento que me enteré de eso? El día que mi papá se regresó a Los Angeles sin nosotros.
Me dio una rabia feroz. Le grité. Lloré. Lo seguí a la puerta de la casa de mi tía en la mejor manera que aprendí de las telenovelas: “¡No me dejes!” Nunca se dio la vuelta. Caminó con buen paso a la puerta sin decir otra palabra más. Nunca me sentí tan lejos de mi vida real en California. Fue demasiado. Casi no hablaba el idioma. Ne dejaba de pensar: “Yo no soy mexicano. ¡Soy americano!” Pero todo mis gritos cayeron en el vacío. Estuve en esta casa sin esperanza para el resto del verano.
Pensando en este momento, me doy cuenta que no sabía ese verano con mi familia mexicana sería un regalo. ¿Cómo podría saberlo? Yo era sólo un niño. No pude ver mucho con mis ojos llenos de lágrimas. Tenía miedo de lo nuevo, de enfrentar la fuente verdadera de mi identidad: México. Nunca paramos de enfrentar lo “nuevo”. Gente, ciudades, costumbres, situaciones, todo lo que nos une como la raza humana. Fue el primero de muchos miedos que tendría que conquistar en mi vida, pero sí los conquisté.
Tenían que pasar 37 años para entender que la vida es demasiado corta para cualquier sentido de temor. Nacer latino es obstáculo suficiente en un mundo que valora la vainilla sobre el picante. Como ya he madurado, me emociona y me preocupa ver como nuestra narrativa nacional se conforma con la comunidad hispana. Espero contribuir a esta narrativa, para que refleje lo que realmente es ser un american en 2014. No tengo mucho espacio para el miedo con el fin de lograr ese objetivo. El miedo casi me dejo mudo durante todo un verano. Pero yo tomé ese paso que me llevó a un grupo muy especial en este mundo. Me convertí en un americano bilingüe, realizando el sueño de existir dentro de dos mundos que he llegado a representar con orgullo.
Miércoles, 24 de noviembre. Escrito y subido desde Wayne Avenue Manor en South Pasadena, CA
Sadly, those moments have been far and few for quite some time now. Yet, when it does happen, the effects are inspiring. It is that cleansing of the air, the prospect of making things grow, of giving life a chance to restore itself.
This period of drought is a metaphor for much of what the world feels right now. We are suffocating in this arid landscape, allowing our own frantic lives to take root, but refusing to let positive things bloom. Yet, nature has a way of making its power known in the rain. This liquid state of hope is a sign that what was once desert can be transformed. What was once lost will be found.
Woody Allen featured a stanza of a poem by e.e. cummings in “Hannah and Her Sisters,” which remains one of my favorite films. His script made use of this phrase, “not even the rain, has such small hands.” The yearning of this poem and its use in a voiced over moment punctuating a scene between Michael Caine and Barbara Hershey has stuck with me for years. It is so easy to think you’re closed off in this world, safer, to be frank. Yet the prospect of the new, that downpour of yearning, is a marvel to behold.
Last night’s rain brought cummings back to me, but not to reinforce a romantic ideal. No. That voice of positive I nurtured in Spain renewed itself, if only for a momenet. We do have the power within ourselves to open our own hearts and imaginations to create a better sense of self, to engage in a greater purpose in this world. It really is a miracle when it happens.
Just like the rain in L.A.
“somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot tough because they are too near
your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skillfully, mysteriously) her first rose
or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing
(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain, has such small hands.” — e.e. cummings
From Woody Allen’s “Hannah and Her Sisters”
Friday, November 21. Written and posted from Wayne Avenue Manor.
When I first heard my first Supremes song as a kid, it was like stepping into a spotlight, one that revealed the sequined covered soul hiding underneath my skin. (Full disclosure: I held a hair brush as a microphone. Oh, and Mom? I broke your kitten heels, putting them back in your closet without fixing them. That’s why they fell off when you stepped into them. Sorry!)
Those first hits of that Holland-Dozier-Holland sound, the divine Miss Diana Ross’s breathy vocals and the knowing, “hey, girl” back-up of Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard packed a wallop that continues to reverberate for me today. It was my first taste of glamour, yes. But it was also my first real understanding of why it is we want to love “The Boy.”
I mean, we could look to our parents as our first real example at what it is to be “coupled.” But, what fun lies in that? My parents were certainly demonstrative towards each other, but they parceled out their love and respect in tidbits. They offered each other little dashes of emotion to spice up the ordinary aspects of the day. A kiss on the cheek, another on the lips, his arm around her shoulders. It was Paul Anka sweet, not Supremes sexy.
In the end, it would be the music and lyrics of Burt Bacharach and Hal David that would comprise my most trusted primer on matters of the heart. Yet, it was the Motown Goddesses known as Diana Ross and the Supremes that would give my heart a voice in expressing the power of yearning, desire and the unforgettable impact of that one perfect kiss.
That first kiss.
It’s the one that makes your hands shake, where every sense and nerve in your body tingles with a carnal desire that renders you speechless. You don’t want that kiss to end, but you’re just as scared to let it go on. You’re powerful and powerless at the same time. Eyes open or shut, mouth closed or with tongue, each second that kiss stays alive validates every damn Supremes song you’ve ever heard. It’s the power of a romantic ideal. It can mend what is broken within because that kiss, especially when its strength is returned in kind, means you have connected profusely with another soul. What happens next, however, is on par with discovering what happens when the song comes to an end.
The teen dreams of girl group pop were sonic blasts of what we often wished happened to us in real life. We weren’t aware that such Ideals are fantasy, but man, a lot of us hold onto these ideals like a wino with a bottle for a long time. While I am not alone in floating in the romantic cloud of the Supremes and all of the other artists of the era that told us “it’s in his kiss,” I finally realized that not every kiss has an endgame. Sometimes a kiss is just that, a kiss. It really is a beautiful thing, though. Especially in those rare moments, where your heart is beating so fast it is like a drum beat. You’re so transported, you really do hear a symphony.
So, how do you not revert back to your teen self, where you were convinced such a kiss meant he was “The Boy?” How do you tap into your grown up rational self? Where you don’t self-sabotage it all by being too eager to communicate, beating him to a retreat to protect your own fragile heart? How do you stop that endless loop of thought where you meet, court, marry and break-up all before you have that second date?
God, why is this all so freakin’ frustrating a dance?
I remember telling my Ex at the beginning of our relationship, not every boy you kiss is going to be “The One.” And it is true, they’re not. I think fear of being alone is a lousy motivator in pursuing someone. It’s like binge eating, where you consume everything just to fill that emotional void. You can’t use people to fix what ails you or complete you in this state. It is an unfair expectation to possess, one that will certainly drive people away. And, if you don’t have a healthier attitude about your heart and your self-esteem, you will perpetuate that vicious cycle anew. The following quote is a testament to the dangers of being impulsive:
“Self-control is the chief element in self-respect. Self-respect is the chief element in courage.” — Thucydides
I think I’ve made great strides in not projecting expectations onto some of the men I’ve met in these last years. No expectations does mean no disappointments. Yet, can I say that it’s hard not to get Carrie Bradshaw’ed away when someone catches me totally off guard? It’s when you witness that certain smile or hear that easy laugh. Oh! And if they possess that tender touch and offer an inviting embrace that tells you, “It’s just you and me, pal?” MELT! I haven’t experienced that in a long while, but it happened to me recently. It’s the kind of stuff that propels you to a keyboard and here I am.
I know it can be all so fleeting, these moments. Yet, having the courage to let them happen is essential. I’ve enjoyed letting this little smile make itself known at stop lights, because it felt so good to let go of “The Eeyore Syndrome.” Too many weeks of having the mean reds can mess a bitch up! I don’t care to know what it means. That’s not this is about. I just want to let this feeling last as long as it is meant to because it is a wonderfully human thing to experience, like hearing that Motown bridge.
Besides, I have finally come to realize the only way for any relationship to take hold is for it to be a mutual want. (Because you can’t hurry love! Boom!)
As I was counseled by my fearless friend Heidi, in order to start a bonfire, you have to cajole the flames. When the time presents itself, just give it a chance to burn, don’t suffocate it. Let those sparks connect and ignite with all that is revealed to be combustible in those first electric moment. If it takes hold, that raging passion we wall want to sing about will grow with intensity. If it doesn’t? Well, you relish the glow of that initial bolt of lightning, because it happened and nothing in the world will ever diminish its impact.
No matter what our age and place in this chaotic world, that gift of making music with someone who cares is one our most defining traits. Never think to yourself, “This is my last chance.” That’s the beautiful thing about symphonies — and the Supremes.
We, too, are all classics that live to be heard from — and kissed — again.
Thursday, November 20. Written and posted from Wayne Avenue Manor in South Pasadena, CA
“We are on red alert when it comes to how we are perceiving ourselves as a species. There’s no desire to be an adult. Adulthood is not a goal. It’s not seen as a gift. Something happened culturally: No one is supposed to age past 45 — sartorially, cosmetically, attitudinally. Everybody dresses like a teenager. Everybody dyes their hair. Everybody is concerned about a smooth face.”
— Frances McDormand, as quoted in the New York Times, October 29, 2014.
Mi nombre es Jorge. En el barrio de mi nacimiento, todavía soy “George,” pero ya no me identifico come ese muchacho del ayer. Soy Jorge, pero no soy el original. Yo soy el segundo Jorge porque llevo ell nombre de mi padre. Mi madre quería llamarme Alejandro pero nací para llevar la marca de ser el primer hombre en una familia sencilla. El orgullo me nombró, no la poesía o el romance.
Llevar el nombre de mi padre tiene una gran responsabilidad. Como todas las cosas buenas, los griegos inventaron “Jorge.” Per mis padres Jorge y Lilia Carreón Ramirez crearon esta versión. El origen de mi nombre representa lo que es un granjero o una persona que cultiva la tierra. Ni siquiera puedo cuidar una planta. Sin embargo, esto me dirige a usar una metáfora. Las palabras son lo que yo cultivo porque soy periodista. Yo cuento las historias de personas que tú conoces para ver en la tele o leer en la Internet. Creo que eso me hace un granjero de los medios.
Siendo el segundo Jorge de mi familia es una historia diferente, una historia que no llevo a contar al mundo. Nunca pensé que mi padre y yo teníamos muchas características en común. Siempre estuvimos en una guerra de ideología. Ahora soy mayor y empiezo a darme cuenta de lo que tenemos en común. Como la mayoría de los hombres latinos, vivimos en nuestros recuerdos. Es como si fuéramos granjeros cultivando la tierra que da vida a nuestro´árbol genealógico.
Ahora mi padre está enfermo. Su mente está borrándose lentamente en una manera insidiosa. Un día no voy a ser el segundo Jorge, pero el primero. Es por eso que tengo que recordar todo relacionado con él y con nosotros. Porque ser Jorge es mas que compartir el mismo nombre de mi padre. Ser Jorge es vivir como el conservador de la historia de mi familia.
Porque anoche, al final de la fiesta de cumpleaños de mi hermana mayor, mi padre se olvidó de mi por la primera vez. Me dio su mano, como si yo fuera un desconocido, no su hijo mayor, no el que lleva su nombre. En ese momento, si cambio todo porque reconocí que sí, mi nombre contiene poesía y romance.
Porque llegó el día de ser Jorge el primero.
Domingo 28 de septiembre 2014. En mi casa en South Pasadena, CA
My name is Jorge. People still call me “George,” especially in the neighborhood where I grew up, located in the shadow of downtown Los Angeles. I’m Jorge, but I’m not the First. I am the Second Jorge because I carry my father’s name, a junior version. My mom wanted to name me “Alejandro,” but I was born to carry the name of our patriarch, the first boy born of immigrants in their new country. Pride named me, not a sense of poetry or romance.
To carry your father’s name is a huge responsibility. Like all good things on this earth, it was the Greeks who invented Jorge. But my parents, Jorge and Lilia Carreon Ramirez, created this version. The origin of my name is supposed to mean “farmer” or a person who cultivates the ground. I can’t even take care of a plant. Regardless, this does lead me to use a metaphor. I cultivate words and images because I am a journalist. I tell the stories about people you know to watch on TV or read on the Internet. Maybe that makes me a farmer with the media as my expanse of land to nurture?
Being Jorge the Second is a different story, one I never intended to tell to the world. Not really. Yet reasons exist why I can admit that I never thought my father and I had much in common. We were always locked in a battle of ideology. Now that I am older, I see what we do share and it is more than the name. Like all Latino men, we live in our memories. It is as if we are a special brand of cultivators, tasked with the preservation of our family trees.
My father has Alzheimer’s. His mind is slowly being erased in the most insidious manner. Since the day he was diagnosed, I knew that at some point I would no longer be Jorge the Second, but the First. That is why I have to record all that is Us before his files are completely emptied of data.
Because being Jorge is not just sharing the same name.
Being Jorge is living as the chief chronicler of my family.
Because last night, at the end of my older sister’s birthday party, my father forgot who I was to him.
He offered me his hand to shake, smiling and saying “It was nice meeting you.” Sure, it was a polite and friendly gesture. He meant it. That was the version of Jorge for when he met people he liked. But it was more than that, because I recognized that my name does carry poetry and romance.
Last night, I became Jorge the First.
Sunday, September 28. Posted in Spanish and English from Wayne Avenue Manor in South Pasadena, CA
“This rock we’re rolling on
Is like a circus ride that don’t last long
Round and round we go and then we’re gone
We waste time chasing ghosts
And overlook the things that matter most
We get so caught up in the maybes
Just trying to be somebody, baby
I was slowly going crazy…”
— Tim McGraw, “Overrated”
KCRW ran a piece on how the concept of “the neighbor” is vanishing because of social media.
I don’t want to think we’ve lost the meaning of “community.” But it is hard not to say that its redefinition in this digital age feels like a perversion and a travesty. Or is that just my inner curmudgeon speaking out loud? But when I look closely at the world I’ve built for myself, I realize community does exist within us all. I can’t speak for the rest of the city, but I can say, social media or not, I did forget how to recognize the ties that keep us together.
The post-WWII baby boom had given birth to the suburbs, or “bedroom communities.” It was a new take on the concept of “village.” This was a post-modern, self-sustaining utopia where everyone who lived in these manicured hamlets played a role in the sustaining the wellness of the group. These were supposed to be cradles of the new mobility, of front lawns and water sprinklers, of public parks and libraries, schools and pre-schools.
(Sure, the idea of localized commerce, with malls replacing the shopping districts of Main Street, anchored these spaces. I still choose to focus on these being halcyon days, when you could leave your front door open without fear of invasions or coups at the local high school.)
I would often joke that Pico Rivera was the Jewel of the San Gabriel Valley, more out of derision, maybe even ethnic self-loathing. But it was a place where kids rode their bikes and walked around unescorted, predators be damned. Sure, we had the cholo dynasties of Pico Viejo, Pico Nuevo and Rivera 13. But they kept to themselves. Everyone else kept a vigilant eye, Gladys Kravitz style, but no one was really worried. You could spend the night at your friend’s home because your best friend was a local troop Den Mother. You trusted your neighbors, your friends…yourselves. And, the whole family had dinner at the table.
It’s no joke to me now. The punchline seems to be on some of us for chasing the overrated myth of modernity with insidious ease. I know it appears I am under some nostalgic spell at the moment. What’s above is exactly what life was like for me while growing up. It isn’t a distorted view created by a sense of loss or a need for redemption. I don’t regret a single choice I made to achieve my version of the American Dream. But with clarity comes the acceptance that my values were truly adrift. I wasn’t raised to be that person.
My parents, both Mexican immigrants, understood the value of community. They were raised by their families, large units of siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, all blood relations playing a role in their upbringing. But, they were practically alone in the US. At times it felt like “us against the world,” but we flourished under the suburban model of community. My mom was fearless in how she integrated herself into lives of her American-born children outside of the home. She may have finished high school AFTER she had her family, but that didn’t mean education wasn’t a priority. She pulled us out the elementary closest to us because she felt the teachers were not up to par. She then got to know all of our teachers at each level of our education. She helped out as a room mother, befriended the school board. She asked questions as to our progress and the school’s own agenda for the future.
Mom was vigilant as to what we read, watched on our single TV and listened to on the radio. Rarely did she censor our choices. Yet, she kept incredibly current, boy. Of course, my early trajectory as a MediaJor did find me taking a few back streets that she found a bit unsavory:
“No, I shouldn’t be watching “Saturday Night Live” and I won’t explain to you why “Pussy Whip” is a dairy dessert topping for cats.”
“No, you don’t need to read “Valley of the Dolls.” It is not about toys.”
“Yes, Dad threw away your “Rocky Horror Picture Show” picture book. No, I won’t give you money to buy a new one.”
I wasn’t about just reading Nancy Drew books purchased with my allowance, if you get my drift.
I wish my Mom came of age in the blogging era. (Fuck you, Lena Dunham. My Mom would have written circles around you.) To this day, Mom’s devastating insight on the world gives most pundits a run for their money. And not just about what’s happening in the US. She never lost touch with su México lindo y querido. What sets Mom apart is how she embraced the dominant culture of America, something my father never really managed. It was most likely the language and culture as much as Dad’s intractable, very Catholic-Mexican way of viewing his American life. Mom was educated in Texas before heading to LA. Dad came to LA directly from Mexico City, bringing his steel-clad code of values, too. Either way, Mom knew who she was and she knew who she wanted us to be. It didn’t always correspond to Dad’s vision, but they both wisely left the choice of identities up to us. We ultimately became variations of their themes. It was a long process, but the idea of being American and Mexican would take root with most of my siblings. Though, even by today’s multicultural standards, we’re still the whitest Mexicans you will ever know.
I know that how I lived wasn’t the same at every house on the block. In fact, after reading “Peyton Place” at age 11, I realized that the town of Pico Rivera, where I was raised, had its own intrigue and scandal brewing underneath its middle class, Chicano facade. I would love to spill some of the secrets, but I may just save them all for my own version of “Peyton Place” (Pueblo Chico, Infierno Grande has already been taken) in the near future.
Many of my friends had similar lives to mine because we were an aspirational community. Pico was the upgrade from East Los Angeles, were Latinos could partake in the new mobility. Just like just an episode of “The Jeffersons.” But, you could feel the family dynamics were going to shift as we began to improve our economic standing as a minority group.
Without our knowing it, the “Big One” has already hit us Angelenos and the rest of the country. The fissures of the suburban dream widened with the aftershocks of Vietnam, Nixon, the energy crisis, the recession, Carter, Reagan. Pico Rivera was a microcosm of what the rest of the country was experiencing. The concept of “family” was being redefined. As the economy struggled, both parents had to work. Children were being left alone, often in the care of strangers. Worse, it wasn’t just the television that was the nanny, it was the advent of other devices to keep them “occupied” but not “engaged.”
We may have been under the shadow cast by downtown Los Angeles, but we also witnessed how the go-go 80s broke down the family unit. Stay at-home moms like mine became an endangered species. Shit got expensive, no? It wasn’t just about keeping up appearances, either, although that played a vanity role with unfortunate consequences.
It’s funny. My parents still live in the same house in Pico. More than 47 years have passed and I still marvel over how it — like my parents — weather the changes. Continuity has survived in small pockets. Some families have come and gone. Our best neighbors have died or moved away, with some of their kids choosing stay or sell and go.
Businesses have come and gone, but Mario’s Tacos and Casa Garcia show no signs of pulling up stakes anytime soon, even with that interloper King Taco a few block away. (Our nacho and special quesadilla needs are powerful!) And while Omega Burgers and Naugles are no more, McDonald’s has grown to offer three locations. And every other fast food shack has migrated to Pico over the years. It does comfort my arteries some to know that Steak ‘n’ Stein and Dal Rae still offer up top grilled meat at top prices. (Now I can enjoy a Dewar’s and soda to complete the dream.) Amazing how both these restaurants, one is even Zagat rated, exist in an town where every dollar counts in a given house. We were always a town that could EAT.
We were also a town that played under the trees at Smith Park. Some of us chose to read books during the summer reading program at the circular library at Mines Ave. Many of us didn’t let the Huck Finn Day Parade pass us by down Passons Blvd. (Although, it does make you ponder what a bunch of Chicanos had in common with Mark Twain. We did have a few black families, but regardless, it did fade away as a yearly tradition.)
The trees at Smith Park are no more, replaced by added baseball diamonds, a football field, skateboard park and bigger islands of jungle gyms. The circular library is gone, replaced by a gleaming, modern facility that is bigger, but with fewer books and more computer screens. Even my parents’ home has been upgraded to include central air, flat screens and DSL. But it is also a home that has taken in breast cancer and Alzheimer’s. One has left, for good, we hope. The other is a house guest who has entrenched itself for the long haul, robbing my father of all that he remembers of us.
I worry that my own brain will fail me in a haze of dementia. That I will also have a memory like an iPod in shuffle mode, where you hope one clear thought will make its way to the fore. Where you hope the smile on the face of your father is that of his recognizing you as his son, and not just the polite grin hiding the fact he’s forgotten you.
I’ve been making this migration slowly, finding my way back to the center of what should have mattered to me so long ago. Running away to greener pastures is not the answer. I have learned that you create the community you need to sustain you. Where we once we grew up with the kids next door, we now evolve with the people we gather as friends. Where our families fail us, we will find those who play a role in healing what has been broken. I have been lucky to have both in my life, a strong family and strong family of friends.
I think about how America’s penchant for isolationism has taken many forms. We stayed out of wars. We still prefer to ignore other cultures. We ignore each other. We live in a bubble of our own making, even more so as we handpick the moments we want to share online. The irony is we have no filter for the filtered images in our Instalives. We breathlessly await being liked, but prefer the distance provided by the anonymous folks hitting the buttons from afar. We know about their handles, but nothing about the people living next door.
It is easy to denigrate what the Internet has done to us. It has fostered a climate of snark, hate, paranoia and distrust. We are paying a cost for instant communication and unbridled searches for instant knowledge. Yet, I am aware that my support system has been built by harnessing the best of what the Internet can offer, as well as meeting people at what appears to be the most random of circumstances. I question whether or not some of the players in my beautiful ensemble can understand who it is I want to be today.
I used to believe that we don’t evolve, but that’s just magazine speak to keep us buying whatever self-help book is trending at the moment. If they admit people do evolve, these authors would be out of business. We’d accept the changes and not perpetuate the ones that keep us from reaching our fullest potential.
We are living, breathing organisms that are programmed to adapt to the world’s harshest environments. My weeks in Spain were the culmination of a search of self, of re-establishing purpose and finding inspiration to express myself again. Spain was my bid to connect with the world. And while I choose to live in this city of disconnected angles (for now), I have no intention of losing this frequency now. Nor do I want to revert back to type, that overeating gadfly who hid behind his own neuroses.
Whatever its form, I can go home again. And while I may not like the changes that surround my family today, I am very much aware of what counts, of what is true. I want a quieter life. I want to share this quieter life with those that matter to me.
I was told, just before I left for Spain, that I was cluttering my own self with static of my own doing. That when I finally freed myself of this external noise, what would burst forth with be of such clarity, it would finally reveal the truest sense of who I am to the world. I shouldn’t fear this revelation, because people will listen.
You may think I’m grossly generalizing the past. You may think I am way off target. You may prefer to only watch the clip of Tim McGraw. But for whatever moment you spend on this blog, you are part of this community of mine. And I’m glad. Now, sit a spell. Tell me about your day. We don’t know each other? Not a problem. To build a community, you just need to reach out and get to know your neighbor.
“Hello. My name is Jorge…”
Monday, September 22. Written and posted from Wayne Avenue manor in South Pasadena, CA
That Salamancan glow of summer faded too damn fast. Who am I kidding? I let it fade. Instead of just transferring it back home, I sat around with a look of petulance, bemoaning the American Way. Stupid. So stupid.
Once you’re knee deep in your 40s, I think you’re supposed to be painfully aware of the distance between “then” and “now.” By now we should realize our lives are constant examples of forward motion. That is until we allow ourselves the live in a state of arrested development. Remember, I’m just the guy who cain’t let go. Yet, I’m also the guy who will embrace change when I am left with no other recourse.
I left my job during the summer of 2013 to find a better self.
I returned to the classroom in the fall of 2013 to restore a better sense of self by studying Spanish again, this time at East Los Angeles College.
I ventured to Spain in the summer of 2014 to live out loud with what I learned being a student again, continuing my studies at the Pontificia in Salamanca. My self-esteem was in the process of being rebuilt, gaining strength and perspective. My voice was finally registering with so much hope, creating a narrative of optimism.
Then I went home.
I relapsed…no..willingly wallowed into a pit built with self-pity and binge eating.
I’m sitting here in a hotel room in Primm, Nevada. Watching these words flash across the screen, words given power by my hands. All I can think is, “What the fuck is wrong with me?” Why am I still chasing the same damn demons that I’ve let dominate my life since childhood.
I want to be liked.
I want to be pretty.
I want to be skinny.
I want to be happy.
I want…I want…I want. What the hell? What more can I want, Veruca? I have everything! Yet, why is it so hard to say “I have” and acknowledge the good amassed in this last year? Why return to the scene of my crimes against my own humanity?
We are living in a culture that has turned self-reflection into a business. But I think we are deluding ourselves. It is just a different brand of narcissism, this still being unable to be still. As I sit here with my thoughts, so late into the evening, I can’t help but ponder the obvious. It’s the doing that matters, not paying lip service to a dream you’ve opted to stall because you’re so chicken shit. But what happens when you realize you’ve outgrown the dream itself?
I can compose a narrative on a whim, revising it in my brain like a chewed up wad of gum, mulling it over and over until it loses all flavor. As we wade further into September, I am facing a reality I’ve been too afraid to acknowledge.
Maybe it wasn’t about MY being someone. Maybe it is about inspiring someone else to dare to express themselves in a way that affects us ALL in such a profound manner, it prompts change. That’s a dream worth chasing at any cost because it isn’t about me anymore.
I don’t want to see language devolve into statements constructed with 140 characters or less. I don’t want a filtered image on Instagram to be the defining record of our time, an image without context or nuance. I convinced myself to be ashamed that I worked this hard to reach only the middle. Truth be told, not all of us can be LeBron. That lofty status is reserved for those who are truly touched by the hand of God. I represent something between extra and ordinary, like so many of us who have the desire to make our time on Earth matter. It’s about the little legacies we leave behind without fear of judgment that counts. It’s accepting that we are SOMEONE, even if it is to a party of one.
What I have discovered at this juncture of my life is that I am deserving of a patch of blue, a landscape of green, a sense of peace and quiet within. I have understood that I possess enough good in this life to allow the optimism I carry inside to not be obfuscated by the chaos of people who only see what they want to see. I don’t want the status quo of being a proxy anything to anyone anymore. Nor will I allow myself to build a fortress of empty calories, sponsored by the folks at Emotional Eating and designed to hide me from the world again. It’s about knowing that we all carry the stars and the moon in our hearts.
Let’s remix this business…
“I met a man without a dollar to his name
Who had no traits of any value but his smile
I met a man who had no yearn or claim to fame
Who was content to let life pass him for a while
And I was sure that all I ever wanted
Was a life like the movie stars led
And he kissed me right here, and he said,
“I’ll give you stars and the moon and a soul to guide you
And a promise I’ll never go
I’ll give you hope to bring out all the life inside you
And the strength that will help you grow.
I’ll give you truth and a future that’s twenty times better
Than any Hollywood plot.”
And I thought, “You know, I’d rather have a yacht.”
I met a man who lived his life out on the road
Who left a wife and kids in Portland on a whim
I met a man whose fire and passion always showed
Who asked if I could spare a week to ride with him
But I was sure that all I ever wanted
Was a life that was scripted and planned
And he said, “But you don’t understand —
“I’ll give you stars and the moon and the open highway
And a river beneath your feet
I’ll give you day full of dreams if you travel my way
And a summer you can’t repeat.
I’ll give you nights full of passion and days of adventure,
No strings, just warm summer rain.”
And I thought, “You know, I’d rather have champagne.”
I met a man who had a fortune in the bank
Who had retired at age thirty, set for life.
I met a man and didn’t know which stars to thank,
And then he asked one day if I would be his wife.
And I looked up, and all I could think of
Was the life I had dreamt I would live
And I said to him, “What will you give?”
“I’ll give you cars and a townhouse in Turtle Bay
And a fur and a diamond ring
And we’ll be married in Spain on my yacht today
And we’ll honeymoon in Beijing.
And you’ll meet stars at the parties I throw at my villas
In Nice and Paris in June.”
And I thought, “Okay.”
And I took a breath
And I got my yacht
And the years went by
And it never changed
And it never grew
And I never dreamed
And I woke one day
And I looked around
And I thought, “My God…
I’ll never have the moon.”
“Stars and Moon,” music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown
Composed on Saturday, September 6 at Buffalo Bill’s Resort and Casino in Primm, Nevada — Posted on Sunday, September 7 from Wayne Avenue Manor in South Pasadena.
“Muchas veces las crisis se ven como algo muy negativo, y con mucho miedo. Y al final, la palabra crisis es sinónimo de cambio, de transformación, de limpieza, de quitar telarañas, de quitar vicios adquiridos, y reformular, reconstruir.¨ — Pucho, Vetusta Morla
Desde la noche de la ultima parranda en Salamanca, tengo días de estar tragando cada pedazo de comida como si fuera limosna. De Salamanca a Barcelona y el regreso, desde Madrid hasta Nueva York y Los Angeles comía mis sentimientos para aliviar el remordimiento de salirme de España. Pero todo tiene su final, como el tema de este serie de blogs. Por fin ha llegado el momento de escribir el último capitulo de mi aventura en Salamanca – y lo tenía que escribirlo en español.
Puede ser el “jet lag” esta jugando un poco con mis sentimientos. Dure como 15 minutos en mi escala en JFK cuando la ansiedad me pego bien fuerte. Estuve de nuevo en el pecho mi país maternal y me sentí como el hijo recién llegado de un conflicto. Pero la experiencia de Salamanca y el resto de España no era conflicto. Era un reencuentro con cosas que valoro con tanto de mi ser. Pienso en detalles de la vida real, cosas tan substantivas son como el pan fresco que Manoli nos daba con cada comida.
Se que tengo que vivir estos próximo días en una manera muy tranquila y no romantizar lo que me ocurrió en España. Pero como puedo regresar a mi vida normal cuando pienso en:
Los comentarios de Manoli cuando comimos todos juntos, incluso los de Brianna y Krystal porque fuimos una familia
Los dichos de Manoli como: “Lo que escupes al aire te va caer y lo tragaras”
Los opiniones de estrellas del cine americana: “Julia Roberts tiene una boca como la Plaza de Toros
Sus sopas de alubias, lentejas y su preocupación con la frescura de la fruta que compraba de la vecina.
¡La tortilla española!
Las voces claras y dulces de sus nietos
Escuchando las risas autenticas de Krystal y Brianna cada día sobre nuestras experiencias y vidas
La mujer en El Corte Inglés quien sacó su móvil de su sujetador cuando pagaba el saldo.
El taxista de Barcelona que soñaba en visitar Los Angeles.
Cenando en Chueca y charlando con Montse, una noche tan divertida que perdí el tren.
Las mañanas caminando por la Plaza Mayor en Salamanca.
Mis cafecitos en la cafetería de la Pontificia.
Las manías de mis profesores con “Los chinos” en la Pontificia. (Y no en una manera negativa.)
Las diferencias entre el castellano y el español de Latino América. Como dijo Palmira, el futuro de español no esta en España. El desarrollo del idioma será controlado por el oeste, los Latinoamericanos.
Los sentidos de humor y respeto que encontré con Palmira, quien realizo un ambiente segura y autentica durante nuestras charlas reveladoras en la clase de conversación.
El amor intenso de Dr. María José Boyero cuando hablaba de gramática y literatura que me dio animo para vivir de nuevo.
Samuel, la sorpresa y, al final, el regalo de España.
No es cuestión de visitar un país para conocer su gente. Tienes que vivirlo con ellos. Tienes que vivir sus tradiciones, compartir su comida como su cultura. Así puedes sentir el apego que existe cuando entiendes que eres parte de cosas tan cuotidianas, se sienten como si siempre eran parte de tu vida desde el principio.
Creo que las consecuencias de este viaje a España tendrán efectos no voy a reconocer inmediatamente. Pueden llegar hasta el fin de esta semana. Puede ser al final del año o nunca. Tengo tantas emociones que quiero expresar en este momento. Siente como una corriente eléctrica sin rumbo. No puedo salir de este país tan bello sin decir algo. Este mes era dedicada al estudio de gramática y literatura. Sería una tontería en no ofrecer un “blog” escrito en español. Yo sé que voy a cometer muchos errores. Solo te pido disculpa. (¡Te juro que mis calificaciones de ser “sobresaliente” no fue broma!) Como mis razones en tener esta aventura tan inolvidable y transformativa, pienso la sinceridad de esta nota será bastante. Como las lunas escritas por el autor mexicano Juan Rulfo, tú eres mi lector y testigo a una vida singular.
Soy americano, de primera generación. No nací como hispanohablante, me convertí durante mi colegiatura. Sentía una pena tan enorme, a veces soñaba de una vida diferente donde el mundo me llamaba ¨George” y no ¨Jorge.¨ Que falta de respeto porque llevo el nombre de mi padre. Pero el disgusto que sentía por dentro era como un purgatorio. Mi identidad era falsa, manipulada por la cultura dominante de los Estados Unidos. Este rechazo de mis raíces mexicanas no era algo tan raro. La fuerza de la cultura americana contiene elementos que no son basadas en la naturaleza. Sino son algo de ciencia ficción, realizadas en un laboratorio oscuro e insidiosa. Pienso en el doctor Frankenstein, revolcado por una locura en dominar todo el mundo sin pensar en las consecuencias.
Muchos compran lo que está vendiendo los Frankensteins de los medios, la publicidad, el gobierno, todos. No juzgo los que no pueden rechazar la mentira de valorar el sueño americano. No juzgo los que confunden ignorancia con nacionalismo. Solo juzgo los que piensan que no importa mantener dos identidades. Lo que se gana en ser bilingüe, esta mezcla cultural sobresale saber otra idioma. Es mantener lo bueno de ser humano. Es la ingrediente especial que realiza una receta tan poderosa y incomparable a lo resto.
“Well, we wish we were happier, thinner and fitter,
We wish we weren’t losers and liars and quitters
We want something more not just nasty and bitter
We want something real not just hash tags and Twitter
It’s the meaning of life and it’s streamed live on YouTube
But I bet Gangnam Style will still get more views
We’re scared of drowning, flying and shooters
But we’re all slowly dying in front of fucking computers…”
From “Scare Away the Dark” by Passgener (Michael David Rosenberg)
Como me han sorprendido mis amigos – mis lectores — por su apoyo y sus reacciones a las Confesiones de este mes. Mis observaciones han llevado a algunos comentarios interesantes, añadiendo más leña al fuego de mi deseo de liberarme de las redes sociales. La ironía es que ninguno de estos Confesiones habría alcanzado a nadie si no fuera por Facebook. Un dilema, ¿no?
Al final, no importa cómo se registraron mis pequeños terremotos del alma. Lo que sí sé con certeza es que expresé lo que tenía que expresar sobre este viaje. Para aquellos que leyeron todo y también ofrecieron un comentado con interés, te doy las gracias por la creación de un diálogo. Eso es lo que significa ser una comunidad, compartiendo ideas y teniendo en cuenta el discurso para darles forma a algo profundo y útil.
Esta conexión era real. No creo si no evolucionamos, nos convertiremos extinta porque no somos relevantes si no tenemos “followers” o un mogollón de “likes.” No necesito la validación que proviene de un botón, porque quiero que me lo dices en persona. Ya que son palabras de apoyo o un “cállate la boca”, se trasladaron a sentir algo tan fuerte seria una pena no hablar.
Esto puede ser una generación que piensa el iCloud esta llena de lo importante, pero tengo noticias para ellos. Imagínense un momento cuando todas las luces se apagan y no se puede subir cada imagen de tu narcisismo. ¿Dejaras de existir? Sócrates tenía muchos seguidores, sin necesidad de Twitter y dio forma al mundo en los siglos venideros. Así lo hizo Jesucristo. Ellos no tienen que cargar sus teorías o ideologías. Ellos sabían cómo hablar con la gente, cara a cara, y la gente escuchaba.
Eso es todo lo que necesitamos hacer. No temer a nuestra propia voz o la reacción. Lo importante es hablar y cuestionar y compartir. Para poner una cara a todo. Es curioso, yo no pensé que tenía que ir al otro lado del Atlántico para conectarme con personas totalmente desconocidas y sentirse parte de la raza humana de nuevo. Pero lo que es una maravilla para sentarme y hablar con la gente que vive con ganas de ser escuchados. Qué sensación es el privilegio de sentarse en un aula y tener conversaciones reales, compartir ideas y experiencias. Y en un idioma diferente, joder!
Temo que mantener este impulso será duro de nuevo en Los Ángeles, al igual que los muchos planes de dieta que he luchado para mantener durante años. ¿Es justo decir que tengo un cerebro sin grasa? ¿Que si soy capaz de derramé de todo el exceso de peso provocada por años de ser parte de la cultura de consumo de la Nación de comida chatarra y información de relámpago y conjetura?
Lo que he perdido no tengo ninguna razón para encontrar o querer otra vez. Lo que he ganado es todo lo que necesito en saber como afrontar el futuro. Tengo mi maleta y mi pasaporte listo para ir, por si acaso. Gracias España. No puedo esperar para ver a dónde voy a ir después. Tengo México en mi sangre porque mi familia Mexicana es algo que me da fuerza y valor en este mundo. Pero España siempre estará en mi corazón porque ahora representa esperanza, amor…y vida.
Martes, 29 de julio. Escrito en Barcelona, Salamanca, Madrid y South Pasadena. Subido desde Wayne Avenue Manor.