Rage Against the DeSantis Machine

Rage Against the DeSantis Machine

As if 2022 couldn’t double down on the crazy any further, clips of people enraged over what they perceive as media giant Disney or our under-siege educators “grooming” their precious Becky and/or Ken to become members of the LGBTQ+ community have the nation transfixed. I offer this counterpoint-slash-reality check to ill-informed agitators in front of Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and beyond.

I’m a 54-year-old gay male, American-born, and of Mexican descent.  I am the second child born of immigrants in California and the country they chose to make their home, leaving their own families behind.  Coming to America was their choice, and my siblings and I could not have flourished better under their watch and care as their American-born children.

There. I said it. I’m gay. No one made me “this way.” No one groomed me. I led myself to the LGBTQ+ community through an inherent need to feel safe and visible. First, I reconciled my fears as to what society would think, and, especially, my parents. Devoutly Catholic and structured in terms of their principles, their difficulty in accepting my truth remains a painful episode. However, it is a period that mercifully was made easier by the support of my siblings, turning my parents around in terms of what losing would mean to them all.

I remember my first real conversation with my mom one afternoon after I came out. I took her to lunch and a movie. She was a wee bit subdued at first, but slowly, she’d pepper our conversation with direct questions about my sexual identity. I explained that choice had nothing to do with my sexuality.  No one molested me. No one influenced me. It just felt like the most natural thing in the world.

I distinctly remember realizing when I had no attraction to the female gender.  It was in 1976 while watching a first-run episode of “The Bionic Woman.” (It was the multi-part “Kill Oscar” storyline that was a cross-over with “The Six Million Dollar Man.”) I want to think something about the image of Steve Austin fighting off the evil Fembots in hurricane-tossed Hawaii wearing nothing besides his mustache and a pair of swim trunks was what made me take notice.  His hairy chest was swoon-worthy.  Of course, I kept that to myself and spent the next 15 years lying to myself about my sexual identity.

Perhaps that TV memory was or wasn’t the moment.  Perhaps I knew I was gay after listening to my Dad’s original cast albums of My Fair Lady and Camelot, both featuring Julie Andrews.  (He saw BOTH original productions on Broadway, which still elicits feelings of jealousy today.)

Maybe it was when I discovered Linda Ronstadt’s first and glorious recording of American Songbook classics, “What’s New” in 1983. Maybe it was Maria Callas singing opera or the Burt Bacharach/Hal Davis catalog, genres my father also introduced to me.  Or maybe it was my first time watching Rosalind Russell rip through “Rose’s Turn” in the filmed version of Gypsy? All of this happened during my formative years as a kid.

The first film I remember seeing in a movie theater was Disney’s The Aristocats in 1970. Did a subliminal message exist within the song “Ev’ry Body Wants to Be a Cat?” Was it hiding code to turn me gay? Please, I wanted to be a cool cat. However, it did inspire me to have a career in the filmed arts, which began in earnest at the age of 19 and continues to engage and inspire me today.

Oh, and how I can forget the first song I learned by heart as a child! Yes, that honor goes to Petula Clark’s 1964 monster hit, “Downtown.”

Better yet, my identity as a child of Mexican nationals provided a broader selection of art and artists to further inspire and give my life an incredible context. Hearing my mom’s favorite music of her youth meant Lola Beltran, Jorge Negrete, and Pedro Infante would also teach me about the language and spirit of a people that experienced the power of oppression and conquest, too. Assimilation may have won the first battle for my soul, a time when I referred to myself as “George.” Life experiences, maturity, and pride brought me back to Jorge, also the name of my father.

The iconic duo of Pedro Infante and Jorge Negrete (Foto: Twitter / @limberopulos_)

I gravitated to these artists because they inspired me to want to know more about a world that extended beyond my Chicano suburban existence in Pico Rivera, CA.  I felt connected to the art and artists that remain my greatest mentors and heroes.  Not just because the gay community favors them; instead, they endure because they were pioneers to appreciate.  That I’ve met many aficionados who happen to be gay men is the icing on the reality cake, validating that Los Gays possess incredible cultural taste.

The point is that we are ALL influenced by a broad variety of external social, political, and cultural forces in a lifetime. I firmly believe our sexual and gender identities, however, are truly biological, not bids to merely find ourselves “more interesting.” Exceptions exist, sure. But to generalize and marginalize an entire community to fit an agenda? No. When politicians dare to prey on the fears of the weak and uneducated, the results can be irrevocable. The devastating truth about Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill and other such discriminatory legislation is this idea of forcing conformity on young people.  Such blind homogenization is both dangerous and damaging in that it stigmatizes what is entirely natural and pure.

Again, during my elementary school life, I knew I was different, but I lacked the awareness and words to understand why.  The awareness would arrive much later and it ultimately made perfect sense once I stepped away from the fear. A voracious reader as a kid, my teachers could not keep up with my pace of finishing all the material on their curriculum.  These outstanding and dedicated educators resorted to giving me things NOT on the curriculum that would nurture and encourage my ability to process and understand different narratives.  It affected how I related to the other kids, most of whom had no idea what I was talking about most days.  Hell, my vocabulary alone was enhanced by my reading my parents’ issues of Newsweek, the LA Times, and the LA Herald-Examiner.  I had to know what they knew, too, about the world.

As a result, my cultural references were not things that mattered in my classroom or playground.  It felt worrisome to me, so I suppressed certain parts of my personality to “fit in” or conform with the larger group.  It remains my biggest regret to this day, this desire of being ignored or left behind.  Censoring myself to stop the bullying and social isolation meant killing the part of me that brought me such joy and pride.  I saw the bigger picture, and I knew it would lead me away from the suburbs to find the place that would understand and encourage me to be the best version of myself, not just my sexual identity.

Donald Sutherland in the 1978 version of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (Photo: United Artists)

Our young people desperately need advocates and champions, not a group of red hat-wearing pod people from “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” telling them they’re invisible.  We need a greater understanding of sexual and gender identity, not criminalizing what remains a real struggle for so many innocent people. Choosing not to care or recognize the importance of gender and sexual identity is reckless and can be dangerous, even deadly, for those who have no emotional support. We have to find a middle ground, not promote a mantra of “grooming,” which is frustrating and sickening.

I can’t understand how people like DeSantis think forcing people to subscribe to ONE point of view cannot be considered an act of “grooming.”  How is indoctrinating generations to espouse every “ism” found in the fear-mongering GOP playbook a civil and just act?  This demented cry of “Beware Woke Culture” features once-benign terms appropriated and weaponized, again, by the right to conjure up yet another Boogeyman of panic, this time in the shape of Disney.

Fighting Disney is nothing more than a malignant weapon of mass distraction launched by a party that only deals in regression, not progress.  It wasn’t so long ago that people chastised Disney for being extraordinarily slow in creating works that genuinely reflected the diverse faces and cultures of the world.  Today, kids – and adults — can see and hear themselves in many of their favorite films and TV series, something denied to countless generations.

How dare Gov. Ron DeSantis and his rabid-mouthed ilk think they can legally force so many of our youth BACK into a closet with acts of stigmatization and fear.  How does that serve the greater good of our evolving society?  What scares his acolytes more about the presence of people who do not conform to sexual or gender norms?  They label us all pedophiles and purveyors of dangerous liberalism when leaders like DeSantis wrap themselves in a divisibility cloak of evangelicalism, shielding their abject ignorance and cruelty.

The New Faces of Fascism 2022 — Front: Reps. Lauren Boebert, Madison Cawthorn, and Marjorie Taylor Greene. Back: Matt Gaetz and Paul Gosar (R-AZ). Not pictured and not missed, Texas Governor Greg Abbott.  

DeSantis knows what scares people who do not care or want to possess a broader worldview.  His brand of anger is nothing new, but he’s learned to refine such a message thanks to the internet and a media complex incapable of stopping coverage of the clown cars driven by people like Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), and Matt Gaetz (R-FL).  Oh, let us not forget the Grifter Dynasty of Donald Trump, a debacle that led to an insurrection and the proliferation of several “Big Lies” extending beyond the 2016 and 2020 elections.

Full disclosure, I am proud of my time as an employee at Disneyland, learning much about people and storytelling thanks to the countless amount of guests that felt comfortable sharing a little piece of their lives with me as they waited in line to board a ride.  That comfort level drives my career as a producer/interviewer of studio-produced content today.

I worked for Disneyland while attending California State University at Long Beach from 1989 to 1991.  I spent those two years working primarily in Adventureland and Frontierland as a Jungle Cruise skipper, Tiki Room host, and on the Big Thunder Mountain and Mark Twain crews.  Perhaps I took a photo of your parents as kids enjoying the day.  Maybe they took a picture with me, smiled and laughed at my jokes, or even teased me for working at the park.  Either way, not one guest knew much about me or any cast members on site that day.  Fate brought us together to exist in the same space.  All we had in common was being at a place designed to make good memories.

I still see the looks of relief and comfort when I would speak to a guest in Spanish, establishing a connection to the park in a way they could understand and interact with on a personal level.  I will never forget creating the wheelchair section for the disabled guests, many of whom had never been to the park before, like many children and adults visiting that day.  During the Main Street Electrical Parade, that combination of light, music, and their favorite characters elicited so many good and positive emotions two times nightly.  Again, my crewmates and I did all we could to ensure our guests had a good time and did not feel judged for their disabilities.  We would often receive a handshake, a “Thank You,” or a squeeze on the shoulder for jobs well done.

That is the power of the Disney experience.  You don’t have to share in it, but don’t ruin it for people, either.  The key design feature of the Disney universe is to be a home for everyone, regardless of their views or backgrounds.  Is it perfect?  Nothing in the world can make that claim.  But it matters to millions of people around the world, nonetheless.  We must look like savages to them, which saddens and angers me.  The message of being the “Happiest Place on Earth” is taken seriously by its many employees, past and present.  Because that’s what matters first – the ability to make sure you are happy and safe in that space for however long you visit.

Projecting all this perverse hate and bile onto that sentiment to serve someone else’s ego is a slap to the many of us who gladly made sure YOU were a satisfied guest.  Why should any of you care what we do in private?  I can guarantee you that is the last thing on our mind when facing a guest.  Nor is anyone looking for converts, a grotesque and ridiculous notion.  It is the same in any business; you focus on the company and clients to make sure they return.

Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) Photo: Brittanica.com

I want to think education can help stem the tide, but not in this climate of turning back the civil rights clock and the banning/burning of books that could illuminate the path to tolerance and respect.  No, the river of America churns and roils with anger, fear, and desperation thanks to people who feel it’s their duty and God-given right to stop a world they feel no longer belongs to their kind. Revolutions start with exhausted masses no longer willing to be force-fed a steady diet of lies, contradictions, and hatred for those who want to make the world a better place.  If they only knew people like DeSantis don’t care how they get their votes to win.  They only care about keeping their positions in power to fulfill their agenda of authoritarianism.

I can only offer this poem from Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984), a respected Protestant clergy who dared to speak publicly against Adolf Hitler in public. His dissension led to his spending seven years in concentration camps.  This poem, written in 1946, continues to reverberate with even greater power today.

FIRST THEY CAME

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

What makes any of us think Generation Blame, Whine, and Hate will not turn against the rest of society, refusing to conform or subscribe to their violently ignorant agenda?  You’re deluding yourself if you think keeping them in power will improve your life.  On the contrary, as history has proven, it is just the beginning of something so much worse.

As Pastor Niemöller concludes in his poem:

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Visitors stand in front of the quotation from Martin Niemöller that is on display in the Permanent Exhibition of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
PHOTO: US Holocaust Memorial Museum

“Pride”

“Pride”

It was the summer of 1978 and I was in Mexico City. Dad had left me and my sister Lil in the care of his family. His parting wish was that we not only get to know all of our aunts, uncles, and cousins but that we learn Spanish and understand what it meant to be part of two cultures.

In the years since that legendary visit, the lessons learned continue to fill me with pride. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been at odds with my American and Mexican identities in the years, but at 50, I am glad to be that perfect mollete of American & Mexican ingredients.  Back to 1978…

I was already a voracious reader and I brought along quite a few books to help me deal with the shyness that was still my want at that age. As the weeks went by, my shyness lessened, but I had my moments. One weekend, Tía Beba and Tío Pio headed to their ranch in Celaya, Guanajuato. They were this amazing duo, a matriarch and patriarch culled straight out of Tennessee Williams by way of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. She was fair, blonde and every inch a Ms. DuBois. He was dark, silver-haired and a caballero from an era long passed. Their passing left a gaping hole that swallowed the entire family alive in the end, but that’s another story left to be told in the future.

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I didn’t want to go to the ranch that day. I preferred to be left alone in the hotel we were staying at outside the property since construction was still shaping up the main house. For whatever reason, I chose to read my book, a novelization of the NBC mini-series “Holocaust,” in the lobby. I’d seen the series earlier that year and the novel was no less vivid or engrossing. I was so immersed in the book, feeling this overwhelming horror and sadness over the plight of the Weiss family. That this happened in the 20th century scared me speechless.

As I continued reading author Gerald Green’s adaptation of his screenplay, the degrading atrocities experienced by European Jews tapped into my own burgeoning abilities of imagination and empathy at that age. I pondered, “What if that were me? What if that were my family? I felt a fear I did recognize. At that moment, the light fixture hanging from the ceiling chose to fall and shatter upon reaching the tiled floor. It only took seconds for me to get up and call my family to come get me. I didn’t want to be alone anymore.

Nearly 40 years later, I woke up on July 27 to feel a similar sense of fear and dread felt on a summer evening in Guanajuato. However, it didn’t leave me speechless. Quite the contrary, anger surged within me. We were still dissecting 45’s petty and bilious speech at the Boy Scouts of America Jamboree. The scorched Twittersphere and media landscape is still digesting Trump’s infamous decree that transgender men and women are barred from enlisting in the military. Imagine the cruel joke that is the trash fire known as the Trump Administration doubled down on further eroding the protections for the LGBTQ community:

“The Justice Department has filed court papers arguing that a major federal civil rights law does not protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation, taking a stand against a decision reached under President Barack Obama.

The department’s move to insert itself into a federal case in New York was an unusual example of top officials in Washington intervening in court in what is an important but essentially private dispute between a worker and his boss over gay rights issues.

“The sole question here is whether, as a matter of law, Title VII reaches sexual orientation discrimination,” the Justice Department said in a friend-of-the-court brief, citing the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination in the workplace based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. ‘It does not, as has been settled for decades. Any efforts to amend Title VII’s scope should be directed to Congress rather than the courts.’

The department filed its brief on Wednesday, the same day President Trump announced on Twitter that transgender people would be banned from serving in the military, raising concerns among civil rights activists that the Trump administration was trying to undermine lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights won under previous administrations.” — From the New York Times article, published on July 27, 2017.

The Pentagon has no intention of changing its criteria on transgender enlisted officers just yet. The intervention sought by the White House and Department of Justice is also going to take the time to resolve and will be challenged in court. But Trump’s daily Twitter coffee and cigarette dump succeeds in playing to his support base of intolerant miscreants with such power, the message is too loud to ignore. That’s what strikes fear and anger is so many. It is being digested and accepted by those who want to see the LGBTQ lose its protections sectors of this American society seeking to blame the dreaded “Other” as their sources of woe.

Once he took office, Trump’s Orwellian desire to erase any and all achievements of President Barack Obama was just the start of his all-too obvious agenda of hate. The media still blasts his “achievements” with tongue in cheek, snide glee reserved for the second rate reality star that he is. Too many of the electronic and digital media sites are breathless in their constant, “Oooh. Look what he’s doing now!” If I wanted to watch a monkey throw shit out of his cage, I’ll go to the fucking zoo!

It’s infuriating, but not nearly as maddening as the lack of balls shown by the Democrats or the lack of concern from the Americans who DIDN’T vote for him. And how about the center ring of this circus manned by the Unholy Trinity of Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and, just added to the cast, Anthony Scaramucci?

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When cabinet members take to giving interviews to The New Yorker and utter statements like “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock,” you have to wonder if this is really our new normal — more — is this the start of the fall of the Great American State? You have to ponder the “show” that is being carefully curated and unveiled every given day. Cock sucking statements issued by Scaramucci is just a distraction. The Boy Scout Jamboree rant is just a distraction. The real show is what’s happening in between, slices of tasty sandwich meats topped with savory cheese but only available to select few. It’s not designed to satisfy us all.

The cowardly acts perpetrated by this administration are tailor made with the skins of the LGBTQ community because of the bias that already exists against them. It doesn’t matter the race, color and creed because being gay/trans/cisgender strikes that chord of terror-fueled intolerance in many people. But what the rest of us need to realize is that being silent makes us complicit in the eroding of precious civil liberties. Don’t think for one moment that Trump’s wrath won’t include you at some point.

This era of complicity is shaping up to be the personification of “First they came…,” the legendary poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller, first published in 1947. Europeans, especially Germans, saw the signs of an imminent genocide at the hands of Adolf Hitler. In the end, over six million men, women, and children would lose their lives. Silence allowed scores of husbands, wives, daughters, sons, fathers, mothers, doctors, artists, writers, scientists, all major contributors to society, to be eradicated without mercy. How many do you want to see claimed if Trump and his acolytes continue the brandish their brush of white wash on this country? Perhaps they won’t be murdered, but they will be stripped of their American identity, a crime in itself.

When I first started this essay, it was meant to be an examination of being gay, a piece inspired by the month of Pride festivals all over the country. Other life events took ownership of my thoughts, of course. Then this week of infamy started. It has dredged up a few unsavory realities about my earlier life. Like how I grappled with the desire of wanting to be white. I didn’t want to be treated differently because I wasn’t born into the tribe of Muffy & Trip. Or, how I stayed in the closet for as long as I did because for some being gay made you a carrier of AIDS, which was viewed as a punishment by those who felt it was “killing all the right people.”

We are born how we are born. Choice exists in what we learn in terms of how we live our lives. Men like Trump prey on those with weak minds with the isms that define the darker side of being human.  It is when we are most distracted that the thieves storm the castle, and not always at night. It is here why stupidity has a habit of getting its way.

This is the time to be heard, not succumb to a herd mentality.

This is the time to be strong, not weakened by being divided. This is the time to be out and proud, not hidden or silenced.

This is the time to be a true American.

This is the time to have pride, in ourselves, in our nation, in being a human being.

Tomorrow should belong to WE, dammit.

 

We will rise up or #StandWithUs

We will rise up or #StandWithUs

When the silence isn’t quiet
And it feels like it’s getting hard to breathe
And I know you feel like dying
But I promise we’ll take the world to it’s feet
And move mountains
Bring it to it’s feet
And move mountains
And I’ll rise up
I’ll rise like the day
I’ll rise up
I’ll rise unafraid
I’ll rise up
And I’ll do it a thousand times again
For you…

I, like many, woke up on Sunday morning with the news of another mass shooting. And, like many, I was moved to tears. As the news of the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida dominated the media, those tears mixed with absolute rage. I am angry over the loss of humanity, the loss and wounding of so many of my brothers. More, I am furious over the continuing loss of sanity and compassion in a world that refuses to let people live their lives in peace. We don’t deserve the ground we walk on or the air we breathe if the evil few continue to have to no regard for the greater good in a world that houses us all.

The truth is I don’t fear the terror of a group determined to keep us in fear. I actually fear the ignorance still to be heard and felt in so many other ways in my own country. This just didn’t happen at a “gay club.” This event happened to all of us. We must stand together, even if others prefer to keep us apart.

My heart is heavy now, but my mind burns with rage. As far as I am concerned, organized religions and groups promoting an agenda of “traditional values” are just purveyors of organized hate.

I am not losing sight of the families and loved ones left behind. I know I am not alone in saying that we hold you all in our hearts. We are with you in spirit. You are not alone in your sorrow.

However, as race-baiting, hate-mongering blowhards like Donald Trump have the narcissistic gall to make this tragedy about themselves, I can only make room for more rage. We are now hearing a call to action to stop those so-called arrogant, bilious men and women in certain sectors of privilege that dare to think of themselves as being worthy of leading this great nation. They all have blood on their hands…again. How dare you appropriate the Pulse Tragedy in Orlando as validating the very agenda that makes us all targets of hate. How dare you disavow their sexual orientation, or worse, citing being gay as reason for such an act in your toxic rhetoric!

Fuck the terrorists. They will meet their fate. A special place in hell exists for those who believe in Donald Trump as being our great deliverer. When will they all realize that focusing our hate on one group or groups is not the answer? When will they realize that easy access to weaponry that belongs on the battlefield, that arming ourselves against a neighbor doesn’t promote true freedom? It promotes cowardice, violence and a final outcome that will rob of us hope.

And here’s one sobering reality — the thing about walls is that they can be climbed. Walls can be brought down. Walls keep nothing out, but keep paranoia, fear and ignorance woefully in place.

We cannot be rendered afraid or silent by the sins of the few. We must not let those who dare tear us asunder, at home or abroad, to render us powerless or apathetic anymore. Countless innocent men, women and children have met their bloody fates thanks to arms purchased in THIS country.

So many thoughts and feelings are running through my mind right now. I stand with the victims of the Pulse nightclub tragedy. Their lives, like those lost at Sandy Hook, Aurora, San Bernardino, Virginia Tech, Umpqua Community College and every innocent soul unleashed by a police bullet in this great land of ours, all give us strength to protect all lives. It is time for good people to rise and join in unison in a song that does not promote isolationist values of intolerance and retribution.

We have a choice. Either we rise up and stop this violence and pandering to the special interests of groups who are the antithesis of freedom and peace. Or, we allow ourselves to devolve into a police state that makes further mockery of what it means to be the United States of America.

The choice is all ours. As Andra Day sings with pride and love, “All we need is hope, and for that we have each other.”

We need each other. Now.

In spite of the ache
I will rise a thousand times again
And we’ll rise up
High like the waves
We’ll rise up
In spite of the ache
We’ll rise up
And we’ll do it a thousand times again
For you

 

Let no man or woman tear us asunder… #lovewins

Let no man or woman tear us asunder… #lovewins

“We’re here because we have something to say and we’re no longer afraid to say it.”

Guess what?

I have something to say and I was never afraid to articulate it, either, Catholic Vote.

A year ago, last July to be exact, I began my studies at the Pontificia in Salamanca, Spain. The experience inspired me to maintain a chronicle of my time well spent. It was my most empowered moment, one that I couldn’t sustain for several reasons. But the events of recent weeks are giving rise to a sense of responsibility. It is said one voice is really a hundred. A PSA produced by CatholicVotes just pissed me off. You can view the clip on my blog post. I encourage you to view it because we need to add a few more hundred singular voices to the mix. That CatholicVotes even felt the need to produce such a piece is, in a word, unacceptable. It is just fear masked as piety. Again.

If I can see the contradiction of said “faith-based values,” why can’t others? If God made us all in his image, then his image is as complex and diverse as we are on Earth.

I’m Catholic. I vote. And I refuse, like millions of other folks, to be marginalized any further. Here’s the return of Confession of a MediaJor. Let the fire and brimstone be hurled by someone else at the pulpit. I want to hear tolerance and compassion from the mount again.

For a long while, many of us were alone and/or judged in this battle for equality. The SCOTUS decision on same sex marriage does not mean the faithful’s beliefs will be censored in any way. While the comments voiced in this PSA still carry the stink of bigotry and intolerance, these people should know that most of us in the LGBT are not going to retaliate or harm anyone who holds steadfast to their separatist beliefs informed by religion. (Despite the fact that many of us have suffered some form of bigotry or violence for being homosexual or transgender.)

No one expects this momentum of change will not continue without a fight. But, the faithful should know we will defend to the end our legally given right to marry because we have the law on our side. That is our want and our responsibility in the bigger issue that is dividing this nation through extremism. We must not only fight to protect our rights. We must fight to protect the division between church and state.

#LoveWins #CatholicVote #NotAlone

“Why walk when you can fly…” — #meanreds

“Why walk when you can fly…” — #meanreds

I read this today on a friend’s Facebook page:

“Everyone says love hurts, but that is not true.

Loneliness hurts.

Rejection hurts.

Losing someone hurts.

Everyone gets these things confused with love. But in reality, love is the only thing in this world that covers up all the pain and makes someone feel wonderful again.”

We will stumble, crash and land into a pile of shit of our own making when it comes to matters of the heart. Sometimes, we are so wrapped up in our search for emotional sustenance, we obfuscate the needs of the other person. Perhaps their sense of urgency isn’t about a lasting connection. It can be a moment of vulnerability, of needing that human interaction to stave off that powerful sense of loneliness we all get from time to time.

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It flares hot, hot enough to burn until you find the means of cooling them down. It’s a fever, a burst of madness. Holly Golightly called these feelings the “mean reds,” emotions so intense they are not some common variety of the versions of the blues.

Can it be viewed as selfish? Yes. But the real selfishness is the naiveté of thinking it’s about you, when really it’s about them. Confusing their explosion of passion with being a lifeline is dangerous. Again, you need parity to make that sort of emotion flourish into something that caters to both your needs. Parity takes time, patience and the will to not let your own need overwhelm the delicate diplomacy required. That’s what creates a strong bond. That’s what allows for a foundation of trust with which to build something lasting, with friendship representing the first floor. Anything beyond that is up to fate.

I have a propensity of getting carried away. You don’t always get a second chance when you allow the mean reds to color your rational self. In light of recent events, I hope I’m proven wrong. To err is truly human and to forgive is divine.

And I took too long to simply say, “I’m sorry.”

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In the meantime, it is equally important to forgive ourselves. Because, as Mary Chapin Carpenter writes in “Why Walk When You Can Fly”

“In this world there’s a whole lot of shame
In this world there’s a whole lot of sorrow
And a whole lotta ground to gain
When you spend your whole life wishing,
Wanting and wondering why
It’s a long enough life to be living, why walk when you can fly…”

Let them wings spread out and be strong. We are not a weak as we sometimes think we are…

“In the broken promise land of 30…” — #glassboxofemotion

“In the broken promise land of 30…” — #glassboxofemotion

“Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece”
Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

This is one blog entry I have not been able to leave well enough alone. While its theme has remained intact, I keep refining what was originally written at a peak setting of emotion. Some phrases just sounded trite. Others seemed full of contempt against the gent that inspired this post. It didn’t seem fair because I wasn’t hurt by him. He didn’t do anything. But I think I can walk away from it now.

It wasn’t anger that motivated me to offer this post-mortem on the events of the last few weeks. It was a desire to understand why someone, who exhibited such fire, would just snuff it out without warning or reason. Honestly, this is a real first in my dating life, which made it an ideal topic to explore in these pages. I know I am not alone in experiencing this phenomenon.

So, here goes…

Since ending it with my Ex over four years ago, I’ve tried to evolve myself into being a latter day Jack Tripper. You know, enjoying the company of a different guy every week. Regular drinks at the Regal Beagle, i.e. the Eagle. Never wanting to settle down, never allowing myself to be someone’s “catch.” I wanted to be single and ready to mingle! I wanted to be living life as a paragon of unbridled, but safe, sexuality. It would be oh-so perfect except for one minor thing.

I’m the version of Jack Tripper that does want to get caught.

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Dating in your 40s in L.A. is sure as hell not for pussies. I still have yet to master the art of being detached and cool when it comes to reading the signals from the other guy. But man, it’s like I’m dyslexic. I always seem to get it wrong. Although, I’d be curious to see if anyone would have read this situation any different.

When we first met, the connection between us was surprisingly tangible. It was immediate, visceral and pretty fucking hot. He possessed humor, vitality, introspection and optimism. It was a high, to be honest. I couldn’t wait to kiss him again because it was THAT GOOD. Hell, I’ve stumbled through enough situations with blind faith. His brand of shock was something that woke me up. We had great banter. We spoke with honesty and humor. At the very least, it was the start of a new friendship

Then, after a night at the movies, I told him, “Dammit. I am starting to like you.”

Cue the crowd going, “Awww, dude! You blew it!”

Yeah, you could practically hear the tables turn ever so slightly. Things dropped a few degrees, nothing worth causing a commotion. Yet, in the back of my head, I knew I stepped into it. My chronic case of verbal diarrhea flared right up. I thought I kept in check with some mental Imodium, but maybe not.

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We went out one more time. Another movie. (Ironically, it was “The Theory of Everything.” I think Stephen Hawking’s theories are easier to figure out than dating in L.A.!) Another hand holding session during the movie. Another late night meal, where we got to know each other a bit more. Another great kissing session at the end, albeit not as crazy as the first few times. Still, I walked away mollified. My explanation of “my liking him” meant “I’m glad we’re not treating each other like pieces of meat.” It was designed to clear up any trace of “hold on, pal. I ain’t into you that way.”

But there was some truth to it. I genuinely liked being with this gent…as a person. When he dropped the question, “Real talk. What’s your expectation?” I honestly didn’t have any. I was thinking only of how exciting the day turned out. If anything, it would have been great if we only decided to keep up the line of dialogue because it was interesting. He was interesting. I’ll be darned if he didn’t epitomize cool. He was smart, witty and held a great passion for filmed arts. I have enough friends, that’s true. But, I also know that you want to be around people like this when they make their presence known. If anything, he was an exciting new ingredient to introduce to a recipe that could stand a remix.

Most people hold fast to the truth that you don’t always reveal every thought to someone you just meant. But how else are you supposed to get to know a person unless you reach out and touch someone? There was no barrage of texts or urgent demands as to when we’d see each again. I gave him space, because everyone has a life, right? It was hard not to get excited, though. Excited can be desirable. Desperate is not.

I got a few good morning texts, a few other exchanges. Then…total silence. Mr. Excitement had evaporated in less than a week. Now I’m left wondering, “What the hell happened?”

Was there was a family emergency? Did he lose his phone and can’t restore his contact info? Perhaps he met someone better suited for him? Maybe he wasn’t single after all? Maybe he got scared or scared off? Maybe he really did just want a hook up? Maybe my id was too fuckin’ apparent? Maybe he got some really bad advice from friends, telling him to slow the F down? Did I reach out too much? Am I just too old or not daddy enough? Or maybe, as the saying goes, “He’s just NOT that into you!” Hahaha. (Fuck you, SATC. This is real life!)

Meh. What’s the point of speculating at all? Even if guys do the gentlemanly thing to offer an explanation, it never arrives as a satisfying answer. Silence is never golden, but it sure speaks volumes.

This all makes me feel so freakin’ stupid. Writing this as a blog entry is probably a little too Taylor Swift for its own good. But, I hold fast to the rule of “writing what I know” and he did inspire two entries already. The upside is he encouraged me to stop this Eeyore Syndrome for a moment. He woke me up, which was such a nice feeling.

Again, I learned a long time ago that expectations mean disappointments. Is it wrong to feel a bolt of good had creeped after so much chaos within myself and my family these last few months? It was that thrill of being reckless, of being unshackled from the norm that made me feel a sense of hope. It wasn’t my heart that was stirred. I am still a long ways of giving that up to anyone just yet. It was proof that my libido was alive and kicking again.

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By now, I am sure some of your are wondering why the “Lolita” reference. No, he wasn’t 15. (Sigh of relief, huh?) But, he was 30, not my first time at this particular demo rodeo, either. Know that it doesn’t really matter the age group. A variation of this fade out happened earlier this year with someone who was approaching 50. Sometimes I think I’lm naive enough to be 15 when it comes to this bullshit.

Perhaps you’re thinking, “Well, he’s 30, what else did you expect? Why aren’t you meeting people your own age?” For the record, it isn’t their age that compels me. It is more a person’s attitude, their enthusiasm for life and living that I seek. That, along with a great smile and the means to communicate, whether through humor or intellect, are essential. Bonus points if he creates art or harbors a desire to express himself in an artistic medium. Surprise. They ain’t easy to find, folks. But, on paper, he was that kind of gent.

To be frank, I don’t understand this era of gay men at all. Although, I don’t think I’ve ever really had much of a grasp in the first place. Today, it’s like we’ve all failed to understand the meaning of consequences. Is it possible that most of us think emotions have a kill switch like some video game? No one seems to care if or when it’s triggered. Is it possible too many men have seen nothing but broken when it comes to relationships so we’ve evolved into thinking pairing off is simply not normal or worth it?

Yet, why will some men still try to exhibit behavior like wanting to hold your hand? Why do they bother to look deep into your eyes in the heat of being intimate? Is it an awkward bid to experience that human connection that keeps us all from going mad? Once that carnal lust is sated, a lot of us act as if nothing happened. Time goes by and then our desire builds to that fever pitch again.

We reach back out to Scruff, Growl’r or whatev’r and we scroll search to engage again with someone new. It’s like that old saying, “The only way to get over one man is to get under another one!” Hahaha. Yeah, I’m guilty of it, too. Maybe this time I forgot how it feels when they are the ones seeking a one-time connection with no option for renewal?

Ergo, the glass box of emotion.

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Okay, so this is more a rant and less a confession. I guess I let him hit the two buttons that are my hottest ones. Yet, if it wasn’t him, it would have been someone else doing me the honors. You can only take so much of the same bullshit pattern of failure before you decide to raise your voice with the aid of your laptop keys.

Despite my overthought sense of frustration and disappointment, I really don’t fault him for anything. (And if he reads this, I hope he knows I harbor no ill feelings.) In fact, I’m actually glad it happened, this moment, one of many in the unfinished masterpiece that is life. (Thank you, Mr. Nabokov.) What I experienced with him helped me better define the type of gent that could be the catalyst for me connect with in a way that lasts. (I guess I do have a type, after all. He was definitely in that zone. Maybe this means I am getting closer?)

Who knows how many more times I’m going to be walking after midnight on this search? But, sooner or later, that clock is gonna strike with someone in my favor. Right?

Right.

Tuesday, December 2. Written and posted from Wayne Avenue Manor in South Pasadena, CA

Ice Ice Bucket Challenge, baby.

Ice Ice Bucket Challenge, baby.

Hmm. Maybe every cause, every other disease, every injustice, every moment of civil disobedience, every maligned group, every compromised amendment, every cut school budget, every bullied kid, every soon to be extinct animal, every consequence of global warming, every damn woe that contributes to our failing society should include an Ice Bucket Challenge. Then maybe we’d all finally give a shit about the world we live in.

Tuesday, August 19. Posted from Wayne Avenue Manor

 

“Finalmente, el MediaJor sí tiene quien le escriba” — (Dias 30 y 31)

“Finalmente, el MediaJor sí tiene quien le escriba” — (Dias 30 y 31)

“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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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!

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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?

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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.

Hasta luego.

Martes, 29 de julio. Escrito en Barcelona, Salamanca, Madrid y South Pasadena. Subido desde Wayne Avenue Manor.

“This is 47…” or “La importancia de ser chunga” (Madrid — Week 4, Day 23)

“This is 47…” or “La importancia de ser chunga” (Madrid — Week 4, Day 23)

Oh, but I just thought you might want something fine
Made of silver or of golden
Either from the mountains of Madrid
Or from the coast of Barcelona

Oh, if I had the stars from the darkest night
And the diamonds from the deepest ocean
I’d forsake them all for your sweet kiss
For that’s all I’m wishin’ to be ownin’

Boots of Spanish Leather by Bob Dylan

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Today is my 47th year of life and it is fitting that I am writing today’s entry on several trains back to Salamanca. This journey, like all journeys in the literal and figurative sense, is made up of stations, connections and transfers. Each stop brings you closer to you ultimate destination, a specific goal.

I am thinking about the many stops I’ve made to reach 47. The places, the people, the realized and unrealized destinations. I would love to see a map of it all. Then again, I remind myself I am that map. Every story, happy, sad, painful and hopeful is contained within.

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At this moment, I just pulled away from one such station, one such story: Samuel. I woke up next to him this 47th birthday feeling a sense of peace and unbridled optimism. I wasn’t afraid of what I would feel today. It may be the last time I see him because this Spanish adventure is almost done.

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Next stop, Week 4…

Today marks the start of week 4. Three more days of lecture. One day of exams. One day to revel in the accomplishment of being a student at the Pontificia. It will be the end of that line before making my way back home the following Monday.

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I write about not being afraid because the hard part has already occurred. I wasn’t closed off to the prospects of this surprise journey. My friend Mark worried that in the weeks leading up to Spain, my building expectations would end in disappointment. He was right to feel that concern. Given my penchant for overthinking things, it was a very real possibility. In the end, as this blog has testified, Spain has been nothing but inspiring.

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I discovered the way to walk these streets with my head up. I walk with purpose and, most importantly, with the confidence of knowing who I am. Hell, I even smile at strangers, not caring if they think I’m mental. And more of often than not, these salty, direct Spaniards smile back! Hahaha. Whatever fears I had, I know now what strengths I have in reserve to make this kind of journey work. I am not afraid of altering my narrative, at least in this context. It can happen and it will happen again.

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I did have one moment this weekend when I saw a piece of my past, which stirred some of the unresolved feelings I still harbor. I was compelled to hit “Like,” even though I didn’t like how I felt at that moment. Fucking Facebook. Raining on my parade and shit. Then I heard Samuel cooking in the kitchen, making me a Mexican style birthday almuerzo and I found my resolve again. That was the day’s best gift, finally understanding what it means to live in the present.

The pleasure seekers

Back in the 1960s, Fox remade one of its famed “three gals” movies, “Three Coins in the Fountain” as “The Pleasure Seekers,” trading Rome for Madrid. Here, Ann-Margret samples it all, modeling, dancing, going gypsy, “just about everything!” Yeah, she sang that fall down funny title song and no other cue fits at this point.

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Sam and I laughed a lot this weekend. Saturday was spent walking all over Madrid. Not the official tourist trek, but Madrid our way. We walked for hours. (Note to self: alpargatas are for the park and beach, not 5 hour urban hikes!)

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I kept flubbing words, using Mexican and awkwardly translated Jorgeismos that would bring Samuel to tears. But he loved the Castilian tacos or palabrotas I would use oh-so right.  Every step we took together was as absurd as the last, but it brought us closer. We didn’t talk about what was going to happen next. “Next” was just space dust, time yet to be realized. It had no bearing on Present “Us.” Neither of us wanted to spoil the now with any talk of Future “Us.” We were “friends with benefits” or as Samuel said, “Amigos con derecho a roce.”

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No, were having too much fun taking photos with the bottle of water that cost three euros. Or taking photos and talking shit about the Spanish royal family as we stood outside the Palacio Real. Or trying to find the souvenir plate featuring King Felipe and Queen Leti. (So Mom, thank him as he found the only plate with the official photo of them as a couple.)

Or enjoying the “Mitos of Pop” art exhibit where the only painting tucked away with the expected Warhols and Lichtensteins that we agreed was true art was La salita, Equipo Croníca’s complex parody of the sacred painting of Diego Velasquez’s Las meninas.

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He was with me when I found a copy of Julio Cortázar’s masterpiece of literary innovation, La rayuela. It was Samuel who took my theme of the water bottle further by taking a picture of it in front of excoriated Madrid mayoress Ana Botella’s office. (Get it, bottle = botella?)

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We enjoyed tortilla, gazpacho, coffee, churros and porras. How about the world’s biggest Big Macs? And don’t get me started on the jamon y queso flavored Lays potato chips! We made Madrid our bitch in the end, thanking God the heat took a holiday. (Even if my too close shave resulted en una cara hecho a un Cristo.)

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De puercas a putas

We went back to his apartment in Meco, sated and sore, but continued to laugh hysterically all the same. He made a cena of morcillas and we watched “Aliens” in Castilian. (I love how he meticulously he places a table cloth for each meal.). I fell apart when “Reepley” screamed “Quitaté de ahí puerca!” instead of “Get away from her, you bitch!”

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We followed that up by counting how many times was Julia Roberts referred to as a “puta” in the dubbed version of “Pretty Woman?”

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It seem pigs and whores are huge in this country and do not offend. Thus is Franco’s legacy?

As we hung out and enjoyed the late night, it seemed my whole world was held by a modular sofa. Life was happening. No one was forcing their hand or even raising expectations. We were just two men living in the moment.

Samuel.

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He offered and I accepted his care and intimacy without wanting anything else from me. And I returned it in kind, not because I felt starved for something that I haven’t been able to nurture is so long. I miss being someone’s partner, yes. Very much, in fact. And for a moment, I thought that I was just using Samuel as a proxy to stave off a sense of loneliness that has stayed at this fair too fucking long. I know some snarky cunts out there are thinking: “Bitch, you got got horny. Don’t confuse getting laid with some moment of truth.” But he kissed me with purpose. He wanted to make sure I felt welcome in his home, not just his bed. He held me in a way that made me feel safe and secure. Even mouthy little Dali contributed to my being back in Meco, sitting next to me as if we’d been friends forever.

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Nos hicimos sofa all day Sunday, my birthday. I pushed aside the inevitable and enjoyed the food, la telebasura, la siesta and all else in between. Then, we gathered up my stuff (including a new suitcase. Don’t ask.) and drove back to the Alacalá Renfe station. As to what happens to us next, as to what station is next, I just know it will involve me going from Chamartín to Salamanca today.

I am not afraid.

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My birth day ends in three more hours. By the rules of magical realism, we are born, we die and are reborn. I love that symmetry. It means our existence never ends. As I write these lines, and read all the wonderful birthday notes from all over, I am awed over the gift of this experience.

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My dear friend Alan sent me a heartfelt note, hoping I am celebrating “a great life.” I am, Alan. But I am wonderfully aware that a celebration of life does not happen alone. We are all the singular achievement of two lives brought together by fate. And fate will be our closest companion for the duration of our lives, so you have to be able to travel well.

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Fate is extraordinarily fickle, changing your itinerary without a moment’s notice. At times, you will take issue with where it chooses to lead you, even feel absolute rage. But we do get to choose some stops, the unscheduled ones that offer such beauty, you learn why they never appear on a map in the first place.

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It is so true that it isn’t the destination that defines us, rather the journey itself. Spain has already revealed more than expected. (Some of which has surprised more than a few of you as documented in this blog. Cue “Don’t Tell Mama” from Cabaret!)

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I don’t mind the reaction. I’m just as surprised as some of you. But this journey is not quite over yet. As long as there is road ahead to trek, I will keep respecting my road dog named Fate to keep leading me to all destinations unknown.

And, I am not afraid.

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Sunday, July 20. Started on the Alacalá de Henares train to the Chamartín station in Madrid and completed on the way back to Salamanca. Posted from Manoli’s house.

Days 8/9 — From a castle in the sky to queens in the streets: Segovia to Madrid, pt. 2

Days 8/9 — From a castle in the sky to queens in the streets: Segovia to Madrid, pt. 2

“¿A quién le importa lo que yo haga?

¿A quién le importa lo que yo diga?

Yo soy así, así seguiré, nunca cambiaré.” – Thalía

 

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A weekend so big, it had to be told in two parts! Haha. No joke. I still haven’t really processed what Orgullo in Madrid was like or what it reflected back on my gay existence. All I know is that it touched upon much of what I embrace and shun within the gay culture, often within the same sentence.

I haven’t been to a Pride festival in LA in quite some time. Madrid’s version is an international event, like West Hollywood. But comparisons begin and end with the word “Pride.” Madrid’s “Orgullo” is a four-day extravaganza that makes WeHo look like a nuns’ tour. So extreme is this event, it carries the weight of the good, the bad and the ugly of the city.

My decision to attend Orgullo was a result of connecting with an online friend named Telmo, who hails from Guarda, Portugal, was coming to Madrid. He was going to meet up with own friends in the city to enjoy the full run of the events. We had exchanged quite a few IM conversations in the weeks leading up to My Salamancan Summer. It seemed like a win-win and it was. Granted, trying to find him near the Prado Museum was on par with escaping the fall of Saigon. Tens of thousands of people packed the Gran Via (Madrid’s main avenue) for a view of la manifestación (or parade) that defied description.

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It’s funny, the literal translation of “manifestación” is manifestation. After viewing this teeming mass of revelers, all in states of ecstasy that were either natural or chemical, it could be argued they embodied something abstract or theoretical. How else could you define their all feeling ORGULLO, in all caps? Families shared space with drag queens. Babies waved their rainbow flags as their parents joined in the chanting and dancing. It seemed all of Spain had waited for this day to come and they were all going to exhibit their support for the LGBT communities of the world. Or maybe they just were happy to have an excuse to party like it was their last day on Earth without any consequence. The colors, much like my own feelings about being part of this celebration, ran from bright to dark and back in seconds.

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Imagine my surprise, when I finally found a way to meet Telmo at the Prado entrance, I got to witness several men relieving themselves against the statue of Goya or the bushes in the park. It became more than a “running gag” that night, pun most intended. When I explained this night to Manoli during la cena after I got back to Salamanca, she offered this concise observation: No entiendo porque la gente se porta a la bestia!  She’s right. And consider this, beasts run in packs, and they will piss in packs, too.
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I won’t obsess about this one detail best defined as “asceroso.” However, I am glad it didn’t have to throw away my black leather Vans after wading through the rivers of urine and trash that graced most of the streets of Chueca and the Gran Via. Apparently, this entire reality is courtesy of the maligned mayor of Madrid, the excoriated Ana Botella. Yes, she of the “having a relaxing cup of café con leche in the Plaza Mayor” fame. (Please look that up on YouTube. You won’t be sorry.) She doesn’t want to spring for public facilities throughout the city. I mean, who pissed in her cup of coffee, right? That doesn’t excuse the lack of manners of the populace, either. That’s the ugly of Orgullo. The “good” and “so bad it’s good” is something different altogether.

“Red cups and sweaty bodies everywhere

Hands in the air like we don’t care

‘Cause we came to have so much fun now

Bet somebody here might get some now

If you’re not ready to go home

Can I get a “Hell, no! “? (Hell no)

‘Cause we’re gonna go all night

‘Til we see the sunlight, alright” – Miley Cyrus

The Taxi Driver, The King, The Queen and the Girlfriend

How to report on the rest of my Orgullo experience? I’ve been battling exactly how much truth to reveal about my night and half-day in Madrid due to how this might appear to certain members of my own tribe. But the education I seek from this month is Spain is not just of an academic nature. I joke about it being my “Shirley Valentine” moment, but deep down I really mean it. Hello, Telmo.

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As much as I like to bemoan our iPhone life, how about them apps? That’s how I discovered Telmo of Guarda. I liken this entire experience as having a pen pal with benefits. I knew we’d get to meet, but I wasn’t sure if it would end in the obvious. In short, as Allison Janney decrees with deserved joy in the 1999 cult comedy classic “Drop Dead Gorgeous” – “I got some!”

Why be precious about it? I wanted it to happen because I’ve lost so much of my confidence in making it happen. Period. I was tired of feeling invisible in L.A. I’m 46, single and scared that the prospect of finding someone with whom to share this life is dwindling. Worse, the failure of my last attempt at a relationship shook my self-esteem to the core. No, I wasn’t going to leave Spain without the chance to feel a frisson of my own. And I did.

The awkwardness of meeting Telmo face to face was a little daunting, particularly since his friends were so incredibly vivid. And closer to me in age. Yes, Telmito was 25. I have shoes older than him, but dammit if he isn’t an mature soul where it counts. What I didn’t anticipate how much fun I would have with his posse of Madrid’s finest. They were old friends, protective of their friendship with Telmo but absolutely welcoming of me. They opened up their lives in the most candid manner, answering my questions with such directness, it emboldened me and made me appreciate my own gay identity anew.

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This is what I miss in LA, a group of like-minded men with who to rage against the dying of the light. As much as I love the women in my life, I’m still very much a man. This group of five men featured a known blogger and writer, who was constantly being stopped on the street as we ventured through Chueca. His partner of 12 years was a taxi driver, who possessed such a wonderful knowledge of Madrid’s history. As we walked through several neighborhoods and landmarks (Lavapies, Chueca, La Puerta del Sol), the city was that much more alive in a night already teetering on the edge of sensory overload. Even after our group dispersed post-dinner, I will never forget the care and ease with which Juan and Enrique shared their combined knowledge of their hometown as we continued the night.

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Imagine my surprise to see one school turned convent that originally housed the children of the rich and the poorer progeny of los republicanos. Those children of the rebels were brought to the school, not with the intent of being educated, but to serve the school of labor. Or, how Lavapies was one of the truest neighborhoods of Madrid in terms of its identity. I walked the street where Cervantes lived, the pavement now embossed with quotes from other writers in the most banal touristy fashion, but no less impactful. Or having my own tourist moment by standing at the 0 km mark that siphons off into the varying postal routes that divide up the city.

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As we survived the outrageous mob of a urine-soaked Chueca, I could not help but marvel at the unbridled sights and sounds of debauchery that kept growing in intensity all around me. But Enrique and Juan kept their steady charge forward, with Telmo and I in tow.  From the historical to the personal, they all contributed to a rose-colored chronicle on how they all met and courted and lived their lives in Madrid. Forget about talk of us being disconnected. None of this happened over the Internet. It happened in real time with all the humanity that we have always craved and altered in the most deplorable fashion.

Now, about the King and the Queen and the Girlfriend… So, when Juan Carlos was in Africa in 2012 shooting elephants, guess who wasn’t with him? Yes, his wife, the queen. Of course, the man broke his hip. The ensuing scandal got better when the girlfriend was revealed, validating the endless chatter that JC was one unfaithful king. Even better, when he was back in Madrid to recover from the painful ordeal, Queen Sofia paid him a visit, natch. But she never saw him, choosing instead to sit in an adjoining hospital room to read a book. After 20 minutes, she left the building and told the gathered press JC was doing fine. As for the girlfriend, she’s no longer in the picture. And he’s since abdicated the throne after one scandal too many rocked the monarchy. The moral of story?

It’s good to be the Queen.

Aprendiendo a “zorrear” y dar “la putivuelta”

Orgullo was not without its academic opportunities, you know? Thanks to Juan, I was explained the virtues of two clubbing traditions in Chueca. And these apply anywhere where the public congregates to be seen. To zorrear means to “whore around.”  Dar una putivuelta is to walk by and scan the lines in front of the clubs to review the talent that’s also cruising you. If anyone looks good, all bets are off and you venture into the club with the goal to zorrear. The differences, like all romance languages, are quite distinct. It is all about intent and one way or another, even the explanation of tomcatting around has its nuances.

Isn’t culture a wonderful thing?

I’m a Bearbie Boy

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By Madrid’s standards, the night was still young at two in the morning. Telmo and I bid Enrique and Juan a farewell and continued our crawl through Chueca. After hearing about most of my classmates’ club lives, I raised the ante by engaging in a bit of cub life at Bearbie.

Man, it was good to dance like no one was watching. Maybe it was combinations of techno pop, mobbed floor and crap whiskey, but suddenly I wasn’t wrapped so tight. I wanted to kick myself for bringing my damn man bag. (Balenciaga, thank you.) I kept holding it close like I was a different Sophia, as in Petrillo. It was operating too much like a chastity belt when Telmo surprised me with a tender first kiss.

Suddenly, I was in a YA novel underscored by Gaga. As his beard rubbed against my neck, the electricity generated by this sensation made me sigh quite audibly. It was so fucking hot! My knees went weak as he pressed that much harder against me, kissing me with a force that could only end in total surrender. And I kissed him back in kind, pushing that damn bag to the side, just hoping it wouldn’t prove my undoing. Being that breathless will do that to you, even if it invites the prospect of being robbed on a crowded dance floor. To say the least, I couldn’t get enough.

You can’t underplay the importance of a dance floor make out. It is a two-way street, hermano. You have to give as good as you get and that night was absolutely restorative. I was a man reborn.  I wasn’t a sad sack full of complaints about how shitty it was being single at 46. Nor was I carrying on about “the one that got away.” That fever caused by a Saturday night in Madrid revealed someone very much engaged by what was happening because it was reciprocated in kind. I felt sexy and desired, not invisible and encased by own pessimism and solitude.

It was, as the kids say, the Best. Night. Ever.

As for the rest of it? I shall let the image fade to black once we made our way back to the hotel by early dawn. MediaJor’s are figurative and discrete, dammit. But I awoke with the knowledge that someone made my first night in Madrid one to remember. If that doesn’t personify real orgullo, or the pride of being alive, I don’t know what else would. I can only hope he feels the same about our time together. But like Shirley Valentine, I hadn’t fallen in love with him. No. As sweet a night we shared, the result was something a bit more profound.

I had fallen in love with the thought of living.

Lady Cab Driver and return home

After Telmo left to rejoin his friends, I prepared to make my way back to Salamanca. A fried food lunch at the nearby VIPS was in order to stave off the cruda. Then I hopped a cab to Chamartin train station. But I wasn’t out of Madrid’s throes, just yet. Heaven sent me Angela, the source of one of the better cab conversations I’ve experienced. As I explained my Orgullo experience, she said, “La cara de Madrid es de color negro, blanco y gris.”

It was true. The faces all amounted to a complex portrait that requires real study to understand, if ever. We did focus on the bad behavior of the public. She blamed the status of equality that men and women now share in certain degrees. For her, men and women are not truly equal because there are things women should not really do. “Like pissing in the streets?”

Si, claro,” opined Angela. “Mujeres necesitan ser mujeres.”

That may be the case, but men need to be men, too. I’m not sure what the coming weeks have in store, but the possibilities I am experiencing in Spain have never felt so endless. As I wrote to Norma over the weekend, I’ve contracted a strong case of optimism and good humor of late.  Dare I say it?

This feels so much like happiness to me.

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Monday, July 7 @ Manoli’s house in Salamanca, Spain.