A Collage + A List

  • Ceramic baby Jesus wrapped in a paper towel.
  • Kid Jesus nightlight, the only gift my grandfather gave me.
  • Jesus and Mary Magdalene (Lady Gaga’s Judas video).
  • Dried Marigold from my Day of the Dead altar in 2016.
  • Jason Mamoa admiring flowers.
  • A photo of me with flowers in my hair.
  • A native with glowing eyes.
  • The collage wall from my apartment in Spanish Harlem.
  • A cap with the words “Flower Power” hand painted by AZTOKYO.
  • A newspaper clipping of Javier Bardem in the movie No Country For Old Men.
  • The word CRUEL.
  • Bear, my inspiration for my Halloween costume in 2017.
  • An image of Icarus and his father.
  • A neon sign, California Dreamin’

 

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RIP JuanGa

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My young family used to gather at my old house and share too many drinks and anecdotes. My father would prod my uncle, a master comedian, to do his Juan Gabriel impression and He would. My uncle would open his eyes wide, shimmy his shoulders, and sing, biting at the words. They would poke fun of Gabriel’s facial expressions, theatrical and flamboyant. Those two words, not-so-subtlety meaning gay. My father, my uncle, the other men in my family, misogynistic homophobes. What more to expect from working class immigrants from the Latin American region. Their father’s were like that too, and their fathers too, had they stuck around long enough to express such thoughts. Needless to say they were fans of his music, who could deny Gabriel’s voice? While Latin music is forever dented, I am glad that his untimely death has sparked the conversation of misogyny and homophobia in the Mexican/Central American region as well as the unfair, unapologetic speculation of his sexuality.

Are you gay? Why do you act like a girl?

Questions which pervaded the innocence of this pansy boy. The dimming of the light. Those questions would break my day, shatter  my week into shards of glass. I can recall other children asking me things I was not ready to admit. I would shed layers of me and wear the rags of someone I made up. Say things, hurtful things to people, to myself because I was not happy with who I was pretending to be. Everyone struggles with identity, mine had a lot to do with coming of age within a culture that enforces tradition. My family being from El Salvador, Juan Gabriel being from Mexico and popular across the Americas.

When Univision reporter Fernando del Rincon asked him about his sexuality in 2000, he responded:

That’s what’s most important because your worth isn’t based on the things that other people can hold against you. Because everything that one does is what stays, what matters. Actions are what’s important. To transcend and be yourself. People are smart, they’re not dumb…I have no reason to tell you, and others, something that is not of interest to you. I think I am an artist. I think I am Juan Gabriel, who has given so much with my songs. And I’m going to tell you something, Fernando, I’m not a saint but I’m also not the little devil that many think I am or that people want to make others think I am. They say we’re living difficult times, that people are curious and they want to know more, but people also aren’t dumb.

From the Huffington Post

That is how I approached my coming out and my sexuality. I did not think it was anybody else’s business. I told my best friends and my immediate family. I certainly did not post a picture on social media with a rainbow ribbon and certainly don’t knock anyone who chooses to do that. After all the traumatic experiences LGBTQ people endure growing up, everyone deserves to reveal themselves the way they see fit. Five years since coming out, people still make it their business to question and wonder. I am not ashamed, not anymore, it took a while to share with my best friend that I find so-and-so attractive. It was not as natural as other friends who have been out since 16 and are able to be so free about it. I think it comes from my upbringing, my parent’s rarely talked about anything intimate/sexual, everything else I learned from my older brother and MTV.

I think, today, television is asking too many loaded questions, pushing further for the ratings. I’ve learned during my life that if I am in hell, I make my own glory. I’ve also been in glory and perhaps I’ve made my own hell, but I certainly don’t take anyone down with me. And [I’ve learned] that I am not a liar. What I say is what I feel, whether anyone likes it or not. But there’s something else I have to say as a human being, and that’s that you only get one life and you have to live it, and if we have to eventually pass to a better life then it has be an honest one. Let others worry about their own lives, and let the rest of us live.

Juan Gabriel leaves behind a rich discography, theatrical performances, and fabulous costumes. He leaved behind a unique aesthetic. Opened a dialogue in a culture where the way men and women should behave is written in stone. It’s crazy. I wanted to ask my dad how he felt about Gabriel’s death, and what his favorite song of his is. Our relationship has improved, I just did not think it would be appropriate at this time. While my cousin, admitted to the melting of my staunch Republican uncle’s glacial world views. My uncle who imitated Gabriel with flamboyant limbs, acknowledged my sexuality at breakfast one day and accepted it, accepted me.

Not unlike Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, and Prince. Juan Gabriel dared to blur tradition and he was successful.  Proof that authenticity above all else, results to greatness.

Juan Gabriel Spotify Playlist

 

 

“Always learn poems by heart. They have to become the marrow in your bones. Like fluoride in the water, they’ll make your soul impervious to the world’s soft decay.”

― Janet Fitch, White Oleander

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Art by Cassie Meder

Ripe

“It was my first big chance, but here I was, sitting back and letting it run through my fingers like so much water.”

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
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My grrrl Plath.

Living close to Madison Avenue has its perks. I can look up at certain times of day and see the Empire State Building glowing back at me. It’s like yeah, my paycheck goes to rent and bills, but I get to be close to THIS. My time in New York City has truly shaped the person I am, albeit I’m not sure if that’s a good thing yet. For the last three years I have worked at a non-profit, where I wear multiple hats, as non-profiteers usually do. It’s not what I set out to do but it is something that I needed.  I interviewed at NY1, Time Out NY, The Wendy Williams Show, BuzzFeed, Vice, Latino USA, etc…places, where after the interview I would daydream about. I would scout places nearby the job and think, “so close to Whole Foods, cool, that’s where I’ll have lunch”, “OMG so close to his job, we can meet during our breaks”, etc…Needless to say, I did not get very far in any of these interviews. One time I apologized for being late, when the interviewer had no clue that I was late. Another time, the woman asked me, “what do you see yourself doing here” and I stopped saying words and made sounds. A lot of it was self-sabotage. The inability to admit that my goals were my dreams and a dude like me was worthy of their manifestation. If I didn’t believe in me, why should these tired-ass HR folk? What I’ve learned through these failed experiences? To keep on writing. It’s where I can make sense of it all. Maybe I wasn’t the right fit, maybe it was too soon. Maybe, maybe, maybe. What I do know now, is that I have met phenomenal older adults in act II of their lives. They share their experiences with me: a black soldier in the south 50 years ago who saved people from a burning bus. Or the woman who fell in love with a poet in her native Puerto Rico only to be left with a select handful of his couplets cycling in her head 60 years later. I have met local politicians dedicated to serving their constituents, heard of stories of evil landlords smoking out their older tenants with stabilized rent, or a woman on her final battle with cancer after a lifetime of domestic abuse and other cancers.

Are these the lemons everyone’s been talking about? The citrus fruit Beyoncé made a whole album about….and now it’s time to make lemonade. Just like I did at the restaurant I worked at, by hand with a citrus juicer.

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Cover2Cover | Trees and Flowers

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I found myself curled into a ball on the floor of my bedroom. Free, unattached to anyone or anything, floating. The frankincense and myrrh candle Kimberly had brought me from her grandmother’s home in Pennsylvania made my room smell like church, it was Sunday after all. Yet, I could not find my center. It was probably because I had started the day on an empty stomach and watched the “Looking” finale-movie.

I drew the shades to blind myself from the dreadful overcast which had crept up earlier and led me to this state of gloom. I binged on some Fleetwood Mac, in order to channel Stevie Nicks divination, but to no avail.

Then, I decided to play “Trees and Flowers” by Strawberry Switchblade. I had fallen in love with the Dum Dum Girls’ cover first. Scottish act Strawberry Switchblade’s original version is a dream pop walk through the woods. While DDG’s version is slow and haunting in a nightmarish kinda way. I remember listening to the DDG version over and over one day, the day he told me he was moving to another coast. The same time my best friend told me she was moving to another coast. In the last 24 hours, I’ve found myself listening to the original over and over, the extended version to be exact. It’s clear both versions address anxiety and how isolating it can feel. My anxiety has spiked in the last couple of months and I am now working towards solace. Focusing on writing, reading, eating right, etc.

 Being alone is difficult. Silence bullies vulnerability. Lately, I have been alone a lot more often. It’s been difficult, my friends are working all the time and so am I. The hardening of self isolates and it needs to be done. I’ve been using that time to write and read more. I’m reminded of what Joan Didion once said:

“Do not whine… Do not complain. Work harder. Spend more time alone.” 

― Joan Didion, Blue Nights