Singing and Crying

Getting drunk and crying isn’t exactly something confined to a single culture. A quick ride on the Red Line during any Chicago holiday, or a late night out in Wrigleyville pretty much drives that one home as a experience that isn’t bound by any demographic. I’m not a drunk crier, I’m a pretty happy drunk most of the time, the other times I’m slutty. But I digress…

Today I was at a house party, and like any respectable gay man who is single and well into his 30s, put away half a case of hard cider by myself. Yes ladies and gents, I go hard. Anyway, I dragged myself home just after the heat of the day had passed, walked my dog and settled in for a night of tv and pizza. To keep myself entertained while I added extra pepperoni and cheese to topping poor pizza, I put on some music. Como la Flor by Selena came on, and before I knew it, I was sprinkling extra cheddar, singing along, and tears were streaming down my face.

I’m not sure if it’s been the past few week’s work load, the excessive amount of cider sugar making its way out of my body or the fact that this summer has been hot, humid, and it’s driving everyone crazy, but there I was. Standing in the middle of my kitchen, drunk, singing, and crying. In that moment, I was a Mexican stereotype.

I don’t even know if that is a stereotype actually. If I asked my non-latino friends if they’d ever heard that when latino men (particularly those of Mexican heritage, since that’s what I’ve got the most experience with, you know, family and all) get drunk, they sing and cry, if they’d be able to say yes, they recognized that stereotype. They alos get a little handsy with each other, but that’s a topic for a whole other blog and possibly a PhD thesis or reality tv show. But I digress, yet again…

In my moment of raw emotion, when Selena was singing about how much she hurt, and about lost love, I had a moment of clarity. The men who I’d grown up around, who would get drunk on a driveway or around a fire pit in the yard, who would sing and yell and curse and cry, were putting it all out there and bearing their souls. My tios, my dad’s compadres, left behind their families, their homeland, their language, and now live in a place where they don’t fit in, not exactly anyway. Huddled around those burning embers, music and songs from their past would come on, and they would sing, and cry, and remember what they left behind. What they sacrificed to have a better life, and the people they may never see again.

That’s what I had. Those are the feelings that came flooding over me as the heat from the oven rushed over my face. I thought about my friends, my family, and couldn’t remember when the last time was that I didn’t feel totally disconnected from where I came from. In that moment I realized what the men who got drunk, and sang and cried were feeling, because I didn’t know before. I didn’t know why they cried. I didn’t know why Vicente Fernandez would trigger arms over each other’s shoulders, swaying and shouting. They too, were disconnected, but in those moments, the connection and memories would come back like a shot (after many shots), and they mourned the warmth from the memories as it slowly faded away verse by verse.

I texted Carmen after I had dried my eyes, I knew she’d understand and think it was funny, and I needed a laugh. It’s nice to know my culture is still in here somewhere. I may be living a life with no current purpose, and the only direction it is has is towards another nap, but some of my memories have a different angle to them now. It’s been a while since I stood around drinking with my family and friends and bared my soul. I should probably do that on a more regular basis, once i’m somewhere with a driveway.

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#fam

Shared History

Back when I was a baby gay, a mere lad of 20, venturing out to see the world on my own, I was blessed to be welcomed into the fold by a strong couple, Louis (or Luigi as I had come to know him) and Ira. I call them my Fairy God Gays, because in my mind, they saved and guided me through some rough times in my young queer life. 

Louis and I met while we studied Italian/s in Florence one very muggy summer. He quickly picked me out of a gaggle of youths as the gay one in the group and took me under his wing. I was out, but just barely. It was a week into our month long trip when Louis asked me if I wanted to go to a gay bar with him. It was Italy after-all and I was of drinking age, so I nervously accepted and met him at a piazza after dinner. The bar was at the back of a dead end alley, and looked like a dumpster with a door and you had to knock in order to get in since there was no outside handle. He knocked, my heart fluttered and we were under ground in a few moments (in what I still consider to be the most unique gay bar I’ve ever been to).

A month wiled away and I found myself back in Santa Cruz. Things weren’t going great at home for me, I had been out for two years and my mom and I still weren’t really speaking. Occasionally she would ask about school and work, or we would sit awkwardly in silence while Will and Grace gave hope to people everywhere that it was ok to be gay, as long as you were boring, lived with a woman and never had gay sex. I was lucky that Louis and Ira were there to tell me differently. They knew things weren’t great at home and opened their home to me if I ever needed a place to get away, or even spend time with a gentleman caller. They also opened their hearts.

When I  would visit for dinner, I would bring them stories from the front lines of the young gay happenings. Mostly what I had to tell them was how many times I’d been to the Castro that week and that I saw someone have his crotch crushed with a boot on the back patio of the Lonestar Saloon. They would tell me about their most recent trip around the world, or cruise, or foreign port and show me how big the world was. They also told me what it was like to be gay (not on TV), how we got to where we were and what it was like before I stepped into the rainbow light. I heard about New York City before Stonewall, where men were dragged from gay clubs and beaten by police. I remember Ira telling me about sitting on a bus bench and waiting for the right time to run into a gay club when he thought no one was watching.

Aside from my lesbian best friend (Kristin), I didn’t really know any other queer people. Sure I knew some people from the bars and clubs, but the only thing I was learning from them was how to give a BJ on a dance floor and not get caught, and sneak your underage friends into a bar. No one was telling me about the AIDS crisis that started shortly after I was born, how to prevent it, or stop myself from getting it, or even why using condoms was important. When you come from a small town, these are not the things you are taught in your day to day life (I do know how to rebuild an car engine, slaughter livestock and prepare it for a meal, also how to make flour tortillas from scratch though).

Louis and Ira taught me. They showed me. I saw that I had more options to my life than being an AIDS victim, or a musical theater gay, or living a pseudo hetero life with a straight girl so that people would not be threatened by my queerness. I could be a doctor, like Ira, perhaps run a political campaign like Louis, and I could see other parts of the world and live my life the way I wanted, because they did. They lead by example. They shared their life and their history, and it has become my history. It was my history before I knew about it, I just never had anyone to teach me.

Queer people don’t often have the opportunity to learn about our history until it’s forced upon us. Our parents don’t teach little rhymes to us like “Judy, Liza, Barbra, Bette. These are names I shan’t forget” to bestow a love of those brash broads of the screen and stage in our hearts. Our parents don’t talk to us about us about Harvey Milk and the White Night Riots, or the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans where more than thirty gay people were locked in a nightclub while it was burned to the ground. They’re not going to drive their kids to Disneyworld, and pass by the Pulse nightclub and say “this is where 50 queer people (and their allies) were gunned down, fueled by rage, discontent and self hate.” Queer people need to teach queer people about where we come from, what we’ve been through, and why it matters that, as much as I hate crowds, parades, and sitting in the hot sun, I go to pride to be present and accounted for. It’s a history that we inherit, whether we want it or not, so we can be ourselves even when people don’t want us to be.

Ira died on Sunday. He and Louis were together for 36 years. It’s hard for me to imagine that this man is gone from my life. The last time i saw Ira, I had been lucky enough to be invited to their San Francisco home for pride and mingle with a few gay men from a generation that was almost all but wiped out. I could never get enough hugs from Ira when I was leaving the party, his affection was always so genuine and real. I’m blessed that Louis gives amazing hugs, spins an amazing tale, and is around to help guide and chide me. I still have a lot to learn, and a lot to teach, we all do.

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The Quake

Growing up in California, nearly a stones throw from the San Andreas fault line, you come to expect that the ground will be moving under you from time to time. It’s not something you really think of all the time, at least that what I used to think. On occasion you will be at work, the building will shudder a little bit, like someone was jumped behind you and shaking the floor. You pause for a moment, then go back to your work. Or sometimes you are shaken awake from your bed when the world is dark and rumbling, but it’s not coming from the sky, it comes from the ground.

I was 8 years old on October 17th, 1989, when a massive earthquake hit the Central Coast of California. I can’t remember what I had for lunch last week (probably Chipotle, cause it’s the only place I can get carnitas around this flat city), but I remember with searing detail the 15 seconds in which it took place.

I don’t think many people will tell you that you can hear an earthquake, but I distinctly remember hearing this one. Before I was thrown against a wall, from my cousins’ house being so violently shaken from the quakes initial jolt, it was a loud, low rumble. It stopped a gathering of 6-10 year olds from watching a movie (King Kong) and sent us fleeing out of an old wooden house and onto the neighboring lawn screaming (FYI, for those people whose first instinct is to run, unless something is about to fall on you, you’re not getting away from the shaking). Once on the lawn, standing was nearly impossible and the sound of shattering glass and rumbling was all I could hear. Then I heard my 4 year old sister crying, still in the house we had just left, which was still rocking back and forth. After I scooped her up and brought her outside the memory stops.

What my parents, who were just next door at our home, tell me is that they arrived and calmed, or tried to calm us down, while finding a safe space away from the old buildings we lived in. Us being a gathering of cousins who happened to play together all summer, go to school together and not really know anything outside of that. What I did know, is that going back inside the house was not an option.

My family made camp outside in the middle of a pasture across the street from our house. The entire clan slept in tends or a camper, or just outside on mattresses that my aunts and uncles dragged from inside homes that were just collections of broken dishes, glass and littered with what was one time decorations. Riding out the aftershocks as they came and went for days.

Every earthquake since then has been a breeze. 5.5 that lasted a good 20-25 seconds when I was 13 or 14 at 3am? Basic. Small jolts under 3.0 during the work day? Don’t even feel them. In fact, if it’s under 3.5, don’t even worry about telling me about it.

I have a USGS earthquake tracker for email that alerts me to large quakes taking place all over the world, and smaller ones for the regions I have selected. Kind of an obsession I think, I just feel like I need to know sometimes. Especially being so far from my family, in a region that is, well, not shaky  It brings a whole different mindset to a Californian. Being able to hang things like photos above your bed without the fear they may end up crashing down on you in the middle of the night is new. Not wondering which way the windows are designed to shatter if they break while you’re next to them is another. But mostly, I didn’t think I realized that while I lived in CA, I was kind of always on guard, just in case. Here, I watch for snow and check the weather 4 times a day, but at least I know what’s coming. When if the ground does end up shaking here, I hope I haven’t lost the Californian in me and remember what to do.

Vibrating sound…

Conversations with my wife are usually NSFW:

Laura: will you call my phone?

Me: k, hold on
had mine on airplane all day
calling
…?

Laura: call again, i can’t find it
lol
nevermind, it was in the bathroom

me:

Laura: i just tore my room apart trying to find the vibrating sound
lol

me: but that vibrating sound could have come from SO many other things…

Laura: it sounded muffled, i thought maybe i fell asleep with it in the bed

me:

Homesick – Volume 1

Damn damn damn. I’ve been here a week (as of yesterday) and I already hit homesick? This is not a good sign.

I’m sure what actually made me homesick, is the fact that I don’t have a home yet. I’ve started couch crashing. Which, overall is fine, but that means you don’t have your own space and that is starting to get to me. I figured finding a place would be super easy, and when I got here, really it was. But GETTING a place has proved to be a lesson in patience and understanding of some master plan (hopefully that plan isn’t to send me packing back to the summer fog and winter sun of CA). I will press on, i’m sure to the shagrin of leasing agent who has had to put up with some nasty voicemails and mean texts from yours truly.

What set it off this bout of homesickness last night was going out. Yes, I finally went out to a gay bar, not for a date, but because my host, Dan, wanted to socialize, and socialize me to people in the area. Much appreciated. When I got there, I was introduced to a whole lot of new people, and we all know how I am with new people. But I tried to stay bright and cheery surrounded by strangers and get to know them. We had a few good little strides of conversation, but I got lost when the topic turned Apple fanboy and I ordered another drink, two actually. Not having eaten since the afternoon and trekking through the vertical swimming pool that people in Chicago call “outside”, I was promptly lit. Luckily I retained enough composure not to booty shake or tip drill at the bar, but it was difficult.

As the conversations wandered through weekend plans, the gay get away hotspot in for Chicagoans (which I still have no idea how to spell or pronounce correctly, so I’m not going to try), I realized I had nothing to contribute. If I were in SF and had no plans for the weekend, I’d head to the Port and hang with the family for the weekend. Now they’re a 4hr flight away. If I was in a bar in SF, I’d most likely be with Derrick and the Twins. We would be talking about the randoms who walked in and who’d slept with them, and what fun new cheer moves we wanted to try at practice and Lintz would be buying shots. I kind of feel like i’m gaycation, but I don’t have Ernie with me and we’re not being tourists and there is no Key Lime Pie on a stick.

So I’m homesick. I’m a total gypsy, and not loving it cause the outfit requires too many layers to be authentic and I don’t have a wooden wagon to traverse the countryside in. Something has to break soon, cause I’m not packin’ it in due to a rough patch. But it may be time for me to stop watching cheer videos and go find a team where I can throw people around. That always seems to help blow off steam.

It Begins…

Today…I quit my job. Yes. I’m sitting at home, I should be packing up my things, but I’m sitting at home thinking. Fuck…I quit my job. Really i think I’ll be fine…in a few weeks (God willing), but, I’ve got a few weeks of “WTF did I do?” and “WTF am I going to do?” ahead of me.

I guess I just had to give myself a bit of a shove. I think we all need it now and again, but I’m a big guy, so the shove maybe has to have a bit more energy behind it before it nudges me. Nothing like being broke, hungry and living in a strange new city to give you just that. So with that being said…here I go.

This has been a really long time coming if you didn’t know. I first had the idea to move to Austin, cause I fell in love with the city many years ago. As time has progressed, I’ve discovered it wasn’t specifically Austin that I was in love with, as much as I love change. I want to see other parts of the world and see what its like to live in other parts of the world. Five years ago, I almost did move to Austin. I stayed for a guy. He would have come with me, but I thought it might be best if we stayed in SF and started a relationship. Well…I’m single and still here, which presents a problem. I don’t want to be either.

I’m not sure exactly when Chicago started to have appeal to me. It never did before. Maybe its everyone who visits and says how amazing it is. Maybe it’s the fact that my dad is freaked out that I’m going cause its so far away and it snow there. Maybe I want to live in snow. Maybe I’ll hate it. Maybe I’ll turn right back around and come home (take your bets people, I know there is a pool out there). Maybe not.

10 Years ago, my mom stuck me on a plane bound for Florence Italy. I was a small town 20 year old and I was sent across the world against my will. Well…I didn’t realize I didn’t want to go until it was time to actually leave. I screamed at my mom, told her I didnt want to go and she was horrible for making me and left the country in a huff. Over the next month, I learned a new language, made some amazing friends and returned…full of vigor. It was the moment I realized I had to get out of Davenport. Not because there is anything wrong with it, but because my curiosity started to get the best of me. So off I went. I haven’t made it very far, but I’ve come a LONG way since I was that small town kid. Sometimes I still feel like I am that kid, especially with this move coming up. But…if I hadn’t taken the leap then…I wouldn’t be where I am now.

So with excitement and anxiety nipping at my heels. I’m packing up my few belongings in SF and hitting the road…in about at a week at least.

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