“How to Be a Hermana Coraje” (or “11 Ways to Destroy a Marriage!”)

“How to Be a Hermana Coraje” (or “11 Ways to Destroy a Marriage!”)

Struck with the fever to clean my online house, I finally got around to deleting some files from my Drafts folder on MediaJor.com. These were unfinished essays that seemed like great ideas at the time but never really flourished for whatever reason. Imagine my utmost thrill to find one particularly glorious remembrance of days past. Oof. I guess I forgot about it or maybe I calmed down enough NOT to get involved in the escalating drama that inspired me to write something. It still makes me say, “Wow.” Reading it again made my skin crawl, particularly since it’s a fetid example of this Age of Rage we are living in. 

This post harkens back to the Fall of 2014, which was when I had the brilliant idea of writing a coda to the now infamous “Hermanas Coraje” series.  Coraje means “angry” in Spanish, itself a joke and a play on a famed Mexican telenovela known as “Los Hermano Coraje,” which I loved watching with Mom when I was a kid. 

The essays were intended to be a means to an end, of dealing with the painful consequences stemming from my aunt’s battle and demise from cancer in 2014. It seemed to help to turn certain relatives into characters in a Mexican telenovela. Adding fuel to the fire was the endless back and forth of these covertly shared texts and Emails from the so-called Coraje sisters, exchanges my warring cousins that personified Latino Drama and then some. I wasn’t at a loss for inspiration to keep this serial going for a while. However, this entire exercise proved to be anything but a laughing matter in the end. 

The essays I penned got angrier and angrier as my family’s situation deteriorated further and further. Each new text or Email was like a bomb going off and no one was spared from the shrapnel. Today, we’re still living with the injuries inflicted on both sides, which ultimately destroyed all of the tropes of the unified Latino family in the process. 

The first coda I attempted to write was an attempt to get away from Ground Zero, one that was a direct result of what became the last secret Email I would receive. I say “last” because the contents of this particular letter filled me with such contempt, I asked to be taken off the CC list altogether. I also decided to end my imagined telenovela on MediaJor.

The real hermanas Coraje were at their conjoined peak of “But we’re real the victims here!,” which was quite a feat since we had already buried my aunt. Make no mistake. These women were the actual instigators, the lead stirrers of one big cosmic pot of rancid menudo. The elder Coraje sister saw it fit to fire off a truly evil Email to her soon to-be ex-sister in-law, a punch thrown so low it hit the family at its lowest point. Our collective grief was turned into absolute rage again.

Given the way most families work, it was a matter of time before the contents of this destructive Email made their way around to the rest of us. We had an inkling as to the involvement of the sisters Coraje in wrecking their brother’s marriage. Their grotesque agenda of revenge and acrimony turned their brother’s wife into a member of our family. Yes, the family split and sides were taken. We sought to at least be a sounding board, but we turned into a means of emotional support as her marriage broke apart. Yet, we really had NO idea just how far the Sisters C were willing to go in ensuring her destruction.

Revisiting this letter, it was obvious that only making grammatical corrections would not be enough. Whether or not the entire family views this essay, it is just smart to only keep the emotional intent of the original note to protect the innocent and guilty and not retain any of the original text. So yes, I did rewrite the entire thing to best fit this essay. Also, note the “countersteps” have been fictionalized, too. While Hermano C’s ex-wife did offer her own rather pointed rebuttals, again, it would not prudent for me to air them out with the rest of the dirty laundry. 

To read the original post was to almost hear the elder Coraje sister slamming the keys on her insidious PC. Each hit nailed a coffin shut, forever keeping out any light, love and all things human from a couple’s union. Vengeance would be mine if I left it as is to give readers a better sense of the epic pendejismo of it all. Trust me, this collection of twisted maneuvers was devised by someone who has been burned by life one too many times.

In the two years since we ceased all communication with the Corajes, I’ve realized theirs is a house built on a foundation of resentment. They’ve done nothing but shift the blame for their imagined woes onto other people. I have zero respect for those who prefer to exist within the Cult of Victimhood. All of this makes me want to subtitle this post as “Own Your Shit!”  But, perhaps ours is a life lesson that can do us all some good, which is what led me to revisit this essay one more time…

They’re baaack. And not without leaving a few commandments behind for good measure. In fact, I should thank Las Hermanas Coraje for the wealth of material they’ve inspired me to compose. They’re web spinners and string pullers, the most cowardly roles to undertake when it comes to fucking shit up. These aren’t people who carry baseball bats to deal with shit. They prefer to do the side step as deftly as Charles Durning in “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas!”

Regardless, no matter how you choose to meddle in people’s lives, wreckage will be left behind. A broken family will find the means with which to pull itself back together, but it is never really mended. The cracks are there to see forever, just like the words used to inflict the most damage possible in this digital age. However, if you still want to know how YOU, too, can be a Hermana Coraje, follow their simple rules. However, the soon to be ex-sister in-law had rebuttals at the ready. Thus, she is reminding us all that for every action you will experience a reaction:

Step 1:”Tell her to get back to work!”

Counterstep: I have NEVER stopped working. I am not sure what your brother, my husband, tells you. He’s probably — and conveniently — NOT telling you that I pay my share of thousands of dollars in household expenses, too. If either of you need a reminder, keep advising him in the manner you seem to think fit. I’ll show you the receipts.

Step 2: “Move your ass and starting talking to the lawyer and find out how you can protect yourself!”

Counterstep: That’s right, let someone else do the dirty work. As if no one will ever notice the stains on your hands.

Step 3: “DO NOT give her permission to exchange ANY information with the lawyer.”

Counterstep: What? Permission? Since you see fit to meddle in our marriage do you think I’m NOT going to know what crap advice you continue to give my husband? For the record, I’m reading this Email, too!

Step 4: “DO NOT reply to Isela’s email She’s either trying to flirt or dig up info!”

Counterstep: Isela is a friend, a real friend. She’s not part of the Vibora club like you and your sister. She’s just concerned about both of us as this entire situation goes from bad to worse. Honestly, why do you even care?  Or is all of this really about YOU?

Step 5: “DO NOT go to the meeting with the realtor. And for the record, why are you even thinking about going?

Counterstep: We have to deal with the house as that’s OUR home to deal with and not yours. It’s the house where you were welcomed but are now both having to LEAVE because of you.

Step 6: “Stand up for yourself! Move on!”

Counterstep: How can he move on when you’re the one writing the map?

Step 7: “Be a man! Don’t be some little boy doing what mama tells him to do!”

Counterstep: And what is it that YOU’RE doing now with this awful Email?

Step 8: “Tell her you will respond that text from ex-girlfriend. The one we liked.”

Counterstep: Oh, that’s being mature. As if his texting his Ex is going to cause real damage. YOU made this happen, dear. Not me. YOU. Remember that.

Step 9: “Remember that everyone we know and knows you thinks you’re awesome. Just not your wife!”

Counterstep: I never stopped believing he was awesome, until you and sister poisoned the well and ruined us.

Step 10: “The marriage counselor said most of the money from your remaining sessions can be refunded. You won’t face a loss!”

Counterstep: We’ll never know. You took away any real chance for us to find out if we could fix things. All you’ve done is make sure they stayed broken.

Step 11: “She only wants access to your financials to mess you up. Are you stupid enough to just hand this info over to her?”

Counterstep: Spoken like a woman whose never been in a marriage. I have a secret: Spouses are SUPPOSED to know each other’s “financials.”

I really hope you’re pleased with yourself. You’ve prided yourself on being an actress, another lie the family believes. You’ve been nothing but a bit player all these years, always in the background. I never would have guessed the best role of your tiny “career” was to be the lead player in ruining my marriage. Was it worth it taking center stage this way? You always referred to yourself as the big Catholic. Let this weigh heavy on your soul because I believe you will be paid back in full when it’s your marriage. That’s my curse for you.

Since you took it upon yourself to write this list of “steps” for my husband, I will make sure to keep them on hand for the future in case you or anyone in the family needs a “reminder.” Better yet, I’ll keep them in a safe place for our kids so they can read them one day. After all, isn’t what family does best, sharing everything?
You’re welcome.

Your sister in-law under God’s law forever…

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Two years have passed. That note was the last we heard of Las Hermanas Coraje. In the end, this once star-crossed couple lost their house. No one earned a real dime from its sale, so said “financials” were never improved. The ex Mrs. Coraje moved on with their kids to a new home and life.  Meanwhile, the entire bitter lot of siblings are now existing under one deluded roof, just like when their dad lost their business and was forced to move them all  under one roof with the very family they would turn their back on in the most callous manner.

I am loathe to report that they’re still playing their pueblito games, too. So much for growth and maturity. But, I will never forget the elder Coraje‘s parting shot. I still can’t believe the nasty tone and manipulation found in that note. But the worst part? It’s just pathetic to know the Coraje brother’s balls are still being kept by his sisters.

Somehow, I don’t think this is the final chapter. The Resurrection of Las Hermana Coraje? After all, writers are encouraged to “write what they know.” Well, the author of this family’s narrative is God himelf. I suspect even he would need major encouragement to pen a revision.

“Signed, The Desayuno Club” or “Vida y Muerte”

“Signed, The Desayuno Club” or “Vida y Muerte”

My optimism seems to be at a premium these days. Singing along with my Burt Bacharach playlist on my iPod in the kitchen? Dancing as if no one’s looking? These are things that I have to muster up the energy to even contemplate, forget about execution. Sure, we can meme our way through the tough times with slogans like “Life Happens.” We all know life happens on its own timetable, without reason or warning. However, what do you do when the “Big Moments” pile up like a Friday afternoon on the interstate? How do you not feel like that F-5 twister purposefully chose to hit your home, skipping over other parts of the neighborhood?

I can’t remember a point in my life where the issue of mortality has been so present. These little earthquakes of truth and emotion are growing in intensity. We are aware that our lives are curated like one big Jenga® puzzle, moment by moment. At some point, a silvery thread of fear begins to weave its insidious way through our consciousness. Some of us will deftly snip it away, while others wither under weight of knowing some force can and will pull that one piece out, sending the whole thing crashing down. It’s not a productive way to live. Based on this sentiment, the events that have occurred to my family and friends of late have left me grappling between wielding the scissors and succumbing to the weight of all this mounting grief. I have reached a point of reckoning, of great questioning. And given my propensity to FEEL things, it is starting to hurt, triggering an agenda of self-destruction that is starting to scare me.

We are about to enter the fourth month of 2016. It’s not quite April and so many of life’s grand themes have found their way into all of our worlds. It’s been a season of births and deaths, peaks of elation and valleys of grief. Parallels keep manifesting themselves. I wasn’t alone in feeling shock over the loss of my childhood friend Anthony Dominguez last Christmas and the concussive effect of his passing has yet to abate.

As if on cue, it was long after Anthony’s death that I received the wonderful news of two friends, who are in fact sisters, had given birth to their first children just weeks apart. The great Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez couldn’t pen this chapter any better. (Well, yeah, he could.)

Life. Death. Birth. Then the lightning round began.

In March, an important and much needed family reunion in Mexico was preceded by the news that the father of my childhood best friend passed away. While in Mexico, we were shocked to discover two close family members were grappling with their own mental China Syndromes. A few weeks later, on Easter Sunday, a day representative of rebirth and renewal concluded with a terse DM from another key member of my Pico Rivera family of friends.

Steve wrote: “Hi, I have some bad news. Please call me…”

My mind catalogued the litany that’s become all too common, particularly in Latino families. If the phone rings late at night, you need to steel yourself. Someone is gone.

“Was it his father?” I thought.

Blessedly, it wasn’t Mr. Chavez, but my heart still broke after I hung up the phone. The son of another member of our childhood group had lost his life in a car accident on his way back to college.

Reunions have been playing out with frequency these last months. In fact, this “Big Chill” group dynamic has alternated between being a welcome distraction to pulling the scabs off old wounds. Not that I’m complaining. It’s giving me license to feel other things, not just a sense of despair.

Many of these people were the formative friendships of formative years, personalities that have been reconstituted into the myriad of relationships I’ve encountered and nurtured in the 30+ years since graduating from high school. As many of us gathered to celebrate or mourn of late, it’s striking how we easily fall into the roles we played as children and teenagers. We reveal just enough to feel like we’ve closed the gap of time. We laugh, smile and upload pictures to our respective social media sites. Then we make the slow walk back to our cars taking us back to our own lives.

I am coming to terms with the biggest lesson learned in returning to the center square of my life. It hasn’t been said amongst us yet, but it is very much present:

We are mortal after all.

My own emotional state of mind swirls with so much color right at this moment, high dynamic angry color. I see shades of vermillion, red and orange, all in heated tones that make me sweat without even moving. Is it alright to say that I’m sick of having cancer and Alzheimer’s invade my cherished family fold? Since the passing of my aunt Susanna in 2014 to the family implosion the followed and beyond, I’ve been searching for some sort of answer as to why these life events can happen without pause. And when friends say to me, “That’s life,” I just want to scream and have a violent release of some sort: “They don’t understand!” But they do, because it’s happened or it is happening to them, too.

I can’t help but note the irony. I was born into a culture that embraces death, celebrating it with riotous shades of color and the sweetest tasting of candies. While I proudly display my calaveras, Catrinas and other artwork by José Guadalupe Posada at home and in my office, I wonder if its the American propensity to stir up fear that is wreaking havoc with my strength. (I toyed with using the phrase “steel bougainvillea” here, but I thought better of it.)

I knew as I went home the night of Anthony’s rosary service that I was going to write something about the significance of his death. However, it’s been several months since that moment and what started out as a tribute piece to him has taken many strange turns, unleashing a torrent of so many themes. It became about being 40-something, of going from boys to men and the rediscovery how much real life wages a war with us all. Despite my intent, this post read so fake and uninspiring. The altruistic reason to write about Anthony was being smothered by my own narcissism, as if I wanted to show off some incredible power of syntax and phrasing. I was overthinking it. Words would come out in fits and starts, sometimes with way too much flourish, corrupting the emotion in the process. It didn’t help that I would project my state of mind onto whatever I wrote. Worse, it was became apparent that the spirit of Anthony was now lost in all this fancy word play. Ultimately, it became about nothing at all. Just noise. I only wanted to make sure my friend knew I hadn’t forgotten him. What I didn’t anticipate was that I would be adding names to create a list:

Tacho’s father, Roberto.

Anne’s son, Matthew.

It’s hard to keep a linear thread with this post. Since Anthony’s rosary service, I’ve been grappling with a total lack of focus. His loss magnified certain truths about what many of us stand to face from this point forward. News of other friends’ life challenges only cemented this creative block. I just folded all of this helplessness I felt into the depression that was entrenching itself in a way I’ve never experienced before. I wasn’t caring about anything, especially my own health. I only cared about my Dad, whose bout with Alzheimer’s is reaching a new stage amidst all this change.

This post couldn’t be a “Jeremiah” from the ‘mount, extolling the virtues of a cherishing a bountiful life while we can. How could it when a feeling of woe has saturated so much of what we see of this world on the daily? It rendered the spilling of digital ink on a white screen almost impossible. This was supposed to be a tribute, but I am empowered by what it has become in the last days.

I have been ruminating about the moment when we become aware of that thin line between life and death. Is it the loss of a grandparent? Or is it those hurried and emotional conversations you overhear from under your dining room table, where your parents process the news that Nana or Tío are “no longer with us?” Is it better to learn about death when your first goldfish receives that funeral at sea in the family commode? It doesn’t matter the context. In the end, you never forget that shocking wave of hot tears, whether theirs or your own, that leaves a stamp of realization.

As we get older, at least for some of us, dealing with death is supposed to get a little easier, recognizing it as being part of the ebb and flow of life. Sorry, but that doesn’t make the loss any easier to accept. However, honoring a sense of respect for mortality will do wonders for one’s resilience if you let it. You begin to understand that being born is not your only induction into the human race. It’s actually part of a longer process that culminates when you understand your place on this mortal Earth is not permanent.

I won’t forget the catalyst that prompted all this soul searching any time soon. Earlier this year, at Anthony’s service, I joined the growing crowd at St. Hilary on a chilly, damp Monday night. I was heartened by the amount of people waiting to head inside the church. As I walked, shoulders hunched, cold hands seeking warmth in my sweater pockets, I found myself already sorting out a rush of emotions, thinking to myself, “How did this happen?”

In between it all, fragments of the past starting to make their way to the front. All those pieces solidified the minute I heard my name, “George.” No one else but my people from home call me that anymore. And suddenly I was 10 years old again, as the past and present collided with incredible force. The crew was all there, the one that started at South Ranchito Elementary, gained new members at Meller Jr. High before reaching its zenith at El Rancho High School. I stood with these men, weaving in and out of solemnity and laughter from reminiscing. We fell back into the roles we had as teenagers, easily retaking our places as we filed into the church to pay our respects to our friend.

Regardless of the time spent apart since graduating high school, the foundation set all those years ago is still very much present. More, I think of the legacies that were created as a result of our time together:

Anthony was a huge part of my adolescence in Pico Rivera. I was never going to be a jock, but I am forever grateful that he never judged me, or anyone else for that matter. Even if I was sometimes the least skilled member of the teams we were part of as kids, Anthony remained a loyal friend from elementary all the way through high school.

Tacho and I were from the same neighborhood, cultivating a friendship shaped by the countless walks to the three schools we attended together. His family opened the doors to their home and restaurant to us all without question or reserve. I shall never forget Mr. Baeza, who remains a true caballero in my mind, just like my Dad. It says something that our families continue to have their roots in the same houses after 40 years.

Anne remains this quintessential pixie, albeit with a wicked dash of punk rock. She is still her own person, full of spirit, possessing a singular wit and a brilliant smile. In the photos I’ve seen of her son Matthew, I am heartened to see how much of her is present in his own vibrant smile and the personality captured in those frames. It makes his loss so much more difficult to fathom. My only regret is missing out on so much of Anne’s adult life so I could have shared a little bit of her journey as a mother.

Their narratives are forever interwoven with mine, and vice versa, I hope. We talk so much about how we’re disconnected today, but back then we were the definition of connectivity. It was incredible how widespread this reach was when you think about it. Schools, parks, after school activities, church, Scouts, cheerleading, Little League, Pop Warner, everything and anything social. It was like we were living this John Hughes-penned life but with a lot of added flavor. I mean, we’re talking Tapatío, Tajín, salsa cruda, salsa verde and roasted jalapeños. Because how vanilla was a John Hughes movie in the first place?

This is going off topic, but it occurs to me how much of our lives surrounded food. It was tacos from Mario’s and nachos from Casa Garcia. It was being treated to Sir George’s Smorgasbord, Naugles or Omega Burgers. It was post-game celebrations at someone’s home or at Shakey’s Pizza. Even now, it’s hard to stop this list for fear of leaving things out.

Looking back, I do remember how we expressed our incredulous shock at those who left us before we turned 18. Kathy Esparza didn’t make it to senior year at El Rancho. We paid our respects and we moved forward. The pep rallies continued. From Homecoming to Powder Puff, Prom and Graduation, we kept going through all of the rites of passage on schedule and without delay. The concept of loss wasn’t something we would contemplate much. Loss was just something that happened on the field, on the track or on the court in the gym.

My concept of loss won’t be the same same anymore. Despite the poetry we can ascribe to it as being the closing of a circle, it is still an end. And to be honest, I’ve never been good with endings. These scenes are destined to be replayed again, alas, but they must be met with grace and humility, too. As I begin to compose these last paragraphs, I’m think I can find my way to some peace. I am grateful in many ways for the opportunity to have reconnected with so many people. It speaks volumes to know that these archetypes of what I now want to call The Desayuno Club would gather once more — and without hesitation, too. And I am privileged that so many opted to share a part of their lives with me. They answered the question as to what happened to the Class of 1985? And it proved an inspiring answer.

We worked. We dated. We got married. We had children. We lost lovers. We lost parents. We ended marriages. We lost jobs. We remarried. We started new jobs. We had second families. We got sick. We got better. We will get better. In short, life happened and it continues to happen as these words float across the screen.

As I continue to reconnect with the men and women that played a part in shaping my life, I am secretly thrilled to l see glimpses of what we were: The jocks, the brains, the cheerleaders, the cholos, the cha cha’s, the Oish, the strange, the wild, the calm and the cool, always beautiful and forever young.

But I also see an incredible beauty shaped by resilience, tradition, strength and love. I don’t think who we are and what we represent is ever erased or replaced in life. Yes, we have a shared outcome in this world. But I’d like to think we are just one more layer in a temporal pan of cosmic lasagna. We will all add our particular blend of flavor and spice before a new layer is placed on top of us, all representing every milestone we achieve, layer after layer, pan after pan, for infinity. Despite the context of what brought us together, it’s given me something to feel that’s as close to optimism as I can declare right now. We are not alone. Ever. Therein lies the solace we can offer each other without condition.

You won’t be faulted for saying to me, “Stop your whining and man up!” We all process grief differently, so STFU. However, it is important to say that I don’t want this to be considered a “Woe is Me” post. I’ve taken to writing about these feelings to find a place for them so they don’t diminish the hope, care and optimism that my family members and friends need right now. It’s hard not to go from the micro to the macro in a given moment. For instance, most of us will accept the painful truth that the sooner we accept the truth about mortality, the sooner we can start living. That is, living for the moment and for the one’s we gather around us. No matter our stations in life, our wealth is the sum of our memories, darn it. That is truest and most vital achievement we are fated to accomplish. My challenge now is to continue to believe that, if only to stave off the rage that threatens to dominate my physical and mental self.

I am not sure how to complete this post. It has to mean something for those who read it, especially for the families of Anthony, Mr. Baeza and Matthew. An impact was made by their lives and it will not be forgotten. Maybe I should leave it open, for others to fill with their thoughts and sentiments? All I know is that we are connected again at a time when we need it most. Even if it is just for a moment, one thing remains certain. We will endure.

Because, we are life.

Signed, the Desayuno Club

 

“Vivir con miedo es cómo vivir a medias” (Cuentos de la vida real 2)

“Vivir con miedo es cómo vivir a medias” (Cuentos de la vida real 2)

 

En ver las imágenes desde Mexico últimamente, siento una tristeza muy profunda. Se ve miedo, rabia, caos y desesperación. Ha llegado el momento de enfrentar la corrupción y violencia que ha deteriorado la imagen del país.

Vivir con miedo es inaceptable en un mundo moderno. Pero donde hay miedo si se puede encontrar esperanza y el deseo de rechazar lo que nos agobia. No pretendo comparar mis propios miedos con los que se vive en México hoy. Pero si recuerdo el poder que se realiza cuando pierdes el miedo y empiezas usar una voz alta y clara. Es lo básico de nuestro ser.

Era el año 1977 y ese verano fue el momento que terminé mi primera decada como Jorge Carreón Jr. Durante casi 10 años, me quedé con la determinación de vivir al lado izquierda del centro. Solo pensé en cultivar los intereses que eran cualquier cosa menos lo que era normal en Pico Rivera. No tenía muchos amigos, pero eso no me importaba. Quería perderme en todos los libros y películas que podía procesar antes de regresar a la primaria en el otoño. La mayoría de los niños tenían ganas de ir al parque, tomar clases de natación o tener días lánguidos en la playa. Yo quería saber más del artista moderno Andy Warhol y leer mis libros de Nancy Drew. Pero mis planes se quedaron en supsenso cuando mi papá me dijo que yo iba con él y mi hermana a visitar a su familia en el D.F.

Era como si el pusiera un alfiler en el globo de mi sueño de verano.

Así que fui, inocente al siniestro plan que mis padres habían inventado sin mí. Papá sólo tenía dos semanas de vacaciones de la fábrica. Eso significaba que junto con mi hermana, quien mantuvo la primera de una vida de secretos, tendríamos que quedarnos con nuestros familiares durante todo el verano. ¿Y cuándo llego el momento que me enteré de eso? El día que mi papá se regresó a Los Angeles sin nosotros.

Me dio una rabia feroz. Le grité. Lloré. Lo seguí a la puerta de la casa de mi tía en la mejor manera que aprendí de las telenovelas: “¡No me dejes!” Nunca se dio la vuelta. Caminó con buen paso a la puerta sin decir otra palabra más. Nunca me sentí tan lejos de mi vida real en California. Fue demasiado. Casi no hablaba el idioma. Ne dejaba de pensar: “Yo no soy mexicano. ¡Soy americano!” Pero todo mis gritos cayeron en el vacío. Estuve en esta casa sin esperanza para el resto del verano.

Pensando en este momento, me doy cuenta que no sabía ese verano con mi familia mexicana sería un regalo. ¿Cómo podría saberlo? Yo era sólo un niño. No pude ver mucho con mis ojos llenos de lágrimas. Tenía miedo de lo nuevo, de enfrentar la fuente verdadera de mi identidad: México. Nunca paramos de enfrentar lo “nuevo”. Gente, ciudades, costumbres, situaciones, todo lo que nos une como la raza humana. Fue el primero de muchos miedos que tendría que conquistar en mi vida, pero sí los conquisté.

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Tenían que pasar 37 años para entender que la vida es demasiado corta para cualquier sentido de temor. Nacer latino es obstáculo suficiente en un mundo que valora la vainilla sobre el picante. Como ya he madurado, me emociona y me preocupa ver como nuestra narrativa nacional se conforma con la comunidad hispana. Espero contribuir a esta narrativa, para que refleje lo que realmente es ser un american en 2014. No tengo mucho espacio para el miedo con el fin de lograr ese objetivo. El miedo casi me dejo mudo durante todo un verano. Pero yo tomé ese paso que me llevó a un grupo muy especial en este mundo. Me convertí en un americano bilingüe, realizando el sueño de existir dentro de dos mundos que he llegado a representar con orgullo.

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Miércoles, 24 de noviembre. Escrito y subido desde Wayne Avenue Manor en South Pasadena, CA

 

“The Tale of My City” — #istand

“The Tale of My City” — #istand

“You’re not going to lose him this time. He’s a part of you forever,” said Mrs. Madrigal to a heartbroken Michael Tolliver in Armistead Maupin’s “Babycakes.”

How I loved the Tales of the City books. In some way, Maupin’s chronicle of 1970s to late 80s San Francisco and the denizens of Barbary Lane felt like a primer to the gay life I was trying to nurture in the 1990s. I identified at first with Mary Ann Singleton, that ambitious career gal from Cleveland who was so intent on reinventing herself. It made sense to me, a 20-something from Pico Rivera making inroads as a publicist and future MediaJor. But now I see myself as early Michael Tolliver, the one who wanted love so hard it hurt. Yet, he always got right back out into the dating fray. After all, tomorrow was another day! But so much was to change.

In the years since the start of the AIDS wars, HIV is no longer an immediate death sentence and being gay is no longer just a poignant coming out story told once a year. Gay is part of our national dialogue, a new frontier of the civil rights movement. Marriage and parenting stand right and center with acceptance and tolerance. We see progress, backlash and an uncertain future as gay will not live behind a stone wall anymore. It’s an extraordinary time for many of us. Yet, I fear we are no closer to finding happiness within ourselves. I think we punish ourselves in so many ways. I sometimes think we are our own worst enemy, taking on so many negative isms, particularly in how we look, who we fuck, who we love.

Sigh.

It doesn’t matter. Because I can’t stay in this place anymore. Like Michael Tolliver, I fumbled some nice attempts at being in a nurturing and caring relationship. Mouse, as he is referred to by his best pals in the books, never stayed down for long. Well, once, after his cherished Jon Fielding is claimed in the early part of the AIDS crisis. But Mouse finds his direction again and learns to not let the scars of the past paralyze him. I admire his strength so much.  And I admire the power of Maupin’s own romantically charged realism. What I have forgotten was one of the essential lessons of his books: Being gay doesn’t mean being a victim.

For too many months now, I’ve been allowing myself to exhibit the worst of victim mentality. I gave up so fast once I got back from Spain. I’ve returned to wallowing in that same swamp of depression, building a new fortress around myself again. The weight of this misdirected emotion is starting to drag me under all over again. The heaviness of this mindset is like wearing concrete shoes. It’s the Eeyore Syndrome all over.

At some point, we have to acknowledge the sensation of hitting the bottom of the abyss. It is an all too familiar place for me. I’ve made this trip before, man. So many times now, I can use my miles and still have enough left over to return a few more times. With upgrades, too.

My heart can’t take much more of this. My brain is constantly screaming at me to man up, that it is time to simply not give a fuck. John advised me that since he turned 50, he wakes up each morning making a list of things he simply won’t give a fuck about that day.

Well, John. That day has arrived. My list is my own, of course. However, I offer these lyrics to one of my favorite tracks recorded by Idina Menzel, which speak so much about the frame of mind I am in right now.

My ex Tucker and I always debated about what mattered most about a song. He said the music revealed more than the words. I countered that the music’s emotionality didn’t exist without the lyrics to guide the way. We were the embodiment of that debate. He saved his best self for his music and I continue to write down what I feel needs to be said at the peak of emotion. I often wonder what we would have sounded like if we dared to collaborate on a song. If we ever did let that happen, I would hope that it would sound like “I Stand.”

Because, after all these years of carrying around this guilt and disappointment, I can’t believe I haven’t allowed myself the freedom to believe that I can stand on my own two feet. So much has been lost this year, reminding me of how fleeting life can be. We will be up. We will be down. But we are never out.

I know he won’t save me. I have to save me. And no, moving on doesn’t mean I’ve “lost” him. He’s always going to be a part of me.

Whoever comes my way next, like Menzel and Ballard write, I, too, will live for that perfect day. And I am going to keep loving until it hurts like crazy. I have to recognize that the past is just that, the past. The present is not so bad. The future? Well, ask me tomorrow.

But I know I will be standing.

Tuesday, November 11. Written and posted from Wayne Avenue Manor in South Pasadena, CA.


“I Stand” by Idina Menzel & Glen Ballard

“When you asked me, who I am
What is my vision? Do I have a plan?
Where is my strength? Have I nothing to say?
I hear the words in my head but I push them away

As I stand for the power to change
I live for the perfect day
I love till it hurts like crazy
I hope for a hero to save me

I stand for the strange and lonely
I believe theres a better place
I dont know if the sky is heaven
But I pray anyway

And I don’t know what tomorrow brings
A road less traveled, will it set us free?
‘Cause we’re taking it slow, these tiny legacies
I dont try and change the world
But what will you make of me?

As I stand for the power to change
I live for the perfect day
I love till it hurts like crazy
I hope for a hero to save me

I stand for the strange and lonely
I believe there’s a better place
I dont know if the sky is heaven
But I pray anyway

With the slightest of breezes
We fall just like leaves
As the rain washes us from the ground

We forget who we are
We can’t see in the dark
And we quickly get lost in the crowd, oh, oh

I stand for the power to change
I live for the perfect day
I love till it hurts like crazy
I hope for a hero to save me

I stand for the power to change
I live for the perfect day
I love till it hurts like crazy
I hope for a hero to save me

I stand for the strange and lonely
I believe there’s a better place
I don’t know if the sky is heaven
But I pray anyway, oh

I stand for the power to change
I live for the perfect day
I love till it hurts like crazy
I hope for a hero to save me

I stand for the strange and lonely
I believe there’s a better place
I don’t know if the sky is heaven
But I pray anyway.”

Lo que es ser latino. (Cuentos de la vida real)

Lo que es ser latino. (Cuentos de la vida real)

Ser latino es ser una persona emocionado. Pasión es la calentura que vive en nosotros. Es la raíz de nuestro archivo cultural, en donde encontramos material para telenovelas hasta el fin del tiempo.

No quiero disminuir el impacto de la emoción latina. Lo digo porque soltamos nuestros emociones porque no las tenemos miedo en expresarlas.

En la novela chicana, La casa en Mango Street, la niña Esperanza enfrenta las emociones de su calle con ojos y pensamientos bien claras. Para ella, lo emoción es ser humano. Somos débil, con deseos en proteger el imagen de ser un adulto maduro.

Mi mamá, una persona quien es la imagen de ser la mujer latina fuerte, prefiere tragar sus emociones que expresarlas con una lagrima. Pero en el 1977, recuerdo del momento que la vi llorar por la primera vez. Murió su hermana Carlota. Estuvieron peleadas sobre algo que se dejó en el pasado. Ni recuerdo los detalles.

Yo contesté el teléfono, la llamé porque estaba afuera de la casa. La llamada era de Tampico. No entendí mucho pero supe que era algo importante. Mi mamá se presentó, había un silencio y de repente se tumbó al piso.

Ahí, en sus rodillas, fue todo el peso de su emoción, el remordimiento y la tristeza.

Sentí que el mundo cambió en un breve instante. Mi mamá no era de fierro. Era una persona normal, con emociones como las mías. Nunca me sentí mas cerca de ella.

Ahora entendí como es ser alguien sin temor. Se me salió lo que es ser latino ese día. Tomé su mano para darla mi apoyo como su hijo de dos mundos distintos.

“The Book of Life : The Filmmakers’ Journey” — A MediaJor #featurestory

“The Book of Life : The Filmmakers’ Journey” — A MediaJor #featurestory

“All the world is made of stories, and all the stories are here…

…No matter what’s out there, mijo, write your own story.”

Director Jorge Gutierrez was beaming like a proud father who couldn’t wait to tell the world about his first born child.

It may have been an ordinary Texas morning, maybe a little too grey outside despite its being early August. But no matter, once you entered the confines of the Reel FX Studio, it felt like all the colors in the world were being housed in this one specific location deep in the heart of Dallas. Standing in the midst of production photos and the folkloric garlands of brilliantly colored tissue paper strewn across the entry way, the smiling Gutierrez made it clear that the day’s media visitors were all very welcome.

The morning routine at the Reel FX studio had just kicked into high gear. A few artists and staffers straggled in but most were already hard at work. Even before the department heads gathered to reveal a look at the making of “The Book of Life,” the sense that this was a family gathered with a unified purpose was tangible. It was an important day as Gutierrez and team would also be offering a teasing first look at the feature, fleshing out what the trailers have only promised to date.

It may have taken nearly two years to animate the “The Book of Life” into reality, but the project has been gestating in Gutierrez’s fertile imagination since he was a boy. Born and raised in Mexico, the 39-year old director had long been drawn to the iconography of his homeland’s country’s rich history and cultural traditions. And no tradition resonated with him strongest than that of Día de Los Muertos or the Day of the Dead.

“I always loved Day of the Dead,” Gutierrez explained, “especially growing up. It was a very, very important holiday. I was really inspired by all the stories and so I went through animation school and film school here in the U.S. at Cal Arts. I made my thesis film about Day of the Dead.”

A joyful celebration of the afterlife and the living that occurs during the first three days of November, the Day of the Dead has evolved into one of Mexico’s most treasured traditions. Today, the wildly ornate images of calaveras (skulls), the carefully prepared ofrendas (altars), marigolds and the iconic goddess Catrina have been appropriated by a modern generation of artists and youth culture. Inspired by his personal connection to the holiday, Gutierrez was steadfast that a universal story for all audiences could be inspired by such a poignant celebration. His thesis would be the first chapter in an evolving narrative that would eventually bring him to lead a team of over 400 people in Dallas, Texas.

“It won a student Emmy and I got to go to the Cannes Film Festival and show it over there,” Gutierrez explained. “At that point, an agent said, “You should write a movie about what inspired your short.”

Taking the adage of “writing what you know to heart,” he only needed to look at his whole “crazy family” that had “all these crazy stories.” Encouraged, Gutierrez went to a local bookstore to look for a book on how to write screenplays. But he was still a few chapters away from living out that Hollywood ending.

“I thought, ‘How hard could it be?’ and I wrote the worst screenplay you’ve ever read. I pitched the script to pretty much every studio in town back then and they all laughed at me. They said, ‘You’re just a kid out of school. No one wants to see a movie about this stuff. We’re looking for talking animal movies and none of your animals in your movie talk.’ They basically told me it wasn’t something that they wanted to make.

Undaunted, Gutierrez shifted his focus to pursue other avenues within the animation industry. After marrying his wife Sandra, also an artist, the couple crafted a cartoon pilot that did go to series at Nickelodeon. That show, the critically acclaimed “El Tigre,” was an award-winning hit that benefited from a strengthening, multi-cultural audience.

“It was a love letter to the culture,” Gutierrez continued. “As the show became more popular, it started winning awards, it started winning Emmys and it did really well. The same doors for feature animation started to open again.”

At that point, producer Brad Booker, whom Gutierrez had remained in contact for several years, advised that up Reel FX was ready to start creating original movies. Despite the success of “El Tigre,” Gutierrez was hesitant to revisit “The Book of Life” after his previous experience with other studios. If he was going to bring this passion project forward, he actually wanted to get away from Hollywood and be free to trail blaze, not conform.

“I wanted to go somewhere where they would let us do something different,” Gutierrez said. “This place promised that and they delivered. I came here and we started developing the movie. At that point they asked who would be your dream producer and like all young Mexican filmmakers, I yelled “Guillermo del Toro” at the top of my lungs.

“I wanted to go somewhere where they would let us do something different,” Gutierrez said. “This place promised that and they delivered. I came here and we started developing the movie. At that point they asked who would be your dream producer and like all young Mexican filmmakers, I yelled ‘Guillermo del Toro’ at the top of my lungs.

Well, ask and you will receive because Gutierrez did find himself in the position to pitch the project to much sought after del Toro. (It was a meeting that would be the stuff of legend as Gutierrez recounted later.)

“Jorge arrived with a beautiful trunk filled with skulls, flowers, and amazing images,” del Toro recalled of their initial meeting. “He had some beautiful and very powerful keyframes for his story. When I saw these images, we started talking, and little by little I fell into his trap.”

Gutierrez has compared the experience as “getting a Ph.D. in cinema from a very loving but strict professor” because of del Toro’s involvement in the picture. Once the collaboration was in place, “The Book of Life” had found its place in the world to be cared for and nurtured by a team of like-minded individuals, very much a family.

“Being a young, leaner studio really sort of created an atmosphere,” Gutierrez said with a smile. “We were the town and the bandits were the production schedule and the budget. We knew if we worked together that we might survive and we did.”

“Jorge is his movie,” del Toro added, “and the movie is an imprint of his personality.”

When it comes to magical realism in Mexican literature, fate is very present in the sometimes outlandish journeys experienced by its characters. The film industry, which already possesses its own brand of surrealism, is no stranger in calling the destiny shots for the countless dreamers who make their way west. Once Gutierrez’s goal in collaborating with del Toro was real, “The Book of Life” had found its place in the world to be cared for and nurtured by a team of like-minded individuals, very much a family.

“Being a young, leaner studio really sort of created an atmosphere,” Gutierrez said with a smile. “We were the town and the bandits were the production schedule and the budget. We knew if we worked together that we might survive and we did.”

So how does an incredible animated fantasy-adventure that spans three fantastical worlds in manner never before seen by today’s audiences? Find out as Gutierrez, del Toro and members of their creative team lead you into the heart of what makes “The Book of Life” a vivid celebration of the past traditions that looks to the future of what animated entertainment can offer audiences.

BOL Mediajor

QUESTION: “The Book of Life” is being praised for offering a visual aesthetic that is truly singular, which is saying something in a genre that never stops evolving. What inspired your journey to become an animated filmmaker?

DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER JORGE R. GUTIERREZ: Having grown up in Mexico, I saw the golden era of Mexican cinema. They would first show all these cartoons and then the cartoons ended and these movies started. I would just keep watching whatever the TV showed and so the cartoons and the movies kind of melded. Then my father introduced me to the movies of Sergio Leone, so “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” is my favorite movie of all time. I might have seen it when I was a little too young, but it made a huge impression on me. It was a fairy tale. There’s good people, there’s bad people and there’s people who are defined by their choices. I’ve always loved that idea. As a kid, I loved Greek mythology. This movie is lie Orpheus. My favorite mythology has always been the stories where mankind teaches the gods a lesson, which to me is a fantasy of children teaching their parents something.

QUESTION: “The Book of Life” embraces the folk art of not just Mexico, but of Latin America and the rest of the world to create a universe audiences have never seen before. And yet, the colors, the shapes, everything is rife with subtext. Cultural veracity aside, was it enough to just tell the team, “Be different?”

PRODUCTION DESIGNER SIMON VARELA: I grew up with black and white films pretty much because that’s what they showed in El Salvador. I was into a lot of comics. A lot of comics. I also looked at a lot of artists that had nothing to do with painting. I looked at sculptors, architects. Because it’s still an art. It’s an art form and we are creating worlds. We wanted to be so different, right? Every director says they want something no one’s ever seen before and you’re like, “Okay here we go again!” But you do the research and then you try to figure out what it is that they want. Jorge wants everything. (Laughs). We needed to figure out what percentage of that “everything” we put it in a drawing, in a piece, in a design.

ART DIRECTOR PAUL SULLIVAN: To start off, Jorge gave me 11 eleven DVDs that I had to watch. So I watched all of them. I also have been around the culture and I knew what he wanted. The culture inspired me also, so when he said “folk art,” I knew everything about it because I do collect folk art. I did do some research because even though you’ve been there, you know the spaces, you do want to get involved a little more visually. You get on Google and start looking for images. Jorge will come out with some crazy idea where you’re like, “What? Okay, how do we do this?” (Laughs) Then you start exploring. You look at his characters and you go from there because you’re creating a world where these characters are going be working on. What we do is secondary to the characters, but they still have to live in that world.

GUTIERREZ: We are giving you an artisan’s version of real history. We are able to get away from all the sort of realistic things about it by making the good guys made out of wood, the bad guys are made out of metal, so metal can hurt wood. When you go to the Land of the Remembered, you turn into stone. All of the objects and the materials become really important, but it was all of us going, “Why not? No one’s done this. Let’s do it.”

QUESTION: Still, how do you balance the desire for originality with creating a project that is also commercially viable?

GUTIERREZ: The goal of the studio is for the movie to be seen and by the most amounts of people and be the most commercial the movie can be. I think the goal of the filmmakers is to make the movie as good as it can be and finding that balance I think is really hard. We’ve been able to navigate all that and say, “Okay, if we get a big star like Channing Tatum that allows us to have more indie actors in other roles. If we get a big song from this band that allows us to get more indie songs from these other bands.” That’s been a tricky thing for me, as a director, trying to figure out how it can’t just be for film nerds and animation nerds. It also can’t just be so commercial that it doesn’t connect emotionally.

QUESTION: You mentioned the dream of collaborating with Guillermo del Toro earlier. How did he become part of “The Book of Life” family? What made that first pitch so unforgettable?

GUTIERREZ: Like Batman, we turned on the “Guillermo del Toro Sign” and he showed up! (Laughs) At the time, he was working on “The Hobbit.” I was under the impression that there’s no way he can produce this, he’s so busy. But he said, “No, no, no, I’m coming back.” We all scrambled to put together this presentation. Then, we kept getting invited to pitch to him and he kept canceling because at that point, everybody wanted to work with him. Everything was getting pitched to him. He kept putting us off until finally I guess he felt so bad, he said, “Come to my house and pitch it to me directly over there. So, we go to his house and it was very overwhelming. It was like in August, it was like a 110 degrees. He opened the door and a little steam came out because it was cold inside. He lets us in and his house, which is so full of artwork that we said, “We can’t put all our artwork up because there’s so much artwork it’s going to blend in. Let’s pitch to him outside. That way it’s not competing.” We had maquettes and we had these beautiful paintings that (art director) Paul (Sullivan), (production designer) Simon (Varela) and Sandra and I had done at this point. We go outside and we put all the artwork up. He has a pool that has a life-size statue of Ray Harryhausen and it felt like the statue was judging me the whole time. (Laughs) They had told me, “Pitch it to him in 20 minutes.” Guillermo goes, “Pitch it to me in five minutes.” He’s already sweating and I’m already sweating and just as I’m about to say what the movie’s about, three lawn mowers go on at the same time next door. It’s super loud and Guillermo goes, “Just yell it to me.” I’m red and sweating. I think I had a heat stroke. Worst pitch in the history of pitches. I’m drenched in sweat and ready to just shake his hand and say, “Thank you for taking the time.” We sit down and he goes, “That was a terrible pitch. But I know there’s something amazing in there. I have two daughters and on Saturday mornings, we would get up to watch your cartoon “El Tigre,” so I know your style. I know your sense of humor. I know exactly who you are and of course I want to produce your first movie.”

QUESTION: Animated films tend to embrace a more homogenized world to ensure mainstream appeal. How did you intend to preserve the cultural elements that are central to “The Book of Life?”

GUTTIEREZ: I never wanted the movie to just be with Mexican actors because I didn’t want the movie to just be for Mexicans. I wanted it to be for the whole world. Certain roles should absolutely be a Mexican actor, but other roles were opened up like other movies like “Kung Fu Panda.” These are movies that are very specific to a culture, but feature actors that are from everywhere to let everyone know, “This is a universal story.”

PRODUCER GUILLERMO DEL TORO: If you’re telling a story and want it be universal, then you have to be specific. If the filmmaker loves the story and characters, then audiences will love it. And if a filmmaker feels it’s powerful, more people will love the story he or she is telling because it’s powerful. And that’s exactly what Jorge has done with “The Book of Life.”

BOL Junket

QUESTION: How did your principal cast of Diego Luna, Zoë Saldana and Channing Tatum come together?

GUTIERREZ: With Diego, I did write the role for him. I’ve always loved “Y Tu Mamá También.” I didn’t know if he could sing, but I specifically wanted him to sing because I didn’t want the singing in the movie, especially from the main character, to sound overly produced. I wanted it to sound like a real guy who grabbed a guitar and went to sing for his girl in a human and organic way. Diego and Zoë knew each other and I knew they had chemistry. When they got to speak together for the first time, we recorded them together because it was kind of a reunion. She speaks perfect Spanish and she understood the culture really well, bringing all this fire and feistiness to her role. After that, I said, “Well, (the role of) Joaquin needs to be a really big presence. Someone that everyone goes, “That’s a hero!” When we discussed Channing, I had never thought he would say yes. I really didn’t. We went to Chicago. He was shooting “Jupiter Ascending.” We pitched to him in his hotel room. He hadn’t slept. He had done a little cameo in “The LEGO Movie” as Superman, but this was going to be his first animated film lead role. He really got behind the idea and then at the end, he took me aside and he said, “Jorge, you know I’m not Mexican, right?” (Laughs) I was like, “Yeah, but you’re going to be Captain Latin America! You’re going to have the swagger of Argentina, the smoothness of Brazil, the machismo of Mexico! You’re going to be every country in one!” He said now that he’s a dad, he wanted to make movies that his daughter can see and so this was the perfect movie. He loved the idea that he could make fun of that persona that people see. That’s how it all kind of grew.

QUESTION: With so many working parts to keep moving forward, how important is it to maintain a sense of focus?

GUTIERREZ: As you can see by my weight, I have no control over what I do. I fall in love with everything! (Laugh) With the help of Brad and Guillermo, they keep me in line. It’s my first movie, so I want to put everything in there!

QUESTION: You aren’t kidding about wanting everything. While “The Book of Life” is not exactly a musical, music definitely expresses the hearts and souls of several characters. You chose to have new interpretations of classic rock songs interpolated throughout the film? You don’t always think, yeah, Radiohead/Día de los Muertos!

GUTIERREZ: Well, the original music will be from Gustavo Santaolalla and there will be little reinterpretations of various songs from different people. We got to do a more Latin American version of Ennio Morricone’s “Ecstasy of Gold,” which was amazing. The movie has a lot of spaghetti western references, too. At first, the people in the legal department said there’s no way any of the bands will give us the right to use any of their songs. But they started with the hardest one of them all, “Creep” by Radiohead. It’s a really complicated song because they don’t always play it. It kind of represents the “one hit wonder” era for them, so they don’t really like it. We sent them a description of how it was going to be used in the movie and what it meant and how it expressed the frustration of a teenager who couldn’t fit in with this world, couldn’t fit in with his family. The band said, “Yes! This is why that song was written and this is kind of what it means.” From that point on, any band that would give us any trouble, we would say “Oh, so you think you’re better than Radiohead?” (Laughs)

DEL TORO: Gustavo Santaolalla is known to mix the sound of Latin America with Northern influences, including electronic, punk and rock. That became the sound of The Book of Life. It’s the idea that these songs from all over the world, and from different eras would go through the film’s “sound machine” to sound authentically Mexican, but at the same time have a global reach.

QUESTION: Was there any song that required a little more effort to secure?

GUTIERREZ: The Mumford & Sons song, “I Will Wait.” That song is about faith and so when I first asked the band if we could use it to express Manolo’s waiting for Maria, the band said no. They felt it wasn’t a love song, that is was about faith. They said they would offer another song that hadn’t been released. We listened to the other song and it was beautiful, but it didn’t work as well as how “I Will Wait” would, so we went back. We hired a mariachi band to stand behind me and we shot an iPhone video of me begging the band, saying, “I understand this song is about faith, but you guys are artists should know that once you release a song, the audience will make the song into whatever they want. So when I heard your song, I heard it as a love song and in our movie, our characters will use it as a love song and love is about faith. And, if you guys love the children of Mexico, you will let us use your song.” Then the mariachi band started playing their song. This was on a Thursday when we sent it, and on Saturday the band said we could use the song.

QUESTION: Risks have always existed in breaking new ground, which seems even more challenging in today’s economic landscape. Still, now that “The Book of Life” is nearing release, how do you want this journey to be remembered?

GUTIERREZ: I’ve come to terms with that. I can only worry about what I present and then what the audience does with it. I would love to be able to tell them, but I feel like good artwork should speak for itself. But before we got here, I did say that if even if I never get to make this movie, there’s something really good here. I don’t mean “good” creatively. I just mean “good” for humanity. There’s some goodness in this idea that I got to pass on to non-Latino people and non-Hispanics. They need to know what’s happening out there. We live in such troubled times, but this is a huge reminder, “Hey you guys, there’s beautiful stuff out there, too.”

 “The Book of Life” opens everywhere on October 17.

Written for 20th Century Fox. Posted from Wayne Avenue Manor in South Pasadena, CA 

Lo mejor de lo peor de Las Hermanas Coraje — #freakshow

Lo mejor de lo peor de Las Hermanas Coraje — #freakshow

Todo tiene su final.

Cuentos, obras, películas…familias.

Después de días de vida y muerte, de perdida and desenlace, nuestro tiempo con Las Hermanas Coraje ha llegado a su último capítulo…por fin.

I guess it is human nature to prefer extreme situations to rational ones. We joke it ain’t drama unless it’s Mexican drama, but in this case I can’t see it as anything else anymore. It is time to put the novela that is my life on hiatus for a moment to focus on more inspiring — and less revealing — topics. But, don’t begrudge me this chance to not go so quiet into the night just yet. You won’t believe the freak show that has become “Los Hermanas Coraje.” This is just a preview of what’s under the big tent they’ve staged — a circus from which they will never escape:

  • Behold The Sisters of the Coldest Heart, defying the warmth of family and preferring the frost of rancor, manipulation and bitterness.
  • Witness The Puppet Man’s strings pulled by the Sisters, who script his every word and plot his every move as they peel away the last shreds of his masculinity.
  • Thrill to the amazing control of The Invisible Matriarch, whose presence is always felt, even though she doesn’t bother to appear at all.

United they stand, but divided we’ve become for the moment. Some of us want their heads on a stick as payback for the show of disrespect they’ve forced us to view. But I don’t want to be in their center ring anymore.

I contributed to the Great Divide, which I don’t regret. Sure, I am angry that they took to not only insulting members of my family as being the reason for this split, but not enough to stir more blood in the water. What I cannot abide with is the disrespect shown to the memory of someone who did nothing but open her home and heart — only to see it belittled as an act of convenience and greed.

Now we are grappling over who gets to have the last word, that last grand gesture that becomes family legend; the one that begins, “We showed them…” But showed them what? The truth?We already know they prefer fantasy to reality, so what’s the point of stripping the bark off their grossly idealized family tree? A better expressed kiss off statement? Who gives a shit if we have a stronger, nuanced vocabulary, we still only mean to say “fuck you!”

I wish it would stop. All their “mean girls” maneuvering is bad enough and we are all just grinding the gears further down. As for parents wanting to protect their kids’ honor? There is nothing honorable about making phone calls or showing up at someone’s door to start a fight. (Although, the idea of warring matriarchs, “Falcon Crest” style would make for one AWESOME YouTube video. Now that’s reality TV!)

My younger sister practically has “I don’t care” on a dialogue loop right now. But she’s right. Why do we care so damn much? Why do we even need to discuss sides —  much less los Coraje — anymore? It’s O-V-E-R!

We had one last last Hail Mary pass at reconciliation, but it didn’t matter. I did find their polite, almost normal, demeanor during our last encounter as being somewhat curious. Especially considering the amount of vitriol they’ve spent on discrediting me and, particularly, my older sister. A glimmer of hope was shown for a moment, but it was a mirage. Any statement of renewal would have fallen on deaf ears. The reality is the final episode of “Las Hermanas Coraje” was a callous, juvenile and destructive one. If this is what they regard as “being there” in support of a grieving uncle, I hate to see what contempt looks like.

Oh wait, we already have.

It is all pointedly clear: they’ve moved on without us. In the end, the last thing to be said between us should be: total silence. And, I know that’s incredibly hard for a family that personifies “the beautiful noise” of life. But I truly believe silence in this case would be the most powerful sound in the world. We are going to walk away our own versions of the truth anyway, forever played to our respective audiences for as long as we live.

So, I’m dropping the curtain on this show, at least for now. Truth be told, characters like these can never be kept down for long. They are destined to live forever, for the good will always need a unifying cause like vanquishing the bad. I just hope cooler heads will prevail because such poison has a tendency to spread. I almost think the insidious agenda of “Las Hermanas Coraje” includes infighting as a way of further undermining that which they tried to destroy.

I think…no…I am certain we are stronger than that.

No crying out loud when this circus leaves our town. No sawdust or glitter will be left here. All that will be left will be a family living a healthier and happier life.

Jamas nos dañaran las hermanas Coraje con sus mentiras y arrogancia. ¡Que se vayan, gente infiel y grosera! ¡Regresasen a su cuna de víboras!

Al final, sobrevivimos estos capítulos de la novela de nuestras vidas. No temo los avances porque estamos juntos, unidos por siempre, querida familia. 

Nunca los dejaré.

#Iwillneverleaveyou

Wednesday, October 14. Written and posted from Wayne Avenue Manor, South Pasadena, CA