“My brother…” — #JeSuisCharlie

“My brother…” — #JeSuisCharlie

My first post for 2015 is one written in solidarity with those who extol the courage and virtue of maintaining our freedom of speech.

Today, we are inundated with so many outlets with which to express ourselves. As a result, we are more vulnerable to attacks against one’s character or opinion. Worse, the price we are again paying with is our mortality.

To express a thought that can illuminate our global condition as a journalist is not a privilege. It is a necessity, but one that carries great responsibility. Journalists are meant to inform the greater public, not just entertain. This is how we keep ourselves and our leaders accountable for all acts for and against us.

Perhaps we have been keeping to close an eye on what people are wearing or celebrity-driven gossip for too long? How else could we miss the signs that the disenfranchised or the marginalized are plotting to silence the media with calculated acts of violence so extreme, they shake the world to its core?

Something has to shift. We have always known words and images are power. We cannot let our ability to question be silenced. Nor we should we temper our thoughts out of fear of reprisals from those who hide behind a cowardly shield of piety to justify their murderous agendas. We need to reaffirm that it is man, not GOD, who is the purveyor of violence and rage.

The tenuous connections that bind us all have always been ideal at best. It is like a large family, where varying temperaments and ideologies make for often volatile gatherings at the table. You will never be able to make certain people in the group love you. In the greater context of the world we live in, you will never make certain people in the world agree or care about you either.

But killing that person is not an option. Not over a comment, a novel, a film or a cartoon image.

French filmmaker Luc Besson offered a heartfelt plea, not only for the Muslim community, but for all of us who feel like vulnerable outsiders. It is this impassioned letter, first published in Le Monde, that prompted me to offer my own thoughts on the wide-reaching consequences from the tragic events at Charlie Hebdo. Because, now, we are truly Charlie, too. And we must take our power back from those who dare to use fear and destruction against us.

“My brother, if you knew how badly I hurt for you today, you and your beautiful religion that has been so sullied, humilated, and singled out. Forgotten are your strength, your energy, your humor, your heart, your fraternity. It’s unfair and together we will repair this injustice. We are millions who love you and who are going to help you. Let’s start at the beginning. What is the society we’re offering you today?

It’s based on money, profit, segregation and racism. In some suburbs, unemployment for people under 25 is 50%. You are marginalized because of your color or your first name. You’re questioned 10 times a day, you’re crowded into apartment blocks and no one represents you. Who could live and thrive under such conditions?

Profit comes before all else. We cut and sell the apple tree’s branches and then are shocked there’s no fruit. The real problem is there, and that’s for all of us to resolve.

I call on the powerful, the big bosses and all leaders. Help this youth that has been humiliated and which asks only to be part of society. The economy is in the service of man and not the reverse. To do good is the greatest of profits. Dear powerful, do you have children? Do you love them? What do you want to leave them? Money? Why not a world that’s more fair? That would make your children the most proud of you.

We cannot build our happiness on the misfortune of others. It is neither Christian, nor Jewish, nor Muslim. It is just selfish and it leads our society and our planet straight into a wall. This is the work we have to do beginning today to honor our dead.

Terrorism will never win.

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And you, my brother, you also have a job to do. How can you change this society that’s being offered to you? By working, by studying, by taking up a pencil rather than a kalishnikov. That’s what’s good about democracy, it offers you the noble tools to defend yourself. Take your destiny in hand, take the power. It costs 250 euros to buy a kalishnikov but not even three euros to buy a pen — and your response can have a thousand times more impact. Take the power, and play by the rules.

Take power democratically, helped by all your brothers. Terrorism will never win. History is there to prove it. And the beautiful image of the martyr walking in both directions. Today there are a thousand (assasinated Charlie Hebdo journalists) Cabus and Wolinskis who have just been born.

Take the power and don’t let anyone take power over you. If those who are presumed guilty of this tragedy really are, know that these two blood-spilling brothers are not yours, and we all know it.

It would at most be two weak-minded individuals, abandoned by society and then abused by a preacher who sold them eternity… Radical preachers who play on and make your misfortune their business have no good intentions. They use your religion only to their advantage. It is their business, their small business. Tomorrow, my brother, we will be stronger, more connected, closer. I promise you. But today, my brother, I cry with you.” — Written by Luc Besson.

#JeSuisCharlie

#NoFear

#ICanIDid

 

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

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

“Muchas veces las crisis se ven como algo muy negativo, y con mucho miedo. Y al final, la palabra crisis es sinónimo de cambio, de transformación, de limpieza, de quitar telarañas, de quitar vicios adquiridos, y reformular, reconstruir.¨ — Pucho, Vetusta Morla

Desde la noche de la ultima parranda en Salamanca, tengo días de estar tragando cada pedazo de comida como si fuera limosna. De Salamanca a Barcelona y el regreso, desde Madrid hasta Nueva York y Los Angeles comía mis sentimientos para aliviar el remordimiento de salirme de España. Pero todo tiene su final, como el tema de este serie de blogs. Por fin ha llegado el momento de escribir el ultimo capitulo de mi aventura en Salamanca – y lo tenia que escribirlo en español.
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Puede ser el “jet lag” esta jugando un poco con mis sentimientos. Dure como 15 minutos en mi escala en JFK cuando la ansiedad me pego bien fuerte. Estuve de nuevo en el pecho mi país maternal y me sentí como el hijo recién llegado de un conflicto. Pero la experiencia de Salamanca y el resto de España no era conflicto. Era un reencuentro con cosas que valoro con tanto de mi ser. Pienso en detalles de la vida real, cosas tan substantivas son como el pan fresco que Manoli nos daba con cada comida.

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Se que tengo que vivir estos próximo días en una manera muy tranquila y no romantizar lo que me ocurrió en España. Pero como puedo regresar a mi vida normal cuando pienso en:

  • Los comentarios de Manoli cuando comimos todos juntos, incluso los de Brianna y Krystal porque fuimos una familia
  • Los dichos de Manoli como: “Lo que escupes al aire te va caer y lo tragaras”
  • Los opiniones de estrellas del cine americana: “Julia Roberts tiene una boca como la Plaza de Toros
  • Sus sopas de alubias, lentejas y su preocupación con la frescura de la fruta que compraba de la vecina.
  • ¡La tortilla española!
  • La voces claras y dulces de sus nietos
  • Escuchando las risas autenticas de Krystal y Brianna cada día sobre nuestras experiencias y vidas
  • La mujer en El Corte Inglés quien sacó su móvil de su sujetador cuando pagaba el saldo.
  • El taxista de Barcelona que soñaba en visitar Los Angeles.
  • Cenando en Chueca y charlando con Montse, una noche tan divertida que perdí el tren.
  • Las mañanas caminando por la Plaza Mayor en Salamanca.
  • Mis cafecitos en la cafetería de la Pontificia.
  • Las manías de mis profesores con “Los chinos” en la Pontificia. (Y no en una manera negativa.)
  • Las diferencias entre el castellano y el español de Latino América. Como dijo Palmira, el futuro de español no esta en España. El desarrollo del idioma será controlado por el oeste, los Latinoamericanos.
  • Los sentidos de humor y respeto que encontré con Palmira, quien realizo un ambiente segura y autentica durante nuestras charlas reveladoras en la clase de conversación.
  • El amor intenso de Dr. María José Boyero cuando hablaba de gramática y literatura que me dio animo para vivir de nuevo.
  • Samuel, la sorpresa y, al final, el regalo de España.

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No es cuestión de visitar un país para conocer su gente. Tienes que vivirlo con ellos. Tienes que vivir sus tradiciones, compartir su comida como su cultura. Así puedes sentir el apego que existe cuando entiendes que eres parte de cosas tan cuotidianas, se sienten como si siempre eran parte de tu vida desde el principio.

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Creo que las consecuencias de este viaje a España tendrán efectos no voy a reconocer inmediatamente. Pueden llegar hasta el fin de esta semana. Puede ser al final del año o nunca. Tengo tantas emociones que quiero expresar en este momento. Siente como una corriente eléctrica sin rumbo. No puedo salir de este país tan bello sin decir algo. Este mes era dedicada al estudio de gramática y literatura. Sería una tontería en no ofrecer un “blog” escrito en español. Yo sé que voy a cometer muchos errores. Solo te pido disculpa. (¡Te juro que mis calificaciones de ser “sobresaliente” no fue broma!) Como mis razones en tener esta aventura tan inolvidable y transformativa, pienso la sinceridad de esta nota será bastante. Como las lunas escritas por el autor mexicano Juan Rulfo, tú eres mi lector y testigo a una vida singular.

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Soy americano, de primera generación. No nací como hispanohablante, me convertí durante mi colegiatura. Sentía una pena tan enorme, a veces soñaba de una vida diferente donde el mundo me llamaba ¨George” y no ¨Jorge.¨ Que falta de respeto porque llevo el nombre de mi padre. Pero el disgusto que sentía por dentro era como un purgatorio. Mi identidad era falsa, manipulada por la cultura dominante de los Estados Unidos. Este rechazo de mis raíces mexicanas no era algo tan raro. La fuerza de la cultura americana contiene elementos que no son basadas en la naturaleza. Sino son algo de ciencia ficción, realizadas en un laboratorio oscuro e insidiosa. Pienso en el doctor Frankenstein, revolcado por una locura en dominar todo el mundo sin pensar en las consecuencias.

Muchos compran lo que está vendiendo los Frankensteins de los medios, la publicidad, el gobierno, todos. No juzgo los que no pueden rechazar la mentira de valorar el sueño americano. No juzgo los que confunden ignorancia con nacionalismo. Solo juzgo los que piensan que no importa mantener dos identidades. Lo que se gana en ser bilingüe, esta mezcla cultural sobresale saber otra idioma. Es mantener lo bueno de ser humano. Es la ingrediente especial que realiza una receta tan poderosa y incomparable a lo resto.

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“Well, we wish we were happier, thinner and fitter,

We wish we weren’t losers and liars and quitters

We want something more not just nasty and bitter

We want something real not just hash tags and Twitter

It’s the meaning of life and it’s streamed live on YouTube

But I bet Gangnam Style will still get more views

We’re scared of drowning, flying and shooters

But we’re all slowly dying in front of fucking computers…”

From “Scare Away the Dark” by Passgener (Michael David Rosenberg)

Como me han sorprendido mis amigos – mis lectores — por su apoyo y sus reacciones a las Confesiones de este mes. Mis observaciones han llevado a algunos comentarios interesantes, añadiendo más leña al fuego de mi deseo de liberarme de las redes sociales. La ironía es que ninguno de estos Confesiones habría alcanzado a nadie si no fuera por Facebook. Un dilema, ¿no?

Al final, no importa cómo se registraron mis pequeños terremotos del alma. Lo que sí sé con certeza es que expresé lo que tenía que expresar sobre este viaje. Para aquellos que leyeron todo y también ofrecieron un comentado con interés, te doy las gracias por la creación de un diálogo. Eso es lo que significa ser una comunidad, compartiendo ideas y teniendo en cuenta el discurso para darles forma a algo profundo y útil.

Esta conexión era real. No creo si no evolucionamos, nos convertiremos extinta porque no somos relevantes si no tenemos “followers” o un mogollón de “likes.” No necesito la validación que proviene de un botón, porque quiero que me lo dices en persona. Ya que son palabras de apoyo o un “cállate la boca”, se trasladaron a sentir algo tan fuerte seria una pena no hablar.

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Esto puede ser una generación que piensa el iCloud esta llena de lo importante, pero tengo noticias para ellos. Imagínense un momento cuando todas las luces se apagan y no se puede subir cada imagen de tu narcisismo. ¿Dejaras de existir? Sócrates tenía muchos seguidores, sin necesidad de Twitter y dio forma al mundo en los siglos venideros. Así lo hizo Jesucristo. Ellos no tienen que cargar sus teorías o ideologías. Ellos sabían cómo hablar con la gente, cara a cara, y la gente escuchaba.

Eso es todo lo que necesitamos hacer. No temer a nuestra propia voz o la reacción. Lo importante es hablar y cuestionar y compartir. Para poner una cara a todo. Es curioso, yo no pensé que tenía que ir al otro lado del Atlántico para conectarme con personas totalmente desconocidas y sentirse parte de la raza humana de nuevo. Pero lo que es una maravilla para sentarme y hablar con la gente que vive con ganas de ser escuchados. Qué sensación es el privilegio de sentarse en un aula y tener conversaciones reales, compartir ideas y experiencias. Y en un idioma diferente, joder!

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Temo que mantener este impulso será duro de nuevo en Los Ángeles, al igual que los muchos planes de dieta que he luchado para mantener durante años. ¿Es justo decir que tengo un cerebro sin grasa? ¿Que si soy capaz de derramé de todo el exceso de peso provocada por años de ser parte de la cultura de consumo de la Nación de comida chatarra y información de relámpago y conjetura?

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Lo que he perdido no tengo ninguna razón para encontrar o querer otra vez. Lo que he ganado es todo lo que necesito en saber como afrontar el futuro. Tengo mi maleta y mi pasaporte listo para ir, por si acaso. Gracias España. No puedo esperar para ver a dónde voy a ir después. Tengo México en mi sangre porque mi familia Mexicana es algo que me da fuerza y valor en este mundo. Pero España siempre estará en mi corazón porque ahora representa esperanza, amor…y vida.

Hasta luego.

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

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

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

“¿A quién le importa lo que yo haga?

¿A quién le importa lo que yo diga?

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

“Red cups and sweaty bodies everywhere

Hands in the air like we don’t care

‘Cause we came to have so much fun now

Bet somebody here might get some now

If you’re not ready to go home

Can I get a “Hell, no! “? (Hell no)

‘Cause we’re gonna go all night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s good to be the Queen.

Aprendiendo a “zorrear” y dar “la putivuelta”

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

Isn’t culture a wonderful thing?

I’m a Bearbie Boy

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

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

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

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

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

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

I had fallen in love with the thought of living.

Lady Cab Driver and return home

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

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

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

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

This feels so much like happiness to me.

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

Day 7 – “Después de las tinieblas espero la luz…” — #independenceday

Day 7 – “Después de las tinieblas espero la luz…” — #independenceday

It is only fitting that today is the 4th of July. Freedom is ringing as students from all over the world indulge themselves in the permissiveness of being abroad. True, as some of my classmates confessed to me earlier today, why party like a fool here when you can do that at home? Haha. It seems the novelty of getting shitfaced every night this week is starting to look quite dull against the exquisite history that is Salamanca. And more than a few are starting to seek a less alcoholic means of stimulation now that they realize, hell, we only have three more weeks!

PONTIFICIAPONTIFICIA entrance

But, the beauty of being away from home is also possessing the freedom to reject the norms we must contend with at home. Here, through the prism of another country and in the context of a university experience, we can see ourselves in an unfiltered light. Freedom. Beauty. Peace. I’m experiencing the poetry that comes with shedding all the “What If’s?” and the “What Will People Say’s?” that clutter our field of vision and inner peace. This is an ideal worth fighting for in an age where people confuse living an authentic life with just scheduling fewer things in a day.

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La siesta es sagrado,” said the girls at the Camper store just off the Plaza Mayor. I opted to deny myself the afternoon nap and chose to walk over six miles this afternoon, right after el almuerzo de mediodía. (Alright, I also took the liberty to purchase a pair of shoes. Resistance is futile when signs are blaring “Rebajas” are everywhere. Y como dice mi profesora de conversación, “¡Mejor que su dinero se queda en Salamanca y no en Madrid!”I’m just doing the city a favor, dammit!)

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After days of being the home school kid, not going out to sample the Salamanca nightlife this first week of class, I was ready for my own adventure. It was time to take a personal look at the city. So, the pictures placed throughout this post are from that trek by special request. I had a lot to ponder, given profesora Maria José Boyer’s lecture today. She’s become a true inspiration to me. The journey is the thing and every lecture is a road so extraordinary.

calle de milagros

What I found refreshing was Maria José’s admittance that she sometimes goes home knowing she probably missed a few things that should be taught and lectured. But she also said that every class is different, opting never to follow a script for every group of students in her midst. What Maria José offered today, and every class session, was special to us based on the dynamic we represent. Her enthusiasm never wanes, which is what makes her class such a revelation. I am crushing hard on her. Can you tell? Each door she opens reveals something I can´t wait to get home and write about. I worry that if I wait too long, it´ll just melt away in the fog like some literary ¨Brigadoon.¨ And today was no different. I met El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha for the first time.

¨El que lee mucho y anda mucho, ve mucho y sabe mucho.¨ — Cervantes

As I embarked on my own trek around Salamanca this afternoon, I realized in many ways my attitude towards our contemporary culture is on par with the man who battled windmills and other impossible dreams. I didn’t expect to find such a connection with the reasons as to why Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra invented Don Quijote. But I, too, believe we should owe so much to fiction than reality.

Why are we allowing ourselves to be told to “Thrive” by people whose own political leanings change with the wind or are influenced by the guest list of their charity parties. We should refuse to “lean in” when pushing through indifference, complacency and fear mongering is so much more effective. And don’t get me started on #banbossy. What? We all have to be underlings to have an even playing field? I’m tired of all this magazinespeak, a ridiculous compendium of buzz words that feel like light bulbs all missing a strand of filament.

selFIE TEE

We’ve made quite an industry out exploiting our insecurities. Diets. Miracle cures. Cleanses. Runyon Canyon hikes. The Santa Monica Steps. Spinning. Gwyneth’s Goop, the cult of Oprah and other celebrities with hired help telling us how WE can live better. No. Cervantes got there first and with a cost effective manifesto that makes such perfect sense. Quijote may be a testament to blind folly, but without dreams, how can we live?

Fiction can stand with reality. We need both. If you don’t like the life you’re leading, go invent the one you want to live! It’s so fucking liberating to understand that living for living’s sake is stupidity. And so many of us tow this heavy line because we just don’t have the strength or conviction to change. I was turning into Eeyore because it’s easy. Easy is not living. No, we should create a life that is the ultimate work of art, something timeless and beautiful and completely of our own design.

You want to talk about liberty tonight? Let’s free ourselves from the tyranny of a false world order created by those determined to make us feel shitty about ourselves so they can make a buck off our beautiful weaknesses. You want an Independence Day? Create an independent and empowered life of informed thoughts. Shun the shrieking punditry that is allowing conjecture to pass as fact.

And above all, while you all let freedom ring, allow for love to toll, too. That’s an ideal worth fighting for no matter who you are in this world, wherever you are in this life tonight.

“El amor nunca hizo ningún cobarde.” — Cervantes

plaza facade

Friday, July 4 @ Manoli’s house in Salamanca, Spain.