Chapin City Blues

Writing is writing whether done for duty, profit, or fun.

I must confess something. This might come to some of you as surprise, but I’ve never read a single Harry Potter book before. Ever. I’ve also never seen a single one of the films in completion—Jessica, when we were together, convinced me twice to see the first movie after it came out on DVD and …

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I Just Want to Know You

February 14, 2014

There’s always a jolt of panic before a reading. I’ve done this hundreds of times in different venues, in front of different faces. It never fails that moments before I even set foot inside the venue, I become a lyric from an Eminem song. A blast of anxiety rushes through my head the moment my name is read off the list, and I’m introduced. I approach the podium/mic stand with caution, folder in hand with a collection of writings and musings, blog print outs and random things scrawled out on anything from emergency room brochures to napkins—my greatest hits, as I sometimes jokingly call them. My body moves along with my words, something that could be mistaken for nerves and jitters. But without the dance, the story would fall flat and it’s message lost in anxiety of my voice.

Carol & her uke

Carol & her uke

Tonight wasn’t any different, outside the ceremonial upchucking. The only difference that, for the first time in all my history in poetry readings, I brought someone into the group. And in a sea of strangers—with the exception of Richard Sanchez and Julieta Corpus—I had someone in the crowd that was a familiar face.

Nearly a decade ago, I was a staple in the poets/writers community. I traveled from venue to venue reading my words. And it got easier with time. I carried the nerves with me, but I managed them better. However, something in my life happened and I just dropped out. I declined requests and invitations and friends became strangers. When I started working at [redacted], I attended one poetry reading and had a falling out with the Alpha male poet—a pompous poser who calls himself a mariachi (and that’s all I’ll talk about on the subject)—and I vanished from the scene until Amado returned to host his Nueva Onda readings. And we had a good run until he vanished on us. I can’t say I blame him, though. Sometimes life gets in the way.

Tonight, at the Love & Chocolate reading, I thought about my good friend Amado as I watched Julieta Corpus introduce a somewhat nervous Carol Noe because that was me what feels like a life time ago. I still remember the night that I entered the dimly light Nueva Onda Poets Cafe off McColl and sat down watching the musicians play while the owner, a friend of my then-creative writing professor, Rene Saldana Jr., crouched down beside me and asked if I wanted to read. And after much reluctance, I agreed to place my name on the list. He assured me that it was only if I wanted to. No pressure. And, of course, the man lied through his teeth because it wasn’t but ten minutes later that I sat on the stage peering down at the audience and reading in front of a crowd for the first time.

When the assistant director asked me if I knew the young lady who played guitar last time, I shook my head. While I knew who he was talking about, I hadn’t a clue what her name was or how to contact her and Googling “Female guitarist who wears a hat” was getting me nowhere. And while I conceded to defeat that I’d never find her, I remembered that I met a guitarist a month prior. So I shot Carol a quick text asking if she would be interested in performing and she liked the idea enough to agree.

As she began the opening cords of Taylor Swift’s “Everything Has Changed,” I couldn’t hide my smile. Her voice coming out of the PA filling the meeting room and spilling out through the open door into the rest of the building, she attracted a crowd at the onlookers standing outside the twin doors. “She’s really cute,” my director said. “She’s good.”

Carol, who moments ago said she’d keel over dead and play as a zombie, was killing it at her first appearance at one of the events. And while I’ve never seen her play before, I knew to expect nothing less than a stellar performance. And as Julieta Corpus introduced me for the first time in a long time, I took a breath and spilled the lines. I might have missed up on the poem, but I won the audience with my best-of-piece, “Note to my Twelve-Year-Old Self.”

And after the nerves have resided the only thing I can think of is, when do we get to do this again?

I Think I Love You Better Now

February 13, 2014

I’ve the itch again. The writing bug has crawled up my spine and latched on my brain, spewing ideas and thoughts at a hundred miles an hour.

I met Carol for the first time in person. She’s an amazing person and it doesn’t take a genius to see that I like her a lot. She’s going to kill it tomorrow night (as it is still yesterday today). Her being in my life has inspired so much already—from a new poem to wanting to collaborate with someone who can play the guitar (and the piano!!!).

I also met Isabel (one of my constant readers—there are two now that I know Selina is reading these) for the first time last Saturday. She’s sweet and awesome and deserves much more than who she’s stuck with. She brought along her 18-year-old neighbor (and, no, this isn’t heading into Dear Penthouse Forum territory) who just happens to also be my nephew’s childhood friend, though neither of them remembers the other because they were three and four.

What strikes me as odd was that while I’ve known both Carol and Isabel for only a couple of months, I still managed to hug the both of them. If you haven’t kept up, I’ve a slight case of a lot of things. Haphephobia happens to be one of them. It’s remarkable how far I’ve managed to come in the last two years. It’s stranger that I’m still the same person who freaked out when Angela tapped my shoulder at work to a person who, while nervously, can hug two people who haven’t been in my life for a good chunk of my life.

There are a few blog post ideas that are in the works, including the aforementioned poem, “Modern Courtship (The Dick Pic),” a post about reading Harry Potter at 30, and Shaun has some more things to say. So if you’re a reader of this blog and enjoy it, please do share it with your friends. I’m also working a darker project that I hope garners some attention. Until then, happy huntin’.

Man, it’s been a while since I’ve said that.

When All Arrows Point North, Head South

January 29, 2014

Last night proved something that has always been a fear in the back of my mind: My depression is a living, breathing metaphysical creature capable of growing and nurturing itself. For years, I have master a few tricks to keep the monster at bay without ever seeking permanent treatment. In college, I sat in counseling sessions handling issues the depression brought on, the fears that built up in the pit in my stomach, my anger, etc. It was then that my counselor, Veronica, labeled my at-the-time, long-term girlfriend, Jeanna, my balance. “She centers you. Throughout these sessions, you always mention her. She pulls you out and grounds you in this reality.”

Years later, Jeanna and I celebrated the best day in our lives when our son Shaun Damien was born. Sadly, however, our relationship wouldn’t survive the long battle of ups and downs. Finally succumbing to the inevitable, it ended. We remain good friends because for nine years, we only knew ourselves. And for the sake of our son’s sanity and well-being, we remain partners in raising him. But it’s not an easy thing to let go someone you loved for so long.

Jeanna & I

Our last beach trip as a couple, circa Summer 2011

Suddenly that balance is missing. And with the walls crumbling all around me, the depression reared its disfigured head. It clutched my thoughts with gnarled fingers, bringing to life the Voice that echoes throughout the chambers of my heart. All my tricks and meditations no longer quelled the creature. They wouldn’t silence the Voice and the venom that it spilled within my daily thoughts.

Suffering the most was this blog. Following the constant theme of sadness, this blog underwent a great shift. Several times, I promised to revamp, refocus, and move forward with my writing and my reading and my musings to little avail.

Meanwhile, Jeanna went through similar bout. Taking another road that I did, she immersed herself in social activities rather than hiding away. I won’t go into her baggage because it’s not mine to share. However, I will share one tidbit. Not too long ago, we were lying in bed. We both needed the comfort of another, so we found refuge in each other arms. I told her how Veronica once called her my balance and she opined how it’s weird having depended on someone and suddenly that’s no longer an option. “I can still be your balance,” she offered. “Even as a friend. Couldn’t I?”

I don’t remember what words came out of my mouth, but the answer is no. No, she couldn’t because she cannot be both the source and the remedy. Not the source itself, but the vulnerability that let the Voice in. The fuel it uses to burn all that is inside me.

Last night the Voice decided it was time to beat me. And for the first time in years, I allowed it. I laid down my arms. If every night was going to be a struggle to keep it at bay for the rest of my life, why not let it take me to its depths to see what it has to kill me? When it was over, I picked myself up and moved on.

Today (being Tuesday, though it’s no Wednesday), the world was in a fog. When Carol (who also texted me Monday night apologizing for vanishing Sunday and most of Monday) sent me a text. In the last month, I’ve grown fond of her. There are moments when I just think about her and the pain resides. There are moments when she’ll crawl into my thoughts for no discernible reason. I recounted a story of how I “slayed the giant,” a spin a story I’ve told many times about a very real event in my life about the first love letter I ever received. And it kept the Voice at bay. Still, I could feel its claws digging into my heart.

Then the oddest thing happened. We stopped to put gas after work, and Shaun and I walked into the Stripes where I picked up two sodas – one for Mom and one for me – and  a bag of Cheetos Puffs and a Monkey Juice for Shaun. Shaun is adored by all. The old lady in front of us paid him a compliment, which I’m getting better at dealing with. The lady behind me then struck up a small conversation with me before it was my turn to check out. I handed the guy behind the register the two sodas and took the bag of puffs and Monkey Juice from Shaun so they could get rung up. Needless to say, Shaun did not enjoy this. His face scrunched and he started to cry. I tried to sooth him as I tried my debit card on the machine and it came out error. I tried again, and this time the price for my purchase wasn’t available. Frustrated with the man behind the register and the card reader, I tried to keep my voice calm as I tried to sooth Shaun’s tears. Finally, I hear, “Five-eleven? That should take care of it.”

The voice belonged to the woman who I’d just spoken to earlier. “That’s my good deed of the day,” she quipped.

“Are you sure?” I asked, because the social protocol of this has never been risen before. Not with me.

She nodded. I thanked her.

“For him,” she said as I held the door for her as we both left the store.

It gave me something I needed. I could feel the power I’d given the creature and its voice rescinded. And it’s given me motivation to act on something that I’ve only thought about doing.

My name is Guillermo. And I am a survivor. I am not my depression. I am my balance.