Film 365 · Music

As I Walk Through the Valley

In high school, I lived vicariously through my friends. Anxiety was never a stranger. And I noticed early on that loud noise (no matter how enjoyable) and flashing lights triggered an uncomfortable experience for me. Instead of going to places like Trenton Point for their shows, I’d listen to the stories instead. I learned about bands like Vally Lemons and Inkbag (I later met band member Angela Ink years later when working on an article on the South Texas Rolleristas, a local roller derby team).

I experienced the action via recorded video tapes and mixed cassette tapes. Never first hand. In fact, my first concert was in college and it wasn’t for entertainment purposes but networking.*

In college, I met Ronnie Garza. We had a few classes together, but mostly we went to the same poetry events. Ronnie’s poetry was another level compared to what I wrote—shit, what I still write. We stayed in a somewhat sporadic contact (thank you, Facebook!) after college. I stopped attending poetry events. I became a father. I went through a terrible break up with Jeanna. There is a laundry list that I can give here, but the result is the same: I forced myself into exile. I needed a break from living my life on the stage (though, anyone who follows my social media knows that isn’t true – I mean, *motions to everything on the blog*).

Early last year, or late 2015, I ran into Amado Balderas at Barnes and Noble. After ducking out to use the restroom, I ran into Ronnie and we started talking about the project he was working with Charlie Vela. They wanted to make an in-depth documentary of the Valley music scene. He told us both (Amado later ventured to look for me) how they’re interviewing everyone who’s ever had a foot in the growth of this scene.

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The film premiered at South by South West 2017. And, last night, it had its home premiere at the Edinburg City Auditorium. Looking at all those in attendance, it felt like a micro high school reunion. Former classmates to teachers stretched as far as the eye could see. Even in the documentary, I caught glimpses of people I knew attending the concerts. And I cringed at their attire. While mine hasn’t changed much, I still shudder to think of all the clothes I wore in high school.

Hearing the stories again (some for the first time), I remembered that feeling of my youth. Sitting in awe and experiencing these stories as if I were there. I felt the chill of recognition and nostalgia run up my spine. This film is essential for anyone who grew up in the Valley, as well as, those who are still growing up here. I strongly urge those who happen upon this post to head over to Netflix and request this film.

The documentary was followed by live performances of several South Texas bands. Only a few were familiar. Performing last night: Ralph & the Cruisers, Rio Jordan, DeZorah, Confused, and Panteon. (I’m gonna be completely honest, I was only interested in the last two bands.)

It took me a few years, but I finally attended one those concerts I heard so much about in high school.

Thank you, Ronnie and Charlie for making this movie.

* I attended a Christian concert as president of Sigma Tau Delta while trying to woo over the Campus Crusade for Christ to partake in our organization’s book drive. I didn’t have much fun, but at least there wasn’t any loud noises or flashing lights.
Books · Writing & Writers

When did this start?

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It might have been a mistake when fellow writer Ronnie Garza let it slip that I was a “staple” in the local poetry community. Otherwise, I’m just being humble. I don’t believe anyone would agree with either or. I managed to go from hiding in the shadows to leaving them to returning to them in only a span of five years. It’s a feat that I don’t think anyone has managed before, at least not in my world. It started when René Saldaña, Jr. introduced me to Amado Balderas in April of 2005. Had it not been for that single moment, I don’t think I would have stumbled into the Nueva Onda Poet’s Cafe, or taken stage. Which would have led me to not have the balls to run for president of the local chapter of Sigma Tau Delta. I wouldn’t have taken over the poetry group, renamed The Nameless Poetry Group, during Amado’s absence. I wouldn’t have met great writers like Richard Sanchez or Dr. Anne Estevis. Nor would I have met Amalia Ortiz, Dagoberto Gilb and Richard Yañez – also great writers, but not local ones. El Senor and I wouldn’t have been friends and X-Cell One Would have just been a cell phone store to me, rather than the moniker of Donovan Maldonado. I wouldn’t have had the balls to approach the Pan American with the article for the cafe, which would have led me to never meeting David Robledo for a job with The Paper of South Texas, discarding my chances of ever meeting Reverend Adam Zuniga. I wouldn’t have made such great friends and acquaintances like the Abbies, Mike, everyone from EMO. Which means, I wouldn’t have heard of Mike’s bookstore and I wouldn’t have been one of his outstanding customers. And if it wasn’t for that fateful night in April, I wouldn’t have been even considered a staple of anything because I would be unknown and the name Guillermo Corona would just be on some roster. To say this started with Amado, however, is giving one man too much credit. Credit that is easily spread throughout every English teacher who believed in me. To my grandfather, whose tales inspired me to read and write. To my mother who fed and still continues to feed my addiction every birthday and Christmas by buying me books, notepads and whatnot. To the friends who held me up when life was getting me down. How do I get to every single person who has inspired me, supported me, pushed me toward some greater state of being, of thinking, of writing? And to ponder why I want to return to college is silly. I only would I like to work hard to get my work published some day, I’d like to be that first domino to fall setting off a great chain of events in other people’s lives. Is that so hard to understand?