Archive for Island musings

Craving the darkness: thoughts on straddling borderlands

Missing “home” is usually shorthand for a number of assumptions:

1. Home is singular, static, permanent

2. What is missed: usually people, food, a favorite shop, the smell in the air, the energy of the place

“Home” to me is a fluid concept.  The curse and the blessing of my early enculturation, my colonial roots, equally at home on either island, manhattan or boriken, not quite at home in one without the other.  Shifting between the epitome of urban, metropolitan, teeming, and the pristine pulchritude of beaches called virgin in the gringo’s travel brochure.  Just as I am equally at ease with either tongue, English or Spanish, but one never fully complete without the other.  Some things you just can’t say in English.  Some things take too long to express in Spanish.

When I have my cravings for what I usually call “home” that moving target that resists roots, fosters wings, and dreams return to, what I miss the most is unexpected.

I miss the dark.

I miss darkness so fiercely it makes my skin crawl if I think about it too much.

I miss unyielding, unrelenting, unapologetic dark draped nights.  I miss walking out my door at night and stepping into darkness so absolute I can barely find my hand in front of my face.  I miss looking up and falling into thousands (millions?) of stars.  I miss the brilliance of a half moon illuminating stark black.

Here the sky is never fully dark.  Urban living (and a delectable touch of smog) gives the sky a sometimes beautiful, sometimes eerie yellow cast.  I marvel when I catch sight of an errant star, straining against the residual urban blaze to shine down on me.

And yet I fall in love daily with the violent blue skies, so blue it hurts my eyes, so blue I hold up a flower as an offering to the sky to see the contrasting spaces of blue between brilliant petals.

I miss rain.

On gloomy days I ache for the release of a summer’s storm.  I miss the sound of rain pounding on rooftops, miss the puddles, miss the explosion of color and light following a righteous storm.  I miss the compelling wetness, dancing in between drops, moist rivulets running down my brown skin.  I miss the birds dipping into puddles, preening and guzzling.  I miss the anticipation of rain, the buildup leading to the gradual satisfaction of pouring rain.

And, when I allow myself to think about it, I miss my mar caribe.  I miss the way it caresses me and holds me, so different from the pacific’s cool hold on my soul.  And yet now I know that I will never be free of the pacific, never be far from it.  I know that it is in my blood now and that, just as the atlantic, brighton beach in a blizzard, icy waves pounding uncertain shore, el mar caribe soothing warm lapping at my bronze flesh, witness to years of dreams, joys, pain, now my heart has also tasted pacific salt: cold shock of the oregon coast and stubborn insistence to make myself welcome, southern california beauty, kissed by the waves sevenfold welcoming me and claiming me.  Home expands as a concept within me.
“The past and present wilt–I have fill’d them, emptied them.
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.” Walt Whitman (Song of Myself, #51)

and furthermore:

“Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)”  Walt Whitman (Song of Myself, #51)

My multitudes straddle fronteras, cross unexplored borderlands, nestle into unexpected pockets of ‘home.’

Mi patria es solo una, but home I build as I go.  An odd amalgam of caribbean breezes, socal cumbia, nyc beats, parisian decadence, chesapeake stillness, rushing boise river murmurs, california expanses of birds of paradise, and those pretty purple flowers whose name I don’t even want to know.  I’d rather name them myself as they tumble down to carpet the ground I walk on, sweeten the air as I pass.  Hope flowers.  Esperanzas.  Suenos.  Ilusiones.  Alma vida corazon.  I name them as I walk beauty on beauty.

With so much radiance and light around me, it’s the stillness and darkness that I crave.

Boricuas everywhere!

Everywhere I go here I end up running into mi gente.  Bars, boricuas.  Church, boricuas.  Schools, boricuas.  Camp, boricuas, mexiricans, cariben@s…  And now I’m devising a possible training/workshop/leadership development for queer boricua youth here in lb since there seem to be a few in the group a friend of mine volunteers with.  New project for after cabaret! Yay! 

Everywhere in the world I’ve gone, US and Europe (I won’t bother including Caribbean in there LOL) it’s like we have a magnetic pull and we just find each other.  New Orleans, touring the city on the streetcar,ran into a random dude from Ponce who had been living there for over a dozen years.  I still remember the excitement of the conversation.  Paris, random run in at a bar with other Newyoricans on holiday who were watching the world cup.  Idaho, I happened to intersect with the two other Boricuas in my area and quickly connected with a few others (probably the only others in the state!).  Utah, of all places, running into random Boricua college students, raised in Utah claiming their roots!  Western Mass, kicking it at a club and just by watching him move I could tell we shared a patria.  Representin’! And now, LB I find ’em everywhere without even looking. 

La mancha.  La sangre llama.  It never ceases to amaze me that magnetic draw that brings us to each other.  And it always excites me to find another.  And here, well we network about where to find ingredients for our favorite dishes, or I get questions about the island, or we talk about what it means for them to be mexirican and how the two cultures are expressed in their families.  Always such an affirmation and such an adventure.  Always so familiar.  Well, it is a small island, we could be cousins after all.  And that is generally the attitude we approach encounters with, mi gente.  And every now and then it proves true and we find a primo tercero, a random relation, a suspected branch on the family tree. 

I’m excited and fascinated to be part of this beautiful web that joins us all together and somehow lets us recognize each other in multitudes, carries the message of our history, our blood, our collective being… beyond stereotypes or phenotypes.

Ode to MayoKetchup

I used to frown on the use of Mayoketchup…

for those of you who have not had the culinary experience it is a mixture of mayo and ketchup (duh!!) usually with garlic powder, sometimes a little bit of mustard. ANYway… it is similar to the beast called fry sauce in some places. But here on the island it is used as dip for tostones (fried plantains) and as salad dressing.

So, back to my story.

I used to think mayoketchup was so ‘ghetto.’ Una jibareria. That and putting canned vegetales on salad. I still can’t stand the latter but I have to admit I’ve come to a truce with mayoketchup. I still won’t buy iceberg unless I’m desperate, I still am a snob about vine ripened tomatoes, I love some homemade honeymustard dressing with balsamic.

Mayoketchup has grown on me. I’ll confess if you give me a delicate salad with fresh greens with a few walnuts and then have me chose between a raspberry vinagrette or mayoketchup I might be swayed but when I’m going out for some chuletas, rice and beans, well, mayoketchup is just right for the iceberg and mealy tomato that I also love sometimes.

So today we got the craving for comida criolla and I didn’t feel like cooking so we decided to try out a new restaurant in town. We ordered Churrasco for the boi and Shrimp with a mango sauce for Me and some rice and beans and salads. We were asked for our choice of dressing and if we wanted the house dressing. I said yes, el aderezo de la casa por favor. The boi looked impressed. I laughed to myself.

Of course we got little cups of mayoketchup (usually it is served in a squeeze bottle so this was pretty fancy shit!). The boi was surprised but realized I had known all along that this pompous attempt at fanciness hid nothing more exotic than the cafre dressing of choice.

I don’t know if it’s nostalgia that makes the shit taste good. Or if it’s the fact that I don’t feel a need to prove anything to myself. Or just a loss of comemierderia.

Whatever it is, it’s hella good on tostones.

Buen provecho.