Friday, January 23, 2015

Bicycle Advocacy

For the last few years, since I started being more active on my bicycle as my main mode of transportation, slowly but surely my time and energy shifted from immigration to bicycle and pedestrian advocacy. For a good while though, both intersected and lead to the formation of an informal group of riders that mixed advocacy and cycling together. From organizing city to city rides to raise awareness on an issue like in-state tuition for undocumented students in higher education to learning more about neighborhood issues, we rode our bikes everywhere.

In the end, everything I learned while I was doing work on the Dream Act and other issues that still affect immigrants today served me well once I started doing the same kind of work, but with bicycles instead. the issues intersect on numerous levels, so it wasn't like I completely stopped doing that kind of work. the organization that I've committed myself to in doing this kind of work is Multi-Cultural Communities for Mobility.

I met two of the founding members at a house party. We hit it off that night and worked together in some of great events that connected issues on numerous levels, specially since they were working with day laborers at the time when I met them. Any way, time passed and we kept working together more and more. Our worlds kept getting smaller and smaller as our circles started over lapping and here we are today.

The video above is from work that was done last year in the neighborhood I live in, Boyle Heights. While it seems like I haven't been as active as I use to be when I was doing immigrant rights work, trust. I have. I just don't end up on tv or being on panel discussions as much as I use to be, which is no sweat off my back. I'm hella proud to be sharing said video because I had the pleasure of working with some dope ass folks. Part of why I stopped doing immigration work was cause of the internal politics and drama that was tied to it. There's no escaping that anywhere, but at least with bicycle advocacy, it's no where near as how it is in those immigration spaces.  

MCM is still a fairly young organization that has an amazing volunteers doing the work to raise the voices of communities of color when it comes to politics of pedestrian and bicycle advocacy. With this promotores project, there's been a hype building on the kind of work MCM is doing here in Los Angeles at the national level. MCM isn't the only ones doing this kind of work, but they are one of the more visible groups doing it. After all, part of the hustle is who you know and that's a fact in any space. 

I truly enjoy the work I do with MCM and I believe in everyone who is a part of it and putting in time to make it a great organization t be with. With the way things are moving, chances are I won't be going anywhere for a good long while. I'm currently employed at an amazing organization that not only believes in me, but is investing on my development. Can't tell you how great it feels to be in a position like that after being freelance for so long. Between that and the work I do at MCM, I'm doing my part for the different communities I live and share space with.  

Monday, January 12, 2015

Hair Loss

Funny thing about hair is that it grows back. All you need is some patience. Four years ago, I started growing out my hair, both on my head and on my face because of a kind of trauma I experienced, heart break. Four years ago might as well be a life time ago for me. It took time and a lot of venting on my part, but I got over it. Not only did I get over it, but I learned from it and bettered myself as an individual and as a romantic partner. There's still plenty more room for further growth, but that heart ache was something I needed. Much like when someone who doesn't know how to swim is tossed into a pool by a loved one. Amid all the flailing arms and gasping for air, you eventually calm down and start getting the hang of it. That or someone has to come in and save you. I learned to swim, despite not actually knowing how to swim in real life. I actually tried that jumping into the deep end thing once and almost died. Well not died, but it still sucked pretty bad.

Anyway, heart broken. I wrote about it back in 2010 if you wanna look for those post, but I'll save you the trouble. The break up wasn't a kind of 'it's not working out' or 'it's not you, it's me' kind of deal. It was all the insecurities I had back then about being undocumented thrown in my face by someone who was just as emotionally immature as I was. Dude, that shit hurt like a mother fucker. Not gonna lie. I spent a good month after that mopping around and that included not shaving. I went to work, school, etc but with a gloomy cloud over me. Eventually work put their foot down and told me to shave, so I did. While I was shaving, I made the decision to start growing a mustache. I was so down in the dumps, that I needed to make myself feel as unattractive as I could. That included growing a mustache, which doesn't really make sense, but a lot of stuff that didn't make sense four years ago now makes some sort of sense.

A few months into making myself ugly, it started to turn around. I have the kind of long hair that is only attainable through genetics. Turns out that's the kind of hair women like. I also found that I liked women who preferred facial hair over being clean cut. At that point, I pretty much just went along for the ride and took it for what it was. That mustache became attached to my identity, along with my hair. Not saying that I didn't enjoy the attention or the fun I had, but both my hair, facial and scalp, were inherently tied to that one moment of trauma. So long as I had them, I was never going to be truly over that experience. I made that connection today at work when I was sharing why I shaved the stache.

In late June of last year, a month away from my 30th born day, I decided to cut my hair. It being waste long, there was a lot of 'why did you do it.' Not soo much with the mustache. Sure folks have been surprised, but not as much as the hair. My stache was firmly attached my over all 'look', so cutting it was like cutting off a part of my identity. And mind you this wasn't something that I was thinking about doing for months on end, I literally decided to do it as I was watching TV. It's been fun seeing folks' reactions to my baby face. I'd be lying if the attention I'm getting wasn't something fulfilling some need for attention, but I did it for me.

I've grown immensely in four years and I'm proud of myself. I have the kind of stability that has taken me a long time to attain and I wanna enjoy it. While part of me longs to share that with someone else, that's not in the cards right now for reasons beyond my understanding. But it's cool yo. I'm comfortable being independent until the right person comes along. That being said, I'll leave you with a link to one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite anime sound tracks. Back in the myspace days, I use to do that all the time. Post a song and share my feelz. Ahh, nostalgia :) BTW you can see a pic of me clean shaven on my instagram.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Cultural Chameleon

Every so often I'm reminded of the unique ability I have to inhabit different spaces. It's an ability a lot of people I know have. I was at a comic book art show held at an art gallery that is located in the middle of the callejones. As I looked down into the streets from the third floor of this gallery, I felt a kind of slap come across me. I'm so use to going from one space to another that I rarely think about what that means in terms of culture, social norms, and privileges.

While I can be in these different spaces, I get looks from of curiosity and bewilderment, as if I don't belong there. I've been living like this for as long as I can remember, but it wasn't until college that I was able to aptly put a name behind it. Nepantla is a Nahuatl word meaning 'in between' or 'the space in the middle.' There's a lot of other meanings attached to that word in Chicano/a academic spaces, but I I'm not attached to it.

It's easy for someone like me to gravitate to a word like that, whether it is in Nahuatl or any other language. My life is a representation of 'living in between' due to my immigration status and the spaces I inhabit in my day to day life. For all the existential quandaries I've had over the years, I can't imagine my life being any other way. The fact that I can go from talking to someone about their cat art to being able to connect with a street vendor with a few simple words is price less.

I have the privilege of being part of a culture that traces its history thousands of years. I live in a community that creates are that connects the present to the past. I work at a job that connects issues across classes, races, and cities. I transition countless of times on a daily basis and I forget that. Like water, I take the shape of the container I am in, but I am still water. I can be solid, liquid or a gas, but I am still water.

That's why I don't like limiting myself to just one single identity when I can be part of many. It is in that cross pollination that new ideas are born. Mash ups of Lucha Libre and Star Wars. Eastern philosophy and hip-hop. Being Americanized yet not being a US citizen. I forget how good I have it when it comes to being able to participate, understand, and love the works of other cultures while still finding threads that connect it to mine.

When I make connects between cultures, stories, art etc I get this feeling in my chest. A feeling of discovery and to tell everyone I know about it. Over the years, that feeling has stayed the same but my wanting to share with anyone else has not. I tried sharing these connections with others but few get it and fewer share the same passion for it that I do. As such, I keep it to myself, which pains me at times. Here I am finding connections between anime and my working class experiences and I can share them with no one. No one else to talk to about them and flush it out even further.

From the outside it just looks like I'm obsessed with pop-culture, cartoons, and cats. That fine. The growth of others is not my responsibility, nor will I go out of my way to make those connections for someone. Like true great art, it is never fully appreciated by the masses for what it is. As I'm getting older, I'm learning to let go of this want that pushes me to share what I love because no one else will understand it. I'll just keep it for myself in the space in-between.        

Sunday, November 30, 2014

What Happened to Yesterdays Snow?

I can't remember the last time I things were this good in my life. (Knocks on wood.) For everything that's going on in the world right now with people getting killed by cops, students missing, and Obama's latest immigration announcement, I have a lot going for me. I like it. This is new for me and its been having positive affects on my over all disposition and outlook on life. Even now, during the most loathsome time of the year, I'm enjoying myself by being around people I want to be with and not those I have to be forced to be with. Amazing how having a choice can make a world of difference.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Melancholy Solitude

I've been finding myself at wits end as of late. Frustrated at this point really. It's just one of those things in which you want it to happen, but then you're suppose to not want it so then it does happen. At the end of the day, all I can really do is just let out a big ol' sigh and carry on. Dating has become a sort maze I put myself through for various reasons and while I may complicate things further, I wouldn't feel comfortable without having clear communication and intention. But more than anything, as I continue to date and put myself out there, I realize that maybe this is what I need. Not that I enjoy being let down mind you, rather it presents an opportunity for me to continue working on the aspect of myself that deals with those setbacks when things don't work out.

While I can't help be melancholy, I do look at the positive and the growth I have made for myself. What would have taken months to realize now only takes weeks. I'm a better communicator, I do what I can to be mindful of the other person and make sure there is a balance in how things are split and shared going into something. Above everything else, I've had to work through a lot of issues that dug into me and were tied with being undocumented.

I don't think that'll ever stop being an issue, for different reasons, but I'm in a better place with than I've ever been. It's not so much about being able to access services, the system, and all that jazz, but more with my past experiences and how those turned out for the worst because I didn't have both the mental and emotional maturity to process those experiences in a healthy fashion. Just thinking back on how I use to deal with dating and set backs and I can't help but laugh.

However my experiences dating come to an end, I'm in a place where it doesn't throw me in a loop or sidetrack me like it would have once. I like that, yet I'm still left with a sort of longing for companionship above anything else. I do so much that I eventually get to a point in which I wanna share it with someone else. Whether it's going to the movies, museum, art show or even a gala event, I want to share that with someone else who can appreciate it as much as I do or is willing to learn about it with me. I enjoy doing all this stuff by myself, but the experience of sharing with someone else makes it even more special.

But I think that has been an underlying issue with me all this time. Past relationships I've been in, I've been doing the same thing. I'm the one getting invited to cool art shows, parties, movies etc. I'm the one that's like: let's check this out, you know. Whether it's something subconscious or just how things turns out, I have yet to date someone who gives me a run for my money. And it's not like I'm looking for someone that knows about more events or things to do, but someone that'll compliment that. And vice versa. I dunno, it's complicated and the fact I can't define it for myself only adds to the frustration.

At the end of the day, I want what anyone else wants out of a romantic relationship: to be with someone they can connect to one a deeper emotional, metal, spiritual level. To be with someone that will compliment you and vice versa. Someone you can growth with. Learn from each other and try new things. Someone I can cuddle with while watching netflix, you know. Seems like the solution to my problems would be to adopt a cat/dog, but I'm gonna avoid that route altogether and just stick it out. When it comes to matters of the heart, I have endless patience.  


Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Echoic Childhood Memories

Of all the sounds I remember growing up around as a kid, the music my father played in his drunken stuper's late into the night. Most Latinos/as and working class folks know what I'm talking about. Unless you didn't have a father figure in your life, which just makes this post awkward. Anyway, drunken father figures playing music really loud, yeah.

Growing up I wondered what the hell was going and why he needed 4 ft tall speakers to blast music I had no comprehension of, till now. Acting like a delayed recording that is only now kick in for various reasons, I find myself latching on to anything that plucks the strings of nostalgia. However, a lot of those romanticized memories come with the kind of emotional baggage and trauma that can slap you out of no where.

As a kid, I knew that my father getting drunk meant a few different things. It meant that random people would be over to the house, there would be barbecue on deck, a beer run to a store that also mean getting to buy a bunch of junk food and soda. That they would go late into the night talking about all sorts of random things while simultaneously playing music so loud that you can't hear anyone talk. And no matter how hard we pleaded with him to turn the music down or to go to sleep, it would just make it worse.

While I'm able to comprehend the situations I was in growing up with an alcoholic father, I find myself mirroring his behavior, for better or for worst. While I don't have kids to emotionally scar nor four foot speakers to blast music from when I'm drunk. I only have four inch speakers attached to a back pack, but some of the music is the same though. Sort of.

Rediscovering those tunes I heard in the middle of night as I tried to go to sleep have a different meaning now that I'm older and sober. I have a choice in how I can remember this music and I chose to enjoy it for what it is, music about heart-break and romance. Needless to say that my current binge of musical taste was inspired by real life events, but that's for another time.

Music today doesn't hold a candle to oldies and classics like Los Angeles Negros. It was another time and era, but their music is timeless. I literally spend hours listening to albums and playlist to rediscover as many bands as possible. And while my current obsession I'll eventually give way to heavy metal or wu-tang, I'll continue basking in them.