Illustrator - Storyteller - Coffee drinker
Today is Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who have been enslaved here in the United States.
In my humble opinion, this is the most important holiday of our country... it's the one holiday that truly represents the ideals our country was founded on: the fact that every human in this country can live under a democracy, and have rights, liberty, opportunity, and equality. This holiday is a reminder that none of us are truly free until all of us are.... most important holiday and yet, the most hypocritical one.
The black experience here in the United States has been particularly terrible. Little progress has been made to improve their lives and, what little progress has been achieved, has happened been via a lot of pain and hatred. Every step African-Americans take toward a better life is immediately questioned, if not all together stopped by the white people around them, questioning their loyalty and intentions and, many times over, using force to put down whatever dreams they may have of a better life.
And still... when the need comes, they ask -no, not ask, DEMAND them to lay their lives down to defend "their country"; they ask the black man and woman to learn in school the history as written by the European conqueror, leaving out all the rich history of their African and African-American ancestors; they ask them to forget their mutual history of slavery and downright begin to change how it went down, softening the story so that the children of those who have suffered for so long begin to believe that slavery was a choice given to them; they ask them to respect the police force, even though the police has a vicious view of them and has killed many of their brothers and sisters in the name of the law.
...and then we wonder why the protests, the riots, the looting.
We whites are hypocrites. We should be embarrassed of the awful history we have with our African and African-Americans sisters and brothers.
...and here's the hypocrisy of this holiday: We celebrate something that clearly, CLEARLY, has not happened yet. We celebrate the idea of freedom for all because is a romantic notion we Americans are embedded with, but struggle with accepting that it is not a reality... we rather close our eyes and say "Yay! Lincoln freed the slaves!!"
No, he didn't. He began the process. We need to finish it, for real.
Here's hoping that our most important holiday, Juneteenth, becomes a reality soon. Very soon.
Thank you for reading,
...especially in times when nothing seems to work out in a positive way.
Here's hoping better times come our way.
Stay healthy. Stay hopeful.
This drawing is based off of the song "No Myth" by Michael Penn.
A favorite of mine, it contains the lyrics "...maybe she's just looking for someone to dance with.", a lyric that resonates in me... reminds of the younger me that always looked for reasons to chicken out of approaching someone I liked. It may not mean that within the song, but I always makes me smile when it comes up... and yes, it helped me try harder to get out of my fear of talking to people.
Ah, the magic of strong lyrics!
Thanks for reading,
Back in 1991 I was in my second year of college and working as a busboy for a famous hotel in downtown Chicago... I was a kid that was not quite used to speaking English, who was always busy and always horribly broke. I had friends but still spent an awful lot of time alone, trying to understand this American culture that I was now a part of.
On a good night, I would get home around 11 pm. My apartment, near 35th and Archer on Chicago's South Side, was a roach-infested one bedroom I shared with my sister and her best friend (My sister's friend would stay in the bedroom while me and my sister would share the living room which was made up into a second bedroom)... I was lucky both of them were going out to party nearly every night, allowing me to be alone in the apartment to wallow in my sadness, watching TV reruns and those 1-800 numbers commercials that showed beautiful women in bikini, having fun and enjoying life.
This one night, after a long day of work and school and me, bored and tired, turn on the TV as most every other night and, yes... there were the usual reruns, the usual girls in bikini promising a good time if you call their 1-800 number, and the usual bad risqué dating shows networks would show after a certain time slot... there I was, nearly falling asleep when, suddenly, the screen turned bright white and, after a few melodic piano notes, this beautiful red-haired woman appeared, singing lyrics that reminded me of Kate Bush, both musically and lyrically, but it was someone else... it took me a moment to register that it was a 30-second spot promoting an album... an album called "Little Earthquakes" by a musician named Tori Amos.
That commercial left me stupefied. Those few notes played in that commercial never left my head throughout the night... it affected me so that, next morning, I got up and rushed to the record store downtown to buy that album. I hurriedly opened the compact disc right outside the record store and placed it in my Walkman and began to listen to it as I walked to school...
...and been in love with that album ever since.
Just like grunge a few months before, this record was unlike anything out there. It played songs that were so influenced by classical music but so clearly still pop music, with arrangements that were rich and complex and beautiful, and with lyrics that were so personal, so deep, that I felt an immediate connection to each and every song in the album... becoming instantly a Tori Amos fan.
Although this was an album by a woman and made for women, I felt an instant connection... maybe because I didn't quite found my place in this new foreign, scary land I moved to, or maybe because I felt at home with the album since it used a lot of classical arrangements I was used to (I was a classical guitar student prior to my moving to the States), in any case, this album helped me feel less alone and more inspired to deal with every day life. It made me feel alive.
Little Earthquakes is, to this day, one of my top ten albums. Other albums come and go from my top 10 list as I grow older and my tastes and views on life change yearly but this Tori Amos' freshman effort has remained on top since that faithful night I heard "Silent all these years" on that late-night TV commercial... and I doubt it will ever leave my list.
Thank you, Tori, for such a beautiful album.
Thank you for reading,
Today, in my daily walk, I passed by the hospital that is a block away from mine... a couple of blocks later, a woman dressed in scrubs and looking extremely tired, was sitting, smoking a cigarette.
Before I realized it, I was asking a very dumb question.
"Excuse me, m'am... are you a nurse?"
She looks at me and I could tell she was holding the desire to answer in a most sarcastic manner.
"Yes" she said dryly.
"Uhm..." I say "I just wanted to say thank you for all you guys do... this cannot be easy on you, so... thank you."
She looks at me with what look like a tired and/or sad face, then answers
"You don't have to thank me. Just don't get sick."
I'll try my best, m'am."
I left her there to enjoy whatever time she had left before she had to go back to taking care, probably even saving, as many of us as she could.
Nurses, doctors, scientists, voluntaries... if you are reading this, thank you, thank you, thank you... you're stepping up to confront something new and scary, and while the rest of us are complaining and whining about having to quarantine ourselves, you have to deal with this demon directly daily and say "NO. NOT TODAY YOU DON'T".
From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
Yup, I ain't gonna sugar coat this... a week and so of this Social Isolation thing and I am already seriously entrenched on hermit mode.
BRING ON WEEK TWO.
Thanks for reading! Stay healthy!
We are now in day four of what is being called "Social Isolation", trying to have a virus dissipate by all of us staying in our homes in the hopes that it runs its course so we can continue our lives as per normal.
I think deep inside many of us know our way of life will not be "normal" for a while, if ever... and that scares us. Many of us are rightfully anxious about the future, let alone our very present. Life as we know it is hitting a hard stop and we cannot wait to have it back.
Since gatherings of 10 or more people are not recommended at the moment, all sports, all plays, all concerts have been either postponed or downright cancelled. Most performers have agreed to step back and advice their fans to do the same. Good idea, really.
...but that leaves a void in people's heart. theater, art, music, even sports fill an emotional need in us that, once taken away, it's hard to deal with. A part of what defines us is empty... and that helps our anxiety grow even more.
As always, art comes to the rescue, this time aided by technology.
Many musicians, several of them that had to cancel current tours, are playing mini concerts every day in all types of social media... some of them do it to stay connected with their fans, some of them request donations for different charities, all of them done it because of their love of music, and for the love of their fans.
Willy Porter, one of my favorite musicians, had his first concert online, from his studio ("Live from the Bunker"), and it was amazingly beautiful. His beautiful songs, his guitar virtuosity, and his message of hope very much helped people gain confidence in the future... he brighten our day and, at least for me, made me believe things will get better. He did it in a way that only those who truly care for others can... his honesty and sincere love of life was felt by all viewers, judging from the messages that kept pouring in during his performance.
Willy, in the small chance you're reading this... thank you so very much. Keep on doing what you do, because it helps us anxious people an awful lot.
Thanks for reading,
The early 90s were a very weird and exciting time for music... there was certainly a lot of quality music being released in a long range of genres, but, prior to a certain movement started in the northwest of America, there was nothing you could hang on to and make it intimately yours.
Then came grunge.
All us college kids were deeply enthralled with it right away. It spoke to us. It spoke about us. It said nothing important and everything that mattered at once.
For a very short moment in time, and very much like the hippie revolution of the 60s, us 90s kids felt connected via music.
I remember fondly how college mates would smoke weed and discuss for hours the lyrics of our favorite songs. I remember how we would spend night after night with our guitars and try to learn to play any song that was famous at the moment. I remember not caring, at all, about what I was going to wear at school, and fully know that neither did my schoolmates. I especially remember driving around LSD (Lake Shore Drive, for you non-Chicago readers) with my dear friend Chris Niemitz, while "Smells like teen spirit" played loudly in the car stereo and us singing at the top of our longs, allowing all our desperation, anger, frustration, and uncertainty loudly come out of us with those lyrics.
And then... puff!
Grunge left as quickly as it arrived.... leaving behind a post-grunge scene that seemed efficient at first but degraded rapidly as corporations took a hold of the genre and completely obliterated it, making way for new angry genres that did not have the deep emotional roots grunge had.
Is it fair to say that music has been deteriorating since then? well, I will admit that it would be presumptuous to say so, but I need to ask...
Has there been any music movement since grunge that speaks so deeply to a group of kids that connects them and makes them see their reality? Is there any kind of music that does more than numb its listener out there now?
If there is, I can't find it. It almost seems like today's music is arranged specifically to NOT be uncomfortable. Today's music makes sure you're just fine and happy... or if it's angry music, it's music that angers you to the point of being frozen and inactive.
I'm sure today's kid realize what kink of shitehole past generations have left for them, but they seem to be happy with just wallowing in their sorrows... still, I truly hope the time will come that, once they're really cornered by what it's expected of them and what they really want to do, they will pick up their loud guitars and, at unison, sing to the world "FUCK YOU! THIS IS MY LIFE YOU'RE MESSING WITH!"
Oh, it will be a glorious day when today's kids find their voice.
Thanks for reading,
Considering how much Disney/Marvel have saturated the superhero movie market in the past decade, it is easy to forget what a breathe of fresh air the first Iron Man movie was... and what a gift to us comic-book nerds!
Sure, there had been good superhero movies in the past and recent past, some even better than this Jon Favreau effort but... this movie was just plain fun to watch, and to watch all over again! (trust me, I've seen it quite a few hundred times at this point).
Adding a super awesome cherry on top of it all was the promise of a united Marvel movie universe in the presence of one uber cool Nick Fury, impeccably played by the one and only Samuel L. Jackson. Us geeks were in Heaven.
Am I happy with all that's been since this movie's premiere? eh... methinks Disney did too much too soon in the second phase and, in the newer Marvel movies, not only is there a certain magic missing from them, they are feeling a bit tiresome. Of course they may surprise me every now and then, but I highly doubt it (but do hope so!).
Anyway, did this illustration in honor of a movie that brought back the kid that loved Marvel comics a while back ago... and that was no easy feat, considering how much I love DC!
Thanks for reading!
Some times... no... MANY times, things will not work out the way you want them to, and many, many times things will head in directions you did not want them to go, or are ready to deal with...
...But these things happen, and will keep happening.
All you can do is breathe.
Breathe, and then work on making things work out.
Breathe, and don't give up.
You will have some, hopefully MANY victories on the way. I promise.
Thanks for reading,