Category Archives: Personal
I have a new job, one that has me leaving the house after years of working in my pajamas. So that means a commute, which I’m comfortable with. This has afforded a small moment of peace, as turbulent as that sounds, since I am away from the family and the office for a combined eighty minutes give or take when the next train comes. So, of course, I write. I keep three notebooks in my bag along with all my other items. Lately I’m using one of the smaller ones since I’m working on my new Haiku Mixtape project, which doesn’t really need a lot of real estate as far as paper is concerned. The larger notebook comes out rarely, but when it does it’s only when I can sit down waiting for the next train, and when i really need to put down something long and drawn out.
This isn’t a new thing, I’ve been doing this for years. What makes it different is the ritualistic nature of it now. The pulling out of the black book and pen, the faces of daily commuters surrounding me becoming small easels for facial descriptions, etc. It isn’t like the weekend train ride. there’s a permanence to it now. This continued mobile isolation of sorts will be a productive one, hopefully. Until the job drives me insane.
(Note: parts of this were made in repeated drafts written on the PATH train on Monday and Tuesday of this week.)
[This is a repost from my Tumblr from something that happened two years ago. I decided to put it here just in case something happened to the other site in the future.]
The heat of the 9th Street PATH station was the least of my annoyances that night. I sat down on the only free spot of a bench with no back rest, next a loathsome group of men in pastel polo shirts and women in garish colored tight dresses. The ladies’ voices dripped with superficiality and their conversations were infested with horrible pop culture references and appending “hashtag” to meaningless words. It reminded me why I never understood the newfound attraction people have in moving to Hoboken and become like them. The train on route back to New Jersey came in, and I entered few cars away from that group. It made no difference – this time a group of completely hammered Hispanic men and women stood a couple of feet to my right, swaying near a connecting door, slurring lyrics incoherently as loud as possible.
As I am wont to do on late-night trains, I activated the gentlemanly part of my mind that I had shut down earlier at the club. I let the elderly and women exhausted from their own partying take any seat that could have been mine. Tonight I was especially urbane, as I needed atonement for a brusque exchange with a lady in the mood for a dance or two. Those dances did not happen, of course.
I kept to myself, holding a pole and hearing the conversations around me. Three men gave someone directions to Newark Airport. I looked over to see who was on the receiving end of the advice. A girl about my age sat at the end of a seat. She had a light frame and wore a short black jacket, holding on two pieces of rolling luggage that if stacked on top of each other would block her out of view completely. She had wavy reddish-brown hair with black roots that looked natural-colored. From my preliminary look at her I saw that her skin was a healthy white, but she was not Caucasian – perhaps a mixed race Asian. She had a tired look on her face.
I waited until the stop the Hoboken purged the generic party crowd before I walked over to the pole nearest to the girl. My second examination made it clear the she was Arabic, Turkish most likely, from the deep black eyelashes surrounding hazel eyes and full lips that were amazing in spite of no lipstick.
“You’re trying to get to Newark, right?” I asked her.
She looked up wearily but with enough energy to smile. “Yeah,” she said.
“Just follow me then, we’ll be at Journal Square soon. OK?” She nodded.
The rest of the ride to the transfer station consisted of making fun of the drunken Latinos. They were amusing until one of the men who decided standing between the cars and bouncing around was a sane idea.
“Hey dumbass, get back in here, I don’t want a delayed train!” I shouted. I turned back to the girl. “I promise not everyone from New Jersey acts like them,” I said.
“Well, that’s good,” she said. She didn’t stop smiling.
The seat next to her cleared on the next stop. I sat down and finally asked her name.
“What does that mean?”
She laughed. “It’s a bit embarrassing, actually.”
I told her mine.
“Like, Jesus, Jesus?”
“Yup. So trust me, your name won’t make me laugh any more than people have laughed at mine.”
“Well…my name means something like “woman so revered that kings would fight over her.”
I looked at quizzically. “How is that a bad thing?”
She laughed and shrugged.
The rest of the trip to Journal Square I let her tell her story. She was on her way home, in Vancouver, to visit her parents before visiting family in Montreal – I told her I had family there as well. After that stop, she said “I’m going back to uni in Istanbul. I have to learn more Arabic.”
“Why? What are you going to school for?”
“I want to be a war correspondent.”
The image of this shy and beautiful young Turkish girl wearing the stereotypical bulletproof vest, with her hair tied down but still moving to the winds created by jet fighters and mortar fire, appeared in my mind. I pushed it away to listen to her internships – one at Reuters, another for the Associated Press – and her experience in a boot camp created to prepare journalists for the dangerous areas ahead in their careers.
“The first things they gave us were a bulletproof vest and a helmet,” she said, and her excitement from the memory increased the broadness of her grin. “And the only thought I could think of when they gave it to me was… awesome.”
The train stopped at Journal Square. I moved into gentleman overdrive and reached for one of the luggage pieces and pulled it in the open door’s direction. She tried to dissuade me with the oh-you-don’t-have-to’s and are-you-sure-you-can’s but I calmly told her I couldn’t just leave her dragging those beasts on her own. This was one of the few times I was glad the late night Newark train took its sweet time.
I kept my answers to her questions brief. I used my San Francisco card rather well, and she asked about my immigrant story. The only thing question that caught me off guard was:
“Well, now that you’re back in New Jersey, do you think about leaving again?”
I paused and gave her some vague answer, but I know that the true answer is yes, I do always.
We reached Penn Station and after passing by a toothless homeless woman throwing obscenities at the two of us, I hailed a taxi for her and let her go. She hugged me and I gave her a quick kiss on the cheek – I have absolutely no idea why I did that. I was picked up by my normal ride, and in hindsight I should have asked if she wanted a ride, but that would have been a very suspect proposal.
It’s been a week and she is still on my mind, with that sheepish smile. I think she will have more men fighting over her soon – this time with actual guns.
So there was the memory of the 1999 Chemical Brothers show burned into my memory that I described in the first part of my love letter to electronic music. That night is ingrained in my musical DNA like an aggressive gene therapy created by the beats and sights of glowsticks and dancing. That’s about as deep as the scar on my left knee from the two surgeries needed to reconstruct it. That’ll never go away.
My sister took me other shows afterwards of course and I was very lucky for some of those experiences. One in particular was seeing the sweat come off Tiësto’s brow in an incredibly small rave tent in 2002 as he waved his hand at these two blonde girls that had the even smaller waists. This was years before the dudebros and guidos in the Tri-State Area found him and Tiësto started filling up US arenas like he did the ones back home in the Netherlands.
High school shifted the taste dramatically. It was a change made from the angst-ridden years where my mind and body wanted songs from men like Andre 3000, Christopher Wallace, Maynard James Keenan, Chino Moreno, and Jimmy Page. That big rock and hip-hop kick for most of high school, filled with all the introspection and manufactured anguish an introverted nerdy guy is generally known to have, washed out a lot of drum and bass and trance music from my MP3 players and CD mixtapes.
It wasn’t that something switched in me overnight and I just hated EDM. What occurred was just that there was a mental disconnect, at least to me at the time, of being a fan of high tempo dance music while being a moody little shit, you know? And it was a bit hard to keep your headphones on playing Orbital while your friends blasted screamo and the pop-punk du jour. I stopped going to electronic shows, started going to rock concerts. I loved them as well, but looking back they’ve yet to burn into me like the raves tents and dance clubs.
What kept my body sing electronic, even though I sat in my room alone with my headphones on, came in the gust of one particular song – it keeps happening that way with me, as you’ll see in the next part of this series. That song kept coming to me in small parts placed in scenes of episodes on TV or movies. The bass line crept up slowly until the snare drum came in, then the languid sample loops and fuzzy guitar riff in the background. Then the lyrics came on.
“You…are my angel…”
The song is menacing as all hell while maintaining a seductive cool from the juxtaposition of Horace Andy’s voice. And from there I delved into Massive Attack and by that path I found trip-hop, downtempo, ambient, and all the slower undercurrents of electronic music. Here’s sampler of what I was listening to.
There’s a reason why I bring all this up. It comes because of my writing. As far as I can think of, most of my earliest writing came from the sounds of songs like the ones from the playlist above that came from Bristol or many other parts of the aural umbra. There are times when I hear the rhythmic drums in “Inertia Creeps” that take me to places to stories that are far and away from the song’s lyrics about sex. DJ Shadow’s “Midnight In A Perfect World” served as the theme for a lot of my old poems, if that makes any sense.
Even if all of the stuff I made from that time was garbage – and it was, of course – the music helped start it all, and it was this particular type of music that was the hymn. That was my soundtrack when I was sixteen and an insomniac with too many things that needed to be poured out of my head and onto the screen.
I did eventually get to hear “Angel” live, in 2010 at the Warfield in San Francisco – luckily someone put up a YouTube vid of it. The entire show helped me feel young since I remembered the album came out in 1998 and the crowd must have at least been 35-plus in age. I’m soon to be 27 and I’m listening to “(Exchange)” the final song from Massive Attack’s Mezzanine. Seems like a pretty good way to cap off the post.
A friend invited me to explore the Freedom Tunnel in NYC a few weeks back. For those that don’t know, the tunnel is a part of the Amtrak rail line near Riverside Park. It was known for its shantytowns and massive assortment of graffiti. Her and I, along with two of her classmates, bundled up on a cold Thursday afternoon to go around and take photos (and not get smashed by on coming trains, of course).
I had been to smaller conventions before – The Nova Albion Steampunk Exhibition in 2011 and PAX East this year, but New York Comic-Con was the first time I almost felt overwhelmed going through crowds of cosplayers, garden-variety geeks, and bewildered parents of tween Homestruck fans (which I honestly don’t get, or maybe I really am old). I didn’t really take in the full con at first due to working on Thursday and my Friday was severely cut from an immense pain in my feet from a beforehand walking from the New York Public Library down to Union Square in a “team-building” exercise for work.
I did manage to get a primary target out of the way on Friday despite the pain. I wanted to get my copies of Pax Romana and The Nightly News signed by Jonathan Hickman, the writer/artist of the books. For those that don’t know, both are indie graphic novels in which the former’s premise answered the question of what history would be like if the Middle Ages had never happened, and the latter involves terrorists against the media. Hickman’s current run on Fantastic Four was pretty good as well, seeing as you know, actually got me to read FF comics for the first time without tossing them back into a bin somewhere.
When it was my time to speak to him, I told Hickman as he signed my books that his run on Fantastic Four was the first time I had ever cared about them.
“Me too!” he responded.
I had my friend Phil take a photo of me with Hickman.
Oh, one more Friday photo of note is that of writer/artist and Kabuki creator David Mack.
Saturday was the true slog, however. I had convinced to take my mother, sister, and brother-in-law around the convention to their first huge convention. I had no internet/phone service from the moment I got within yards of the Jacob Javits Center, and after finding all of them more than an hour later, I lost them in the first fifteen to twenty minutes of walking around with them. I knew it would be pointless to find them in the crowd, so I walked around until more of my friends showed up. From there on out I walked around, taking photos of cosplayers. Here are some of the greatest hits from the entire con:
The above photo is a good segue for an interesting part of my con experience. I am fascinated with the steampunk scene. I used to own these great goggles but I lost them in the move back to Jersey. I saw this old man from Michigan selling them at a reasonable price (as if there is a reasonable price for gear of that sort) which included magnifier glasses. Phil said something that proved to be correct: ladies love cool goggles:
To be a complete attention whore about my new gear, I kept them on my head. even when I left the con to get food. I had a female tourist sitting outside a restaurant ask about them, and I had a group of women staring at me the entire time I was at a nearby dive bar. I wasn’t in the mood to start a conversation, however. The real test of the theory though? Her:
She politely complimented me on my goggles after I took this photo. That pretty much validated the purchase.
My final (and probably most important) target of the convention happened on the final day. I wanted to meet Phonogram and current Journey Into Mystery writer Kieron Gillen. To put it simply, Gillen is one of my new heroes. Gamer writer (he founded Rock Paper Shotgun), music geek on a level I’ve never been to (seriously, read the original and see just how much Britpop you really know), and apparently pretty solid at conventional comics seeing as the line in the 3:00-4:00 time frame comprised entirely of his fans, mostly young teenage girls obsessed with his Journey Into Mystery run. I normally like to chat with people in line, but seeing as I along with my associate Rob were probably a good ten years older than the people behind and in front of us, we both kept quiet.
I had brought two things for him to sign: one was a trade of his short run on the quickly cancelled SWORD from Marvel, and his sequel to the original Phonogram, The Singles Club. When it was my time to speak, I had put the SWORD trade on top. I slid them over to him and said:
“I bought the first one to keep the Marvel thing going but..”
I then slid it over to show the Phonogram trade. He smiled and did that British thing where they tip the side of their nose. I went off and told him that Phonogram was my Velvet Underground (to understand that, there’s this old anecdote that the first VU album did not do well financially, but it helped inspire and start many bands) in that he helped validate some of my old ideas of the connection between music and magic. I also told him he stole my idea of using TV On The Radio’s “Wolf Like Me” as a story title and premise. He told me that the same thing had happened to him, only that it was Alan Moore of Watchmen and V for Vendetta fame that took it.
“I took that as compliment,” he said. After that, he asked me if I’m still writing, which is very much the case. He signed my copy with the words “WRITE!!!” and “Music=Magic”, which is the tag of the entire Phonogram series. Rob took this photo of me with Gillen:
Afterwards, I walked around and bought more random stuff in the name of consumerism and went home. Overall, I had a blast. Can’t wait for next years.
I hate doing the “oh I’ve been away” part of this entry. Makes me feel like a chump, but I haven’t been. I dropped a new issue of Cram, got a poem published, found employment, and in a sense regained the part of myself I had been missing for a while. Vagueness of that last part aside, I feel and think clearer now than I have in a long time. Now, for the details.
Things did slow down a bit, mainly because both Cindy was busy with her new gig and I was in a state of flux for a good chunk of 2012. I’m still really grateful that we have been able to pull this off as much as we can, but I’m still hungry. I’ve been researching to write an essay for the blog, seeing as we need more content than the weekly Crams. Also trying to make moves with other ideas stirring in my head. also doing a project with Phil and Cindy with me on, of course, story duty.
I’m Going Going, Back Back, To Jersey Jersey
In I’m officially back in the mother country of New Jerusalem. The best way to describe my feelings is this: picture an archaeologist trying find his oldest tomb. Then picture that person now trying to ship ancient relics to a mausoleum, only to return and find out no matter how much you can move, the haul is endless and makes it a Sisyphean nightmare. That was just in the second week alone. I’m lucky I have a place to stand in my old room.
However, it has its moment of greatness. Holding my sister’s and her husband’s wedding rings as my part as her witness to her civil wedding was something worth being home for. That was a while back now, after reunions with old friends and abusing my ability at reconnecting with the newer ones, and blacking out for a good portion of the summer due to helping preparing for the (happy) clusterfuck that was my sister’s wedding party. I actually got back into the swing of writing because of this. and made up a magic realism story about a pilgrim coming home to a family of gods. A the moment there’s only one entry, but I’m cleaning up the next part which is an epic poem about the family dog.
The Job, Or How How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Become A Woman on the Internet
I finally found employment after a year of not having any. It’s not at all like what I was doing in SF. I’m still staring at Excel sheets, of course, but that’s interspersed with a crap-load of comments I put up under the pseudonym of Jamie. To date, Jamie is a mother, dancer, crafts and superbike enthusiast, nurse, customer sales rep, and recently Portuguese. I’ve had the opportunity to write blog posts, which is great. There’s a serious difficulty with the distractions of working from a home office however. I’m sure I’ll get it down right.
Badass and Published
That’s what I said I’ll be a few years back. Out of a lark it finally happened, thanks to Saul Williams and his Chorus book. Of the 97 poems in the book I’m number 21. To see a poem that I wrote in my sleep-deprived night owl phase back in 05 come to light in 2012 is crazy. I’ve been dabbling in poetry again, to see if I still have it. I probably don’t but you never know.
That’s it for now. you can find me on Twitter (@TheJesusGaray) and Tumblr (jesusgaray.tumblr.com), fyi. I’ll put up some of the content I put up there here.
“Fifteen minutes ’til we’re out,” my boss said. I chuckled and pulled out my wallet, checking to see if I had any singles on me. I knew that they’d be needed soon. Ten minutes later, I got up from my chair and walked with him to the office door. He kept going towards the elevator but I waited for the remaining three coming along: a girl with long curly black hair and a valley girl accent, a middle-aged lifer that had been in the company longer that most of the executives, and the new guy sporting industrial earrings.
My boss jumped onto a closing elevator. The rest of us waited for another, giving us time to laugh at how ridiculous it was to be eating lunch at a strip club at one in the afternoon. When we reached the lobby, I could see el jefe out on the sidewalk texting. We met up with him and walked south on 4th St to meet up with the final member of our party, the resident gambler on our team, puffing away at a cigarette.
“So how many singles do you have in your wallet?” my boss asked the gambler.
“Uh, y’know, enough for the buffet an makin’ it rain.” he said as we all walked down Howard.
We continued down a few city blocks until I saw a blue carpet leading to a wall of a man in a black suit standing next to a door with the word Gold Lounge written on a royal blue awning. After the card check and paying the five-dollar cover to a disaffected cashier in a tight black dress, I stepped into the darkness and blue glow of the main floor of the club. The music geek in me immediately noticed the song playing, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Like in most strip clubs, you can tell a good deal about the girl on stage by their theme song before you even see her, so I assumed she was pale, skinny with absolutely no curves, and covered in tattoos. I looked over for confirmation and, lo and behold, I was right. I would have checked to see if there was any image of Cobain on her skin, but I was very hungry, so I made a beeline to the buffet line.
My father picked me up in the winter of 2004 from the office where I worked as a telemarketer during my senior year at high school. My boss found me sitting down unconscious against the wall of the bathroom — my last memory was of washing my hands and face.
My mother told me a story about something that happened to me back in the old house in Lima. My late uncle Paco found me standing up behind the couch in the living room, catatonic and ice-cold. He called my mother over, who immediately wrapped me in blankets and rubbed me down. ” In that hour you were staring off into space,” she said, “I’ve always wondered where your mind was going.” I was two when this occurred, so I don’t remember any of this. I didn’t think there was any relationship between the Lima event and the office one. I know better now. The kink in the right hemisphere of my brain might have made my brain go haywire when I was a toddler. It just took nineteen years to show me what really happened that night in Lima.