Mis Ancestros Isleños

Mis Ancestros Isleños

Out of my 16 great-great grandparents, 2 were German/Spanish, 2 were Scottish, 2 were British, 7 were French, and 3 were Spanish. That means that more than a quarter of my ancestors are of Spanish descent. Pretty surprising, right? Other than the fact that I have an affinity for tacos and anything made from an avocado, you would never know that blonde-haired, blue-eyed little me has any connection to the land of passion and conquistadors. Though a few ancestors were from the mainland of Spain, the majority of them were Isleños (islanders), a name given to the people from a small Spanish archipelago 60 miles West of the Moroccan coast called Islas Canarias, or The Canary Islands.

Image result for canary islands location

The Canary Islands is likely derived from the Latin name Canariae Insulae, meaning “Islands of the Dogs.” According to some historians, the islands were given this name because it contained a “vast multitude of dogs.” Some have even speculated that the native people, the Guanches, used to worship dogs and treat them as holy animals. They would even mummify their dog with their owner to help guide them in the afterlife. The ancient Greeks even have recorded that there were a people living far to the west who were “the dog-headed ones,” who worshipped dogs on an island. The most notable dog native to The Canary Islands is the Perro de Presa Canario or the Canary Mastiff. They were originally bred for working with livestock (note for later). The importance of dogs in their etymology and culture is retained in their coat of arms and depicted on their flag.

Image result for perro de presa canario dogs
Perro de Presa Canario or Canary Mastiff
Image result for canary islands flag
The Canary Islands flag

The Canary Islands is the largest and most populated archipelago of the region. It is made up of 7 large islands and several smaller islands, all of volcanic origin. My ancestors come from the islands of Tenerife, Gran Canaria, and Lanzarote.

Image result for islas canarias mapa

Tenerife is the largest and most populous. It is known internationally as the Island of Eternal Spring with temperatures ranging from 64-82 year round. It is believed that Tenerife is the location of The Elysian Fields mentioned in ancient Greek mythology. Perhaps this is the namesake of the street in New Orleans. Tenerife is also famous for hosting one of the world’s largest carnavals.

Image result for tenerife
Tenerife, Canary Islands

Gran Canaria is the third largest in the archipelago in area and altitude. It was populated by the Canarii who are thought to have arrived as early as 500 BCE. The capital city of Gran Canaria is Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, which is also jointly capital of the whole of The Canary Islands with Santa Cruz de Tenerife. It was the first stop Christopher Columbus made on his way back from the Americas.

Aguimes is another notable city in Gran Canaria from which many of my ancestors hailed. Aguimes has been restored to reflect the perfect picture of a traditional and peaceful Canarian town. It has some of the best preserved cave dwellings including a church built into the mountainside and many popular cave restaurants.

Image result for aguimes gran canaria
Aguimes, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

Lanzarote is the easternmost island in the archipelago. Like the other islands that make up The Canary Islands, Lanzarote has volcanic origins. It has solidified lava streams as well as extravagant rock formations. It is sometimes referred to as the “Island of 1,000 volcanoes.” Arrecife, meaning rock reef, is the capital city. The name was given to the city in the 15th century in reference to the black volcanic reefs. Ships would utilize these reefs as a hiding place from pirates.

I have yet to uncover exactly what city my ancestors were from in Lanzarote. In the late 18th century, there were volcanic eruptions on the island for six years from 1730 to 1736. My 7th great grandfather and grandmother, Domingo† and Maria Campo lived in Lanzarote during this time of extreme volcanic activity. They are both recorded to have lived until 1751, so it seems they survived the eruptions. I can’t imagine living during a time where the threat of volcanic eruption was a daily concern! The volcanoes are now classed as historical and therefore dormant, although you can feel the heat under the surface at Timanfaya. Today, the heat coming off just nine layers of volcanic rocks is used to cook steaks and fish for tourists.

Image result for lanzarote volcano
Lanzarote, Canary Islands
Image result for vineyards in lanzarote
Due to the unusual black landscape, curved stonewalls are used to protect the growing of grapes in the wine producing region of La Geria

So what does this mean for me and my family? Why would these people leave behind such a seemingly paradisaical land? How did they traverse 4,300 miles of ocean and become such an important link in my ancestral chain?

From the first arrival of Europeans in the mid 1500s until statehood in 1812, Louisiana flip flopped between Spanish and French rule several times. During a time of Spanish rule in the late 18th century, the Spanish Governor of Louisiana, Bernardo de Gálvez, sought to grow his army to protect against British expansion and populate Louisiana with more Spanish citizens. In 1777, the Spanish government issued the royal order to begin recruitment from the Canary Islands. At about the same time, the Canary Islands was going through an economic downfall and many jobs were being seized by the industrialization of other major European cities and countries. plague of African locusts invaded the islands. Paired with a terrible drought, the locusts ruined the dried-out crops on which the farmers depended upon for survival.  This created a perfect opportunity for Governor Gálvez to recruit. He offered Canarians (preferably married with children) an escape from their poor living conditions, land, farm tools, a house, a monthly stipend and a fresh start in a new land across the Atlantic.

Routes from The Canary Islands to the New World.

One of Gálvez’ recruits was my 7th great grandfather, Manuel Nunez de Villavicencio*. In July of 1778, Manuel, his wife Josepha Suarez, and their 5 children set sail for Louisiana on the S.S. Sacaramento, the first ship of Isleño immigrants heading for the port of New Orleans, under the command of Captain Benito Ripoli y Barcelo as a part of the Louisiana Batallion. Manuel and 260 other passengers arrived approximately 6 months later at the port of New Orleans.

The Isleños settled in four towns strategically placed around New Orleans to guard the city from British invasion: Galveztown, situated just below Baton Rouge, Valenzuela, located along Bayou Lafourche, Barataria, located along Bayou des Familles in Jefferson Parish, and La Concepcion, later San Bernardo, located in St. Bernard Parish along Bayou Terre-aux-Boeufs (see map below). Manuel and his family settled in the latter along Bayou Terre-aux-Boeufs, sometimes referred to as the “end of the world.” It is situated on the extreme outskirts of the bayou, where the land and sea blur into one. There he made his living as a farmer and fisherman. Manuel and other Isleño farmers in the area provided the New Orleans market with the majority of their garlic, onion, bean, potato and poultry supply. The inhabitants adapted to their new terrain and learned how to best profit off of the land and sea as farmers, hunters, trappers, and fisherman. However, their work would be put on a temporary hold. Shortly after arriving in the new world, Manuel and his many of his Canarian brothers, served in the Revolutionary War in the Gálvez expedition from 1779-1783.

Image result for islenos in louisiana
Four major Isleño settlements
byway
San Bernardo National Scenic Byway, St.Bernard, Louisiana

The few published church records from the time in the St. Bernard Parish suggest that Manuel and his sons were probably the progenitors of the Nunez families in the area. By the mid 1800s, most of his descendants were living in the upper part of the Bayou between Reggio and St. Bernard. They brought the tradition of domesticating cattle to the area, hence the name Terre-aux-Boeufs or “Cattleland.” Ranchers from all over Louisiana and even parts of eastern Texas brought their herds of cattle to St. Bernard for training. Isleños specialized in livestock domestication due to a scarcity of horses and mules in Tenerife. In their homeland, they were forced to use oxen for crop cultivation (remember the dogs?). In addition to cattle training and farming, many Isleños worked on sugar plantations, harvesting sugar cane and cypress. Vincent Nunez, grandson of Manuel and my 5th great grandfather, was a prominent merchant and sugar planter. Apparently prominent enough that robbers pinned his house for a break-in in November of 1852, though they only got away with a few “sundry” items.

vincent
Vincent Nunez

The Isleños brought so much more to Louisiana than farming and ranching techniques and men to build Gálvez’ army. They brought rich cultural and social traditions that are deeply a part of the southern Louisiana lifestyle to this day.

Something that I’ve experienced within my life, that was most likely passed down from my Isleño ancestors, is the importance of family. Isleño’s entire social life was centered on the family and Roman Catholicism. Religious holidays were of great importance and celebrated extravagantly with dancing and huge feasts. If you know my family, you have most likely been to one of our infamous crawfish boils. We often celebrate major holidays, like Easter, blasting music, playing yard games, and sucking crawfish heads with family and friends. Growing up, Christmas was an all day event where everyone in the family, immediate, extended, first, second, third cousins, and even ex-husbands and wives, crammed into my great grandmother’s den to open presents and eat food until we were sick. However, this practice wasn’t reserved for major holidays only. Every month we would have a birthday party to celebrate all the family members born during that month. If it wasn’t a holiday or a birthday, chances are many of us were still gathered at grandma’s house eating dinner together several times a week, if not daily, like our ancestors, who ate all meals together as a family. Many of my grandmother’s recipes featured a medley of beans that had been stewing in a pot all day with salt pork or pickled pork, a culinary tradition passed down by our Spanish ancestors.

Pot of Caldo
A simmering pot of Caldo soup, a traditional Isleño recipe

An observation was made by Raymond MacCurdy, who spent 7 years amongst the Isleño community in village of Delacroix. He observed that the people were “very devout and superstitious, stoic, have a sense of humor, and are extremely hospitable…they respect and obey their elders.” Add in the parties and the importance of family, and you have an exact description of my family.

Another tradition of great importance to the Isleños of Louisiana was décima singing. This was a Spanish tradition traced back all the way to the 15th century. Due to the geographical isolation and lack of formal education in that part of the state, oral traditional art was the best way for the people to pass along their stories and traditions. Generally, décimas are a stanza of poetry consisting of 10 lines per stanza, 40 lines, or 4 stanzas, per song. These songs were often sung at events in the communities, such as dances, weddings, and holiday celebrations or even after a long day of work or after a meal at a friend’s house. Their musical influences seeped into the mainstream at  the beginning of the 20th century as Latin Jazz made it’s way to the forefront of the dance halls and night clubs. Today there are fewer than a handful of people still practicing the tradition, one of the reasons being the loss of the Isleño language that is only spoken by a few elderly in the community. Though the tradition has waned from the society, remnants still live on in Isleño descendants’ passion and affinity for music.

Many of my family members have a natural, raw talent for music. In fact, many of my cousins and my grandfather, direct descendants of the Nunez line, are extremely talented musicians without ever having studied music or learned to read it, much like their ancestors. My most notable Isleño relative, who made a living as a musician, is my 3rd great grandfather (Manuel Nunez’ great, great grandson), Alcide Nunez. Alcide was a jazz clarinetist in the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in the early 20th century during the birth of jazz in New Orleans. Stay tuned for a more in depth post on Alcide, his career, and his contributions to Jazz.

alcide
Alcide Nunez

Of the four Isleño settlements, two survived into the nationhood of our country, including St. Bernard, the village where most of my ancestors originally settled. They all endured a plethora of hardships including storms, floods, sickness, disease, mosquitoes, intense heat, and the many yet to be discovered mysteries of the swamp. They were a people running away from drought-ridden, locust-plagued land only to find that their lives would be threatened by drowning and disease. It was not the Heaven they had dreamed of however, it was their new home and there was no turning back.

For centuries they would endure many threats to their home in the form of natural disasters. Floods, hurricanes, and intense heat made it extremely difficult to create a life sustained by farming and fishing. Living so near a disappearing coastline makes for easy work as a fisherman, but can be disastrous for a farmer. The Isleños have persevered through centuries of major hurricanes including several just after their arrival in the late 18th century, the hurricane of 1812, the Chenier Caminanda Hurricane, categorized as the deadliest hurricane in Louisiana history, Hurricane Betsy in 1965, up to the historic Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Some, growing weary of constant reconstruction, have moved to other cities, other states even. However, time and time again, Isleño people return to the land their ancestors built up from nothing but a marshy swamp. They have tenaciously fought to restore these lands, preserve their culture, and press on.

Aside from my deep love for dogs, it is in the of spirit of perseverance and preservation that I feel most connected to my Isleño ancestors. While cherishing and honoring the rich traditions that make up the very essence of who we are, we continue to press forward, through the storms, standing at the end of the world, ready to face any challenge life may bring.


†Domingo Campo -> Francisco Campo -> Antonio Campo -> Simon Campo -> Josephine Campo -> Frank Cuadrado -> Odeal Cuadrado -> Odeal Ayo -> Tracy Pigrenet -> Me

*Manuel Nunez -> Estevan Nunez -> Vincente Nunez -> Victor Nunez -> Alcide Nunez
->Mary Nunez -> Dora Mae Mocklin -> William Pigrenet -> Tracy Pigrenet -> Me

 

 

Origin Stories

Anyone that knows me knows that I am pretty obsessed with origin stories. I’m not talking about comic book heroes’ sagas. I am talking about where things come from. What single thing sparked an idea that evolved into a common practice in everyday life. I love etymology. I love the idea of word roots and why they are what they are. I love thinking about where customs and traditions come from, where last names come from. I love searching for original intent and intention in behavior. Psychology is fascinating to me. Maybe it’s because I studied acting, which is basically a study in human intent. Whatever the reason is, this has spread into it many side fascinations, a major one being ancestry.

I spend countless hours and money a year on ancestry research. So many cultures have a deep appreciation for their ancestors. It seems to be a practice in American culture that has lost its value. Perhaps because we are such a vast melting pot of so many different origins and cultures, that it has become harder to trace. Or perhaps because people ran to America to escape from their origin story and rewrite a new one. But to me, it is such a precious gift to know your origin story. Unfortunately, dark parts of our country’s history has ripped that privilege away from so many who yearn for that knowledge. This only fuels my fervor to search for and treasure my roots that much more.

As I read about cities and wars and tales of my ancestors, I can’t help but feel a visceral connection to these people. Some stronger than others. With some, I swear I recognize traits that me or other family members share though we are separated by hundreds of years of time.

Thus far, I haven’t really done anything with this passion other than compile notes and records that slow down my computer as they pile up. I have thought about writing a historical fiction novel or screenplay about some of my favorite ancestral stories, however that would require that I be adept at writing! For now, I will share their stories in a humble weekly(ish) blog post.

Many of these stories are still tangled with endless plot holes and unexplainable twists. My hope in writing this blog is that I can solve some of these mysteries while sharing some pretty interesting tales and honoring the who, what, where, when and (the toughest) why, that literally makes up who I am.

These Hours

September 3, 2016 3:00 am

There’s something about these house, these hours, the wee small ones, tiny, baby, minuscule hours of the night where only the wolves can see and speak and congregate together with their kind. Their likeness, fur matted, together in a circle, huddled mass. Amen. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost of the night, the invisible sheet covered being, three in one, two, three, one, two, three. Guard my sleeping children. Night lights burning bright, the first star I see tonight. If I can even see anything at all. What is there to see beneath the covered sky masked by the smog and light and colors so bright they dull the night lights left on by Mother or Father to keep us safe from the magical boy outside the window pane, pain, paint, pain, pain, pain, pain, pant like the wolf. The hot breath of the wolf howling for me to come hither. Whither must I wonder through the forest or else I’ll be lost or found. Who knows the difference? Am I contrite or contrived controlling ink from a pen? NO! Get out and stay out. I’ve had enough of the walls and the blocks building walls on my thoughts. The true thoughts under layers and layers of brick and mortar, too expensive for a pop-up shop, too easy to not let it flop. Let it go. Let if flow. Let it roll out like thunder. Don’t control. Just let it go, out, out, out, and away from my pen to my head, from my head to my pen. My pen is red like a childhood joke or game. It depends how you look at it. My hand is second guessing. The penmanship fails, the frail, aching, and tired, out of practice, fatigued like a soldier’s threads collected in the Plaza boutique. All we have on this block is one small corner to congregate and create. As if anyone cared what I have to say or what you have to say. What am I doing anyway, other than rambling away in the middle of the night because I can’t sleep because of the caffeine, which isn’t worthy or worth it even. The first thing I can think of because there’s so many filters and filters on filters and filtered through filters of hashgram no filter. Because nothing comes out without being filtered through lomo or loco, amaro of black and white slides of an instamatic app. What does that say about your life or your photo that you make it all up? Nonsense. It’s all nonsense and blocked and walls are built with or without our consent because the tiny glowing screens and particles that make it up impress upon our impressionistic impressionism lives which zoom out to be some sort of semblance of a glowing life with or without the filter, with or without the darkness: a time when words come out and the worms crawl out to be seen, just to be seen. For example, if I must, and I might make an example of myself talking about worms and flowing without a seam or a segment. A section of parts making up a whole of a soul…or a sole…or a soal? Who even determines the meaning when autocorrect will just make a decision for you anyway and you have the audacity to think you matter. When your handwriting changes every page, every line, every word you’ve ever heard changes meaning and scope. Just chalk it up to experience so you can take something home in a styrofoam box to have something left, if anything is even left when you decide to go searching and pray there’s no mold eating the meal you were intended for with or without the dowry. Selling yourself once again to a man or THE man, with or without the meaning you deserve or intend to tend to yourself or take care, if that’s even allowed. But most of the time you won’t have a say anyway, because you are stuck wide awake when the world is asleep and rumor has it you’re more likely to be a psychopath for enjoying the night and the crickets song and the cricking and screeching of the owl and barn noises. The inhabitants who inhabit the night with you by their side, they don’t seem as crazy as you do with or without the cursive “z” or “y” because who even writes like that anyway? A mix of letters, a mix of styles. Keep it pure. Segregated. That’s what they want. That’s what they tell you but you know it’s wrong. You never believed them. There is so much more and you have always known, whether you could make it out or not, or if you could translate or decode the writings of late night ramblings. Somewhere between the mixed style and writings lies the answer.The answer only found when the early bird is fast asleep dreaming of that worm, who does his best work at night. Because it’s all connected, whether wiggly, squiggly, square, straight, black, white, gay, or rainbow skinned, the pigment is all the same to the worm, the defeater of man. The king of the feast, seated in the Father’s lap, to the left of the Mother, who knows the difference in a subtle bark better than Father could ever scrape a stray hair from his trousers. Mother knows. She knows the night. She created it. She lies and breathes and prays and sins best under the night lights. Keep my children safe. Burn steadfast tonight.

 

I Have a Feeling We’re Not in Oz Anymore

If anyone knows me, they know that I am a very intense person. I take things to heart, especially things I am very passionate about. I am a 110% kind of gal. I think a lot of people in my generation have this kind of go-getter, make-things-happen type of attitude. We are a generation whose parents said “You can do anything you want. You can be whatever you want to be.” We are a generation who gets the privilege of saying “I am the first person in my family to go to college.” Continuing education is the new high school. I think because of this, a huge part of my childhood was centered around answering the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” A simple question that we have probably all been asked from the time we were just learning to talk all the way to graduation day 16 years later. As lucky as we are to be presented with this freedom to make such a huge decision, I think there is something fundamentally wrong with this question, at least for me. Because when I heard this question, it wasn’t a question that would simply help me pave the path towards future career goals, but more of an existential question. “What do you want to BE when you grow up?” We were encouraged to give answers such as “A Firefighter” “A Doctor” “A Vetrinarian” “A Lawyer” A Movie Star” etc. Once we established a solid answer, and received a few encouraging words from family and friends, we pursued this life of learning and training towards BEING this certain label or person. Well, me, being the intense person that I am, took this VERY seriously. I said “I want to BE an Actress. I want to BE a Singer. I want to BE a Dancer. I want to BE a performer.” I had complete tunnel vision focusing on being this identity. It defined me as a person. My whole life was dedicated on figuring out how to be a professional theatre performer.

So like most theatre folk do, I dreamed my whole life of moving to New York City. I wanted to be at the center of everything, contributing to the hustle and bustle of crazy city life. I was going to be on Broadway, maybe even a celebrity one day! I spent my whole life as long as I can remember focusing on that one dream. I would always be the one who never gave up. I was going to make it despite the warnings and the ridiculous odds. I was different! (Weren’t we all?) Except, when I got there I was sort of paralyzed. I used to think I would do whatever it took to follow this one narrow-minded, poorly planned dream. But when I was face to face with the reality of the industry, the early mornings, the politics, the countless uncontrollable factors, the games, I found that I had to force myself to even go to an audition, much less take a class or practice. The dream I had chased was not the reality I was living. I felt like a complete failure. That haunting question played on repeat in my mind. I had no worth if I didn’t accomplish this one thing I set out to do because I had defined who I was by what I DID.

I started tossing around the idea in my head that maybe it is okay for dreams to change, or at least the fine print. I knew that before I made any major life altering decisions, I had to get to a point where I wouldn’t feel like a complete failure for changing my mind. It was very difficult because people would reach out to me and tell me how brave I was and how much they looked up to me for having the courage to leave everything behind to pursue my dreams. Though I gladly accepted the kind words, it secretly put a lot of strain on me to live up to their expectations. Even more so, I felt that I had to live up to my own unreachable expectations. I could see my younger self in my mind’s eye shaking her head at me. “You were supposed to be the one who made it.” The phrase “making it” bothered me for years. I finally discovered that “making it” doesn’t only have one definition. I remember when I was younger performing at local theatres in Oklahoma City and Dallas and looking down on those who had day jobs and pursued theatre as an extra curricular activity. I thought, “Well if you were really serious, you would be in New York trying to have a REAL career” or, “They are way too talented to be performing here. What a waste of talent.” What I didn’t stop to realize is that they WERE making it because they were happy. After all, if BEING a performer was the goal, those community theatre actors were doing that way more than I was sulking in my over-priced, 600 square foot excuse for a suitable living space in Queens.

At the end of the day, I still felt like a complete failure. Yes, I had excelled in many different areas of life, but it didn’t matter because I wasn’t this specific thing that I told myself and everyone else I was going to be. Then one day it dawned on me, probably after talking to my mom on the phone or hours of pinning motivational quotes on Pinterest, that (as cheesy as it sounds) all I was required to BE was ME. IF “me” didn’t want to live this supposed life that a theatre artist is suppose to live, then that is okay! I had always defined who I was by what I did, all because of that one question. “What do you want to BE when you grow up?”

Well what I want to BE is kind. I want to BE loving and a good spouse. I want to BE helpful and encouraging. I want to BE a good friend and a good listener. I want to BE educated and interesting. I want to BE well-rounded and cultured. I want to BE fun! I want to BE happy.

At the end of the day, I wasn’t happy. I had to make a change. I let the weight of trying to BE something instead of trying to DO something become two separate entities and a huge weight fell off of my shoulders.

The many sacrifices we had made to live that lifestyle were no longer worth it. We had been miserable for several months. Ben had been experiencing similar feelings artistically over the course of living in New York City as well. We would alternate between who was inspired to be there and who hated it. He even wrote a musical about it! We said that we were worried for the day that we both hated it at the same time, because we knew that would be the end.

It was Easter weekend, the season of new beginnings. After 3 years in New York and 2 in Boston, we decided it was time for a new chapter in our lives.

So 6 weeks and 1500 miles later, we landed back in the land of the OCU stars, Oklahoma City, OK. Random, I know.

Honestly, it’s very strange. I never thought I would EVER be back in Oklahoma City, much less living here. Like Dorothy, I feel like I was in a weird dream, then I woke up and realized I never actually left Kansas (or Oklahoma). Because as wonderful as Oz is, what is a life where happiness can float away as easily as a bubble in the wind?

So here we are, back in Oklahoma City, filled with wonderful memories of talking scarecrows and dancing tin men, flying monkeys, glittering buildings, strange roads, and a lot of evil witches. But Oz isn’t going anywhere. That’s the beauty of it. It’s always there. Who knows, one day a twister of fate might sweep us back that way but I now can reflect on a very different message that Dorothy taught me. That no matter how wonderful Oz might be, and it is wonderful, the true message of The Wizard of Oz is to remember that “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t go looking any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with….”

Well…you know the rest!

And as far as that QUESTION goes, I hope we can re-word it just a bit for future generations. Maybe we should take a hint from the French who ask “Qu’est-ce que tu fais dans la vie?” which translates literally to “What do you do in life?”

I love that! It empowers and comforts me to know that there’s a limitless amount of things I can DO in life but only one thing I can BE and that is ME!

Quotes from “Mrs. Poe” by Lynn Cullen

I just read Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen, a historical fiction novel about Edgar Allan Poe and his alleged affair with the poet Frances Osgood. It is set in 1840s, high literary society, New York City. There were a lot of really awesome quotes from the book that I wanted to share! 

Enjoy! =)

“The stench of rotting sea creatures commingled with sweet scent of perfumes, as did the spicy odor of unwashed human flesh and the aroma of baking pies.”
– about downtown Manhattan; still pretty accurate in 2013

“The unspoken truth was that New Yorkers considered everyone in the world to be just a tad – well, more than a tad, a lot more than a tad – old-fashioned, compared to themselves.”

“Maybe we all have the ability to perceive another’s soul, and do so every day, only we take it for granted and don’t even know when we’re doing it. It’s called knowing someone’s ‘character’ or ‘personality’.” 

“If by a soul one means the creature who lives within each of us, a creature born loving, born joyful, but who with each worldly blow shrinks more deeply into its shell until at last, the poor desiccated thing is unrecognizable even to its own self, yes. I do [believe there is a soul]”

“Our soul is as much a part of us as our hand or our voice yet we are terrified to acknowledge it. Why is that?”

“It is as if producing a creative work tears a piece from your soul. When it is ripped completely free of you, the wound must bleed for a while. How similar it is to letting go of a dream, your hope, or your heart’s desire. You must open up and let it drain.”

“Pay attention to fate. It will always have the last word.”

“I admire any wild thing that won’t be ruled by man.”

“Americans are being poisoned all in the name of profit, producing a weak-minded race of people who are given to lust and desire.”

-“How many people have ruined their lives by giving into their desires?”
-“You’ll excuse me, but I cannot agree. Many people have improved their lives by following their desires.”

“Desire inspires us to be our very best.”

“Tell me, who is behind a great woman? That’s right. No one. She has to get there by herself.”

“Mid-May in New York: the season for foolishness.”

“Is their a creature more unstable than a woman made mad by desire?”

“It is my belief that marriage is made holy by two souls in communion, not by the order of the law.”

“What if women don’t want to control men’s desires? What if women have their own? Why must women always deny their desires? Why must men always deny theirs? It is unnatural to do so.” 

“Don’t fall in love with a poet. All they love is their words.” 

“Madness is as a drop of ink in water. It sends sly tendrils from the afflicted person into everyone around until all are shaded in black. Soon one does not know who is mad and who is not.”

“Need is the mother of creation.”

“Wedded bliss is a tale made up to keep the species going.”

“Why are we doomed to crave most that which we cannot have?”

“Fortunate is the person who can succeed in extracting honey from such a flower as this life, whose root and every petal is bitterness.”

“I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, but loving you isn’t one of them.” 

Which one is your favorite? 

Such a good read! I definitely recommend. 

Push on

So I have really wanted to get back into writing lately. I used to write poetry, stream of consciousness kind of stuff but for whatever reason I stopped. I have also been thinking a lot about journaling lately and how important it is for any artist to do. I learned a really cool style at a workshop once that involved stream of consciousness, prose-type writing where you just write whatever comes to your head, completely without stopping to think about it. It’s crazy how stuff just comes out. Sometimes I will even go back and not even remember writing certain things. So, tonight as I rode the subway, I let the pen take over and here’s what came out. Also, I tend to rhyme…. Not sure why, it just comes out that way …hah!

_______________________________________________________________________

34, 42, 50 etc, counting numbers up and down on a grid-locked grid we call Uptown, Downtown, stay away from Midtown, if you can, sardines jam, jelly-packed like a bunch of rats. Lookout. Beware. There’s a scare of disease that can spread to your skin,, burning your soul. It burns out of control, like the need the hear. Anywhere but here. The sky is never clear. We love. We fear; a rainbow of emotion, an ocean of feelings ebbing and flowing, like at Chelsea Piers. Chelsea queers, walking pups in their Sperry’s, pounding pavement and concrete in boots and heels and toes, head and shoulder, eyes and ears and mouth and nose: a whole factory, olfactory, filling each and every sense. Can you spare some change, a few coins on the corner for the man seeking shelter from this crazy, crazy weather, ever changing, ever fading from black to white, where North meets South. Can you open your mouth and shout and holler and hail a cab to drive you away from your scabs and scars that are engrained so far inside, outside, any side of the island is like paradise, roll the dice to decide your fate. Are you lucky today? Is it yes or no? Rejection or show? Move on or move out, because theres absolutely no doubt that this city is no place for you if you can’t take the hits and blows way below the belt in the gut and deeper in the inner most private place where you store your treasures and prizes, your disguises, the masks that you wear to hide all the tears that you won as consolation prizes, battle wounds. But soon it will heal. It will shine. Open your light to the world and don’t hide behind the falsities that you are made to believe: You’re not good enough, pretty enough, skinny enough, tough enough. Can you take it? Not rich enough, fast enough, rash enough? Will you just toughen up because you are YOU enough, and that’s all that matters. Be “Who You Are” says the British pop star who shoots across the radio waves, static, straight, ball change your identity, or better yet your mindset south of 59th street to the Great White Way that someday you WILL play, if you keep holding on to what is engraved inside of you since you were Peter’s height. You can fly second to the left or right no matter your frights. Toss it away. Sink it down. Let it drown. Destroy the weight keeping you on the ground, because earthbound is no way to live, no way to be. Be free. Fly free. Fly high above you and me, above all the rest, digest the struggle and regurgitate the answer to the test which is to strive and be alive, truly feel alive no matter what spiders, monsters, creatures, enemies, daggers trying to stab you or pin you where you clearly don’t belong. Breakout in song. Bust a move. Dance. Wear crazy pants. March like ants, one after one, driven to build their empire, climbing higher and higher up the tree of life, up to pride rock. Knock off the socks of the jocks, judges, pharisees, and the rest. Do better than your best. Express. Progress. Don’t regress but press on. Let the coffee wake you up to each new day. Take a whiff, fly away. Swing through this concrete jungle like Tarzan, with your courage like a sword in your hand to slay all your doubts and fear, because the path is clear. So don’t stumble on the pebbles but push. Push. Push. Push on and on until the fruit of your loins joins you here in this town, this city, that sometimes is shitty but exists like a microcosm of irony swirling like a twister, in the midst of bright lights, big city, smelly concrete, hobos urinate, dancers kick, singers thrive, just trying to stay alive doing what they were called to do, where it’s beg, play, jog, dance, study, film, paint, explore or try and try and I-think-I-can and try. Because it may not seem like a ballgame or a walk through Central Park but the Times and my mother and my gut tell me that it’s worth it. I’m worth it. I’m worthy of it. So stay. Endure. Stay pure. Push on.

__________________________________________________________________________

So that’s it. Hope you enjoyed! =)

…Hopefully more to come…

New Chapter in New York

I am trying not to start all of my blogs by saying, “Wow I am so behind on writing in this blog. I swear I will keep up better.” Sooo…

Wow…I am so behind…. etc etc. You know the rest.

So many new things have happened since the last entry but we will leave those things be and move on to the present.

Ben and I are officially New Yorkers! We made the big move May 31 to NYC! We are living in Astoria, which is in Queens. It is lovely. Everything is within a block of us and not as expensive as Manhattan. It’s been about 3 months and we are settling in fine, Mellie and Lily included. Mellie misses the grass a lot but I think she is getting adapted.

Ben is still working for Entertainment Cruises, but he is working on the Atlantica which is the more upscale version of the Spirit with no singing. Just his cup of tea!

I had a dream job this summer. I worked as an usher and on the promotional team for Spiegelworld for their show Empire. It was basically a burlesque circus of awesomeness! I miss it so much. I met some really lovely and talented people. Half of them will forget me or perhaps they never even knew my name, but I will forever remember them and my summer at Spiegelworld. I was so inspired in so many ways by the show. I often was moved to tears even though I saw the show 150 times and worked 60 hr work weeks. I was always happy to go to work! That is rare. But all good things come to an end (bad things tend to do that too I guess but let’s keep that cliche phrase for the sake of the story). I am currently unemployed but searching high and low for a job. It is really hard to follow working at Spiegelworld but one must move on I suppose….

Living in New York is a much different vibe than living in Boston. They are both “big cities” however, people are wayyyy nicer in New York. Let all of the debates be put to rest! Whether if it’s because of all of the transplants here in New York or not, it is a much friendlier city than Boston. Boston is very beautiful though. It at least has that on New York though New York has it’s own unique beauty. Who thought that graffiti could be so beautiful? It really is! Concrete, beams, metal, and grime all put together with very little vegetation somehow has it’s own way of being truly beautiful.

One thing that I really experienced here that has been really rough is how people won’t think twice about ignoring you. No matter what anyone says, as a living, breathing, and feeling human being, it is very painful to be flat out ignored. A friend once said that at the core of every human is a need for acceptance; it’s what we all have in common. I totally have experienced that this summer more than normal. I worked on the flyering team for Empire which is basically fancy language for “the girl standing in her underwear in Times Square handing out flyers.” There were times where I would look someone straight in the eye and say, “2 for 1 for Empire”  and they would look away like they didn’t even hear me!  I don’t understand! How can you just flat out ignore someone who has said something directly towards you? It is a very painful thing to experience over and over. I will say, that is one part I will not miss about my summer job. Anyway, I have concluded that maybe because of technology, or for whatever reason, people nowadays cringe at the idea of human interaction. That is one of the saddest things to me. How hard is it to turn and say, “No thank you.” Or even, “No.” Heck, I would even be satisfied with a “No lady! Screw off! Don’t talk to me ever again you crazy hooker!” At least it shows that that person can connect with me. The disconnect that exists in largely populated areas is such an interesting dynamic. Maybe it’s technology. Maybe it’s the overstimulation of the city and the shear number of people that is overwhelming.not sure of the answer… I always make a point to acknowledge people’s existence. It’s so depressing to me to think that our society has come to a point where we don’t know how to communicate. I have such an interest in language and communication. I mean my degree is basically in human interaction, behavior and communication. That’s what acting is right??

In other news, working at the Circus all summer has really inspired me to get back into silks. I have been training a few times a week and I am having a blast. I don’t quite feel marketable as a music theatre performer so I am trying to add some more special skills to my toolbox. I have always been very physically moved (no pun intended). Silks is a really satisfying way for me to engage in that. It also incorporates drama, dancing, and music. We will see where it leads.

Overall, the first 3 months as a New Yorker have been quite a roller coaster. The fact that I live here is still very overwhelming and somewhat surreal. I find myself thinking about how many things happen here in New York that seemed like the stuff of the movies. Living thousands of miles away my whole life, it never seemed accessible or real. I am living amidst Times Square, the Empire State Building, movie stars, the subway, Broadway, fashion, amazing food, and so much history. And here I am writing this blog in New York City 11 years after the tragic events of 9/11 and I think it is all finally sinking in. Those horrific events that were tiny snapshots on a fuzzy analog TV in my 8th grade classroom are now life size and easily seen from the roof of my building. I am living here in the center of the world, the big apple, where wonderful and horrible things happen simultaneously everyday, even every second. I can’t wait to leave my print on this city. I am so scared to endure the low times. I am equally anxious and excited to see what the future holds for me in my new chapter of life in New York City.