1975 – 1987
I was born in a hospital room in Valera, a small hot and humid city in the state of Trujillo, Venezuela. my American mother was alone when I arrived, my father not allowed to be there. old school.
my father was just recovering from a near death auto accident. t-boned by a drunk driver in Caracas, he was left with a 5 day coma and a full body cast. to this day he has glass from the winshield in his forehead, aches and pains from the bodily harm, and a hell of a story to tell. my mom too was recovering -from a move to a small rural outpost, removed from her big city love, friends, and any connections to her old way of life.
my first 12 and half years were filled with outdoor adventure, fresh fruits, vegetables and meats, heaps of close family, salsa and merengue pulsating from the radio, tales of mystery from the older folks, and following my older brother’s lead -to his discontent.
one day my father announced that we’d soon be leaving Venezuala. we’d be moving to the U.S. to live closer to our maternal grandparents and have an opportunity for a well tuned education. my father somehow sensed the coming demise of the Venezuelan middle class and was out of there in the nick of time.
1987 – 2001
junior high school was a shocker. some of the things I learned included: English as a second language, the definition of ‘dildo’, that blacks and whites were somehow different, that I was a spick come over on a banana boat (my brother’s CV’s radio handle), that we were poor, that my father didn’t get the respect that he merited, that my grandparents were wonderful, and that I loved skateboarding.
high school still easily represents the worst years of my life. most of what I remember that was good had to do with skateboarding and family. I probably started to have an early onset mental illness at this time too, which blurs many memories of those times. I started smoking tobacco at 15 but never really dabbled in other substances. I was petrified by girls even though I managed to have a few girlfriends.
in general life as a Venezuelan/American teenager was confusing at best, self defeating at worst. I struggled with my identity in terms of culture and nationality as well as in my choices of personal interests and style, in a small football loving Southern American town. my parents worked their asses off. my father worked more hours and consecutive days than I care to remember. together they gave everything to their children.
I in return rebelled in appropriate American teen fashion and spoiled any sort of positive relationship I could have had with my well read, well educated, and even-tempered parents.
eventually I went off to university and studied English with a focus on literature. Chester Himes, William Burroughs, Kerouac, Herman Hess, Dostoevsky, V. S. Naipaul, Hemingway, and others began to shape a new view of the world.
I skateboarded and surfed religiously. I had a few failed relationships. I was filled with anxieties and fears -some of which I could identify and others that were latent. I feared growing up, I feared not knowing where I was headed (rather than look ahead with excitement the way many of my good friends did), I feared any commitment whatsoever, I feared people, myself, failure, personal expression, personal growth, religion, cops, and a bunch of other nameable and unnamable things.
there is no better cure for fear than booze and ganja.
to be continued…