The Flying Broomstick

Like most California natives turned New Yorkers and replanted as Californians, I have always enjoyed complaining about the weather. Los Angeles in October experienced an unprecedented heat wave. In the grand tradition of L.A. earthiness, nowhere had air conditioning. The whole town felt like Satan’s butthole. A most uncomfortable place to experience this phenomenon was a mausoleum, where we were saying, adios to abuelita.

My sassy abuelita, Juanita had died peacefully at ninety-two. She was a spitfire, and her burial had a fiery theme, without air conditioning. (The whole masouleun was stifling and one could easily experience heat exhaustion.) In a less than charming way, I sat through the service, schvitizing to death. I flashbacked to happier times shoveling snow and falling face first in snow banks. Unfortunately, I was still melting away like a Wicked Witch, if only I had a flying broomstick to whisk me away to an actual cold climate.

In the grand tradition of Latino family funerals, everyone stood around until grandma’s coffin was in the wall, macabre much? Afterwards I happily removed my cardigan, but still couldn’t get any relief from the heat. The burial ended. We drove to abuelita’s house. The best part of a Latino wake, taco trucks and booze. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any cool spots to relieve myself from the heat. I just sat there, melting. I just continued to melt. Nobody wanted to hug me. Everyone was just as miserable.

Dios mio!

The wine flowed. Wintry New York daydreams danced around my head. Eating tacos distracted me from the misery. The sun went down. Family left. An abundance of wine had just been cooling off. I stuffed the remaining bottles of wine and Coronas in my Strand tote bag/murse. It was a prize from abuelita above for enduring a heat wave for a love one.

Daddy and I returned to Riverside. Our house was barren, no booze. Grinning from cheek to cheek. I took out the bottles of white wine and beer. He was most grateful. We ordered a pizza. I also became increasingly grateful to live in Riverside, where we have air-conditioning.

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The Grumpy Californian

The Grumpy Californian

132nd Street and Seventh Avenue, New York City, (Central Harlem to be exact) this was my original “Gayve” (gay man cave). From my fifth floor apartment, with its iconic fire escape, I daydreamed, came up with stories, and people watched. Harlem contributed greatly to my artistic life. Like Billie Holliday, James Baldwin, and Langston Hughes, my soul was both enchanted and enriched by the historic Manhattan neighborhood. It shocked many when my fifth-floor walk up studio was traded for a track home in Riverside, Ca.

“Uh-oh, am I going to lose my creative streak?” I thought to myself.

As a professor in training, I lived a lived a surprisingly rich literary life. Taking classes from African-American to LGBT literature, academia exposed me to an even worldlier side of life. Reading novels became an important part of my new career. These novels influenced my writing. It improved it.

During long breaks in between semesters, my stories were written. Soon, I sent my stories to publishers. Every morning, there was a different rejection email. “Unfortunately” became my least favorite word. Every rejection email featured the word.

“Fuck this shit,” I thought to myself.

The rejection letters were a let down. Being published obviously validated one’s status as “legitimate writer.” For months, rejection letters soured mornings. Sometimes, they came in before dinner. Lovingly, these were referred to as appetizers. While strolling Downtown Riverside on a cardigan friendly afternoon, my phone buzzed. The email read as follows.

“Congratulations, we’ve decided to publish your short story, “Norman is Grumpy.”

Trying to hold back screams of elation, I practically pranced down Main Street in happiness. “Norman is Grumpy,” set in Harlem, followed the life of an eccentric Latinx teenager. It was a valentine to my old neighborhood, which still fueled inspiration. For months, I waited for the story’s release.  Three months later, Norman made his grand debut in the world. As a writer, I finally made it.

These days, I’m still struggling to have more stories published. However, if you want to read “Norman is Grumpy” here is the link. It’s starts on pg. 35.  It’s the 2018 edition, which is prominently featured.

https://class.uafs.edu/languages/azahares

 

 

Those Dinosaurs are Hipsters

Hipster dinosaurs, hipster dinosaurs, hipster dinosaurs! The archeological phenomenon represented one of my greatest creative streaks in years. I like to coin this time (no, shit), “the hipster dinosaur era.” From February until June, short stories were written, literature was analyzed and hipster dinosaur drawings sprang to life. Unfortunately, the cruel heat of Riverside aimed its villainous sunrays at my right brain.

“Shit, fuck, shit, my brain is fried, my brain is fried,” I said to myself.

“Kentucky Fried Brain Cell” led to the clogging of artistic thoughts. Hipster dinosaurs hibernated. Angry New Yorkers took an Ambien. The little gay elves, which churned out stories, went on strike. The sunny summer of grey bleakness commenced. Tumbleweeds, blank Microsoft word documents, and too much TV plagued a typically intellectual existence. Along with writer’s block came rejection letters, ninety-one to be exact. I was dying an artistic death.

Sitting at the local coffee shop (because, duh, this is Coffee & Cardigans), I would start writing a story, then watch it die a miserable death. Long drives with music blasting were attempts to ignite creativity, yet they failed. Eventually, hipster dinosaurs rose from slumber. New Yorkers wanted kawffee. The sleepy elves returned from their strike. My writer’s block had burst in a glittery spectacle. An idea came to me and it worked. “The Great artistic draught of 2018” had come to an end. The villagers (who resided in my head) just needed a holiday.