What a beautiful Tampa Bay weekend, and such perfect weather for the annual Gasparilla Parade! If you’re not familiar, this week-long event honors Tampa Bay’s well-documented invasion of pirates. You have your typical big event fare – personal coolers stocked with beer, girls in skimpy booty shorts, guys dressed in their best Buccaneer paraphernalia. All around good times during Florida’s winter.
This was my 1st performance as a member of the Second Time Arounders Marching Band, and it was amazing! To dance, to smile while dancing, to dance as the crowd cheered me on…it was cathartic.
If you happen to have pics, please share in my Comments field, tweet @VonSimeon, or post to my artist page on Facebook. Below is the band segment of the parade.
I physically developed, formulated a personality, practiced social graces, and made friends living abroad, almost entirely outside of the United States of America.
Beyond America, as an American, no one gave a shit if your father was this race, your mother was that ethnicity, and certainly, without a hometown to tout, nobody cared which city/town/state in America your people came from. The determinant of a shared drink at the bierstübe or an all-out beat down was simple: conciliatory manners, meaning, demonstrating respect towards the culture one is ensconced in, for the sake of peace. This is how I came to understand “relationship building.”
Thus, my confusion when I arrived on these shores to find the Americans acting rather…feral…towards each other. As soon as I smiled hello, the marginalization began: What are you? What are your parents? Where do they come from? What neighborhood do you live in? Marginalizing box after box after box instead of just a, ‘nice to meet you’ in response. I thought it was a phase, but, twenty-three years later, that fervent need to make a person fit in a narrow-minded box is still definitive Americana.
Artistically, my race/sex/ethnicity/nationality/sexuality/etc does not matter. I have voiced men, I have voiced South Asians, I have voiced transsexuals through my artistry. It’s because I allow myself to be infused by these cultures that these stories and poems manifest, and manifest with respect to the attributes of the culture.
As an independent author, I had to manage my own marketing, so I tried assimilating into the literary world fold without utilizing Americanism, because it belittles me. If I’m only an [adjective] author, then I’m saying my art is only valuable to [adjective] people, which would be me belittling my target audience, the global community!
The last two months During the summer of 2014, I did decent with general sales but abysmal in representing my work without getting forced into a social cubby-hole. I incurred derogatory statements regarding my sex, my race, my ethnicity, and those statements then erroneously defined the quality of my novel.
While I try to respect the perspective of those who protect their “-ness,” I won’t allow my principles to be subjugated to the -ness. Does that make sense? That’s not my crutch; that’s that person’s crutch, and I needn’t lean on it. Here’s a sample of that:
There was an opportunity for I Blew Up Juarez to be featured in one of Tampa Bay’s [adjective] bookstores. This [adjective] bookstore, according to its owner, is the signature bookstore for the area’s [adjective] community. As well, the owner was a contributing committee member for a major area festival celebrating the [adjective] community, and she was THE person to talk to in order to be a featured artist in that festival. Struck gold, right?
The bookstore owner felt her endorsement of my work would be integral to achieving success in the Greater Tampa Bay reading community. It was here in the conversation I started to experience trepidation, as I observed her mentally pushing four boards together around me in the middle of her shop.
A bystander to our conversation felt compelled to declare, “We need to support all [adjective] authors!” He nodded heavily, proud of this statement. He supplemented his declaration by talking about inspiring the future generation of [adjectives], and the struggles of being [adjective].
Very rah-rah-rah this guy! I saw an opportunity and replied, “Thank you for that! I have copies in my car, would you like to purchase one?”
He blinked at me.
He looked at the bookstore owner.
The bookstore owner burned eyes into him.
He looked back to me and declared, “I wasn’t going to buy a book today.”
I retrieved my review copy of I Blew Up Juarez from her weeks later, as it became more evident her intentions were to puppet my [adjective] self, not my artist self. Even if she was a fellow [adjective] person in the literary community, she behaved like a complete asshole.
Unfortunately, it is socially expected to accept marginalization and profitable to -ness it up.
It’s disparaging, but…I suppose I’m the only one who sees it that way.
*: original post 06.24.2014 – edited content and toned down cynicism
Down with an arm injury, the author spends a day admiring her hero, Cyndi Lauper.
Yet another swath of severe thunderstorms rolled over Tampa Bay yesterday evening. Bobby and I napped as our lake saturated. At 7:12pm, the sun burst over as if it was high noon. The ‘all clear’ signaled us down into the yard. I stepped forward and Bobby advanced, then perked his ears and raised an alert paw. Bobby toed forward suspiciously, then stopped, and when he was certain the approaching person was a familiar, he torpedoed straight towards her. I quickened my steps, knowing Bobby’s signature move of hurling his body up and into you like a four-legged Bouncing Betty. Sure enough, he swirled and smacked into my dear neighbor, a 94-year old East German woman.
“Suss! Suss! Mein klein hund,” she insisted, flatting her hand towards his black nose.
He heaved once more as I approached her, and I issued the control. “Stop.”
Bobby sat on his hind legs and sulked.
She shrugged it off. “So, have the Muses been kissing you?” She loves to hear about my progress as a novelist.
“Nein, nein,” I begin to tell her I hurt my arm. “Fur zwei Tage, mein Arm bist…” I can’t find the word for ‘injure’ or ‘hurt.’
“Kra?” she offers.
Sure. “Fur zwei Tage, mein Arm bist kra.” My broken German is further complicated by mixing her East German dialect with my Bavarian.
Not sure what happened, really. I straightened my right arm and felt a rubber band snap around the outer meat of my forearm. Great. I’ve possibly damaged the extrinsic muscle that controls my middle to pinky finger. For writers, this is a sidelining injury, akin to RGIII’s knee issues or Kobe Bryant’s tendon issues. Although I’m not getting paid a bazillion dollars to move my hand.
So I took to reading something that wouldn’t require note-taking. Hello, Vogue magazine. I rested my right arm over my belly as I flipped the pages with my left, and lo and behold. A story about the demigod, Cyndi Lauper. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the release of She’s So Unusual, an LP I owned, I played the dickens out of, I danced to, I memorized. Cyndi is boss. A perfect hero for a kid constantly on the move. She’s So Unusual not only rocked, but was my rock, an solid soundtrack for when my identity wasn’t too clear. At 60, she’s the first woman to win a Tony for Best Score on her own. And she’s still runnin’! The unstoppable, the diverse, the inimitable artist I admire.
I typed this quote by Cyndi in my Inkpad as a reminder: “Contribute something to the world that gives ’em a shot in the arm.” My approach to I Blew Up Juarez is deliberately unusual, because I’m unusual, and this character does unusual things that nonetheless, offers a question regarding community. I enjoy celebrating uniqueness. Same is boring! I learned that from Cyndi Lauper. My Muse. Thanks for the kisses, Cyndi.