Summer: The Shared Pulse

Summer: The Shared Pulse

On Wednesday, June 15th, a memorial service was held for the victims of the Pulse tragedy at Amarillo Unitarian Universalist Church. John had hit me up sometime the previous day I think, trying to set up a time for us to hang out and reconnect. We hadn’t seen each other since Friday, June 3rd, up at the studio. I had found out about the memorial service via facebook, and was immediately invested in attending and paying honor to my fallen sisters and brothers. I asked John if he wanted to go with me to the service; he immediately agreed. That Wednesday morning, I was all but recovered from the sudden strike of virus that I had been suffering with on Tuesday. The fever had vanished, and my stomach was no longer giving me weird problems.

As I was still without a car, John picked me up that evening and we joyfully reconnected. We talked a bit about the honeymoon and the goings on of Amarillo whilst I was watching he and Angie’s house. We may have discussed the newfound change of living that he and Angie had been pressured into by their landlord and what was to be done exactly to get them moved to canyon sooner. Our talk eventually turned to the events of June 11th and 12th, to the horror that had taken place in Orlando. We were both still in shock. Though I was used to wearing my emotions quite ostensibly, John has always been more reserved and thoughtful. Yet both of us were affected, were heartbroken for these precious souls who we had never met, who we somehow were spiritually connected with now as we mourned their passing. They were children of God, fellow humans sharing this planet, such wondrous souls to share the journey of life, whose journeys had been cut immensely too short.

When we got up to the church, cars were already lining the streets. We parked right off of Cornell and walked up to where everyone was heading inside. The entrance we used may have been a back entrance. It was on the other side of the building from the street, near where the grass looks like straw all year round. A large banner had been made for the victims, and those who came to the memorial were invited to sign their names upon it. I wrote my name and placed a heart next to it. John and I filed inside and found our way to the main sanctuary. We sat up near the front, on the left side of the room.

The place was filled with people from all different walks of life. I knew a few faces. One of my friends was actually a part of the musical tribute that night. We both greeted him and proceeded to catch up some more as more people showed up. The place was eventually packed out. The walls were lined with those who had come to honor.

The service was beautiful. Representatives from various faiths and organizations took turns taking the stage and speaking about the Pulse tragedy, the victims, and their loved ones. In between these words, different musicians would get up on stage and play a song to pay tribute; some were original compositions, some were old familiar friends.

The most beautiful and the most heartbreaking moment came at the end. We each took a candle. Once they were all lit, a projector displayed the faces of those who had passed on the wall one at a time while their names and ages were read.  A bell would ring out at the end of every name. In unison, with candles lit and illuminating the entire room, we all watched in stunned silence as the faces of our lost family passed before us. All these wonderful souls, all of these lives… they should be safe and sound with their loved ones. Their passing will never make sense; but in those moments, we memorialized their lives with all love and care. It was an ineffable experience to watch those faces and to hear those bells. Most of these individuals were my age, and Latino like me. God help us all.

With candles still lit, we all stood for one last song: John Lennon’s Imagine. Never before had that song meant so much to me. Never before had I understood the great and immediate need for unity on God’s earth, for peace in this land. I heard John singing next to me. John never sings. But there we were, all restraints and reservations stripped away as we, one body and one voice, sang out a tribute and a call for hope.

I left with hope on my heart. I left with the resolve to do my very utmost to be a child of pure light. Through the transformative power of Christ, I will be that light, I will show that love. Let us change. Let us honor them with Love. Let us work towards healing in every way, for the victims of this tragedy and for the rift of fear between cultures. Let us show unlimited kindness towards the families and friends of the victims, and all who are afraid and nervous because of this. Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

Celebrated Summer

Celebrated Summer

I still have much to write in my Summer 2016 posts. I’ve been slacking off lately and I need to stop that and get with it. Lots going on with screenplays and putting the finishing touches on my band’s debut album before I release it. Hope to spend a lot of time this summer working on posts for this blog in addition to all the other things I have going to use my creative power.

It’s pretty much summertime now in 2017. The spring semester at Amarillo College is over, summer classes have just begun. I hear that public schools go until early June these days. I find this disturbing and twisted. What ever happened to actual summers? We need that wonderful three month reprieve, that glorious time away from the numbers. This is the time where some of the best moments of childhood take place. Summer is sacred.

This summer, I’m keeping things pretty loose, and keeping my hopes very high. I will be releasing my debut album this summer, something that I have been meaning to do for over a decade. I will also be going back into the studio to cut some new songs (always keeping busy in Retrospection is vital to me). I will attempt to get somewhere near an ending point for my pilot screenplay that I’ve been working on for far too long. I will be working on several other narrative ideas and characters, spending long and wonderful hours at Evocation.

Most importantly, I will grow in my knowledge and understanding of God’s glorious love and peace. I will overcome my anxiety, I will transcend my depression. I will love my neighbor, and practice loving kindness everyday. I will help all who are hurting, all who need peace and love. I will be there to serve and to share. I will also love myself this summer. I will be kind to myself and move towards appreciating myself much more and honoring myself and my life.

And hopefully, I may even find some sort of romance. I still believe.

May God bless all this summer, and may we do good to one another, and love each and every soul. Let us remember those departed, and help those who we are able to reach. It’s going to be a summer of good.

May loving kindness surround you in all your steps, and may God hold you closer than ever. Amen.

My Own Sound

My Own Sound

Right now, I’m recovering from a sudden and very intense burst of panic. There were a few contributing factors as to why I had something of a nervous breakdown tonight, but I think that a significant amount of the problem comes from a lot of pent up fears and doubt about my artistic value. See, in my musical journey, I’ve been let down a lot by people. Some were well meaning and others not so much. But as I’ve been a very fragile soul for most of my life, I tend to take these things far too personally and let it tear me down whenever something doesn’t work out. I get it up in my head that everyone is against me, that everyone wants me to fail, that my music has no inherent worth and no artistic merit or value to it whatsoever. It’s like I twist a lot of things to feed my fears and “confirm” my terrible view of my own self-worth. Or at least, I used to. I’ve committed to a different way this year; when 2017 started, I remember being very intentional in applying the message I learned from Fugazi’s Target into my life, both in art and in a much larger context: “If you wanna seize the sound, you don’t need a reservation”. I’m not waiting on Amarillo anymore. I’m beyond that. Whatever happens in regard to others, I will not let anyone else define the worth of my art. I will love my music and cherish my gift to create and articulate. God gave me this, and it is exceptionally important and wonderful. I will let my own sound resonate, first and foremost to myself and my soul. And all who want to be a part, thank you. All others, I love you and wish you the best. And in love for myself as well, I will not let you define who I am and what the value of my art is. I will love me and love my own sound. I stick to this commitment, and I carry on towards my dreams eternally.

Peace and Love to all.

Healing one day at a time J

Summer: The Tuesday After

Summer: The Tuesday After

June 14th was a complex day. I was still carrying a heavy heart for my sisters and brothers who were taken in Florida over the weekend. The morning news carried heartbreaking footage of those in mourning, the look in their eyes an ineffable sadness. I don’t think anyone quite knew how to articulate any of this yet, much less try and make sense of anything. What sense can be made from such a horrible event? Violence and hatred are senseless, always. Now and again, the media would attempt to air details about the shooter, but I ignored them. I didn’t want to know anything about that person. My mind and heart were devoted to those taken from us, and their family and friends. My heart and mind were devoted to the country and how we could somehow find hope and love in these times. Hope and Love had to prevail. I wanted to help that truth in any and every way possible. What I was seeing from friends and heroines on social media was encouraging, bringing bits of light into such a dark place. We were rallying together to give support and help in many wonderful ways. I saw reports of donors standing in long lines waiting to give blood to all who needed it, and I was so happy to see that some of my friends were among those in line.

That morning, I had gone with my mother to get breakfast, stopping in at one of our usual haunts. I started to feel somewhat off not long after we arrived, and spent some minutes in the restroom attempting to get back on track. Something wasn’t right inside. My body was having some fights. We left the restaurant and promptly went home, where I texted my boss to let her know that I was steadily growing ill with some unknown stomach malady and that I probably wouldn’t make it in to the office. She was fine with this, and I proceeded to sit on the couch and tried to relax.

Soon afterwards, I was alerted to a developing situation of great danger and potential evil. In the immediate days following the tragedy at Pulse, any news report that involved guns could easily get me severely upset and concerned. But there was something unique about this new alert; the situation was happening only about a mile from my house. Sometime that morning, the Georgia Street Walmart was put on lockdown in response to a potential hostage situation, something involving an armed person inside the building. I live just across the highway from this Walmart, and had frequented the place since it was built a little over a decade ago. My facebook feed was flooded with posts about Walmart and what was going on. Understandably, everyone was in a state of high agitation and fear, following the horror we had beheld on the news over the past two days. I think that maybe it’s fair to say that any regular faculties of alarm and caution were functioning on a much higher level than usual. No one was quite certain of what was going on. New information kept coming in, and news teams were reporting from the midnight rodeo parking lot. To this day, every time I drive by that establishment, I am reminded of that summer day. My dad came home for lunch and we watched the coverage of the event. We found out that the armed individual was, in fact, an employee of the store. Sometime around 12:30 or 1:00, we heard the report that the police had brought an end to the situation. The gunman was the only causality. It was a terrifying few hours, I’m sure much more so for those inside the store and the manager that was taken hostage. After the incident was over, I was still trying to calm myself. The physical sickness I was experiencing, coupled with the emotional sickness from what had gone on the past few days, slightly heightened by what had just happened in my own town, really had me highly upset.

To calm my nerves, and to try and focus some of my mind on the simplest joys in life, I nestled into the living room that afternoon and watched Cant’ Hardly Wait with my mom. It was a profound two hours of the greatest and most essential bits of life, more hints of Heaven from God’s hands.

What happened that night was a pivotal moment in my journey. It was a hard experience, and in many ways, a final note to something that had been in the works for a bit. To sum up a long story, I was due to play worship for the college ministry I was attempting to be a part of. I had joined the worship team within the last two months, and they had begun scheduling me for the college services on Tuesday night, which I often had tried to attend with committed regularity. But there had been a building distance between me and the people of this ministry for a while, and my most earnest efforts to break into this group had all fallen hard to the ground. I had some inkling in my spirit that the end was approaching, though I didn’t want to give up on this. For whatever reason, I was still on that lifelong chase to earn human affection.

But that night, something significant signaled the beginning of the end for me. To be fair, my illness that had first reared its ugly head was growing steadily worse that evening, and so I wasn’t present for the entire service after worship. That being said, the Pulse victims were never addressed from the leadership that night, and I was the only one to suggest prayer for the wounded and the victim’s families during worship team prayer. There was this very disconcerting and horrendous sense that the subject was being avoided. There was no way I could imagine us avoiding it. These were children of the Most High that were taken; we had to address this. As the body of Christ, we had to respond and help. But no, everything carried on as if nothing had happened. I was stunned. I was dumbfounded. I was bowled over with the indifference that seemed to permeate the environment. What was this? How could we ignore this? In the back of the room, I silently confirmed in my spirit that it was time to leave. I found peace with the Holy Spirit in this decision. It was time. I would finish out my commitments to the other worship services, and then I would finally be done trying to get this church to love me.

Let it be said that I love and cherish some of the friendships I made at this church, and have since talked to one of the members of leadership about why the Pulse tragedy was ignored that night. He listened with the utmost grace and understanding, and I will probably address our conversation in a future post. I wish everyone there the very best, and may we all learn and grow in the grace and love of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

What a Tuesday. My fever persisting, I went home and attempting to relax, nestling myself in the unconditionally loving arms of my God; this was truly and is truly my home.

Repeater: Part 2

Repeater: Part 2

So let’s dive back into this masterpiece of art and social critique that is Fugazi’s Repeater. The album itself was a long awaited reward to the fans of the band who had followed them from around ’87. I’m sure by the time Repeater came out, everyone was intimately familiar with the first two EPs, the profound showcases of intelligent and audacious art that are Fugazi (self-titled) and Margin Walker. I could devote several blog posts to those two pieces of brilliance and I just might in the future. I spent some wonderful summer evenings walking around my neighborhood discovering all that I had been missing for 25 years on those two EPs, which were eventually combined to make the 13 Songs compilation. I read that Margin Walker was intended to be the first LP, but half of the recordings were deemed insufficient to be released, so they cut it in half to make an EP. The 3 Songs EP came out in ’89, I believe, containing the gems Song #1 (one of my all-time favorite Fugazi tracks), Joe #1, and Break-In. But this was still just scratching the surface. These were samples, perhaps; little tastes of a much more delicious potential. And that potential was radiantly utilized in Repeater, released in April of 1990, kicking off the new decade with a prescient piece of meticulous insight and censure of excess.   This was no longer the ‘80s; it never had been for Fugazi. Materialism was futile, greed was poison, merchandise was not a necessity for a band to be a living entity or a successful project; that power lay solely in the hands of the artist. We are not what we own. That’s frail and flimsy. The profit can turn into deception. That can warp your most innocent and wonderful creative mind. Everything that Fugazi had been building us up for was paid off in full and then some when they released Repeater onto the world. Now bear in mind, when Repeater was unleashed, I was not yet a living person on the planet. I wouldn’t be born for another 9 months. But I’m very happy that I was born in this wonderful incipience of new frontiers in music, between Repeater and Nevermind. It’s like God brought me into the world as some sort of commencement, some sort of symbol, a part of this vanguard that was to be the alternative rock reaching the world. For better or worse, I’ll claim that. Repeater set that stage. D.C. was onto something huge, and had been for quite some time. But this was altogether new and wonderful. The first official LP by the band that remains their own genre would be an assertion and a call to put your mind into your music. I want it back. Stop, turnover…

Part 3 coming soon 🙂

She and the Rain

It’s raining outside right now, and the sound of the storm outside my window has sparked a very fond memory of mine to return to the forefront of my mind. Some time ago, probably about 6 or 7 years ago, I have this memory of lying in my bed, the lights turned off, the window opened, and a thunderstorm outside my window creating a stellar show as I fell into a deep peace. Storms used to terrify me when I was a child. I would watch the news obsessively at 11-years-old and wait in paranoia for the weather update, dreading the announcement of an impending tornado watch or hail. I live in “tornado alley”, so storms are a common occurrence around here in the spring and summer (though I have never experienced an actual tornado). After some time, I became not only accustomed to storms, but actually very fond of them, and rain in general, except for when it does harm to humans and animals.

And rains have been the backdrop and equally font and center for some of the greatest moments of my life. This night was one such moment. If memory serves me correctly, I had been hanging out with a friend I had met through my mom’s work. She was my age, exceptionally intelligent, extremely high-spirited, and so much fun to be around. She was soon to be moving away for school, and we were spending some quality time together before her departure. I think we had ended the night hanging out at my house watching tv as a light storm blanketed the night in cool blue breezes and moisture outside. We were both hazy and serene as the night ended. She left my house and headed home. I went to bed with the serenity and simple joy of the night’s events on my heart and mind. I was in a state of confusion as to the nature of my relationship with this friend; did I have deeper affections for her? Maybe I did. But regardless, I’m thankful for our friendship and for these days we had to spend together. Being in her company was wonderful and emboldening.

I’m usually horribly frightened of the dark, and to this day, I still sleep with a light on at night. But some nights, I have been in such a state of peace that the dark becomes non-threatening and calm to me. This was a night when both the dark and the thunderstorm were both part of God’s glorious serenity to my soul. Lightning flashed through the sky in frequent bursts, lighting up the night sky. I was free on this night from my fears. The storm was calm, the night was peace. I was embraced by wonderful joy and true love, God holding me close in nature, in her essence, and in His calming Spirit of truth, which affirmed my soul as I lay there in perfect peace. I want to be there again. Thank You, God, for this night and for this rain. May I forever be found in You, and in the rain of you neverending love for me. Thank You for this memory, for her, for the me that I could have been, for the new creation that You are making me into. For restoration, for washing, for making all things new, and for turning fears into Your glorious presence.

Summer: Pulse

Summer: Pulse

I think I saw if first on Facebook that morning. Someone had shared the news. I looked through freshly opened eyes upon a headline so horrific, I probably didn’t even comprehend it upon first viewing; if I did, I know that I didn’t want it to be true. My breath was sucked away, my heart dropping through the floor into the earth. My soul immediately punctured, the realization only just starting to sink in. A prayer instantly formed upon my lips, one of earnest request that God’s presence be with each family member and friend of the victims. I said something to my mother I think; I’m not sure what. I walked to the garage where my dad was. After greeting him, I relayed the news: a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando. His expression instantly turned to shock and sadness. The number was large. We turned to the news. On CBS Sunday Morning, we witnessed raw footage of the chaos that was Orlando, Florida just hours prior and continuing into the day. We learned that the club was called Pulse, and that it had always welcomed the LGBTQ community with open arms. Immediately, we all knew that this fact would be related somehow; we knew that this was a hate crime, a senseless act of unthinkable violence against a community that regularly experienced horrendous persecution in this country. We saw the people scrambling to get help, the backs of pickup trucks being loaded with innocent young adults who had taken bullets and were in desperate need of medical care. Confusion hung thick in the air; disbelief, utter shock… how does one make sense of this? There is no sense in the senselessness of violence. My family and I watched the news coverage in silence. We went to get breakfast later that morning, the tragedy fresh on our hearts. I fervently prayed for those grieving their lost loved ones, and for the healing of those who were in the hospital with injuries.

Everyone addressed the tragedy in a different way. I endeavored to be a part of the healing. On that Sunday, that meant pouring out pure and loving empathy, grieving with my sisters and brothers in Florida all the way from Texas. I prayed consistently throughout the day. I think that the shock was still so great that a lot of people didn’t know what to say or do. But we all knew that this should never have happened; nothing like this should ever happen.

That afternoon, I watched The Revenant with my dad and later, went on a walk, trying to find serenity. I stopped by Angie and John’s and spent my last full day with Fatty watching over the house. I don’t remember what I watched and what I did.

I will speak more on the Pulse tragedy in later posts, including the beautiful memorial service that John and I attended. But for now, I will simply offer this in memory of all those taken and all those affected:

To all the victims of this, you are never forgotten. Every one of you was a brilliant and wonderful soul and you are missed every single day. May God rest your beautiful souls. For every family member and friend of these, may God be with you in your grieving, in your hurt, in every moment of every day as you live on with the pain of absence. To all those who were injured, may you be healed in the name of Jesus, every bit of you: physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. May we all help you in every step of the recovery, serving with love and compassion. I’m so incredibly sorry for your loss and your pain. May I do all I can to continually remember those who were taken, to embody loving kindness to each and every one affected, and to do my utmost to ensure that measures be taken to prevent these senseless acts of hatred and violence from occurring.

Summer: Saturday Night

Summer: Saturday Night

June 11th. I honestly don’t remember a great deal of the daytime events off the top of my head. By this time, I had cleaned up the house pretty well and was feeling like I truly had a 2nd home here at the Medina’s. Fatty had become a good friend of mine, and I looked forward to seeing her daily. That evening, I went to the Saturday night service at Trinity Fellowship. My commitment to this church and this community had been steadily growing more strained and frustrated. It’s a complex story, but the essence boils down to the pains of being too different. I think that I had told Tyler that I would be there that night for the service, however.

Trinity was starting their summer series At The Movies, where each week they highlight a specific film and interpose commentary dealing with specific themes and reflections extrapolated from the film.  This night was The Martian. I had seen the film earlier in the year and greatly enjoyed it. Tyler informed me that attendance at the 7:00 service at Trinity was dwindling in recent weeks and that there had been an emphasis amongst the North attendees to actively attempt to remedy this. As such, that night I joined Tyler at the 7:00 service, which took place in the same room that I used to attend church at Trinity when I was a child. I had many memories in that room, dating all the way back to elementary school and pancake breakfasts. On this night, I felt the full force of all the disconnect that had been building in my all spring, regarding this community. I was supposed to fit in; but nothing worked. I was the constant pariah. And it was getting extremely hard to keep giving so much of myself to people who seemed to want nothing to do with me.

The selected film to inaugurate the summer series was The Martian. I loved the film, having watched it back in February or March. I thought it was kind of bizarre, yet cool, that they were showing an entire movie in church. I didn’t know that they would be highlighting clips and mixing them with stylistic footage of pastoral teaching. The whole experience was pretty fascinating and enjoyable, not to mention encouraging. And popcorn was also served. I genuinely enjoyed the service, though during worship and especially the greeting time, I was severely uncomfortable around people who I suspected hated me.

Tyler told me that he wanted to talk about something important. We agreed to meet up for dinner and then hang out later. I stopped by my house and packed a few things, intending to stay the night at the Medina’s. I honestly don’t remember for certain where we ended up eating; probably Torchy’s. Back at Angie and John’s, we decided on watching The Lost World: Jurassic Park. I poured some black vodka, and Tyler proceeded to ask if I would be in his wedding party. There were some nuanced complications to this request, so we talked it over for a bit. I got steadily buzzed as the night went on. Eventually, I asked Tyler if he would take me back home. I arrived back at the house fairly zonky. But I was happy, though the nagging thought of being alone for the rest of my life lay fresh in the wake of pondering Tyler’s pending marriage. I talked with Topher over facebook messanger for a bit, laying in a peaceful and pensive state. With friends, the world wasn’t quite as lonely.

If only my measly problems could have been the only takeaway from that night. But in the next post, I will address something that happened that night in another state that had a tragic resonance throughout the world.

Peace and Love.

Summer: In Memory of Christina Grimmie

Summer: In Memory of Christina Grimmie

I’m not sure if it was on that Friday night or Saturday morning when I found out. I think it was via Twitter, and it was probably early Saturday morning, before I had gone to sleep. Everyone who mentioned Christina was in shock, and alluded to a horrible incident. I grew more upset with every tweet that I saw mentioning Christina. I knew that something tragic had happened. I looked Christina up on Google and read the news.

My heart sank into the ground. There were no words for this. This was senseless, awful, inhuman, and devastating. That this life was cut so short, so young, and in such a way… shock was all I felt as I read the news. I can only imagine how it felt for her family and fans.

I said a prayer for those loved ones in her life who were now without her. I can’t imagine what they were feeling. My shock soon gave way to extreme sorrow at the loss of this precious individual, turning to immense anger at the evil that had brought this tragedy about. This should have never happened. We shouldn’t have to be afraid like this.

My deepest sympathies and my most sincere prayers of comfort and hope go out to Christina Grimmie’s family and friends, and to all who were affected by this passing. May the God of all Hope rest Christina’s precious soul. May we all as citizens of this country do our utmost to prevent and stop these kinds of tragedies from occurring. This should never be common.

Top Tens; a brief discussion

The Top Ten

I’m big into lists. I’ve always liked making top ten lists for myself in regard to various subjects and I like to ask others what their top ten movies, books, and so forth are. I’ve even used this inquiry upon initial encounters with people, in an attempt to get to know them a bit. I feel like there are important insights that can be gleaned about our character or personality based on the things we hold dear and important to us. And these lists are always changing of course, as we change. What could have been your top ten albums at 16 could be way different at 26. As we grow, our most informative and inspiring works can change vastly. As of now, being 26 years old, I’ve been thinking through some of these top tens. They are a little different than they were ten years ago, though some titles remain.

My top ten albums of all time are as follows:

  1. Siamese Dream by Smashing Pumpkins
  2. Zen Arcade by Husker Du
  3. Repeater by Fugazi
  4. Nevermind by Nirvana
  5. Insomniac by Green Day
  6. As Good As Dead by Local H
  7. Who’s Next by The Who
  8. Joanne by Lady Gaga
  9. Master of Puppets by Metallica
  10. Bad Brains by Bad Brains

 

This list is liable to change of course, and I’m still retooling my top ten films and books.

Let’s talk about this. What are your thoughts?

God bless all J