Friday, September 25, 2009

Jaguar-Ville Coming Soon to a TV Screen Near You

On my the morning of my 40th birthday, I sip coffee taking an unusual pause to savor it's black-bittersweet goodness and then take a conscious, deep breath for the first time as a sporty-40 year old Latino, gay, American man. It's disorienting to have a self-conceptualized age clash so drastically with your real one, In my mind I stopped aging at 28.

I absorb the energy and electricity of the highway below my balcony and notice a billboard just put up the night before, announcing a new TV show with Courtney Cox called CougarTown. It's set in South Florida and is about a Cougar divorcee' realizing truths about aging and dating. I snicker at the clever title for a new, cool show that may or may not be a hit. It made me think of the nicknames or epithets we create for each other. All the categories and containers that us humans love to put ourselves in. Like a farmer sorting his livestock into different pens, humans like to coin nicknames to group types of people. I guess it's some primal survival instinct to put people into logical containers so we know what to expect from them. I never felt like I belonged to any typical gay-nickname container group. I related to being a latino and American but not the everyday-gay you see around. I believe the minute you completely own the title society gives you, you are in essence contained and as a result limited to other experiences out of that box. Like a Cuban or Argentinian that can't conceive of any other latin culture as great as his own. We run the risk of becoming ethno and homo-centric all at once.

I don't relate to leather queens, so I'm not a leather daddy. I'm not a Cub or a Chub Chaser. I'm definitely not a Twink nor am I a Muscle Queen. I'm not a Tweakerella (druggged up gay) or a self-hating gay. I'm not a Fem nor am I a Butch. I'm close to being one of those "straight-acting gays" only that I don't "act" straight, I'm just a masculine gay guy and am completely healthy in expressing and defining my emotions. I guess I could be close to an Otter (a tall, thin, hairy gay guy) but I'm not hairy.

After all this thinking (this coffee's got me running circles in my mind) I realize there isn't a term for an older, (40+), hot gay guy that may or may not date younger men like "Cougar" is for older straight, hot women. I rack my head for a nickname fitting enough to describe this social group left out of our everyday vocabulary. "Sugar Daddy" is close but has a negative connotation of a loveless relationship where an over-the-hill kind of guy pays younger boys to be with him. There has to be a more dignified term for such virile, accomplished, balanced and yes, still hot, gay man. Then we have the new "GRAMP" group which is a new term for a "gay-rich-alone-middle aged-positive" gay man but that's a bit sad and not as funny or light as "Cougar". It'd have to be a species of cat such as Cougar for the simple reason that both like to hunt fresh meat. Gray Wolf came through my mind but not all 40+ men are graying. Hmm, Puma...nah. That connotates a youthful energy or a young-buck kind of gay. Then my boyfriend suggested, Jaguar and with the speed of a brief gay gasp, a new container was born!

Jaguar's are fierce creatures to contend with; fast, strong, slick, elegant, powerful, excellent hunters and like the car -very sporty and slick. So the next time you see a 40+ guy with a sexy, young number on his arm. Say to yourself, "Check out that Jaguar over there. He's an older guy that's still got it going on." So there you have it. You have full permission to steal it. I eagerly await the moment someone first calls me a Jag, there certainly are worse names someone can call you.

Only thing is, although it would be a compliment, I don't feel like a Jaguar and I've never really felt ONLY gay--I like to think myself in Walt Whitman terms, "I am large, I contain multitudes.". I feel like so many things more than any one title can define. So when the novelty or humor of the labels like Cougar, Jaguar, Otter, Twink, Breeder, Diesel-Dyke or whatever, wear off and the pendulum swings from trying so hard to fit in a group to finally realizing we are all one with a whole lotta' different colors, maybe then we'll get "it"- and our labels won't limit us anymore. The stereotypes will finally be outgrown and shed like tortoises' shells. We will finally be free to surprise people again, contain "multitudes" and maybe just grow up enough to stop calling each other names at all.

Cougar Town:

What is a GRAMP?

What is a gay Otter or Wolf?

Article on Cougars:

A new kind of gay, the "Straight edger":

Origin of gay sea otter term-perhaps

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Death of Canela Cafe'

Tonight my family and friends mourn the death of a large part of our lives for the last 4 years; Canela Cafe'. Another casualty of this horrible recession, she was unable to heal from hemorraging money. She was born January 14, 2005 and died September 14, 2009. Canela Cafe' was more than just a place to get some "Latin Soul Food", it was an integral part of the community in which it resided; the Design District area or Miami's Upper East side as developers like to call it. She was birthed and tirelessly maintained from day one, 7 days a week for 4 years by her doting mother, Margarita Vasallo. It was her sole passion in life. So much so, that you could taste it in every bite of the scrumptious menu.

You could literally savor the unprocessed love dripping from every morsel as if she were the chef in the classic movie, Like Water for Chocolate. People may have complained about the service now and then but her magic touch for good ol' sazon' was without reproach. She won the awards, Best Cuban Food in Miami by New Times 2 months after opening and earlier this year, Best Tapas in Miami. She attracted the likes of foodie, Chris Cognac from the Food Detective and even hosted indpendent films with Madonna's baby daddy, Carlos Leon. Gloria Estefan ate there and even Miami's own hollywood starlet, Catherine Keener. The oasis of comfort food or as I liked to call it "community center" affected so many and had so many lives intertwined that it took on a life of it's own in many ways. It was the epitome of the American Dream for a second generation Cuban exile living in America recreating the cafe' her grandfather left behind on Havana's malecon in the famed art deco gem, Lopez Serrano building. The walls were lined with photos of family past and present and all who came to eat felt like they were at a family gathering. The good times and good food shared within it's hearth will live on in the hearts and minds of the souls that were lucky enough to discover her hidden charm in the middle of MIA. She nourished a community not only with food but with pure love and a heartfelt desire to host a good time for all.

If you've ever had the pleasure of tasting her food or spending time in Canela, please go to her Facebook page and post any good memories that you can recall. It will mean the world to a mother who gave so much to her community.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Fiestas De Gracia y Sants - Barcelona 2009

Returning to one of my favorite cities on this planet was a much anticipated event. It was made possible thanks to my sister paying my way so I could escort her kids over so they could enjoy their summer vacation with their Spanish cousins in a Villa about 2 hours from Barcelona. Being Julie Andrews in The Sound Of Music was an unexpectedly enriching experience for me. It was the first time that I was absolutely responsible for three children ranging from ages 7-15. I, for a moment was a parent and it felt pretty darn good. I didn't have too much trouble on our 15 hour voyage from Boston to Barcelona as my sister's kids are about the best kids you will ever find. Their personalities are as if they were adults trapped in a kid's body. Ever so aware and conscious of the world around them with a kid's sense of humor. My smallest niece started collecting all the vomit bags from the plane's seats and I was soon amused at the reason why. She was drawing faces on each one and making hand puppets out of them. Who would've thought that a vomit bag could be used as an entertainment device. How's that for ingenuity?

Arriving in the uber-modern new airport terminal at Barcelona airport, we were quickly whisked away to the country to the small town of Banyoles. We pulled up to a very old, stone villa remodeled and with a beautiful, modern pool (the only one in town). The villa overlooked a small valley, olive trees and all. It was as picturesque as a Goya painting.

The honeymoon ended quickly after spending a very hot and moist night barely catching any sleep as a result of a wild hog (Javali') screaming underneath my window as if a woman was getting raped and a bat flying into my room and hitting me on my forehead (no joke). Summer in Spain is just as hot as summer in Miami, difference is Miami has air conditioning. It didn't help that there was a pig farm next town over that deposited a thick aroma of pig poop into the air on it's way up the hill to our villa. I learned how to control my gag reflex about every 5 minutes. Needless to say, I was at the Bus Station on the 3rd day to visit my high school crush, Ivy (before I knew I was a big homo) in the energetic and ever so bohemian city of Barcelona. Bye Bye Banyoles.

The last time I had visited the "other Magic city" it was december and very chilly. I had no idea that it was OK to wear flip flops, shorts and tank tops in an European city. In Italy it is a faux-pas to wear shorts because it reminds Italians of when they were forced to wear dorky long shorts when they were kids. This trip I avoided the typical Gaudi tourist stops as I had seen them last year. I focused on parks and walking the different historic and rich neighborhoods. My all time fave is the Born neighborhood which is a European version of SoHo. Lots of original boutiques, great fashion, cafe's, cool people and of course my "gays". Born has a very large park and is very close to La Barceloneta beach area. It's the medieval core of the city with narrow cobblestone streets and cathedrals intact.

The weekend arrived and Ivy decided that we should go to see the festival of Fiestas De Gracia y Sants which are two different neighborhoods that have been doing this street thang for about 750 years now. The city was originally called Barcino by Hannibal's dad who founded it about 2000 years ago, has a hefty lead on Miami on throwing a party. They do it in spades. The yearly street party is a well oiled machine and community leaders take part in designing and coordinating the year's designs in the same way the Samba schools in Brazil plan and compete for their carnivals throughout the year. This year, all the designs had to be executed with recyclable materials. There was Indiana Jones, Temple of Doom replete with Aliens, Japanese Gardens, Monte Carlo Casino every street was different. There was one surreal street lined with toys and candy and was made even more cool with a Cuban band playing and kids drinking mojitos. Each street had their own bands or DJ's, bars, and tons of people from all over the world just having a good time chillaxin'.

The climax was the battle of the tribes, Les Dracs (the dragons), Colla Vella (old devil's tail) and Diabolica (the devilish ones). This consisted of a good old fashioned street battle where each tribe tries to pass and the other blocks with walls of people and taunting chants. They finally break through the blockaded narrow streets with explosions and fireworks spraying everyone, including the onlookers. My badge of honor was about 10 burned spots on my scalp as well as my shirt. Marching bands of drummers followed the opening of the blockades followed with hundreds of onlookers and visitors laughing, drinking and dancing. It was a page out of a Roman Bacchanalian feast. The high was like no other. I ended up dancing in the middle of a plaza with my new-found friend named Giusi (juicy) from Naples who came to visit the city years ago and never went back home.

The finale was in the main plaza with a balcony stuffed with the community's leaders overlooking the performance, the large dragon and Gaudi's iguana from Park Guell came through and sprayed a volcano of fireworks over everyone then fire throwers and music ensued. Everyone was rolling on the same good vibration. It was one of those nights you store away in your brain and take out on "blue" days, the memory bringing peace in the knowing that you've lived a little in this life.

I believe every trip you take changes you a little. You learn things about others and about yourself, how these two entities relate to each other and how colorful and wonderful our world is.

I learned that you should never not sit at the lunch table in Spain even though you aren't hungry. In Spain, lunch is very important.
I learned that you should definitely pack tank tops and sandals when you go to Spain in the summer.
I learned that it's perfectly legal to be completely naked in the streets of Barcelona but walking around without your shirt on is not permitted.

I learned that while salaries really suck in Spain, they find a way to live a really good life with a lot less money but they complain just as much as Americans do about not having enough money.

I learned that Catalonians don't really have much that is taboo to them. They are pretty much cool about anything. They are dignified like the French and proud of their country but are much more relaxed about it.

I learned that if you're Muslim and if you live in Banyoles you will be very pissed at the constant smell of pig shit wafting it's way into your nostrils at every moment of every day.

Most of all I learned that you don't ask a married woman if she's "caliente" in front of her husband because it doesn't mean "hot", it means "sexually turned on".

Brief history of Barcelona as a city: