Monday, April 25, 2016

The Art of Listening

Univision's Sunday evening news program Aqui y Ahora (Here and Now) which is like a Spanish version of 60 Minutes recently profiled Dr. Isabel Gomez-Bassols who is best known as la doctora of Spanish radio. The story was called The Art of Listening because that's what she's been doing for decades.

I've listened to Isabel over the years on the radio and online as she doled out advice to anyone willing to call her and reach out with their problems. And I've written about her over the years in The Boston Globe and at the Sun Sentinel. because it's obvious I follow her show.

So it was nice to see her on Univision telling her own story and talking about her own recent challenges:  She lost her national radio job and discovered a tumor in her kidney.  Still, she overcame them with her sunny optimism and grace.

You can see her tell her own story here from the Univision broadcast.

On a side note, doesn't she look like Julie Andrews? I always thought she looked like a Cuban version of her.

Below is a screen grab from when she played herself on CBS' The Bold and The Beautiful in 2002.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Remembering Pedro

Steve Rothaus, an old friend and a former colleague of mine at The Miami Herald, recently co-wrote a story about a scholarship fund named after the late Pedro Zamora.

He was a Cuban-born Miamian best known for his HIV advocacy and for appearing on MTV's The Real World in 1994 when he shared his own struggles with the disease.

I never met Pedro but he had an impact on me and so many of my fellow gay friends who also grew up in Miami during the 1990s.

In 2007 shortly after I started this Beantown Cuban blog/site, I wrote a little tribute about Pedro for World AIDS Day.

I am reposting it below to honor his spirit and his work which continues today through others as Steve's recent article points out.

from December 03, 2007

A psychic once proclaimed that Pedro Zamora was born to save lives. I know many who can attest to that.

Pedro died last month 13 years ago, the day after the final episode of The Real World: San Francisco aired. He died from complications from AIDS after a three-year crusade to educate folks, especially young people, about the illness.

You don't hear much about Pedro anymore. The years have passed. There was a street named after him in West Miami-Dade. A former clinic in Boston also carried his name. MTV no longer shows the reruns from his season.

Sometimes, I can't help but wonder what a positive role model Pedro would be today to a whole new generation of young people. He showed people that AIDS was everywhere. Young or old, gay or straight, it's there. And a few moments of pleasure could never be worth risking one's life. He also taught people how to avoid catching the virus - and how to deal with people who had it.

He made an impression on me right away when I was 20 because I saw a little of myself in him. We were both Miami Cubans, about the same age and gay and I was just beginning to embark on the real world of dating. (We also had the trademark thick dark eyebrows.)

When The Real World cameras highlighted his tight-knit and affectionate Cuban family, I saw some of my own family reflected in his. Pedro's thick Cuban accent was music to my ears, part of Miami's soundtrack. He was on The Real World when cast members had real stories to tell besides the I-got-drunk-and-hooked-up-with-so-and-so tales.

I always wished I could have met Pedro. If I had, I would have said "Gracias chico!" for educating me and so many of my fellow friends in Miami and beyond.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Playing with words

One of the joys of being a writer is making up new words. Yes, we have the creative license to invent words.

I've sprinkled some here and there in my fiction writing over the years. They are words that have jokingly sprung up in conversation with friends. Or words created when I can't think of a way to describe someone, some action or some place and I combine two parts of a word into one.

Part of the fun is mixing and matching various word stems. You never know what you might come up with.

Here are some examples of words/phrases that I've used in my novels that probably won't turn up in Webster's dictionary anytime soon.

Geeksome: When a guy is geeky and handsome. Used in my fourth novel, Take the Lead.

Slore: A super horny guy that always hangs out at Score, a South Beach gay bar. The word is combination of slut and Score.

Used a few times in my second novel, Miami Manhunt which takes place mostly at Score where friends Ray, Ted and Brian meet up each Friday and become slores.  It's also used in Take the Lead.

Hangear:  The act of hanging out. This is a Spanglish/Cuban slang. When two friends hang out by doing a-b-s-o-l-u-t-e-l-y nothing like washing clothes, drying those clothes, folding said clothes, walking one's dog, driving to Cambridgeside Galleria Mall just to walk and talk.

Used in my third novel, Beantown Cubans to describe what Cuban buddies Tommy and Carlos typically do in Cambridge and Boston as they talk about their life.

Beantown Cuban: What I used to be. A Cuban or Cuban-American who lives in greater Boston or is from Boston. (It's also the name of this blog/site.  Beantown Cuban, one of the few but proud.

OCD: Obsessive Cuban Disorder.  It's what Tommy Perez says he has in the first chapter of Boston Boys Club.

"But some say I have another kind of OCD: Obsessive Cuban Disorder, since I manage to lace my everyday conversations with Cuban references or inject them into my feature stories."

Cupido: A Spanglish term for Cupid.

Example: Oye Cupido, I'm standing right here, shoot me with your arrow already.

Chico lit:  Fun, lighthearted genre of contemporary fiction aimed at Hispanic gay guys and their friends. I tossed this term around a lot when I first published Boston Boys Club, as my version or answer to chica lit (Latina fiction.)

Mr. KY:  So this was a nickname I gave to Kyle, the former reality TV model character from my first novel, Boston Boys Club.

The KY is a play off his name but it was also used this way in the book: "Kyle (we call him KY for a sloppy KY Jelly incident inside a hot tub during a threesome on one of the most-talked-about Real Life ... MrKY spots us right away."

Do you have a made-up word or phrase that you and your friends use? Feel free to comment below

Friday, April 1, 2016

Tiki hut boat makes a splash

It looks like something straight out of Gilligan's Island. A floating Tiki hut.  

Fort Lauderdale seaman Greg Darby built a boat with a tiki bar.  It looks funny as it bobs along the New River in downtown Fort Lauderdale, passing the water taxi and colossal yachts.

I wrote a story about this Tiki boat and what's onboard.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Blanco and Betancourt

Richard Blanco is a word artist. Carlos Betancourt is a visual artist. The friends and former partners have inspired one another in many ways for more than 20 years. That creative and personal connection will be the focus of a discussion and reading event called Between Friends/Entre Amigos this Saturday at Books and Books in Coral Gables.

I wrote a preview of the event for my paper the Sun Sentinel.

One of the collaborations that they will talk about was a series of photos that Carlos snapped of a shirtless Richard on Miami Beach in 2005. (One of the images became the cover of Richard's book of poetry Directions to the Beach Of The Dead (Camino del Sol).

And some of Richard's writing was inspired by Carlos such as the poem Cheers to Hyakutake  about a camping trip they took to the Everglades where they discussed the universe and life under the stars.

Richard is probably best known these days as the inaugural poet for President Barack Obama in 2013.  The Cuban-American was first gay and Latino inaugural poet in the US.

And if Carlos, a well-known mixed media artist in Miami, looks familiar, he was named one of People magazine's most beautiful peeps back in 1995.  He had that flowing Hercules mane of hair then. I also remember that this was a big story, especially in Miami, at the time.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Jencarlos Canela channels Jesus

Miami singer and songwriter Jencarlos Canela has landed a huge role - Jesus Christ.  He'll play the Holy one in Fox's live musical The Passion on March 20.

I did an interview with the Cuban-American for my paper the Sun Sentinel as he prepares for the role which will have him singing and performing in the streets of New Orleans. Tyler Perry will host and narrate the modern day story of the last days of Jesus Christ.

Jencarlos most recently played Xavier on Eva Longoria's Telenovela sitcom on NBC which just wrapped up its inaugural season. The show, a 30 Rock meets Spanish soap, chronicled the backstage antics of a telenovela cast.

Although Canela has acted in some telenovelas on Telemundo, he's best known for his music including the hit I Love It which had heavy airplay on Miami radio.

Monday, February 29, 2016

A bonus day

What would you if you had an extra day (and one that didn't land on a Monday as in today's Leap Day?)

I'm talking about an extra 24 hours, a bonus day that dropped out of the sky and into your calendar.

I wrote a story asking South Floridians how they would spend those extra 1440 minutes.

As for me, my ideal day would be spent in Providence.

I would start by strolling through downtown along Memorial Boulevard and then head up to Brown University. I'd sit at a bench under a tree in the main yard on campus.

Then I would continue strolling along Angell Street toward Wayland Square, grab a coffee, read the paper. (I would a little people-watching here at the Starbucks.)

Fueled on caffeine, I would run along Blackstone Boulevard and marvel at all the brick-faced estates with their manicured bushes and lawns. The breezes tickling my face.

I would also ride a bicycle to the other side of town toward Point India Park. I'd sit on the hilly perch where I would watch fellow cyclists and picnickers come and go.

Then I would refuel with a fattening lunch (Turkey club with fries) at the Cheesecake Factory at Providence Mall.

At sunset, I would stand at the east end of the mall along the grand cathedral-size windows and watch the city dim into night.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Art of Video Games

You know you're old when there's an Atari game console inside a display case at a museum.

Atari, PlayStation, SegaGenesis and other video game consoles and their games are featured in an exhibit called The Art of Video Games which is currently running (or playing?) at the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum Florida International University in Miami.

Walking through the exhibit was like taking a stroll through my childhood, especially when I arrived at the Atari display.

I remember sitting in front of my little TV set in my bedroom where I would shift left and right at the edge of my twin bed as I played Pitfall!, Joust, Beserk, Keystone Cops, and ET! (For some reason, I could never get ET home in time, no matter how many times I tried to phone home.)

If I wasn't in school or bike riding in mid Miami Beach, I was home playing one of these games. I used to rush and finish all my homework in school so I could have more time to play the video games at home.

When I went to the mall with my parents on Thursdays (my dad's day off from work), I always headed to the TV/electronics section at Sears and Jordan Marsh where there was a video game set up. I played whatever was presented at the time while my family shopped.

Part of the thrill of playing was being able to make the different characters perform the way I commanded them to via the joystick. The games were akin to my own personal live action cartoons that I could direct with my every move.

The other part of the fun was excelling at something that was non-academic since I was pretty average at sports (except jump roping. Side note: I was a champion jump roper in the city of Miami Beach Parks and Recreation program at Muss Park. The Miami Herald even wrote a profile of me back then.)

But once I started high school, I gradually stopped playing video games. I don't know why. The thrill faded away. I remember wanting to ride my ten-speed bike more than playing the games. I also began to take a deep interest in all things cars, Popular Mechanics magazine, Star Trek: The Next Generation and R-rated movies on cable. So I gave my console and collection to one of my younger cousins.

But seeing the old Atari 2600 console at FIU brought back so many fond memories. I immediately began to yearn for those simple days when I was a curly-haired kid who enjoyed sitting in front of a little TV set as I laughed and played my heart out.

This is a really l-o-n-g way of saying that I wrote a story about this Art of Video Games exhibit.