This is the fifth in a series of interviews with some of the main characters of each of my books. (Yes, I'm one of those quirky authors who conducts interviews with his characters. Call me creative...or un poco loco en el coco!) I've already done one-on-one interviews with Tommy Perez of Boston Boys Club at a local Boston Market; one with Ray Martinez the movie critic from Miami Manhunt and Ted Williams the TV reporter from the same book; and then there was my chat with Kyle Andrews, the preening reality TV model from Boston Boys Club.
This time, I caught up with Gabriel Galan, the 35-year-old college writing professor from Take the Lead , my fourth novel. I met up with Gabriel in his neck of the woods: Marina Bay in Quincy's charming waterfront dining area.
Gabriel looks like your typical Miami-born Cuban: thick eyebrows, dark brown hair combed to the side, olive skin, a lean torso. He's slurping a large iced Dunkin Donuts caramel swirl coffee as I approach him. On this fall Saturday afternoon, Gabriel sits on a wooden bench near a grand clock tower that like a guardian, overlooks the whole marina where fellow denizens lunch and take into the vistas of downtown Boston. When Gabriel spots me, he smiles, gets up and offers me a warm hearty hug. We pat each other on the back.
"Hi! So good to see you. Thank you again for taking the time to chat with me for my blog,'' I say.
"No problem. I'm always available to help a local journalist/blogger."
"Thanks. So what do I call you? Gay-briel, Gah-briel, Mr. Galan, or GG?"
"Well, my parents call me Gabrielito. My bestfriend Nick likes to call me GG. I guess you can call me Gay-briel although I don't think the GAY enunciation was what my parents had in mind when they named me in Fort Lauderdale. Just don't call me slore. That's another name hat Nick like to tease me with.
"Slore? What's that?"
"Nevermind, it's a long story but it reminds with ..."
"Ahh, I get it. Ok, Gabriel it is,'' I say, trying not to emphasize the gay part in his name.
"So you live here in Quincy, in Wollaston Beach down the street. Why not Boston?"
"I work at the college in downtown in front of the Boston Common and I really appreciate being close but faraway from the city. I like my privacy when I come home after a long day of teaching journalism and creative writing. Quincy reminds me of a historical version of North Miami Beach back in Florida. This is the city of presidents and there's so much history here. I love running along Wollaston Beach to here in Marina Bay which reminds me a little bit of Miami because of the bayside condos and ocean scent.
The town is also very diverse. You see so many different folks from various cultures on my walks to and from the subway stop in North Quincy. This town was the closest thing I could find to something that was a lot like Miami. You can't beat the views of downtown Boston either. Besides, I like saying the word Quincy," which he pronounces as quin-cee. Gabriel sheepishly smiles.
As we chat, I can't help but take in the view of sailboats and yachts that bob in the water like trinkets on a charm bracelet. Above us, seagulls caw as if eavesdropping and commenting on our conversation.
"What's your take on gay Boston? Do you find it hard to date here compared to South Florida?"
"Ugh,'' Gabriel sighs. "It's something worthy of a gay novel. I've had a hard time dating here because whenever I go to Estate or Club Cafe, I bump into my current or former students from Jefferson College, and that can be awkward. I'll be talking to a guy and a student will come up to me and interrupt. Arggh. When I go online, it's the same thing. My students are everywhere. I'm also feeling like the old guy at the bar,'' Gabriel says, pointing to some of the grey hairs on the side of his head. "In a college town like Boston, 35 can be old."
I gasp, my eyebrows shooting up like the arched back of a scared cat.
"Oye, 35 isn't old. Hello Kitty is about 35 and look at how fabulous she looks. Besides, you look great Gabriel."
"Thanks, I think. Did you just compare me to a cat? Anyway, I still feel old here. Speaking of, how old are you Johnny?"
"Um...no comment but how do you think I look?"
Gabriel rubs his chin with his fingers and studies my face.
"You can pass for early 30s but I have a feeling you're a little older than me, right?"
"Okay, moving on...So I hear you like to dance but that you discovered a special dance for people with Parkinson's. Do you have Parkinson's?"
Gabriel is suddenly serious. Sadness swims in his eyes.
"Well, my Papi has Parkinson's back in Miami Lakes and he's been having a hard time with it. So I figured this class might be something for him. It's a horrible disease. It strips away a person's dignity and independence over their own life. I hate Parkinson's."
I reach over and place a comforting hand on Gabriel's right shoulder.
"You're not alone. I feel you, boo. I have elderly parents back in Miami Beach and sometimes, it sucks being so faraway. I'm sure there are other people in the same situation like you. At least you're being proactive and doing something about it."
My eyes travel to the image of the starship on Gabriel's T-shirt.
"What's that all about?'' I say, pointing to the mini Enterprise.
"Big Star Trek fan, Gabriel?"
He beams again, so to speak.
"I love Star Trek, first generation in case you wanted specifics. I have all the episodes and the movie collection. Sometimes I can talk my bestfriend Nick into monthly Friday night Star Trek marathons in my condo. You should come sometime, Johnny. I can show you the toy replica of the Enterprise that is in my bedroom which is dotted with glowing star stickers on the walls.
"Uh, sure...yeah!" Now I know why he's had trouble dating in Boston. He must scare away guys with his Star Trek paraphernalia. Either that or he breaks into a Klingon warrior song during sex. Quien sabes?
"Gabriel, I'm more of a Battlestar Galactica guy, Cylons and all."
Gabriel's eyes narrow at me as if he were shooting photon torpedoes my way. I guess I said the B-word or I disrupted Gabriel's personal space time continuum.
"I find that people are either of the Star Trek camp or team Battlestar Galactica. Why are you more partial to Battlestar Galactica, Johnny?"
"Because I kissed a Cylon and I liked it."
We both laugh at my cheezy joke when I suddenly hear the theme song to Star Trek, the first incarnation. The music is coming from Gabriel, his front pocket to be exact.
"I think you're ringing."
Gabriel looks embarrassed.
"That's my cell phone. Yep, I have a Star Trek ring phone." He pulls out his phone and smiles broadly when he recognizes the number.
"Johnny, I gotta get going in a bit."
"Hot date with Captain Kirk, Gabriel?"
"Something like that. I'm meeting up with a great guy named Adam. Maybe you know him? He has blonde spiked up hair, sky-blue eyes, built and about Hello Kitty's age." Gabriel begins to blush.
"Sounds sexy! Do you have the safety set on your phaser gun?"
"Um, no Johnny. Adam is the instructor for the dance class for people with Parkinson's. He's a great guy." Gabriel lights up again at the mention of Adam's name. He sends Adam a text message from what I can gather.
"Bueno, I don't want to hold you up. Go frack, I mean, have fun. I think I have enough for my blog."
We both get up and hug once again. He then grabs his iced coffee and chugs the rest of it.
As he was walks way, he turns my way and says "Live long and prosper, Johnny!" and does the Vulcan peace sign with his right hand.