Over the years, I've done one-on-one interviews with Tommy Perez of Boston Boys Club at a Boston Market in Boston; one with Ray Martinez, the movie critic from Miami Manhunt at the Boston Common movie theater, a Q and A with Ted Williams, the TV reporter from the same book but at a Miami TV station, and I had a gab fest with Kyle Andrews, the preening reality TV model from Boston Boys Club at a South End coffeehouse. The last interview I did was with Gabriel Galan of Take the Lead at Marina Bay in Quincy.
This new interview brings me to Providence where I caught up with Ronnie Reyes who gets his own story in Looking for Providence.
Ronnie is a 25-year-old newspaper Business writer in Rhode Island's capital city. He has short dark wavy hair combed up and matching thin eyebrows, a younger and Twinkie-like John Stamos.
I sat at one of the black metal tables outside the coffeehouse when a white Nissan Cube screeched and pulled up on Angell Street.
A young guy happily waved at me from the driver's seat.
That was Ronnie. He had told me to be on the look out for a white Hello-Kitty type car. As he gingerly stepped out of the boxy Japanese car, his messenger bag bounced against his lean frame. He had a happy go-lucky smile as he approached me. Damn, he looks really young! (Is it me or are my characters getting younger while I increasingly add more salt to my peppered hair?)
"JOHNNY!" he moved in for a big hug! "It's so nice to eat you, ah, I mean meet you!" Ronnie said, his brows furrowed from slight embarrassment. "Sorry about that. Sometimes I say the wrong thing. I never know what's going to come out of my mouth."
"It's okay. I didn't think I was on the menu anyway! I got us a table over here,'' I said, directing him to where I've set my digital recorder, notebook, my tall cool iced caramel Frappucino and a copy of the day's Providence Journal.
"Do you want anything to drink?" I offered.
"Nah, I've got my bottled water here in my bag. I don't want to be any more hyper than I normally am,'' he said, pulling out his water bottle and taking a big slurp.
The sun cast a buttery glow over Providence. College students cycled by in this gayborhood of small red-brick apartment buildings, tripledeckers, boutiques, a book store and eateries in the shadow of Brown University's athletic field and sports complex.
"Hey, our names rhyme. Johnny. Ronnie. Johnny. Ronnie. Isn't that funny?" he said with a big goofy smile, as if he made a great discovery. Oh my, this is going to be a long interview. He's as cheezy as me.
"Yeah, what a coincidence,'' I answered.
"Anyway, I love Providence, Johnny. It's such a cute little big city, like a mini-Boston. There are red-bricked buildings on every block and the downtown has a handful of skyscrapers. I love walking up and down the inclined streets by the Rhode Island School of Design and Brown University. And then there are my bike rides along Blackstone Boulevard. I feel at home here. Everyone has been so welcoming. I'm glad I moved here from Miami after college."
"And you're a Business reporter. How is that going?"
"Ugh, don't ask, Johnny. It wasn't my choice. I'm a features writer at heart. I love playing with words and writing stories that entertain and enlighten. I try to do that with my Business stories but my editor Matt, who loves to chomp on his finger nails in front of me while he edits my stories, prefers that I write in a tell-it-like-it is, straight-to-the-point, kind-of-way. And that's hard when you're a poet."
"A poet? Like Richard Blanco?" I leaned in, curious.
"A poet, yes. Richard Blanco, no. I wish! He's supposed to speak at one of the schools here in the fall. I can't wait so I can show him my poems at his book signing. Anyway, I write haikus. Take a look,'' he said, pulling out a tattered up composition book filled with poems.
"Are there any that begin with 'There once was a man from Nantucket?''' I laugh at my joke which makes him smirk. Now who's the cheesy one? He hands me the notebook.
"Um, no Johnny. I don't write those kinds of poems,'' Ronnie deadpans. "On the weekends, I ride my bike to India Point Park and sit on the steps that overlook the park and the bay and I write, write and write away. They just come out of me," he said, snapping his fingers.
Ronnie's cheeks turned crimson as he looked down at his water bottle. He pursed his lips. Mr. Bashful.
"Who is this about, Ronnie?" I tease him. "My inner Gossip Girl wants to know, pronto!"
"I kinda figured that out since the poem is titled Phil. Is that your guy, Ronnie Boy?"
"Well..." he paused.
"And...?" I pressed, leaning in again.
"You see..." he continued to tease.
"Um, today Ronnie! I do have a flight to catch back to Miami at some point."
"Okay, since you asked and because I love reading your Beantown Cuban blog and Tweets, I will tell you. He's this really really handsome toy executive I met here while I was reporting a story on one of his toy designers. He's from Providence. He has aqua-green eyes, short dark black hair. He's my McBeefy, oops, I mean McDreamy."
"That's McHot! So he looks like McBeefy. Oh no, now you have me doing the Cuban Tourette's thing. I meant, McDreamy from Grey's Anatomy?"
"Phil has made me feel at home in my new home, Providence," he said with dreamy eyes that were as wide as saucers. Ronnie then rested the side of his head on his right hand and sighed loudly. Ahhhh.
"So are you in love?" I asked in a sing-song voice.
Ronnie smiled and blushed.
"Something like that. You'll have to follow my adventures in
Providence to find out."
"Hmmm. So you're going to play me like that, huh? Tease!" I said, playfully narrowing my eyes at him and tossing the wrapper from my straw at him. Ronnie simply stuck his tongue out.
I took another swig of my iced coffee and leafed through his notebook for more haikus. My eyes stopped on one and I began to read it out loud.
"I love when Phil fu-"
"WHOA! Don't read that one!" Ronnie interrupted. He suddenly closed the composition book, yanked it away and then pressed it to his chest like a little girl. "Sorry about that Johnny. Some of the haikus are kind of intimate. That one's a little dir-tay."
"Oh-kay. No problema. So you like the city, not so much your job and you have a guy named Phil. Not bad for 25! Do you miss Miami and your friends down there?"
"I can relate to the whole missing-your-friends thing. Most of my close friends are in Boston but that's the beauty of social media and the good-old fashioned cell phone. We have different ways of staying in touch. Still, it's not the same as hanging out in person and going to Club Cafe or Ptown for the day." In the reflection of the coffee shop's front glass window, I caught myself frowning.
|Commercial St., Provincetown|
"Since you're in Miami now, have you thought about renaming your blog to something a little more Miami, Johnny?"
"I thought about that but it's been Beantown Cuban for so long and calling it Miami Cuban doesn't seem to roll off the tongue. Besides, Miami Cuban is sort of redundant. It's like saying Boston Irish or Gay Wilton Manors."
Ronnie laughed at my lame joke when his iPhone began to ping. It was a text message and he read it to himself. He then looked up at me with a playful grin.
"Johnny, I hate to cut this short but I made plans to meet up with Phil at Providence Place and he's on his way there now from GoPlayToyz. I need a new shirt for work,'' Ronnie said, his voice lifted on the Phil part. "So I need to get going." He then looped his messenger bag around his torso and rose from the table.
"No worries. I should get going myself. My flight leaves from Warwick to Miami soon. Thanks again for taking the time to chat with me for my blog, Ronnie."
"Anytime, for a Beantown or is that a Miami Cuban?" he said with a grin followed by a big hug.
As I slurped the rest of my iced coffee and scanned the headlines of The Providence Journal, I caught Ronnie hopping into his Nissan Cube. He beep-beeped and waved as he pulled away on Angell Street toward downtown Providence to see McBeefy.
click here and you'll meet Gabriel from Take the Lead.