Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Freshman Meets Generation Idol

I was fifteen years old and in the lower, more medicated stages of my clinical depression. I was seeing my therapist twice a month, sleeping regularly, writing as often as ideas came to me (which was all the time), and waiting at the edge of my doorstep for the summer to sink in so I could be off in the wind somewhere making a run for it. I can’t remember whether spring break had just ended or was about to start but it was April, poetry month, and the library was full of students each period dazily listening to the loud drawl that was the poets visiting.

    I had gotten out of most of my classes to be present at the poetry read that day. After all, I was a contributing member of the Literary Magazine team at my school, and by contributing, I mean there were at least five works that the librarians allowed me to put into it. I had actually submitted a multitude of them. Because of this, I felt it necessary to be present at the school poetry read that day. I even sat at the poet’s table in the back near the right, conversed with the poets, made myself known, and tried my best to behave like I wasn’t just an over excited freshman who wanted to meet actual writers. I believed that writing was one of the greatest things a person could do. One who transformed words into feelings, into novels and stories that touched the lives of others I believed then, was a truly remarkable person. I still believe it. Writers don’t get half the credit they deserve for the effort they put into their works. That was why I wanted to meet them; I wanted a chance to find out what drove some of these people, and hopefully have a little bit of their drive and effort rub off on me.

    I was making small talk with Al Dorango (not his real name obviously) when Ruben walked in dressed in all black, hair slicked back and, from what I remember, wearing sunglasses. The quiet whispers one could hear throughout the entire library went silent. The few who had previously been paying attention to whatever poet was reading turned their attention toward him. Ruben Ramirez had awed and entire group of high school students, and he had done it by simply walking into the library building on the Parkway High School campus (not my real high school-ish). It also somewhat helped that he was with a friend of his (whose name I have forgotten, but the word Alex sort of fits so I’ll just call him that) who was equally as large as Ruben (who was, in fact, quite big) and had long, thick dread locks falling to the middle of his back. Ruben held nothing but a small composition notebook that had been painted black with a Jack Kerouac quote written on it with white out. Alex, a long, black portfolio which I would later find contained sketches for their next comic book.

    I thought they were lost. I was shocked that our school librarians had actually invited them; not disappointed, but more curious about them than anything. This was the moment when all of my attention focused on Ruben. He was a poet, Alex was an artist. They didn’t two different types of art and because my interest was poetry, I paid the bulk of my attention to Ruben and his words. I wanted to learn anything anyone (especially someone who glowed with a sort of uniqueness about them as he did) would teach me. He was there for the freshman age poetic picking.

    Now, obviously this whole ordeal lasted for only that school day. He spoke aloud words that I had never once read or heard being used in a poem. He spoke with such attitude, such captivating demand that one had no choice but to listen, and he didn’t even used the microphone. Now, if I describe the poems in detail, it would make it much easier for one to find out who he actually is, but because I’d rather keep most of this anonymous, I cannot exactly describe them.

    What i can tell you, is that it was exciting. It was exciting to meet people who wrote for a living, who had jobs that weren't your ordinary 9 to 5. These were people I wanted to be like. Well, I mean, obviously I don't want to be a comic book writer (nothing against comic book writers, you guys are obviuosly awesome if you can make your living doing that, just like any other writer, and it's especially a plus if you get action figures, just, that's not exactly my aspiring career) but Ruben was a writer, a poet no less. And he was captivating. he had me eating out of the palm of his hand from the moment he looked at me.

    I'm not sure how to explain this phenomena, but have you ever looked at a person and just known that there was something about them, even if you couldn't quite put your finger on it, you knew that there would be some type of impact you would have with each other's lives. Usually it's more a gut feeling than anything, one tells themselves that it's just jitters from meeting someone who you could almost go as far as calling famous. But it wasn't. There's always some part of the subconcious deep inside of us that knows, not necessarily one's future with another person, but how far things may go with them. I don't just mean that sexually. And one could say that the feeling I got in my stomache simply was just the excitement of meeting someone of his status, the feeling I got just about every time I saw this man. All I can really say is that meting someone has never been as exciting as meeting Ruben was, no other instance quite as thrilling, as if I was looking down a steep roller coaster slope. The slight difference, I suppose, is that the anticipation lasted much longer than a mere few seconds.

    After Ruben had finished reading and Alex had finished passing his artwork (which, by the way, was some badass artwork) around, and the bell had rung, I stayed after school for a bit to converse and mingle like I had with all the other poets, only this time, it was different. I had much more interest in Ruben and Alex than I had had with any of the other visitors of our school. I asked them questions, how did they get started, was it difficult, was that the only copy of poetry Ruben had? Could I have it?
        Ruben joked that of course I could have it...if he died. I said I'd hold him to it. I asked them to please sign my composition book (which got lost at my cousin's house that summer), thank them for visiting our school, and left as they did.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Starting Over The Right Way

          I attempted to write this blog months ago when my cousins had a computer and I was able to get on the internet almost everyday. Then again, this was also when I didn’t have the proper words I needed to get all of this out. I’m starting over, for many reasons. This blog is not just my way of putting the story of "Lolita" out there, but also to be used as a source of healing. It’s amazing the things that happen in people’s lives. It’s amazing the things we hear about that happen, the things that we believe we would never be able to handle had it happened to us. But when we think these things, we often hardly understand that the person it happened to doesn’t realize just how much it affected them, or how much it was supposed to have affected them.
I read the book "Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov when I was just 16 years old, and I urge anybody else to read it as well. It is an amazing story of love, obsession, and the ideals of a mad artist. The main character (and narrator) of the novel, is Humbert Humbert (yes, first name the same as his last), a writer, researcher of various odd things not necessarily important to the novel, but more or less, simply things you learn while getting to know him. He is manipulative yet extremely smart, he’s devastatingly obsessed with (and in love with) Lolita, yet able to hide this fact completely from the knowledge of others (all except her mother simply because she finds his diary without which, she would have had absolutely no clue).

           This blog is like Lolita from her point of view. While I absolutely loved the book, I found that an open-minded person cannot seem to bring themselves to hate Humbert despite all the wrong he does in the novel. After all, we’re talking about a man around his forties falling into an obsessive love with a girl who begins the novel at age twelve. I know that many people couldn’t bring themselves to hate Humbert because I’ve read a number of online reviews as well as watched the movie about six months after reading the book. It’s one of the things that the director points out, that you simply cannot hate Humbert. On the contrary, when I first read the book, I found myself hating in fact, Lolita herself. I thought she was mean, bratty, demanding, and overall, a bit whorish. After all, she does cheat on him several times (with several men more than likely but not necessarily proven; more or less implied) before eventually running away with someone else. She’s also portrayed as devious throughout both the movie and the book; Lolita is able to manipulate Humbert in order to bend him to her will, and on top of that, there are several scenarios where she behaves almost vicious to Humbert, shouting, insulting, threatening, and overall behaving like a little bitch.
What I hate about both myself and Humbert is the way he attempts to portray Lolita while still showing how deeply in love with her he is, and how I, the reader, end up disliking her for being so mean to him and eventually, abandoning him. This, I realized, was the definition of such a talented writer. Nabokov wrote "Lolita" believing (whether seriously or symbolically) that these two people were actually real. Humbert radiates such passion that I couldn’t help but believe that he actually was in love with young Lolita, yet he also shows enough sarcasm and self pity that I couldn’t help but love him a bit myself and almost feel as if he was the one suffering the abuse by Lolita rather than the other way around.

                   This book, this idea, this rather toxic relationship, is the reason for this now blog. You see, there was a reason I read the book "Lolita", a reason I sought the book out, was put on a waiting list, then, with joy, received it several days later. There is a reason I know about the book at all. It wasn’t sitting quietly on a shelf in a library waiting for me to walk by and notice it, pick it up out of curiosity, then take it home to read. It wasn’t recommended as a good book by my librarian who had in fact read it and even had a copy in his home. No. this book was recommended to me by the man who gave the word "Lolita" a meaning to me. It was a man named Ruben Ramirez (obviously a pseudonym but I guarantee if he stumbled across it, he’d immediately know it was him).

          I was just fifteen when I met Ruben in my school library, a poet come to recite for giggling, sleeping, whispering, or even absent high school students who may or may not have shown up just to avoid doing any work in class. It was April, poetry month. I had recently been released from the hospital two months earlier for clinical depression. I was writing poetry myself during this time, mostly depressing crap poetry that wasn’t worth the paper it was written on, but I would grow later into my written word shoes. I was looking forward to an ending school year, and a summer trip to visit my cousins. I was a virgin, young, stupid, gullible, and willing to try anything at least once.
He was large, tan, and wearing all black. He stole the attention of every teacher, student, and visitor in the room. He was a poet, a comic book writer, and a hero to our generation. Ruben was the man who grew up just like us in the same neighborhood as us, and with enough dream and aspiration, became more than what we believed we’d be.

               Before I officially begin, I would like to say that I never asked for any of this to happen, but it did. I can’t lie and say I didn’t fully embrace it, but I never expected it. There are things in this world that happen without us ever wanting to believe they happened to someone close to us, our friends, neighbors, relatives. I wanted to have something great to write about, something where I wouldn’t be over exaggerating feelings that I never actually had. Subjects such as this were always fascinating me. I suppose it’s true that when you think about something enough, you draw that energy towards you from out in the universe. Ruben Ramirez was that universal thing that gravitated toward me and I to it.

                   I hope you and enjoy and grow with me as I present to you what it was like for me to play the part of Being Lolita. It was an experience that I, in my youth, will never forget.