The story I didn’t write

Posted: September 3, 2018 by jennroig in Miscellaneous

The 106.7 KROQ "Weenie Roast" Concert 2005 - Show

In 2004, in May, Audioslave was in Havana. It was the first ever rock concert, real rock n roll concert at least. People came from all over. The record says we were 70,000 souls gathered that evening in the square, but it felt as if we were so many more, hundreds of thousands.

Chris Cornell was wearing a black tank top. I remember that in the middle of a song he slid his hands under the clothe in a very sensual way and a scream burst out of the lungs of a thousand feverish girls.

I was there, close to the stage, feeling a love for metal that was never quite strong before, or ever again. Before that evening I haven’t heard much more than Black Hole Sun, Be Yourself and Like a Stone. And wouldn’t make much fuzz in front of friends of not liking Rage Against the Machine, or liking Soundgarden better. But that night I liked Gasoline, and Out Of Exile, and his Ave Maria.

I liked Can’t change me, too. She’s going to change the world, But She Can’t …Change… Me…

I spent years trying to build a story out of that concert, out of that night. A story of music and drugs, of sex, of sweat, of salt, of noise, of mourn… And for some reason, an image of a spider walking over my hand, my belly, and entering my navel.

I wanted to write about a young woman getting lost in music and a trip of her senses. I wanted to find the words that described feeling of existing without being, of desire, climax and regret. I was in love then, and with a heart freshly broken, and my story should have said something to someone that should have felt the pain and come back to me.

But I didn’t. I started many times through the years and never finished.

And now Chris Cornell is dead. Cornell is dead and looks like I will never write that story.

Cornell killed himself in May 2017, thirteen years after he sang that concert in Havana.

I loved again. And once more fell out of love. I traveled, lived in six cities, got a passport from a new nationality and I settled in a new home.

It took until 2016 for another proper rock band to go to Cuba. It was the Rolling Stones but they played more demure, in a closed venue instead of the open square by the sea wall… I hear, I wasn’t there.

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ABC de naturalizarte como USA citizen

Posted: September 3, 2018 by jennroig in Miscellaneous

Hace casi seis años que llegué a EE.UU. Ya me naturalicé como ciudadana estadounidense, ya tengo pasaporte y me registré como votante.

Es así como se hace. (Solo para cubanos, mientras el CAA esté vigente)

Para gente DIY, acá el link https://www.uscis.gov/us-citizenship

Para los temerosos, acá el know how.

Plazos:

Se puede enviar los documentos de la ciudadanía hasta 90 días antes. Piensa con anticipación que no coincida un viaje con la potencial fecha de la cita para los biométricos.

Costo:

Lo que sea que cuesten fotos, mail shipping, y lo que indique el website de USCIS que es el costo. Puede variar de año a año.

Papeleo:

La forma es la N-400. Es simple de llenar, asegúrate de que las fechas estén bien, de no omitir detalles relevantes sobre viajes previos, y busca la aplicación a la greencard para asegurarte que todos los detalles coinciden.

Luego de enviar los papeles, entre 20 o 30 días después vino la cita para los biométricos.

Luego de dar los biométricos, viene la espera por que llegue la cita a la entrevista.

Esto puede ser un período que va de un mes (como he oído de algunos casos recientes) hasta un año. Acá se puede revisar el estatus de la aplicación https://egov.uscis.gov/casestatus/landing.do

La cita a la entrevista puede llegar con tiempo de hasta un mes de anticipación, o incluso diez días como me sucedió.

Para la entrevista, las apariencias importan.

La ceremonia… cada cual tendrá su versión y experiencia. Pero si es en una corte de justicia, preparar para estar offline y sin teléfono por horas.

Con el certificado de naturalización, al día siguiente incluso puedes ya ir a pedir el pasaporte. Sacar cita en una oficina de USPS es sabio.

10 días laborables antes de ir a la oficina del SS para pedir actualizar la tarjeta. No tiene costo. Acá se encuentra https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp

Con la tarjeta nueva, muéstrala al empleador.

En NYC, no es necesario ir al DMV. Pero quizás cambia de estado a estado.

En NYC, registrarse para votar se puede hacer online. Pero también la ley cambia de estado a estado. Este es el punto de comienzo https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote

La novela perdida

Posted: October 30, 2016 by jennroig in Chronicles, Commentary, Reviews, Spanish

Ayer tropezé de nuevo con la literatura cubana. Llegué a las 6:25pm a una presentación que debía haber empezado a las 6:30pm, y por supuesto arrancó a las 7:00pm. El Libro es Memorias del Equilibrio y el autor José Fernández Pequeño.

memorias-del-equlibrio-carita-266x400Fui a la lectura porque me llegó vía una invitación de Facebook, donde se describía el libro como de relatos existenciales. Y yo quiero, siempre he querido pero ahora más, encontrar el libro existencial cubano. La promesa no se cumplió.

Pero lo que hizo  la experiencia extemporánea es que no sucedió en La Habana, en alguna sala de la UNEAC o el Pabellón Cuba o La UH. Pasó en New York, en una sala de NYU y entre quienes supongo serían también cubanos emigrantes. Salvo una amiga neoyorkina que me acompañó porque le supliqué que fuera conmigo para que me sirviera como ancla a la normalidad. Mi normalidad.

Memorias del Equilibrio resultó no ser lo que estaba buscando, pero fue de todos modos un descubrimiento interesante, por lo distinto. Un tono que para mí es costumbrista, como el mismo autor dijo, “del habla no del lenguaje”, presentado por un narrador que en primera persona o a la sombra de esta creaba juegos espaciales. Costumbrismo entregado en una estructura de nuevo milenio, aunque ya ese tono lo iban teniendo en Cuba desde mucho antes de 1999.

He tratado de entender durante el día qué es lo que me irrita en libros como Memorias del Equilibrio. Va más allá de que en sí mismos sumen a la imagen de lo cubano como lo burdo, lo tosco, donde yo no quiero encajar. Como si lo cubano no fuera también Eliseo Diego y Dulce María. Porque por más que me rebele contra la imagen ultra publicitada de los bicitaxis, los cerdos en la azotea, la vieja chismosa del CDR, inevitablemente eso también es Cuba.

Va más allá del sexismo que se cuela en el uso de la mujer como personajes y su forma de hablar. No logro imaginar a ninguna de las mujeres cubanas que conozco diciéndole a un amante que “le gusta por lo puerco que es”. Pero quizás sí existe. Sólo que yo no la quiero conocer. No por purdor o puritanismo, porque leer sobre un glande turgente no es nada luego de haber leído a Zoé Valdés, o Jesús David Curbelo, o Henry Miller, ya el resto no sorprende.

Va más allá de la reafirmación del arquetipo sexista: “el habla popular cubana es masculina porque es dura, directa, sarcástica”. Como si las mujeres fueran incapaces de ser duras y crueles, directas y sarcásticas.

1827_photo_en_2

René Peña

Creo que lo que más me molestó, no del libro que no he leído, y no leeré, sino de la experiencia en sí es la promesa rota. El no encontrar el libro existencial cubano que me defina desde adentro, al margen, o más allá, o por encima, de los momentos políticos, un acento o un habla, el edificio icónico, el referente espacial. Todo lo que nos habla sólo a nosotros y nos separa de los demás, de quienquiera que no es cubano de Cuba. Porque tenemos códigos tan cerrados, tan de Isla, que no dejan entrar ni a cubanos de Miami, ni a cubanos de New Jersey, ni a Cubanos de Madrid. Qué le queda entonces esperar al cubano de Finlandia o de Australia…

Otro escritor me dijo hoy que Cuba carece de la gravedad, o la visión en la distancia, o el largo aliento para producir ese tipo de literatura, porque el trópico nos drena, por eso Cuba da buenos cuentistas y poetas.

Pero no me acaba de cerrar la hipótesis. Hace aguas cuando recuerdo la novela del colombiano que no recuerdo su nombre pero sí el título, Érase una vez el amor pero tuve que matarlo. Y colombiano no cachaco, sino costeño, tan atrapado por el calor como nosotros. O La Muerte de Artemio Cruz, o Aura, de Fuentes. No creo que Fuentes se estuviera congelando en México.

02-cirenaica-moreira-he-lives-in-cincinnati-and-does-not-even-write-to-me-1999

Cirenaica Moreira

Mi teoría para explicarme por qué no tenemos la novela épica existencial es porque en Cuba no se tolera el dolor. Admitir el dolor. El dolor es de débiles, de flojos. Lo que hay detrás de la explicación del choteo que da Mañach es una alergia generacional al dolor. Por eso los cubanos podemos ser grandes cínicos, geniales manejando el doble sentido, jugando vivo, machacando en baja… Pero tan pronto alguien se pone serio y expone el dolor, todos nos anticipamos la risa, porque necesitamos desesperadamente que la tragedia se vuelva tragicomedia. En un libro de cuentos cubano un hombre decía a la mujer que amaba que “en Cuba no se podía decir te quiero”… Me gustaría saber si los cubanos podríamos tomar en serio un ciclo de psicoterapia freudiana.

Y para lograr escribir las grandes novelas al dolor hay que atraesarlo como a una tormenta, un ejercicio de apnea submarina. Hay que hundirse y respirarlo, de frente, sin escudarse en esquinas de humor negro o sardonismos.

Me pregunto si algo tiene que ver la oda nacional al choteo con tener un país con los más altos índices de suicidio, a niveles de los países nórdicos, a pesar de todo ese sol. En Cuba los hombres se ahorcan y las mujeres se dan candela, dice el refrán. Porque rumiamos el dolor sin enseñarlo a nadie, sin reconocer que está, y esperamos que se vaya por sí mismo, porque Dios nos libre de mostrar tamaña vulnerabilidad.

Y así nuestras grandes obras son sardónicas, juguetonas si bien oscuras, como Novás Calvo, Virgilio, Onelio Jorge Cardoso, Jesús Díaz, Reinaldo Arenas… Donde el dolor va por debajo, el dolor por el padre que abandona, por la madre que rechaza, por el amante que engaña, por la decepción hacia el ideal. El dolor se arrastra a hurtadillas, sobreentendido por quién lee pero jamás admitido por quien narra.

Claro que habrán excepciones. Pero Dulce María, Eliseo Diego, o Cirilo Villaverde tienen quizá mucho en sí de la madre España.

isabel-santosLa excepción más gigantesca es quizás en cine, Fernando Pérez. Pero incluso en él, el dolor está marcado por la muerte.

Como si la muerte fuese la única disculpa para sentir dolor, para traslucir el dolor.

Quizás es eso lo que más me irrita de momentos como el de ayer. Que por más que busco no encuentro el autor cubano que escriba para explicarme mi lugar en el mundo, y que destile la esencia de quiénes somos, desnudos de espacio y de madre patria. el autor que escriba La Montaña Mágica cubana.

Achieved goals

Posted: October 11, 2016 by jennroig in English, Fiction

She’s got it. She’s there, finally where she wanted to be, doing what she wanted to do. By herself. No one gave it to her.

up-in-the-hill

And now she faces the terrifying question, what’s next?

That’s how addicts might feel, she thinks. So much anticipation, but that feeling of being high lasts almost nothing. Why happiness doesn’t last longer? Why doesn’t it linger?

She wonders if there’s someone truly happy.

No one is there either to help her understand why happiness lasts so little.

And then there’s that sadness. Sneaky sadness that hid when she was running, and busy, and working, and surviving, gasping air to not drown and struggling to make ends meet… only to find that sadness again, finally, when she should be enjoying the here, and the now.

And she tries to figure where the sadness comes from, of from the outside, or if it’s always there inside of her. Who could tell her. Who could know her better than herself.

But she’s in an island. She run from an island only to arrive in another. And both were empty. There are many people. But not a single person for her.

islands

Maybe that´s life, sailing from an island to another. Maybe that thing of enjoying the journey is true after all. The journey is holding the wheel steady, keeping the course, pulling the ropes, resisting the current, the wind against, despite exhaustion or disbelief. Then arriving is facing the void. The empty island. Or even worse. The island is not quite how she imagined or hoped for.

Hope

Damned hope.

Have a child, Mother whispers.

Have a lover, Father yells.

But the eyes of her child are fading away in her imagination. The possibility of a child. The not quite getting to know what could the color of her child’s eyes be.

And love passes by. At this point she already discovered that falling in love is fatal, mortal, infinite… and then well, you jump over it, or you fall even lower, out of love.

Candle… Castle… Lies… Truth

She´s realizing that life is better when is lived against the clock. Like sex, that was never as great as when tides were about to destroy a sand castle, or a candle was about to consume itself.candle

We only have the time until the waves destroy the castle… And then they made love. In the middle of nowhere. Far from the lighthouse, them two. And she did everything she could to make him happy, she was so careful not to harm his delicate skin. She was the balm when he was in crisis. He always returned for something that she could never quite understand. one day she listened, I want to be in love and love doesn’t come to me with you, I don’t love you. It was when the truth destroyed her.

sadnessWe are protected by the circle of light as long as the candle lasts, then there will be nothing… Just the anguish that makes us both. And she let him lay with her while the flame lighted the old room. And she let him love her, for a while, because everything around seemed blurry. He was the balm to her crises. She always returned, for something that she doesn’t quite understand. Because one day she saw him between his fiancee and his mother, then she realized that lies had pointy ends and she could bleed.

Much later, when she was asked forgiveness, she still found a way to blame herself.

She’s entering that age when she is old enough to have memories starting to fall into perspective, but not old enough to start to forget.

Damned you, Hope.

Three sisters

Posted: December 6, 2015 by jennroig in English, Fiction
Tags: , , ,

Three women in one frame. They could be family, mother, daughter and aunt. They could be just friends babysitting a girl. Or they could be three sisters from different mothers.

three women park

The girl, disengaged from the adults, could be looking for some lost item. Perhaps a wrist watch given by her father for getting good grades in school. Or she could be just trying to keep up, to reach the same spot where the older sister is. The beautiful sister , the one with a career, who visits a couple of times a year and who doesn’t get along all too well with dad. But dad speaks well about her in his own way. Somehow he always make it sound like she should follow those steps, her oldest sister’s steps. Unlike the middle daughter, pregnant of a man dad doesn’t particularly approve.

But there’s something about her oldest sister that pushes her away. Not that she doesn’t love her, because she certainly does, it’s her sister. But it’s in her eyes. In a way like every time she looks at her she doesn’t really see her. Like she was always bored and wishing to leave. She never asks her about else other than school, and even then for only a second, before she loses interest again. The youngest sister doesn’t get that vibe from her middle sister. In fact, she has taken the girl with her to buy stuff for the baby. She has felt the baby kicking in her sister’s tummy. She’s going to be an aunt and that’s exciting.

Maybe that closeness between a mother to be and her younger sister is because she understands, better than anyone, how does it feel to be measured against such high standards, how much it hurts not to be loved by who she is, but rather being an experiment, another chance to make right whatever went wrong with the first failed trial. That’s what her sister is, a failed trial. It took time for her to understand that she wasn’t really trial number two, because she’s a different person therefore she deserves to be regarded as unique trial, whether failed or not. It took her time in therapy, and finding her husband, who helped her to find herself when looking at the mirror. Herself. A discovery that gave her so much relief. It’s relieving to know that she didn’t have a chance to win that race, because she’s not her older sister, she’s herself. And she loves her husband so much, against all judgments and disapproval, despite the age difference, no matter that he has two previous marriages with two other kids. Right now he’s with her, she’s the center of his world. It feels so great to be at the center of a world. That´s why it breaks her heart to see her little sister, knowing that she doesn’t get it yet, that she can’t win that race, she can’t even run it as it is.

It could be that the middle sister can see through older sister´s walls to see that she’s not really detached, she just can’t be like their younger sisters. She can’t avoid an immense boredom when they try to tell her about baby showers, or matching shoes and purses, of father’s schedule for taking the pills for his heart conditions. God knows she could give her blood for her sister, she would take a bullet for her but she can’t properly listen. Her middle sister, actually, she’s not so sure how does she really feel for the little one. She’s so different, so not part of her memories and so much a child of a middle-age-crisis. And she listen to her speaking that dad has the pictures of her in a vegetable costume for the last school’s stupid play. A vegetable. And she will have to smile when they’ll get back home and father will show the pictures in the cell phone. A vegetable. She was never in a play, she wouldn’t have time in the middle of all those academic contests, advanced classes. She figured out by herself that Santa didn’t really exist, and she got yelled when she told her sister. Her middle sister. Her sister.

But they came together to the park because someone had to take the girl for a walk, now that the father is in mandatory health leave, and doctors recommend not to abuse with effort. But later the middle sister will have a doctor’s appointment for a baby check up and the husband can’t go with her for the day. And the oldest sister doesn’t want her sister to me alone, even though if everything seems to be going well with the pregnancy. They will take the girl along for lunch, then to the doctor’s office, then back to father´s home. And the day will be over. Until next time.

Margo

Posted: December 5, 2015 by jennroig in English, Fiction
Tags: ,

It’s coming to all, it’s a matter of when.

margo in central park

Margo’s on her way back home, walking the 5th uptown, after buying presents for Christmas. The day is fading. There’s a chilling wind but it feels nice. The colors of the autumn remind her of Peter, in college, playing his harmonica in the park. Always in the same bench in central park. Why would she think of Peter now? It’s been almost twenty-five years. She can’t quite remember his face, and that makes her stomach twitch. She can only see him sitting, in a shinny morning, with a big smile but… what was the color of his eyes again? It’s been too long, apparently, and those memories are also starting to fade.

Why Margo deviated from her way home, why did she enter the park instead of keep going straight ahead through 5th, it’s a question that not even she could have answered with entire certainty. It was rather an impulse. Maybe in the back of her head she wanted to see that bench again, although that didn’t mean anything really. That memory of Peter, so unexpected, didn’t mean more than that, an inexplicable moment of the brain, uncontrollable, therefore meaningless. The reality was at home, where Edward, her husband, was waiting with Caitlin and Mary Jo, their daughters that were visiting for Christmas.

Margo must have entered the park by the 72nd, because one of the guys from the carts in front of the Metropolitan, that kind of knows her from the distance and thinks she’s a beautiful and elegant lady, too bad that out of his league, he would remember her walking by. And he did not. Or that’s what he said when the police came asking the morning after.

sunset CP

The wind was chilling and the sun was almost set, and still the street lamps were enough to illuminate the main venues. But the bench was in a hidden spot, on top of a soft cliff, that Peter liked for the view and the peace. The bench was there. Exactly in the same spot. Because nothing really changes even after more than two decades. She wouldn’t have sit, or that’s what Edward thinks. Although he doesn’t really understand anything of what has happened or could have happened.

Margo climbs the soft hill with careful steps, not because she feels limited by her high-heel boots but rather because she has both hands busy carrying the bags with gifts. The view is amazing at that moment, with the sun down and the night starting and all the lights. Like being in an island in the middle of the city. Now the memory of Peter is much precise, his eyes were green.

And she hears a noise, something like a branch that breaks, or a step over dry grass. Margo doesn’t turn. She doesn’t have the time. There’s a shot. There’s pain and burning for a second flat. And then there’s no more.

Things

Posted: November 29, 2015 by jennroig in Chronicles, English, Travels
Tags: ,
1990-RUSSIAN-SOVIET-NESTING-DOLL

Matrioshkas: Vintage set, exactly like mine.

– If it happened that right now you were tele transported to a different reality, in any place in the world where you have no connections, what would you have to take along?

I was asked that question once. Many things came to mind but I could not pinpoint the right answer.

-That´s because you need nothing. You should only need yourself. The rest are tools to be reacquired or just burden.

It is difficult to anticipate how simple and complicated all that could be, or to what extent that would be true or false.

I have spent the last five years of my life going around owning the minimum. Keeping a light luggage means having to decide frequently what to leave behind, and what travels with me. Those decisions gotta be practicality driven.

Some of these things, a few but still, I have kept not out of absolute necessity, but out of some sort of loyalty, memory or nostalgia. Some times I have decided not to give in into getting something new, even if I badly want it, to save space for what I already have.

I have kept a photo album put together to bring along. A collection of DVDs with school works. A Swiss army knife. And gigabytes full of memories, and the fear that some day all that could explode in a cloud of zeros and ones.

I would have been difficult to predict that after a while, the nostalgia for things changes. The nature of the things longed changes. Recently I have remembered my old set of Russian dolls, wondering whether those still exist. Or where did I leave, to whom did I ask to store the other set of Russian dolls that a friend gave me as a present. I have thought that I have no pictures from when I was a child and my parents were young, and I would want to have it.

Humans and things get entangled in complicated relationships. For some reason things are thought to be there to fill voids we can´t.