Matters Beyond Politics: A Rap Session
Updated: Jul 8, 2019
How do you do it? How does any one do it? How do people carry on in the face of so much political gunk and suffering. The only way I know how is, well you guessed it, art. Art and talking, art, talking and coffee. And some day when I am old and healthy, art, taking, coffee and a fat cigarette.
This episode is a new thing, I am rapping not as in hip-hop. As in unpacking things. I might do it again or never do it again, you let me know how it goes and let me know what you think. You see I needed a space to process thoughts, this junk. To unpack recent events. This isn’t like the other episode I don’t think… we’ll see, I might not come to a conclusion at the end because what I want to rap about is not something I alone can solve.
Art is how I process issues and life but just like I have said before, art has been a virtue in my life, I am better for it. Art has become a filter through which to process these issues or ideas that are not quite resolved but need to be aired like laundry or else they will fests and grow mold on my soul and possible be the of end of me. Is that dramatic? You know the feeling!
Here is a confession, well kind of, you might know this about me by now but I am a recluse,
a hermit. I live on the 38th floor in a glass tower that I use to shield myself from the world. I avoid crowds and rush hour traffic like my life deepened on it. To some degree my sanity does depends on it. As you can imagine I have my reasons, all legit excuses that check out.
Excuses but legitimate excuse. And that is ok, I don’t feel the need to apologies for it.
As a matter a fact this podcast is a bridge to this isolation which is why I love doing it so much. So thank you, Thank you for listening and spending time with me. You keep me human, I guess.
Right now I can do this, because I am in an incubation stage with this podcast. Because I paint and collage in my studio building up my emerging art career, I can be isolated. This will change, and I am ok with that. As a matter of fact I am doing everything possible to change this. For now my opulent life is a form of protesting, I am claiming my prize for manifesting the life I have always wanted. And this is what I want to rap about today, I have some mental and emotional unpacking to do. I know YOU can relate. You see this isolation and opulence is my form of protesting by infiltrating, occupying and buying what is rarely accessible to people of color or more specifically in my case a brown indigenous Mexican man. Living, lounging, traveling is my protest as it is my prize.
But what happens when that prize is moved. Full disclosure my friends this is a first world problem I am about to share, but a problem all the same. You see my husband and I recently went to Mexico for vacation and just like my life style we also vacation hermetically. We stay in a secluded resort with few people, we make sure to go off season, adults only and always off the main strip.
We even splurged a little and bought first class tickets on Delta. If you have ever flown first class you know it makes all the difference. Don’t get me wrong, it is highway robbery but the space you get and attention eases most of the anxiety of traveling. I highly recommend you treat yourself at least once to this treat. I mean we all get there at the same time, God willing, but it is a nice perk to have peace of mind that you will be comfortable.
Another perk of flying first class is the lounge, oh boy- you need to go to the lounge if you haven’t. Usually there is food, showers, nice views and ample space before your flight. My favorite perk of all at the lounge is the magazines, tons of magazines, fashion, business, tabloid, foreign, you name it. I stock up and collage at the hotel, it’s fantastic.
This time around we bought our first class tickets on Delta. We had gone to their lounge before and it was dreamy. We went got to the airport and through the circus that is security. I put on my shoes, my belt, my wedding ring and re-packed everything they search for though in my luggage but I took comfort knowing we’d be going straight to the lounge. I keep saying “I” even though I was traveling with my husband because he is different you see. He could care less about lounges or sweating the little stuff, I envy him a bit.
When you get to the lounge there is a bouncer type guy, like at the clubs that scans your ticket and granting you access or not, to this hidden world of luxury. When I gave the agent my ticket he scanned it and a red light came on. He scanned it again and again the red light came on, even brighter it seems
“Oh” he said, “your ticket doesn’t grant you access to the lounge”
“What do you mean I asked, we have fist class tickets. We’ve flown first class before and we have always been able to enter the lounge, it’s part of why we buy these tickets” I explained.
“Customers going to Mexico are no longer granted access to the lounge, it’s a new policy, yahh, sorry” he deliver politely and sharply.
I quickly got into logistical problem solving mode. “Well”, I started, “when did this policy go into effect”
“A few weeks ago”
“Well, we bought our tickets a few months ago. Is there any way you can let us in, since we did not know about your changes and since we purposefully purchased our tickets to go in to the lounge?” I asked.
He didn’t let us in and he saw that I wasn’t going anywhere so he asked if I would like to speak to his manager… I said yahh. A few seconds later he came back empty handed and claimed he could find him. I would budge, I was polite but held my ground.
I felt targeted and personally attacked in this situation. Another agent came up to us and reiterated the situation but then resolved to finding the manager. When the manager came down I looked at him in the eyes and gave him a firm hand shake and I smiled. I then looked at his name tag to address him politely and formally. I could make this up, his name was Donald.
I was in the middle of some iconic sketch comedy, one who’s humor totally escaped my.
Here I was having Donald, yes he happened to be a white man, telling me, our first class Delta ticket was not good enough to get us into to the VIP lounge because we were specifically flying to Mexico. I had to think fast to be articulate at the moment without letting emotion overtake me.
“SORRY” he said, “we have the right to change the policy at any time without notice.”
“Donald” I said, “the irony here does not escape me we bought a first class ticket to Mexico but now you, Donald, are telling us out ticket does not grant us access to the lounge because we, are flying to Mexico? As a Mexican American I feel targeted here.”
“I had nothing to do with choosing my name sir, I can’t change that-“
I quickly interjected and agreed, “yes just like I can’t change my skin color Donald, you can call yourself Don, I cannot hid my skin color even if I wanted to. I would hope you can empathize.”
It was brazen of me to say so, but it needed to be said, an in all truth we need to be brazen right now. I had hoped for leniency as I had often seen people granted the “ok no worries you can pass this time”, or “I shouldn’t do this but since you guys bought the ticket before the policy change”, nope. You could have sworn Donald was going to be fired if he let us though.
At this point I didn’t need to get into the lounge as much as I need to be heard, of how wrong it all was. We walk away slightly humiliated and deflated, and yes angry, but I felt good, I spoke up for myself I wasn’t aggressive or even worse, passive, otherwise I would have hated myself later. While it stung, I walked away with dignity.
This incident, as first world and privileged as it may sound is an example of how thy raise the bar for us- people of color. You do good, you work hard, you earn money and you think this will afford you some privilege. Nope “they” can change the policy at any moment without any justification as Delta did. “That’s nice you have first class tickets, but still not good enough to get the full access.” This happens on many levels over, in certain fields when women and other minorities enter careers they lower the wages and they make less money than their white male predecessors.
I often complain about customer service, at the end of the day that was what could have solved this issue at Delta, better customer service and empathy. Recently said this to my friend “Customer service is dead” but he refused to believe it or agree. I told him, the kind of customer service I warrant as a brown man in the places I go, is different for me than for you- he is white, and that doesn’t matter to me, or to my friend or to our relationship. But my friend in his heavy metal t-shirt, tousled hair and worn out sneakers will always garner better customer service over my j-crew button up or any other material good I drape over my brown body.
I hate having to state the obvious, our experiences will be different, usually in the favor of my white and white passing friends. This is not using the race card for sympathy- this is my life.
I don’t hold it against anyone in any way and me talking about it is more about changing this dynamic than alienating people. But alienation is how this society treats people of color so much that now, as you’ve heard I prefer it.
By the time we got to Mexico it was all forgotten. My husband and I were excited to meet our friend the writer Iliana O at the hotel. We enjoyed the food, and the pools. We got to see Cirque du Soleil which is an out of this world experience. The show in Mexico is called “Joya”. They’ve created a whole environment with the theater surrounded by a mote and surreal designed spaces you can lounge in and eat great food at. While we were at the resort I read, wrote, went to the gym and didn’t see much news or much of anything outside the pool. I had spoken with my brother and in conversation he said “Enjoy the beach, stay away from the news, it’s horrible they just showed pictures of this Salvadorian man with his daughter who died trying to swim across the Rio Grande into the states.” The same river my grandmother crossed with a broken leg many years earlier, I thought to myself. He quickly changed the subject and I let it go before I could form an image in my head.
On one of the last days a manager of the hotel invited the few people around the pool to gather at the beach to witness some baby turtles being released into the ocean. While we waited we felt the weather shift, the wind picked up and there were stone colored clouds in the distance. The staff scrambled to get the show going ahead of schedule to avoid the coming storm. While they ran back and forth I reached for my phone to take a picture of the coming storm and accidently hit the push notification pending on my phone. There it was, the image that had eluded me earlier, the father and daughter my brother had mentioned, the images was inescapable. A man laid face down in water, with his baby daughter tucked into his shirt, both lifeless. I instantly snatched the phone to my chest as if I could reach out to either of them. I quickly internalized the image and the horrific and familiar narrative it told.
I walked to the group as two men arrived on the beach with cardboard boxes. The wind picked up as some of staff tried to hand out ocean colored drinks that more accurately resembled Windex, it was to cheers, perhaps. The two men tilted the boxes and out poured what looked like hundreds of baby turtle, each instinctually waddling towards the ocean. It started to rain bullets, the dark clouds where above us, meanwhile there was a rainbow in the distance and everyone awed at the baby turtles. Something tugs at your chest when you see them, so small and helpless yet so eager to live.
I got closer and to see them with my camera and blue drink at hand. I was wearing sunglasses even though the sun was hiding behind thick clouds, but they served their purpose, I was in tears. The turtle’s will and effort to make it to the water brought on the feeling of desperation that Oscar must have felt to save his daughter Valeria. Simultaneously I felt overtaken by the sense surrender, the surrender he must have rationalized to their certain demise. This is what must have driven him to secure his daughter in to his t-shirt, so that they may stay together in death and be found as a family. This is horror.
Looking from above at the little turtles rushing to the ocean before birds or other predators could get to them, reminded me that not all of them will make it. But we survived. I survived.
My family crossed that same river many years ago and survived. This death cannot be in vain, I am here to claim my prize and celebrate in their name and in the names of the others that didn’t make it, because it could have been me, and someday it could be you.
Rest in power Oscar Alberto and Valeria Martinez Ramirez
This episode is not a venting session or a campaign against Delta airlines, no not Delta Airlines or the whole of the United States. What this episode is, is a way to unpack these experiences, to use my art lens, my art filter to process it all, because there is a lot to process. Personally I resolve these issues with ideas for art. Art I never indent to make just because I don’t have enough hands or energy. And the truth of the matter is that you can’t give into every whim, no matter how good the ideas may be. I read something by Kevin Kelly, the co-founder of Wired magazine. He has mathematically estimated how long he has to live. Taking in consideration his health, his age and all the other foreseeable factors. Then he set up a death countdown clock on his computer. This sounds a little morbid but I find it remarkably efficient. Think about it, if you are ambitious person and really want to accomplish certain things, or want specific things in your life, if you have this awareness of time you won’t waste it.
He goes on to explain that he scheduled his projects accordingly and divides them into five year increments. “Because any great ideas worth doing will take 5 years to get off the ground successfully. So I’ve adopted this 5 year plan and in some ways I have always had the countdown clock in mind, though I am happy to report I have outlived my expectations. So for the next five years I will be working on this, this podcast. I want to make something of this podcast, because it really brings together all of the things that make me come alive. I write, I talk, I connect, I make art, then do it all over again. Now I hope to get paid for being me, doesn’t that sound amazing “Get paid for being you”. That’s the way it should be if you have something to give it should be that easy, It isn’t though. I will have to learn to monetize this podcast and make it grow. I hope you stick around and become part of it. What that will look like I only have a vague idea, but let me tell you, I love it.
When I produce and publish my podcast, people tell me make more. Make more content, I want to hear it. When I made art it was the complete opposite, not because my art was horrible, at least I don’t think so…wait, I know so! It was because art and the business of art runs on a scarce mentality. Write that down, so you don’t take it personally next time you are in the same situation I was. I remember I had an art show at one of my best friend’s house, and a lot of her very wealthy friends came, I sold nothing, and at the end of the night someone told her “His work is great, but he is too prolific! He should not make so much work to drive the prices up” Less inventory more demand, I mean what?? Another time an actual friend of mine, told me I should stop sending weekly emails with art, because she thought I would fatigue people, it took me a back for a few seconds, but just unsubscribe I thought. Podcasting it the opposite- and I have so much to say and so much to deliver, lets talk. But listen, don’t shy away my friends, make art, make a space for your work, its good enough, I know it.
In my head I had this idea, I would make life size paper maché babies. I would maybe paint them, or leave them with the newsprint visible. Then I would take them into the world, in my case New York, which I know I have to be careful because we are very paranoid of unattended packages, and rightfully so. I would just leave them in different places, high shelves in books stores, or on top of trash cans on fifth avenue. The point or the artist’s statement would be to elicit an emotional reaction. To trigger a tug at people's instincts so they can feel that primordial instinct to protect our young. For that split second the encounter would not be affected by preconceived notions or ideas of which babies are valued more over others, because that is point. The children in the American concentration camps are valued less than other children on American soil. It has happened before, the internment camps where they held Japanese Americans in the 40s and earlier still with the native Americans.
This is a tactic of colonization, you take away the children to deflate, humiliate and brake the parents and the community, then by doing so you devastate the next generation with traumas. Have you ever wondered if some of the nightmare that keep you up at night are even yours? Or have they been handed down like a sentence, think about this for a second. Have empathy for yourself here. To take it even further, one could even make the babies into piñatas, implying the relationship of physical violence we have to these brown babies. It is so painful and all true. I might not be able to do this project, actually I know I will not do this project because I am too chicken shit. But if you feel so include, take my ideas, this idea and run with it. Just give me credit and send me a picture, I’ll share it.
This is how I cope, I needed to rap about this. To unpack this. How do you do it?
I hope you have something like art, or reading or working out! God bless those endorphins. Use them. What do you want to rap about, let me know by going to StudioConfessions.com at let me know. I am here for you. I am your humble servant in the ivory tower rooting for you.
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