6-7-2020 Old Salsa Dance With a Tree Story

Since this story comes up a lot whenever I get into a conversation about dance, I’m just going to write it here so I can copy/paste it in the future.

Way back in 2010 when our biggest problem was the recession caused by the housing market crash, I had gone on a trip to Colombia for the first, and so far only, family reunion. I went with my sister and her boyfriend at the time, as my spanish is horrible despite being of Colombian and Cuban blood. We ended up staying at this large walled resort, whose name I cannot remember. We stayed in these little cabins, and we would take daily trips via bus to different locations in Colombia. One evening we decided to go to this I remember being called “Andres Restraunt”. Although when I google the place, it gives me “Andres Carne de Res” from an eater.com article, which describes the place as “a Cheesecake Factory crossed with a night club on steroids…”. This is accurate. I did not have this information going in.

A few months prior to this trip, I had just started taking a few months worth of Salsa dance classes (LA style). I had reasoned to myself that learning an actual social skill like dancing would help me better cope with social gathering situations where my combination introversion and social anxiety issues made it difficult for me to just strike up conversation with strangers. Especially with all dance parties that always seem to spawn around me on account of having lived in Miami back then. It did help a bit back then now that I think on it, but these days the opportunities are much less (especially since COVID). The point here is I wanted to learn how to dance and would use every opportunity I could to practice. When the world returns to normal, I intend to get back into it.

Now this restaurant was unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and to this day I still haven’t experienced anything that can compare. I remember entering with my entire extended family through a roped off area, as if it were some sort of carnival ride we were stepping into. In a way, it was I suppose. I recall it was a hybrid indoor/outdoor setup. In the middle there was the kitchen/bar infrastructure. The whole area was shaped as a massive rectangle. Spreading out from the center was rows of long wooden tables arranged in parallel. The dining and dancing areas were covered with a combination of canopy coverings or other misc roofing material. Because this was still in the mountainous area of Colombia, it was always cool in the evening so there wasn’t a need for AC. Cover from the rain was all that mattered. At random times, there would be musical processions or other events walking through the entirety of the place. There was even a wedding going on, though to my understanding it wasn’t an actual wedding but instead was just a performance of one. There were also trees in this place. This will become relevant later.

Performances were a regular thing here.

When we sat down at our tables, we were presented with these massive menus that were inside of a metal box. They had a hand crank. You would turn the crank, and the menu would rotate through. I’m not sure I ever found the end of it.

I don’t think we ever found the end of the menu.

The other important thing, besides the amazing food, were the drinks. This would be my first introduction to Aguardiente. I translated it as Fire Water (though if you want to be technical, wiki describes it was “water” and “burning/fiery”). Either way, that is what it felt like to drink it. It was done in shot format. I had never drank like that with my family before. I can’t remember now what were the prompts for each shot, but they were…frequent. I recall my cousins would randomly hand me a shot, and down it would go. At one point my sister started getting angry at my cousins and told them to stop giving me drinks. She could be an absolute bear against me some days, but she was always defensive for me if anyone other than her gave me a hard time…such was the nature of our sibling relationship. As she was scolding one cousin, another would hand me a drink while she was busy and I’d just drink it anyway. I mean we took a bus to get here so driving wasn’t going to be an issue.

IIRC the back of the bottle had a text saying something to the effect that this drink was blessed by the Holy Mother Marie. So we had a religious duty to finish our drink…so we told ourselves.

12 shots later, I noticed some Salsa music was playing. When you learn how to do these more specific dances, the instruments used in the music you dance to become key. There is a specific sound pattern I listen for and work with. And so it was in that moment. While there were a series of solo techniques I knew, the real fun was when I was dancing with a partner. Even as drunk as I was though, I still too shy to just come up to random people and ask to dance. So I came up with a novel solution to this problem.

I danced with a tree. It was the right height. It had a limb sticking out just where I needed it. So I danced with it, working on my various spins. This went on for about 5 minutes maybe? Maybe 10? I was drunk I can’t remember these fine details! As luck would have it, a group of people took notice of what I was doing. They came up to me and asked why I was dancing with a tree. I don’t remember the answer I gave. They invited me to dance with them instead. It was either a couple + 1 other lady, or a brother/sister/sister combination of people. I can’t remember those details either. I do remember dancing with everyone. I also remember the name (still) of one of them I danced with, Carolina. After we had our fill of dancing, the group of people invited me to their table to eat and hang with them for a while.

6 shots later (for a total of 18 for you math geniuses out there), it was time to start leaving. Getting back to our cabins was another story in itself. Despite all that drinking, I had no hang over in the morning. My sister credits it to my Colombian heritage.

Positive traits 2019

These are in no particular order.

  • I have an iron will
  • I’m intelligent
  • I am a Slytherin in that I’m focused, do not let obstacles stop me, and I’m deeply loyal to my close friends.
  • I’m “really good at fucking”
  • 5/5 pornstar rating
  • I have a ton of physical endurance
  • I’m learn from my mistakes
  • I’m a good listener
  • I make people feel safe
  • The “glue” of my family
  • Patient
  • Resourceful
  • I’ve been equated to a swiss army knife
  • I can surprise people with how passionate I can be in face to my usual quiet reserved demeanor
  • Insightful
  • respectful of others’ feelings
  • Soulful eyes
  • Attractive shoulders
  • Looks good in black
  • I am detail oriented
  • I am clever
  • I am good at goal setting
  • I am good at creating evocative imagery through my writing.
  • I’m known as the person who can find answers to almost anything
  • I’m still pretty good at video games
  • I’m a decent shield fighter when larping
  • I have “good battlefield awareness”
  • I have been a professional mentor
  • Open minded
  • Analytical
  • Good planner
  • Self-Driven
  • Independent
  • Has grit
  • Great problem solver
  • Fast reaction speed
  • Persistent*
  • Supportive of those close to me
  • Humble to a fault (I write as I try play up my strengths)
  • I smell nice.
  • I appreciate constructive critism
  • I generally have a positive outlook on life.
  • I workout regularly.
  • I eat healthy by cooking my own meals and prepping food for the week.
  • I enjoy stories that explore the moral grey
  • I love playing D&D
  • I enjoy Ren Faires
  • I don’t care for most sports (but I do enjoy watching UFC fights when the situation presents itself)
  • My chest hair resembles the Batman signal

Hopes and Dreams

What are mine?  I will add to this over time and sticky.

  • A larger home where I can protect the family that still lives and those that do not exist yet. My mother wanted the house that I grew up in to be there for her kids. It was for a little while I suppose. Until Noe fucked it up. I want to fix that for our next generation.
  • In prep for the above, I want to work closer to home.
  • I want my wife to find fulfillment in her life.
  • I want to hit black belt in one martial art discipline.
  • I want to be strong enough to climb a tree.
  • I want to be able to cosplay Letho halfway decently.
  • I want to learn how to craft unique wings of my own.
  • I want to travel more of the world while I’m young enough to let the experience change my perspective.
  • I want to be alive long enough to see my sister reach her dreams of being a doctor.

6.1.22

Still fighting the battles in my mind. It probably does not help that my sleep has been sub-par. I did get in a hiit run this morning though. Nothing is as consistent at getting a high heart rate than interval sprints.

I think on Tuesdays I will build a food plan around having a full protein bar, maybe before my kenpo class. That way i can come home, do my improv class, then shower and immediately go to bed.

Just gotta stay the course. Soon I’ll get that home gym going and get back about an hour of sleep.

5.10.22 How bad do I want this?

This thought is latching to my brain today. It was triggered while browsing through FL. I was considering maybe looking at attending various local events, and came across my ex’s profile as a possible attendee. It brought back some painful memories. I’ll flat out say it, this person was a narcissist. They did a lot of emotional damage. The highs (or love bombs) were not worth the crippling lows. I went no contact a long while ago to protect myself. Now I’m afraid that my odds of running back into this person in the real world are more likely, especially if I try to attend any local events. I really don’t like confrontation. Meanwhile, this person *loved* to start arguments as a way to test people. That’s a massive waste of energy IMO. Now I could try to excuse this person based on the traumatic past they’ve had, but that isn’t okay. They were toxic. That experience is a poignant reminder for me that even as a polyamorous person, it is not worth pursuing toxic relationships, regardless of all of their other qualities. The damage to my psyche, and those around me as I stew in depression, is not worth it.

So back to this thought. It came up while I trained at the gym this morning. Working out is important to me as a mood regulator. I did not train at all last week due to being out for a wedding. Sure enough, come sunday I felt a melancholy just wash over me. Yes my social anxiety cup had runneth over, but also my bulwark was decayed. Then I remembered how I felt last year as I saw progress photos from last year. I was starting to like how I looked, for the first time ever in my life. It gave me an extra bit of confidence that I never knew could exist. I could actually see myself dressing in nice things that weren’t just ren fair garb.

And so as I struggle with trying to keep a fitness routine going I have this concern of confrontation in my head. I know the universe loves to fuck with me, and so at some point it’ll happen even with avoiding those events. I feel that I need to get my body back to where I was early last year. Rebuilding that confidence in myself is to serve as that shield for my mind when I fully expect this person will try to tear me down and/or emotionally manipulate me into doing that myself. I know the mechanical things that I have to do. It comes down to gritting my teeth and getting it done…and not injuring myself in the process.

I need to get up earlier during the week. The Tuesday/Thursday morning strength training is nice…but I can do more. If I’m making slow incremental process through this “part time” training schedule I’m on now (keeping my nutrition in check of course), then I can just imagine my progress should I commit. If I want to be ready to handle those barbs, then I need to commit to this phase of training. No one else is going to be be able to help me with this.

Okay, I feel a bit better putting this out into the ether. I know what I need to do.

5-3-22 A Spark

I wanted to write down what I felt from an experience last night. It was a positive experience. I suppose that is a bit of a departure from how I’ve often used this blog to vent out difficult emotions onto a mostly unknown space on the internet. Why not do this one word files or any other number of offline solutions? I don’t know. Why hand write anything on a physical diary? It just feels like it is the thing I should do.

I listened to a podcast yesterday on an interview between Neil Gaiman and David Tennant at the suggestion of my wife. There were bits on writing that resonated with me. One of those was the experience of feeling a story inside of you that just needs to get out there. It doesn’t matter if no one ever reads it. It is just an act of creation that must happen. And so here I go, writing a sort of free-form poetry/prose about a muse I met at a bar that sparked something inside of me through a simple connection.

Borrowing on an idea from one of my favorite book series, the Dresden Files…I think I may have stumbled my way into a real life soul gaze. She was a dancer at a bar I visited as part of a bachelor party outing. There are many kinds of beauty out there, but her’s seemed to be something unique. There was something about her eyes that cut through all of the years of mental calluses built from a lifetime of people formed of false facades of spirit. I found myself smiling like it was the most effortless thing in the world. She smiled back…with her eyes. It was one of the simplest yet most profound human connections one can have, I think. It felt as if an incorporeal hand had reached into my chest and gently massaged my heart into accepting the joy that permeated this moment of time. All of my past stresses and future anxieties were put on mute for a spell and I found a rare moment of unfiltered human connection. This is a moment I hope to invoke in my future writing aspirations whenever I describe the start of the spark between two strangers.

1-11-22 A drop

Writing this stuff is an outlet for when I’m feeling down. It doesn’t mean I’m always this way. It just helps since I don’t have anyone I trust to talk about it (and getting a therapist that covers the areas I deal with isn’t an option right now).

I think I’m feeling that loneliness sensation again. Like I don’t believe I’m loved. Or perhaps that I even deserve it. I’m sure childhood trauma and depression are at play here. My only thought to keep this at bay is continue hammering down on my workouts and more importantly keeping my walking routine up. When I look back at my successful periods in terms of health (and mood, because they are absolutely linked), my step count is always high. Walking isn’t very fancy and doesn’t do a whole lot for optimal health but it sure does seem to make a difference in keeping my weight at a range I like. I’m aware of the narrative trying to decouple health and value…but fuck man that’s a hard road for me to get on. I struggle to find value in myself beyond my plain grit when it comes to that stuff. I think I struggle to see my value period. The only other thing I can look at are the couple of D&D games I run and the fact that my salary affords me the ability to keep a roof over the head of my wife, my sister, the pets, and myself.

Depressive thoughts can go fuck themselves in general.

12.5.21 giving a voice to that self-hating demon

I wonder if giving voice to the self loathing I’m feeling now might help. I know that depression is, for the most part, lies I feed to myself. But isn’t there some sort of core truth to it as well? A need that hasn’t been met. Boundaries that routinely get smashed. I’m not sure I’m lovable.

It started kicking in this morning. This is one of those thought based spirals I think. Though last night’s wife smooching on her partner (at least I think that is what I heard) may have kicked it off. I felt unwanted; unneeded. I guess I acquired a new abandonment trauma after my last partner left me due to me not being the right gender anymore. Maybe that was a lie too, who knows. I’ve had so many people lie to me, it gets hard to trust.

god forbid I have any emotions. That’s the impression I got from my wife and her partner’s bitching. It seems like my worth to her is entirely transactionale. That is to say, it is relevant to how I support her emotionally (and monetarily). Who I am, my quirks and faults, are undesirable. I wasn’t ok with being completely ignored and steam rolled several times in that group conversation? Well, then that only mattered because my talking about my experience made her feel bad about her actions. How I felt about it was completely unimportant, and probably irrational. In contrast, I had a friend there that was able to remind me that she likes me just the way I am. The implication I came away with, after a couple days, was that perhaps my wife and partner don’t like the fact that I’m not loudly gregarious. I’m better to her when I’m not present. Maybe this is why I’m struggling with those “I’m better off dead” thoughts right now. Just add in everything else that has happened and maybe it makes sense my mind would take that track. I don’t have anyone I feel I can talk to openly about my experience without it being about them. Yes a therapist would be nice but it is so fucking hard to find an affordable one that covers the topics I deal with. And I guess I’m also a bit worried, based on the last therapist I was with, that they might provide me even more reasoning to get out of the situation I’m in now.

I know social media is a toxic thing to look at. But I see several couples out there, even LTR couples that should be outside of the NRE phase, and I notice how they are still able to publically celebrate each other. They have a couple identity. I know the meme/joke about “couple goals” but there really is something reassuring when someone can be public about what “you” mean to them. I think that is part of the reason I’ve appreciated the thing I’ve had with that other “kat” online for over a decade now. She’s alkways reminded me of my unique value and that special name reservation. It’s not about the power dynamic. I’ve never really cared for that or being superior/over anyone. I just want to matter.

This is enough for now.

10-29-21 melancholy

I’m feeling that creeping sadness today and the past couple days. not sure why exactly. maybe those demons of abandonment. that feeling of being unwanted, and so I retreat inside. I’ve also not worked out this week for a number of reasons…my mind always goes to shit if I’m not moving. gonna go workout now. I guess it’s part of my internal comforting since I can’t find it with people. gogo dismissive/avoidant attachment styles…

10-13-21 Feeling More Introspective Today

I’m not going to get too deep into this right now since I should probably be doing more work stuff, but I do find my brain making some sort of connection when it comes to predicting a type of human behavior. The term “Righteous Superiority” has been bouncing around the inside of my skull lately, a term Hank Green used on a video discussing FB after it went down for a day and the issues with it and social media. Here’s the link if you, random internet person, want to look at it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJtNmd1kV44&ab_channel=vlogbrothers.

Basically, it seems that people from all the different “Tribes” have a tendency to want to shame other tribe individuals into compliance with their views. This seems to be in disregard of facts, and sometimes in direct defiance to it. This occurs on all forms of social media, as far as I can tell. But when I think back, it has really always been the human condition. It’s no wonder I get such intense anxiety around groups of people. Whether deserved or not, I’ve been subject to group hate and/or exclusion many a time growing up. And it is known that (I can find some articles to back this claim up later, remind me) being exiled from a social group hits the same path as physical pain in our brains. There’s another thread to pull on depression as a result of that, but I won’t go into that now.

Fast forward a bit and I notice my previous trainer (cool black dude originally from the ghetto, something I only bring up because of what is coming up ahead in this blog post) linked a meme regarding Chappelle’s Netflix special “The Closer”. I don’t normally keep up with these things, and it was a meme joke so I promptly forgot it. Then as I was doing some work today and opened up firefox to do admin work, I noticed an article by GQ basically trashing it. What is it they say about negative attention being just as valuable?

Moving on, I found myself compelled to give it a watch. This article by time gives a view on it that comes close to matching mine: https://time.com/6105951/dave-chappelle-netflix-controversy/. It feels less like a comedy and more like a mental challenge…and if you read this blog any, you know I’m all about that shit.

What this brought me back to, strangely enough, was the game “The Last of Us 2”. It too had the issue of not having an obvious villain, and it receives a ton of flak for it from online communities. I viewed it as an exercise in empathy while dealing with opposing viewpoints. I understand how uncomfortable that can be.

I’m seeing all of these things as connected. Shaming people into compliance doesn’t work. It never has. The only thing that seems to have a chance, but it too backfires as most people in social contexts look to posture themselves for their given tribes, is experiencing other peoples’ lives. This is why I think stories from different view points are so important.

Changing someone else’s mind rarely seems possible. They gotta change it themselves.

For the record, I’m a 2nd generation hispanic cis het guy.