Thursday, January 29, 2004

Being nice feels good

I went into the suburbs today to have breakfast with my dad and stepmom. I was supposed to go on Monday, but the weathermen were predicting sleet, and my dad didn't want me driving all that way. We rescheduled for today.

The other day I was on the phone with my grandma, and he mentioned how disappointed she was that I didn't come over on Monday. No one told her we rescheduled for today.

I met my dad and stepmom at their place of business, so my grandma didn't even know I was in town. After breakfast she wasn't home. On Thursdays she works with a craft group at her church, which happens to be next door to the house, so it's nice and easy for her to get there and socialize for a bit. So my dad took me over there after breakfast.

When I walked in she looked at me like she couldnt figure out who I was. I was the last person she expected to see there, so she thought, "That girl has hair like Andrea," but didn't entertain the notion that it might be me. She was very excited to see me. She introduced me to all the ladies there, and they offered me coffee and pastry (I was good and only had coffee). It just felt good to see my grandma smile when she saw it was me. I'm glad she was surprised.

We Met Rickie! / Our So-Called Night

by Andrea and Chelle
(editors note: we wrote these seperately then smashed them together,
eliminating redundancy, with rare exception.)

Last night we went to DePaul University to see Wilson
Cruz, aka Rickie Vasquez. *sigh*

First of all, he looked hot! He was wearing a
tightish black shirt, and really well-fitting jeans.
Yeah. Rickie grew up and got stylish :)

Delia: Okay, but um.. you're gay, right?
Rickie: Well, I... you know I ...
Delia: Oh I'm sorry... I didn't...
Rickie: No, it's's okay...
Delia: That came out so rude...
Rickie: No, see I try not to um, I don't like um ... yeah. I'm gay.
just don't usually say it like that.
Delia: How do you usually say it?
Rickie: I don't usually say it. I mean I've actually never said it.

Wilson: Yeah, that? I was like, ten. Seriously. Okay maybe not

They played that clip to introduce him, and when he walked on stage,
were the first words he said.

When he came onstage he was behind a podium. Before
he said anything, he started singing "Over the
Rainbow", and we just looked at each other and
thought, Vic would die! Only we didnt' say anything,
since we knew what the other was thinking. We just

Wilson went on to talk about inspiration, and his inspiration and
motivations, and how having inspiration is important not just as an
but as a person. (Why do we all like that song? It inspires us.)

The first part of his talk was prepared. He was
looking off notes and was quite formal. After that he
came from behind the podium with a hand-held mic and
was much more natural. His mannerisms really reminded
both of us of John Leguizamo. Just the way he moves.

He talked about his Puerto Rican family and heritage, and how his
gave him an immense sense of pride in that regard. He has a tattoo of
Puerto Rican flag on his upper left arm. He talked about moving from
York City to Holland, Michigan to California. He detailed his
struggle, in
growing up, with coming out to himself and to other people. Everyone
laughed as he described his best friend in high school, the one who
"kick you in the face" but carried a purse. (Look Wilson, you're a
fag, I'm
the only one here people hate more than you, so we might as well hang

The two organizations hosting the event were a Latino
fraternity and a GLBT organization, so being a gay
Latino man was what he talked about most. He talked
about when he realized he was gay, the denial he went
through, and what it was like coming out to his

It was during the audition for the character of Rickie that he realized
had to come out, to everyone, including his parents, if he were to play
part. He wanted his portrayal to be true, and couldn't bring himself
to do
so under false pretenses. He waited until the show was finally picked
up by
the network. His mom was driving and was sobbing, but seemed to take
well. His father, upon hearing the truth, kicked him out of the house.
was Christmas day.
Wilson was homeless and lived in a car for three months before filming
Throughout the duration of the series, he was able to contribute much
Rickie's character direction and development. Some of the storylines,
you can probably see, were taken directly from Wilson's life.
It was after So-Called Angels aired that his father called him to speak
him again.

He also talked about the way characters of color and
GLBT characters are portrayed in the media, and his
lack of satisfaction with them. He said he's sick of
getting scripts portraying Latinos as thugs or
druggies, and all the stereotypes therein. He did say
he liked the way David's relationship on "Six Feet
Under" is portrayed. When he opened it up to
questions, one person said that if he wasn't satisfied
that maybe he should think about writing something for
himself, and he said he's already on that, so maybe
we'll see something from him in a couple of years :)

Wilson is an activist for GLBT issues, especially homeless youth and
He considered leaving the world of entertainment to become a full-time
activist. He answered questions from the audience, about being an
actor of
color, about being a gay man of color, about being a gay man of color
in the
entertainment industry, about jeans, movies, music, religion and love.

He just seemed so genuine and honest. He answered all
the questions honestly, he didn't skirt around
anything. One guy asked, "You have a beautiful voice,
will you sing to me?" And he did!!! And he does have
a beautiful voice. Many people thanked him for the
way he portrayed Rickie, how important that was in
their lives. He seems really unaffected, like he'd be
a great person to know.

As I sat at my desk at work today, I grew more and more excited for
tonight's presentation. I wondered just how much of Wilson there was
Rickie, and vice versa. I wondered if he would be as funny, dynamic,
beautiful in real life. I wondered if the food would be good. (It
was. And
free!) I wondered if I would get my photo with him. I thought about
the list, and how many people I wished I could bring along.
But mostly I thought about Kent. Our Katimski. And more than anyone,
wished he could have been there tonight with us. I think he would have
ecstatic not just because Wilson is as fabulous as anyone could hope,
because as a gay man of color, he's living the responsibility of
standing up
and having a voice and making himself heard. The importance Wilson
on that, and the sincerity, and all his activism... it was beyond
He was an inspiration. Just like Kent. I hope that somehow Kent knows
this. I believe he does.

While I was at work during the day I was getting
excited about it. The scenes of Rickie with Mr.
Katimski were in my head, and the first listee who
came into my head was Kent. I thought about how much
he would have liked to have seen Wilson, and how much
I miss him. How genuine he was. It's been a few
months since I thought about Kent, and it made me
happy and sad at the same time. Sad that he's no
longer here with us, but happy about what he meant to
us. How unfortunate it was that I didn't get to know
him any better than I did.

But on a more upbeat note, there are pics!!! Yes, we
spoke with him! He was so gracious. We told him how
much we loved MSCL, how great it was. He touched my
elbow and said "Thank you so much." He was just so
nice. At one point Chelle said, "I wish I could take
him home with me," and I so agree. He seemed so sweet
and nice. I admire his activism and sense of responsibility.

We got to spend our evening with Rickie. And yes, you better believe
it, we
had a time.

- Andrea & Chelle :)

Friday, January 23, 2004


Last night I went to a gymnastics meet at my old high school.

I went to a two-campus high school. I went to Morton West, but the gymnastics team trained and competed at Morton East. From October through February I had to go over to the East campus every day after school to work out. I have been inside Morton West once since I graduated. This was my first time back at East.

Earlier in the afternoon I was on the phone with one of my former teammates who was going to meet me at the meet. We talked about how it's been so long since we've been there that we were afraid we wouldn't be able to find the gym. The gymnastics team now competes in a different gym than I did. The wrestling team trained and competed in the gym where the gymnasts are now. I wonder if the wrestlers are in our old gym.

As soon as I walked in I remembered the building well. I walked up the stairs to the balcony gym. As I walked across I could see into the main gym, where the boys basketball team plays and where I used to tumble in assemblies. They changed the logo on the middle of the floor. They had much nicer championship banners, although there were no recent championships. It looked so different, yet the same.

I ended up watching the meet with two of my former teammates, while another former teammate was coaching the team. They have much nicer leotards and warm-up suits now, which made us all jealous. Their floor exercise mat also has a spring floor, which weren't allowed when I was competing there. Jealous. Up until I started high school I always trained on a spring floor, so going down to a thin mat was quite a change.

One of my teammates brought old pictures, both from when we competed together for a private club (before high school) and when we were both on the high school team. There was a picture of me holding the astronaut Cabbage Patch Kid I forgot I had, and that is probably still at my mom's house somewhere. Pictures of awards podiums with us on them. Pictures from the team bus in high school. One of our coaches, the only one to ever keep check on my weight, covered in silly string. He passed away a few years ago of a heart attack while on a rafting trip.

We recognized a teacher from our campus, though neither of us ever had him as one of our teachers. It took me a long time to remember his name. Mr. Gaffner. I think he was a good guy. I don't remember hearing anything bad about him. I found out he had a daughter who was a gymnast who competed for another high school. He was at this meet because some of his students were on the team, and I assume that since he had a daughter in the sport he probably just enjoys it. He reminded me of my ex-boyfriend Don, the one who lived in Canada. He was a high school teacher and loved going to the sporting events to support his students, whether they were competing for the high school or for commuinity hockey teams. I remember being thrilled if my teachers were at my meets, or watch us perform at assemblies and then later tell me that they didn't realized I could do that and how impressed and proud they were. I think that's a good thing for students to see, teachers who care about what they do both inside and outside the classroom.

I was reminded about why the public school system is so great, and what is actually in peril right now as funding drops all over. We never had gymnstics tryouts. Anyone who wanted to be on the team could, even if they had never done gymnastics before. They were always able to get enough uniforms and enough insurance (gymnastics is an expensive sport to insure) for everyone. I remember when I was on the team, there were always some girls who came out who couldn't even do cartwheels. I would watch them for a few years, learning harder things. Maybe the most difficult skill they ever learned on floor ex was a back walkover, which is really novice. But to start a sport like gymnastics as a teenager, that's a big accomplishment. It is so much easier to learn that as a child. Girls who were afraid to walk on a 4-foot-high balance beam were doing cartwheels on it their senior year. They accomplished something and were proud of themselves. Their parents and friends were proud of them. I didn't matter that they weren't good enough to be on varsity. I liked working with them when I was on the team. I didn't vault after my sophomore year, so when the varsity team would practice vaulting I would go work with some of the freshman or newer gymnasts on their dance for floor ex or their balance beam routines. Everyone on varsity spent time helping them. Well, to be honest, we sort of had to. When there are 30 girls in a gym, 2 coaches isn't enough. But we didn't mind. We liked it, at least I think most of us did. I always felt good when I would teach them a new dance move that got incorporated into a routine, or a tumbling skill that they did by themselves, without a spot, for the first time when I was the one working with them. I almost felt better when they learned a basic skill than when any of us on the varsity team learned a more advanced one. I remembered the times when anyone on the team would learn something new, and the coaches would stop practice so all of us could watch and applaud the accomplishment. Last night, it was nice to see those newer gymnasts smile about their performances.

Oh, and a janitor recognized us! We didn't even go to school at that campus, we were only there for gymnastics, and he recognized us. I don't think he remembered our names, but he remembered us.

The team is better now than it was when we were there. I was really glad to see it. I went to an away meet a few years ago, and the team was horrible. It really had gone downhill. But they were so much better now. The JV team, although they lost last night, got their highest score of the season. And varsity won by only .15. It was a conference meet. When I was competing, that team was the best in the conference. I don't know if they still are because I haven't seen any of the other teams, but it was so nice to see a Morton team beat them. It's too bad it was the last meet of the season, because I want to go to more. Conference is coming up, then the tournament meets. Perhaps I can con my mom into going to the state meet or an NCAA one next month.