Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas in Huelva-Gibraleon

I woke this morning with any number of titles and ideas for blog entries, articles, and story ideas on my mind. As I stirred from bed and headed to the shower, I felt the stillness of the apartment. The cats were asleep, and my roommate wasn't home. 

Today's Christmas, and yet it feels like yet another day to me. It wasn't always like this. Those of us who still lived with Granny, days leading up to Christmas were always exciting for the grandchildren. Christmas Eve found my aunts and mom cooking, baking, and wrapping last-minute gifts.  

There was the obligatory competition among the children on who received the best gifts as we tore the paper from an assortment of boxes and packages. No one wanted to receive useful gifts such as socks, underwear, or sweaters before we fell prey to labels and celebrity endorsements. 

As time has passed, I identify less with what Christmas should be versus how I feel inside. Jewelry, cars, or Caribbean trips with on-again-off-again lovers mean nothing to me if there's no heart and soul at the center of the celebration. 

I'm not speaking from a place of cynicism. I like giving and receiving gifts just like the next person, but when confronted with rude or unknowledgeable retail clerks, unrealistic or demanding gift requests, and a swarm of shoppers, I'd rather return to a place I visited years ago in Southern Spain. 

I met a Spanish exchange student in the ELI (English Language Institute) back in college who years later invited me to visit her, "Come to see me when you're in Spain!" The turn of events that led me to Spain would make an interesting essay on race and prejudice in another post. For now, I'll concentrate on the time I rediscovered the meaning of Christmas on a rain-soaked Christmas Eve in Huelva

I traveled by train from Madrid where I'd been staying in a private room in a three-star hotel, to spend time with Rosa and her family for about a week before traveling to Paris by bus. 

The short of the long is that I was an odd celebrity of sorts as the only person of color in town. I think they'd seen Africans before, not sure, but I was a different complexion and build, so they didn't know what to make of me. Automatic cameras were at the ready with my face in the center of the frame. I was treated with an admixture of awe and respect, had a few glasses of homemade vino dulce, and was schooled on how to buy fine Spanish leather accessories. 

I remember walking to the center of the town's church for midnight mass, folks arm in arm, singing yuletide songs in Spanish, under a sea of umbrellas protecting us from the steady rain. We arrived at church thoroughly soaked but in great spirits. I miss that sense of family and community rolled into one. After a day or two, my seeming differences had worn off or blended into the tapestry of this quaint town. 

I miss the simplicity of waking up without expectations on Christmas morning as I did as a child, but I'm sure I can find my way back to that place in my heart if I block out the commercialization (bastardization) of an American Christmas that I was thousands of miles away from in Huelva. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Morningside Heights Guide - February 2009

Dear Family and Friends,

I hope you all are enjoying your holiday season and are looking forward to a recovered economy and better 2009!

I'm reaching out to you all in Manhattan, specifically those who currently live, have lived, attended university, and or familiar with Morningside Heights/SoHa for useful information, tips, tools, and hidden gems in the area for a new guide that will be released early 2009.

I'm looking for restaurants to review, local businesses to highlight, business owners to interview, and a local hero that has lived under the radar.

What makes Morningside Heights different from Hudson Heights and Harlem, Inwood, or Washington Heights in your opinion?

I'd be forever in your debt. Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Walk Of The Chameleon

As long as I can remember, I've been able to immerse myself into whatever it was I was doing. This skill was helpful during my time on stage or in front a camera as an actor. A director wants to mold an actor into an ideal character so that nothing of him remains, thereby beguiling audiences.

Disappearing into a character is good for actors, but might not work as well at a job interview, in a marriage, or when accosted in a dark alley or elevator. I've only been guilty of acting or blending in to get a job. The masquerade lasted a few months or years if I played the role of employee well.

I used to have a friend who'd ask, "Tiger, where are you working this week?" I was adept at getting jobs back then, perhaps out to prove something to someone, but it escapes me now. We'd joke about it, but my early employment record seems anything but comedic now. Some people call me a hustler because of the same ability to walk into a situation and get what I want. I take it as a compliment, acknowledgment of my determination and chameleon tools.

Over the years I've had an assortment of friends and acquaintances, rich, poor, codependent, and downright dangerous, that I walked alongside, counseled, and had reciprocal lessons. I sampled and absorbed the best of them, for better or worse, a veritable all-you-can eat buffet.

No one's to blame for my true nature. I'm a survivor. My childhood and young adulthood wouldn't have warranted a mental health professional, been fodder for a TV show or movies.

There are days I when I feel abnormal, when I think it'd be easier to have remained in Texas as a tenured Ph.D. in English Literature at any number of universities. Ah, wonder. Life as a married professor living in the suburbs with my 2.5 kids, and dog named Spot or Rover. Nice work if you can get it, but the more I thought about that life and career track, the less appealing it sounded to me.

I'm at my best when challenged and able to express my different selves. Humans are multi-faceted creatures. Why then should we settle for what's predictable and safe?

I've experienced yet another metamorphosis in recent months. I've launched a part-time Publicity/Marketing business, Keneritz Media, LLC, a multidisciplinary agency. I work with a diverse list of clients in music, media, and business. My training in theatre, directing, writing, editing, and experience in corporate America is the foundation for my creating a successful enterprise. I'm closer to an ideal balance of colors and talents as a Publicist. My current clients require specialized combinations of me depending upon their career goals and temperament. I think I might be onto something. Being a chameleon isn't a bad thing at all.