Frank Zappa Said...


..."The torture never stops." I've been thinking about this lately. I will write more about this in our continuing coversation about craft and writing and the writing life. But things are on my mind, a convolution of things and events. Lots of feelings. Yes: I won the National Hispanic Cultural Center Award--partially for writing, but partially for helping others. I have to admit, that part makes me really happy. And proud.

I received a letter from a "friendly" fan who hid the zinger in the tail of her note: how do I reconcile my early "missionary" work in Tijuana with my strong anti-Christian bias in Into the Beautiful North? Um. You know something funny? Exactly seven days before this note-in-sheep's-clothing arrived, I was mocked for an hour by an atheist writer for my strong pro-Christian bias in Into the Beautiful North! DOH! Cosmic joke's on me this week! I will have to address this stuff in a few days. It's just too rich. All I'll say is this: one of them was paying attention, and one of them can't apparently read a cereal box.

But the torture part. It's the grim inner echoes, isn't it? It's the dark basement of the soul with all its cobwebs and regrets. I have a desert in me. It yearns for rain.

So, I had some oral surgery this week. Who wouldn't be bummed? I mean, man! I had a bad molar. And the roots of this molar had grown into my sinus. Hope you're not eating right now. They got that stuff out, but they had to put a dead man's bone up in there. I joked on Twitter that my mouth is now haunted. Lots of stitches.

But, you see, when I was a boy, my father was in a panic. I was weak, and I was Catholic, and I was American and I was quite possibly gay. He was sure I was gay becauise I wanted to be a priest and I didn't like cigarettes. Ironic, considering the current crises. But this was entirely based on my generally non-macho personality back then. He was a Mexican military man, and he had suffered heavy experiences. Violence. Deaths. I think it made him crazy. I think his panic wasn't all about me--I think his panics were also about himself. My dad loved me, no doubt. Well, I had doubts. Like many sad kids, I knew he didn't always like me, even if he loved me. Now, when people feel that way about you, they do things out of "love." Thinking they'll make you better, more acceptable, tougher. Things that feel, deep in that basement or far out in that black desert, like torture.

I was terrified of doctors and needles and pain. I cried. So my dad orchestrated a stratagem for making me tougher. He convinced my mom that dentists in Tijuana were cheaper than San Diego. True. I ate too much candy. True. Too many cavities, also true. So he took me to his dentist, and he had told the dentist that I was an American weakling, so they agreed to do all my dental work without anesthesia. And my dad could stay in the room so they could both scold me when I writhed or cried. "Pussy!" "Asshole!" Hmm. I don't know how macho it made me, but they were right in a certain sense--it made me tougher.

I didn't like Marathon Man much when I saw it, though.

Yeah, now I have a wonderful high-tech dentist. The assistant told me, "You were calm." If they only knew. I have been sad so deep inside all week and just realized why. Pain makes me feel bad, of course. Getting old makes me feel bad. But the sorrow of those brightly lit white rooms with those awful tools and that smell and those angry men looming over me. Wow. Something so tawdry and stupid, so long ago, just breaks my heart. It makes me sad in a way that doesn't even want me to write.

You see? Pain wants us silent. So to hell with that. Sing, baby. Shout. Laugh and talk and talk and talk.

When something good comes along, like this NHCC award, think about that.

When letters come that you want to burn, think of a way to answer them with heart and wisdom.

Listen to Frank Zappa!

Love, L


reaearch papers (not verified)

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coffeewithcarl (not verified)

That was awesome, L! Nothing wrong with being a tough guy! It is totally appropriate! Having a tender heart within when called for is what makes it okay! We are created in God's image, and He was a "tough guy!" However, no one can deny He was more compassionate than He was any other adjective!


Sharon Kay (not verified)

Trying to be a good mom, I took my little boy for a dental check up. The dentist approached my son with all the delicacy of a bulldozer and promptly scared him to death! The dentist's response to my son's tears and efforts to get out of the chair was to threaten to strap him in.
I got my boy the hell out of there!

Luis, this post made me cry in my heart for you. And maybe some for myself, too.

Pain, be damned! Bring on the joy!

Luz Nuncio Schick (not verified)

Luis, this is immensely moving. I'm writing more about this at Cabin 20, responding to your post 3/31. Please look for me there--I'm coming in as Comment 14, I think.


dragon (not verified)

'pain makes us silent' - how sadly true that can be. Putting these painful truths out there must be very hard, the things that make us squirm and feel bad about ourselves. You are a wonderful example in speaking truth and banishing the darkness, or at least working to keep it at bay.
Big hugs to that boy you were, you are his caretaker now, and you will keep him safe.
Hugs to you too.

EdgyJuneCleaver (not verified)

Heartbreaking story and amazing you can even simply rehearse the facts because it's a salient and bitter memory which will always live with you. (if you ever feel a need to exorcise it from your being; inner child visualizations work wonders.)

White Eagle (not verified)

Holy, Luis.

I have a wonderful high-tech dentist, too!

And I'm a former tough guy.


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