Diary of an Open Mic Whore

Yes, I’m an Open Mic whore. I will admit it. I get high every time that I come out of an open mic, energized and ready to get inspired or inspire someone in the audience. Open Mic is my new obsession, my new drug when I get high just watching great performers, poets or musicians touch me in ways that I would have never imagined.
I found myself in an Open Mic. I was lost, desperate, lonely. I thought that I was all alone in the Universe. I really thought that poetry was dead. I thought that philosophers, writers, artists were extinct and, unless my name was Stephen King or Maya Angelou, there was no writer or poet within a ten mile radius. And I’m glad I was wrong.

If you’d like to know my dirty little secret, here it is: there is probably an open mic going on around you NOW that you didn’t even know about within a 10 mile radius of where you live right now.
Would you like to know another secret? I found an open mic for EVERY single night of the week!!! That’s right!

Open Mic Whore recommends:

Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore in Sylmar (San Fernando Valley near City of San Fernando) where there is Open Mic every 2nd, 4th and 5th Friday of each month is hosted by Jeffery Martin while Noches de Canto y Poesía (with Alejandro Molina) is done every first and third Friday as well. This was my first and still favorite open mic of all.

Mental Mondays at House of Brews which has been hosted by yours truly, but is best conducted by Evy Spiritluvchild, happens only once a month though so mark your calendars for the last Monday of every month at the House of Brews in City of San Fernando.

Writer Wednesdays with Jessica Wilson located at the former Bob’s Espresso Bar on Lankershim Blvd at the heart of the NoHo Arts District. Perfect for writers, poets, musicians, stand up comedy and even magic.

Soapbox Sessions over at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in Encino hosted by Jason Brain. A little intimidating since it’s outdoors and there’s a lot of action going around the area so I only go there when I feel the force is with me. Every Thursday starting at 7. Check it out!

Tuesday Night Project, currently on hiatus but it’s near Little Tokyo and some of the best performers I’ve ever seen in Los Angeles. After Tia Chucha‘s, of course (wink, wink)

Holy Grounds is another cool spot with a very nice patio area (currently being remodeled) and has the Zzyxz Writers open mic there (check out their website for details).

Eastside Café located over in El Sereno happens once a month and is hosted by spiritus and sister poet Iris de Anda, only third Thursday of every month starting at 8ish…

La Palabra Series at Avenue 50 Studio. This one is usually on the last Sunday of the month and hosted by big hooped earring wearing Karinneh Mahdessian. Cool art exhibit plus great features and even time for open mic for y’all. Love the circle of love there and the sound of the train is always cool.

Beyond Baroque in Venice is beyond amazing!!! Also hosted by the Los Angeles Poets Society founder and president (she’s a member, too) Jessica Wilson does this once or twice a month on Sundays. Check their website, too! If you ever feel like an actor on a real theatre stage with stadium seating and cool lighting and awesome people then you MUST check it out!

Corazón del Pueblo. Only been there once and I’m definitely coming back. Wednesday nights.

The Last Bookstore. This is a very, very, very laaarge, humongous, bigger than life open mic. Not sure if that’s your thing but definitely great poetry and talent.

And last, but not least, another secret: there’s so many more open mics, all you gotta do is check out openmikes.org
I could have saved you all that trouble from the beginning, right? Sometimes I can be an Open Mic Whore!!! That’s right, I am a whore!!! Deal with it!!!

©2014 Open Mic Whore

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The Inner Child

I was at Cariso Park the other day, admiring the new playgrounds, new football field, the new zero landscape gardens and so on while I was listening to Just Because on SoundCloud. Somehow the lyrics of his song, Story of My Life, hit me hard and I began to cry thinking how a young, eighteen year old kid must now face parenthood and must grow up to raise his son who came unexpectedly and untimely.
I began to think about my own childhood and how I had to grow up and be mature due to my parents separating and now my life had changed at age 10, not counting the reality of leaving the “security” of my home and moving around from place to place, never knowing where I would end up next and how long before my mom and I had to move again.
Everything was confusing for me as a kid. I remember thinking that everything was somehow fixable, thinking that things might go back to normal but they never did. I felt hopeless at times, thinking how can I fix my life, as if it was up to me.
I always needed to hide from my dad since mom didn’t want anyone to know where we now lived and my cousins kept harassing me trying to find out where we were now living. It was a very confusing time for me, I felt as if I had to lie to everyone and I did. Somehow this child learned how to deceive people, how to cheat, how to lie. This child was no longer a child but a lying adult.
Now I was back at the present time at this park, contemplating how my childhood went so quickly, I miss playing games in the park, I miss letting go and worry about nothing as I once did, I miss feeling security (I don’t recall when I did). I miss my childhood.
As I walked through the maze of the garden, through the newest playground full with slides, ramps, cubes I found my inner child. I found that five year old that was hidden there within myself. I felt him smiling at the different cool stationary toys that he could be playing with, I felt him coming out and his eyes widened when I allowed him to play, I allowed him to slide down, climb back up, skip along the ramps, get lost in the maze, sit and play with colorful cubes… I found myself sitting side by side with my inner child, telling him that we can stay and play a little longer, telling him how much I loved him, telling him that he was always welcome to come out and play. It was safe to come out and play, nobody would harm him, I had his back.
For about ten minutes the inner child had his play time until he vanished into thin air, until he was satisfied and filled with happiness. I had filled that void that was always there, I had fulfilled a long lost dream of one day being that innocent kid again, being that pure kid that I once knew, being that honest and vulnerable again. It may be a while before I see my five year old again but I will be ready when he comes out to play.

©2014 Victor Sotomayor

Gray

I’m so tired of all this bullshit.
Things are work I feel are falling apart and my hands are tied. One day is one day then the next day is gray. Nothing is ever black or white. It’s fucking gray. I don’t like gray. I like that things are one way or the other not maybe, perhaps, possibly.
No!!!! Is it black or is it white? Why was it black yesterday but today seems gray?
I don’t like to talk about work stuff cuz I believe it’s not worth it but I just asked my coworker (who shall remain anonymous) about a scenario where I didn’t know what I should do, apparently she just wanted me to cancel appointment without a good explanation. I questioned why and she could not answer my question. This is the same woman that set off the rules of the game so… How can she not know what to do next?
I don’t know who to trust around me anymore. I don’t even trust myself. Am I doing right by canceling this appt? Then what if I get a call asking why did I do that? I want to understand why I’m doing this or that. I don’t have time for gray area. I guess I’m frustrated. I need to vent and here’s the only place where I can do this without driving my loved ones crazy.
Frankly I don’t even want to worry about it myself. It’s not worth it. Work is work and it shall remain work. Don’t worry about it, I can hear the voice say. Everything will be alright. Everything will be alright… Yeah…
Lunchtime!!!

Where is my Voice?

I want my voice back.
Where did it go?
It was here the other day or so,
There was no stopping my mouth from spilling words of wisdom
Words of encouragement
Words of praise
But none for me…

Where is my voice?
Hidden between the cupholder in my car?
Under the bed?
Under the kitchen sink?
In my iPod? In my cellphone?

Where did I last heard it?

I miss my voice
I miss it so much
I don’t know what I do without it
I need my voice
I need it now

Next time I get my voice back
I’ll lock it up under lock and key
I don’t ever want to lose it again

Words of encouragement, I need you
Words of wisdom, I need you
Words of my heart and my soul, I need you now

Where is my voice? Haven’t found it yet…
Let me look under the sink, or between the lines of the book I read or maybe between the lines that are written.

That’s where I still hear my voice, if ever so low and quiet. I can still hear it between my heartbeats and my deep breaths. It’s still there… My voice just needs time…

©2014 Victor Sotomayor

Love is All They Need

Yesterday I got really great news: my dear friend Fernando and his boyfriend of more than 10 years Edwin are tying the knot and making the big step of getting married this September.

This morning, as I was driving to work, The Beatles’ came on my iPod and All You Need is Love brought tears to my eyes. I still get chills hearing this song, I feel as if every chord is an anthem of love on top of another and another until it’s overwhelming. Hearing this song I realized that love between two people is not just destiny, luck, fate or whatever you want to call it. It’s also about putting 100% into the relationship, trusting your partner so much that making it “official” should be as natural as signing up a car lease or buying a house together, making plans for the future for years to come, plans for retirement together, making every day about him (or her, it happens sometimes you know hahahaha).

Fernando and Edwin are ready to enter a new phase in their lives and I couldn’t see two people more deservedly of each other’s love as these two. Cheers to my dear friends on this new endeavor they’re about to enter, for everything they have to look forward to, in sickness and in health, in the good times and the bad, for richer or poorer may their love always bond them together. As I wrote them this morning: love knows no gender, nor race, nor political party, nor age, nor language. That and that All You Need is Love.

How Art Heals

If I didn’t have music
if I didn’t have poetry
if I didn’t have theater
if I didn’t have a art
my life would be meaningless.

Everyone has unlimited creativity
and can heal from it.

Writing poetry has taught me
that it’s okay to feel,
that I can jot dot down my deepest fears, secrets and insecurities.

I don’t write for others,
I write for my own sanity,
for my own sake,
for my voice to be heard.

I learned so much about myself
simply by writing out whatever is in my head.

And I heal with every word,
every sentence,
every written thought.

I heal from my past, the hurt and I build my future through poetry.

©2014 Victor Sotomayor

How I Met The Beatles

Writing Exercises:
Writing Prompt: Write about your favorite person and how you met, how has that personaffected your life– for better and worse.

I must have been a toddler when I met these four musicians from Liverpool, England: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. I heard their music since before I was able to speak. Their Abbey Road album must have been played countless times in my house, slowly but surely sipping into my subconsciousness. Thanks to my aunts and uncles I was fortunate enough that I was very familiar with the wonderful sounds that these folks created. I became inspired by their music and lyrics even though I didn’t completely understand the meaning back then yet I was able to receive their message of love, loud and clear.

Songs like All You Need Is Love, Here Comes The Sun, Golden Slumbers, Across the Universe and many others had a distinctive encoded message that I could not quite put my finger on. There was a message hidden there that went beyond lyrics to me. There was a song in particular that haunted me because it gave me a visualization like no other song I had heard before: A Day In The Life from Sgt. Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band. Every time that I heard that song, I was immediately transported by the orchestration. Before I learned that the lyrics to that song were simply headlines from a newspaper, I knew the song had a much deeper meaning and a grandeur that could not be explained, a musical masterpiece that captured my imagination and allowed me to come up with my own conclusion, with my own lyrics, with my own dreams and hallucinations. I had a dream in particular where I was a small man in a giant dark room and saw these giant balls chasing me until they became so big and so real that became a constant nightmare of mine. So I also gotta thank The Beatles for the nightmare that scared the shit out of me.

John, Paul, George and Ringo also became my English teachers. I spent quite a long time in my high school years analyzing their song lyrics, translating them to Spanish, understanding their meaning, their colloquialism and intent as well. I liked singing their songs, trying to sound just like them and mimicking their British accent. I practically learned English because I loved their music so much that I wanted to not only understand their songs but be able to interpret their meaning and understand how influential they were for their time.

Even though I never really met them
in person, I have a connection with all of them through their work. I realize that sometimes the end result is what really counts. I never got sucked in to the scandal of their breakup, the drugs, the fights, random quotes like being more famous than Jesus himself, their sense of humor that was taken quite literally to the point that anything that came out of their mouths made headlines. I suffered for them. I understood that they constantly walked on a mined field and anything they said or did would be over analyzed, misinterpreted and taken around the world whether they liked it or not. I understood the meaning of fame and the sacrifices they were willing or unwilling to make to carry their message across. I also saw the advantage that they had, they practically had the world at their feet and they began choosing their words carefully.

Take George Harrison, for instance. He was influenced by the spirituality of the Indian culture when he was introduced to Ravi Shankar and taught their philosophy of peace and deeper love of oneself, finding the truth that everyone can achieve through meditation. His songs evolved and took off when he began experimenting with the sitar and Indian classical instrumentation that could not be further to the Beatles sound. When George came up with Within You Without You, he opened up the doors to Hinduism philosophy and made it popular and mainstream. I believe that George Harrison had a big part in creating awareness of this other realm of music that people would normally not listen to but he made it acceptable for the common man to explore something out of their comfort zone and either love it or hate it. He made his followers expand their horizons by introducing them to a whole new world that they never knew existed.

Last night I spent my Fourth of July listening to the sound of The Beatles. I listened to a Beatles cover band called Paperback Writer which is the title to one of their singles. As I wore one of my Beatles t-shirts, sported my Beatles tattoo that covers my entire right calf and sat on the grass talking to friends about The Beatles and their songs and how influential they were on other artists like Axl Rose or Joe Cocker or Michael Jackson or just about every pop artist. I was reminded that, even though I have never met them face to face and probably never will, The Beatles and I had met before, we shared the same dreams and aspirations, we shared the same ideals of peace and love. Nothing else really matters at the end but love. Love oneself first as well as loving everybody else. There is so much love to give and receive. Like they wrote on one of their songs from their iconic Abbey Road album and ended up inked on my skin forever:

the love you take is equal to the love you make.

And, of course, this is followed by All You Need Is Love. Need to say any more?

©2014 Victor Sotomayor

5 Minutes Left

I only got 5 minutes since I spent all that precious time on Facebook, scrolling and scrolling and scrolling down some more… If you ask me what did I just read I’ll say I can’t remember a thing. World Cup, Obama, Hobby Lobby, who knows!
I could’ve doing better things with my time, don’t you think?

Mr. Sandman

🎶 Mr. Sandman
Bring me a dream
In the shape-of an angel
That I’ve never seen
Angel that always protects me
from the nightmare of the world
Escape reality even for a moment
Enter your kingdom, Mr. Sandman
That’s what I ask of you.

Sands of time
Sands of wisdom
Infinite wisdom
Riding through the
dunes of my subconscious
That’s where you live.

🎶 Come to me, Mr. Sandman
Would you hurry please
I can’t stand being here
a prison is this cubicle
nowhere to go,
a monitor, a keyboard and a telephone.
I’d rather have a pen and pencil as my working tool,
I want to one day be able to write what I want to write.
I don’t want to do any more damn reports.
What a waste of my energy and precious time!
I could be creating alternate universes instead of doing reports.
If I died today, Mr. Sandman, someone else can do my reports. Anyone.
But nobody can come up with these sand castles in the sky, nobody can come up with sea serpents and winged dragons taking over Hong Kong,
nobody can come up with the Circus Freaks, or Diary Dearest, or Year of the Dragon or Usual Suspects or so many stories floating ’round in my head, waiting their turn,
sometimes patiently but some other times VERY impatiently.
So the question is not what, is when Mr. Sandman, when will you make my dream come true for me?

©2014 Victor Sotomayor

Girlfriends

Yesterday I had dinner with old friends from work. One of them was turning 43 and so we decided to come to Sherman Oaks and have Cheesecake Factory. It was so nice to have the four “girlfriends” back, a nice reunion after everything that’s been going on at the company where I work (that shall remain nameless). Sometimes being apart makes a friendship stronger, at the end of the night, after we laughed, ate and drank there was that awkward moment when nobody wants to leave because we are having such a blast but it’s a Monday night and we needed to work the next day and so we went our separate ways.
Nice to have girlfriends. Nice to be able to have an outlet that allows you to be free to say whatever the heck is on your mind. I find our conversations and very funny, very uplifting, very therapeutic and so I feel an immense release and joy knowing that I still get to have these awesome women as friends for life.
It’s like an episode of Sex and the City (where I’m the writer Carrie, of course!) and we talk over our dinners about love, work, family, relationships, health, spirituality, poetry, you name it. There is practically no limit to what we can discuss. There is nothing off topic. There is nothing we can’t share for we all have issues, we all go through the same stress at work, we all struggle every day.
My Soul Sister had to snap me back to reality when she told me to stop putting myself down. I had said that the reason that I was in my new position was a “favor” that I owe a coworker but Soul Sister told me to stop saying that and realize that I have merits, too. I shouldn’t give that coworker the power over me, give her thanks for making it happen. I deserve to be where I’m at and where I’m heading to next. No one else is responsible for my future but me. That’s the ultimate truth.
I love my girlfriends for they’re honest and truthful with me. We are very mature and look at life in a different perspective. I even feel like one of the girls and that to me is priceless for I can step into their shoes and write from a woman’s perspective if I wanted to. I could be a mother of 3 boys, or I could be a single mom of one, I could be single with no children and no plans to date, not because I couldn’t but because I chose to. I could also be a woman who’s rediscovering her healing powers and becoming stronger and stronger each day. I could be any if them and then I could be myself again. I could do whatever I want, I could be an eagle and fly to the highest peak of the mountain or I could be a fly on the fly of the Cheesecake Factory where four girlfriends have gotten together to share some wonderful moments together.
I can’t help but wonder…