Cruising at 35,000 feet on a transcontinental flight from New York to Los Angeles, my iPhone off limits—which means Angry Birds is verboten—and looking at five hours in the air trapped next to a very loving yet noise filter-less French family, and I decided that I had better write to alleviate bordem, circumvent my ADHD, and prevent myself from committing an act of war against the people of France.
When one finds oneself questioning whether or not the Geneva Conventions apply when traveling 500 miles per hour, it is best to do something to redirect ones attention and aggression.
I am on my way to Los Angeles to celebrate the marriage of an old and amazingly dear friend Candise Ketcham. I met Candise my first day on campus at La Universidad de Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras back in August 1999. The first day on campus found all of the international exchange students herded together on a trolley bus. As the students gathered, they broke into several camps: the French Girls (we hated them), the Brits and Cali Gals (we loved them), the Midwestern Posse (exactly two of us: me and Bernie plus we claimed Kylah since she was living in Wyoming and no one knew what the Hell to do with that...plus it was right after the brutal slaying of a young white gay man in Laramie, so I thought it best to keep an eye on the girl from the same town), and an assortment of random Latin kids from the U.S.
I can't remember exactly how our powers combined to form the GOYA crew, but by the end of the first day, we had fairly clearly gelled together. I was the only boy that was consistently with the crew (the other boys were either really awkward or were native Spanish speakers from the U.S., so had easily slid right into making new, local friends). My roll in said group was cemented when the ladies discovered 1) that I was big old gay and didn't want to poke any of them, and 2) to their surprise and my own it turned out that I did, in fact, know a fair amount of Spanish....enough that I was the one that did all the translating, talking, and coordinating of our cross island adventures.
(In one instance, I made a deal with Bernie that if she bought the 10 books required for one of our classes that I would read them and tell her what they said, and we would study together. When we got our midterms back she got an A, and I got a C...I was like...WHAT THE HELL! I grabbed her paper....it was in English....the professor told her to write her paper in English. When I approached him to tell him that I was also a native English speaker he looked at me and said, “You're Puerto Rican...learn the language,” and walked away. Wasn't that a bitch!)
The GOYA crew, so named after the ubiquitous GOYA products found throughout Puerto Rico (and which we turned into an acronym which stood for GET OFF YOUR ASS), could be found together eating rice and beans for lunch and for dinner and for breakfast. We ate most of our meals together (la UP...pronounced YOU PEE...didn't have a meal plan)...and we only had meat about once per week, but with 20lb bags of rice, dozens of cans of GOYA beans and the rice cooker that I carried in my carry on bag from Minneapolis to San Juan, we were ready to go! Our weeks were fairly regular: Monday-Thursday, we had class...Thursday night I hit the gay bar with my queer island friends (and later boyfriend) that I met. Friday was beach day, Saturday was island adventure day, and Sunday was back to the beach. Not a bad way to spend a year of your life, eh?
(The person in the seat in front of me just shoved her seat backwards into my computer and almost knocked my ginger ale over onto the keyboard. There would have been murder a mile high in the sky if that had happened. Trust.)
Since the GOYA Crew officially disbanded in 2000, and we all went back to our respective campuses and lives and went about the business of growing up, some of us have seen each other in various configurations. One year Karly, who now lives with her British gal pal in England (she was our SoCal surfer chic dudette with the kooky Hawaiian middle name) did a road trip, scooped up Kylah in Montana and then drove to Denver to see me when I was staying there in 2001. And a couple of years ago, my beloved Candise aka Crack Ass aka Aunty Crackity picked me up from LAX during a brief trip, and we had dinner. Most of us have kept in some sort of touch over the years, but this trip is going to be extra amazing because one of the core GOYA Crew and my other most beloved of the group besides Crackity, Miss Keeley Pratt of Londontown, has flown in from Merry Olde Anglaterre for the wedding. Oh yes, the British Hussy is back and in full effect!
Keels and Candise kept me in stitches, and over the years, thanks to the Grace of God and Facebook, we have been able to keep tabs on each other, but tonight I will be in the presence of two of my favorite spirits, and I can barely stand the excitement...I may punch one of the Frenchies sitting next to me in excitement.
But wait! There's more!
There's also Ebony, Togba, Pradeepa, Manish, Stacey, Tay Tay, and perhaps even the deliciously sexy Mr. Kurt Gering (he used to teach at my high school...thank God he came a couple of years after I graduated or I would have been a star in my own After School Special). So many of my loved ones have up and moved to SoCal and of all the regions of the U.S., except the Pacific Northwest, it is the one area I travel to the least. And now, I get to see 'em all in one fell swoop!
I am missing my Puma something fierce at the moment, and by the time Tuesday comes around, I am going to be McKookers for Puma Puffs, but I am truly excited to see, spend time with, and love on some really amazing people in my life.
Get Off Your Ass!