LAJ ARTICLES

Alejandro de la Cruz: The man from El Cerro

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I look over the cliff

Only to see the waves crash

And crash 

And crash

She stands behind me 

With her dark eyes 

And that same feeling comes to mind

That feeling I felt when I first saw her

And it’s cruel feeling this way again

So I jump 

Not because of this feeling 

But because I know that this isn’t real 

And I have no idea what I’m doing

I am cold

I am hungry

This is my truth

***

The room erupts with snaps and claps from the sea of unknown faces as I come down from the stage, slithering past the pleased crowd and onto my booth at the dark corner of the bar. Where a pint of Guinness is placed in front of me and soon after there are 4 empty pints around me as I empty the one on my hand. It’s cold and bitterness gives me a sense of comfort as it is associated with a memory of the many times I have gone to the donut shop late at night to buy cheap coffee and a jelly doughnut. The mixture of puffy sugar and the bitter roasted beans conveyed the feeling of a warm blanket over me. 

A man with military cut hair and office clothing begins to walk up to my table. “Sorry to disturb you,” he said, as he placed his briefcase on the table and sat across from me. “My name is Allen Gillard, I’m a reporter for the magazine ‘Broken Letters,’ I was wondering if you would be interested in being interviewed for this month’s latest issue.” 

I said nothing hoping that Mr. Gillard would leave me alone and give up like I have done for other reporters, but he didn’t. “Well, Mr. De La Cruz, I am interested in interviewing you for three reasons,” Allen pitched. “One being, to confirm the myths about you and your writing methods and two, letting your following know who you are.” 

“But I am just a regular person. I sleep, eat, shit and fuck just like you do Mr. Gillard. I only write to pay my bills and fund my own death,” I replied. “Nobody wants to hear about an old man living his day-to-day life in this city where thousands more live.” 

“But you are someone who isn’t like thousands of people. They aren’t held to the same regard as anyone else,” protested Allen. I could see the flame in him. It was like looking in the mirror, I could tell by the condition of his clothing that there is desperation. The coffee stains, instant coffee breath and baggy eyes really brought me back to my first novel, where I stood up late at night writing until it felt right. 

“Well before I agree to the interview, tell me who you are?” I asked. 

“As you know, my name is Allen Gillard, I graduated from Kansas State a few years ago with a major in Communications and a minor in Poetic English. I write poems when I’m not working and to be honest you were a major influence in my work,” he said. 

“In what way have I influenced your work, what have you gathered from the text?”

“Life is worth living and if you don’t take advantage of what is coming you’ll miss the million dollar check.” 

“Ok. You convinced me. Here is my contact and address,” I placed a card in front of him. “Come to my place at 9 a.m. and you can dress casually. The formal attire makes me feel tense and you won’t really get a good answer.”

Allen took the card and said, “Thank you so much. I’ll be there at 9 a.m. sharp. Thank you. Thank you.” And he walked out of the bar leaving me at my booth to finish my beer. 

***

Alejandro de la Cruz: The man from El Cerro

The coffee was sweet and flavorful, “When it comes to coffee, I go for the really good stuff, even when I have no money. Coffee is just as important as breathing air because without it we would still be playing with fire,” Alejandro de la Cruz said. Critics praise him for the work he has done in the past decades and onwards. Revered for novels such as “Vamos to the corner store” and “In the morning.” I had the pleasure to spend some time with him at his home in Mexico DF from August 12 to the 16. 

While some of your work is abstract and some of it is very to the point, in your writing process how do you come to the conclusion of how something is going to turn out?

When it comes to the way I write, I have always stuck to the journalism method of writing a story. Who, What, When, Where, How, and Why. Once I have gotten it on paper, I cut it until it can’t be cut anymore. Until the feeling of it being done comes to mind. 

Where does your inspiration come from?

It comes from my life. It comes from seeing a fight occur outside my home with a couple. Conversations I overhear at restaurants. When you live in the city, you become overwhelmed on where to get the information. Sometimes you need to escape and go out into the country. Get out of the tight clothes and into something loose. The perception of writers is always that they are uptight and snobby because they are better than others which is not the case. In reality, we are more crazy and wilder than anyone you have met. We are never sober. For the novel, “Hasta mañana, Lupita,” I outlined it on my first relationship then had my own turn at it, giving it the ending I would have given in real life if I had a second chance.

In a recent article published by the “Activacion Escriteros,” they talked about you now doing poetry at small venues, why is that?

I was a poet before I was a writer of many kinds of formats. I didn’t like it at first but later I got the hang of it. I read a lot of scriptures and books and whatever I liked I rewrote so I could get into the rhythm that the writer was in. Returning to poetry reminds me of my youth and it really gets what’s going on in my head on paper easier. As to why I choose to perform at small venues,  there is always a connection with the speaker and the audience in these settings. I love talking to other poets after the show and we go out and get drinks to talk more about where to take their writing. One thing about putting yourself on that stage is that you are very vulnerable and the more you do it the feeling begins to go away. This also builds the confidence of yourself in sharing your work with the world. 

Alejandro, after answering that question, stood up and walked towards his bookshelf. He pulled out a scrapbook and opened it to a page with a receipt from ‘David’s Burgers.’ 

“What paid for this meal was after I read my first poem at an open mic. I didn’t know I had something until the crowd erupted in snaps and claps,” He said. “I didn’t even think that the poem was that good. Nor do I still do with my current work. I am my own worst critic, I suppose.” 

We stepped outside into the courtyard, where a wide range of colorful flowers and strange plants that I have only seen in pictures online saying “Alien plant…” 

“My mother planted all of these plants before she passed. She lived here with me,” Alejandro said. “When I got the house everything here was dead and it remained like that until she moved in. My mother has always loved gardening and knew every kind of flower and plant and what they could do for you. She once said, ‘If you keep your plants healthy, they will return the favor for you with their roots.’ So when she passed, I make sure to water them and plant more every now and again.” 

In your memoir “No mames” you don’t talk much about your parents, why is that?

When I moved out of my parent’s home I was placed on my own. They have only helped when I needed money to come home and that was that. We would have the usual phone calls but that was every few months depending if I had reception where I was. I’m currently working on a novel about them separately because they both have unique stories as people, not as my parents. For example, my father had done a lot of things before coming to the United States such as working at the many luxurious restaurants and Hotels in Mexico while providing for my grandmother. My mother had come from a part of Mexico where there was no plumbing and the government had not much effect on them so they were on their own. My mother told me that she was freer there than in the United States and had helped bring the people in the area up to date with technology. If I were to talk about them I would want to give them that respect as who they were other than just being my parents. 

The courtyard then leads us to a field of the greenest grass surrounded by white adobe walls. “I don’t know what has caused the green to really pop,” he said. 

Why do you have a field of grass with nothing?

Every time something bad has happened in my life the next day I always end up at a field of grass. Having this field of grass uplifts me because the grass here is thriving, undisturbed. The tranquility is calming and when its quiet I sit on it and just let my thoughts flow. 

***

“Carnal, vas a ir a La Cota esta noche?” Gustavo Leña, Alejandro ‘s long time friend in the city, from the street. “Pues sí, ¿qué piensas que voy a hacer hoy?” replied Alejandro. 

What’s La Cota? 

It’s a café that I request every now and again with other writers who live in Roma, an area in the city where writers, artist request. We will be going there later when it gets dark. 

***

 Tu con los 25 pesos

Caminando en los cuadros cortos 

De las calles en DF

Tomando y fumando en la noche

Hasta que empiezas a volar

Y en las nubes vas el oro brilloso

Y como un puño en la cara ya veo que no estoy en las nubes pero acostado en la tierra 

Y el oro brilloso está en vista en frente de ti   

“No vas al oro,” dijo el niño con las cajas de dulce entrando las calles de los caros en la silva

Acercando te cercas al oro, la estatua de los españoles empieza a llorar sangría 

Y lambes los ojos tristes con sabores de metal y miel    

Resultando en vomito negro oliendo a pretorio 

Estas ojo y ojo con el oro 

Y ves por qué el niño te dejo que no vías

Y ves que tu sabes nada 

Nomás sabes que llevar lo que no es tuyo

***

Although I couldn’t understand what Alejandro had said, for some reason it had brought tears to my eyes. His voice translated what he had said universal for all to understand. The bursts of snaps and claps had him retreat to his corner where his friends were. 

What feeling do you get after reciting your poetry on stage?

“A high feeling of joy comes to mind from how the crowd reacts. Their snaps and claps really give me the feeling that I’m being heard in comparison to publishing because you never meet the people you may have impacted unless you go to conferences to speak or read the review people have said. The human connection isn’t like what it is here. Then there are friends like Gustavo who can really give you some critical feedback on what you have said. 

Gustavo: I am the balance in his work. I let him know what I think about it. I have no degree, no schooling, just reading. 

Leña has spent the rest of his life in Mexico City living in Cuautepec, an area of the city that has grown over the years and is considered by many taxi drivers not safe during the night. “If you need anything at any time, let me know and I can get it to you as fast as I can,” he whispered to me at the bar. 

After we left the bar and walked to Alejandro’s home, I asked him about Leña and if he has been helpful in other ways than his writing. 

“Well he comes by every now and again to my house where we drink coffee and he would tell me about Cuautepec and it changing as the years go by,” Alejandro said. “I do occasionally have him bring me some mota if I’m in the mood for it but there than that he happens to be a very good friend. Its hard to find friends who have the same interests, especially at this age where so many have gone over the years.” 

By the end of my time with Alejandro, we sat at a franchise restaurant called Wings where model planes hung above us and photos of aviation legends plastered on the walls. He ordered two sangrias and a steak dinner. I ordered baileys and coffee with a salmon meal. 

“The first time I remembered coming here I was about 19, me and my father went down here to see some family and I remember seeing my nephews for the first time. First, I felt old, then I felt a warmth in me. As you know I’ve never had any children, but I did have family and when I moved to the city, me and my nephews had become interpretable. This was after I bought the house. I watched them grow and cared for them. I paid for their education, first car, the clothes that they had, took them with me on book tours and molded them into miniature versions of myself. Now Sandra lives in New York and Arturo is buried at the cemetery overlooking me and the city. But I am happy here and now.”

After I left DF, news broke that Alejandro had passed and was found dead in his field of grass. The corridors said that he had eaten a bad steak with bad wine which may or may not have caused his death. 

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