Junot in Austin

Posted: September 13, 2012 in Fiction

“The News”

Toward the end of the summer of 2012 as the Fall session began to roll in, I got the news that Junot Diaz was going to do a reading at a bookstore in Austin.  Needless to say, I was elated!  Junot fuckin’ Diaz?  In Texas? Really??  The thought burst, and any notion of yet another wasted year of my life subsided.  He would be doing a book signing as well to promote his newest collection of stories called This Is How You Lose Her.  This would be a monumental occasion for me, never mind that I would have to purchase the book at the location, “support your local independent bookseller” kinda thing, to get it signed. But I didn’t mind too much, it would only add about 25 bucks to my expense account. It would still be an amazing honor to meet the guy and get my book signed. But between us, I only really want him to sign my copy of Oscar Wao, it was that book that changed everything for me.  It was that work that brought into my hands a new day.

I had met another Dominican author a year earlier over at the Blue Room.  On campus, the English department had hosted a reading and book signing event by Angie Cruz.  Although I had not heard of her at the time, I had read enough Dominican-American literature, Alvarez and Diaz among them, to know I would be in for a real treat.  And to top it off, the girl was smoking hot. Coffee-colored skin and curly hair, bella farfallina.  She read from her own newest novel at the time called Let It Rain Coffee.  I had quite the time, completely enthralled by her street smart Washington Heights accent as she read from her work, the kind of accent I’d only heard on television.  She had a rhythm to her, a sway. When she got into the reading, she’d move a lock of her bangs behind her ear with every breath.  I got to meet her and everything, had her sign the books I bought there.  Both of them. I talked about my growing taste for Dominican diaspora literature. She talked about how tired she was from the drive.  As she signed my book, I struck gold. A real connection, an interested exchange: I confessed to her that I had not read her books.  That I happened upon a flyer for the event, saw her Dominican roots, and thought: why not? I’ll go.  Told her I was reading a lot of Junot Diaz.  Oh Junot, she exclaimed as she stopped writing to look up at me, he reads my manuscripts.  If you like his stuff, I think you’ll like mine as well.  I offered my hand, a gesture for a hand shake, she moved that persistent lock of hair from her bangs behind her ear, took my hand and gave me my books.

For Ernesto,

con fe y esperanza.


To this day when I read from her book, I read that line first.

“The History”

I had done it before, missed out on an opportunity I thought I couldn’t live without.  One time Santana and Manà were touring together, they were doing a show in San Antonio.   I had wanted to go desperately, planned to go only minimally. But how could I not? It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see those two great bands together on one night.  I didn’t go for reasons all my own doing. Sure, life reared its obtrusive head.  Vehicle problems, work issues, and the money just wasn’t there.  I had not made any real plans, either to get the time off from work or save the money I needed for the concert. Waited til the last minute like always.  I fell prey to Steinbeck’s infamous line: The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.   Regret it to this day. To this very moment even; I regret it.  Never got to hear those rabbits

“A Tuesday”

As it came to pass, the event took place on a Tuesday.  A damned Tuesday.  On the surface of it there is nothing inherently wrong with having a major life event on a Tuesday, I guess.  You live life knowing the good shit happens on the weekend is what I’m saying.  A Friday or Saturday event in Texas might be asking too much of Junot, he’s a New Yorker after all.  If given the choice, I suppose I too would rather be in New York on a  weekend; even if Austin is the epicenter of IT for us South Texans. And were it not for the fact that my Tuesdays were already taken, I’d have no reason to even consider the issue of the day of the week.  But as fate would have it, I had been going to Texas Ranch over by Richard street for something like ten Tuesdays in a row.  Was besotted by a local band that had begun to play on Tuesdays.  Tuesdays!  Who’d ever heard of such a thing?  Decided to go watch them only because they played Spanish Rock, which I have a particular weakness for.  Best choice I’d made in a very long time.  Truly a cosa nueva.  No longer would my longing for an emphatic musical act remain an amorphous jelly of desire in my heart. Alas some months earlier, rumblings of a new thing began to spread along the streets of this sleepy little town. I was awake with a newness of life.  I spent Tuesday nights there among the dandy, the jaded, those that deemed themselves attractive and among those that couldn’t help but emit beauty. All came for something. And in the passing of a Tuesday night, some left with everything.

To Be Continued (for another post)



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