Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Business of Staying Alive.4: Hanging Out with Gloria Diaz

Gloria Diaz is a girl who knows how to hang out. Over at her blog, Eat-It-All: The Art of Hanging Out, she tells you how to act. One of my favorite Gloria moments was going to visit her in her Washington Heights apartment, and banging on the door without any response as muffled TV sounds came from inside. She had just returned from an oceanside hang-out session in Puerto Rico, followed by a trip to Chattanooga to kick it with the punks. After back-to-back beach time and wild-ass partying (Chattanooga punks do it like no others), Gloria had felt the need to phase into a hardcore Hang Out Type: Solo, and it took me a while to get her up off the couch.

Gloria also happens to be one of my number one apocalyptic dream comrades—precisely because she’s so damn good at hanging out. Who wouldn’t want to see the world going up in flames in the company of a devoted chiller? Gloria is unflappable, dedicated to hanging out at all costs, and even as she’s being sassy, you know it’s only a matter of time before she gets all sincere and deep. Even as she’s saying, “I can’t deal,” her other motto—“The year of living dangerously”—is never far behind. She’s the perfect person to talk to about The Business of Staying Alive, the type who can keep things casual even as she’s gearing up to get ready for the worst.

me: I was just looking at your blog and I have to say I really dig the pic of you hanging out with the tropical foliage.

Gloria: You should. I look good.

me: Hahaha! K, do you want to start by talking about the blog a little? Like, where did the concept come from? And in what ways has it evolved since you started?

Gloria: Sure. I talked about it in my first post a little but the idea was born at the end of an EPIC hang out day I was having with my buddy Janelle. She complimented me saying I was the queen of hanging out and I brushed it off and she was like, "No I am serious. You should write a book about it". And I realized I did want to write a book about it. But that idea seemed daunting so I thought as a beginning point I would start to write about the topic via blog so I could flesh out some concepts and also just to get in the habit of writing regularly.

me: And how has it been?

Gloria: It's been rad!! I use to do a zine and it's nice to have a platform to discuss different issues again.

me: Omg, I'm sorry, I feel so groggy. Hold on!

Gloria: Haha, you're fine. Robo tripping.

me: Hahaha! Have you noticed things being extra dramatic the past couple days?

Gloria: Haha. Yes, I believe we are in a transitional period.

me: Really?!

Gloria: Yes , I think there are times through the year we have to recalibrate and I think we are in one right now.

me: Why do you think that? And is it going to slow down any time soon?

Gloria: Instinctual. Spring cleaning. And things never slow down, this is life.

me: Got it. You just gave me a good segue. How do you hang out with grace in the midst of chaos? For example, do you ever picture yourself hanging out in apocalyptic scenarios?

Gloria: Hmmm, grace in chaos. I think that the world, while beautiful, is fairly chaotic and I like to think that my philosophy behind hanging out is about maintaining grace over all in general. I am not sure what type of apocalyptic scenario you are thinking of but of course I think of the world after "the shit hits the fan" and my place in it. But if it's like the Thunderdome, then I am not sure how I will pull through that because that certainly seems like a stressful life but I would figure it out eventually.

me: So what are some different ways you've pictured yourself in that world after the shit hits the fan? I know you have this tension between city and country living. Do you have any "Escape from New York" plans in mind?

Gloria: I moved to Brooklyn about six months ago and it has thrown me for a loop as far as escape plans. I used to live in Washington Heights right by the George Washington Bridge and it gave me some piece of mind to think if NYC went bat shit I could just walk right out of the city. In Brooklyn I feel a little deeper in the shit. I guess I like to think that I will be prepared for anything and I think inherently my interest is drawn by some sort of idea of post-civilization survival. For example, I took a First Aid class this past winter and I have begun to work out a lot. Part of the working out is I want to look extra fly but definitely part of it is that I want to be ready for anything. I had a friend recently say the same thing to me about their own motivation for working out and in that moment I just wondered if other people have similar motivation for working out or are my friend and I just kinda nuts? But it is not something people talk about often—how ready are you for difficult situations where your actual physical safety may be at risk.

me: It's true. There's kind of a stigma, I think, to being prepared for the worst. Like you're paranoid or something. Do you have a disaster kit?

Gloria: I don't!! I am just up to a First Aid kit and a "go bag". In actuality I wish I had a better supply of back-up food and water. There is a stigma—or people think it is a joke, but for those of us who have been through natural disasters you know that shit is very real. But perhaps also people are uncomfortable with their own mortality and just laugh to brush off the idea that they should be ready for anything. Because reality is that your life can change in a minute.

me: So you've lived through a natural disaster. Was that in Florida?

Gloria: Yes. I was living in Pensacola, Florida and we got hit with a Category 5 hurricane.

me: Can you talk about that a little bit?

Gloria: Yes, it was in 2004, the year that several large hurricanes hit Florida and the Gulf Coast region Hurricane Ivan. Me and my housemates at the time decided to ride out the storm. You have to understand hurricane culture in Florida and the Gulf Coast—it is really about brushing it off and riding it out. So we rode it out. But I think that mentality has changed since that year for Florida and after Hurricane Katrina.

me: Yeah. So talk about that culture. People are taking precautions even as they're riding it out, right? Like stocking up on food and boarding up the windows, etc?

Gloria: Yeah, there is that. What used to drive me a little nuts about people being prepared for disasters is that everyone waits until the last minute. So every major hurricane the local news is just showing images of long lines at stores and empty store shelves, of people rushing out to get water and flashlights. Hurricane season is the same time every year, people!

Things like having water and food are just more ways to make your life comfortable after the storm because the water may not be clean enough to drink or access to food may be affected depending on the roads, etc.

My parents have about twenty gallons of water and a week’s worth of food at any given moment. People take some precautions, especially boarding up windows, etc., but really, folks at risk are those who live on the coast or near large bodies of water—the risk is drowning. I think people think about the winds, but one thing that blew my mind about my experience in Pensacola is the damage the water had done. Flooding the whole downtown and just really damaging infrastructure in a way that the town was recovering from for years to come.

me: Ok, you mentioned earlier the psychology behind not being prepared: people not wanting to confront their mortality. I know you've been kind of on a spiritual quest lately—is this too embarrassing for me to bring up? Is seeking a spiritual path part of acknowledging this end we'd rather not think about? Do you feel like, similar to stocking up on food and water, it makes the inevitable chaos any easier?

Gloria: Yeah, let's get deep! People's spiritual beliefs are a complex thing. Certainly
there are people who use their spiritual practices as an escape from reality. So I think it can be used to escape the idea of one's own mortality, for example the promise of an eternal life. But I think that if practiced correctly you would use spirituality to face the reality of being here and being human. Like being prepared with food and water for a storm—it doesn't make the experience easier, per se, because seeing your whole town get torn up and the way the storm affects people's lives is an intense experience. But it makes the coping with that event easier, like you have something to eat. So for me, spirituality holds a similar importance, it helps with the coping. It doesn't justify, negate or change the severity of the situation.

me: Love getting deep. Ok, I know on your blog you've stressed the importance of adaptability (Rule #1: Always do what you never would have thought of doing, especially if you have an in). You've also talked about nomadism, which I think requires being pretty adaptable. You have some nomadic plans coming up in the next year—do you wanna talk about these and how you're getting ready to adapt?

Gloria: I am making moves to leave the country because I have not done that since I was five and it's about damn time. But other than that, I am planning on visiting towns where I have large groups of friends and visiting for a time. I wanted to spend part of this year spending real intentional time with long-distance friends and be part of their day-to-day lives, even if just momentarily—helping them with whatever projects they have going on. Really, the main thing I am doing to get ready to adapt, besides saving up money, is letting go of my doubts and fears about being 33 with a master's degree and taking time for myself to just be a punk. It is hard to let go of what society says about you when you choose to live your life the way you want it. But I have followed my gut so far and shit has been awesome, so fuck it. Being able to have the type of life that requires adaptability is a gift.

me: True! Ok, last question: When you finally decide to beef up your disaster kit, are there any "luxury" items you're going to put in there? Like anything to boost your morale in the middle of all that shit hitting the fan?

Gloria: Lube. And some really fly finger nail polish!

No comments:

Post a Comment