Where I'm Coming From (Part 2)
Updated: May 1
People called me "George" until late in my sophomore year of college. I was an English major at the University of Florida, taking a Brit Lit class taught by a professor named Dr. Alistair Duckworth. I just googled him. Like, literally, just a second ago. The guy's still very much alive! And a Guggenheim Fellow no less! He was a great teacher, with a cool British accent, who knew how to dress -- bow-ties, blazers, wingtips, all in subtle, urbane defiance against the humid hell that North Central Florida can be 7 out of 12 months a year. I loved the class, and greatly admired Dr. Duckworth. I also loved teaching myself how to play guitar, getting high or drunk or both and skipping class to learn a new chord. I didn't skip Duckworth's class though I sometimes showed up hungover or high. I was both on one particular, fateful day.
Back then (1985?), professors took attendance aloud at the start of every class. For all his erudition and dulcet accent, Duckworth had a habit of mispronouncing my name. All. The. Time. /Whore/-/Go/, /Her/-/Gay/, /Whore/-/Gay/ and /Yer/-/Gwee/ were his top-4. So, three days a week, I was subjected to a concentrated name-mangling that I had experienced plenty of over the years. Said perennial, chronic mangling or mispronunciation was likely one reason I let people call me "George." It was just easier. My teachers had anglicized my name since kindergarten so I was not only used to it, I preferred it to a degree. Until I didn't. Until I went to Duckworth's class one day, still drunk-high from the night before. Until he said Whore Gay without bothering to look up, waiting for my slow "Here." Until I got up and said: "It's Jorge" ... pronouncing my name correctly, in Spanish, as it was given to me at birth ... "¡Jorrrge!" I shouted, trilling the 'r' for greater effect, picking up my books and storming out of class. But not before saying "You don't hear me calling you Dr. Fuckworth, do you?" Me and my burgeoning hangover thought I'd said that last bit under my breath. Apparently, and regrettably, I did not. An Associate Dean from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences called me in the next week, and I had to apologize to the good, justifiably angry professor. I dropped the class.
I've been Jorge ever since.
"Cargue Con Su Pesao" means "Carry Your Weight." I took this post's picture while at a popular, little hole-in-the-wall market and restaurant-bar in Havana - La Bodeguita Del Medio. Earnest Hemingway once said "my mojito in La Bodeguita, my Daiquiri in El Floridita." Before I went to Cuba for the first time back in 2010, the saying was "just" a Beatles song for me. In Cuba, across lots of aspects of life there, the saying has all sorts of socio-political connotations. In the context of my journey to you, where I'm coming from herein and as person and artist, much of the weight -- like a ballast of sorts -- starts with my very name: Jorge.
It sounds so much better in Spanish. When spoken by English monolinguals -- which is damn near all Americans! -- the "whore" at the start, or initial syllabic position, is unavoidable. Phonetically, at least, most American's can't say "Jorge" without first uttering "Whore." There is (happily?) no Spanish analogue like, say, Putario or Putalucia. Not that I'd want a native Spanish speaker to go through what I did and do, rather to highlight the relative oddity and burden, or weight, of my name. Starting to get where I'm coming from? Don't worry if you don't just yet. I've got lots to tell you. You'll understand soon enough. Te lo prometo.