An Interview with My High School English Teacher

Nicholas Lograsso went back to the past to revisit one of his most influential figures. Mr. Lamerto, if you’re reading this, thank you!

Hi readers, listeners? KCRr’s? Never written a blog before but here goes. If you are wondering why I decided to write this now, there is little story behind it. I joined KCR four years ago and looking back I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I ended with such a positive experience and being connected to people through the music. My experience here reminded me of someone influential during my time in high school. My English teacher, Mr. Lamerato, who would always try to make our class more enjoyable by retelling stories of his time in college and exposing us to some of the music he holds dear. Also, I might have used the intro he began class with as the intro for our radio show. This was another reason I wanted to give him a visit as I felt that he had a right to know after four years. 

Nick: So, how are you? 

John: Doing well, sixteenth year at St. Augustine High School and yeah just wrapping up another school year.  

N: So, I have a confession to make…since I know the greeting you use for your classroom is so iconic. I might have, possibly, stolen that for a wonderful intro for our radio show.  

J: I love it that’s great. It’s the sincerest form of flattery.  

N: You’re not going to retract my grade? *laughing* 

J: No, I will not retract your grade *laughs* That’s awesome, I’m glad something I taught you is of use, years later. 

N: There’s definitely more than that*laughs* Cool, glad that didn’t go in a totally different direction. Alright first question, what are some of the artists that shaped your college experience? 

J: In college, I was finally on my own. So I had a little more free time to do what I wanted to do. Also I had friends in different colleges that allowed me to have a reason to road trip somewhere. So I’d say the band that probably defined my college experience would be the Dave Matthews Band and that was because when they released Before These Crowded Streets which I want to say was released in 1998. That became probably their highest grossing album and at that time they were touring and selling out places like Soldier Field, two night in a row. So that was the height of their career and that was the height of me having some money and having the freedom to actually follow a band for the first time. Still a huge Counting Crows fan, during my time that was a big deal and probably the start of Radiohead and Coldplay at that time. So I remember exchanging CD’s with people, which I know don’t really exist anymore, but I remember this girl sent me a package that had Coldplay’s first album Parachutes and Radiohead’s OK Computer and I had never heard of either band. So to get that in one package and be exposed to that was amazing. 

NDo you think you would have had the same college experience if you did not discover those artists? 

J: Um, that’s a good question. I’m probably the wrong guy to ask because to me music is completely intertwined with my life. So any major life moment that has a soundtrack to it, certain songs can immediately take you back to a place. So, as an example, Third Eye Blind’s first album Third Eye Blind that came out right when I stepped onto a college campus and they actually did their first tour and came to my university (Central Michigan University). So whenever I hear that album, I immediately think of studying for honors pre-calculus on a college campus, living with my roommates, getting use to that whole lifestyle. I remember vividly in my sophomore year we went to Dave Matthews in Gran Rapids, which is about two hours away. We were nerds so we were in these honors classes and actually came back the next morning for class. So the whole general connection we had, a lot of that centered on the music. So I think no, I think music intertwines and defines a lot of what we do and becomes a soundtrack.  

N: Has your music taste changed at all? Or do you still listen to the same artists and bands? 

J: I think one of my biggest challenges is being married, having kids, having more responsibilities, not being in college has been staying on the cutting edge of new bands that are coming out. So one of my favorite things is to go to The Casbah (a venue here in Downtown San Diego). The only way you are going to see a show at The Casbah of a band you like is that you have to be on the cutting edge, so it has to be their first tour. They have to be small enough but also big enough, they have to fall in a small niche that fits that. I unfortunately don’t have the time to be as invested in that. I do try to stay open to new bands. Probably my favorite “newish” band is a band is called Lord Huron. They are more of like a folk-type band, love them. The War On Drugs, their last album is when I finally got into them, which is an amazing album. I try to keep an open mind, but I still end up often going back to the bands as previously mentioned. I went to the Metric show on SDSU’s campus not too long ago and I was super impressed by Zoé, which is a Mexican band that opened for them. So still piecemealing a few bands but not necessarily cutting edge.  

N: Would you say music defines who you are? 

J: I wouldn’t say music defines who I am. I think what you say, how you act, what you do, defines who you are as a person. I do say that music influences me, influences my mood, influences what I’m doing. I would say it also provides me the atmosphere I live in. So I wouldn’t say it defines me as a person, but defines the world I live in.  

NIf you had a chance to experience college one more time what would you do differently? 

J: To me one of the biggest bummers of college, but when you’re living it, it’s hard to understand how unique that situation is. What I mean by that is living with your friends most likely or some of the time. You most likely don’t have a full-time job so you’re doing these classes which are challenging and keep you busy, but you’re not obligated to be up at 6:00 am every day. What would I do differently? Not much to be honest, I went to a college where it was a college-town compared to SDSU which is in a major city. The people who enjoy college are the ones that stay over the weekends, who involve themselves. Whether that means going to a football game, whether that means seeing a speaker on campus, whether that means going to a show on campus. The ones who hated college or just didn’t like were the ones that got their cars packed and headed home each weekend. So I think the immersion of it, which is what I did, is something that I think is the key to enjoying or not enjoying it and I really wouldn’t change it. I had an awesome, unbelievable 5 years of college and would love to do it again. At the same time I’m very blessed and happy with where I am in life right now.  

N: Ok, one last question, what is music to you? 

J: To me, music sets the mood. So if I’m in the gym, I have a specific playlist. If I am relaxing in the evening, I have a certain playlist. If I’m on a road trip, I have a certain playlist. So to me it is a mood setter and accentuates the situation that I’m in.  

Written by: Nicholas Lograsso 

The Pansexual Panel: Why only with straight men?

The Pansexual Panel

Think about you. Why are you only having sex with straight men? Are you really being who you want to be? Or are you hiding in plain sight?

Just the other day someone asked “who are you (what gender, what sex)?” and vaguely gestured to my bright pastel clothing. A gesture that could only be interpreted as pure confusion over my sexuality and attached to it my gender identity. Everyone wants to place you in a box because they feel uncomfortable that they can’t judge you with a quick glance. This discomfort spreads even more when they aren’t sure if they should use HE SHE OR THEY assuming THEY ever comes across their mind. Sure dealing with straight culture can dampen your otherwise queer day, but that’s not the point. What drew me to this tiny corner of the internet today was a discussion among my Femme friends about sexual pleasure. More specifically:

Are you having an orgasm every single time you have sex?

Too broad? Let’s narrow that down:

Are women having orgasms when they have sex with men?

Please note the word “men” is being using lightly and for obvious reasons is not capitalized. More on that later I promise. The story begins with our close friend, who we will call Katie for the sake of her privacy and her innocent questions. Our friend group was not prepared for the bomb shell she dropped on us just a few days ago. Seemingly out of nowhere she asked:

Do you guys have an orgasm every single time you have sex?

Among the many answers came a single question:

Are you only having sex with straight men?

She nodded yes and a loud sigh came from every queer member of this impromptu panel that was formed around this single question. She continued to explain that her sexual relationship consisted of vigorous sex for just a few minutes during which she never quite got there. Plain and simple she wasn’t enjoying her sexual relationship with her boyfriend. Or rather her own pleasure was not being put up for discussion by her nor her boyfriend. Naturally we suggested that be the first step but to our dismay we discovered that he told her “It just takes too long”.

Let’s unpack that; a young girl mid-twenties who can count her sexual partners on her hand has now been told her want for pleasure is inconvenient.

F*** THAT.

Orgasms are important!

Obviously the first step should be an open discussion about pleasure both shared and individual but if someone isn’t willing to do that for you then you should consider why you are keeping them around. Is this a critique of straight men? Not at all, but consider that the most unsatisfied women we’ve ever encountered are always having sex with straight men. See, our set societal norms are cock blocking us. Seriously, the patriarchy has become so prominent and normalized that some women are questioning if they should be enjoying sex at all. The answer is:

YES!

Of course you should be enjoying sex, we should be redefining sex to include a huge variety of things. Penetration isn’t the only form of sex and I’m here to tell you that you need to stop letting people shame you. Upset some fucking people, talk back, question their motives be loud and be seen.

What is the first step? Start here if you like. This won’t be a 100% percent correct and informational one stop shop for all things sex, gender, sexual identity but it will be a place you can be honest with yourself and each other if you are willing to enter into that conversation.

Who am I?

My names Jonathan Richard Sotelo, I’m Mexican Guatemalan American. I am Queer, Pansexual, and gender non-conforming. If you believe in the spectrum you could place me right in the middle.

Until next time, think about you.

Written by: Jonathan Richard Sotelo

Dreams From The Stars: Cult of Personality

In this edition, Ahmad Dixon witnesses the origins of a cult revolving around his friend. This isn’t a dream. It’s an absolute nightmare!

My friend Sam is a peculiar person. We became friends about a year ago, right before college, and since then we’ve become relatively close. However, things between us have become pretty strained because of an incident that happened recently. We were walking around Kensington when I noticed a team of bald men in robes trailing behind us. At first I tried to ignore them, initially writing them off as local town color, but then I noticed that they had Sam’s dumb face embroidered on their chest. “Hey Sam, what’s up with those guys?” I asked before we turned a corner.

“Oh them?” he said unenthusiastically, “They’re just my cult.”

Out of all my friends I would have thought Sam would be the least likely to form a cult of personality. Once while working at coffee bean he was almost kidnapped and sold into slavery by pirates because he messed up an order. Although in hindsight it was kind of obvious. We visited a fortune teller once and she said that Sam was the reincarnation of Charlemagne, Ramses II, and a Manager of a Fort Lauderdale Best Buy. She told me that I was going to get crushed by an elephant. I usually don’t put much stock in fortune telling, past lives, and the like, but I was indeed crushed by an elephant a week later, which lead me to believe that that particular fortune teller was on the up and up.

Footage of Me Being Crushed

Since that day in Kensington, I never saw Sam unless his cult was somewhere near by. It began with three, middle aged, bald men, but then it grew and they added four, young, bald women. Then it was 15 bald men, women, and children. And finally it escalated to a crowd of around 35 people following around my friend during his day to day activities. They’d throw flower petals in the space directly in front of his feet, they’d venerate his trash as sacred artifacts (ever see an apple core in a gold plated box?), and I think one of them learned how to play lute in order to write songs in his honor. The songs were mostly just popular tunes with the word “baby” taken out and replaced with the name Sam.

Sam seemed utterly disinterested in this development in his life. I asked him how he felt about being a living god and he just shrugged and said, “them’s the brakes.” After he said that the cult would sometimes chant “them’s the brakes” for hours on end in a hypnotic meditation.

I tried not to talk to members of the cult due to the fact they all gave me the heeby jeebies but curiosity got the better of me and I asked one of them what they saw in Sam as a spiritual leader. They said, “The Sam is the bringer of happiness and salvation, without The Sam there would be no sunrise, no morning dew on the flowers, no order to the universe. The Sam is a being of infinite compassion and infinite wisdom.” I looked over to Sam to see that he was on the verge of tears due to being unable to open a jar of peanut butter. He pulled out his pocket knife and somehow cut himself flipping it open. Cult members almost trampled each other trying to catch his blood as it dripped from his finger. I heard later that this event is one of the more important parables in the Book of Sam.

I went over to Sam’s house in City Heights to return some books and things had obviously changed since the last time I was there. Outside the walls were covered in murals depicting Sam slaying dragons and the cosmos being born out of his mind. I like to believe reality existed before Sam was born but I have no proof to the contrary so I felt it was not my place to argue. Inside there were masses of people, of various nationalities, on their knees chanting and praying. Some were in tears because of their proximity to the so called creator of the universe. Sam was in his pajamas playing his Nintendo Switch.

I went up to my friend and asked how long he thought this could possibly continue. He said when he got tired of all the positive attention he was getting and when they stopped giving him fruit offerings on command. I said “you know you’re not actually a god right.” I regretted this outburst almost immediately because everyone in the house stopped chanting and looked at me. A hundred hands reached out to grab me and before I could realize what was happening I was in a cage. Sam continued to play Zelda as this was happening. I yelled at Sam to let me out but he again said, “them’s the brakes” and went about his day.

I’m not the type of person who likes to be confined for extended periods of time. Especially when I’m in spaces that aren’t big enough for me to sit down in. I survived on nothing but the stale bread and dirty water I was given twice a day. What felt like months passed and I began to have strange visions. Dancing colors of light, geometric shapes, vibrating amorphous blobs. My beard grew down to my chest. I was losing my mind.

One day Sam came to the front of the cage, drinking a cup of coffee. I didn’t respond because I thought it was another hallucination. He said I could come out, and I just looked straight ahead. He then opened the cage and I collapsed. “You know the door wasn’t locked right?” I would have been enraged if I wasn’t exhausted. “I don’t know why you decided to stand in there for three hours, you look awful.” He said between sips of coffee. I didn’t speak. “Oh and you don’t have to worry about that cult anymore, we were out on a hike and they saw an interesting rock. They decided to worship that instead.”

My relationship with Sam became pretty strained after I broke a chair over his head.          

Dreams From The Stars: They Are Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back from the Dead!! Ahhhh!

In this edition, Ahmad Dixon walks us through his Halloween influenced dream of fatherhood and success.

I hate money and respect from my elders, so I’ve always been more of a humanities person than a STEM person. Unfortunately, due to California State University General Education requirements, I’ve had to take a handful of science classes here and there if I want to graduate. This eventually lead me to a class called “BIOL. 436. Human Reanimation.” Truth be told, I mostly signed up for the course because I thought it was an art class; however, it was radically different than anything I could have predicted.

The class was being held on the first floor of the Physics building and the first thing I noticed when I got there was the faint presence of electricity in the air which made my arm hair stand up. The last time something like that had happened to me was when I was struck by lightning after someone had left their Tesla Coil on indoors; so as you might imagine I have been pretty cautious from that point on. After scanning the room, nothing abnormal seemed to  stick out to me, so I took my seat next to a woman playing Clash of Clans on her iPhone. The hair on her head was also starting to stand up.

The professor for the class was a grad student named Frank. Frank was a rather tall, thin man, with sunken in eyes and white hair that seemed extremely premature for someone his age. He was an all round good teacher. His quizzes were easy, he’d keep consistent office hours, and he was understanding if you needed to miss class for whatever reason. The only negative thing I can think of was that in the middle of lecture he would sometimes start crying and saying how this class was an abomination and that we were playing God. Once when he was explaining how to reattach nerve endings in decaying tissue, he suddenly stopped talking and screamed something incomprehensible, and then jumped out the window. I was glad to get out of class early that day; the farmers market had a french toast stand that I was meaning to try. I always wondered why Frank chose his line of work, though I never asked because I didn’t feel like hearing an hour long, existential speech about mortality and morality.

A week after that episode of defenestration, Frank told us to go gather corpses for our final project. I was going to object to a request as heinous as that but then I realized that the syllabus did say that at some point I would have to do some heavy duty grave robbing and if I had a problem with it I should have said something at the beginning of the semester rather than at the end.

So the rest of the class and I got to work finding human remains. This project was pretty tricky because I had to find one of every human organ, muscle, and tooth. The first place I searched was my local cemetery. I got a usable pair of arms but after getting covered in dirt and having three or four splinters thrust into me by the shovel I was using I realized the bodies there were a bit too decomposed for my needs. Plus a grieving widow threw a vase at my head while I was trying to harvest her husband. Some people can be so rude and overprotective of their belongings. I did find a fellow who was buried alive though. He was so grateful he told me I could have one of his kidneys and a chunk of his liver for my assignment.

Next I hit up Alvarado Hospital for more fresh produce. The funny thing about San Diego hospitals, and hospitals in general, is that as long as you wear a lab coat and stare down at a clipboard, no one will question why you’re wandering the halls restricted to staff and patients. I  dropped into the morgue and started putting some stuff in my cooler. At one point a security guard asked what I was doing and I just said, “official hospital business.” That explanation was good enough for him, leaving me free to claw out a pair of pale blue eyes with an ice cream scoop.

That trip to the morgue was pretty productive but I lacked one more item, a human heart. After scouring the city for an afternoon I decided I was just going to ask the shady butcher shop down the street from my house if they had one. After waiting ten minutes my number was called and the man behind the counter said he sold the last human heart to a woman playing Clash of Clans. I asked if he had anything similar and he dropped a chimpanzee heart into into my arms. I think the deli was closed by the health inspector a little while after I got there.           

I spent about four hours stitching together a meat puppet Sunday night. The small intestine proved to be unruly but I eventually got it to fit in the abdomen. The next monday the class had to present their hard work. Frank came out to look over the crimes against nature we had all created and had a look on his face that said he regretted all of his life decisions up to that point. He turned to look at me and muttered, “Welp, let’s see if you followed instructions.” He plugged in a little machine in the corner, put it on the chest of my homemade cadaver and flipped a little switch that sent an inconceivable amount of electricity through it. It was at that moment my meat puppet became a person, and that person became my daughter. I never thought I’d become a parent so early in life, or that my child would be the product of lab I had to take in college, but gosh darn am I proud of my pumpkin. She may not be the prettiest girl in kindergarten but she’s got character. The other kids bully her about her green skin and the fact I accidentally sewed her left ear a bit lower than her right but she’s a tough little zombie so not much gets to her. So that’s the story of how I passed BIOL. 436 and how I became the world’s greatest Dad to Mary, the undead little girl. I’m signing her up for ballet next week — hopefully those stitches survive all that bending! The Chimp heart is good for endurance though.