Karl Cronin (San Francisco, CA)
When I was a kid, our family moved from Denver to north Texas. My dad was in the military and he was restationed to an Air Force base in Wichita Falls. Our whole family packed up, and we drove down south.
I was crestfallen. I said goodbye to the Colorado sky. To my friends. To the theater I worked in as a kid actor. To my dreams of meeting and marrying a mountain man (a common theme in my prepubescent queer mind).
Texas. What was I going to do in Texas? A diary entry from age 12, written shortly after I arrived, reads “there’s not a gay anybody here in a 100 mile radius. What am I doing here?”. Like many queers, I was precocious. I knew about who I was and what I wanted at a very young age. My only strategy was escape. No matter what it took I was going to find a way out of there. My destination was New York City. Jonathan Larson’s RENT came out while I was still in high school, which only deepened my resolve. I was going to find my tribe of queer bohemians and never look back. No day but today, ya’ll!
It took me 5 years, including four years of closeted high school life, but eventually I did “escape”. I went to school in Boston. I performed as a dancer, and eventually moved to NYC to study choreography. People don’t sing in the streets as much as they do in the musical, but yes indeed there are queer bohemians in droves. I was in heaven. I had arrived.
But then something started nagging me. A little itchy something with a Texas accent. It started poking me on the shoulder. It grew more and more incessant. It demanded I pay attention to it. It began to grow into a personal and professional obsession:
Why do the queers have to move?
More specifically, Why did I feel I had to leave to become who I am?
AND…Can I go back? Do I want to go back?
I began pouring all of these questions and their murky answers into my art. I formed a band called PRINCE de DAME where I write original songs about the places I’ve called home. These songs have become my beacon that I shine into the night sky – over the foothills of central Colorado and the arid prairie of the Red River Valley. Songs as revisionist histories; stories that might have unfolded had I stayed. Tales of places I would like to see again. A definition of my homeland in my own language. A request for an invitation to come home.
I don’t know if I’ll ever live in Texas again. I’ve looked into property in Childress, TX, a town smaller than where I grew up. When I last visited, I walked the streets and imagined what it would feel like to live there without the hidden feeling I’d experienced as a kid. To walk the brush at night knowing that the land belonged as much to me as it did to the mesquite trees. Part of me can feel it so clearly, and I try to sing from that part. The other part feels jaded and angry, and I try to sing from that part too. Even if I never make it home again, I’m going to sing the song of where I come from.
KARL CRONIN is a singer, composer, and movement artist living in San Francisco. You can hear his music at http://princededame.com