IM IN CHELSEA having drinks and dinner with Puerto Rican author Elliot Torres at Cuba Libre. Not too crowded. Atmosphere and vibe are aesthetic with colors, pictures and paintings depicting traditional Cuba and Cuban advertisements. Vintage music flowing sweet like the Caipirinas Elliot ordered us to drink. And I have the pleasure of sitting across from the boy next door. But not just any boy next door. Hes a star in thugged-out sheeps clothing, and Madonna has a signed copy of his book.
After five years of solitude, I wonder what a handsome, educated man like Elliot wants to eat, drink, and shoot the shit about. This is his first real interview since the release of his self-published smash Five Years of Solitary. Hes been confined far too long. Elliots even got some knowledge he wants to drop on the willing and ready about how much hes learned about life and himself, and how much hes loved and loved for real, honestly.
Over Caipirinas and appetizers (camarones with tamal en cazuela, and blue cornmeal fried oysters with smokey collards and salsa enchilada) I get to know the man whos grown into the light and reality that has been a five-year odyssey.
What inspired Five Years of Solitary? Actually I wasnt planning on writing a book. When I was writing the poetry it was basically just a form of me venting as I was going through experiences. Ive always been a loner I was using my writing as a form of venting; sort of like therapy. When friends werent always there I used pen and paper to get what was inside out. When it was all said and done I decided to make it a book.
How did you choose the title? Most of my poetry is about self-exploration and feeling lonely. It covered a period of five years and it fit well with the material and how it all came together.
So what does Solitary feel like? Lonely, dark, helpless, painful.
And you went through that for five years? Over a period of five years, at different times, and depending on whom I was dating at the time. (Chuckles) And what experiences I was going through.
What were you like before FYoS? Naïve, extremely self absorbed. And I was naïve in that I was a hopeless romantic thinking I was going to move here, NYC, at 17 from Illinois (where I was born and raised); have a boyfriend, and that everything would fall into place. I was selfish too and very hard to be around. I wasnt open to friendships because I didnt trust a lot of people.
Who do you feel you have become? Someone who looks at things much more realistically. I see myself as always learning and evolving. Since the book Ive become wiser, driven, focused. During those five years I saw myself as too involved in getting a boyfriend, and too much into my personal and love life.
What are your favorites in Five? Im Sorry, Just Another Piece, and Haters in Disguise.
What has been the response youve gotten so far? A lot of people have said they can relate to the book. Im happy that they get it. That they dont judge me because of what the book describes, but that theyre able to relate to it and say Ive been through that, too. Ive gotten that across the board. People say, Thats happened to me and Im so happy youve had the courage to say those things. When I was writing people were like, Youre going to actually share that? and Im like, Yeah, why not? A lot of us choose to hide our weaknesses out of embarrassment or for whatever reason.
How involved have you been in the publishing and promoting of your book? Im doing everything, even the promoting. I enjoy it but its a lot of work.
Youve starting writing a second book Yes
What kinds of transitions does Elliot expect to experience between now and the next book? Actually its been a huge transition. The second book is a continuation, picking up where FYoS left off. I think I learned much more after FYoS than during. Back then I was going through a cycle and venting, not looking back at what I learned. After the book I was able to sit back, process, and apply what Id learned to friendships and relationships.
At some point you started also penning your own rap lyrics. I got into rapping in 98. I created a persona and started writing rap lyrics because it was an angry time for me. I was tired of the guys I was dealing with, and dating wasnt working out. I just wanted to say what I felt so it took the form of rap. It will be appearing in the second book. I stopped writing it because the person I was dating at the time didnt really care for it (too graphic and sexual), so I stopped and sacrificed my creativity. But I wouldnt do that again.
Youve also done writing for a dot com company. I was a Hip Hop Correspondent for loquesea.com. I wrote music and movie reviews. I interviewed artists like Angie Martinez, Puerto Rock, Cubanlink, and The Beatnuts. The column was doing very well, but eventually like a lot of other dot com companies, they went under.
If you werent writing what would be your creative outlet? Acting would be cool. I would try anything that would allow me to express myself creatively.
Can we get a little teaser about your next book? Stylistically its going to have more of a variety than the first one. It will be on topics of love and sex, and show that I was in a two year relationship. It will illustrate the aftermath of that relationship, how I dealt with it, and where I am today.
What is something you will not tolerate from a guy? I cant tolerate guys who think so highly of themselves but have nothing going for them, who have no drive or ambition, who are unemployed by choice (laughs), who dont want to progress, who sit on their asses smoking weed all day, or who are standing on the corner hanging out and thats the extent of their day. I wont tolerate that.
Have you ever been in love? Yes, twice. But only one true love.
What did you learn about yourself from those experiences? At the time I was writing the book I thought I was in love but it wasnt. But with my one true love I learned that I wasnt fully prepared for it. Ive realized that life is sometimes much more real than we like it to be, and that the most important thing is self love.
Whats sexy to you? Ummm wow (laughs). (Elliot is momentarily saved by the arrival of our entrees: yuca-crusted salmon with lobster-boniato mash, and ancho-rubbed pork tenderloin with sweet plantain mash and black bean sauce.) Sexy is a guy who is ambitious, confident, driven. A guy whos a dreamer and believes that everything and anything is possible, and yet is down to earth. He most likely wont be found in New York. (We laugh) Also someone whos intelligent and can carry a conversation. Its a total package.
On a guy: Boxers or briefs, and why? Boxers because theyre sexier and loose.
to ask you now about some of your favorite things:
Who do you admire or who inspires you the most? My mother because of whom she is, selfless, giving of herself to the community. Shes very simple, very well liked, a strong woman.
Who inspires you the most? My father inspires me because of everything hes taught me in the business sense.
Who do you want to become? I want to become someone who is involved in every aspect of the media. Ive always had these dreams of achieving and moving towards that. As a person I want to be someone where little things dont matter to them, that only the important things count.
Whats a common misconception about you? Depending on who you ask that Im not friendly, that I sleep around, that Im very rude and a cold person. The people that actually know me know that I have a very good heart and that Im a great, dependable friend.
Most romantic gesture youve done for someone? I gave my ex a large, old-fashioned key with the words My Heart engraved on it.
Were interrupted by staff singing happy birthday to a patron.
If you were on one of the survivor shows how long would you last? Long enough to get endorsements. (We get a good laugh out of that one.)
What would be five necessities for being in solitary? (Not in any particular order) Notebook, pen, family photos, dog, and a guy.
Words you live by? Anything is possible. No one can tell me otherwise.