Sacramento Proud

Operating to Free Your Soul — Sacramento’s AndYes


There are few things in life that help connect humans to each other more than stories. They allow us to understand where we came from, and to connect to another person on a visceral level through shared experiences and candid moments. The more I have been writing for TheMashup, and for myself, the more I have realized how intrinsically important stories are to our very evolutionary survival. At it’s most base point, stories act as a connector between cause and effect, and that is how our brain processes information, constantly seeking the cause and effect. We create narratives in our mind on a constant loop, filling in the gaps and creating stories to account for every action and reaction of our daily lives.

I say all this to say….

Do you have any idea how fucking nerve wracking interviews are? How nerve wracking it can be to be entrusted to tell someone’s story? Not only tell it, but honor it and protect it? It’s stressful as fuck. It’s why I smoke so much weed. It’s why I randomly wake in the night in a cold sweat. It’s why there’s always a splash of Irish in my coffee.

It’s also why I wrote and re-wrote this story four damn times before I decided I had gotten it right. Not because I am a perfectionist — far from it. There is nothing about me that strives for perfection. I did it because that is exactly what someone’s story deserves.

It is what all of our stories deserve.

To be honored.
Honored is definitely a word I felt after being able to sit down and pick the brain of AndYes, Sacramento poet, writer, singer, activist, actor, comedian etc… as we sat sipping our respective drinks at Old Soul in the P. (No it is not, nor will it ever be the Triangle District — fuck outta here. I grew up on 1st Ave. It will always be the P, let’s move on.)

I met David Loret de Mola, more commonly known in artists circles as AndYes, a few years ago at a random ZFG event on a random night in a random part of the city. He might have been busking, or just performing at a venue I was at — the where, when and what is a blur. The portion I do remember is how powerful his voice was. Not just in volume, although he can project like a muthafucker; but rather the stories woven through the tapestry of his words, the perspective he is able to shed light on, and the topics he touches upon. Each component of his works comes together to create a powerfully personal glimpse into his daily life.

I admired him immediately, and that isn’t something I say too often about modern poets. In fact it’s quite rare for a poet to stir my soul anymore. The style of poetry, and the triteness of the all-too-familiar delivery patterns that people have adopted (think William Shatner, but in a kicky beret) can make it hard for me to not take a smoke break during that portion of the show. With AndYes, my attention was rapt. His delivery was something I hadn’t gotten to see from many folks in the Sacramento scene, and his talent was immense.

Which is probably why he does SO much more than poetry. He is an actor. A comedian. A master communicator. A connector. A man of the people.

AndYes is one special muthafucka.

An ass is basically what I felt like when I rolled up to the cafe, since as per usual, I was late.

Resident Stoner: “I’m sorry! I got here as fast as I could, but my Uber driver was doing this weird thing where he DIDN’T pay attention to me, GPS or general directions and took some magical way here that cost me an extra 6 bucks…” I babbled as I gave him a huge hug.

AndYes: “Oh please, no biggie. I’ve just been writing a bit, and I never really mind waiting.”

RS: “Oh perfect, then you won’t mind waiting another minute so I can get something to drink. I need a beer.”

AY: “Do you!”

After ordering my girly ass raspberry cider (I can’t do beer yall, unless its stout, and they didn’t have any soooooooo I don’t want to hear it), we sat down with toothy grins.

RS: “Man we have been trying to have coffee forever! I am so glad we finally got a chance to make it happen!”

AY: “Right?!”

RS: “So…. how are you?”

Yup. I know, I ask the hard hitting questions.

AY: “You know what, I am doing pretty good today. I feel good.”

I feel good.

It’s a simple sounding statement, but it isn’t always the easiest thing to feel. Especially in the climate that we live in these days. It’s becoming more and more difficult for so many of us to find the silver lining in these trippy ass times we exist within.

For many, AndYes is that silver lining. He has built up a heavy online support system by speaking freely and openly on current events, mental health, body positivity, sexuality and gender, and doing so with a slathering of empathy that so many lack.
Though he and I had met at that random event that random time, and become FB friends shortly after, we didn’t really become close until an extremely unpleasant set of our own similar experiences caused me to break out my dirty limerick skills in his DMs.

On Sept 22nd. 2017, Frank Loret de Mola, a beloved member of our community, and the brother of AndYes, was killed in a car accident. A death is never easy to face, but when it is such an unexpected thing… there’s no preparing for it, and there is really no right way to deal with it.

I knew a sliver of his pain. So many of us had our hearts ripped apart 5 months prior to Frank’s passing, when Dano was taken from us. Which is why I reached out with the only coping mechanism I had — dirty limericks. We became fast friends.

RS: “I know you have been ridiculously busy, so let’s talk about all the crazy things that are keeping you busy these days. What have you been up to?”

AY: “Man where do I even start? I got back from the Democratic National Convention not too long ago, and that was definitely a crazy time. Of course I have been trying to get Operation Free Soul up and ready for the second half of the year. It is definitely busy…but in a great way.”

RS: “Not to mention the slam poetry finals right?”

AY: “Oh yeah! That too. Man I almost forgot about that. LOL. Yes the Sacramento Slam Poetry team is heading to the nationals in August, so we are trying to get ready for that, too. It’s hard to keep up these days.”

RS: “So tell me about Operation Free Soul? I know you have been putting that together for a while, and I want to make sure to give that it’s proper shine.”

AY: “Well Operation Free Soul is a program that I put together, which was funded by the Creative Economy Grant of Sacramento. It’s basically a program to mentor spoken word artists on the business side of the arts, particularly the younger writers just starting to get into it. Artists learn how to put together their show, contact venues, analyze their own work, sell merchandise, and be paid professionals for all-of-the-above.”

RS: “That is so dope. Where did the name Operation Free Soul come from?”

AY: “Well I am a first generation Cuban American. The name “Operation FreeSoul” comes from the program that brought my father from Cuba, “Operation Pedro Pan”, which brought post-revolution children to the United States to educate them and keep them away from the chaos that comes from a changing governmental regime. I wanted to honor the struggle my family had been through to get here and achieve their dreams. I want to see our youth achieve the same in their own ways.”

RS: “It feels even more poignant now with the current administration we are in.”

AY: “Right?! It felt even more right after the election last year. It was a nice way to make my feelings known.”

Not only does he make his feelings known through his poetry, the work he does in our community, and the performances he gives — but he analyzes his personal feelings, strips them bare, and lays them out for all of us to dissect and learn from. He operates from the soul when he speaks freely in regards to his struggles with depression, with his previous attempts at suicide, and the claw-and-scratch daily struggle that he has had to push through in order to survive and thrive in it. AndYes takes apart the pieces of his psyche in order for all of us to learn something from his pain. (When my kids were suffering through a particularly ugly bout of pre-pubescent depression, he stepped in with a RIDICULOUSLY helpful guide for me, helping me understand more of what my kids were going through. A guidehe had written after a particularly diffiicult time of his own .. just as an example.)

That is some of the most selfless shit an artist can do. To speak from the heart, while honoring the core of their truth. He doesn’t shy away from questions that many would awkwardly squirm through, in order to educate and enlighten those who seek it.

Talking through and educating people on depression is only one of his missions though. He also speaks openly about sexuality, body positivity and gender positivity — topics all too prevalent in our current times.

RS: “So please don’t get mad at me for sounding like an idiot, or asking this, but can you explain to me what it means to be ASE? (Asexual for those unfamiliar with the term) I am trying to make sure that I educate myself on it, and I feel like that particular topic I haven’t learned much on.”

AY: “Oh please, you’re not an idiot, and there is nothing wrong with asking that question if it comes from a place of wanting to understand, which you do. So there are different levels to it, and everyone can experience it in variations. For me personally, it takes an extreme emotional and intellectual connection to actually become sexually attracted to someone. For others it can be something where they never experience that sexual attraction. Like everything, there’s levels to this shit. Ha.”

I paused in awe for a brief second. That he can just so easily and openly talk about something that so many fear to put out into the open because of possible judgement is crazy to me. It would probably drown me in anxiety after a while.

RS: “Does it ever get to you?”

AY: “Being ASE?”

RS: “No, I mean does it get to you that because you are so open and public about your experiences that folks end up thinking they can ask you any question they want about the things you experience?”

AY: “Not when it comes from a place of wanting to learn. From a place of wanting to understand. Of wanting to connect with another person by learning about that other person. I will always be there for those types of questions. If I can help someone, then how can I be upset by that?”

RS: “… you are such a nicer person than me. Though that isn’t hard.”

AY: “Oh please, don’t start. I’m just trying to help.”

RS: “Well I’m saying… I probably wouldn’t have the fortitude to do it. You’re pretty dope.”

AY: “Stahhhhhp.”

RS: “Fiiiiiine. So what’s next for you? What are you doing to get ready for the Slam finals.”

AY: “Ordering my championship belt.”

RS: “I’m sorry… what?”

AY: “Oh, my fully customized, WWE style, Sac Slam Championship belt. It’s being made as we speak.”

RS: “You’re serious?”

AY: “Absolutely.”

RS: “Fuck I adore you. *laughing heartily* Now why did you order this belt again?”

AY: “The belt, for me, is a lot of different things. I realized I never really celebrated any of my successes, before, and with Major Depression it’s always become easy to forget. It slips into this void that’s hard to explain. So this is my reminder of my own work. On top of that, and mainly, I got it to show off our poetry scene out here. So many people in this city don’t know about it – and I’m using this belt as a way to talk about Luna’s, and Mahogany, and Sol Collective, and Speak Out Sacramento – and all our amazing artists out here. Lastly, it’s a weight loss tracker. Like, the lower the notches I use, the more weight I’ve lost. That’s a long quote, but it’s the best way I could explain it.”

RS: “It’s perfect. Thank you. You’re just being you…”

AY: “That’s all I can be.”

Whether through his poetry, through his comedy, through his dancing (catch him as your favorite back up unicorn during some of Spacewalker’s sets) through his volunteer work, or through his big, beautiful heart, AndYes is just being himself.

And I definitely fucks with that. Tough.

We all should fuck with it. Not sure how to do that in a tangible way? Don’t worry, I got you.

AndYes and the Sac Slam team are currently raising funds to get them to the National Finals in Chicago. They have made progress, and they are getting closer to their goal, but they could certainly use some additional support. Take a moment to throw five on it. The link is below:

Not a fan of online donating? No worries, there are other ways that you can support AndYes in what he is doing. The link below will take you directly to his website. There you can purchase a copy of AndYes’s book, a shirt honoring Operation Free Soul, and so much more.

You can usually catch AndYes throughout the week at ZFG’s Intersection Open Mic, Monday nights at Old Soul in the P. He also regularly graces the stage of Luna’s Cafe, a mainstay in the Sacramento poetry scene. When you get a chance, make sure to check him out live, and experience all the energy that could not possibly be capture in this article — but damn it, I gave it a shot.

Thank you to AndYes for sitting down with me. I hope I honored your story, just a little.
Until the next time, yall know where to find me.

IG: @thelivstyler @themashup @thestonerettes



Olivia Monahan

July 5th, 2018

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