Real Life Modern Renaissance Man: J Guillermo Paleo
What happens when you pair a writer, a strong sense of style, a visual merchandiser, and a glorious beard together? You get a style-blogging dapper professor. Meet our friend J Guillermo Paleo, the man behind Elliptical Patterns Blog and a role model for many aspiring students in Puerto Rico.
J Guillermo after a long day of dropping knowledge.
Can you tell us about your career as a professor?
What can I tell you about my career as a professor? … Well, first off, my career as an English Professor isn’t a long one, thus I won’t bore with too many details. That said, what I can and will say is that teaching has shown me the weight and value of influence one has to inspire others. Teaching is an ever-evolving battlefield in which, if not careful, we can, like Don DeLillo wrote on his 2003 novel, Cosmopolis: “rise on a word and fall on a syllable…” (Cue the irony!) Being a professor is like being a parent: these kids look-up to you and hang-on to everything you do -- in a way, they go through all the different stages: they revel in awe and amazement (childhood), they rebel against you (puberty), and then want to emulate you (adulthood); all in the span of a trimester. Therefore, it’s imperative to arm oneself with the best of tools: the written word and a dapper outfit (which never hurts!) for one is sculpting and inspiring tomorrow’s professional. All jokes aside, I have to say that in the short time I’ve teaching at National University College I feel as though I’ve made an impact on some, if not on all, of my students. And, even though I don’t know if this is something I would do till the end of my days, I do have to admit that it’s amazing to know that one is heard and appreciated…even if it’s because you hold your audience’s grade on the edge of your pen.
What is your teaching style?
Well I pride myself in employing different ways of teaching English to my students most of which I’ve learned and imitate from my past professors. I have what every professor in one way or the other has: a very passive-aggressive relationship with their students. I tell my students I am like a bear – everyone wants to touch my beard, hug me, and be my friend; but I have warned them that the moment they try to fool me I will roar and cut their heads-off clean! Just kidding…or am I? I think Michael Scott from The Office said it best: “Do I want to be feared or loved? Um…easy both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.”
The average professor doesn't blog about fashion and style. What made you want to start the blog?
With the risk of sounding like a motivational speaker I say these words my mother has always professed to me: “ En tiempos de crisis es donde emergen nuevas oportunidades y posibilidades” (which roughly translates into: “During times of crisis is when new opportunities and possibilities emerge”). After I finished my Master’s degree in English I started looking for jobs and applying to different places to work but couldn’t get nothing as much as a call-back. It was during this time that I moved back home to my island, Puerto Rico (PR), and started playing with my girlfriend’s camera: posing for pictures and photographing anything that piqued my interest. It wasn’t long after I had gotten back that I started putting all the pieces of the puzzle together -- there was this burning desire to build something different from what I was seeing: I wanted to create narratives/stories around my sessions; I wanted to build an experience for both the viewer and the reader inside my audience – thus, I contacted my cousin, Henry J. Rivera (the photographer), his sister, Frances Rivera (the graphic designer and the model in most of our pictures – Yes, she’s my cousin, not my girlfriend!), leaving me with the written word -- it was Kismet! Flash-forward four months and here we are: Elliptical Patterns.
Tell us about your passion for writing
Let’s take a stroll down memory lane… It all started when I was 15 years old, I had this Spanish teacher who taught and propelled me to fall, punch-drunk, in love with the Language -- she taught me to understand and feel the weight of the Word through Poetry. Therefore, through the years I have always saved a special spot for Poetry and tried to do my best to hone my skills. Even as I write this answer, I’m jotting-down everything that comes to mind and trying to contain myself from diverting from the point and starting to rhyme. To this day, I have written countless poems, which I am always re-writing and re-working; but rest easy everything’s not lost, there is still evidence: an universe called Windblown World, where some of my creations roam free -- when they’re not caught between a blank-page and my pen.
It's clear that you put a lot of emotion into your blog pieces. Where do you draw that inspiration from?
Funny you should ask… As a writer – and I use this term loosely – I am always looking for inspiration through everything, may that be through books, movies, music, or just simply my surroundings (yes, like Ralph Waldo Emerson). I will admit that I draw a lot of inspiration from what’s playing through my headphones, which I guess sometimes translate to my writing. Needless to state the obvious, but I’m a huge fan of: Gabriel García Márquez, Paul Auster, Don DeLillo, Jeffrey Eugenides, Chuck Klosterman, and Raymond Chandler, among others in literature; Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese, Billy Wilder, David Fincher, P.T. Anderson, among others in film; and The National, Arcade Fire, The Darcys, Hammock, and Tycho, among others in music.
Your students must find it very cool that their professor is also a style blogger. Can you give us a quick anecdote about that?
Funny story about that… I have four different classes (totaling to about a 100 students) and from the very first week of class I have always joked by telling them: “Guys, I’m famous, you just don’t know it yet!” It was in light of this joke that I made them a small wager: I told them that whoever found me on Instagram would get a free lunch. Each and everyone of them started scouring and poring through pages and profiles and in the end one student found me – which, of course, was bound to happen – but the reaction from his fellow students was just appalling. I remember it because on this particular day I was calling each student up to my desk to show them their midterm grades and just as I was about to call one of the students one of them started showing-off his screen and telling everyone that he had found me. What ensued as been one of the most amazing reactions I have ever received: my students started browsing through my website and through my profile, whilst asking me in a complete state of shock: “Professor, are you a model? Who do you work with? Where do you work?” My answer was accompanied by a very blushed-face: “I told you I was famous, you just didn’t know it…but now you do!”
What other hobbies do you have?
Some of my hobbies include writing (of course!) and reading -- huge Poetry and Fiction lover!; watching/dissecting movies – huge sucker for old movies, specially, old film-noir films (e.g. Sunset Boulevard, The Killing, Kiss Me Deadly, Touch of Evil, Double Indemnity... you catch my drift); or just simply listening to music whilst exploring my home-land with my girlfriend. On my downtime, I love to spend time with my family and enjoy some quality-time with them, and sometimes I just love to go out with my girlfriend and my friends into town and just try new places, foods, and drinks.
What does the term "modern renaissance man" mean to you?
The term “Modern Renaissance Man” is one that I hold very dear and close to me. A term that I’m very grateful to you guys, Bedford & Broome, for coining it and bringing into my life. A term that best embodies my existence: an English Professor, who also happens to work as a Visual Merchandiser at a retail store, who also happens to work as a Style Blogger – now, if that is not the epitome of the term then I don’t know what is… I think this is a curious term because it bears us to think that the Renaissance isn’t just a cultural movement limited or restrained to past centuries but one that we are employing today as we speak -- which points back to what Solomon said in the Bible in Ecclesiastes 1:9 “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
Finally, the question everyone is waiting to hear the answer to, how long did it take you to grow your beard?
(I have to keep myself from laughing-out-loud!) I’m sorry what was the question again: how long did it take me to grow my beard? This is, actually, a really interesting question because it’s one that almost all of my students and co-workers ask me frequently. Last time I trimmed and completely shaved my faced-off was August 1st, 2013; but it wasn’t till approximately mid-October of that very same year that I stopped trimming my beard and just simply decided to let-it-grow-out. Thus, I would say it’s been roughly 8-9 months, though every once in a while I do get it trimmed.
There you have it folks. The makings of a Modern Renaissance Man. Remember, there are many ways to skin a cat and there are many ways to be your own Modern Renaissance Man. Now go out there and conquer your world.
We'd like to thank J Guillermo and his team for the wonderful photography. Follow their journey by visiting their blog www.ellipticalpatterns.com on the regular. We recommend following their Instagram accounts for your daily dose of style and inspiration. Instagram @jguillermo7 and @francesmarie
Stay inspired - Mr. B