Coffee for the masses.


A letter from Mexicanus Chicanicus to SF Weekly

The following letter is a response to a great piece on SF Weekly talking about gentrification in the Mission District, a place I called home until rents got so ridiculous my family and I could no longer afford to live there.  This was years ago, at the ass-end of the first dot-com bubble.  Since then, a second dot-com bubble has made the situation noticeably worse for Latinos in the Mission and it shows no signs of slowing down.  Whether you benefit from this displacement or you’re a Latino family who’s had to pick up and settle into the almost uninhabitable dead zone outside of the Bay Area, you have three generations of San Francisco mayors to thank.  Willie Brown, Gavin Newsom, and now Ed Lee have worked tirelessly to turn SF into the yuppie paradise it now is.  And it’s not just the Mission: Bay View Hunter’s Point is feeling the pain, too.  Gentrification threatens to displace the African-American community that has made that area home for decades. (Muni constructed a new T line metro rail that runs all the way down Third Street; I guarantee you it’s wasn’t built for the black community.)  Pretty soon all of SF will be a playground for the affluent.  By then, who the hell is gonna want to live here?

And now, without further ado, the letter:

Great article on gentrification in the Mission District.You say “evolution of 24th Street”, I say socio-economic Darwinism.As a Latino and exile of my once-beloved neighborhood, I generally sense in my people a great deal of defeatism towards gentrification that would have been unimaginable just 40 years ago at the height of the Chicano Power movement.Whatever the hell happened to us since then is beyond me, but if it’s anybody’s fault that Latinos are being shoved into the armpits of California (no offense, Stockton) it’s probably us.

But before us Latinos all stock up on Speed Stick, allow me to leave a few words of wisdom to the new (read: mostly white) residents of the Mission:

Dear hipsters and yuppies: (Is there a difference, really?  I’m not being sarcastic; we really don’t know.  We just call you yupsters for the sake of clarity.)

  • Every time you walk down our streets at night, point and snap photos in our store windows while we’re working late, and go “oooh”, and “aaaah”, and “hahaha, isn’t that funny”, it’s actually fucking obnoxious.  The Mission is not a zoo and Latinos actually resent being treated like exhibits in our own neighborhood.  (“See the endangered Chicano in its native habitat before it’s extinct!)  When the class-cleansing that started with Willie Brown has finally finished its work in San Francisco and there’s not a single one of us left, then you can open the exhibit.  Maybe breed a few of us in captivity.  Turn the place into a wax museum.  Preserve the traces we left behind so that future generations can discover who we were.  (“Look, they left paintings on the walls!”)
  • You might think we don’t understand when you make fun of us, but chances are we do.  (BTW, they’re called quinceañera dresses, they’re supposed to be big and colorful, and they’re designed for 15 year old Latinas, not a gaggle of snickering, siddidy, 30-something white girls already way past their prime.  Sorry ladies, you couldn’t rock those dresses if you tried.  If you find them overly ornate and ostentatious, why don’t you slip into something more your style, like a tasteful Scandinavian-inspired evening gown, or a bedsheet with straps?)
  • As much as we all love organic patchouli burgers, not all of us can afford to eat at upscale “foodie” joints.  Latinos for the most part find it counterproductive to impress first dates with conspicuous displays of wealth – we save that for the wedding.  Nor do we feel the need to wow her with our extensive knowledge of the esoteric world of kelp-based Sri Lankan cuisine.  You’d be surprised what we can do with pupusas and a sexy Spanish accent.  Don’t you yupsters have your fill of pretentiousness in the art scene?  Now you gotta be bougie about food?  How about just thanking God for something to eat in a city where hundreds of homeless go hungry every day?  But I’ll tell you what: you stop judging us for walking around with a Popeye’s drink, and we won’t make fun of your knit sweaters and corny old-timey mustaches.  Anymore.
  • Some things are just better left to the pros.  There’s something not quite right when November creeps upon us and the only people not actually marching at Day of the Dead are Mexicans.  It’s because we now know how black people felt when Elvis came along.  Day of the Dead is a sacred Mexican tradition, not a Halloween after-party.  Those of us who observe Day of the Dead have a connection rooted in hundreds of years of Aztec and Mexican culture that gives us the right to honor our ancestors in this way.  The only connection yupsters have to Day of the Dead is a pasty, almost skeletal complexion.
  • You can have Cinco de Mayo, though.  It’s BEEN played out for a minute now and really, it’s all about the booze anyway.

Truth is, whatever armpit we Latinos end up shoved into, we’ll always bring the Mission with us.  By the time we’ve all made the move to the unholy perimeter around the Bay Area, we will have brought with us drink, tacos, music, dance, murals, horchata, bachata, chancletas, women, men, rolling r’s, poetry, culture, and cholos.  In short, we will infuse LIFE into those barren wastelands of 100 degree summers and meth.  We turn armpits into cleavage!  Pretty soon the Mission will be the new armpit of San Francisco and yupsters will once again be on the prowl for a new trendy area to gentrify.  But as much as you yupsters won’t be able to resist telling all your friends about the scene in Watsonville and decide you want to “slum it up” for the weekend, please, this time do us all favor and stay home.  Don’t come running to our new hood when you’ve turned yours into Whitebreadistan and it’s no longer cool anymore.  Latinos know all about what happens to our neighborhoods when they become “hip”, and we hate packing.

– Ed  (Mexicanus Chicanicus)

Diesel Ad Campaign: “Smart listens to the head. Stupid listens to the heart – Be stupid.”

Uh huh.

The reason we’re mired in debt up to our ass, our kids are intellectually lagging behind China and India’s kids, and we’re more concerned about keeping up with the big booty bitches, is because hardly anybody listens to their head anymore.  In fact for most people the head is on life support right now, atrophied by years of neglect.  We’d all much rather talk about the douche-bags on Jersey Shore than keep an eye on what Congress is doing to fuck up the health care bill.  But then again, isn’t Diesel one of those douche-bag brands anyway?  Almost as bad as that Ed Hardy shit.w

And I’m going to be honest – Obama got some of you by the heart.  That’s the God-honest truth, and it’s a fucking shame.  Those who considered him the Messiah now realize that he can’t fix everything that is wrong with our country.  His administration is in dire need of a swift collective kick to the nuts.   For those of us who voted with our head, we saw it coming.  We just didn’t think he’d be THIS ineffective.

Listening to Glenn Beck saying that social justice is a bad thing, is to listen to the heart and give in to its worst instincts.  Check this out:

God I hate that man.  I hate him because he knows just what to do to turn people into the worst they can possibly be.  Hell, I don’t even have to agree with him to be a worse person just for listening to him; see the reaction he’s getting out of me?

So you have it, that values that were once universally applauded (such as social justice) and those that have been rightfully scorned ( stupidity) are now switching places.   All it takes is somebody with enough gall, someone with virtually no conscience to speak of, to stand up and say something like “social justice is bad”.  The obvious implication is that all you need is somebody equally vile to start speaking in favor of INjustice.

Enter Ayn Rand.

There is Ayn Rand’s way of looking at the world: cold, uncaring, and real.  Ostensibly, Ayn Rand’s entire philosophy of objectivism is about thinking with the head, and not the heart.  I too, believe in trying to look at things objectively (believe it or not.  I think that we’re so far to the right in this country that we NEED a bit of populist socialism just to move it to the true center).   Ultimately, I believe her books are nothing more than apologetics for egotism and selfishness.  I don’t see how looking at the world through clear lenses equates to being a dick.

OK, so perhaps it does come down to a happy medium between smarts and stupid.  I’m just saying though…let’s step the smarts game up, people.

The 50th Law: a Book Review

Today it’s 6:30 in the morning, west coast time, and I’ve been back from the hospital for a little over 1 hour.  My father had his rosary and was reciting Hail Marys; my inconsolable mother waited anxiously for good news from the doctors; my 36 year old uncle sat shell-shocked, no doubt wondering if this was the day he would lose his father, so soon after having lost his mother, too.  I had a copy of The 50th Law in my pocket when I went into the waiting room and I sat there reading it for hours on end.  I’ve already read this book cover to cover twice; I think it will take a while before I can internalize the very valuable lessons in this book.  I could certainly use them now; particularly chapter 10…

In high school, I made an appointment to see a counselor.  Sensing a profound lack of self-esteem in me, she forced me to write down a list of 5 positive things about myself.  I struggled for 5 minutes thinking of a single answer.  It’s not that I was being modest, or even that I didn’t know.  I knew I had one positive trait, but it’s one that I didn’t want to admit.  I didn’t want to admit that the only good thing I had going for me was my intelligence.  I didn’t want to be a nerd, and all that it implied.

Fear has been my biggest obstacle ever since I can remember.  For me it was the fear of failure.  Not the everyday “I might fall on my face and look like a fool” fear.  I’m talking complete and utter failure as a human being.  Because of an inability to relate to kids my own age, I never developed the kind of social awareness that even the least popular kids seemed to possess.  On the home front I was pressured into getting good grades and not even think about socializing – school was for learning, not for friends.  Because of my lack of social skills growing up I just knew – as a kid – that I would somehow end up homeless and alone.  I just KNEW it.  As a KID.  From that I developed an intense fear of growing up that only stunted my social progress further and made me suffer the lasting consequences to this day.  I scored excellent grades in elementary school but by the time high school came around I hovered in the mid 2.0s.  Suddenly I didn’t even consider myself smart – I was a socially awkward nerd, only without the perks of being smart enough to fund a high-tech start-up that would at least make me insanely rich.

Sure enough, I developed a pattern of fatalistic thinking that still plagues me to this day.  The thing about fearful and negative thinking is the way in which it reinforces itself; little did I know then that I had the power to shape my own reality all along and that I had instead been using that power to sabotage my own success.  The 50th Law confronts the fear that hold us back. It is applied psychology for the fearful mind, disguised as self-help, only it never condescends or treats you with kid gloves.  It has profoundly affected the way I look at my own life.  I was surprised to learn the many ways in which fear manifests itself – I didn’t know I could fear being bored!  But when Robert Greene breaks it down, it makes perfect sense. I now know that the yellow lens of fear is and has always been the most paralyzing force in my life and sadly, in the lives of countless others. This is the book I wish I got for my high school graduation.  Maybe earlier.

Don’t let the fact that 50 Cent gets top billing on the cover fool you into believing that this book was written by some illiterate hoodlum with shiny teeth.  You would be grossly underestimating 50 Cent, a mistake that countless others have made in the past, to their own detriment – just ask Ja Rule.  If you don’t know who Ja Rule is, that’s exactly the point.  The book uses the story of 50 Cent – née Curtis Jackson – to illustrate the lessons in each chapter of the book.  They are lessons that Fiddy had to learn the hard way as a hustler on the street, the tools and tactics he used to make it out alive and rise to the top of the music industry and beyond.  Just like fear manifests itself in many ways, so too does fearlessness.  It manifests itself in 50’s business savvy, his leadership qualities, and even his ability to stage beefs.  In many ways 50 Cent is the idea of “Makaveli” taken to its logical philosophical conclusion – not the passion-driven, at times hedonistic, thug poet embodied by Tupac Shakur, but rather the shrewd, cold and calculating mastermind like the man who inspired him – Niccolo Machiavelli.  If he hadn’t been murdered, Tupac might have become 50 Cent.  Or maybe he always was.

But this isn’t really 50’s book.  This is a Robert Greene book all the way, from the anecdotal stories of historical figures and power players past and present such as 50 Cent, to the neat authoritative analysis of the lessons derived from each story.  With the 50th Law, Greene has identified the key human characteristic on which his other books depend on for their success – the 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction, and The 33 Strategies of War – and that element is fearlessness.  The 50th Law is not a companion to these books; it is the spinal cord, the very essence of all his works to date.  For without fearlessness, you can never really apply the laws of power, seduce the fair maiden, or confront your enemies.

This book may challenge deeply held views for many.  For me it was Chapter 5, which raises questions about morality and “reaping the wages of humility”. Jesus’ idea of humility on Earth in exchange for inheriting the kingdom of Heaven always felt right to me, a righteous fulfillment of karma.  I’m not even a religious church-goer, but I always gave Jesus credit for his un-worldly wisdom; Robert Greene’s books, on the other hand, are decidedly “worldly” (Ironic how even the book is designed to look like a Bible, from the leathery cover down to the last gold-trimmed page). I’ve tried to mesh the two world views into a new paradigm that I could feel comfortable with, but I just can’t do it.  Greene’s books at times promote the use of “badness” for our own ends is the antithesis of everything Jesus talked about.  Greene argues that all of us – especially the moralizers – have flexible morals anyway.  Jesus never said we were going to be perfect, but weren’t we at least supposed to TRY?  After 8 years of Bush/Cheney in the White House, certainly the last thing I want to do is embrace the kind of selfish ideals that led to the suffering of others halfway around the world.  I read language like, “push people out of position to get our way” and I think, “what ever happened to ‘turn the other cheek?” I read words like “taking on those who stand against your interests” and remember Condi Rice talking about “protecting our interests in Iraq”; I always knew that was code for “slaughtering civilians for oil and military contracts”.  But Greene preempts my bleeding heart liberal response by making examples of FDR and Abraham Lincoln; one lifted the US out of the Great Depression by crushing his political foes and the other ended slavery and maintained the Union by baiting the Southerners into a fight.  I was even surprised to learn that Machiavelli, raised a Christian, went through the exact same thing!  So maybe the ends can justify the means.  Sometimes.

Perhaps my beliefs are based on a lack of self-esteem, but I’d hate to believe that humility and peace are nothing more than a reflection of fear.  And yet, I can’t deny that much of what has held me back in life has been fear.  I know because I’ve been able to see the same qualities it in so many others ever since reading this book.  I see it in my grandfather, who just suffered a heart attack brought on by years of alcohol abuse.  My grandfather lived with the spectre of fear for most of his life.  A deeply sensitive man raised on the streets of Mexico in dire poverty, he turned to many vices to drown the pain, not the least of which was alcohol, which have brought him no shortage of self-pity, regret, and poor health in his old age.  He could have used this book more than anybody I know.  Well, almost anybody; his son, my uncle, suffers from a potent lack of self-worth, no doubt caused by not having had a positive father figure he could look up to.  I only wish they had learned to conquer their fears when they were coming of age. I hope I can still conquer mine.

The World on ‘Ignore’

I have a cell phone that I keep for keeping in touch, and I never have it on me.  It’s bulky and takes up valuable pocket space.  This is the reason I usually never pick up your calls; I don’t have you on ignore or anything.  I do pick up my phone at the end of the day to find 5 missed calls from all sorts of people.  I have myspace, a twitter, and facebook accounts, none of which I use regularly – but apparently when I do, I drop gems.  My boy Ian told me that I rarely ever pop up but when I do, it’s like Jesus preaching the Gospels himself.  I don’t know if I’d dare compare myself to the good Lord.  Maybe L. Ron Hubbard.

And speaking of Jesus, my boy Joaquin called me up today and it was probably just to say hi.  I consider Joaquin one of the most down to earth homies on the planet, one of only a handful of non-phony Born-Again Christians that I know of and one of even fewer people that I’m proud to call my friend.  But the last time he called, he mentioned the fact that he’s always the one calling, and I made a point of remembering to hollar back at him soon – and wouldn’t you know, he called me first.  Again.

It was then I realized that I really, really suck at keeping in touch with people.

It’s not intentional.  As a kid, I didn’t know how to relate to the others; over time it led me to develop a more detached personality.  One notable exception to this was high school; during high school I found people who shared some of my interests, and because of that I was able to confidently express myself in front of them.   Nowadays I rarely ever see even 1/5th of my friends in high school; I can easily go months on end without hearing a word from them or calling them up.  I understand that most people pick up the phone and call their friends out of the blue to do things, or just to say hi. I don’t.  It’s not that I’m purposefully trying to ignore them; it simply doesn’t occur to me to do it.  I tend to believe that people have their own lives to attend to and that the friend roster is “full” for most people.  I don’t speak unless spoken to; in fact, everybody I’ve ever met was through someone else.  I seem to be able to go for days without coming in contact with a single human being.  It’ll come in handy when I end up living alone, without a wife and kids.  Perhaps I’m just prepping myself for that day.

Human interaction has always been a mystery to me.  I remember being younger and seeing couples out at a park.  One moment they would be held in embrace, smiling, kissing and looking into each other’s eyes; sometimes, without taking their eyes off each other, the girl would then whisper something to the guy, and then he’d say something, and then both would just laugh like bubbly idiots as they looked into each others eyes and kissed.  I’ve always wanted to know: what were they saying? Personally I’m still baffled at what guys are supposed to say to a woman when they approach her, and I’ m not counting corny pick-up lines either.  I also doubt very much that the answer is as simple as “hi”; what’s the follow up to such a weak opener?  What do people gathered in groups at social functions talk about, and how do they manage to avoid the awkward silences that seem to plague my attempts at “mingling”?

When people talk to me, I have a feeling they see me as simple and uncomplicated.   I avoid emotional minutiae like most people avoid technical minutiae.  I don’t particularly care about the mundane details of every day life; maybe that’s why I naturally gravitate towards fantasy.   Nerds, I find, are fascinated with technical trivialities, but even when the topic is something I’m interested in I could not stand more than 5 minutes of conversation with some of them.  I can’t recite 20 years worth of Simpsons quotes; I don’t care about the extended Star Wars universe.  I’m somewhat peeved that George Lucas digitally inserted Hayden Christensen’s head onto the astral form of the deceased Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi, but I’m far more interested in what it means in terms of the limits of authorship and whether the public even has a say in the matter.  Just like Star Wars technicalities leave me bored, so does the everyday banality of small talk and gossip.  What somebody said to somebody else and how they feel about it doesn’t really catch my attention.  Just reading that last sentence to myself made my eyes roll.  Naturally, I’m out of place at any social gathering where people stand around with wine glasses and talk; what are they talking about?

What does it mean to keep in touch?  Why would anyone call anybody else out of the blue; at any moment there are dozens of people you could be talking to right now – who would you choose, and why?  The question only gets harder the more time passes by until so much time passes that one day you decide that just sending them a Facebook comment would be really, REALLY awkward.

Perhaps those you do choose to keep in contact with are those worthy enough to be called friends.  Perhaps I don’t really have any friends.  Or maybe I’m not appreciating my friends as much as I should.  I guess the only way to know for sure is to make a better effort at it.  I’ll try harder.  But if I don’t take your call, chances are it’s nothing personal.  Keep trying until I get the message.  Better yet, just leave a message telling me I’m being a douche again.  That should do it.

Olbermann’s Powerful Appeal for Health Care Reform

A special episode long comment.  No need for words;  just watch the clips.

A Lifelong Bromance with Books

Levar Burton started it all. I remember being in second grade when Reading Rainbow would come on. That theme song alone just made it so appealing to read; it made books sound like these amazing mystical things that would transport you to another dimension. I discovered dinosaurs through books, and how could any second grader resist dinosaurs? Later on Jerry Spinelli would really ignite my bromance with books with a book called Maniac Magee. But if any one person had the biggest influence on me, it was my dad. On weekends he would seen my sisters and I to the thrift store to find anything of value, and he always sent us to the book aisles to pick out what we wanted. I started my book collection with books by Michael Crichton, who gave us Jurassic Park – again with the dinosaurs!

But from Crichton on I discovered better authors and books that I thought I would never read. John Grisham kept me company in 8th grade; later I discovered Stephen King and then I found that dead authors wrote some of the best books in the universe – my favorites being Cervantes, Dostoyevsky, and Tolstoy. I began going on these thrift store raids myself and wandered the aisles of the many used book stores in my city looking for everything that stood out to me. I can easily drop 5 bucks for a stack of books as tall as a five year old. You know how some people will wait for a movie to come out on DVD? I wait for books to come out on Salvation Army.

I’m 25 years old now and basically live in a library, books just occupying as much shelf space on my entire wall and spilling onto the floor in stacks. To think that there are people who have collected even more books than I have just astounds me. I don’t even think I will outlive the books that I’ve amassed throughout the years so I tend to be very picky about what I buy. I did the math – human beings on average have only hundreds of thousands of hours to live on this planet. I figure that to get my money’s worth from the things that I purchase, I better enjoy them as much as I possibly can. I don’t but a Playstation 3 because I have books in my room I haven’t even opened yet, DVDs I’ve only seen twice, music I’ve listened to once. While I do play video games, I’ll only play at a friend’s house or online when I don’t really feel like reading. But for me,actually investing in a gaming system would be pointless. Can you imagine the amount of time I would have to spend on a PS3, mastering all the video games available, to get my money’s worth? Now, maybe if I lived a couple hundred years I might gives video games a shot. I think people have to pick and choose their interests; mine were pretty much chosen a long time ago.

The Signs

One of the saddest days in my life started with the Land Before Time.

This movie hold a certain power over me that I’ve never been able to explain, in that I can’t explain how as a 25 year old guy it still makes me cry.   I first watched it when I was a kid; since it was about dinosaurs it was pretty much mandatory for me.   It starts off all warm and fuzzy and fun.  A kid’s movie.  Before the half hour mark, however, Littlefoot the little “long-neck” on whom the story is centered, tragically loses his mother in a battle against T-Rexes and earthquakes and poor, hungry Littlefoot is forced to embark on a long perilous journey in search of the heavenly Great Valley.   It makes me tear up because even as a kid I understood what that movie was telling me about my own mortality – more specifically, my mother’s mortality.  It’s the day I dread even more than my own death and that movie always reminds me that it could happen to my own frail mother at any day, any time, every time I watch it.  What really gets me is the music by James Horner and that damned Diana Ross song at the end.  That music and that movie always makes me feel…alone.   This Sunday morning I watched it again; I shed the first of many tears that day, and for almost the same exact reason.   Just 8 hours later, my grandmother would pass away.

The night before the hospital visit, I was told to pray for my grandmother.  As an agnostic, I refused to give in to the power of self suggestion during a time of vulnerability.  I should say “weak agnostic”, because although I didn’t pray to God, I was definitely in my bed talking to someone and hoping that someone was listening.  I asked for a miracle to prove that He was real.  I reasoned with Him;  what better way to prove to me that he is real than by making my grandmother well?  That would make me believe.  Not that I haven’t had my share of strange experiences; said experiences made me an agnostic instead of an atheist.

The first happened in Mexico as a kid and I was playing with one of the neighborhood stray pups – Mexico’s streets are overrun with strays.  I was so stupid I played with one of the dogs – this tiny, newborn pup – like a bean bag.  Literally.  I tossed it in the air to catch it a few times until I eventually fumbled and let it fall.  When one of my cousins picked him up, its body was limp, eyes were rolled back and its tongue was sticking out.  It let out a long, pitiful, continuous noise, the kind a kid makes when he’s been stabbed with an imaginary sword.  Horrified at the idea that this dog was going to die because of me, I went into a quiet corner in the house and prayed.  And I mean PRAYED.  I damn near poured my guts out.  I begged God to save this dog.   I even went as far as telling God to save it even if it meant taking years off my life.  I felt that awful that I was literally telling God to trade my life for the dog’s.   When I was done wiping away my eyes I mustered the courage to see the dog.  The last thing I expected to see was a healthy, scrappy, tiny little bean bag of a puppy running around as if he hadn’t just been dropped on his head.  But that’s what I saw.  I guess of course that means that I’m gonna go out in a freak skydiving accident at the age of 60.

The second sign was and encounter with a car full of thugs that would have ended in my own death.  I had just finished watching a pay per view at my boy Ray’s house and I was heading home with my other homie Kin.  Back in the day he was in the habit of wearing blue bandanas around.  I learned a while back to avoid anything red or blue; now my favorite color is black.  We waited for the bus to arrive in a bad part of town, at a bad time to be at said part of town, but it was pretty much the same routine every week.  This time, however, a group of thugs driving by on the other side of the street rolled down their windows and yelled out, “where you from”?  Kin thought it was best to agitate the scary men in the car by being a smart ass and yelling out “SAN FRANCISCO!”.  Wanting to investigate further, they made a u-turn to park right in front of us and just as soon as they did, I see the car of Ray’s mom come from OUT OF NOWHERE and she swerves right in, landing right in the spot the first car would have had she not flown in like the fucking cavalry, just in the nick of time.  We hopped in and bailed.  Ray’s mom had never offered us a ride home.  Not before then.  Not afterwards.  Just that one time.  Just in time.

The third, which happened first in the actual sequence of things but I felt worked best for last; it’s easily the least believable one and it doesn’t even involve me directly.  My mom sometimes tells a story of how she once heard singing coming from her room in the sweetest, most angelic voice she’d ever heard in her life.  When she went into the room she discovered my little sister looking out the window of our third story house, talking to herself.   My sister said she was talking to a voice – though she didn’t identify that voice as an angel.  Instead when asked to draw who she saw, she only drew a glowing orb.  Apparently, the voice had told her to take good care of me.  My sister doesn’t like it when the story is brought up, but I bet you a cent it’s the primary motivation behind her decision to go into health care.  Maybe she gets to be the one who prescribes me the happy pills.

Oh, and there’s this other totally weird moment when my dad cut a nasty gash in his finger making floral arrangements for a church, cupped some holy water to wash his finger, and later on could not find even the slightest hint of a cut – or even a scratch – anywhere on his hands.  That one really kinda did it for me.

Flash forward back to the UCSF hospital, where I wait in a room with possibly the largest assembly of Mexicans ever gathered during that hospital’s entire history (my grandmother had thirteen kids; I don’t even want one!).  The doctors come in to deliver the bad news and we realize right then and there that soon we’d lose a loved one.  My dad, a man I’d never seen cry, had tears in his eyes.  The sight of that alone made me lose my own composure.  But that’s all he had; tears.  My grandfather was the same way, just tears.  My grandfather, in fact, pretty much made the decision before everyone else that we should cut life support for my grandma and end her suffering.  That’s all he wanted.  When she died, both he and my dad were calm as I’d ever seen them, and that was saying something.  They were comforted in the knowledge that my grandmother was no longer suffering.  Much more comforting, however, was the belief that she was with God now.

When I was hit with a shock as sudden as this, I found that my rational mind began working overtime to suppress my emotions.  I questioned how they could be so…calm…about the idea of cutting her off from life support without exhausting every option and if it had anything to do with religion.  I wondered if they didn’t believe in God, would they be saying this?  In retrospect, it’s not a rational thing to believe at all.  My rational mind may have been pulling overtime, but it was slacking off on the job.  Maybe there really were no answers to all the pain.  At least, not any that I was willing to discuss with anybody.  The logical answer was put forth by a particular dickwad of a doctor who spoke to us in a tone best suited for a dog who just shitted on his carpet.  The logic was, there was nothing they could do to save my grandmother from the damage caused by her heart attack.   In addition to her heart she suffered from some sort of unknown stomach ailment that they think  was microbial (but they’re not sure).  This is adding more strain on her already weakened heart and the only reasonable choice was to pull the plug.  Actually, it was quite logical.  Stopping the life support was the right thing to do.  But it was also the moral thing to do.

Ever since I could remember, my mother had never gotten along with my aunts.  Let me rephrase that – she despised them.  The beef stemmed from some incident between one of my aunts and my mom that pit a few of my uncles against her, for reasons I don’t quite understand.  It was bad enough that I wouldn’t be allowed to see them; I met many cousins this day for the first time.  Another aunt had run afoul of my mom more recently, which only added to the beef between the families.  Much of this was the reason for which I rarely saw my grandmother.  I loved my grandmother, but I was almost as saddened by the fact that I’d been kept away from her all these years because of my mom’s issues with my dad’s family as I was about her death.  There was guilt, too.  I could have seen here more often myself. Today, however, I saw my mom and my aunts hug and cry in solidarity; today they had made peace with each other, after damn near 25 years of mutual distrust and disrespect.  This couldn’t be the miracle.  It just couldn’t be.  I held out for something better.  I needed a definite sign that everything I’d just seen was God’s work.  I needed to see that dad was right and that my grandmother was in a better place.  I was determined to get my sign from God.  I didn’t expect the signs to come so soon.

She didn’t die right away; it took hours, more than enough time for everybody in my enormous family to get their chance to see her and say good bye.  Most of the time she drifted in and out of consciousness as she was administered painkillers for her stomach problems and weaned off the life support systems.  I held out a sliver of hope that my miracle would happen.  I watched the monitor next to her bed for heart signals, checking the numbers every now and then.  Every time the damned thing made a beep, I looked at it again.  Noticing the noise, the nurse came in to silence the intermittent beeping, which just made me more determined to look at the monitor.   She must have noticed because right after fiddling with the monitor some more she whispered to me something that stuck with me the rest of the night.  She said something along the lines of, “don’t look at the numbers.  Focus on her.”  If you’ve ever seen the end of the film “Pi”, you’ll be able to figure out the level at which that line changed my perspective.  My whole life up to that point has been the numbers, logic, the science, this quest for knowledge for its own sake and my insistence of reducing things as complex as humanity and even the soul itself to a quantum – instead of seeing the humanity in people and enjoying that instead.  It was about experiencing moments with people, moments that are unquantifiable by nature. “Don’t look at the numbers” made me see the folly in reducing humanity to numbers on a computer screen.  Mind you, those numbers keep other people alive.  They’re important, but they’re not the point.  Don’t focus on the numbers.  Focus on the people.

So I did.  I cried with my uncles and for them.  I felt their pain.  I felt most of all for my dad.  During her final moments, my grandmother looked up at us and around us, struggling to open her eyes, and shed thin tears.  She knew her children were all there, and that she was loved.

The night before, one of my aunts said she had heard my grandmother taking to children.  This may be meaningless to most people, except that right before my other grandmother passed away 6 years ago, she was also seen talking to children who weren’t there; she’d identified them as her grandparents.  Both of them had the same visions; both could be attributed to hallucinations of a brain on sedatives and gasping for air.   Sure, they saw the same thing…but that had to have been coincidence.

My mom recalls that during the funeral of a close friend, a moth flew into her lap.  My sister recalls asking for a sign that my other grandmother was in heaven; yep, a moth.  And surely enough, just as we entered the hospital lobby elevator to the parking garage I saw this enormous moth fluttering about a fluorescent light, right above me.  On the way home I asked my family, “why a moth”?  That was the only part of it that didn’t make sense.   And you know what else?  It just occurred to me right now; they’re “going towards the light”.

When I saw that moth, I smiled.  I laughed to myself.  I always figured God had a sense of irony.

Miracles happen; however they are usually small by our standards and many go unnoticed by us simply because we don’t acknowledge that they are extraordinary.  Many miracles can be explained scientifically.  Any miracle, really, can be scientifically written off, provided we know enough about God and the physics of existence to come to the logical conclusion.  But I believe – emphasis on “believe” – that the fact that we are beings capable of philosophy a miracle in and of itself.  Does out intelligence have a scientific basis?  Of course it does.  We evolved.  Our brains are an organ that gave us an advantage over other animals and we just developed this  brain over a thousand generations until one day it became powerful enough to become aware of itself in relation to the universe.  It developed the ability to see the universe not literally, but abstractly.  It enabled us the ability to know, as well as to believe.

My grandmother’s death was a bittersweet reprieve from physical suffering.  We pray to God to keep our loved ones alive, even though they may want nothing more than to die with dignity.  What about what she would have wanted?  I’d like to think she’s better off now that she is free from pain, rather than shackled to it.  Furthermore, I believe that instead of the miracle I was asking for, the course of events leading up to and after hear death revealed the hand of God more than a miraculous recovery ever would.  Had she lived, had God granted me my wish, would I have believed it to be His doing?  Or, would I have attributed her recovery to the hard working doctors of UCSF?  It was the unexpected signs that let me know He was there.  The signs that followed so soon after her death have no explanation other than coincidence.   But “coincidence” is the numbers talking; what does the human element feel?  I believe that when you can see that human element, you will see miracles.  Or, to borrow a quote:

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” – Matthew 5:8

It is only now that it all starts to make perfect sense somehow.

In memory of Zenaida Rodriguez AND Mama Reme…mis abuelitas.

Remembering Steve Rogers

Cap was always one of the more noble characters in the Marvel Universe. He was the All-American patriot: apple pie, baseball, liberty, Norman Rockwell’s Thanksgiving Dinner, World War II, and most importantly, the true meaning of freedom. Of all those things, only the last one remains relevant. Steve Rogers personified that idea as Captain America: the Sentinel of Liberty.

Steve Rogers fought the NAZIs in World War II; he fought for America. Then, he was frozen in a sheet of ice and woken up some 60 years later to a culture shock that would severely put into perspective all that he has believed about this country and about himself. Without the luxury of at least a decade’s time in which to absorb the march of progressive change, Steve Rogers had a lot of soul searching ahead of him. What would a man born some time in the 1920’s have thought about gay marriage? African-American suffrage? Abortion? The War in Iraq? The war in Vietnam? MTV? A culture of consumption and commercial excess devoid of intellect and critical thought? After all that had changed, did he believe our America was still worth donning a pair of blue tights over?

Fuck yeah.

Above all else, Steve Rogers was an idealist. For years during World War II he had fought for freedom, but for whom? America? His idea of America was limited to the straight, white, Protestant faces living in Pleasantville with the white picket fence and the shiny new Ford parked right outside. Eventually, however, his motivation would transcend geography and his previously narrow-minded vision of an America that never existed; borders change – people change. But ideas remain the same. His own idealism about freedom would make him come to realize that the notion of “fighting for one’s country” is second only to the noble principles this country is supposed to stand for. His notion of America would come to be inclusive of blacks, migrant workers, homosexuals, Muslims, Atheists, hippies, and single unwed mothers and yet he didn’t even see us in terms of the divisive labels we’ve come to place upon ourselves because his idealism would also open his eyes to our common humanity. Sharing a common humanity he was stripped of all prejudice; only a fierce passion for human rights remained. All that remained was his belief that ALL people are endowed with certain inalienable rights: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Life – He did his superhero thing, stomping ass all over the Red Skull’s henchmen, slapping the shit out of Baron Zemo, kicking Doctor Doom in the nuts.

Liberty – Perhaps no other chapter in his life more clearly defined what Captain America stood for than when he had to stand up to other heroes, former allies turned bitter enemies, to defend liberty. No other chapter demonstrated his principles than when the United States government forced him to stand trial for defending the very ideals America was supposed to stand for. Others may have sacrificed liberty in exchange for the illusion of security, but not Cap. I’d also like to think that he resented the way the word “freedom” was thrown around by neo-cons who only used that word in the economic sense, as if free trade was the same thing as liberty. Steve Rogers was a noble hero; he wouldn’t have bought the idea of selling out our country to corporate interests to line their pockets. He was Ralph Nader-ly that way – uncompromising in his ideals to the point of seeming archaic and irrelevant. But he never lost his conviction. His dedication to the promise of freedom cost him his very life.

The Pursuit of Happiness: In trying to come to grips with the way his country has changed and the way it is being run to the ground, he tried to find personal happiness by learning, slowly, to separate his job from his life – a task that was far easier said than done for somebody so zealous about his country.

What is a world without Captain America like? Only hard core comic book geeks will be pondering that question. Everyone else need only look around. WE don’t have a Captain America. We have prejudice, poverty, cynicism, apathy, despair, intellectual bankruptcy, ignorance, and fear. Sure it’d be nice to have a Captain America around to solve our problems but the truth is we have to be our own Cap. Can we learn to overcome prejudice and embrace new idea, new cultures, a new world – even fight for it? Can we recognize injustice and speak out against it – even if we’re the ones responsible? Can we transcend mere nationalism and embrace the greater idea of liberty for all? Captain America may have been just a fictional comic book character. He may have started out as propaganda, but by the end of his “life” he became a more complex character, making readers re-evaluate what freedom truly means. He personified the virtues of humanism (life, liberty, etc.) and the conviction to stand up for it. Aren’t those ideas just as real?

I WISH this were a joke.


“I’ve been in the entertainment industry since I was six-years-old… As Charles Dickens says, ‘It’s been the best of times, the worst of times.’ But I would not change my career… While some have made deliberate attempts to hurt me, I take it in stride because I have a loving family, a strong faith and wonderful friends and fans who have, and continue, to support me”.

Michael Jackson,0,2152435.story

Pop star Michael Jackson was pronounced dead today after paramedics found him in a coma at his Bel-Air mansion, city and law enforcement sources told The Times.

Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Steve Ruda told The Times that paramedics responded to a 911 call from the home. When they arrived, Jackson was not breathing. The paramedics performed CPR and took him to UCLA Medical Center, Ruda said

Hundreds of reporters gathered at the hospital awaiting word on his condition. The sources, who spoke on the condition that they not be named, said family members rushed to Jackson’s bedside, where he was in a deep coma…

…Jackson has three children — sons Prince Michael 7, and Michael Joseph Jackson Jr., 12, and daughter Paris Michael Katherine, 11.

The news comes as Jackson, 50, was attempting a comeback after years of tabloid headlines, most notably his trial and acquittal on child molestation charges.

The death of the King of Pop is yet another reminder of just how fleeting life really is. He was in his 20s when I was born; Michael Jackson had been one of many constants in my life.  By that I mean he’d always been a fixture in my world, one that has just “always been there”, like the moon.  As time passes by, these constants are beginning to disappear, one by one; I know that the most painful departures in my life are yet to come.

The news of his death itself was conflicting. Jesus. So many conflicting emotions about a man I don’t know. On one hand, he was the greatest entertainer this world had ever seen. On the other hand, he was probably a child molester. The man was weird, eccentric, Peter-Panish. But he was the fucking King of Pop. I was just talking about him last night, too. My uncle and I agreed – nobody could touch his skills as a dancer. The man was untouchable. He was the Moonwalker.

He was the Thriller.

He was denied his childhood, then spent most of his adult life trying to make up for it. Let’s face it – EVERYBODY talked about him, myself included.  He had his issues and only God knows the truth.  Now all that’s left to say is that his is a fascinating, complex, and tragic story. If there’s a better place after death, then he’s finally found some hard earned rest.  Long live King Michael.

INTP to a T

(I actually took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test at school and this was the result. I went to so some research, and I have to agree with the test’s assessment. I think people who really know me will agree, too.  And those that don’t, this may help explain why, and in any case, now you know…)

The following is taken from

The Thinker

As an INTP, your primary mode of living is focused internally, where you deal with things rationally and logically. Your secondary mode is external, where you take things in primarily via your intuition.

INTPs live in the world of theoretical possibilities. They see everything in terms of how it could be improved, or what it could be turned into. They live primarily inside their own minds, having the ability to analyze difficult problems, identify patterns, and come up with logical explanations.

They seek clarity in everything, and are therefore driven to build knowledge. They are the “absent-minded professors”, who highly value intelligence and the ability to apply logic to theories to find solutions. They typically are so strongly driven to turn problems into logical explanations, that they live much of their lives within their own heads, and may not place as much importance or value on the external world. Their natural drive to turn theories into concrete understanding may turn into a feeling of personal responsibility to solve theoretical problems, and help society move towards a higher understanding.

INTPs value knowledge above all else. Their minds are constantly working to generate new theories, or to prove or disprove existing theories. They approach problems and theories with enthusiasm and skepticism, ignoring
existing rules and opinions and defining their own approach to the resolution. They seek patterns and logical explanations for anything that interests them. They’re usually extremely bright, and able to be objectively critical in their analysis.  They love new ideas, and become very excited over abstractions and theories. They love to discuss these concepts with others. They may seem “dreamy” and distant to others, because they spend a lot of time inside their minds musing over theories. They hate to work on routine things – they would much prefer to build complex theoretical solutions, and leave the implementation of the system to others. They are intensely interested in theory, and will put forth tremendous amounts of time and energy into finding a solution to a problem with has piqued their interest.

INTPs do not like to lead or control people. They’re very tolerant and flexible in most situations, unless one of their firmly held beliefs has been violated or challenged, in which case they may take a very rigid stance.  The INTP is likely to be very shy when it comes to meeting new people. On the other hand, the INTP is very self-confident and gregarious around people they know well, or when discussing theories which they fully understand.

The INTP has no understanding or value for decisions made on the basis of personal subjectivity or feelings. They strive constantly to achieve logical conclusions to problems, and don’t understand the importance or relevance of applying subjective emotional considerations to decisions. For this reason, INTPs are usually not in-tune with how people are feeling, and are not naturally well-equiped to meet the emotional needs of others.

The INTP may have a problem with self-aggrandizement and social rebellion, which will interfere with their creative potential. Since their Feeling side is their least developed trait, the INTP may have difficulty giving the warmth and support that is sometimes necessary in intimate relationships. If the INTP doesn’t realize the value of attending to other people’s feelings, he or she may become overly critical and sarcastic with others. If the INTP is not able to find a place for themself which supports the use of their strongest abilities, they may become generally negative and cynical. If the INTP has not developed their Sensing side sufficiently, they may become unaware of their environment, and exhibit weakness in performing maintenance-type tasks, such as bill-paying and dressing appropriately.

For the INTP, it is extremely important that ideas and facts are expressed correctly and succinctly. They are likely to express themselves in what they believe to be absolute truths.  Sometimes, their well thought-out understanding of an idea is not easily understandable by others, but the INTP is not naturally likely to tailor the truth so as to explain
it in an understandable way to others.  The INTP may be prone to abandoning a project once they have figured it out,
moving on to the next thing.  It’s important that the INTP place importance on expressing their developed theories in understandable ways.  In the end, an amazing discovery means nothing if you are the only person who understands it.

The INTP is usually very independent, unconventional, and original. They are not likely to place much value on traditional goals such as popularity and security. They usually have complex characters, and may tend to be restless and temperamental. They are strongly ingenious, and have unconventional thought patterns which allows them to analyze ideas in new ways. Consequently, a lot of scientific breakthroughs in the world have been made by the INTP.

The INTP is at his best when he can work on his theories independently.  When given an environment which supports his creative genius and possible eccentricity, the INTP can accomplish truly remarkable things.  These are the pioneers of new thoughts in our society.

Jungian functional preference ordering:

Dominant: Introverted Thinking

Auxiliary: Extraverted Intuition

Tertiary: Introverted Sensing

Inferior: Extraverted Feeling


INTP types are quiet, thoughtful, analytical individuals who don’t mind spending long periods of time on their own, working through problems and forming solutions. They are very curious about systems and how things work, and are frequently found in careers such as science, architecture and law.  INTPs tend to be less at ease in social situations and the “caring professions,” although they enjoy the company of those who share their interests. They also tend to be impatient with the bureaucracy, rigid hierarchies, and politics prevalent in many professions, preferring to work informally with others as equals.

INTPs organize their understanding of any topic by articulating principles, and they are especially drawn to theoretical constructs. Having articulated these principles for themselves, they can demonstrate remarkable skill in explaining complex ideas to others in simple terms, especially in writing. On the other hand, their ability to grasp complexity may also lead them to provide overly detailed explanations of “simple” ideas, and listeners may judge that the INTP makes things more difficult than they are. This to the INTP, however, is incomprehensible: They are merely presenting all of the information.

INTPs’ extraverted intuition often gives them a quick wit, especially with language, and they can defuse the tension in gatherings by comical observations and references. They can be charming, even in their quiet reserve, and are sometimes surprised by the high esteem in which their friends and colleagues hold them.

When INTPs feel insulted, however, they may respond with sudden and crushing criticism. After such an incident, INTPs are likely to be as bewildered as the recipient. They have broken the rules of debate and exposed their raw emotions. This to an INTP is the crux of the problem: their emotions are to be dealt with in a logical manner. If improperly handled, they can only harm.

All my life I felt there was something…off about me.  As a kid I could never really identify with other kids my age.  Lord, how I tried.  I never understood their obsession with popularity; I only understood that I was supposed to somehow be it.   Having brand name shoes meant something to all the kids in elementary school, but I didn’t get why.  (I got along great with my teachers though; maybe that’s why I hold teachers with such high regard.)  I participated in sports at first because my parents made me and later because I felt it was required of me.  Later on in my life dating conventions would mystify me; the women I encountered were either equally puzzled, repelled, or drawn to the almost detached way I interacted with them. Most of the time they were repelled.

The entire time, however, I was always observing, taking mental notes, keeping what was useful and throwing away anything that didn’t serve my purpose.  I would (and still do) talk to myself on occasion to work out the theories in my head, always trying to fit everything into a larger puzzle.   Every interaction a little social experiment, every conversation a testing ground for my own ideas and for character probing.  This had been going on since my childhood and it hasn’t stopped.

But now after learning about my test and seeing just how much I fit the type, I’ve learned to approach my mind as a gift, not a cumbersome personality trait.  Like the comic book superheroes I read about occasionally as a kid and grew to appreciate more the older I got, I saw myself as a mutant, not quite a part of humanity and doubting in my ability to succeed in the world; in fact one of my biggest fears still is that I’ll somehow end up homeless and talking to the walls.   I’ve come to see my quirks as special “mutant abilities” that give me an edge over 99% of the populace (approximately 1% of Americans are INTPs).  One of the ways that the MBTI helps people is to help you realize your deficiencies and what you can do to “center” yourself; in my case, that would require I take up sky-diving, learn to dance, mingle, start listening to shitty reggaeton music, and take an interest in sports.  Bleh.  To do so, at least in my mind, would be to negate these powers I’ve been given; why be ordinary?

And yet, why leave oneself exposed by his own weaknesses?  Perhaps the easy way out is truly ordinary.  Everybody does it.  It’s all too comfortable for me to just slip into my role.  It’s the easy thing to do.  Life is like that, isn’t it?  Crime pays; it’s easier to steal than to earn; that glazed Krispy Kreme donut is sugared crack; vegetables suck; vengeance feels better than mercy.  The easy, the delicious, the gratifying…it’s all bad for you.  In contrast, my dad always said that it’s the hard things in life that are really worth doing.  The bible teaches that the road to heaven is narrow.  Vegetables are good for you, but hard to eat.  Waking up early takes discipline.  Growing up, expanding your horizons, eating right, getting organized, disciplined, becoming a centered human being…is all HARD.

It’s settled.  Tomorrow, I’ll listen to a Chingy album or some shit.   A song.

What?  Nobody listens to Chingy anymore?  This shit is going to be harder than I thought…

On Mingling…

With the end of the decade just a little over a year away, the US finds itself in a recession with no end in sight.  Today at the dinner table my dad brought up a computer programmer who works the evening shift at UPS.  My dad works at UPS as a driver because it’s the best career he could make for himself having arrived to the US from Mexico as an immigrant, starting from scratch, while having to find a way to raise a family.  He works there to provide medical for my mother.  That’s it.  And I’m proud of him for it.  Meanwhile, a guy who graduated from an American University with an advanced degree in computer programming…is in the exact same spot as a guy who never graduated college.  In other words, he might as well have dropped out for all the good his diploma did him.  Bill Gates never got his bachelor’s degree.

Speaking of Bill Gates, there’s a book out titled “Outliers: The True Story of Success” by a brilliant guy named Malcolm Gladwell.  I haven’t read his other books, but now I just have to.  In it he names Bill Gates an “Outlier”, a person who exists outside of normal experience.  In this context, it’s somebody who achieved phenomenal success not solely based on talent and hard work but, to put it simply, luck.  People like Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, even George W. Bush, are all considered Outliers.  Gladwell, however, goes on to define just what exactly that “luck” is – and it’s everything from having been born in the right century (apparently, if you wanted to be spectacularly wealthy the best time to have been born was between 1831 and 1840), the right family, and the right connections.  In Bill Gates’ case, it was showing up for 8th grade and having access to a computer terminal.  Guess how many 13 year olds had regular access to a computer terminal…in 1961.

I’ve always suspected that the Horatio Alger story was a myth.  I’m far too cynical to believe in something as cynical as that story, but I always held out hope that maybe – just MAYBE – I can achieve great success if I set my mind to it.  Gladwell busts out with statistic after statistic that just confirms my deepest fears about the unattainability of success.  He talks about a mathematical child prodigy with an IQ of 195, scored a perfect 1600 on the SATs, who ended up a horse farmer, while J. Robert Oppenheimer, a man with lesser mental abilities attains greater success in a similar field despite having attempted to poison one of his teachers.  Or, you could just look at Al Gore and George W. Bush to prove Gladwell’s hypothesis.  If you ask Gladwell, he’ll gather an account of all the factors that played into the outcome of that election: richer parents, Clinton’s blow job, a scattered left wing, a conservative Supreme Court.  He shits all over the Horatio Alger myth and lends credence to the idea that success it largely out of our control.

You might think that it’s all defeatist nonsense.  You know somebody, or ARE somebody, who’s achieved great things in your life by persevering and working hard and believing in yourself, etc.  Those cliches are all true.  But the point of the book is that even those qualities didn’t appear in a vacuum. Every external influence, tangible and intangible, that programmed you as a child to develop assertiveness, negotiation, and people skills made the difference.  It just so happens that lower class kids rarely get those influences.  It’s not just the average computer programmer with the inside man in the company that gets the job over the great programmer working the evening shift at UPS.  It’s the guy who absorbs the mental conditioning early on as a child who grows up to be somebody who’s intenalized the confidence and the soft skills needed to successfully move up in the business world.

Which brings us to one of the many skills that I never internalized, one of the most important lessons a child can learn that separates the successful careerperson from the grunt – the ability to mingle.  I think I can trace it back to the “Don’t Talk to Strangers” campaign of the 80’s.  In yet another thing to add to the list of things I blame Republicans for, I blame them for fostering a culture of fear and paranoia that told my generation that the world was a dangerous place and evil lurked in every corner.  Of course, when we were kids we associated the word “strangers” with shady grown men we didn’t know and who offered us candy if we’d hop in their hoopty.  Nevermind that kids take messages like “Don’t Talk to Strangers” so literally that one could conceivably talk to a kid just once to break the ice, then come around the next day with a bag of Reeces Pieces and he’d no longer be a “stranger”.  Bye bye, kid – hello, milk carton.  The other real problem with the message is that it nurtured a culture of isolationism, secrecy, paranoia; obviously, the effects are with us to this day.  Then again, the Cold War was more responsible for that than anything else.  On the other hand, the ideology is, broadly speaking, a conservative one.  Hence, I can still blame conservatives.  It’s almost childish at this point to do so, but then again, I was a child once and they were in power when I was coming of age, so there you have it.

But I digress – back to the real issue at hand.  Enough blaming others.  After all, that’s what I’ve been told to believe – stop blaming others, pick yourself up by your bootstraps, and take control of your destiny.  And I actually believe that.  I just haven’t internalized that belief.  That is to say, I don’t “really” believe that.  I believe that you’re “supposed” to believe that, so I try to live accordingly.  I just don’t “really” believe that.  Again…I’m far too cynical.  But I’ve come to the grudging realization that my career will NEVER catapult if I do not internalize those lessons quickly.  I’ve come to pinpoint one of my greatest weaknesses as my inability to meet new people.  To network.  Or, to use an infinitely more odious term, to “mingle”.

I hate the word “mingle”.  It sounds so bourgeoisie, so sadiddy. I’m not a “mingler”.  I “meet”, “hook up”, “chill”, “hollar”, “get together”, “get introduced”.  Fuck it, I’ll even attempt “networking”.  But I won’t “mingle”.  Mingling sounds like something artsy types sipping cheap champagne do at art gallery openings.  I should know, because I attended an art school that specialized in churning out artsy types sipping cheap champagne at art gallery openings.  And eating hummus.  Lots and lots of hummus.  But logically thinking it through, they’re just doing what comes naturally, and I’m over there feeling awkward about a crowd I don’t feel I belong in because I can’t bring myself to interact with them.  The solution seems simple enough – find another crowd.  But I actaully like the art scene and besides, it’s not the crowd.  I’d feel the same at any event where perfect strangers are expected to interact with each other.  I simply don’t know how to speak to others if I haven’t being spoken to.

Often times, introducing me or forcing me to meet new people does the trick.  In my design class my teachers force you to work with a new, random arrangement of partners for every project.  Because of that, I’ve met a lot of cool people and I get along great in that class.  I can let my personality shine through because I’m comfortable in that particular setting.  But in every other class I’ve taken this semester where I wasn’t forced to partner up with new people, I’m not exaggerating when I say that I rarely speak to anybody within a 2 foot radius.  It makes me come across as either an introvert or a jackass, and people who know me well will certainly tell you I’m no introvert…

So I know I have to learn this skill somehow, and yet every attempt has proven awkward (so…you like…stuff?) or it simply did not happen.  I’d like to be able to introduce myself to people and not rely on a wingman.  I don’t want to have to be introduced to people all the time; I want to be able to introduce myself.  But how does one just talk to somebody they don’t know?   Aside from the benefit of meeting new and interesting people, mingling/networking is also the only way to advance my career.  But how, exactly, does one do that?  Every time I get a call from some stranger who introduces themselves, asks me how my day is, and attemps to build some fake rapport with me, I immediately know they want something from me and I lodge another telemarketer complaint to the Do Not Call registry.  That’s how it feels like when I go out to network or when others approach me.  I’m looking for a sales pitch, an ulterior motive, where there may be none.  I’m aware that people might be thinking the exact same thing.  Or maybe it’s just that I have nothing to offer yet.  How do I sell myself when I have nothing to sell?  (Don’t listen to me, that’s just my perfectionism talking).  In times like these internalizing the confidence and ability to network is more urgent than ever before.  I’ll be damned if I end up working a night shift at UPS, or some other shitty, mundane job after all the sacrifices my parents have made for me to get an education – simply because I can’t meet new people.

Human interaction baffles me.  I swear when the Apocalypse comes, I’m just gonna rip my face off and reveal my true form to the world. You fucking humans are so silly.

And people wonder why I’ve lost faith in humanity…

Wal-Mart worker dies after shoppers knock him down

By COLLEEN LONG – 42 minutes ago

NEW YORK (AP) — A Wal-Mart worker was killed Friday after an “out of control” throng of shoppers eager for post-Thanksgiving bargains broke down the doors at a suburban store and knocked him to the ground, police said.

At least four other people, including a woman eight months pregnant, were taken to hospitals for observation or minor injuries, and the store in Valley Stream on Long Island closed for several hours before reopening…

…Kimberly Cribbs, who witnessed the stampede, said shoppers were acting like “savages.”

“When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling ‘I’ve been on line since yesterday morning,'” she said. “They kept shopping.”

Man at Wal-mart was killed by frenzied shoppers.  They kept shopping.

Just yesterday I spent Thanksgiving by myself wandering the streets. Just as soon as you think you’re going to spend a holiday without a hitch, someone always comes through with that bullshit and just fucks up the evening for everybody. It seems to happen each and every holiday or special occasion around my place, so I avoid them entirely. Interestingly enough, the shittiest, most drama queen special occasions always fall on Christian holidays or birthdays. Not even my sister’s graduation was immune to drama. Fuck the holidays, fuck your birthdays, fuck all of it. Yesterday was just another Thursday; today is just another Friday, and that Wal-Mart worker, just another casualty of our vile capitalist excess eating away at what’s left of the collective soul.

It’s gonna be a long, silly, cynical season. I can’t wait til it’s over.

Gee, he was just here a minute ago…

Whenever asked who my favorite comedian was, slots 2-5 would change intermittently depending on my mood at the time (Paul Mooney, Chris Rock, Bill Maher, George Lopez, etc.) but the 1 spot had always belonged to my nigga George Carlin. Like most people my age, I discovered him late in his career – when he bust out with some of his best work. I remember the George Carlin show back in the 90’s being the first time I watched him on TV. I must have been 10. I missed the first appearance of the 7 Words You Can Never Say on TV (Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker, Tits) but thanks to HBO, I got up to speed and now use them on a regular basis. He created that routine, among many, many others, to poke fun at America’s prudishness and tackle the scourge of political correctness. He inspired me to see past all our little euphemisms and to avoid bullshitting others, to tell it like it is. He taught us the importance of words; he could disect the little things we say and do that we take for granted, and point out just how ridiculous – or amazing – they really are. He was known for being a crotchedy old nihilistic misanthrope at times, but it was all love. In reality, he despised humanity’s “bullshit”, which included murder, genocide, war, rape, corruption, religion and other aspects of human civilization. George Carlin’s battle against our own bullshit is a mission he fought with humor; now he’s left it up to the rest of us to accomplish that mission

Good bye George. You’ll be sorely missed.

An Army of Uno

I’ve wizened up to the fact that our military exists as little more than hired muscle for capitalism around the world.  Someone gets out of pocket, nationalizes their oil, or decides that it no longer wants to be controlled by western corporations, our leaders call on the armed forces to straighten ’em out.  From the Native Americans to the Filipinos, Latin America to the Middle East, our military has a long and brutal history of securing “our interests” and “fighting for freedom”.  Is it any wonder that over half of all domestic spending is gobbled up by the Pentagon?  OVER.  HALF.  I understand that it’s not usually in the nature of military men to question their superiors; they merely follow orders. When your Commander in Chief, however, is part of a war-profiteering racket, that kind of trained obedience is both tragic and immoral.

Then you have your military recruiters, people whose job it is to con as many poor kids as possible to fight for a rich man’s right to set up shop in someone else’s backyard.  Some appeal to your jingoistic patriotism.  I definitely understand anyone who signs up for that reason.  There’s nothing wrong with wanting to defend home and country – I just wish people knew better.

The Bush administration is particularly notorious for sneaking in random provisions into their Orwellian laws. – the “No Child Left Behind Act”, for example, also allows military recruiters access to school records so they can call you up and set up an in-house con in person.  Some of these military recruiters will appeal to students.  They’ll throw around words like “job training” and “success”.  I’m sure there are a lot of medics and engineers who got an edge by flaunting their military experience, but for every case like that there’s probably 10 civilians who were chosen for their straight “A”s.

They then dangle the idea of paying for college in your face.  It’s particularly nauseating when you’re well aware that the kind of people who take the bait are very poor people – mostly blacks and Latinos.  How cynical it is to slash education spending and college grants while giving a bloated military billions of dollars to nudge a poor kid who, without that education or college grant, either has to choose between the military, or in all likelihood, prison.

As if targeting poor minorities weren’t enough, now they go after illegal immigrants, too. (BY THE WAY, PLEASE READ THIS ARTICLE.) They too are presented with a cruel and cynical choice: join the military and get first dibs on citizenship, or get deported.   The way immigrants have been scapegoated in this country is deplorable; the way they are being taken advantage of by the military, despicable.  It’s almost as if we set it up that way; pick on them, make it hard for these hard workers to earn a living, humiliate them, constantly demonize them on the news, then promise them a way to make it all disappear – and all you have to do is sign your life away on the dotted line.  PRESTO – Halliburton gets another foot soldier.

Notice the interesting trend here: they take away your education so the army can offer it to you.  They deny you the right to live and work so the army can “promise” you citizenship.  They keep you dumb and ignorant, fearful and nationalistic, so that you may feel compelled to fight for a hidden, unworthy cause.  When you control the options, you get others to play with the cards you deal.  So let’s all stop playing.  There is always another way.  I know because I almost fell victim to it, too. They threw the money angle at me and I couldn’t afford to go to college.  I was lucky enough to have parents who knew better, teachers who gave a damn, and scholarships.  For others who aren’t so lucky, far be it for me to suggest the path you should take, but I will say this: get informed.  For the time being, libraries are still free – do a lot of research.  Weigh the options and whether you believe it’s worth it to lose your freedom at best, and your soul at worst, to the military-industrial complex.  And for God’s sake, do your fucking homework.

Just in case you missed it:

Looking for the easiest job in the world?

Become a psychic, astrologer, horoscoper, tarot reader, palm reader, clairvoyant, chicken bone healer, or any variation thereof. I can think of no other career that pays for you to deliver absolutely jack shit in return; the only other easy job I can think of that pays well and requires very little effort on your part is a stripper, but even those dumb broads have to dance. All you have to do as a psychic is sit around throwing darts and pulling random shit out of your ass – and you get PAID for it! The other sorry fuck gets NOTHING out of you but a false sense of hope and shitty lottery numbers. The best part is your clients are all idiots because they keep coming back for more!

Imagine, not having to put in any real work and making thousands, if not millions, in return!  Starting tomorrow, I’m turning into this guy:

Walter Mercado

Walter Mercado

I got your “Guest Worker Program” right here, bitch.

While Bush is off trying to win the hearts and minds of Latin America (read: PR campaign to offset the growing influence of Hugo Chavez), he made a quick stop in Guatemala where he was greeted by the eternally grateful locals with rose petals and green palms as he rode in on his ass. Of course he couldn’t see where he was going because it’s hard to see with his head that far up his trusty steed. While in Guatemala the locals gave him a hard time about our government’s anti-immigrant efforts. Bush took a minute to espouse the virtues of the guest worker program and for some reason I found it necessary to drop-kick my TV.

The proposed guest worker program pretty much amounts to the continued exploitation of Mexican illegal immigrants in the form of below minimun wage pay (which makes corporations happy), while denying them actual citizenship for all their hard labor – and even giving them a boot after a few years (which makes white trash rednecks happy). As you can see, it satisfies both sides of the Republican constituency – big business and xenophobes.

Here’s a thought – how about you grant them ALL amnesty? Make them permanent residents so that they can actually feed their kids now, and not in the 9 years it will take for the fucking federal government to get around to their citizenship papers. Where’s the fucking humanity? A man has GOT to provide for his family somehow – more power to any man who loves his family so much that he’s willing to brave long, arduous periods of relentless walking; a merciless, scorching desert; and trigger-happy hillbillies with shotguns, just so he can provide for them, without the benefit of even seeing them when he finally comes home from work. This isn’t a crime, it’s a tragedy.

“But they’re breaking The Law!!!”

I love it when Republicans use this argument because the only thing that trumps a humanitarian perspective is an appeal to my utmost humble respect for law and order. It’s also a perfect argument because it conveniently side-steps their hidden (and, as is evident at any Minuteman rally, not so hidden) racism. It’s so cute how the same crooked assholes who got us involved in 2 illegal wars, widespread illegal wiretapping and surveillance in direct violation of constitutional law, Enron, pedophile congressmen, Tom Delay and that creepy trenchcoat guy with the fedora, still dare invoke “The Law” as a real argument. Nevermind that it was also once illegal to teach black people how to read, drink alcohol, or allow closet-Republicans the right to engage in kinky butt-play with their underage male interns in the privacy of their own bathhouses. I have a sinking feeling, however, that if all migrant workers were granted amnesty (thus making them “legal”), these pricks would still throw a fit.

Remember that movie “The Day After Tomorrow”? Remember what happens in the end after the entire US becomes a ski resort? Guess where Americans get to live as refugees for the next thousand years? Here’s a hint: it’s not Canada. How ironic, perhaps even fitting, is it that Americans find themselves illegally crossing the Rio Grande into Mexico so as to avoid falling victims to a humanitarian crisis back home? I guess what I’m getting at is that I can’t wait for a series of freak ice storms to turn the US into a barren, inhospitable wasteland of ice. Or something like that.

The best part of the movie.

The best part of the movie.

Five years later and THIS is what I have to say

I remember where I was when the planes struck the Twin Towers.  It was freshman year at CCA and I was late for class.  I arrived to school only to find that they closed everything – “America was under attack”, I was told.  I hopped on the bus and went home as soon as possible, just in time to see the second plane hit the Twin Towers.  Even then I framed everything in terms of a comic book – we had entered a place and time where one cleverly diabolical mastermind could cause such massive devastation in such a short period of time. There was a real life Magneto somewhere out there, only he wasn’t a two dimensional caricature with mutant powers.  He turned out to be a living, breathing human with a past, a twisted little mind, and a major following.

But that’s not how it would play out afterwards.  Long after I got used to the idea that Osama bin Laden had beef with us over our interventions in the Middle East, people were still seeing him as this cartoonish supervillain, a convenient enemy to point the finger at.  The biggest danger in dehumanizing your enemy is that you inevitably create the perfect conditions for fear, paranoia, and defeat.  In superhero comics, the reason a supervillain is so scary is because he is the embodiment of all that is evil – no further thought is required to know that he is the enemy, and your guy is “the hero”.  Dehumanizing people is what created Adolf Hitler in the first place – he turned Jews into villains and he turned himself into a hero.  When people lose sight of the humanity of others, they can become your greatest fear and someone to project your hatred on, or they can become a larger than life persona that will inevitably draw people to them, blindly and without question – the names Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden, and George W. Bush come to mind.

Yes, George W. Bush.  I don’t say this in the usual “Bush is Hitler” sense; I only compare the tactics each use in order to accumulate power for themselves.  Dehumanizing works both ways – to Muslim fundamentalists, Bush is Darth Vader and Osama bin Laden is the rebel Luke Skywalker.  To us, Bush is Captain America and Osama bin Laden is the evil Fu Manchu.  I admit I was one of the people drawn into Bush’s speeches to the nation because I fell for that simplistic generalization; all of a sudden, he became the nation’s “superhero” who would fight the forces of evil.  But like all illusions, it wore of quickly.  I was lucky to have access to alternative points of view and to be surrounded by people who encouraged me to be a critical thinker.  I resisted abosorbing everything like a sponge and I began to ask questions and probe deeper into the story rather than accept everything at face value.  Superhero comics work the same way; if you read an X-Men comic book and accept it at face value, you’re drawn into the story despite loopholes in logic, reason, and physics.  When you probe the same X-Men comic book, you see it for what it is – a silly story with exaggerated characters, nothing more than good old fashioned entertainment.  The difference between an X-Men cartoon and the real world, however, should be obvious to anybody with half a brain.  We shouldn’t read world events with an uncritical eye and assume everything is exactly the way they say it is.  Who is telling you the news?  Who benefits from what is being said?  Is the story fair and balanced?  Is Fox News really  a piece of shit excuse for broadcast journalism?  There is always a deeper story.  (No need to probe deeper into Fox News, however.  It’s owned by the arch-conservative Rupert Murdoch and the president was the former media adviser to Richard Nixon.  Everything about Fox News is skewered, 100% bullshit).

One of the phrases I truly despise is this idea that – “They hate us for our freedom”.   They hate us for our freedom.  It’s a nice, convenient little sentence that helps rationalize the war on terrorism (sorry, “terror“).  The statement that “they hate us for our freedom” works on that gut level and requires no further explanation or thought on your part.  All you have to know is that the Arabs are evil men led by a Muslim version of Doctor Doom, we anger them for the sole reason that we are not Muslims and that they will stop at nothing to see the world praying to Allah in Arabic.  That’s all you have to know, now go rest your pretty head on a couch and watch American Idol.

How much do they despise our freedom?  How many times has Holland been hit over legalized weed and prostitution?  I bet nothing angers a radical Muslim more than a country with legalized prostitution.  What about Canada for their socialized health care system?  Switzerland?  Norway?   I bet if I were a Muslim I’d have shit a ton of bricks at the thought of the Swiss and their degenerate practice of secularist direct democracy.  I’m surprised that the Swiss haven’t been attacked.  So if they hate us for our freedom, then Bush is definitely on the right track.  What better way to squash their hatred  of us than by systematically removing our own freedoms piece by piece?   Let the FCC decide what we want to hear – Muslims hate swear words.  Who needs the US Constitution anyway?  It was written over 200 years ago and things have changed since then.  It’s not like they lived in a time when people wanted to kill them for their freedom.*

Another phrase that makes me gag is  when anybody says that our military “fights for our freedom”.  Call me crazy, but the last time the US military has ever fought to defend our freedom was about 60 years ago against a madman with an actual army behind him who threatened to cross the Atlantic and invade the US.  So how many times has Osama bin Laden and his army tried to invade the US?  Were the Iraqis each going to hop on one of those invisible WMDs and re-enact Dr. Strangelove?   The only people who have invaded this country are the Mexicans, which doesn’t really count because we were here first.  Besides we’re not the ones who destroyed our freedom against illegal, warrant-less phone taps.

OK, I lied.  It was this asshole.

But speaking as a Mexican, we don’t really consider him a beaner.  He’s what we like to call a pocho.  He’s more of a white guy, really.

They say the world has changed dramatically since 9/11.  Nevermind that other countries had experienced terrorism as well.  It’s only after it happens here when it truly matters.  When innocent people die on our property it changes not only the U.S., but the whole world.  The world must now change because we say so.  Isn’t this one of the reasons “they” hate us in the first place?  Are we really THAT self-centered?   Are we going to become a part of the world or are we going to continue to pretend that we’re above it?  And if we do the latter, how much longer do you think we’ll survive?  No matter how many times we tighten up security, mankind has always demonstrated a capcity for ingenuity matched only by the limitless capacity to cause other people harm.  Will we continue to remove freedom in the name of security?  At what point will it stop?   Why does nobody reflect on the REAL reasons we’re hated on so much and do something about that instead?  In the movie “Head of State“, Chris Rock runs for president.  During the presidential debates he says one of the most profound, yet glaringly obvious things in the movie.  It’s a stetement that’s so obvious and true, yet nobody in the media is really thinking about it because we’ve already made up our minds that we’re not the problem.  In the movie, the contender for the presidency, Bryan Lewis, accuses Chris Rock’s character of being an “amateur”, to which Chris Rock responds, “You’re right, Vice President Lewis. I am an amateur.  When it comes to creating so many enemies that we need billions of dollars to protect ourselves,  I am an amateur”.  That statement alone made more sense to me than anything Fox News has ever told me.

*Except maybe the British

Eddie’s guide to Latino Culture Vol. 2

Have you ever walked down 24th and Mission in San Francisco and get beat by some angry little pendejos for wearing the wrong color jacket?  Ever get shot in the culo by some ass clown with pants worn so low it looks like he done dookied on himself? Ever been to East L.A. and gotten harassed by “una mendiga desgraciada” and her ugly, ironically named fat friend “La Tiny”?  Chances are if you live in a Latino community, you’ve encountered CHOLOS.  Cholos are to Latinos what underachieving morons are to every other race.  Cholos can generally be described as being like Homies characters – one dimensional caricatures completely lacking in personality and living in a world of their own.  On the other hand, PANDILLEROS, or gang members, are also like Homies, only with actual prison records.  Every group of people needs a criminal element, and Latinos have pandilleros, all of whom are cholos – though not all cholos are necessarily pandilleros.  The usual presence of tattoos, weapons, scars, and sore anal sphincters from dropping the soap one too many times help to distinguish actual gang members from those who claim to be gang members.  Nevertheless, they are all a bunch of cholos and for the sake of clarity we’ll call them that throughout this guide.

Cholos are surprisingly entrepreneurial people.  Ever the champions of the capitalist spirit, they’ve got their mind on their money…and vice versa.  They are leaders in the practice of free market economics, as most of their daily transactions function outside the mainstream in what has been unfairly labeled the “black market”.  Expect great prices on watches, stereos, bikes, cannibis, crack, etc., most of which is made possible by relaxed rules concerning “legitimacy” and “theft”.  Thanks to this laizzez-faire system unfettered by the wasteful hand of government bureaucracy, they generate enough untaxed revenue to fund important social endeavors, such as the acquisition and furnishing of 20 inch rims.  Unfairly accused by whiny residents of “dealing death to kids” or “perpetuating the ruin of poor communities”, these resilient role models are a beacon of hope to anyone who has ever dreamt of making enough money to have gold surgically grafted to your tooth enamel.

Location is key in the struggle to aquire wealth, and cholos know how to take advantage of opportunities when they see them.  Based in low income minority communities, they set up shop on every corner to cater to the special needs of crackheads, stoners, and elementary school students.  Ever protective of their land, they frequently mark their territory, just so there’s no misunderstanding as to what “set” they claim.  They often stake their claim in calligraphic prose known as “tagging” and yes, sometimes they’ll piss on a tree trunk.

Threatening their territory or simply being at the wrong place at the wrong time can earn you a bad case of the 187.  The worst crime, however, is having the wrong fits on. If you’re caught wearing blue or red you’re liable to get your “cap peeled”.  Cholos take their fashion seriously and in fact have been at the forefront of style and fashion, as evidenced by the 15 year old trend of crap sagging pants on men, visible thongs and Sharpie eyebrows on women.  Cholos can’t stand bad fashion sense and wearing the color red on 16th and Mission is a big fashion faux pas.  Surenos (meaning “South Siders”) represent Southern California, though for a gang currently active in San Francisco, Eureka, and Sacramento, the irony is completely lost on them.  In San Francisco they own the territory from 16th and Mission to about 20th and Mission.  Nortenos (meaning “North Siders”) claim the Northern part of California.  In San Francisco you can spot Nortenos lazily hanging about the corner of 24th and Mission or Capp, no doubt musing on the irony of being geographically south of 16th and Mission and calling themselves “Nortenos”.

Avoiding trouble with your neighborhood cholo is a matter of being street smart. Here are a few hints that might help.

–         Try wearing neutral colors. Green can bring out the color in your eyes. But if you really want to have some fun, dress in both red AND blue. Watch the cholos go crazy trying to figure out what to do with you. It’s fun!

–         Try not to make direct eye contact, as some cholos consider this a sign of hostility and may open a can of whoop ass.  Or they might smell the fear on you and open a can of whoop ass – I forget which one.

–         Pack as much heat as possible.

–         Robbing a liquor store is a fun way to earn yourself major props from the homies.

–         NEVER throw up a hand sign unless it’s a middle finger and it’s not directed at a cholo.  Serious injury may result.

–         If you’re ever asked where you’re from, just say “Beirut, mothafucka!”

–         White people and hipsters will NEVER be mistaken for a cholo, but cholos might kick your ass anyway just for fun. Try to stay out of the hood as much as possible. Do as the white people usually do and roll up your windows if you drive past the barrio.

–         And always remember that cholos have priority seating on the back of the bus. Be courteous.

If you’re a female with a nice booty, you’re going to get hooted and hollared at – there’s no way around it.  In that case, a swift kick to the huevos should work just fine. Keep in mind that cholos are a nocturnal bunch and gang rapes are not uncommon – boys will be boys! Mace has proven just as effective as a kick to the huevos. I recommend you use the” mace/huevo-kick” combo attack for best results.

Of course, if you can’t handle the constant badgering by cholos, consider joining them!  Joining is easy* and it’s FREE! Plus, you get a cool nickname like “Lil’ Dreamer”, “La Shy Gurl”, or “La Tough Bitch”.  All you have to do is choose a color!  Contact your nearest cholo today and join in the fun that’s already claimed and ruined the lives of thousands of Latinos!  Do it now!

*murder, gang rape and/or beating may be required.

Eddie’s Guide to Latino Culture, Vol. 1

One of the most helpful things you can do for yourself while living in a Latino community is to learn Spanish. Without it, you can’t communicate efficiently with the locals, you lose customers, and you can’t tell when someone’s talkin shit behind your back. As everybody knows, everyone gets a hang of the cuss words first, so here’s a list of the phrases you’ll probably end up using the most.  You’ll need to master all forms of the word “Chingar”.  I’m sure you’ll be able to figure out the meaning on your own:

“chingando” (fucking, or fucking around)

“chingada madre” (generic curse, translated loosely, this means “fucking mother!”…come to think of it, maybe it actually means “mother fucker”.)

“chingon!” (the fucking man!)

“chingate!” (go fuck yourself)

“chingadazo” (a nasty fucking accident)

“veta a la chingada” (go to hell, fucker!)

“chintrole” (variation of “chingada madre” for pussies who can’t actually say “chingada madre”)

and of course, the invaluable “Chinga Tu Madre” (“Fuck you and your nasty ass trick turnin’ mama”…or something like that).

Well, I hope this has proven helpful.  I’m also fully aware that this list applies  mostly to, or around, Mexicans – Puerto Ricans have their own slang, Cubans have another.  But Mexicans are the coolest.  Stay tuned for more installments of “Eddie’s Guide to Latino culture”.

MERRY CHRISTMAS! (or, “Happy Holidays” if you hate Jesus)

If there’s one thing I hate about people (and trust me, the things I hate about people are by no means limited to one thing) it’s political correctness. So why doesn’t it bother me to hear my favorite radio stations and television stations say some shit like “Happy Holidays” just so everyone’s all happy and unoffended? Let’s face it – it’s not called the “BIG MACY’S KWANZAA SALE”. Hanukkah didn’t inspire hordes of greedy, wide-eyed assholes to push and shove their way into Best Buy at 4 in the morning just to get 75% off and max out all of their credit cards in one day – like it’s the FUCKING APOCALYPSE.  No, it all stems from that old Christian tradition that started it all.

So how does the birth of the greatest man the world has ever seen turn into a sorry excuse for crass commercialism and nauseatingly bland pop renditions of tired ass Christmas songs? I have no clue, but it’s sure pissing me off. Today I had to listen to KOIT the entire day because my co-workers are assholes. Eight hours straight of sugary holiday mall music, enough Holly-Jolly Christmases and Jingle Bell Rocks to elevate your blood sugar into molasses. By the end of the day I went into a diabetic coma, but not before slapping my co-workers and drop-kicking my boss’ wussy little weener dog into a wall. And the commercials! The relentless commercials, everywhere you fucking turn somebody is trying to sell you shit! Mothafuckas never let you forget that “it’s the time for giving”, which to me implies that if they’re in such a giving mood I should just walk right into Foot Locker and take all the Nikes and Timbs I want. In fact, I’m going to try that right now and if they complain I’ll shove a cactus in their colon and tell those thorny-assed fucks that it’s the season for shopping – stop acting like you’re into the idea of giving and sharing shit, when all you really want is for me to buy that shit from you!

I’m sick of this so-called “holiday cheer”. It’s a euphemism that masks the real reason for all that cheer – the anticipation of getting free shit. Apparently I’ve had it wrong all along; Christmas isn’t about remembering a man who preached unconditional love and wisdom, it’s about getting free shit! It’s not about spirituality or religious observance or shit like that, it’s about who’s got the biggest, brightest, most energy-consuming Nativity scene on the block. Thanks for hogging the juice, assholes. I bet less than 5% of the people who put up Christmas trees and lights and mistletoes and Nativity scenes even go to church on Christmas. In fact, quite a lot of these people aren’t even Christians. That’s some genius shit right there. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re not a Christian you shouldn’t be allowed to celebrate Christmas and get the week off. That’d be like me, an agnostic, observing Ramadan and starving to death half the day; meanwhile real Muslims look at me like “what a dumb fuck”.

But perhaps it makes perfect sense after all. Maybe the phrase “Happy Holidays” is appropriate given the real reason we celebrate this holiday season – CONSUMERISM! We’re not really observing Christmas, or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, are we? Fuck no! Like I said, it’s about getting free shit. In this country, we celebrate Consumerism, America’s one true religion! I should have known that in a secular government you couldn’t really have a national holiday in commemoration of a religious figure, because that would be unconstitutional! “In God We Trust”, indeed! That shit is printed on our MONEY – MONEY IS OUR GOD – IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW! Money is our god, shopping malls are the holy temples, and ravenous spending, and outspending, and the maxing-out of the credit cards are the holy rituals that we perform in honor of the Invisible Hand. Instead of Christmas trees, we true believers of the Almighty (Dollar) should all set up a big ass scale model replica of the new Freedom Tower and roast communists under an open fire. We keep the Sabbath holy by shelling out cash at the Temple of Stonestown Mall and buy our family and friends love in the form of X-Box 360s, 3 pairs of boxer briefs, and cash certificates to Macy’s.

Actually, an X-Box 360 would kick ass!

So again, why does it not piss me off that people are calling it Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas? In case you missed it, here’s why – because I’m ashamed of the shameless joke that Christmas has become. Just this once, I’m glad retailers are caving in to political correctness, as well they probably should. I’d rather you celebrate greed and empty gestures of goodwill in the name of secular materialism than pin it all on Jesus. He didn’t preach that superficial shit. To all the Jews out there – you guys don’t know how fucking good you’ve got it.

“Latino Heat”, R.I.P.

I’m speechless right now.  All I can say is that Eddie Guerrero was the baddest pimp in all of wrestling – fuck the rest.  He put it down for La Raza in a big way and for that I’m going to miss the big homie.  R.I.P. loco.

Our Lunch with Guillermo Del Toro (or, Ray’s Shitty Vacation)

I can’t fully express the appreciation I have for CRAVEonline in giving me the opportunity to kick it in LA with one of the most totally gangsta ass homies in the film industry – director Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy, Cronos).

I had a blast in LA!  I needed a wingman for the trip and for the lunch with Guillermo, so I took Ray with me.  Ray, by the way, probably didn’t enjoy himself as much.  More on that later…

For somebody living the Hollywood lifestyle, Guillermo keeps it totally on the real, humble as fuck.  When he entered the restaurant and saw me with my backpack and my jacket in my arms fumbling around trying to get to my seat, he helped me with MY bag.  When was the last time an Academy Award nominee carried YOUR bags?  Never, that’s how many times.   What a cool ass dude.

Ray and I must have chopped it up with Guillermo for like 3 hours.  Among the topics discussed:

– The Hobbit

– Comics

– The great Hulk movie debate

– The shitty Hollywood legalities that prevent me from showing him my work!

– The Meyers-Briggs Personality Test

– Blue man dick jokes

– Marriage pros and cons (or, Ray’s wife vs. eternal freedom from the nagging shackles of marital tyranny)

– Real estate and the stock market

– Shitty jobs we’ve held and been fired from

– Feeding beer to cows and having women massage them – by the way, go to Grill on the Alley and have yourself a Kobe burger with truffle mayo some time and tell me it ain’t the best damn burger you’ve ever had.

The experience may have kicked ass for me, but like I said before, Ray didn’t enjoy himself as much.  The lunch itself was great, we took photos, got our DVDs autographed, etc.  It was AFTER the lunch that things started to go downhill for poor Ray.

You see, Ray has a problem, but enough about his married life.  His problem during the trip was a serious case of acid reflux disease, and by serious, I mean one beer and the guy is taking a crap for an hour serious.  I didn’t know just how serious until Guillermo and I, being the consummate eaters we are, teased and prodded the guy into keeping up with us.  If he didn’t eat like the big boys, Ray was for all intents and purposes a punk ass BIOOOOOOTCH!  Now, for those of you who don’t know, I’m a big ass dude – Guillermo is even bigger – and Ray must weigh something like 20 pounds with clothes on.  I was impressed, he actually managed to keep up with us – he even finished his food before I did!  Alas, his colon made him pay for it dearly later on.  Oh, and did I mention that he only had one beer – and a Corona at that?  In all fairness, it was probably the medium-rare cooked meat and cinnamon-laced cake that did his stomach in, but still…he couldn’t even finish his Corona.  That night he took the longest dump known to man and didn’t sleep until 1AM.

Oh, but that was just the start of his troubles.  The next day, due to a shitty Google Map, we must have spent a solid 2 hours in LA just driving around to our destinations.  We hit up the hot spots – The City Walk, the Walk of Fame, Grauman’s Chinese Theater – but it took us anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to get to any one location, much of that was spend driving in the wrong direction.  Don’t even ask us how we got back to the airport in time to get home.

But wait, there’s more!  Guillermo had recommended this kick ass comic book store named Meltdown that we just had to see before we left.  So we did, and we geeked out to our hearts’ content.  Oh, and his ass decides to park in a zone that apparently he wasn’t supposed to be parking in.  As soon as we on our way back to the rental, we got a punk po-lice waiting for us with a $150 ticket AND a tow truck.  He had to pay $200 on the spot just to stop the crusty tow truck driver from taking the car.  Add that to the sheisty ass Hertz valet that tried to rip him off (by the end of his shitty day, my niggas was simply not gonna play dat!) and the whole trip ended up actually costing him $450.  I couldn’t blame him for being pissy and argumentative the entire time.  The only thing that could have made it worse for him would have been a terrorist attack on the plane, surviving the attack, then coming home early to see his wife in bed with his brother Simon.  Someday, Ray, we’ll be laughing about this.  Knowing you, I’d give it a good 30 years or so.  Come on…it’s a little funny.

BTW, Ray, why do all of your mistakes end up costing you $400 dollars a night?