Saturday, December 25, 2010


To all those who celebrate Christmas, may you all have a Merry Blessed Christmas filled with love and joy.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Date Which Will Live in Infamy

Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with the government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

This morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this
form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounding determination of our people - we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, Dec. 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.

--December 8, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressing the United States Congress.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Happy Thanksgiving everyone! At this time we’re supposed to recognize the things we’re thankful for. My son is in Kindergarten now, but I remember a great art project he had last year in pre-K at this time of year. He had to do a collage of the things he was thankful for. He chose seven things: his family, his friends, his church, animals, flowers, clothing, and food. That’s a pretty good list and I’m adopting that again for this Thanksgiving.

I’m also thankful for memories. As a kid my family used to always go to my grandparents apartment on 105th and 1st Avenue in El Barrio. The apartment was always jam packed with my extended family and the food was amazingly good. I never wanted to go, however, because I wanted to see the King Kong marathon on Channel 9 and the adults wouldn’t let me. Now that that time is long gone and my grandparents are in heaven I wish I had enjoyed those times more.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

In Honor of veterans Day

Today is the 57th Annual Veterans Day, having replaced Armistice Day which had been first proclaimed by then President Woodrow Wilson in 1919. My father and I served in the U.S. Army, and uncles, cousins, and dear friends of mine also served in the U.S. armed forces. To them and all past and present veterans—especially those who paid the ultimate sacrifice—I honor you.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Maybe Letting Them Cry Is Not a Good Thing?

My son is now five so my wife and I don’t have to worry about crying at night, but I remember we had the debate when he was an infant. Should we comfort him or let him cry? Friends and pediatricians alike said that we should let him cry and after that happened for a while he would stop and we would have a better night sleep. My wife was totally against it. She had to comfort him. Me? I was noncommittal (I love a good night sleep), but I went along. We paid for it because my infant son expected to be comforted at night whenever he cried. Turns out my wife did the right thing.

I read this article called Is it time to return to caveman parenting? Stone Age families didn't spank and relied on multiple caregivers to raise their kids, research claims on It discussed three new studies which found that our hunter-gatherer ancestors got it right when it came to raising well-adjusted, empathetic children:

Hunter-gatherers , the human way of life until the agricultural revolution about 8,000 years ago, were responsive caregivers, who didn’t let a baby cry it out. Moms breast-fed, probably for about five or six years. Cave kids had hours of unstructured free play, with children of all ages. And the little Pebbles and Bamm-Bamms of that Paleolithic period probably had multiple caregivers who provided nurturing and love. Cavemoms and dads didn’t spank their kids. Rather, they were the first adopters of positive touch, constantly carrying, cuddling and holding their children.

The article further explained the benefit of comforting a crying child:

When born, a baby is “a big bundle of nerves and sensory systems,” with little regulation for self-control, says [lead researcher Darcia Narvaez, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame]. Because babies are “experience dependent,” caregivers become “external psychobiological regulators,” helping shape the babies brain to better deal with stress. As the brain matures, this so-called “external, caregiver based regulation” gives way to internal regulation, as the baby learns to comfort itself.

“Babies that learn that their distress is soothed don’t develop a pattern of very extreme emotional shifts as they mature,” Narvaez says. “Their brains aren’t stressed.”
So for those exhausted parents out there with a newborn, comfort the child when he or she is crying at night. Those lost hours of sleep can’t compare to the benefits of making your child a better human being.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Optimus Prime Should Hold Out

This year’s HBO’s Hard Knocks features my favorite sports team, the New York Jets. The first episode premiered to critical and popular acclaim. I loved it. A big theme in the episode (and all the stories about training camp) is the hold out of All-Pro cornerback Darelle Revis. Revis thinks he’s the best player at his position and, thus, should be paid the highest. In essence, he feels under appreciated and only money is how professional athletes feel appreciated these days.

My 5 year-old son is absolutely obsessed with Transformers. I bought him the DVDs of the original 1980s cartoon series and he watches the episodes constantly. When he is not watching those he is watching the two feature films or other DVDs from related series. Of course, he has a ton of Transformers toys which, unfortunately, I’m the one who has to transform them since he doesn’t know how to do it yet. Or he’s lazy.

Well, I watch the movies and cartoon with him. I loved the cartoon when I was a kid as well and had the toys, but not as many as my son has now. What stands out to me in the cartoon and movies is what awful teammates Autobot leader Optimus Prime has. He is constantly fighting Megatron and the other Decepticons by himself. The other Autobots either stand around or totally bail out while Optimus is getting double-, triple-, or quadrupled-teamed. Optimus usually ends up victorious. He’s died twice under those circumstances, in the 1986 Transformers Movie cartoon, or in the feature film Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. He’s then brought back to life to save the day because, of course, his Autobot teammates suck.

Forget Revis, if there is anyone who should hold out it’s Optimus. Never has a single person—or robot—had to carry a lazier, more cowardly, group of teammates. Optimus’ signature saying is, “Autobots, roll out!” It should be, “Autobots, man up!”

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

RIP Bob Sheppard & George M. Steinbrenner III

Over the last few days two New York sports icons died: legendary New York Yankee public address announcer Bob Sheppard over the weekend and the team’s larger than life owner George “The Boss” Steinbrenner this morning. Sheppard was the PA announcer for 57 years until he retired in 2007. George Steinbrenner had stepped down from principal ownership around that time, ceding control of the team to his two sons, Hank and Hal Steinbrenner. It was Hal, in the role of Michael Corleone who truly took the reins and lead the team to its 27th world championship, seventh in the Steinbrenner era.

Sheppard represented everything that was noble about sports, while the Boss represented everything that was good and bad, from the triumph of championships to the seediness of personal vendettas which led to his banning from the sport, and redemption upon his return to the game. I had a love/hate relationship with the Boss and was giddy when he was finally banned in 1990. I felt that all his meddling in the late 1980 had ruined the team. His departure allowed for the Yankee young talent such as Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and Jorge Posada to develop in the minors which lead to the last Yankee dynasty in the late 1990s. Upon is return the Boss was more reserved in his actions and I grew in appreciation for what he has done for the team.

It is this career arc, amongst other things, that makes the Boss such an iconic sports figure. No New York sports team has had more success than the Yankees since Steinbrenner bought the team in 1973. The team has brought me great joy in celebrating the seven championships, disappointment in losing four World Series, and heartbreak at the death of Thurman Munson. Through it all the Boss was there. I’m thankful for all he has done for my favorite sports team and the memories—both good and bad—that he has brought us.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

NY Knicks: Embarrassment or Ecstasy

For the last decade, the New York Knicks have been an embarrassment under the stewardship of Cablevision and MSG Chairman James Dolan, who gained control of the team in 1999.

Dolan is arguably the worst owner in the history of New York professional sports teams. The New York Daily News even dubbed him the “Scourge of New York Sports” a few years back. The record speaks for itself: 9 straight losing seasons, but with only 1 lottery pick on the roster because the team either traded the pick or the player, plus being in salary cap hell for most of the time because of asinine personnel decisions. He put buffoons Scott Layden and Isaiah Thomas in charge who pushed the team deeper into the abyss, and then handed over the basketball reins to Donnie Walsh who threw away 2 seasons for the pipe dream of signing LeBron James who becomes a free agent at 12:01 a.m. tonight. The Knicks are a distant fourth in the King James sweepstakes accoring to reports. And let’s not forget that Dolan decided not to settle the salacious Anucha Browne Sanders' sexual harassment suit against him, Thomas, and the Garden, which stripped away the last vestiges of dignity this once proud franchise had.

Back to King James. The Knicks meet with him in Akron Ohio at about 1 p.m. tomorrow with a contingent of Dolan, Walsh, head coach Mike D’Antoni, and former Knick player and now team executive Alan Houston. Yes, that Alan Houston who Dolan and only Dolan would have ever considered giving a $100 million contract. That was just another Dolan decision that kept the team in ruin all these years.

The thing about James is, according to reports, the Knicks are willing to sign Atlanta Hawk shooting guard Joe Johnson to max money if they can’t land the King. Johnson is a second tier player at best who came up shorter than Spike Lee in the playoffs last year and, at 29, is nearly 4 years older than James. Yes, only Dolan and the Knicks would consider signing a Plan D player as their Plan B and giving him just as much money as James.

I was a lifelong Knicks fan whose fandom is in flux because of what Dolan has done to the team. The best thing that could possibly happen is for Cablevision to sell the Knicks and the Garden. I thank God for 3 things at night: my family, my health, and Dolan failed in his attempt to buy my beloved Yankees and Jets. But the thing is, the Knicks still have a chance at James despite Dolan turning the team into a joke. That hope has more to do with New York City itself rather than anything else. So it pains me to think that if Dolan can pull a 4-leaf clover out of his ass and sign James then he would have the last laugh.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!!!

To my father, uncles, brothers-in-law, friends who are fathers, and all fathers going strong or dearly departed, Happy Father's Day!!!!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Another Teaser Tuesday!

I’m finally back with another Teaser Tuesday entry with the last one (and first in my WIP, the urban fantasy/paranormal thriller I, Nemesis) being over a month-and-a-half ago. Link. Here we find the MC Sofia and her brother Junito living on the streets a year or so after being orphaned by Hurricane Mitch. Sofia is 5 at the time and Junito is 14. This is the end of Chapter 2, which eventually leads to the "possession" in the following chapter.


I would like to say that life got easier as we became accustomed to our lifestyle over the passing months, but that wasn’t the case. That was because of El Carro Asesino and the gangs. As La Capital emerged from the devastation of El Mitch, the fear of gang violence and crime became prominent. The sensationalist nightly news and newspapers and the gang graffiti everywhere fueled public angst. With that, the death cars returned. They were red, four-door Mazda sedans with tinted windows. The gunmen pull down the window and shoot at least a dozen rounds each time. Any approaching car that was close to that description made people run. Being stealth was never an issue because everyone knowing what it looked like was a more effective means of terrorism. Being street kids like Junito and I was a crime punishable by death. And if a street kid wasn’t killed, it would be a gang member, or a woman with her infant. It didn’t matter. The irony was that El Carro Asesino killed more people than the gangs did.

Fortunately, I was good at was spotting the death car and I pulled my brother out of harms way on numerous occasions. So I didn’t often play the pint-sized damsel in distress. I was the hero too. Yet all of this took a toll on my brother. While I still had those nightmares about my parents, his nights were restless as well. He eventually confided in me that he wondered how long he could protect me. He could do it alone for so long. One day my brother took me to a boarded up row house not far from El Parque de la Paz. We went to the pantry adjacent to the kitchen, setup our sleep area, and spent the night. It was dark and musky, but safe. The following morning he told me he was going to do something that he had never done before. He was going to leave me alone.

The faintest of morning light bled into the room through the rickety pantry doors so I could barely see his face. He said with a soothing voice, “Sofí, I want you to stay here for a couple of hours until I come back. You have enough food and water for that time. Do not leave here. Understand?”

I couldn’t understand. I hadn’t been away from him since before the hurricane so the thought of being separated was absurd. “But where are you going?” I asked. Tears stung my eyes.

He caressed my shoulders. “Don’t worry about it, you’ll be fine.”

“I want to go with you.”

“You can’t, but don’t worry.” He gave me his switchblade. “Use this if you must. But don’t worry, you probably don’t have to.”

A chill crept down my back. “I’m scared.”

“Scared?” Junito chuckled bitterly. “After everything we’ve been through, now you’re scared? I can’t think of a braver girl than you. I’ll be back, I promise.” He held me tight and kissed me on the forehead. I watched him get up and leave the room. Once he was out of sight I bawled.

Those were the longest couple of hours I could remember, but I did as my brother said. I didn’t leave, not even to go to the bathroom. I held it is as best I could. I sat down, pressed my back against the cinderblock wall, gripped the switchblade in my hand, and waited. Fear held me in place, fear of this abandoned house, and fear that something bad would happen if I didn’t follow Junito’s instructions. My brother returned as he promised. I jumped into his arms when I saw him and he grimaced as he caught me. I tried to get a better look at him in the dim light. He had a black eye and swollen lip. His arms and legs were bruised and bloodied.

“What happened?” I asked him.


“We have to see a doctor.”

He gingerly put me down on the floor. “A doctor?” he said. “I’ll be safer out here than seeing a doctor.”

“But you’re hurt.”

“I’ll be fine. And don’t worry, we’re both better off because of it.”

Junito’s wounds from his gang initiation eventually healed. As the days went by he would leave me alone again from time to time. We still did our hustling together, but those times happened less and less. Over a period of time, his appearance changed. He shaved off his think, shoulder length hair and would come back with a new tattoo ever so often, some on his hands or on his arms and torso. They were of letters and numbers, rosaries, and devil’s head. I asked him why he got them, but he didn’t tell me. Instead, he said I should be happy with the extra food and clothing he brought back with him. I was happy for everything, not realizing then what he had been doing.

One day he came back to me with a large tattoo on the left side of his chest peaking out from his white tank top. It was “MS” in Old English calligraphy.

“That’s pretty,” I said. “What does that stand for, Junito?”

He didn’t say anything, instead, he gazed off into nothing.

“Well, Junito?” I said and rubbed his tense forearm.

He hugged me and kissed me on the forehead. Later I would learn that the letters stood for the most dangerous gang in the world, La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13.

Instead, my brother looked at me with glossy eyes and said, “It stands for, ‘Mi Sofí.’ ”

Sunday, June 13, 2010

¡Viva Puerto Rico!

Today is the 53rd National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City. It honors the millions of Americans of Puerto Rican birth, decent, and heritage. The parade along Fifth Avenue regularly attracts around 2 million spectators including New York politicians, professional athletes, and celebrities.

I won’t be attending the Parade. I’ve attended many in the past and actually marched in the Parade one year when I was in college as part of the Latino college student organizations. I had the honor of carrying the Puerto Rican flag at the head of the contingent. I’ll return to the Parade once my son gets a little bit older so he can enjoy the revelry celebrating our heritage. ¡Viva Puerto Rico!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Thanks, Frank

It’s been a little over a month since the great fantasy artist Frank Frazetta died of a stroke on May 10. He was 82. His work appeared in comic books, paperback book covers, paintings, posters, LP record album covers, and other media. He, like Boris Vallejo, was a tremendous influence on artists across the globe, including myself.

In the 1970s and 1980s, my brother and I collected anything that featured his work in it and bought his art books. He was a prolific artist and it amazes me that after he suffered a series of strokes in the early 2000s which robbed him of his dexterity in his magical right hand he switched to drawing and painting with his left. He was an icon of my youth and will continue to influence me.

I still have some of his artbooks, but most of the material I collected has been lost. The beauty of the internet is that I was able to collect hundreds of his drawings and paintings and store them on my harddrive. He was an icon of my youth and will continue to influence me in the future.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day

Thirty-nine years ago this weekend, the United States celebrated its first Memorial Day as an official federal holiday. Hard to believe that it took so long for such a holiday commemorating the U.S. men and women who died while in military service to become official, but it did. The holiday original began in the 1860s to honor the Union soldiers of the American Civil War and was then known as Decoration Day. Many states of the U.S. South refused to celebrate Decoration Day. The alternative name of Memorial Day was first used in 1882 and did not become more common until after World War II. It became the official name by Federal law in 1967 and by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968, Memorial Day became an official federal holiday. The act took effect in 1971.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!!!

To my mother, wife, aunts, sisters-in-law, friends who are mothers, and all mothers going strong or dearly departed, Happy Mother's Day!!!!

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Heralds of Spring

As I’ve mentioned previously, my favorite sport is baseball. The new season is about a month old. My favorite team, the 27 time World Champion New York Yankees (don’t hate the player, hate the game) is off to a fast start, but still trail the first place Tampa Bay Rays who have had an even faster start. The Yanks play a big series this weekend against their hated rivals, the Boston Red Sox.

NFL hall of famer, Howie Long, contrasted baseball and football the best. In his hall of fame induction speech he said that while baseball was America’s pastime, football was America’s passion. I agree with that. I’m passionate about football, but love baseball. Someone else described the distinction as football being the way life is while baseball is the way life should be. No matter how much the owners and players try to screw it up, and the media criticizes it, baseball is still a great game. A game to enjoy for the whole family, and my family surely does. My four-year-old son is into the game, my oldest nephew is on his high school varsity team, my other nephew is in little league, and I have two teenage nieces who are on softball teams.

Baseball players are famously known as “the boys of summer,” but for me they’re the heralds of spring. They start their season at the best time of the year. Spring always has so much promise, so much hope. The days get longer and the weather starts to get warmer (unless you’re in NYC now with it either is unseasonable cold most of March and this first half of April or de facto monsoon season). Life just feels better at the start of spring. The baseball season is also full of promise and hope.

The thing I cherish about baseball the most is the nostalgia, in the game and in your own experience. The game is a time machine where you can envision the players of the past playing the same game as today, and the players from today playing in the past, even with the whole steroid issue. The personal nostalgia is the memories I have, of my parents being big baseball fans (they still are), but my father being mainly a Met fan, and my mother being a die-hard Yankee fan. I was born in 1972, so I never got to see the original Yankee Stadium, but my mother did. She also got to see Mickey Mantle play. Her memories are my memories now. That’s the beauty of baseball.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Teaser Tuesday is Back!!!

After a longer than expected hiatus from writing, here’s the first excerpt from my work-in-progress (WIP) titled I, Nemesis. Unlike my previous work the novel is set wholly in present time. It’s an urban fantasy/paranormal thriller where orphaned Honduran brother and sister are possessed by a Mayan demon, with the girl using her power for good and her older brother using his power for evil. The more comments the merrier!

This is the opening of the first chapter:

My earliest memory is the day the Earth swallowed my parents. It was a Saturday evening, two days before El Dia de los Muertos, which was only fitting. The holiday in Honduras is not celebrated with parades and parties as it is in Mexico. No, it’s a solemn day to honor your beloved and not-so-beloved dead by cleaning and decorating their graves. The authorities never found my parents’ bodies, so I vowed to find them myself. When I grew older I journeyed deep underground for them, but my effort was in vain. Instead, I found something incomprehensible, powerful, and perhaps even evil.

I was four at the time, nothing but boney limbs and pigtails. Our shanty house was in the hillside slum overlooking La Capital. Rows of houses clotted the sun baked clay and sand slopes sprinkled with tree shrubs and electrical poles. Like the others, my home was a sparsely furnished tin-and-wooden shack sectioned off by hanging blankets. The most expensive thing we had was probably my father’s bottle of Jack Daniels. My mother made sure the house was always clean, though, despite the constant dust and lack of running water.

Rain battered the plywood roof like a Garifuna musician pounding his drum, rattling the bare light bulb and wires overhead and making our house tremble. Water spat down on us through the fog of smoke hovering about the ceiling from my mother cooking my favorite meal: yuca con chicharrón, which is cassava and raw cabbage with fried pork rinds. We kept the door ajar to let some of the smoke out, but it kept on getting blown back in with the gusting wind. The wind also kept in the delicious aromas that masked the damp, musky odor of four people—my parents, my brother, and me—cooped up here for the last couple of days.

I sat cross-legged on the rock-hard floor, wiggling my dirty toes and fiddling with the bowl of food set on my lime green shorts. With my pink Hello Kitty t-shirt I wasn’t so much a fan of loud colors as these were the only kind of used clothes my mother could afford.

Fear had tightened my stomach and I couldn’t eat. All I could think about was the rain and El Mitch, the nastiest hurricane I would ever see. It hit the coast off of La Ceiba that Thursday and rather than go on its destructive way to the Gulf of Mexico it brooded over Honduras, roiling the landscape with wind and rain. It did the one thing no one else could: it cleared the streets of sewage, stray dogs, and mareros—gangbangers.

“What’s a matter, cariño?” my father drawled, looking down at me with a shaky smile and glossy, bloodshot eyes. He was a squat man with a bushy mustache and hair to match, and was dressed in a dingy white t-shirt and jeans. His proper name was Cristobal Antonio Sanchez Garcia, which sounds important but he wasn’t. If his own father hadn’t been murdered by the government years before I was born he might have amounted to something.

He was sprawled on a plastic chair with one arm over the back. The other hand clutched his bottle of Jack on his lap, which he was lucky to buy before the suspension of alcohol sales due to the President declaring a state of emergency. He was an unemployed miner and he stood home with me while my brother went to school and my mother worked long hours at the maquiladora, the garment factory.

“She’s fucking scared shitless, pop,” my brother Junito said with a mouthful of chicharrónes. Cristobal Antonio Jr.—Junito for short—was thirteen and already taller than his namesake with sinewy limbs jutting out of his navy blue tank top and shorts, but the same mop of jet-black hair.

“Watch your mouth, güirro!” my father scolded and flung a pebble at Junito. While my father saved terms of endearment for me, he used the opposite for my brother.

Junito snatched the pebble from the air and tossed it aside. “It’s the truth.”

“Are you scared, my Sofí?” my father asked. My name was Sofia, but everyone called me Sofí. My father put his bottle of Jack down on the wooden folding table and held out his arms for me. I climbed up onto his lap. “Are you scared?” he asked again.

“Yes, papí” I replied sheepishly. “I don’t want us to get washed away.”

The other night before the storm hit, my mother’s Bible study group talked about God’s judgment and the great flood. How the Lord had punished mankind for its wickedness. I didn’t know what we had done that was so bad now, but God was angry at us as I was told. Now, all I could think about were humongous tidal waves crashing down upon us because we didn’t have an ark to escape in.

“There’s nothing to be scared about,” he said. “El Mitch is nothing. Just some rain and wind. And Mitch is a nickname like Carlito and Lulú.”

“And Sofí?” I said, my spirits lifting.

“Exactly. Nothing bad could come from that, could it?”

I shook my head. It wasn’t so bad, now was it? We wouldn’t need an ark after all. I hopped down from my father’s lap and sat at the doorway. I peered out to the sloping road. The streaming rain bounced off of the mud in thousands of tiny discharges. The once hard hillside earth seemed like clumpy soup to me now. Soup? My hunger returned and I began to eat.

“Your father’s right,” my mother said near the stove and covered her mouth as she let out a wheezing cough. It wasn’t from the smoke, but the lint in her lungs from the maquiladora. Her name was Consuelo and she was a stout woman with a pretty face, but she seemed old to me, worn down. She always wore long skirts and long sleeved blouses like the other women in her Bible study group. She had a short temper and was quick to yell at me, but she never hit me though. I was probably the only person she could yell at so I acted as her release. I might have ended up like her if life had been different. In hindsight, I don’t know if that would have been so bad.

“You shouldn’t be scared,” my mother told me, then looked over to my father. “But maybe we should think about going somewhere else.”

“There’s the curfew,” he reminded her.

“No, not tonight, but in the morning.”

My father threw up his hands. “Where would we go? No one will take us in. There’s enough homeless out there suffering, living in garbage dumps, and eating anything the dogs won’t touch. At least we have a home. Plus, the Choluteca River has flooded parts of the city. We’re better up here away from that.”

“I don’t think so, pop,” Junito said, shaking his head.

¡Volteando Jesucristo dulce!” My father slammed his Jack on the table. My mother would normally say something for him taking the Lord’s name in vain, but seeing how moody he was she only reacted with a disappointed scowl. “No one asked you, güirro,” he added. “The government told us to stay in our homes, and I’m not going against the government.”

“The government can go to hell,” Junito scoffed and stood up. “What do they know?”

“They know more than you, güirro. And we know what happens when you go against the government; you disappear like your grandparents.”

Ignoring him, Junito handed our mother his empty bowl and went to the doorway. He was a quick eater and already had finished his meal. Custom had it that whenever a visitor showed up during dinner time the woman of the house insisted on feeding him or her. In our house that meant taking Junito’s food away from him and giving it to the visitor. He stood behind me and stared out to the storm. He was a contemplative boy, always lost in thought. Whenever he was like that I would sit next to him and stare at his face. I never had much on my mind except for wondering what he was thinking. When he would finally realize I was there I’d ask him what he was thinking and the answer was always the same: “Things, just thinking about things.”

“You’ve told us the stories a hundred times, pop” he said faintly, as if his voice came from yards away.

“ ‘You’ve told us the stories a hundred times, pop,’ ” my father mocked, mimicking Junito’s voice. “Well, you better have paid attention, güirro. You think you’re a badass, but El Carro Asesino can get you just the same if you don’t watch out.”

El Carro Asesino—the death car—roamed the streets of La Capital, driven by masked men who gun down gang members, bums, street kids, and anyone else they please. Nobody was certain who drove these cars and no one was ever brought to justice, but everyone believed the military and police were behind them.

“Yeah, I know,” Junito said. “But that still doesn’t mean they know what to do about El Mitch. Ma is right, we should go, but not wait for the morning.”

“You don’t see anyone else out there leaving, do you?”

“No,” conceded Junito.

“Alright then. It’s crazy talk talking about leaving. The—”

A thunderous rumble stifled his sentence. The ground shuddered. A clamor of explosions boomed from beyond the house, mixed with the faint sound of crying and shouting. The ruckus grew louder and everyone froze in the house except my brother. He snatched me from the floor and hoisted me into his arms. The bowl flew out my hands. I didn’t know what upset me more, the terrible noises outside or losing the rest of my supper.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

No More Toy for Happy Meal! Why Don’t You Pay for Phys Ed Instead?

On April 27, Santa Clara County in California approved the nation’s first ordinance that would:

Prevent restaurants from using toys to lure kids to meals high in fat, sugar and calories. The law prohibits restaurants in unincorporated parts of the county from giving away goodies unless the meals meet certain nutritional guidelines. More and more in recent years, fast-food critics say restaurants have encouraged families to make unhealthy choices by offering Iron Man Cyclone Spinning Robot Drones and Barbie Mermaid dolls with their kids' meals.

Link. The county supervisors state that they hope their vote and its message “will put the county at the forefront of the fight against childhood obesity.” The board had previously voted in 2008 to require menu-labeling for fast-food restaurants, similar to laws in San Francisco and New York City, and California followed suit in 2009.

Reportedly, more then 9 million children between the ages 6 and 19 are overweight and in the last 30 years the percentage of overweight 6 to 11 year olds has risen from 4% to 17%. Link. There has been a push across the nation to fight childhood obesity by attacking fast-food menus, soda, and snacks.

But here’s a novel idea: why don’t cities and states fight childhood obesity by increasing funding and requirements for physical education? Getting kids more active is the key to a healthier lifestyle. It is no surprise that childhood obesity has increased as cities and states cutback on physical education programs. This problem was known at least as early as 2004. Only 6% of schools nationally provide the recommended daily gym class to all students. Link.

Georgia eliminated the legal mandate for physical education and recess in schools in 2000 while Florida and New Mexico allow marching band as a substitute for physical education. Arkansas decided that 9th graders are no longer requited to gym. Link. Not surprisingly, Georgia, Arkansas, and New Mexico are in the highest percentile of childhood overweight & obesity rates, while Florida is in the second highest percentile. Link.

These states have left it up to local school districts to decide how much exercise students should get. These school districts, however, are under the strain of No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) academic requirements and are channeling resources to meet NCLB requirements. Link. A study has shown that the current phys ed requirements do not promote exercise or fight obesity. Link. That’s little surprise because having a child—or adult—exercise no more than 1 day a week for a couple of minutes will do nothing for overall health.

Back to California and Santa Clara County. In California, 30% of children are overweight or obese. California requires 3 hours and 20 minutes of physical education every 10 days for students 1st through 6th grades, but half the schools in the state have failed to meet this minimum requirement. Link.

You want to fight childhood obesity? Increase phys ed requirements and funding and make sure schools are meeting these requirements. The alternative is what we have now and taking Happy Meal toys away will do nothing but have unhappy, overweight children.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Senseless Census

I completed the 2010 Census form and mailed it back recently. This was the second time I’ve done one. Last time I was still in my parents’ house and completed the form for them, but this time I own my own home and reported the information for my wife, son and I.

Section 9 of the Census form for what “race” am I presented a conundrum. I’m Puerto Rican and like I did on the 2000 form I checked “some other race” and wrote Latino. What troubled me was the list of races on the form:

The form lists Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese as separate races which is the height of absurdity. Yet Latinos, the largest minority group in the United States are not listed as it’s own race. The argument may be concerning the diversity amongst Latino, but that argument puts a stake in the heart of the claim that Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese are a separate race.

In any event, there is no such thing as a homogeneous racial group in the United States. Some try to argue it, holding onto the antiquated notion of race based on the now scorned classifications of Caucasian, Negroid, and Mongoliod. Latinos are historical rather than present-day mestizos, a mixture. Actually, the term mestizo means mongrel which is certainly a derogatory term but it only had meaning when the Conquistadors conquered South and Central America and the islands of the Caribbean five centuries ago. From that time, the Spaniards integrated with the indigenous population (which they nearly exterminated) and the African slaves that were brought with them. There were more mixing of Spaniards with African slaves in the Caribbean than there was in Central and South America, where there was a higher rate of mixing with the indigenous population. The first few generation of mixtures were derogatorily referred to as mestizos, but then a strange thing happened: soon there was so much mixing that mestizos became the overwhelming majority throughout the Spanish colonies. The term was no longer derogatory since it referred to the people in power. Culturally, they followed Spanish ways but racially they had become their own distinct group which they differentiated from the Spanish who still traveled to the region and the Africans still brought over on slave ships.

Look at it this way. President Obama listed himself as African-American on the Census but his mother is white. If you believe that Spaniards are “white”, then Latinos haven’t had white blood in them since before British set foot on the lands to the north which eventually became the United States. Yet some how till this day Latinos are not recognized as a race on the Census form.

Yes, the form actually has its own section for Latinos (section 8) where you can list whether you are Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuba, etc., but is that really necessary? There is no other section for Ethnic groups such as Italian, German, Irish, etc. And Asian Indians and Middle Eastern people are included in “Other Asian” in the race section. So Latinos remain on the outskirts, relegated to their own placating section because of antiquated notions of race and ethnicity.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


To all those who celebrate Easter, may you all have a Happy Easter filled with love and joy.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

Today is Good Friday, the solemnest day in the Christian calendar, which commemorates the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. The traditional year for the date of Jesus’ crucifixion is 33 CE (Common Era, aka AD), but this is based on the false premise that Jesus was born in year 1 CE and died at the age of 33.

The actual date for Jesus’ crucifixion is Friday, April 5 in the year 30 CE. Matching the Gospel accounts with the Hebrew and modern-day calendars, the year 30 CE is the sole viable choice because that was only year in Jesus’ late adult life where Friday was the end of the first day of Passover (which began Thursday evening). According to Scripture, Passover begins on the 15th day of the month of Nisan, the first month of the Hebrew Calendar. Passover in the year 30 CE was on the night of April 4 (Nisan 15, 3790) and the Last Supper was a Passover Seder.

Knowing the precise date is easier than knowing where the term Good came from. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia: “Some say it is from ‘God’s Friday’ (Gottes Freitag); others maintain that it is from the German Gute Freitag, and not specially English.”

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!

March 17 has come again and that means another St. Patrick’s Day, one of my favorite holidays of the year. The holiday is named after the patron saint of Ireland, who was born in Roman Britain circa AD 387, was captured by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland where he lived for six years before escaping, became an ordained priest when he returned home, and returned to Ireland as bishop and Christian missionary. Legend has it that me died on March 17, but there is debate as to whether it was AD 460 or AD 493.

St. Patrick’s Day began as a purely Catholic holiday and became an official feast day in the early 1600s. Today—except in Ireland where it is a holy day of obligation—it is a secular celebration of Irish culture. A little known tidbit is that the original color associated with St. Patrick was blue, but over the years the color green became associated with the holiday. Blue St. Patrick’s Day? Nahhhh.

My office always has a breakfast spread for the holiday and I never miss it. I love office comp! A few years back the office administrator got creative and had all the bagels and muffins dyed green. She also had the milk for coffee dyed green. It looked great, but no one dared eat or drink any of it. She insisted that the food in milk didn’t taste any different, but our stomachs couldn’t overcome the barrier our eyes had set up.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Boycotting the Oscars

I’m still livid over last year's outrageous snub of The Dark Knight for Oscar nominations in the Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay categories and Christopher Nolan for Best Director. The Reader and its director, Stephen Daldry, took the place of the much more deserving TDK and Nolan for the nominations although the latter were nominated by the Producer's Guild and Director's Guild for their respective awards. The Academy expanded the Best Picture category to 10 films rather than its usual 5 because of this travesty, but that doesn’t make amends.

Yes, I can hold a grudge for a very long time. I have not watched a Grammy show since the 32nd Grammy Awards show in 1990 when Young MC won Best Rap Performance over the rap icons Public Enemy.

I watched last year’s award show because I loved Slumdog Millionaire and it was much deserving of the top prize. This year? I’m not watching. I enjoyed Avatar, but James Cameron’s Pocahontas in Space can’t hold a candle to TDK.

That said; here are my major category picks (I’m not sure if it’s what “will” win or what “should” win, but here goes):

Best Picture: Avatar

Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker

Best Actor: Jeff Bridges

Best Actress: Sandra Bullock

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer

Best Supporting Actress: Mo’Nique

Best Original Screenplay: The Hurt Locker

Best Adapted Screenplay: Up in the Air

Thursday, March 4, 2010

12:01 a.m.

One of the most significant (and panned) byproducts of the internet is the 24 hour news cycle. Gone are the days of reading about the news in the morning papers, finding out more during the evening and late night news shows, and the then waiting for the next morning for an update. With the 24 hour news cycle, stories can pop up at any time and have a life and death within a few hours. While the cycle allows for frivolous stories to take on steam, such stories can easily disappear just as quickly as they arrived.

It’s not just “hard” news that works with the 24 hour cycle; entertainment and sports news does as well. The NFL’s free agency signing period starts tomorrow at 12:01 a.m. Prior to the internet, football fans like myself would stay up late watching Sportscenter and go to sleep at about 1 a.m. waiting for any hard news which hardly came. Then we’d wait for the morning papers to see if there was anything new, but most likely it was simply a rehash of the news we saw last night. Who signed where and for how much? What did our team do? Sportscenter, however, only reported what deals were actually made. What fans couldn’t get at a moment’s notice was what we feed off: sports rumors. Who’s getting offered what? Who’s visiting where? Who’s in the know?

With the internet, even before 12:01, rumors will be flying through cyberspace. So myself and thousands of other Jet fans will be scouring,,,, the sports beat writers blogs, Jet and other teams' fan message boards, etc. trying to find out what is going on. We'll refresh every few minutes for every site (opened up in multiple web browser tabs) in hopes for an update.

So I and many other fans won't be turning on Sportscenter to find out the news. We'll have fellow fans to do that and they will report on message boards what they've seen. Of course, this is not reliable information, but it’s a good starting point. Whenever a fan declares something such as X player is on his way to Y team, or Z player is about to sign with B team, other fans take it at face value but want confirmation. The request is made simply by asking: “link?”

NFL free agency is different this year because of the end of the collective bargaining agreement, the CBA. The final year of the CBA provides for no salary cap and something known as the Final Four Rule where teams that made the Conference Championship Games (Saints, Vikings, Colts, and my Jets) can't sign an unrestricted free agent (UFA) unless they lose one, and can only sign the new player for what the old player signed elsewhere. The definition of an UFA is tricky. It's a player who has had at least 6 years of NFL service and had his contract expire at the end of the 2009 season. Under the old rules, a player needed only 4 years of NFL service and there was no Final Four Rule, so a lot of would-be UFA are denied the chance to truly test the market. The Jets might not be as active as years past since they are hamstrung by the new rules. Yet their general manager, Mike Tannenbaum, is always creative so I wait anxiously to see what he comes up with to improve the team.

And so it goes for NFL fans on the start of free agency. We stay up much later trying to find out as much as we can and are able to find out real-time news the moment we wake up. For us, at least, the 24 hour news cycle is a godsend.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Miracle on Ice, 30 Years Later

Today is the 30th anniversary of the greatest sports experience in my life: the US hockey team’s improbable medal-round victory over the Soviet team at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, 4-3. The Americans, made up of amateur and collegiate players and led by the late Herb Brooks went on to win the Gold medal against Finland.

I was 7 at the time and would turn 8 the following May. It was a Friday night and the game was broadcast on tape delay at 8 pm because the Soviets had refuses to consent to moving the game from 5 pm to 8 pm for American television, which would have meant a 4 am start in Moscow for Russian viewers. I guess a 1 am local Moscow time was okay by them.

I didn’t know the results before I watched. I wasn’t anxious to see the score before hand, and frankly, I probably didn’t even know it was on tape delay. I was (and still am) a huge baseball fan so that was my sport of choice. Hockey was down on my list, but the idea of the upstart US team against the big, bad Soviets was exciting for me. I watched the game with my mother, who wasn’t a hockey fan either. Yet as we watched the game unfold we jumped, cheered, cringed, and hollered as if we had been life long fans. The game, as we all know, was absolutely thrilling and when the final buzzer sounded my mother and I hugged and shed tears of joy.

My mother suffers from dementia now, so she doesn’t remember that experience. Yet I will always treasure it. We had watched our beloved Yankees win the World Series in back-to-back years in 1977 and 1978, but nothing felt better than this. I was much younger then and the emotional high was probably more to me feeding off my parents and siblings’ elation rather than my own. The Miracle on Ice was different. This was personal and shared joy at something completely unexpected.

That Friday night in February 30 years ago will always be special to me. I believe it’s special to my mother as well, although it’s hidden in her mind. It is a priceless memory, the likes of which I will never experience again.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Remembering Malcolm X

Today is the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X. Personally, the most influential book I’ve ever read (besides the Bible) is The Autobiography of Malcolm X. I read it back in 1991 when I joined the U.S. Army. It had a profound impact on me, and Malcolm X remains one of my idols. I collected documentaries on him, and videos and audio tapes of his speeches. I even had a poster up of him in my barracks room (which confused many of my platoon mates—White, Black, and fellow Latinos alike). He’s a misunderstood figure to many, regardless of race or ethnicity. For instance, he is known for the saying: “By any means necessary.” It’s viewed positively and negatively depending on your POV. It’s ironic that his famous—or infamous—saying is taken out of context. He said it to mean that Blacks should defend themselves by any means necessary.

Many of his views were harsh, but he was willing to reassess them as he gained more knowledge. As he wrote, “My whole life had been a chronology of—changes .… Despite my firm convictions, I have been always a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth.”

There’s a subtle, but important event in the book. A white female college student had been so moved by Malcolm’s speech at her New England school early in his ministry that she flew down to New York to see him. She found him at the Nation of Islam’s restaurant in Harlem and asked him what she could do to help the plight of African Americans in this country. Malcolm bluntly said, “Nothing.” She burst out crying and ran out the restaurant. Later on in the book after Malcolm had embraced the idea of the kinship of all peoples and the races working together to end racism, Malcolm reflects that he regretted telling her that, thought about her often whenever the topic arose, and wished he knew her name to write or telephone her. It troubled me that in Spike Lee’s movie he put the rejection scene in without the context of Malcolm’s later regret in how he dealt with the situation.

A month before his murder in February 1965, Malcolm said during an interview on Canadian television: “I believe in recognizing every human being as a human being—neither white, black, brown, or red; and when you are dealing with humanity as a family there’s no question of integration or intermarriage. It’s just one human being marrying another human being or one human being living around and with another human being.”

This was at a time when intermarriage was not only taboo in the U.S., but still illegal in some states. It was actually counter to his previous views on interracial marriage during his early times with the Nation of Islam. This was a man who evolved in his ministry and world view and recognized this evolution. It is this evolved Malcolm—El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz—who is one of the forefathers of how we view race today, and we can celebrate Black History Month—America’s History Month—with an African-American in the White House.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

I went to the Cathedral of Saint Patrick in NYC this morning to get my ashes, as I’ve done for years past on Ash Wednesday. I’m a life long Catholic, with—admittedly—periods of agnosticism and atheism (a long story for another blog post). But I’ve been back to the home town religion for the last 24 years or so. I’ve been getting my ashes for so long, that I’ve lost track of the reason behind it. That’s a big no-no in Christianity. Jesus explicitly distinguished His followers from the pagans by noting that the pagans followed ritual without worship. In other words, they went through the motions without understanding why. For His followers, however, Jesus wanted them to know and understand by worshipping in their hearts and by their deeds. So, what did I do? I’ve researched Lent and Ash Wednesday!

Yes, I know that Ash Wednesday begins the Lenten season in the Christian calendar, the 40 day period of preparation for Good Friday and Easter, but I wanted to know more. According to the pamphlet handed out in St. Patrick’s, in explanation of Ash Wednesday:

“The ashes of Ash Wednesday not only describe our humanity, more emphatically, they are a proclamation of hope, reconciliation and peace. Ashes give symbolic expression to our trusting dependence in God’s merciful love.”

Okay. Now for the explanation for Lent in the pamphlet:

“Lent is the period of forty days during which we examine our lives in order to renew our faith. Through acts of love, we become more like Christ in our attitude toward God and one another. Let prepares us to take part fully in the celebration of the Easter Mysteries during the Triduum (3 days) of the Lord’s Supper, his Passion, Death and glorious resurrection on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday, the holiest days of the Christian year.”

Being a history buff, I couldn’t stop there. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Lent and Ash Wednesday first arose at different times. The word Lent is Teutonic in origin and referred originally to the spring season. The significance of the number 40 invokes both Moses and the Hebrews wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, Jesus fasting for 40 days in the desert in preparation of His ministry, and Jesus lying 40 hours in the tomb.

A preliminary 40 day fast for Easter arose in the Fourth Century. This was not inclusive to the then separate custom of fasting during Holy Week. This preliminary fasting period became known as Lent. By the Fifth Century, Lent lasted for six weeks including Holy Week, but there was actually only three total weeks of fasting excluding the weekends. Soon there was a split, with some Christian communities insisting on 40 actual days of fasting and, thus, Lent would last eight weeks (40 days plus non-fasting weekends) with other communities sticking with the six week tradition. By the Seventh Century the six week tradition won out, but with six days a week fasting for a total of 36 fasting days. The tradition of beginning Lent with Ash Wednesday began in the Eighth Century. It arose from a devotional imitation of the practice observed in the case of public penitents. The ashes themselves are from the previously blessed palms from the prior year’s Palm Sunday. By the Middle Ages, Lent consisted of forty weekdays which were all fast days, and six Sundays with Ash Wednesday marking the start of Lent.

As to the fast itself, there has never been a hard tradition. Some Christian communities abstained from eating anything that was once alive, others abstained from all living creatures except fish, and others only ate birds and fish. There was a consensus, however, that for fasting days there was only one meal a day and it was taken in the evening. Over the years, the fasting requirements were relaxed and now in the United States no meat may be eaten on Ash Wednesday, Lenten Fridays including Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. The origin of making a Lenten sacrifice is more obscure, but probably arose with the relaxation of the fasting requirement.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Folly of Home Depot's Extended Warranty

Sometimes doing the prudent thing bites you in the ass.

Back in September 2007, I bought a new GE water heater from Home Depot—the one with a 12 year warranty—and it started leaking this past Friday. Yep, two-and-a-half years later it broke down. The one I had replaced was 26 years old. Go figure. I had also bought an extended warranty from Home Depot so I thought I was set. I was terribly wrong.

I called Home Depot’s extended warranty service on Friday and again on Saturday. They told me that it would take 24 hours for a local service provider (LSP) to contact me and take care of my problem. After 24 hours passed, I called them again. Still no word when the LSP would contact me. Mind you, I’m cleaning up my basement daily from the leaking water. That’s usually a sign that the water heater is shot. Very rarely can water heaters be fixed.

When I spoke to the warranty service again on Monday, they told me it would be Wednesday at the earliest before I just get the call from the LSP, forget about when they’ll actually show up. Furious, I called customer service to complain. Customer service put me on a 3-way-call with warranty service and it was finally explained that the LSP’s job was only to go to my house to either “fix” the water heater (which, as I noted, never happens when there is a leak) or tell me I need a new one. If I need a new one, it’s up to me to contact GE to get a new one and then I’ll have to pay for installation.

This was ridiculous. I was given the run around for days, only to realize that the extended warranty I had was essentially worthless. While my basement gets ruined from water damage I’m twiddling my thumbs waiting for the LSP to show up and tell me what I already know.

I said the hell with that and called my local plumber who came out immediately and confirmed that the water heater needed to be replaced. He contacted GE and I’ll get a new water heater for the cost of installation. When that happens, however, I have no idea.

It’s absurd that I had to replace a two-year-old water heater after the one it replaced had worked fine for two decades. But what is more absurd is how Home Depot is hoodwinking customers into buying extended warranties on water heaters.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Happy 201st Birthday, Mr. Lincoln

Two hundred and one years ago today, Abraham Lincoln was born in a one-room log cabin on a farm in Hardin County, Kentucky. Lincoln’s birthday is a legal holiday in only 7 states (California, Connecticut, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, and Indiana). Local government buildings are closed here in New York, including the courts.

Growing up, I had gotten used to having both Lincoln’s birthday and Washington’s birthday off from school, but that changed in the mid-1980s with the joint holiday of “Presidents Day” on the third Monday of February. I put it in quotes because the official name is still “Washington’s Birthday.” Washington’s Birthday is actually a federal holiday while there has never been an annual Federal holiday honoring Lincoln. As they say, the South lost the war, but won the peace.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Birthday Remembered

Today, my family celebrated my father’s 76th birthday today at his house in the Bronx. As tradition holds, we celebrate the other January birthdays in our family at the same gathering. That includes my sister and her husband and my wife. For the first time, my aunt came and we celebrated her birthday there as well. My father got creative and had all five of their names on the birthday cake using funky abbreviations.

There is another significant January birthday for me. My best friend, Sergio, would have turned 38 on January 25. He was murdered 19 years ago on January 20, 1991. He fell victim to a “random act of violence,” a crime that occurred all too often in New York City at the time. He was five days away from celebrating his 19th birthday. It was Championship Sunday, when the last four teams in the NFL playoffs squared off to see who would face each other in the Super Bowl.

Sergio was a big New York Giants fan and they were set to face the 2-time defending world champion San Francisco 49ers in the NFC title game. Back then the NFL still played their Championship games at 1 pm and 4 pm, rather than 3:30 pm and 6:30 pm as they do now. The Giants had the late game, so Sergio took his younger brother out side to throw a football around as they waited. Sergio never got to see the big game.

The call from Sergio’s sister was the worst call I had ever received in my life. Weeping, she said he had been shot and didn’t know if he was going to make it. I frantically gathered up our friends and drove to his house. Police had cordoned off the house and there was a large blood stain on the concrete in front of the front gate. We rushed to the hospital, but it was too late. Sergio was already dead.

This tragedy forever altered my life. At the time I was in college studying architecture and madly in love with my high school sweetheart. Fate took me away from both. I dropped out of college and joined the US Army for the GI Bill. My sweetheart—who later became my fiancée—dumped me for another man and when I got out of the army, I pursued a career in law rather than architecture. I met my wife in college and we have an amazing four-year-old son. None of that happens if not for the events of January 20, 1991. That is the irony of life.

There has been an empty place in my heart over the last 19 years. I wonder what kind of man Sergio would have become. How his children would have grown up with mine. What memories we would share. Luckily, I have our other friends who are all like brothers to me. We’ve shared life and death together. We live each day thankful for each other and lamenting the loss of our dearest friend.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


... Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."2

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

From American Rhetoric

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Earthquake in Haiti

My thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Haiti and to all those who have family and loved ones in that impoverished nation devastated by that massive earthquake yesterday.

Donate online to UNICEF (link) and to the American Red Cross (link).

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Congratulations Again, Rex & Mark!

Back in September, I congratulated New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan and starting rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez on their first victory in the NFL. Now it’s time for more congratulations as they earned their first playoff victory with the Jets downing the Cincinnati Bengals 24-14 on the road with Sanchez playing his best game of the year. There will be many more to come.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

El Día de los Reyes

In English, it means “The Day of the Kings,” in Catholic parlance, the Feast of the Epiphany when the three kings/magi/wise men arrived to worship and bring gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the baby Jesus. It’s the “real” Christmas in Spain and many Latin American countries, including that of my parents, Puerto Rico. “Real” as in, that’s when everyone would receive presents. For me as a kid growing up in the Bronx, Three Kings Day meant the last day we had the Christmas tree up.

What I didn’t know until recently (shame on me) was that Three Kings Day bookmarks the Twelve Days of Christmas, aka, Christmastide. The First Day is Christmas itself on December 25 and the Twelfth Day is January 5. For some reason, I thought the Twelve Days (and the famous song), led up to Christmas rather than follow it.

Friday, January 1, 2010


Happy New Year to one and all. May this new decade be better than the last.