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.