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.