Living There

Among my father’s favorite memories were the times he played baseball as a kid in his East Dallas neighborhood.  Growing up in those environs more than six decades, with scores of other Hispanic families, ago gave him a sense of community and freedom.  He had plenty of others, he once told me: holding me for the first time; buying this suburban Dallas home; working in the yard; and playing with our dogs.

“I keep reliving those moments over and over,” he said, following another late night talk.  “If I could go through them again, I would.”

Most of my own best memories occurred in the 1990s – the best decade of my life so far.  And one of the greatest was my 1991 trip to Ixtapa, México – a small hamlet on the nation’s Pacific Coast, northwest of Acapulco and far from the touristy ruckus of Cancun and Cozumel.  That was the furthest away I’d ever been from home at the time and only the third time I’d been outside of the U.S.  My first two international trips also were to México; college spring break jaunts that were hazy and less relaxing.

Ixtapa was incredibly soothing and quiet.  It was the first time I’d ever seen the Pacific Ocean, or any ocean for that matter.  The closest I’d come to an ocean was the Gulf of México.  On my first night, the pounding of the waves along the shoreline echoed deep into my mind and lulled me to sleep.  While I savored the beach and the warm weather, my parents feared for my life; that I’d be kidnapped by local hoodlums.  That had crossed my mind, too, but I was enjoying the simple sights too much to worry.

The Ixtapa excursion allowed me to live out a few of my dreams: lounging along the waterline for hours; roaming through a quiet Mexican town, wallowing in the community without boisterous intruders or Americanized visages; stuffing myself with as much food in the all-you-can-eat buffets; and, of course, consuming plenty of alcohol.

Sitting in the sand, wearing a skimpy Speedo, and letting sea water roll around me remains one of the best therapies I’ve ever had.  I thought, if some giant tsunami accosted the beach and sucked me into the Pacific depths, I probably wouldn’t mind.  Another fantasy didn’t develop until the moment I stepped onto the beach, beneath a cloudy sky.  I didn’t get to experience it, which is probably a good thing.  It might have killed me.

A tall islet laden with tropical vegetation languished innocuously offshore – perhaps a mile at the most.  I thought it beckoned me, and after a couple of days, I dared to attempt a brief excursion to its narrow shores.  I tried swimming out to it, but quickly realized the allure was strictly my own cogitation.  And I wisely returned to shore.

I returned home looking like I’d been attacked by some animal rights activists, which startled family, friends and coworkers.  I couldn’t praise Ixtapa highly enough.  I loved it then and I love it now.  I hope I can visit again.  If not now, then maybe in another life – if there is such a thing.

I’m not thinking of reincarnation, but rather, a life beyond this one.  The post-Earth kind of life.  Out there.  Wherever it is.

I’ve never been so arrogant as to say I know exactly what will happen to me after I die.  I’m certainly not a self-righteous evangelical Christian or “72 virgins at the end of the hallway” maniac.  But, for the bulk of my life, I’ve wondered what happens to us when we cross over to that “Other Side.”  What do people do?  How do they navigate time and space?  Why do they not visit us back here more often, especially when we call out their names in prayer?

I don’t know.  But I’ve begun to ponder a simple possibility – why would they come back here?  For any reason.  As much as they love us.  Why return to Earth?  They’ve served their time in this life.  So, what awaits them – all of us – on that “Other Side”?

All of those happy moments they experienced.  The people who have gone before us are, perhaps, reliving the best times of their lives.  They’re once again experiencing those events that gave them the most pleasure and made them feel the happiest.  I don’t suppose this would include the times they might have hurt other people for pleasure – whether it was accidental or deliberate.  Certainly not deliberate!  I imagine others who shared those grand moments slide in and out of the reoccurrences.  A sort of crossing time and space.

Therefore, my father is reliving the days he played baseball in his youth; when he first met my mother; holding me shortly after I’d been born; caressing my dog, Wolfgang, just a few years ago.  He absolutely loved that little four-legged monster!  Petting him was one of the simplest – yet best – pleasures my father had.

All of those things made him feel good.  Why in the hell would he come back here to help me with Earthly troubles?  Why would anyone want to give up reliving those special times to deal with plumbing problems and credit card debt?  They’ve already dealt with that shit!

I can’t imagine my father trading in the joy of having his own lawn for a day of listening to me moan about lower back pain!  Who in their right mind would want to make that kind of trade off?!

That’s why we don’t see our dearly departed that much.  And it’s why tampering with séances and Ouija boards is dangerous.  Disturbing the dead may be the subject of many bad jokes.  But I think it’s wrong.  It’s also kind of pointless.  Imagine you’re undergoing a full body massage and a relative interrupts to tell you they got into a road rage incident.  Wouldn’t you be pissed and want to startle the crap out of them, as they got ready for bed?

What’s it really like on that “Other Side”?  How is it living out there?  Again, I don’t know.  And I’m really not eager to find out anytime soon!  I have more stories I want to publish.  I want to adopt another dog.  So, I’ll continue paying my Earth-bound dues.  And one day I hope to lounge in that Ixtapa surf for hours – not concerned with anything.

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Hope with Truth and Justice

In the Valley of Hope, Truth was an elderly woman who traveled on her Horse of Justice; telling the villagers what they often heard from the outside world was wrong, inaccurate, immoral and even dangerous.  Whether it was lies about medical issues or dubious declarations made the Valley’s appointed leaders, Mother Truth always settled the villagers’ fears.  They had trusted her for as long as they knew and had no doubted she held their best interests close to her heart and soul.

Then, a new group of people ascended to the village leadership.  They were loud and angry and disdainful of their predecessors.  They mocked the people who had come before them with vulgar language and degenerative names.  At first the villagers merely viewed them as pure buffoons; clowns who loved the attention.  But, after a while, some of the valley residents began to listen to this new crop of leaders.  Then they started believing them.  And they began repeating the claims espoused by these new self-styled leaders.  More and more of the residents started to believe these people.  After all, the latter group was wealthy and educated – they must know of what they speak.  They could not be lying.  The words these individuals used, the images they painted of a world out of control – all of it frightened the valley residents.

One afternoon Mother Truth tore through the Valley atop Justice and frantically told the villagers that the crescendo of lecherous voices from of these new leaders spewed out falsities.  “They do not understand what they say!” she cried.  “They are merely greedy and arrogant!  They want nothing more than to secure their own futures and their own wealth!”

“What shall we do?” asked the people.

“Stop believing every single thing they say!” Mother Truth replied.  “Think and research for yourselves!”

Stunned, the crowd suddenly and unexpectedly metamorphosed into an angry mob.  They attacked the old sage unmercifully and hurtled her into a catacomb, before sending Justice into the fields to reap the crops.

Eventually, some of the villagers realized they had made a mistake.  “Mother Truth has never lied to us,” they moaned.  “Her very name reveals the nature of her soul.  We must free her.”

With the help of these renegades, Mother Truth escaped the catacombs and rescued her horse from an orchard.

Defiant, she rode back into the village, her head held high and her silver hair fluttering in the wind.

Troubled by their own behavior, the valley residents came to accept a painful reality – Truth may hurt, but hope always wins out, and justice plows forward.

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Aim

As a freelance technical writer, I’ve learned to consolidate the myriad words people throw at me for their requested project.  It’s a valued – and necessary – attribute, since people are always in such a hurry these days and want quick answers to even the most complex of matters.

For example, a few years ago a client contracted me to develop a troubleshooting guide.  They digitally handed me a slew of documents; literally a mish-mash of typed and handwritten notes about a software upgrade they wanted for their external customers.

“I need as much of this condensed as you possibly can,” the project manager instructed.  The software users were busy people (in the tech world?!) and no one had time to fumble through reams of (digital) paper.  “No pressure,” she added reassuringly.

Of course!  No pressure.  What’s that?  This was a troubleshooting guide, after all – not a historical romance.

Thus, I scrounged through the morass of information for a few days and – as difficult as it was – I actually managed to fit all the verbiage onto one page:

“Aim better.”

Odd, but I haven’t heard from them since.

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Choco-Smarts

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We all know chocolate isn’t just perfect for the proverbial sweet tooth; it also facilitates serotonin production.  Cacao beans are native to the Americas, and the ancient Maya considered them sacred.  So much they even used chocolate enemas.  Yes, that seems strange, but think about it.  Mayans developed the only known writing system in the Western Hemisphere; built massive structures without the use of draft animals or the wheel; and were the first known society to use 0 as a place number.

So, next time you feel life is spinning out of control and you’re losing a grip on reality, just ram a chocolate bar up your ass and you’ll be good to go!

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In the Beginning…

It’s great to know the e-version of my debut novel is now on sale at Wal-Mart – right next to the cheesy romance stuff.  But hey, a writer has to start somewhere, right?!

 

Juan Miguel thought of his great-aunt again and suddenly recollected another death even further back – one of his parents’ friends.  He’d never met the woman, but watched his mother, Marisol, become overwhelmed with grief; an unusually emotional response from a woman who’d driven herself to the hospital during evening rush hour, when she thought she’d gone into labor with him.

She and some other old friends had gathered shortly after the rosary – another long-ass rosary – to reminisce about their younger days and quickly found themselves laughing in the sanctity of the funeral home.

“Like I’ve said before,” his father, Armando, interjected, almost philosophically, “you need to get together.”

And everyone agreed.  They needed to get together; reconvene under more pleasant circumstances and relive the best parts of their lives.  They promised to call each other and do something; have lunch or dinner – anything!  Just stay in touch before it was too late.  Then they left – and his parents never heard from anybody.

Until someone’s name popped up in the obituaries.

 

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Amend This

After more than four decades of watching American politics in action – I’m old enough to remember Watergate – I’ve come to realize the U.S. Constitution is a fluid document.  It’s more of a guide than a text carved into stone or marble.  That’s why it’s been amended 27 times over the past 240 years.  Therefore, as a devoted yet concerned citizen (meaning, pissed off at the crappy way things are going), I propose 3 additional amendments to the U.S. Constitution:

Amendment XXVIII

Note: This Amendment affects Section 1 of the 22nd Amendment.

Section 1: No person shall be elected to the Office of the President more than once, and that term is limited to six (6) consecutive years.

Section 2: If the Vice-President, or any other designated official ascends to the Office of President within one (1) calendar year from the day the originally elected President is sworn in, that person will be able to serve as Chief Executive only for the remainder of that particular term.  That person will not be allowed to seek election as President on their own.

Section 3: If the Vice-President, or any other designated official ascends to the Office of President within no less than one (1) calendar year and one (1) calendar day from the day the originally elected President is sworn in, that person will be able to serve as Chief Executive only for the remainder of that particular term.  That person will then be allowed to seek election as President on their own for only one term of six (6) consecutive years.  Therefore, the longest any one individual can serve as Chief Executive is one (1) calendar day short of eight (8) consecutive years.

 

Amendment XXVIIII

Section 1:  All candidates for the Office of President who enter the first primary in their respective field will be subjected to a mandatory physical exam by an independent, non-partisan medical professional selected by the current Surgeon General.  The results of this exam will be made public no more than one (1) calendar day after that initial primary election.

Section 2:  All candidates for the Office of President who enter the first primary in their respective field will be subjected to a mandatory psychological exam by an independent, non-partisan medical professional selected by the current Surgeon General.  The results of this exam will be made public no more than one (1) calendar day after that initial primary election.

 

Amendment XXX

Candidates for the Office of President must submit their financial records, including tax filings, to both Houses of the U.S. Congress within ninety (90) calendar days from the day they announce their candidacy.  Failure to comply within the allotted period will result in automatic disqualification from the election process.  That person will not be allowed to resume their candidacy, but will be allowed to seek the Office of President for the next appropriate election.  That person will then be subjected to the same protocol set forth in this Amendment.  Failure to comply within the allotted period for a second time will result in both automatic disqualification from the current election process and forbiddance from seeking the Office of President or the Office of Vice-President at any time in the future.

 

Please let me know what you folks think!  We, the People, must take more and better control of our nation’s leadership – just as our Founding Fathers (and Mothers) intended.

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Things Jussie Smollett Could Have Done for His Career

As if things couldn’t get any stranger since the election of Donald Trump, the so-called actor known as Jussie Smollett has made a sad name for himself by apparently staging an assault on himself and claiming it was a hate crime.  Investigators in Chicago – where the alleged attack occurred – arrested Smollett on Thursday, the 21st, and charged him with fakery.  (Fakery is essentially the same as dumbfuckery.)  I’d heard of the show Empire, but I’d never heard of Smollett.  I mean, who has?  In the high-pressure universe of television entertainment, people are only as good as their last scandal.  But, if Smollett seriously wanted to advance his career, there are a number of things he could’ve done, instead of conjuring up a hate crime scenario.

To help him – and other would-be assholes who have dared even thinking of doing the same – I’ve composed a list of things Smollett might have done to enhance his notoriety.

 

  • Take acting lessons.
  • Post nude selfies to social media.
  • Get arrested with marijuana in his underwear.
  • Pose for Playgirl.
  • Announce he’s turned heterosexual.
  • Express his support for Donald Trump.
  • Rent an expensive sports car and wreck it.
  • State publicly he hates queer people.
  • Fake a seizure while on a plane.
  • Claim he had a one-night fling with Anderson Cooper.
  • Go to work part-time for Wal-Mart and say he needed the gig to supplement his income.
  • Say he has 4 testicles.
  • Travel to Acapulco for vacation and “disappear” for a few days.
  • Get into a fight with an old woman in a wheelchair.
  • Say he’s trying to find a child he thinks he fathered 20 years ago.
  • Start wearing a t-shirt that says, ‘I Beat Vitiligo.’
  • Visit a therapist claiming he’s a masturbation addict.
  • Tell everyone he’s NOT vegan and eats gluten.
  • Publicly condemn scientology.
  • Say he hates Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres.

 

On a more serious note, I have to confess my disdain for Smollett.  I’ve known plenty of non-White people who have been victimized by hate crimes (beyond name-calling), and most of the queer people I’ve known could recount one or more harrowing tales of hate crime episodes.  For Smollett to pay someone to inflict an attack on him, just for the sake of seeing his acting career skyrocket, is an offense to REAL victims of hate crimes.  It may also prevent future victims from reporting these events, lest they be questioned and even mocked.  You know the right-wing establishment is going to have a field day with this shit, don’t you!

Fabricating criminal behavior won’t advance anyone’s career, but it can set back the progress marginalized groups have made towards equality.  The public truly doesn’t care about the notoriety of a little-known actor on a ubiquitous television show.  But we do care about people who have fallen victim to hate and oppression.  Smollett can now fade into the obscurity where he was already languishing.  Maybe Wal-Mart will hire him.

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