Archive for January, 2010

Julio couldn’t speak English very well, but he was always smiling. He grinned like a child that knew something exciting was about to happen, waiting to surprise everyone with something that only he knew was coming. Through his broken English he tried to explain how people react when they read the signs that say that gas is only 66 cents.

“Wow!” he exclaimed as he giddily threw his hands in the air and then put his hands to the sides of his head. He had already explained to us that the 66 cents is per liter. He had also already done this exclamation at least seven times already. Normally, this could get really annoying, but Julio did it with such excitement, one couldn’t help but be entertained.

I smiled and turned my head to look out the window and observe a passing gas station to nail his point home. I kept my eyes on the passing stores as we raced away from Old San Juan and back to our hote. KFC, McDonalds, Burger King, Blockbuster, Churches, Blockbuster, Ponderosa, and, as if to nail home some other point, Taco Bell all blurred past the passenger side window with their hyper colors of red, yellow, and blue, easily recognizable against the duller colors of the native landscape.

When we were still in San Juan, we had walked into Don Collins Cigar Shop and were quickly greeted by Mr. Collins with one of his best cigars and a small taste of authentic Puerto Rican rum that had subtle tones of raisins and molasses. As I enjoyed his cigar and his hospitality, nodding to him in appreciation, I asked him where my wife and I should go to get some lunch.

“You should go down the street to El Tio Sam’s,” His English is perfect, probably better than my own, and it’s my first language.

My wife quickly chimes in, “Is it authentic?”

Mr. Collins raises his hand and speaks carefully, “It’s clean.”

My wife raises one of her eyebrows, “Yeah, but is it authentic.”

“I’ll just say that it’s clean.”

Rather than heading out and looking for where most of the locals were eating, we decided to take Mr. Collins’ advice. The minute we walked in, we knew we were in trouble. I immediately thought of TGIF or Applebees. Sure it was clean, but the large tiled tables and the waiters’ uniforms indicated that what we were about to eat was going to be anything but authentic. Too bad the food sucked as well.

Our waitress barely had a Spanish accent when she asked if we wanted authentic food. We nodded yes and she pointed out two things on the menu that she was sure would please our palettes. Although it was supposed to be a Carne Empanada, my wife’s food resembled chicken Parmesan covered in Provolone cheese. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Chicken Parmesan, just not when I am sitting in the middle of the Caribbean surrounded by people who speak Spanish. She choked down about a third of what they gave her, and I gagged as I tried to put down a poorly cooked piece of gray meat covered in soggy onions.

As we walked off our poorly chosen lunches on the cobblestone streets, a Walgreens, blockbuster, and a McDonalds all glared at us ominously. The way in which their illuminated signs contrasted with the rundown buildings in the area seemed to scream “we don’t belong here.” I mumbled the same thing under my breath.

My mother-in-law had requested that we bring back a figurine porcelain turtle for her. We happened on an old shop that sold just that. The woman behind the counter looked to be in her early forties, if that. Initially, she took little notice of us, carefully painting a carved piece of wood with floral decoration. When she noticed I was staring at her, she looked up from under her eyebrows and said “hola.”

I repeated “hola” back, and I think my poor accent, even with such a short word, rang like I was rubbing planks of Styrofoam together. My wife and I found what we were looking for and I brought it up to the counter. She took added up the tax on a little machine behind her and started saying the amount in Spanish. Even though I did understand what she said, she still felt the need to stop herself and reiterate the amount in English, “thirteen forty-two.”  I paid for the turtle and left.

My wife and I got hungry again and chose to go to a place that a driver we had earlier told us about. “If you’re in San Juan,” the old man said in a heavy accent complemented with a strong grain, “you must go to El Punto.” As if he knew all things, he continued to volunteer answers to the questions that we were thinking. “It is real San Juan. It is real Puerto Rico.”

We walked in through the narrow storefront. At the front, there was a trinket shop, but the smell and the sight of locals hanging out in back filling their mouths with fried plantains, avocados, and grilled flank steak. Continuing toward the back, we were met by a man about my age standing in my path without saying anything. He looked at me as if I had no idea where I was and he had no idea what I was doing here. I had a feeling that he wanted to say something like “can I help you” but didn’t. Slightly nervous, I stumbled and tried to explain that we would like to eat. He cocked his head and looked at me sideways. I pointed to the tables behind him. “Oh!” He erupted. “Si! Si!” He took us to a table. “Sorry, me English not so good.”

I told him that my Spanish was probably even worse, but I’m not sure if he got the joke. “Dos Medallas por favor,” I thought about how rude I was to come into his resturant and butcher his language. He nodded and another waiter came back with two nearly frozen Medallas.

“Can I help you?” The new waiter spoke English better than most people I knew in the mainland.

I pointed to the old woman eating right next to us. “We’ll have whatever she’s having.”

He nodded and smiled. “Good choice.”

I was glad to hear it.

After our delicious dinner, the waiter sat down and talked with us a little.

“Puerto Rico is disappearing. This is one of the few authentic places left. I know the place that you went to eat earlier. They’re not authentic. No place is. The only thing they care about anymore is their cars and their cell phones. They don’t even talk to each other any more. They just type on those things. When I went to school, it was like, I would call my buds and we would go hang out. Now, someone just texts you something and that’s it. If you try calling them, they look at the number and just ignore it.” Our waiter was young, real young. I’m thirty-two and I probably had a few years on him. I was surprised that so much could change in such a short time.

Julio was doing his “wow” thing again. I laughed out loud this time. “Como se llama cars en espanol?” I asked him.

“Carro,” his smile was getting wider. “If family have five, four of them have car.”

I looked out of the front windshield and on the horizon I saw a sign built into a side of a mountain like the Hollywood sign in California.

Tu Mundo Es Liberty

I thought this was an interesting thing to have built into the side of a mountain. I thought that it might have some strong meaning to them, that their liberty was the most important thing to them. That regardless of what outside influences had been built into their society that as long as they had their liberty they were free. I thought to how Americans value liberty and how it has become so ingrained in us that politicians and pundits use it as a talking point. “He’s going to rob us of our liberty!” they say with fervor.

I admired the fact that the Puerto Rican government would build this sign into their very land as a reminder of what was most important to them and indeed every human being.

Then, I learned that Liberty is a cable company.


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Mental Masturbation

I hereby coin the phrase Mental Masturbation. I don’t know if it’s been used before, and I don’t care. It’s mine now! Those of you who have read my work will realize that I oft Mentally Masturbate, usually leaving my sticky knowledge all over the place. Watch my brain grow as I polish my lobe. Stroking my Cingulate Sulcus, I wax allegorical with multi-layered inferences from Plato to McCarthy.  When my cortex climaxes, my synaptic semen spurts in a warm mass of gooey intellect.  Don’t worry, I always have plenty of energy left over for a proper mind-fuck.

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I would say that Massachusetts is full of complete fucking idiots, but that would imply that I am singling them out from the rest of the fucking country. I can only imagine the conversation.

Imbecile Liberal: I voted for Obama, but I don’t think he’s done enough.

Moron Conservative: What! How could you! Aren’t you scared that he is going to turn us into a socialist country.

Imbecile Liberal: What do you mean?

Moron Conservative: I mean, look at everything he’s already done! Soon he’s going to move us all into a single-payer health care system.

Imbecile Liberal: Really, he’s done all that!?

Moron Conservative: Not only that, but more. He’s changed more shit in our government in one year than any other president has in four.

Imbecile Liberal: Shit, you’re right! We have to stop him before he destroys this country.

Stupid shit Independent: Hey guys what’s going on?

Imbecile Liberal: C’mon, we gotta stop Obama!

Stupid Shit Independent: Can we stop for ice cream?

All of you dumb asses better wake the hell up because you are all being manipulated and we will soon welcome back another 30 years of conservative fiscal policy. I, for one, will be moving to France. At least I can get in to see a doctor in France.

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We are doomed. Just thought you should know. The Corporate Conservatives (Actually, I would prefer to consider them Corporate Servants) have done a masterful job over the past 30 years of stopping everyone from thinking. They simplified everything to two easy to remember equations.

Government + Taxes = Bad

Corporations – Taxes = Good

For the people on the right, the current administration is moving too quickly and destroying this country with their radical ideas. On the left, they are moving too slowly and are not being radical enough. Both sides are being duped.

Rachael Maddow did a report on this a few days ago where she illustrated that the Obama administration has enacted quite a bit of change. Arguably, more than any president has ever done in his first year of office. The biggest hurdle that the administration has to make is that they are part of a slow moving process. The government was created in such a way as to distribute power over as many people as possible. Now, I am not saying that I agree with every step that the Obama Administration has taken, I have particular worries about the appointments of Larry Summers and Tim Geithner, but the lefties need to understand that the government we have is in no way intended to move quickly through anything.

That being said, there are two ways that the 2010 and 2012 elections can go. Either we can stay at home and let the Corporate Servants be voted in by a misinformed few, and either nothing will get done or we will travel further down the road to a Corporatocracy.

Something needs to be said with our votes, and now is the crucial moment. We cannot let it be taken away from us by the people with the most money. Regardless of how you feel about the Democratic party, they are our only chance to be heard. If we sit back and hold our vote the candidates will become more and more conservative as time moves on. Please pass this on to your progressive and your not so progressive friends and help keep what little hold we have on our government.

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Joseph moved through the thicket where he found the familiar strength of the willowed tree waiting for him. Its strength held longer than mans ever could, and still it waited. Giving in to the force of the earth, it had let its branches fall wearily to the dirt. As the winds blew, its willowy arms gently wafted and caressed the soil underneath them, reminding its children that it was still there.

Joseph pushed aside its branches and pulled back its leaves, revealing a wide trunk and the mark that he had left behind. He looked down at the soil underneath him and didn’t find anything growing there. He had lost something. As he lifted his head up, he put his hand to the back of his neck and massaged it. The tendons that connected to the back of his skull felt like they were going to snap. He walked closer to the mark that he had left and squinted at it. It looked worn. The edges of the mark weren’t as sharp and jagged as he remembered. The relief had become dulled like too many hands had touched it for some recognition, and, as they touched it they took more and more of it away with them. The remembrance never satisfied their curiosity because they couldn’t remember someone they never met.

He wanted to deepen the mark, to make it so that no matter how many hands touched it, they could never erode it completely. He didn’t though. He knew he couldn’t carve it that deep. Walking closer to it, he put his hands to it as well and took another piece of it with him. He put it to his lips and tasted the kiss of a thing long since gone.

So many and so much more will pass before the willowed tree. Eventually, the mark will be lost, but the tree will still be there. He sat down on the dirt and laid his back to the coarse bark. After rolling his head around, trying to relieve some of the tension in his neck, he pushed his head back against the trunk and looked up. The branches above him would not let the sky through, and he was in their shadow. Mere flickers shone through where their long slender leaves left space for it, but that was about it. That’s all right. I’ve seen it before.

Joseph thought of his father and the sunrise that he had tried to show him.

I’ve seen it before.

Closing his eyes for a brief moment, he thought that he could almost make out his father’s face coming out the light like he always did out of his earliest memories. But his father wasn’t coming back to him. They were too faded and opaque. It was just his memories.

…long…the lives of men and beast…brief the lives of father and child…

Lowering his eyes from the canopy of branches above him, he looked down at the barren dirt. Maybe under the trees shadow, there just wasn’t enough light to grow.

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Don’t get angry! Give me a chance to explain before you start yelling! I’m not saying that there isn’t a god or anything; that’s not what this is about. This is about how easily people get away with being a centrist towards a specific religion, particularly christianity.

Now see! I tell you not to get upset until I’ve had a chance to finish and…oh, never mind. I’ll just keep writing, and you can finish if you want to.

Brit Hume, a ‘respected’ journalist, recently regarded that Tiger Woods, Woody for short, should quickly turn to Christ in order to absolve himself of all of his sins, and he would be the better man for doing it. He added that Buddhism, which he suspected Woody of being a practitioner, doesn’t have any avenue for such absolution. I suspect that besides the face that Mr. Hume doesn’t wouldn’t know the difference between a Buddhist, a Taoist, or a Hare Krishna, or for that matter anything that ain’t a Christian, he probably doesn’t realize that he is being offensive by saying on a ‘news’ show that Christ is the only way and all other religions can suck it.

The fact that he doesn’t realize he is being offensive comes in the form of his follow up interview with Bill ‘O, Billy Boy for short. Billy Boy asked if Mr. Hume was proselytizing, a five dollar word, when he said what he said. Apparently, Mr. Hume didn’t understand what proselytizing meant, because he went on to mumble the following…

Hume: “Nah, I weren’t prost-tit-ol-lizing myself! I love that Tiger guy! He has a set of ballz if you know what I mean! Unintelligable mumbling…my spidey-sense says that he needs something that Christianity, ESPECIALLY, provides…Now I only mentioned Buddhism because his mom’s a Buddhist, and I think that some guy said that he heard someone else say that he was at a deli and Tiger said that he was thinking about Buddhism. I wanted to say “NO WAY. Jesus can kick that Budda guy’s ass!”

Billy Boy: “Well, that settles it for me!”

Although I was paraphrasing, this wasn’t far off the mark. Hume, and many like him, are so saturated with this notion that Christianity is the only true religion that, not only does he get away with saying that Christianity is better than any other religion twice in a week on a “news channel”, he does so without even being aware that he is doing it.

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John Galt’s speech was long; it was very long. If you took every word and laid it end to end, it would probably reach the moon and come back. He figured that if anybody had the sense to write it down, it probably would’ve been at least 70 pages or so, in small type.

Now, his throat was hurting and he needed a scotch. He held out his hand and expected his servant to come by and put his scotch in his hand. He shook his schotchless hand and whimpered, hoping that whats his face would put his cold tasty drink in his had, but it never came. It was probably because of the speech that John Galt realized that his servant decided to stay behind when John started his little protest.

He shrugged. ‘Who cares’ he almost said aloud but didn’t because nobody around him would know what he was talking about.

The first order of business, and John new business, was to establish, well, business. He stood up in front of everyone with his arms outstretched and yawned as he proclaimed “The first thing that will be done by our new, better, much cooler society that theirs, is to establish the rules of business!” Bringing his head back upright, he surveyed the reactions which rolled from a slack-jawed surprised to just utter bewilderment. There was a suspenseful pause. John was a master of suspenseful pauses, most of which were no longer than 15.43 seconds long. He had determined that any longer the suspense was too much, and, no matter how good the revelation was, it could never be good enough to justify that long of a pause. And god help us all if it was too short. Shit, what are we savages. He was coming up on 14.98 he parted lips and waited the rest of the .45 seconds before laughing hysterically at what they all sat bewildered at.

“No. No. No. Just kidding. You should’ve seen your faces! I really had you going,” John almost puked he was laughing so hard. Like a church chorus, they all sang a sigh of relief when they realized John was joking about making rules for Business. “Just do me one favor. Don’t eat each other, alright!”

And so they built their society.

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