Las sonrisas regaladas de mi vieja

Feliz cumpleaños Ampis!

Creo que te he dicho que mi primera memoria es abrir los ojos de una siesta en tus brazos, y verte sonriendo. Estamos en un barco, atravesando el océano Pacífico, viajando, parece, hacia el sol. Desde entonces me has regalado 30 años de sonrisas. Sonreíste con ternura en esa primera memoria, y mientras yo aprendía a crecer y me equivocaba tú sonreías con compasión. Sonreías con alivio cada vez que las sesiones de quimioterapia del Sebas terminaban, y sonreíste un sol entero después de la última. Sonreíste también años después cuando el Sebas te mostró entre las vísceras del Supermaxi un riñón y dijo: “Mami, me compras uno de estos?”

ampis

Sonreías al llegar a la casa después de un día largo de trabajo. Sonreíste también cuando la pubertad me convirtió en un signo de advertencia, y hasta en los momentos más preocupantes de mi juventud (un par con policía involucrada) sonreías después del castigo y la lección aprendida.

Con lágrimas en los ojos sonreíste también cuando me fui por primera vez, y le sonreíste a la gringita cuando le ayudaste en el hospital. Sonríes a la distancia y sonríes cada vez que nos abrazamos en las puertas de tantos aeropuertos. Entre llantos de felicidad sonríes cada primero de enero cuando después del cero la familia se abraza. Sonreíste cuando mi ñaña dijo “sí.” Sonreíste con la llegada de tus nietos, con el sueño cumplido de la casa perfecta. Sonríes cuando el tono de la llamada internacional se conecta. Cada vez que le llamas a la Lolita, cada llamada de mi ñaña, cada vez que le perdonas a mi papá por sus bellas ridiculeces (esas ridiculeces que tan a pesar de uno se heredan). Con cada sol, con cada día tibio, con cada café en la noche, con la luz del velador apagándose, sonrisas!

Te levantas todos los días lista para regalar sonrisas a quien se te cruce. Hacer sonreír a la gente es ahora tu profesión. En la distancia te imagino sonriendo a tus compañeros de clase, mientras estudias. Veo las sonrisas detrás de los documentos subrayados, de los cuadernos donde anotas las voces de tus pacientes, que poco a poco se van animando a sonreírte.

Gracias, vieja bella, por tanta sonrisa. No solo porque iluminan mis días y los días de tantos, sino porque son lecciones de vida. Con ellas nos has enseñado que la felicidad, la sonrisa propia, se mide por la cantidad de gente que sonríe a nuestro alrededor. Así viajo por la vida, Amparito, como en un barco atravesando un océano iluminado de sonrisas, tratando de asegurarme de que todos los pasajeros que me acompañan se bañen un poco de ese sol. Así que por tu cumpleaños quiero regalarte una sonrisa de vuelta, quiero que sepas que detrás de estas líneas estoy yo, a pesar de la distancia, pensando en ti. Te imagino leyendo estas líneas hoy, en tu cumpleaños. ¿Estás sonriendo? ¡Yo también! Ese es mi regalo de cumpleaños, la celebración de tu vida y la de nuestra hermosa familia: una sonrisa.

The JFK “I am a jelly donut” thing is not true and now I’m reconsidering citizenship

Around 4 to 6 years ago I got married to a woman despite the fact that she was from the United States. Don’t get me wrong, the people are nice and all, but I’m from South America, and you took the name “America” from us, along with our fruit, our oil and 4 to 6 democratically elected presidents that didn’t quite liked that. So don’t take it personally if “place of origin” was on the cons list.

But Autumn told stories about a place with vulnerability, and empathy, and multicultural understanding, and she told me about the day when one of the most significant presidents of American history said “I am a jelly donut” in German. And I realized “America” was possible. Because it meant Kennedy was a flawed, clumsy human like the rest of us, and in that moment millions of people in Berlin (in Berlin!) saw a world leader saying “I’m soft, I’m warm, I’m filled with jelly,” and people were like “Lol, you’re not a donut but are you baked?” To be able to empathize with Kennedy, wow. That’s hope. That’s the American Dream right there.

Well, not quite. I first heard it from Charlie Kojis and Adam McShane’s podcast “Adam asks Chuck,” and I got official confirmation from the Internet. It turns out people did not hear it that way. So the saner, empathetic version of America that my mind held is gone. Great. Wish I knew that before I completed my citizenship application. All I have left is right turns on red lights and unlimited refills of Coke products at Chipotle. And my wife, of course, who has taught me so much (including the differences between who and whom), and whom I love so much. She really is a beautiful jelly donut, despite of course of her “cons”. Which I guess are now mine. Sigh.

And that is all. Good night and gesundheit.

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The Kinks – Sunny Afternoon

Spotify threw me this bright and brilliant piece of sun from an “Under Pressure” radio station. Under Pressure is a sad song about hope, while this one is a hopeful song about monotony, social class, and feminism. Of course their video features them surrounded by snow.

The tax man’s taken all my dough
And left me in my stately home
Lazing on a sunny afternoon
And I can’t sail my yacht
He’s taken everything I got
All I’ve got’s this sunny afternoon

Save me, save me, save me from this squeeze
I gotta big fat mama trying to break me
And I love to live so pleasantly
Live this life of luxury
Lazing on a sunny afternoon
In the summertime
In the summertime
In the summertime

My girlfriend’s run off with my car
And gone back to her ma and pa
Telling tails of drunkenness and cruelty

Now I’m sitting here
Sipping at my ice cold beer
Lazing on a sunny afternoon

Help me, help me, help me sail away
Well give me two good reasons why I oughta stay
‘Cause I love to live so pleasantly
Live this life of luxury
Lazing on a sunny afternoon
In the summertime
In the summertime
In the summertime

Ah, save me, save me, save me from this squeeze
I gotta big fat mama trying to break me
And I love to live so pleasantly
Live this life of luxury
Lazing on a sunny afternoon
In the summertime

All of the 5th Beatles, ranked from 1st 5th Beatle to 5th 5th Beatle

Everybody remembers the Beatles by hit songs such as “Love me Do,” “She loves you,” “All You Need is Love,” and “Why Don’t We Do it in the Road?” but did you know they were not alone? There was always a 5th person along the way. A person so important to the band he was considered the 5th Beatle… Problem is, nobody, not even The Beatles, agree on who this 5th Beatle was. So I decided to end the debate once and for all and rank all of the 5th Beatles.

Before doing so, I’ll start with my obligatory rank of the 4 members of the band.

1. George Harrison. The most inspiring Beatle. He taught me to be at peace with myself and others. If you disagree, well then go to hell.

2. John Lennon. He usually ranks 1st, but just because he was the first one to die. That helps. For me, a better argument would be that he wrote a song called “Everybody Has Something to Hide Except for Me and my Monkey,” which encompasses everything there is to love about John: he was honest, he was irreverent, and he carried a small sized primate everywhere he went.

3. Paul McCartney. I used to think he wrote the best songs. That was yesterday. Although you gotta give it to Paul for being the best drummer in the Beatles.

4. Ringo Starr. Although lots of people make fun of Ringo, it’s undeniable that he was one of the Beatles.

And now, I present to you my official ranking of all the 5th Beatles:

george-martin

1st 5th Beatle: George Martin. Not only he was crucial producing and arranging their discography, George Martin also called dibs when the whole “who´s the 5th Beatle” question came up.

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2nd 5th Beatle: Brian Epstein. He discovered them and told them they should dress in a more “civilized” manner. Basically he was the Christopher Columbus of The Beatles. He died before John, so that also amounts to something I guess.

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3rd 5th Beatle: Pete Best. When he was in the band people knew Pete as the Best Beatle. But he was no Starr, so he was replaced.

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4th 5th Beatle: Neil Aspinall. He drove the van.

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5th 5th Beatle: Your uncle Phil: Not only he has kept the original pressings of the complete discography he got in the early 70s, your uncle Phil also saw Paul McCartney going into the Paramount theater in New York in 1966, and he claims he actually reached out and touched his shoulder.

This Woody Allen Science Fiction Script That Never Saw the Light of Day Is Amazing

I used to be a huge Woody Allen fan. I still am, but I used to too. I love his movies, particularly his “early funny ones,” to quote one of the aliens that briefly appear from Stardust Memories, a movie that was not science fiction but included a space ship and some aliens.

Now that I think about it, Woody Allen has extensive credit as a Science Fiction author. Besides this clip there’s of course 1973’s Sleeper (which features a menacingly giant banana), but also several of his short films that appear in Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex (which features a menacingly giant boob), and his segment on the collective film New York Stories (which features a menacingly giant mother in the sky. Do you see a pattern here?)

But today I discovered his best. I found his album “The Night Club Years: 1964-1968” a year or so ago in a discount bin. I didn’t go home to play it immediately. I kept it in my record collection for the same reasons rich people keep dogs: just to show off (and if I’m being honest, I must confess that’s 80% of the reason why I own records). But I’m glad I listened to it today. He does this bit that is so absurd that it sounds fresher than the freshest fruits being harvested in modern stand-up.

So I thought I’d share.

Woody Allen

The Science Fiction Film

The Night Club Years: 1964-1968

I wrote a science fiction film which I’ll tell you about.

It’s ten after four in the afternoon, and everybody in the world mysteriously falls asleep.

Just like that.

They are driving cars, whatever they are doing, bang!, they go to sleep. The Russians, the Chinese, the Americans.

And the whole world sleeps for exactly one hour, till ten after five. And they wake up at ten after five and mysteriously upon awakening everybody in the world find themselves in the pants business.

Stay with us, ’cause it’s brilliant.

Everybody is making cuffs and flies and cutting velvet, y’know, And a spaceship lands from another planet, and men get out with jackets and shirts and black socks – no trousers at all.

They say: “Are the pants ready?” We say: “No. Could you come back thursday?”

They say they must have them, ’cause they are going to a wedding, and we work dillingently and make pants constantly and they come to get them, and when they come to pick them up, they leave us with socks, hankerchiefs, pillowcases and soiled linnen, and they say: “Do it!”

And the president of the United States goes on television and says that an alien superpower from outer space with superior intelligence is bringing us their laundry, and they are foiled, ’cause they travelled a hundred and seventeen million lightyears to pick it up, and they forget their ticket.

And here’s the bit:

Now I gotta tell you, not only this is my favorite science fiction piece by Woody Allen. This is now my favorite stand-up joke of all time. Although I have seen some Bill Cosby at my local St. Vinnys. Will report back in a year or so.

SPECIAL REPORT: Rumors that Everything Matches Up Well with “The Dark Side of the Moon” Confirmed

Is it possible that any video you watch will match well with Pink Floyd’s 1973 classic album? Am I just forcing a connection between two things that don’t really match, like me and my high-school girlfriend that day we tried solving a jigsaw puzzle? Or is everything and everyone on this galaxy connected and things like these are just small reminders that we are all one? This is my train of thought when I put the first track of “The Dark Side of the Moon” over this weird old cartoon. Guess what happened. Check specially 0:31 to 1:31.

I feel like I’ll become famous because of this. Just as famous as the guy that first discovered the Wizard of Oz connection. Is that guy famous?

Alright, I’ll take your questions.

 

How did you arrive to this old cartoon video?

I found this image on Reddit of a Capybara getting a gorgeous massage from a super sexy black cat. After visiting a couple of Capybara subreddits (yeah there’s a couple), I went back to the comments and saw people being reminded of this awesome old-style cartoon.

Do you always have problems using generic adjectives when describing “awesome old-style cartoons”?

How else would I describe it? I know nothing of cartoons except I loved them all.

Why did you add Pink Floyd to the song?

For some reason I immediately thought of The Wizard of Oz. Maybe because it seemed so sweet, so unguarded and naive, but strange, like holding a secret message. I So I had no choice but to see what would happen if I play it along The Dark Side of the Moon. So I placed the song somewhat randomly over the video.

Somewhat randomly?

somewhat…

What’s coming in the future?

I don’t know yet. Maybe I’ll create a space called “The BLANK side of the BLANK,” were I match all kinds of stuff to Pink Floyd. Maybe I’ll try to drink orange juice in the morning while playing “animals.”

Anything else before we publish this to the world?

Yes, just a general warning. Before we proceed, my wife hates these kind of cartoons, although not as much as the black and white psychedelic ones. In any case, if you’re my wife, maybe skip this one.

Thanks

 

 

 

 

 

Marriage, Ice Cream, and Other Errands

This is an extended adaptation of a story I told live at the first ever The Moth event here in Madison, WI. The theme of the night was “Love Hurts”. 

The sound of a fat plate of oatmeal being thrown at the picnic table lifts my face out of my hand. The word “Eat”  sounds like a bullet. We eat in silence, and pack our campsite in silence, and get in our rented Chevy HHR in silence, because we know that one way or another our relationship ends today. It really ends, because we have decided in the middle of our Route 66 trip that we have to go get married. And it sucks.

We have been planning our trip for the better part of a year now. From Chicago to LA, watching the remains of the golden glory of 50s Americana and the rotting traffic signs which are as useless as the abandoned towns they used to serve. Perhaps unconsciously we painstakingly planned a trip to the past knowing that after reaching the Santa Monica Pier the future looks as hazy and open as the Pacific Ocean. My student visa will expire, and Aut will accept her new awesome job, and we don’t want to talk about what happens when Route 66 ends because hey, we should stop at the Catoosa Whale!

 

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The Catoosa Whale. Catoosa, Oklahoma

Marriage seems like the only feasible plan, but it also means losing something we believe fundamental to our relationship. We have been telling everyone (especially my mom) that we don’t need a paper to love each other, we don’t need a paper to be together. But then the US government was all like “yeah, you do.” We would love to believe love knows no boundaries, despite what the US Customs and Borders Protection Agency says. But love does seem to know boundaries, apparently, and those boundaries are pushing us north towards Las Vegas. “I hate Las Vegas,” she says, and even though I don’t say a thing she knows I agree.

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The Detour

As we drive through the Arizona desert a 30 mile per hour sandstorm engulfs us. Outside, there’s nothing but red sand blowing ominously on our windshield, and inside the silenced cabin of our HHR, the second ugliest car in the world (the first is the PT Cruiser, which is the HHR doppleganger), the atmosphere is almost as violent. I’m holding  the steering wheel tightly. Aut sits in silence, looking out the window. I know what she’s thinking: “I can’t believe I’m doing this for him, just to get him a Green Card.” But we just drove by the biggest ketchup bottle in the world, and the largest rocking chair in the world, so I’m thinking, “I can’t believe I’m doing this for her, I’ll be living in this country!”

 

Autumn starts to look ahead as the windstorm starts winding down, and I wait for her to say something. She turns to me and says, “you know, this is just paperwork. We’re off to do some errands.” We don’t have to get married. We just have to do some paperwork so that the U.S. government thinks we are married. I look at her. She’s trying to smile. It’s almost comforting. That’s it, I say. As long as we keep this casual and unimportant, we’ll be fine! She’s right, of course. As usual. We just have to make sure we do this uneventfully. No significant memories. No symbolic rituals.

We have to not tell it to anyone, ever. Or, you know, write about it.

And we’re off, just a regular, boring day where nothing interesting will happen. The thought comfort us and we start looking at each other from time to time, turning the awful thought of marriage into a joke. After all, we’re going to lie to the government. And the thought of committing a federal offense is kind of funny.

We hit Flagstaff, Arizona, and we go into a pay-by-the-weight thrift shop. I get a suit, tie, and shirt,  and she picks up the simplest, most boring white dress she could find, and we pay $2.40 for everything. After all, we need the official in my Green Card interview to think this is a meaningful day for us. That fool. Aut insists on trying on her dress, and as soon as she walks out of the dressing room time slows down, a fan starts blowing her hair, and all lights turn down except for the one above her. I immediately know I will never get this vision out of my head. “How do I look?” She says, with her eyes shining as much as her white dress. “You look adequate” I say, trying to get this errand behind us.

As much as a pleasant shock it was to see her, we’re still alright. We still have not had a spiritual moment, so we can still do this without any repercussions. But then we stop for ice cream at Delgadillo’s Snow-Cap in Seligman.

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The Temple of Americana

We’ve already read that the owners are tricksters, so we’re watching carefully for the fake “Enter here” signs, the double door knobs, or a fake mustard squeeze on our shirts. We’re laughing and we easily forget our errand for a while. We see a column covered in coins from all over the world, and in silence Aut takes out an Ecuadorian coin and together we use tape to display it on a space that seemed to be waiting for it. It feels ominous to place a plaque of my origin on this temple of Americana. Without knowing it we have willingly started the ritual. As we approach the counter to pay, the man that has been standing behind us taps me in the shoulder and insists on paying for our ice cream. He’s dressed in black, he’s wearing a hat, and he’s hiding behind a pair of low-shade sunglasses. “I can see you’re on a journey,” he says, and tells us about his own. He has escaped his responsibilities with Penguin publishing, suddenly quitting his book tour, and is driving without aim away from Kansas. Just like us, the call for ice cream has made him stop here, and encounter us. “I am the country’s most prominent translator and interpreter of  13th century Persian poet Rumi,” he says. He talks delicately and he clicks his tongue at the end of each word. He seems to meditate on each one he pronounces. His apparent speech impediment gives his voice a mysterious authority, and a sense of wise loneliness, the kind all wise men must have. “You have reminded me of some of his poetry,” he adds. His voice changes, and the words of the poem come out fluidly, like a 700 year-old echo:

To my eyes, lovers touching are folded wings
in a beautiful prayer.

But yes, what heights and great expanse one
can also reach

when tenderness is placed upon the bow, and
our spirits know no gravity.

 

We look at him in silence, enthralled by the words. “Fuck this guy,” I think. He just ruined our plans. He just got us married. He’s the priest, the employees behind the counter our guests, the smiling anthropomorphic ice cream cone our witness. We look to each other, ashamed in our recognition of how meaningful and absurd the episode is, and we smile, pleased and thankful for the inane ceremony. When we turn around the man is gone. “Will that be all?” the man behind the counter says. “That is all,” Aut says.

The rest is easy. We get into the car, we change in a rest stop outside the city, and we choose the cheapest package the little Vegas chapel can offer us. “Rings or no rings? Vows or no vows? God or no God?” the minster asks us. We answer “no” to all of the above, and as the man recites his empty and memorized speech we look at each other laughing. And as the minster asks me the required, official marriage question I think of one of my own. Could I live here if that means sharing with her the road? Could she live with me if we share some poetry and ice cream? “I do”, I answer out loud. “I do,” she says too. And we burst out laughing, and get in our HHR, and open our road map because we need to plan for lunch, find a campsite, and prepare for the rest of our journey together.