El Gringoqueño

All a man needs out of life is a place to sit ‘n’ spit in the fire.

Black Bean Burgers – I Think I Did It!

I’ve been experimenting with black bean burritos for a few years, and I’ve never been satisfied. Too beany! Mouthfeel wrong! Bah. They were good sometimes, but I wasn’t satisfied. You’re never going to achieve meat nirvana, but the closer the better, no?

Why all the work? Why not just eat meat?

There are a couple of reasons, I suppose. I’ve struggled with my weight for years, hovering around 240 at 6’2″, while not obese, it’s about 40 pounds heavier than I should weigh. It’s a drag, but it’s so hard to stop eating. I exercise, so I’m fit, but I just can’t stop overeating.

Over the years, I’ve learned there are some foods that satisfy me quickly, as fast as my impatient gobbling self can eat. Beans of various kinds do this. When I eat beans, I don’t want to follow up munch on sweet or salty snacks. If I have a real hamburger, I have to have fries, salty chips, or onion rings. So good. With beans, though, I just don’t want those things. The beans don’t leave me wanting.

So there’s that.

We’ve also been trying to minimize our meat intake, because of all the bad news over the years about meat in the diet, the meat industry’s affect on the global environment, and the inhumane treatment of the animals we kill and consume. I don’t doubt that someday humanity will mostly stop, but for now, we’re at least reducing.

I think I have solved it. I have made the perfect black bean burger, or at least close enough to perfection for my palate. Here’s the recipe:

One bag (16 oz) of dehydrated black beans. Cover them in water, add a cup of brown rice, a tablespoon of lemon juice, 2 teaspoons of MSG, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 whole bulb of garlic (mashed with the salt), a teaspoon of cumin (your preference), and 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil. Let it soak overnight (about 8 hours). After the beans have re-hydrated, cook them for 30 minutes in a pressure cooker on medium heat.

In a bowl, combine 2 eggs, 2 cups of instant oatmeal, a cup of bread crumbs, and one finely chopped onion. Once the pressure cooker is safe to open, dump the still boiling beans into the bowl with the egg/oatmeal/breadcrumbs and mash/stir it with a potato masher. You’ll be breaking up some of the black beans, but not all of them. You’ll still want some texture in your burger, not a puree.

Let it set and once all the ingredients have come together, go ahead and form them into patties and sauté them with the oil and skillet of your choice. I like to add a dash of worchester sauce and then a slice of cheese.

Coro de Niños de San Juan Sing “En Mi Viejo San Juan”

Olaia and Jaimito took part in a music festival this weekend. Their encore was this beautiful rendition of “En Mi Viejo San Juan.” Pardon the stupid wind in the microphone. I have to learn to take a better mic when I go to these things.

A Family Lunar Eclipse

We all spilled out onto the terrace, excited to see a lunar eclipse. “What is a lunar eclipse,” someone asked?

“It’s when the earth passes between the sun and the moon,” I replied. I could almost see their little brains all working out that orientation.

I snapped a picture, and by accident got a decent exposure.


Olaia with her telescope, I with my camera, we fiddled, and fussed over our gadgets in search of that elusive moon. A hoard of mosquitoes attacked my ankles increasing my agitation as I blindly toggled and switched buttons in the dark. Damn it, I needed to read the manual again. I wanted to capture what my eyes could not, but the camera was foiling me. Olaia scolded the boys for bumping the table as she lost site of the moon yet again.

After an hour of dancing between my camera and the pool to soothe my ravaged ankles, I got another as the eclipse was peaking.


By this time the boys has already abandoned their posts and gone to bed. I don’t know how to say this, but it was fun. The worst mosquito, equipment inexperience failure, in the dark with your family is better than just about anything else.

“Hey daddy, would this be the night the water benders would be weak?”

Some Recent Photos

Totally accidental latte art. It looks like stylized logo graffiti that one sees on the streets of Puerto Rico.

Totally accidental latte art. It looks like stylized logo graffiti that one sees on the streets of Puerto Rico.

Pumpkin from my latest harvest. Nice deep beautiful orange.

Pumpkin from my latest harvest. Nice deep beautiful orange.

Always nice to kick back with the wife and a 40. Class it up with a wine glass. "Colt 45, it works every time."

Always nice to kick back with the wife and a nice 40. Class it up with a wine glass. Colt 45, works every time.

Creations: Media Noches, Popcorn, and Drawing

A traditional Puerto Rican sandwich - the media noche, sweet bread, pickles, ham, swiss cheese, mayo, mustard. Yummy.

A traditional Puerto Rican sandwich – the media noche, sweet bread, pickles, ham, swiss cheese, mayo, mustard. Yummy.

Javier jumped on youtube and looked up a super hero drawing educational video and went to town. He's proud of his character. Now he just needs a super power.

Javier jumped on youtube and looked up a super hero drawing educational video and went to town. He’s proud of his character. Now he just needs a super power.

Jaimito has become my popcorn surrogate. Today's batch was the best I ever had. The student has exceeded the master.

Jaimito has become my popcorn surrogate. Today’s batch was the best I ever had. The student has exceeded the master.

Popcorn made fresh with achiote infused canola oil (for that nice yellow color), dusted with powdered sugar and Lawry's seasoned salt. Yummy

Popcorn made fresh with achiote infused canola oil (for that nice yellow color), dusted with powdered sugar and Lawry’s seasoned salt. Yummy


Donald Trump’s presidential announcement lit off a firestorm in the Latin world. What a buffoon, I thought. What a moron. Such outdated ideas. How could he have said that? Ridiculous. Still, I dismissed it as the ramblings of a cognitively challenged aging megalomaniac, more like the former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Donald Sterling. He’s an idiot, but the comments were so weird, I almost feel sorry for him. ¡Ay bendito! Abuelo necesita su medicina.

We were watching the Nightly Show today, catching up, as we’ve gotten behind, and coincidentally today’s episodes was from the day of the South Carolina shooting. Contrast The Donald’s remarks with those of the white shooter.

You rape our women and you’re taking over our county. And you have to go.

The Donald:

They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.

They sound remarkably similar, do they not? You don’t have to wonder anymore where the voices come from. They weren’t in a crazy person’s violent head, they are all around us. In fact, they are professed by the #2 presidential contender according to current polling.

What was at first, laughable, ridiculous, seems to me now decidedly more sinister.

Landmark Supreme Court Decision

I am very much pleased with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling that same-sex marriage must not be denied anywhere the U.S. Constitution has authority. Great, I think to myself, and like yesterday’s 6-3 ruling on the Affordable Care Act, it’s the dissenters who are most entertaining. I found Scalia’s frothing at the mouth particularly delicious.

Today’s,  would surely not disappoint, I thought. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Chief Justice John Roberts:

“This universal definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman is no historical coincidence. Marriage did not come about as a result of a political movement, discovery, disease, war, religious doctrine, or any other moving force of world history — and certainly not as a result of a prehistoric decision to exclude gays and lesbians,” Roberts wrote. “It arose in the nature of things to meet a vital need: ensuring that children are conceived by a mother and father committed to raising them in the stable conditions of a lifelong relationship.”

Nice, John. Invoke nature. Seriously, that’s the best argument your legal mind can come up with? Nature? It’s always been this way, it evolved naturally. You know what else nature likes to do, John? Turn you inside out and reduce you to plant food. Nature is brutal, cold, uncaring, and life within it is short.

If nature is so great, how come we do so much to change it? It’s too hot; air conditioning. It’s too cold; fire. We invoke the “natural” way when it is convenient to our predilections.

Now, why would Justice Roberts write such a thin non-legal argument in his dissent? I’d wager he just finds gays icky.

A Morning at the Botanical Gardens in Rio Piedras

Lucy, the Tomato Dog

I stepped out in the morning to do my garden walk-through. I have been battling rats that like to eat my roma tomatoes (only my roma tomatoes), and since taking out the family, I do a daily inspection for critter activity. I feel like a detective, looking for flattened areas of traffic, disturbed soil, nibbles, toothmarks, half eaten fruit. What a ton of work it is just for my tiny little garden. I couldn’t imagine having to survive on it.

But today there was a new mystery. There is always a mystery. The critters of the night lead a secret existence, the insects, mice, rats, dogs, and iguanas, little forces of nature with their own agendas contrary to my own.

I almost stepped on today’s mystery.

What is this? I picked up one of the several green tomatoes scattered about. I turned it over. It was sticky and had a couple of large puncture marks about the width and size of our Lucy’s canines. The stickiness was Lucy slobber. I’d know that persistent agent anywhere.

What is she doing with my tomatoes? This is bizarre. Is she playing with them? She’s not eating them, but brings them back to the terrace. I scolded her, “Lucy, stop taking my tomatoes!” I knew she didn’t understand, but whatever.

Over the course of the next few weeks every few days, I would find tomatoes in various states of ripeness placed on the terrace. It was exasperating. I’m not the best tomato farmer in the world, so every single one counts. Stupid dog! Stop picking my tomatoes. She knew I was upset and would cower, “I don’t know what I did to make you mad, master, but I’m sorry,” she seemed to say.

She’s a good dog though, very loving, smart, and craves attention. Olaia calls her an, “attention hoarder.” And whenever I go into my garden, she trots along with me and watches. We know how smart she is, because she’s so easy to train and is eager to please.

And still the tomatoes came, rolling around in the hot sun. Maybe I’m thinking about this all wrong. Could Lucy be trying to help me? When I pick the tomatoes I always bring a handful back and place them on the terrace while I clean up. And while I’m pulling weeds and picking them, there’s Lucy watching me. Could she be imitating me? She isn’t eating or playing with the tomatoes. She delicately picking them with minimal tooth marks and brings them back to the house and leaves them. A-ha! I think that’s it. I have a farmer dog, harvest helper.

If only I could train her to only pick the red ones though… and not slobber on them.

The Melancholy Detective

I have been helping my father-in-law with a laptop computer from his cousin who passed away recently.  The cousin had been a playwright and performer in the New York theater scene for decades. Recently he had become less mobile and had trouble getting in and out of his apartment.  Once I was able to gain access to his account, I found draft legal papers indicating a lawsuit against his landlord to get required accessibility modifications. That did not look like fun. I could imagine the toll it took – behind the scenes I could hear the landlord fuming to himself, “Why can’t the old goat just die?”

The laptop, a new shiny Sony Vaio purchased in 2011 (model from 2011), had as his username login 21centuryplay. Such illusion, I thought. He was in his seventies, but looking forward to a new century of creative works. It is the dawn of a new era. He would define himself as a man, a writer, a performer for this new century.

First things, first. The laptop did not function and nobody could access its data. There was  a electrical short of some sort and all the thing did was issue long beeps on start up – as if in perpetual keypress. I tried to connect an external keyboard, but nothing. The shorted key(s) were disrupting anything I tried and I couldn’t disable it.

The only thing left to do was to take out the data drive. I disassembled the case and pulled out the tiny 2.5 inch SATA drive. I then placed it in an external enclosure and copied the data to my workstation. There, I could retrieve anything of use. My father-in-law had been looking for an indication of his last will and testament. Everybody had insisted his cousin had one, but no one could find it. I grepped through the files and found nothing. It looked like the last login was April of 2014. There were a couple of unfinished writing grant requests. I retraced his steps to an online form; the procedure for request seemed daunting to me. Perhaps he had printed them and filled them out by hand. I hoped he had, anyway.

There were various drafts of the lawsuit, the back and forth, the changes, the settlement. His landlord was ordered by the city to make the required changes. Did he? I couldn’t tell. I hoped this man had at least some dignity in his last year, or was he stuck in his apartment, only going out when someone was there to help him down many flights of stairs.

I ordered a new keyboard for the laptop on the off chance it could be repaired to working order. I pried the old one out. Underneath there was a sticky goo. Orange juice? Year-old orange juice reduced to its sticky syrupy essence. Now I understood the droplet marks on the screen. On one spring morning, Carlos had sat down with his morning orange juice, popped open his laptop to read the morning variety, a mix of gossip and New York local news. He had logged in as 21centuryplay. He was reminded that he should get working on that. Perhaps today.

Then his arthritic hands failed him, and he dropped his glass of orange juice a few inches to the table. The glass didn’t break, but the liquid sloshed out over the screen and into the keyboard. He did his best to wipe it up, but the keyboard ceased to function and the laptop was rendered useless.

Didn’t he have anybody to help him? I wish I could have been there. I would have fixed his laptop and encouraged him.

I know now that in a year he would have passed. It’s with profound sadness at seeing into this man’s past that I write this. He didn’t know what was coming, or rather when it was coming. He had hope, evidenced by his username, and plans, and he still had ambitions, still had creativity. He was failed by his body and modern technology, thwarted by the world of flesh and blood while his spirit continued to yearn.

Every man who has reached even his intellectual teens begins to suspect that life is no farce; that it is not genteel comedy even; that it flowers and fructifies on the contrary out of the profoundest tragic depths of the essential death in which its subject’s roots are plunged. The natural inheritance of everyone who is capable of spiritual life is an unsubdued forest where the wolf howls and the obscene bird of night chatters.
— Henry James Sr., writing to his sons Henry and William

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