I’m talking to myself more and more these days. I have this Puerto
Rican friend that keeps me company. He’s in there with all my other
voices. There are these personalities that I have inside of me,
different voices that rise to meet different situations. There’s
African-American Jim, the one that feels comfortable in
African-American culture using the vocal cant the hand mannerisms and
the manner of so many of the people I’ve grown up with. There’s blue
collar Jim, the one that can listen and understand why management (or
officers in the military) are such know-nothings/know-everythings that
do little but live in air conditioned offices and fuck with the guys
who do the real work. I can understand why people buy lottery tickets,
complain about their jobs, scrape by, harbor the thought in the back of
their minds that they don’t measure up, that someone else has the
power. I listen to their conspiracy theories and after putting Skeptic
Jim away, I actually learn quite a bit. I walk away with new respect,
new understanding, and a greater appreciation for Blue Collar Jim and
all the things he helps me with. I’ve come to realize the past few days
that I’ve got the heart of a blue collar guy and the mind of an
intellectual. I love good wine, fine music, art, and philosophy, but I
really love it all. I don’t use them as talismans to protect myself
from the rest of society, the part that actually makes it move.

So there’s Puerto Rican Jim, the one that calmly soothes me in the
mist of small minded Puerto Rican drivers, or store clerks, or while
people are shoving past you in line. I let forth a silent scream, the
internal battle clearly visible on my face, "They are so small minded.
You’ve got to have order, forethought, planning, organization. Rules
are made to be followed, not bent into invisibility. Why even have them
then? Arrghghghhh!!!!" my brain screams at me flooding the reasoning

"Listen, Jim, my Puerto Rican voice says, in a somewhat irritated
voice, "What is it that you have in your world? Do you have order,
productivity, and prosperity? But how often do you socialize with
people. How often do you show compassion for those around you. You see
someone on the side of the street with car trouble. Do you help or do
you think that AAA will take care of it? You think of consequences. Who
is this person? Do I know them? What if they rob me? You plan your
savings, squirrel it away for a rainy day that never comes. You hold
yourself inside guarding it from the outside, saving it for some
eventuality. Your feet are slower to dance, your voice reluctant to
sing, your arms heavy to show affection, and your heart is hard and
skeptical. Such is the nature of your Protestant country. It’s your
work ethic.

We, however, live life with immediacy. We don’t save money. We spent
it. We dance, we sing, we say "buen provecho" (bon appetit) to complete
strangers. We stop to help, we listen to the problems of a hurrying
father and respond with our hearts rather than with our heads. Yes, we
get burned, and people scam us. They lie to get ahead, take advantage
of our good nature, but it’s who we are and we are willing to pay the
price. It’s just a different way of thinking, Jim. Live now or live
later. It’s all about what you chose. Sure we drive like crazies, and
we’d cut off our own mother to get ahead a couple of seconds, but
that’s just our passion talking. Sure there are things to work on, but
in general you’ve got to look at it with an open heart and mind. It
can’t just be in your American context. You’ve got to see our context
and realize the good things that come from our manner our culture and
our Puerto Rican soul.

I must admit the first time he startled me with that in the car, I
felt really bad about all the curses I was mentally issuing to my
fellow drivers. He shamed me, and I hope he keeps my blood pressure

It was really in that moment that I began to feel what I had already
thought. Total chaos is never productive, but neither is total order.
Americans err on the side of order sanitizing life to a point that it’s
as tasteless as a Denny’s Grand Slam Breakfast. Puerto Ricans run the
dangerous gauntlet of disorder to the point of overwhelming positive
productivity. However, with the right mix, chaos brings unexpected
delights, serendipitous relationships that you might not have chosen
consciously, parts of yourself that you might not have known. I might
never have met Puerto Rican Jim, even though he lived inside me from
birth. With order as well comes an ability to deal with those pieces,
make sense of them, put them in their context and not be swept away by

I guess, it was a bit rocky there for a bit, but I am continually
reminded of how beautiful lack of control actually is. It’s shaping me
in ways I would never have suspected. It’s hard, but believe me, vale
la pena (it is worth the effort).