El Gringoqueño

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

Page 3 of 43

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

Recent Coffee Roast

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Vietnam Estudia

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San Francisco cathedral will stop dousing sleeping homeless people with water – The Washington Post

San Francisco cathedral will stop dousing sleeping homeless people with water – The Washington Post.

Did ya’ll seriously not run that that by operations first? No? It’s like right there in the company mission statement.

“Love thy neighbor.”

What do you mean, love can have many forms, some of them liquid? Would you like to be doused with water on a cold San Francisco morning? Well, of course you wouldn’t. I know you’re not homeless. What do you mean they shouldn’t be sleeping in doorways? I’ll bet they don’t want to get wet, probably because they don’t have a roof over their head. Instead of sprinklers, I’ll tell you what we should have installed – beds in the community hall. Oh, that’s where you play bingo.

Please come see me in HR, ASAP.

Colonial Arches

These arches keep catching my eye. They are everywhere in Puerto Rico. I note that I have taken so many pictures of them in a variety of locations. There must be something to it. Thought I would share since I think they are nice.

Front hallway in the main building of the University Sagrado Corazón

Front hallway in the main building of the University Sagrado Corazón

Looking out to the back of the Catedral San Juan Bautista into the plaza with El convento

Looking out to the back of the Catedral San Juan Bautista into the plaza with El convento

Hallway in the main building of University Sagrado Corazón

Hallway in the main building of University Sagrado Corazón

Cause or effect?



Will You Guys Just Kiss Already?!

The year before Laura and I started dating, there were signs. The first that I can recall clearly was very typically in the vein of the clueless male.

I was talking with this girl at the Sigma Chi house. We hit it off instantly and spent the hours getting to know each other. You remember those days, no – two people insatiably smitten with each other babbling on about absolutely everything? “Do you want to go someplace else?” I asked. She said sure. I grabbed her hand and with the exuberance of a puppy I blurted out, “You’ve got to meet my friend, Laura.”

“Uh, um, sure, I guess…”

I mean, who does a thing like that? Men, that’s who. We are stupid.

What was I thinking? Did I really just ask her to meet my female friend, Laura? As luck would have it, this girl was really into me, so I got a break.  Her half-hearted acquiescence was all I needed and I took it. We rushed over to Laura’s apartment and knocked on the door. Nobody answered. She and her roommates were out.

Jana and I ended up head over heals for a time, but I still reflect upon that first instinct. I wanted her to meet my friend, Laura. I was a like a little kid who wanted his new friend to meet his other best friend. I probably also wanted Laura’s approval, to look this woman over and give me a thumbs up. Stupid, right?

Then there were the notes obviously written by lovers, the gifts, the attention. It’s a wonder I dated anyone during that time. Any woman would wonder. Who is this Laura person? Can they really be just “friends.”

Laura had her pursuers as well, pretty boys who didn’t last past one or two dates. I’d go over and help her prepare. My friend Lauren tells me she knew we were destined to be together when she saw me iron a dress for Laura. I would tell her she looked lovely, gorgeous in her outfits. Makeup was perfect. A million bucks. Now off you go. Good luck. He’s a moron if he blows it. She’d smile, tell me that I was sweet, give me a peck on the cheek and head out for her date.

“How did it go,” I’d ask the next day.


This one was too into himself. This one was too shy. This one was just a pretty face. “Ugh, I can’t believe I made out with him.”

It was all innocent. We swear it was. We were friends. There was not a hint of romance, no designs, no inclinations, just an affectionate platonic love.

And so it goes onward, just the two of us. Eventually all the way back in 1992 on this very day, we deliberately started down this path together. If we are honest with each other, though, our trajectories had converged long before. We wanted the best things for the other, the best dates, the best times, and each other’s approval in so many ways.

It’s all so transparent in retrospect, but at the time we were blindsided by that fateful day where we became more than friends.

Recounting the stories of our youth to our 16 year old, she joked, “It’s like God was watching a reality show and started yelling at the TV, ‘Will you guys just kiss already!'”


..that we obsess over our technology, hunch over it, faces uplit by the glow of flickering screens  – the iPhone, the tablet, our computers, our screens, we use them to search for things, to learn things, to yearn for things.

It was better when we ran barefoot, it tells us. You see, the modern running shoe is not optimal for the way our bodies evolved. We cackle. These are the things that Big Shoe doesn’t want us to know. We know better now.

We run free now but not complete. Our device wil tell us the next step. We enter our search in google with a small “g.”

It was better when we ate raw food. You see, our bodies evolved to eat what was in nature, unprepared, unprocessed. Bleached flour, high fructose corn syrup, white bread, canned food – these are the foods that Big Agra wants us to eat, but our bodies know better. Don’t be a slave, man.

We swipe the screen, our fingers dancing a sort of mini-tango of pinches and whorls. Here it is, another piece of truth that has been lost to us, brought to us by this gadget pressed together by beautiful Chinese hands.

We poop wrong. Modern humans, in our eternal fascination with everything civilized and clean and controlled, have forgotten how we were supposed to poop. We were meant to squat on the ground, knees high, pressed against our chests. It is only in this position that we relieve our bowels without undue stresses upon our rectums. Big Toilet doesn’t want you to know that, though, as they lie and cheat and steal to support Big Sewer Authority.

We nod our heads. It all makes sense. We know the truth now. We are free, free at last to poop in a hole, eat raw food, and run barefoot through the field – not too far though, we must keep to the confines of the fire, not straying from its light or nearest charging station.

R.I.P. Billy

He was a little chihuahua mutt that I rescued from a military installation. Some young soldiers were kicking and throwing things at him. I hollered at them and scooped up the little guy. My heart went out to him. On the car ride home, he stood up on his hind legs looking straight ahead through the windshield while he tried to bite me. I was already beginning to regret this.

He was a nervous, bad-tempered little dog. At first, I met his aggressiveness with force, but he just got more desperate and anxious. Soon, I realized I couldn’t  force good behavior on him. It sounds stupid for that to even be a revelation, but alpha dogs don’t coddle. In the pack, you either get your act together, or you get a beat down. But I realized I couldn’t strong arm him into obedience. I would have to meet him with gentleness no matter his mental state. When he got worked up in a frenzy it wasn’t good for anyone. So I tried to adopt a kinder softer stance with him. Loud voices, sudden movements, forcing him to do anything, would get him worked up and he would spin around and try to harm himself.

Also, we never did break him of the peeing on everything in his sight – inside or outside.

When we went to the park he would bark at us until we came back to get him and take him too. He hated the leash though. Another thing to torment me, he seemed to say, but I guess he preferred to be with us than to be left at home.

Once we came home to him huddled in a corner on our terrace all bloody and disheveled. “Oh my God,” I yelled, “Billy’s chewed his tail off.” He’d always hated it, it tormented him. He would catch it out of the corner of his eye and spin for the attack. Around and around and around he would go until we thought he’d have a heart attack. It wasn’t really funny, but we did not know how much it tormented him until he almost killed himself to be rid of it.

After one surgery and the cone of shame, we were nearly ready to pack it in. He was still bent on harming himself like an insane asylum patient. We had to be with him all the time, and his growling and frenzied attacks on his butt were putting us all on edge. I remarked at the time that this must be a small window into what the parents of addicts go through. No matter what we did, he wanted to hurt himself and there was nothing we could do but supervise him 24/7.

We closed our eyes for one second, and he had what was left of his tail again.

After another surgery and an infection, we were able save his life. He now had a nub. We bought him a spiky collar to go with the new tough-guy image. He seemed to enjoy not having his tail. He became a decidedly calmer dog. His hated nemesis was gone.

Soon after we moved to our new house, he developed a cough. It persisted for more than a week, so Laura took him to the vet. An x-ray revealed a large tumor nestled next to his heart, pushing on his trachea. It was so large already and in a difficult place.  “He’s already 10, let’s just keep him comfortable. If we see he is suffering too much, we’ll put him to sleep.”

He carried on like that for a little over three years. There was a moment last year when he stopped eating. I thought it was time and we discussed it as a family. Everybody was distraught, especially the little ones. They didn’t want Billy to die. Billy, so as to not let us down, suddenly started eating again. He was back to his peppy self, and we soon forgot about his little episode of sorrow.

Recently, he had been eating less and less. He’d take a few bites of food, wander over to be petted. If we petted him sufficiently he would take a few more bites. The bites became fewer and fewer, the pets more frequent. We’d have to stroke him many minutes before he would go into his kennel at night.

Today though, he didn’t want to eat. He just stayed in his kennel all day. I roused him to go out and pee this evening. He needed to go out for a little bit. He was so pitiful, but he trotted out after some cajoling.

After twenty minutes or so, I called them in. Jessie wouldn’t come, and I didn’t see Billy at all. I went out to look for him in his usual places, and I found him collapsed near his favorite flowerpots.

I wouldn’t say he was the best dog. He was soft and cute, but he was nippy, generally nervous and bad tempered. We had made a choice, though, to take care of him, to accept into our family. He taught us that love isn’t an affection, that we don’t love because of what you do or because you are smart or cute or fun. We loved you Billy, because we could, because you needed us to.

I’m gonna miss you, little guy.

Roasted Coffee

These images digitized to look like paintings make a nice series, I think. From harvest, to fruit, to roast, I can get a bit of distance from the difficulties of everyday life and appreciate these abstract and idealized qualities of culture, tradition, hard work, and the gusto that go into a delicious cup of coffee. It’s a bit of homage for the hard working farmers and roasters.

Commercial coffee production is hard and doesn’t pay well. Anyone who does it here in Puerto Rico will tell you they don’t do if for the money. Life is hard, money is tight, but they continue to toil in the hot sun because it is a cultural treasure y vale la pena.

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