My mother’s jokes


Jerry, Briana, and me.

My mother and I had a love / hate relationship, but what I remember the best about her was her sense of humor. She always knew how to make me laugh when I was little. She always told me jokes, by way of acting them out, and I would always laugh; when she repeated a joke, I would still laugh because she would always tell it slightly differently and the joke would be funny to me all over again. Whenever I heard new jokes, I would tell them to her. She would always laugh even after I told them several times. And she wasn’t faking the laughter, either. Jokes, especially her own, always made her laugh. Everyone in my mother’s family enjoyed laughing–a lot! Whenever we went to Mexico, we always sat around after a meal telling jokes. Everyone always had a joke to tell. And someone would always request to hear their favorite joke. Some jokes made everyone laugh repeatedly. My mother usually told a lot of jokes and would be asked to repeat some of her jokes. I don’t remember all of her jokes because it’s been a long time since I thought of them, but I will do my best to recall some of them. Here are a few of her jokes:

  • A woman is on an airplane with her baby. The man sitting next to her is continuously making fun of the baby and repeatedly telling the woman how ugly her baby is. The woman finally breaks down in tears. The flight attendant notices the commotion and approaches the woman. “What’s wrong?” asks the flight attendant. The woman says, “This man keeps bothering us.” The flight attendant finds another seat for the woman and her baby. The woman is satisfied with the new seat and thanks the flight attendant who tells the woman, “Everything will be okay now. Just let me get a banana for your monkey.”
  • A motorcyclist wore his jacket backwards to prevent the wind from hittting his chest. He crashes into a tree and a passerby tries to help him. When the ambulance arrives, the paramedics ask, “How’s he doing?” The Good Samaritan answers, “He was doing fine until I turned his head to face the right way.”
  • I can’t remember exactly how this joke went and I probably won’t tell it well either, but it’s about a man who lives in the rural area of the state of Veracruz in Mexico. He has to go to the big city of Veracruz, Veracruz, for the first time in his life and take the train to visit his dying grandmother. He has never seen a train before so he asks what it looks like. They tell him that it’s big and black and puffs smoke. When he arrives in the city of Veracruz, he sees a well-dressed black man wearing a suit and smoking a big cigar. So he jumps on the black man’s back thinking that he’s the train.

Of course, just reading the jokes now, they don’t seem as funny. You have to imagine mother acting them out. Part of what made them funny was how my mother tried not to laugh as she anticipated the punchline. When she finally reached the end of the joke, she would laugh the loudest. Those jokes still make me laugh when I imagine my mother telling them. ¡Ja, ja!

¡Ja! ¡Ja! ¡Ja!

I love Christmas


At the Chicago Ridge Mall, 2006.

Okay, I take back my last Blog entry. I love Christmas! Yesterday, Christmas Eve, I spent the day with my sons and we went to my brother’s house for the Christmas Eve festivities. I love getting together with my family. I especially love giving gifts to the children and seeing them go up to Santa Claus to receive them. Of course, not all the children approach Santa Claus willingly or without crying. I don’t like to brag, but I didn’t cry this year as I sat on Santa’s lap. ¡Feliz Navidad!

Merry Christmas!

I hate Christmas


When did Christmas become so stressful? I remember all the excitement and joyful anticipation when it came to Christmas. When I had my paper route, I loved all the excitement leading up to Christmas morning knowing that my parents, brothers, and sisters would be excited about the gifts I had bought them with my own money. I used to dread Thanksgiving Day because then Christmas is just around the corner. But now I beginning dreading Christmas soon after Halloween when all the stores start selling their Christmas gifts. Mainly because I hate Christmas because I hate shopping. How did a religious celebration become a capitalistic day of obligatory gift giving? No, I haven’t forgotten that Christmas stands for Christ Mass. I used to go to midnight mass at Holy Cross Church as an altar boy; I truly and sincerely understood the meaning of Christmas. I remember when I used to see large crowds in church for Christmas. Now I only see them in stores as we scramble to get the last toy or doll on the shelf. I guess the fervent devotion still exists, but in a different form. Well, only two more shoplifting days left until Christmas! Merry Christmas!

Ho! Ho! Ho! ¡Feliz Navidad!

My bro-THUH!


As a police officer, I work with many different partners. Partners of both sexes, different races, and many religions. I seem to get along with all my partners. One of my favorite partners, Calvin, is African-American and I enjoy working with him because we have so much in common. We both attended a Catholic school, we both went to the Marine Corps Boot Camp in San Diego, we are both college graduates, and we both work a second job. We actually have fun working together because we learn a lot from each other. One day we drove past a bus stop with an ad of displaying an African American. I said, “That looks like someone I should know.”And he told me it was Ludacriss, the rap singer. About a month later, my sons are flipping through the magazine and they stop to look at the same ad that I saw on the bus stop. My oldest son held up the magazine and challenged me. “I’ll bet you don’t even know who this is,” he said. I immediately fired back, “That’s Ludacriss!” My son was amazed.

Anyway, Calvin and I got along so well that he started calling me, “my bro-THUH.” I was flattered. One day he found out that I taught college Spanish for my second job. So he started calling me “mi hermano.” After a while, I missed hearing the words, “my bro-THUH,” so I started calling him “my bro-THUH.” Everytime he saw me, he would call me, “mi hermano” and I would call him, “my bro-thuh.” One day, another police officer witnessed our exchange of greetings and tried to be funny by saying, “You two don’t look like brothers!” And I said, “I didn’t say he was my brother. I said he was MY BRO-THUH!!!” That’s totally different, right?

Sup, my bro-thuh!

Beware the false cognate!


Cognates are words that come from the same Greek or Latin root and resemble each other in English and Spanish. For example, in English, “insect” is very much like “insecto” in Spanish. And “drama” in English is “drama” in Spanish. Words like these cause no problems and, in fact, make it easier to learn Spanish. The trouble for native-English speakers who learn Spanish is words that sound alike in both English and Spanish, but have completely different meanings in English and Spanish. You have to be careful when translating from English to Spanish or vice versa. Some words require extreme caution when using! For example, if you feel embarrassed in English, do not say, “Estoy embarasada” because you are really saying, “I’m pregnant.” And then you’ll really be embarrassed! Another problem word is “molestar” that means “to annoy” or “to bother.” “No me molestes” means, “Don’t bother me.” However, if you confuse “molestar” with the English “to molest,” you are referring to a sexual crime punishable by imprisonment. ¡Tengan cuidado!

I'm just a little pregnant.

Rocio and me


One of the many classrooms in which I taught.

Over the years, I’ve had some interesting students in my Spanish classes. The one I remember most vividly was a Mexicana named Rocío. I met her when I taught Spanish at Daley College. She dyed her hair this obviously fake black color, even though you could tell her hair was naturally black. She wore black lipstick and painted her fingernails black. She had multiple piercings on her ears, lips, nose, and who knows where else. She always wore black clothing except for her t-shirt. I gathered that t-shirts were very important to her. Perhaps even sacred. You see, she always wore a Marilyn Manson t-shirt. Did I say “a,” as in only one, t-shirt? The semester was fifteen weeks long and we met twice a week. We met for class thirty times that semester and she never wore the same Marilyn Manson t-shirt twice! I always try to keep an open mind when I meet new people, but when I saw her in class, I had the feeling she would be at least a little rebellious. Whenever I called on her, she always gave the correct answer and she usually scored the highest exam grades in the class. And this may sound strange, but we had a mutual respect for each other. For the oral presentation, she prepared the best presentation of class. She also taught me a few things that I didn’t know about Frida Kahlo. And about being open-minded toward everyone regardless of our initial perception of them.

I need another Marylin Manson T-shirt!