White chili


White chili

My wife has been trying new recipes lately. I don’t like cooking, although my wife wishes I would. She also wishes I would cook with her. However, I will always try everything she dishes up.

Anyway, her latest recipe was White Chili. She was so proud that she cooked it up without any problems. With great fanfare, she announced that dinner was served. Then she waited for my verdict after my first spoonful.

It tasted good. Not great, but good. With a name like White Chili, I expected it to be white and to taste like chili. Failure on both counts. Not one ingredient was white. If you look at the bowl in the picture, you will observe that in no way does it resemble chili. My expectations for chili are much higher.

My wife was disappointed not only with the appearance of the resulting dish, but also the taste of it. And, as my wife usually does when she cooks, she prepared enough for a family of six–even though my wife and I live alone.

Well, I ended up heating and reheating this dish for about week until it was completely gone. I must admit that I dreaded the thought of eating non-chili white chili. The next day, it still tasted okay. And the day after, too. By the third day, I decided not to even think of it as chili at all. Suddenly, this bean soup tasted much better!

And so, it went as I ate bean soup every day until I had finished it alone. My refused to eat anymore after the first serving. The taste improved with age!

I told my wife that it tasted great if I didn’t think of it as chili, which it never really was. The last bowl certainly tasted the best. However, my wife will never prepare White Chili again.

DDR

Tools


Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com

When it comes to being useful around the house, I can do basic repairs. I come from a family of carpenters and mechanics, so I am fairly handy around the house. I used to be able to do basic auto repairs until the car manufacturers started computerizing all their systems. I have the basic tools I need for around the house: hammer, pliers, screwdrivers, wrenches, socket wrenches, and assorted power tools.

However, if you do enough home and auto repairs, you eventually will need a very specialized tool that isn’t available on the market or doesn’t even exist. For example, sometimes I would have to pry something open, but a crowbar or a screwdriver was too thick to squeeze in. However, a table knife, but not a steak knife, would do the job. Sometimes, a paper clip would fit right in a small circular hole that no other tool could. And, of course, there’s my favorite! A wire coat hanger! I’ve used it as a car antenna that received very good reception. A hanger is also good for reaching into places where your hand and arm won’t fit; you can shape it so it will go directly to where you’re aiming. Coins also help in some situations because they come in different sizes, and I will find one that mets my needs.

What other objects have you used as tools when an existing tool wouldn’t do the job?

South Side Story


Holy Cross Church

I learned a lot about Chicago when I attended Divine Heart Seminary in Donaldson, Indiana. For example, in my World History class, we went on a field trip to Chicago to visit the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago in Hyde Park. My father had taken us to what I thought were all the museums Chicago had to offer. Mr. Gibson, our history teacher merely told us were going on a field trip without any further explanation.

As we approached Chicago, I was surprised we were going to Chicago for our field trip. Even though we had visited the Museum of Science and Industry many times, I had no idea the Oriental Institute was nearby. I was very impressed by the museum. I was surprised by the many things I learned at the seminary. None of them relating to becoming a priest.

I learned that people in Indiana were fascinated with Chicago and visited my city quite often. Some of my classmates often asked what it was like to live in Chicago. They wanted details! To me, these were mundane facts, but I told them how I lived on the south side of Chicago, near where the Union Stockyards used to be. I told them how I attended a Lithuanian Catholic church and school, how I used to deliver the Chicago Sun-Times, Tribune, Daily News, American, and Today. I also delivered to Polish newspapers, the Daily Zgoda and the Chicagowski (I’m not making this name up!). These rural classmates of mine were truly fascinated by all these details.

Occasionally, I went home on weekends. The first few times, I took a Greyhound bus from Plymouth, Indiana, to downtown Chicago. And then I would take the CTA the rest of the way home. One of my classmates, Jim, was so curious about Chicago that he offered to have his mother take me to White Sox park, which was close enough to home so my father would pick me up. He lived in Whiting, Indiana, so his mother wasn’t driving that far out of the way. He was so excited to be in Chicago! He enjoyed waiting with me for my father in the stadium parking lot. We did this a couple more times.

One of the activities we did together as seminarians was watch television premieres of blockbuster movies. I remember watching Love Story because the upperclassmen made it sound like the coolest movie ever! I was surprised that many of my fellow seminarians cried at the end. There was a lot excitement when West Side Story was scheduled. I must confess that I had never seen the movie. In fact, I had never even heard of West Side Story. Everyone was shocked by ignorance. They just assumed I had seen the movie. I had no idea what the movie was about, and I was afraid to ask after all the teasing I suffered.

Well, I loved the movie! I loved the movie, the acting, the music, and the dancing. But I especially loved Natalie Wood as Maria. Of course, many seminarians were crying at the end. I couldn’t believe how these supposedly tough guys cried so easily.

Anyway, West Side Story suddenly made me the expert on gang life because I was from Chicago. I was always asked questions about the movie, gangs, and what it was like to be Puerto Rican. I explained that I was not qualified to say what is was like to be Puerto Rican because I was Mexican. That didn’t matter. The questions continued.

The next time we had a holiday weekend, my friend Jim offered to have his mother take me all the way to my house. All the way home, he kept asking if there gangs in my neighborhood. If the gangs were like the ones in West Side Story. If I ever saw anyone stabbed. The questions just kept coming all the way home.

I told him that, yes, our neighborhood did have gangs, but they didn’t dance like in West Side Story. I did see someone who was stabbed, but the not the actual stabbing. Jim kept prodding me for details. I told him about how a rival gang drove into our neighborhood to challenge our local gang. They shouted from their car as they drove past them as they played baseball in the park. Suddenly, their car stalled. Our gang ran up to the car with baseball bats. They hit the car a few times before it started up again and they took off.

I told Jim all these details, and then some, and he was enthralled by these stories. On the way home, he asked me where exactly I saw the stabbed person. His mother was interested, too, so we drove past the exact spot where I saw the stabbed person picked up by an ambulance. Before they drove me home, I had to show them where the rival gang’s car had stalled and where the other gang was playing baseball. Jim and his mother loved the tour I gave them. They finally took me home.

When I returned to the seminary after that weekend, I felt that everyone looked at me differently. Obviously, Jim had told everyone about his south side tour on the way to my house. To me, my life was just a normal life.

The ghost of Thanksgiving past


A Turkey by Johan Teyler (1648-1709). Original from The Rijksmuseum. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel. by Rijksmuseum is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0

This Thanksgiving Day, I was reminded of how we have celebrated previous Thanksgiving Days with our family. And by our family, I mean the Rodriguez family. That’s my father’s side of the family, which is very, very big. When my Uncle Simon and Aunt Maricela bought their first house, the Rodriguez family began celebrating Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve at their home. All the family tried to come to celebrate these holidays together. We usually had between forty to fifty people in the house. That included family members, friends, and neighbors for Thanksgiving.

I have many fond memories of Thanksgiving with my family. My aunt was such a great cook. I especially loved her baked sweet potatoes. And all those desserts she baked. I used to go with my parents, my brothers, and my sister until my parents got divorced. Then, my father would take us without our mother. Eventually, just my father and I would go alone.

I especially remember the last time I went there for Thanksgiving. Just my father and I went. That was the most people who went to this Thanksgiving dinner. There were lots of cousins and their friends.

I had just finished Marine Corps boot camp that week. I flew back to Chicago from San Diego on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, which is always a very busy travel day. We flew a circling pattern all the way from St. Louis to Chicago. I was beginning to get nauseous. Luckily, we landed before I got really sick.

The next day I called my Uncle Simon’s house and asked if they were still having the annual Thanksgiving dinner. Of course, they were! I didn’t talk to my Uncle Simon. My cousin Lulu answered the phone. I don’t think their family really knew I had enlisted in the Marine Corps. When I told Lulu I just got back from boot camp, she said, “That’s great! Come on over! Wear your uniform!”

So, of course, I wore my uniform to dinner. My father was so proud to present me to the Rodriguez family in my Marine Corps uniform! Lulu was happy to see that I had listened to her. The dinner went well, but since there were so many people there, we had to eat in shifts. But everyone ate. Then, my aunt brought out the desserts. I remember my Uncle Placido, who is a Roman Catholic bishop, looking at the desserts and saying, “All this and heaven, too!”

After dinner, my cousin told me we were going to Fat City, a bar where she worked. I really didn’t want to go to a bar in uniform, but she insisted. Well, I went, against my better judgment, but people I didn’t even know were happy to see me there. In fact, several people were buying me beers, which I didn’t realize at first. When the waitress brought me the first beer, I told her, “I didn’t order a beer.” She pointed to someone across the room and said, “This beer’s on him! He was in the Marines, too!” I got a few more beers that night.

I must admit that that was my most memorable Thanksgiving dinner. And the very few times I saw someone in a military uniform after that, I bought them a drink.

Confirmation


I actually wrote this on February 12, 2010. I was going through old drafts that I never finished or posted. This is one of them.

February 12, 2010

My son Adam was confirmed today. And I recalled many things past and present about being Roman Catholic.

The holy sacrament of Confirmation is usually the fourth sacrament that a Roman Catholic receives. A Christian baby is baptized soon after birth and then around the age of eight makes his or her Confession and receives his or her First Holy Communion. Then around age twelve or thirteen, usually, he or she makes a conscious decision to denounce Satan and become a Christian, unlike Baptism where an innocent baby has no choice but to be baptized a Catholic.

I am a Roman Catholic (or just plain Catholic). There were times in the past when I told people that I was an ex-Catholic or a lapsed Catholic. I was once hospitalized at St. Anthony’s Hospital and when I was asked my religion I said, “Catholic” just out of guilt. A Catholic priest then came to visit me everyday. I told him that I wasn’t sure if I was still Catholic and he told me that it was normal to doubt. Now, whenever someone asks me my religion, I say I’m Catholic. If I think about Catholicism very objectively, I realize that, once you go through all of my religious training, I will always be a Catholic and never an ex- or lapsed Catholic. That would be the equivalent of saying, “I used to be Mexican.”

Today, I tried to compare Adam’s confirmation to mine. But I couldn’t remember my confirmation because I was baptized in México when I was about two months old. When it came time for my class to get confirmed at Holy Cross, my mother told me that I was already confirmed. That was news to me! Whenever we had confirmation classes, Sister Cecilia would just look at me with disdain and shake her head. She couldn’t understand how Mexicans could confirm babies. That was so contradictory to the whole concept of confirming that one voluntarily and willingly wanted to be a Catholic. Well, I was an outsider during the whole confirmation process. I had to go to the Confirmation, but I couldn’t sit with the class because I wasn’t getting confirmed. I didn’t feel very Catholic that day. Or today when I tried to compare my confirmation with my son’s.

I was happy for my son, but this was an awkward day for me. Since the divorce, we no longer celebrate anything as a family. But such is life.

Mexicanos


Es difícil describir a los mexicanos que viven en Estados Unidos porque no son ni de México ni de Estados Unidos. Si son indocumentados, siempre viven con el temor de ser deportados. Si son ciudadanos estadounidenses, viven con el temor de perder su cultura mexicana. Cuando vuelven a México para visitar a la familia, todo mundo los reconoce como familia, pero ya no los consideran completamente mexicanos por su contacto con la cultura norteamericana. Así es la vida de alguien como yo que vive entre dos países.

¡Lamentablemente!

Comedian


The Lineup

Well, I’ve started going back to the comedy clubs after more than thirty-three years. Things have really changed since then. So many changes! I think the changes are for the better.

I was surprised by how many comedians go to the so many available open mics in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. And the comedians are so supportive of each other. Of course, that’s not surprising because Chicago is one of the comedy breeding grounds for the U.S. If you are a new comedian, you may perform every night of the week, multiple times per day. And there are no hecklers. I was incredibly surprised by that. I remember always dreading my confrontations with hecklers. Some of my best shows, of course, were when I was able to handle the hecklers.

Gone are the smoke-filled comedy rooms since smoking was banned indoors, which is great for me since I have always been a non-smoker. But I miss the ambience. However, the audiences are nicer now that they don’t smoke.

Back in 1986, I occasionally earned money as a standup comedian. Now, many clubs have a two-drink minimum for comedians who want to participate for the open mic. Yes, I understand that this helps keep the clubs open, but I remember getting paid five dollars and getting two drinks for performing at the open mic at the Higgins Street Cafe.

Back in 1983, all the open mics started at 9:00 or 9:30. Now they start much earlier, often as early as 6:00 PM. This is much more convenient for aspiring comics who must get up early for work the next morning.

There are so many comics attending all these open mics. Yes, I’m one of them, too. Last night, I went to The Comedy Shrine and there were forty comedians signed up! And about half of them were very funny. Not only do I perform, but I also enjoy watching the other comedians perform.

When I started performing this go-round, I wrote all new jokes. I had my friend Vito look over my jokes and he contributed some very funny jokes, as he did for me back in 1983 and 1986. Most of the jokes went over very well. Afterwards, several comics would ask me, “How long have you been doing comedy?” I suppose you can take that both ways: 1. That I sound like I have some previous experience as a comedian, or, 2. You must be new to comedy!

Well, I am finally overcoming my stage fright and getting more comfortable on stage. My new jokes are getting laughs at all the right times. Plus, I have been inserting my old jokes in there from time to time. At first, I was afraid to tell the old jokes, but I told one or two from time to time. Some of my biggest laughs come from jokes that are more than thirty years old!

I’ll keep working at standup comedy for the near future. I enjoy hearing the laughter. Maybe I’m crazy, but I finally found my true calling.

DDR

I’m back!


I’m back! At least, I think I am. Or, rather, I want to be. I have such a guilty conscience since I stopped writing blog posts. I could list hundreds of excuses for not writing, such as too busy, not enough time, I teach too many classes, I correct too many compositions and/or homework, etc, but I won’t list any!

I really have missed writing this blog, so now that the semester is almost over, I’m beginning to think about writing again.

Secrets


Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

“A secret is something you tell one person at a time.'”
“Three can keep a secret if two are dead.”

I know how to keep a secret! A while back, my brother told me he was getting divorced after thirty-five years of marriage. He prefaced his announcement by asking me not to tell anyone. I promised not to tell anyone.

A few months later, my brother posted his plans to get divorced on Facebook. I saw the post and thought he phrased it in such a way that blamed neither party for the divorce. My wife was surprised by his announcement. She asked me, “Did you see that your brother is getting divorced?” “Yes, I knew about his divorce. He told me a few months ago that he was getting divorced.” My wife was surprised I knew and then asked me, “Why didn’t you tell me?” “Because I promised him not to tell anyone. So, I didn’t tell anyone.” She insisted that I could have told her because she was my wife, and she should have been privy to such information. Well, I did not–and will not in the future–tell her or anyone a secret someone shared with me in strict confidentiality.

I know how to keep a secret!

Thanksgiving Day


Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

The other day in Spanish class, a student asked my how to say Thanksgiving Day in Spanish. I immediately said, “El Día de Acción de Gracias.”

Another student asked me if Thanksgiving Day was celebrated in Mexico or anywhere else in Latin America. I explained that Thanksgiving Day is an American Holiday. He then wanted to know why there was a Spanish name for Thanksgiving Day.

The main reason is that there are forty-one million Spanish Speakers in the United States. Most of us are thankful to be in United States, therefore we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, or el Día de Acción de Gracias in Spanish.

The USA is a mixture of many cultures. And this is one further example.