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.
Blogging is my way of getting my say in a world that doesn’t seem to listen to me. Since I was little, I’ve always had a difficult time to get people to listen to me. Perhaps, I was never assertive enough. I know I was always shy and I was so very self-conscious of my English–and Spanish when I was in México. So, when I spoke, and very softly, no one ever noticed or people would speak right over me. I became accustomed to not participating in conversations, but I did become a very good listener.
I started blogging because I enjoy writing, whether or not anyone actually reads what I write. The writing is the most important part for me. Occasionally, people have told me that they had read my blog and I was pleasantly surprised to hear this. However, not many people have read my blog the entire time it’s been in existence.
I can write about whatever I want. And even change topics in the middle of a post. I’ve been blogging for about nine years now, including a few lapses in posting. I believe that writing a blog is very therapeutic because it allows me to vent and jump from topic to topic according to what I’m feeling. Some blog posts were easier to write than others, but once I start a post, I finish it. Amazingly, the shorter posts take longer to write; the long posts just flow out all by themselves.
Today, this post is dragging along. It must be the weather. Cloudy and rainy with the temperature in the forties. I’m hoping the rain will stop and the temperature rises a little so I can run in shorts and a t-shirt. But I will run today. In fact, I’m going out the door now.
Well, the semester has finally ended and I have the entire summer off. I would like to laze around the house and relax all summer. I will relax, but I have also set some goals for myself. I will begin each day with coffee, a blog post, and a morning run.
I’m very self-disciplined when I need to be and when I want to be. I have decided to be very self-disciplined once again. I will wake up to a morning cup of coffee to get me started. For me, coffee is a stimulant, not a crutch. The aroma and that first sip get my creative juices flowing. Coffee also prepares my body for my morning run because it’s a diuretic. I’ll spare you the details. Of course, I have to be very careful not to drink too much or I’ll have to make an unscheduled pit stop and it’s not always easy finding a restroom while on the run. Especially in the morning when most public places are closed.
The blog post should be easy to write since the first thing I do after I prepare my coffee is turn on the computer. I just have to ensure that I don’t check my email or Facebook first. These distractions can wait until after I write my blog post while I drink my coffee. As I sit alone by my computer with my coffee mug writing my blog post right now, I feel a great satisfaction because I’m doing something I enjoy so much. Well, not the drinking coffee part, but the writing and using my computer. Computers have really made it easier for me to write. But that’s a post for another day.
After the coffee and the blog comes the run. Running is the one constant throughout my life. Running takes up only a small portion of my day, but my whole day has to revolve around the run if I want to get a good run in. In the 1980s I use to run a lot of miles because I wanted to improve my race times so I could get a running scholarship, but that never materialized. Mainly because I developed allergies and/or I over-trained and burned out too soon. But I kept running anyway. I always managed to run three to six miles several days per week. The last couple of years, I consistently ran four and a half miles at least four times per week.
Then, something took over my running. I’m not sure what it was. For a few years, I tried to increase my mileage, but I was unsuccessful. I would always develop new aches and pains that prevented me from running more than four and a half miles. Then, my son Alex started running track. I went to every track meet possible. When I saw the track meets last year, I felt inspired to run again. Suddenly, I started running more miles. Not necessarily faster, but certainly more miles. In fact, In fact, with each meet that I saw, I was inspired by not only my son, who turned out to be a very good 400-meter runner, but also by the other runners who struggled just to finish with determination. Slowly, I increased my mileage until I reached nine miles or so.
Well, I’ve completed the coffee and the blog part of my daily morning routine. Now it’s off to my run!
As a boy, I set the ambitious goal of learning ten foreign languages. I’m not sure how I came up with the number ten, but once I picked ten, I stuck to it. And I’m still sticking to it even if it’s an unrealistic goal. As of today, I am still many languages away from achieving fluency in ten. But I like ten because it’s a nice round number.
I have had several setbacks along the way. For example, people would tell me, “Learn to speak English first!” (Have you ever noticed that people who insist that foreigners learn English only speak English? I’d like to see them learn another language!) Of course, they were right because my first language was Spanish. I spoke English very poorly at first and later with a foreign accent.
In my quest for foreign language fluency, I have studied many languages over the years. At Divine Heart Seminary, I took French as an elective my sophomore year in addition to Spanish with Señor Mordini. When I went to Tilden Technical High School, I continued my French studies with disastrous results, about which I wrote a blog post. At Gage Park High School, I gave up on foreign languages altogether.
In the Marines, I tried learning Japanese from a roommate who was stationed in Okinawa, Japan. I learned only as much Japanese as he knew, which wasn’t very much. But I can still say, “Domo arigato” and “Sayonara“! During this time, I spent a lot of time reading. I many read books on English grammar. I would check out books on grammar and writing from the library and read them cover to cover. My Marine roommates thought I was crazy, but that helped because then they avoided started trouble with me. I also bought a Spanish/English dictionary, and I would browse through it to improve my Spanish vocabulary. I got this great idea from reading the biography of O. Henry who read a dictionary that he received as a gift for the first book he had ever read. Amazingly, I also improved my English vocabulary.
When I finally went to college, I studied Spanish in earnest for the very first time. The grammar I had learned from the English grammar books helped me immensely with the Spanish grammar that we studied in class. I also took Portuguese and did well in class, but I never did learn to speak Portuguese fluently because of a lack of time and contact with Portuguese speakers. I took Latin because I thought it would be fun and might prove helpful for the foreign language requirement if I went on for my Ph.D. Well, I didn’t learn to speak Latin either. Not that anyone speaks Latin anymore, but I did learn the difference between the relative pronouns who and whom.
So, I thought I would take a practical language that someone actually speaks worldwide. I studied Russian for four semesters. There were very few cognates! It was only then that I realized that I had only studied Romance languages, other than English, and learning new vocabulary was easy because of all the cognates derived from Latin. Sadly, I did well in Russian class, but I can’t speak Russian either.
The next language I studied–actually, I’m still studying it–is Polish. There aren’t very many Latin cognates, but since I studied Russian, some of the grammar rules are similar. Polish pronunciation is much easier than Russian. The most amazing part about learning Polish is that the accent always, with very few rare exceptions, falls on the second to the last syllable (la sílaba penúltima, en español). After studying Russian, I feel more confident studying Polish. Perhaps I will learn another language after all!
But I’m not so sure I will. Even though I have attempted learning other languages and failed, I console myself that I’m fully fluent in Spanish and English. Perhaps I am destined to forever remain a bilingual idiot.
Some people have more secrets than others. Those who seem to have the most secrets approach me and ask me how I can reveal so much about myself on my blog. Well, I see my blog as a confessional of sorts. This where I purge myself of my past and afterwards feel renewed.
On several occasions, over the past ten years, people have pointed an accusing finger at me and said, “You’re Catholic! What do you think about all the sex scandals in the Catholic church?” Well, the first time, I was caught off-guard by this verbal assault. I didn’t know what to say. I often think about the sex scandals in the church every time I read about them or see them in the news. My whole life has revolved around the Catholic church, either by being an active participant or avoiding it when I didn’t agree with their teachings.
So, I have a confession to make. Despite having spent my whole life actively involved with (or actively avoiding) the church, I have never been sexually molested! And I never witnessed or even suspected anyone of being sexually molested by the Catholic clergy. I don’t deny that the sexual allegations are real. I’m merely saying that I never personally witnessed any or even heard any rumors about any sexual improprieties by the priests or nuns while I was a Catholic student.
At Holy Cross in Back of the Yards where I attended school and church from kindergarten through eighth grade, I was often alone with the Lithuanian priests and nuns. I enjoyed staying after school to help in the classroom with my teachers who were all nuns. I was an altar boy and I was often alone in the sacristy with the priest who said mass. No matter with whom I was, he or she would strike up a conversation and we would talk about school or church. We always had a mutual interest in each other. During my time at Holy Cross, I often thought about becoming a priest because I admired the holiness of the priests and nuns of Holy Cross Church.
After graduating from the eighth grade at Holy Cross School, I began my freshman year at Divine Heart Seminary in Donaldson, Indiana. While visiting DHS in the seventh grade, I was surprised that the seminarians used profanities and were allowed to smoke cigarettes! At Holy Cross these acts were sins and were subject to discipline! After that weekend visit, I decided that I would not attend DHS. However, in the eighth grade, DHS contacted Holy Cross about my attending DHS and Sister Cecilia the principal was so thrilled that I was going to become a priest! So she called my mother with the good news, who was ecstatic that I would become a priest! My pastor also congratulated me on my decision to become a priest when I served mass for him.
No one listened to me when I said that I didn’t want to attend Divine Heart Seminary, nor that I didn’t want to become a priest. But I never said anything bad, or at least what I conceived as “bad,” about the seminary. My fate was sealed. I would attend DHS the following fall. Sister Cecilia announced to my eighth grade class that we were extremely fortunate because we had a vocation in our class. She called my name and I had to stand up at the front of the class so the class could acknowledge me. My life in the eighth grade would never be the same! The girl I had a crush on no longer waited for me after school. When I met up my friends at the park, they would say, “Here comes Father David” and change the subject to something more innocent in the presence of a “priest.”
At DHS, I spent a lot of time alone with priests and brothers. In fact, they were responsible for supervising us. As a teenager, I enjoyed the company of adults who seemed to take a genuine interest in me. We also had to pick a priest for a spiritual adviser. Once a month or so, or more often if necessary, we would meet with our spiritual adviser and discuss our spiritual development. The two of us would be alone in an office for this meeting. Looking back, I suppose this would have been an opportune time for sexual abuse, but nothing of the sort ever happened.
There was another priest that I enjoyed visiting in his office. I spent a lot of time talking to him because I enjoyed talking to him. Once when the Explorers went camping he went with us. He said we could share the same tent. At the campsite, my friends were all having fun in their huge tent, so I said I would set up my sleeping bag with them. The priest I came with said that I had already made a commitment to share a tent with him. I reluctantly put my sleeping bag in his tent. I wasn’t happy about the situation, but I accepted it. That night, I slept with my hand on the handle of my hunting knife. I was angry about having to be in that tent instead of with my friends. Of course, whenever I went camping, I always slept with my hunting knife in my hand. I was a city boy who was dreadfully afraid of the ax murderer!
Years later as an adult, I would look back at this incident and realize that this priest had taught me a valuable lesson about commitment and making promises meant keeping them. In fact, I would often feel guilty that I suspected this priest would do anything to me while we were camping.
Although I didn’t want to attend DHS, I have to admit that I still warmly recall many memories from my seminary days. I left DHS after the Thanksgiving break of my sophomore year. Every time I came home, I would beg my mother not to make me go back. Eventually, after much begging, she agreed to let me stay home.
Now, whenever DHS has a reunion, I always attend. I enjoy meeting my old friends and talking about the good old days. Once I met two of my former classmates for lunch. We were talking about the good times at the seminary. I don’t know why, but I brought up the sex scandals of the Catholic Church and how we had avoided them at DHS. There was an awkward pause. Then, one of my classmates told me how DHS had sexual abuse. They both knew about them. I didn’t ask them how they knew about it. How could I have not known about sexual abuse at DHS? They mentioned two students from our freshman class who didn’t return for their sophomore year. They were molested by the priest with whom I had shared a tent while camping. Then they asked me if I left the seminary because I had been sexually molested at DHS. I was shocked by these revelations and this line of questioning! I was never sexually molested! I left the seminary because I never wanted to attend in the first place! Many students left DHS for a variety of reasons. I’m not sure if I convinced my former classmates that I was never sexually abused, but that’s the honest to God truth.
Well, in the end, I guess I didn’t make any kind of confession, but rather, I spilled my guts.
In my never-ending quest to improve my blog, I’ve discovered a new feature in WordPress.com! Yes, if you look below, you will see … Ta da! A slide show!
I’m not sure why, but I have a lot of pics that I have saved from the Internet. For some strange reason, I saved a lot of pics with computers in them. What exactly does that say about me? Hmm. I wonder. So if you look below you will see some of my favorite PC pics. I took the liberty of adding my own captions.
I hope to occasionally use this feature in my blog in the future!
As I was crossing the Mississippi River, I suddenly got the urge to take a picture of the St. Louis Arch at seventy miles per hour. What you see above is my failed attempt of that picture. I’m lucky to be alive! But the image is foreboding. If I don’t change my ways, I will surely hurt myself.
Ever since my blog readers requested pictures, I have been trying to take more pictures. However, I’m sure they didn’t mean for me to risk my life in the process.
Some people don’t like when you sneak up on them and take their picture. But if they’re in public, they’re fair game. Sometimes they look at your strangely if your request to take pictures of their personal items. For example, I once went to the offices of all of my colleagues at UIC to take pictures of their computers. They gave me the strangest looks when I asked permission to photograph their computer. I supposed I would react in a similar fashion if someone came to my office only to photograph my computer. Occasionally, when I go out with my friends to eat, I tell them, “Wait! Before you dig in, let me take a picture of your food!”
For a while, I was taking pictures of interesting license plates. But it seemed that I only time I saw interesting license plates was while I drove on the highway in excess of sixty miles per hour. This didn’t stop me from trying to take pictures. They say that talking on the phone while driving doubles your risk of getting into an accident. And texting increases your risk by eight times. But no one said how much the risk of getting into an accident is increased while trying to take pictures. I think it increases a lot more than eight times. I have had a few close calls, so I can vouch for that.
Once while I was driving to UIC, I saw a license plate that read CHITOWN. I had to take a picture of it! I attempted to get my camera out and take the picture before the SUV bearing that plate turned. There was snow on the ground and the street was slippery. I had to get a picture of the plate! But it wasn’t just any CHITOWN plate. It was a Kansas license plate! I risked crashing my car and I took a couple of pictures. I was overjoyed by my success. When I got home, I noticed that the license plate was unreadable in both pictures. I risked my life for nothing! What were the chances of me seeing this Kansas SUV in Chicago again?
Miraculously, I saw the SUV again about a month later. Again I took pictures as I drove north on south Ashland Avenue. The pictures didn’t come out clearly again! But I figured out that whoever drove the SUV was bound to come down Ashland Avenue again. And sure enough, about a month later, I saw which way it turned and I followed it. I was hoping the driver would hurry up and leave the vehicle so I could take a picture of his license plate. But, no, he took his sweet time gathering his things. I was in a hurry to get to UIC, so I got out of my car to take a picture of his license plate. The driver gave me a very suspicious look, so I told him I only wanted a picture of his license plate. He silently consented, but he eyed me cautiously. Well, I’m used to always getting strange looks anyway, so I took the picture and left. But it turns out I was too far away and the plate was too blurry to read.
Well, I knew the driver with the Kansas plate and I had similar schedules, so I would look for his vehicle in the same parking spot another day. A couple of weeks later, I saw it again. This time I parked right behind it. And I took several pictures to ensure that one of them would be readable. Just then, I noticed a man in a nearby vehicle reaching down under his seat and eyeing me suspiciously. At first, I was sure he was reaching for a gun, but I managed to convince myself that he was merely getting pen and paper to write down my license plate number. Regardless, I left as quickly as possible. Below, thanks to my persistence, you see the fruit of my labor. Behold!
I enjoy reading, but lately I’ve really enjoyed reading computer books. Well, with the computer books I read, it’s not actually reading. Most of those books for dummies and idiots are hands on guide to using various programs. I’ve learned a lot about computing reading those books, despite being neither a dummy nor an idiot. Maybe I’m just a nerd, but I love reading those computer books. I can now do many things with many programs. The downside is that someone is always asking me how to do certain things on the computers.
I learned to type on an old typewriter I found in our attic on Wood Street. I also found an old typing manual from which I learned how to type. When I was in the Marines, I took that typing manual with me and in my free time I did every single exercise in that book. And now I can touch type. So, it was a natural progression for me to start reading computer books to learn how to use programs.
I used to buy the books despite being very expensive. Then, they almost immediately became obsolete. I would use them once and remember all the commands that I planned on using. I had a huge pile of expensive, obsolete computer books that I eventually gave to the used bookstore. I always had the latest software and I always read the latest books. I still don’t understand how the latest knowledge on computer programs is directed at dummies and idiots. Apparently there’s a huge market. I don’t buy these books anymore, but they’re available through the Chicago Public Library for free. Some branch in Chicago always has the book I need.
Photoshop has been the most difficult program for me to use. The main reason I bought the program was because my iPhone used it to download the pictures to my computer. But then I found other uses for Photoshop.
I’ve been writing my blog for years. No frills, nothing fancy. Just plain vanilla text and formatting. Then, some of my readers started asking me when I would upload pictures with my posts. I was truly surprised! I had readers! That’s right! Readers! As in more than one. And they were actually reading my blog! They thought pictures would enhance my blog. So I started taking pictures for the blog. I must admit that Photoshop has improved my pictures due to my lack of photography skills.
I read every Photoshop book available through my library and I learned quite a lot. Last May, I went to an educational seminar in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, where I attended two Adobe classes where I learned more about how to use Photoshop. I never realized how many commands are available. I know I’ll never even use half of them, but it’s nice to know they’re available.
Sometimes I have crazy ideas. Okay, maybe a little more often than sometimes. If you’re a regular reader, you know what I mean. Well, my latest idea–actually, I’ve thought about this one for years–involves renting an empty storefront. I would paint a simple sign in the window: NIHIL. I would set up a desk with a computer where I could write. I would also surround myself with my books in bookcases. There would be inviting desks, tables, and sofas for for the curious to come in and be creative. Or, if they’re not creative, reading would also be permissable. If no one came in, I would sit there in public view writing my blog or working on my website. Anyone would be welcome to come as long as no one talks and interrupts the creative process of anyone present.
For the uninitiated who entered and asked, “What does ‘Nihil’ mean?” I would say, “Nothing.” Or perhaps I would say nothing. And maybe they would catch on that they were not supposed to talk. I would point at the available furniture. If they left, so much the better. This way I could keep writing. If, however, they stayed quietly, I would feel as if I had accomplished something.
This is a crazy idea for me because I basically do that at home right now. Whenever I’m at home I sit at my computer writing something or other without any interruptions. Or, I read. Some people can’t do anything productive at home, but not me. I’ve always been at my most productive while at home! Besides, I can’t afford to rent an empty storefront.