On the road

CD Book from the Chicago Public Library.

For someone who spends so much time on the Internet, I also spend a lot of time on the road. Since I’m on the road a lot, I feel like I’m wasting time I’m not on the Internet. True, I occasionally check my e-mail on my iPhone while I’m driving and I do study road maps while on the Internet. The best of both worlds! Years ago, I tried listening to books while driving. That was back when most of them were on cassettes. I quickly gave up because it involved too much work. So lately, I once again felt the need to occupy myself productively while driving. While studying Russian, I listened to the oral activities on an mp3 player via my car radio. But it just wasn’t the same as reading. I remembered the audio books. Most books are on CDs now and are much easier to manage while driving. The first one I heard was On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Because I imagined writing a blog entry, titled “On the road”! I also listened to Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, but decided against writing a blog entry titled, “On the River Niger”! How would that be possible while driving my 2005 Pontiac Vibe?

I went to the library to check out their collection of audio books. I immediately gravitated toward Jack Kerouac because On the Road has been on my “To Read” list since the 1980s. I have always heard about that book and any book that constantly attracts my attention deserves to be read–at least in my book. I had no idea what it was about, but I knew I just had to read it. I was intrigued by the fact that it was written on one continuous sheet of paper. I tried to imagined how Kerouac could have written his book lugging his manual typewriter and roll of paper while driving all over the country. To think that I complain whenever I have to lug my laptop computer around with me! Anyway, the book was an interesting read because I was disappointed by its plot, but enticed enough by the writing style to continue listening to the end. The reader of the audio book made it very interesting in the way he acted out some of the scenes. He added so much to text. If I were reading the actual book, I would have finished reading it because it did captivate me in a way I had not expected.

Kerouac has this enormous vocabulary that occasionally upstaged the action of the novel. For instance–however, I don’t recall all the details nor the exact wording–in one scene Kerouac and his friends find themselves released from jail after a night of heavy drinking, carousing and fist-fighting. They have no money and they don’t know where their car is. Jack says, “whereupon we pondered our dilemma.” Somehow, the high diction added to the incongruity of their situation. Of course, I would never associate with such friends for very long, which is why I never wrote my own On the Road.

When I was in high school, I inherited a manual Underwood typewriter that was in the attic where my new bedroom was located. Since I was little, I wanted to be a writer, so this was my perfect opportunity. I spent a lot of time in my unfinished-attic bedroom typing away on that typewriter. I also found a roll of paper and inserted it into my typewriter. This was before I even heard of Jack Kerouac! Now I wouldn’t have to stop writing to insert a new sheet of paper! I can’t say what I wrote was very interesting since I spent most of my waking hours cooped up in that attic. I don’t know what ever happened to my manuscript(s) (Depending on how you count everything I wrote on the scroll), or if anything I wrote was very good. But I enjoyed my time as a writer, living in squalor in an unfinished attic, living the Bohemian lifestyle. Minus the Kerouac road trip and alcohol.

Pass me another CD.

I’m still here


I’ve had inquiries as to my whereabouts lately. Well, I’m still here! I’ve just been so busy correcting compositions and whatnot this semester. But I’ll be free in two weeks and back to writing my blog again. I suppose my last entry didn’t help any since I did talk about my visit to the doctor for a checkup. The test results proved that I was as healthy as I’ve always been. Life goes on.

Really! I'll be back!

Writing letters

My best friend!

I don’t know why, but Mexicans find it difficult to write letters to each other.

When I left Mexico, both times, I said I would write back and send pictures. Well, it took me a while took write back, but I finally wrote back! And guess who wrote back? One cousin to whom I didn’t even write. So, I felt guilty and wrote her a letter.

I wrote to my aunt and then she relayed a message to my cousin who e-mailed me telling me that my aunt said hello. This same aunt still had letters that I had written to her thirty years ago. They were tucked away in her picture box along with my Chicago Marathon medal, which I have no idea how she obtained it. Perhaps, I gave it to my mother before she went on one her trips to Mexico. Now it’s starting to come back to me. My mother said if I wanted to give something to my aunt, so I gave her my marathon medal. Actually, it was a lot easier than writing a letter. Even with the Internet we don’t seem to be writing to each other any more frequently. I still have a long list of relatives to whom I will write before my next visit. But even if I don’t, we’ll pick up the conversation right where we left off the last time. My cousin likes to IM me and that’s fine when I have time. It is a lot easier than writing letters.



I have been watching Woody Allen movies for a long time. Once, in the 1970s, we–Vito, Jim, and I–saw four Woody Allen movies for a dollar (Only on the north side!) I remember his earlier, funnier movies, to quote Stardust Memories.

Later, when we lost track of each other, Jim would call us up so we could go out to see his latest movie. Of course, no movie after Annie Hall was as funny for me as his earlier efforts. So, today, I saw Vicky Cristina Barcelona. And it was okay. Certainly not as funny as Annie Hall. I did enjoy the shots of Spain in Barcelona and Oviedo. The movie reminded me of my trip to Spain. I haven’t actually been to Spain, but when I do go, I plan on visiting Barcelona where I knew a couple of people. I really will go to Spain someday!

But back to the movie. The plot was easily identifiable as a Woody Allen product of obsessive attention to the minutiae of life. In his typical fashion, he exaggerates details that most normal and sane human beings would overlook. In one scene, Scarlett Johansson apologizes profusely and I couldn’t help but picture Woody Allen directing her into acting as she did–that is, a Woody Allenesque neurotic tirade complete with the exaggerated hand gestures.

Of course, if Woody looked anything like Scarlett, he would have had a completely different career. The one thing that really bothered me about the movie was the narrator. If you’ve ever taken a writing class, you know that one thing that is drilled into head constantly: Don’t tell, show! Well, the narrator constantly explains the actions that we see on the screen, rather than letting us think about them and contemplate what the characters are thinking about their dilemma. Okay, the actors were great in this movie, but I guess I was mainly focusing on Woody Allen as the writer and director. For some reason I’m always attracted to his movies even though I don’t think they’re very good. But I will immediately go see the next one that comes out.

I’m back

Coyoacán, México D.F.

Hello again. I’m finally back. Some of you may not have even noticed that I was gone for a while, but I was missed somewhat by some of my other readers–actually, only two. Two readers actually e-mailed me and asked me what had happened to my blog.

Well, I went to Mexico for a few weeeks, and when I returned and wrote my first blog entry, my website stopped loading because of spammers. My ISP took awhile to solve the problem. In reality, I think I solved the problem myself. But I’m not sure. My blog suddenly started working yesterday after I tinkered with it.

So now I’m ready to write again! I feel well rested after my road trip to Mexico and my prolonged rest from blog writing. I will write a blog entry first thing tomorrow morning!

More coincidences

Seagulls of my reader's imagination

Hello, Gentle Reader. I’ve noticed something interesting occurring on my blog lately. I tend to occasionally write about someone who comes to mind because I remember him or her well. I have no agenda or ulterior motives. I never announced to anyone that I write a blog entry about him or her. I just relish recalling the good old days and I focus about all the positive things that I remember about this person. Occasionally, the subject of my blog entry discovers my blog and he or she e-mails me and/or comments about the blog entry. If I write it, they will come. If you look at the comments in the right margin you’ll see what I mean. This got me to thinking. How can you, Gentle Reader, be sure that all these commentators are real people? You have no way of knowing if these people really exist. I mean, I could just be making them up. After all, I do have a disclaimer at the bottom of the page stating that I may be stretching the truth a little. If you wrote a comment, you know for a fact that you yourself exist. Right? But what about all the rest of the commentators? How can you be sure that I didn’t invent them so it looks like I have many more readers than just you? Let’s go one further: What if you don’t exist? Yes, that’s right. You don’t exist outside of this blog! I made you up! You only exist because you read this blog and I let you write comments. Now that’s something to think about! Or, perhaps I have already created some memorable stories in my past so that interesting people will come to life and brighten up my life. You know, like in an old episode of Twilight Zone. If only life were that easy!

You do not exist. You are the sole creation of this bogger!

UIC IBM vs. Mac

Dr. D. hard at work!

When I was a student at UIC, I wrote all of my papers on computers. I tried to do most of my writing on my own computer at home, but whenever I had free time between my classes I would use a computer in one of the few computer labs they had at the time.

I did a lot of writing on typewriters and then eagerly progressed to personal computers because of their word-processing capabilities. I was definitely an IBM aficionado since I couldn’t afford an Apple or a Macintosh. Our high school didn’t even have computers when I was a student.

Anyway, UIC had two types of computer labs: IBM or Macintosh. At first, no one used the IBM lab, so I had the lab pretty much too myself. Everybody was really into Macs at the time, although I’m not sure why. Supposedly, they were better than IBMs. Then there was a sudden shift in computing at UIC and I could hardly ever find an open IBM computer. Perhaps it was when IBM compatibles started using Windows, which was definitely inferior to the Mac operating system. I never did like those early versions of Microsoft Windows and stuck to MS-DOS 5.0 for much longer than most normal humans could endure.

Well, IBM’s were no longer readily available when I was. So being the adaptable person who I am, transformed myself into a Mac user. I have convinced myself that I can survive anywhere in the world, under any conditions. So, I sat down at a Mac computer for the first time in my life and started typing. When I looked at the screen, I couldn’t make heads nor tails of what I had written. You see, I can touch type and, when I put my fingers on the keyboard, I felt for the little bump in order to find the home keys. All electric typewriters and IBM keyboards always had those little bumps on the F and J keys. Mac, however, had the little bumps on the D and K keys. So my fingers were off by one key.

Macintosh always tried so hard to be different. Also maddening was waiting for the Mac to execute a command. Instead of the little hourglass to represent the waiting, a dialog box would appear that said, “Please wait. The computer is doing something real complicated right now.” So how was this better than an IBM computer? Well, I continued using IBMs and Macs, depending on which was available. To this day, I can go on any strange computer do some strange writing.


Yield, but never give in!

I’ve reached a juncture in my life where I am very happy and content. I go to bed whenever I want. I get up whenever I want. If I feel like, I do a little writing, a little reading, or nothing at all. I really don’t have to be anywhere until the middle of August when the semester begins. I’m looking forward to my road trip to Mexico City with my sons who are now twelve and actually a lot of fun to have around. They stay up late and get up late, so I actually have some time to myself in the morning. Today, when they woke up, I announced, “We’re going to Starved Rock!” I was waiting for a resounding, “Hooray!” But I was greeted by silence. However, whenever I suggest outings they go willingly because we always have fun on these trips. And today’s trip was no exception. I like just getting in the car and driving somewhere–anywhere–with my sons.

I have to admit that this is where I wanted to be in my life for the longest time. I really don’t have too many obligations to complicate my life. I get up in the morning, drink my coffee, read my paper, and then go running. After that, the rest of my day is a blank daily planner. I can do whatever I want. Literally. And I often do. My only personal goal at the moment is to write a blog entry everyday until I go to Mexico. Then, I’ll have to take a little break. I’d like to finish editing my play that I’ve been writing for more than twenty years, but I always manage to put it aside for yet another day. And I don’t feel at all guilty about it. I’m happy to have gotten to this point in my life because not many people get to theirs. I’ve been very fortunate and I’m grateful for it.

Take a chill pill and enjoy your life.

Let’s all go to class

Morton College

That sounds like a very good idea, in theory anyway. The first day of the semester, I always give The Speech about how to excel in my Spanish class. Number One on the list is coming to class each and every day. Why? Well, class, you should come to class because attendance is 15% of your overall grade, I like seeing my students in class, and if you come to class, you might actually learn something. Most students do come to class just because it’s required. Others, however, think attendance should be optional and nothing I say will persuade them to come to class more frequently.

A few years back, a student enrolled in my class who took skipping class to a new level. He showed up the first day of class and then I didn’t see him again for two weeks. I couldn’t figure out why he would miss so many classes. One day, as I was reading the university newspaper, I noticed a guest opinion piece in the editorial section titled, “Let’s all go to class,” in which the author stresses the importance of attending class. In fact, he keeps harping on it even though he missed a lot of classes the previous semester to sleep, play video games, and almost finish writing late papers for his English class. In principle, I agreed with the idea that all students should attend class, but something about this piece made me suspicious. The author was named Patrick. So I immediately remembered him. That’s one thing you should know about me. I don’t often remember names unless your name is David, Catherine, Adam, Yolanda, Patrick, Poindexter, or Allouissius. So I suddenly realized that the author Patrick was the student whom I had only seen on the first day of class and then never again. About two weeks later, he showed up to class again and I asked him if he was the author of the guest opinion. He blushed and admitted that he was, in fact, the author. I asked him if he had ever considered following his own advice. He looked at me as if it had never occured to him! I didn’t see him in class again for another two weeks. His attendance the rest of the semester was very sporadic and somehow he managed to pass the course!

Let's all go to class! Come on! At least once in a while.

R & G Are Dead

1044 W. Harrison Street, Chicago, Illinois

Today I went to the UIC Theater to see Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. I really wasn’t sure what to expect because I had no idea what the play was about other than I knew that the title characters came from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Well, last week I saw Hamlet at the UIC Theater and I liked the production so much that I decided that I would see Stoppard’s play today. Okay, so I’ll never make a living writing reviews, but I thought today’s play started out rather slowly. There were some witty interchanges between Rosencrantz and Guildernstern, but sometimes it didn’t hold my interest. Well, I actually dozed off for a couple minutes in the beginning of the play. I supposed it wouldn’t have been so bad if I weren’t sitting in the very front row in the middle right in front of the actors. So there I was front and center. When I woke up, Rosencrantz was staring at me. I felt so embarrassed! After that I tried not to fall asleep again. But I dozed off again–at least two more times. However, no actor noticed me this time. So about the play, well, since it is a spinoff of Hamlet and it was also produced by the UIC theater department, I was happy to see the same actors reappear. Some of Hamlet’s scenes were repeated for Stoppard’s play. It was very interesting, even though I fell asleep a few times.

To be or not to be Rosencrantz and Guildenstern!