I did it!

I am back after just two weeks. I’m trying to have something to write every couple of weeks, and this time it worked. This time is to share some incredible news; something I’ve wanted to do for the last ten years. Finally, I did my Stand-up comedy routine.

Last Saturday (it all depends when you are reading this) I left the fear and the “what if” and I jumped to the stage and did my routine. Was I nervous? HELL YEAH! That made it even better when I was done. The feeling that I overcame that stupid fear, the taste of victory and the laughter of those people made it all better.

IMG_175917009450599I was ready for that night ten years ago. I even had something written, with punch lines and all. Fear walked with me all that time, but a couple of weeks ago I decided it was time to break free. There is this place in Old San Juan call Celébrate Puerto Rico, and Saturday nights are open mic. I visited the place a couple of weeks ago and I loved it. A place for everyone, laid back, no dress code and all fun. I saw routines from other people, and even though some were not good for my taste, I was still fun. I decided then it was my time to try it. I did and I loved it.

Before the show, I was scared and nervous, but once Chente called my name, it was different. Up there I forgot about everything and focused on the routine. I was supposed to be there for only five minutes that ended up being 12. Lots of laughs, screams, and a big round of applause told me that I did a great job.

IMG_3414Many of friends were there. Some of those have known since forever that I was going to do fine when I decided to do it. I was glad they were there with me to share that moment. And the ones who could not make it, called me and sent me good vibes.

And after the show was done, it was fun times with my friends. We were almost kicked out of the place. But it was an amazing night with laughs and friends. I may do it again in a month or so.

IMG_3411Here is the link for the podcast. My intervention is on 22:30, but you are welcome to listen to the whole thing (It is in Spanish, so sorry for those of you who can’t understand it). There are great people doing what they like to do: making people laugh. Hope you like it, and if you need me in a party or show, just call my agent (which means I will talk to my wife about it and she will decide for me).

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To my folks

It has been a long couple of weeks since I last wrote in my blog. I ran out of ideas, and the Island is going through some bad times, and it will get worse. With those previous posts you have learned a bit about me and my reality. But today, it will be different; I will not write about my Island, or the funny things that make us who we are. Today is about my folks. “Los viejos” that have been with me since I saw the light 30-something years ago.

My mother is awesome. She suffered in her childhood (something I will not discuss now) but she always has great memories of her and her family. I remember when I was a kid, I used to sit at the door step and she sat behind me and play with my hair. On Saturdays when we were kids, she used to clean the whole house while doing laundry, making lunch for us and getting ready for dinner. She even got the manguera (water hose) inside and started cleaning everything. “No se bajen de esa cama ni por nada del mundo”, she said when we decided to stay in.

She raised two guys and a baby girl (my sister). When I look back, I can’t imagine how she managed to keep her sanity when she had a 13 year old boy, a 12 year old funny and handsome kid (me), and a 9 year old baby. I mean, I have an 8 year older and a 2 year old kid, and sometimes I want to run out screaming (my mom used to say the same thing, to the point that we knew when she was going to say it. It was not that funny back then).

She woke up around 5:30 am. She turned on the coffee pot, walked to the bathroom to wash her face and brush her teeth. Then she walked to our room around 6:00, me and my brother shared a room forever, to wake us up. She then walked to the kitchen to get her coffee and made another stop by our room. She started breakfast and then woke up my sister. She screamed at my brother and me on her way back, and we got up. We got our breakfast; we started getting ready for school while she started the morning fight with my sister over her hairdo. When my sister got older, I mean 19 or so, she was brushing my mother’s hair one day and just hit her with the brush, just for payback! She felt relieved to do that, because every morning in my house was fight day over a hairdo. I wish I could go back. The she would send us to school and get ready to go to work. And the next day, everything started all over again.wpid-IMG_21911577428628.jpeg

Many women did the same thing, and still do today, but that is still something hard to do. She didn’t even have time for herself, and I never heard her say she wanted time for herself. I guess we were everything for her, her routine, her sanity and craziness at the same time. I am a good father today in part for what she taught me back then, and for what she keeps teaching me every day. She even notices when I’m not doing great and gets so happy when I’m my usual self.

My father has always been there for us. He had a rougher childhood than my mother, but a whole lot of stories that make my day. He alwasys have been the funny one for me. My mom is crazy, she is, but my father usually takes it up a notch. They have been a wonderful team.

I don’t remember as a kid a fight or bad argument between them. I discovered later that those did happen, but we were lucky enough to never hear them. One of my greatest memories as a kid with my father is when he used to slide his belt through the bathroom door while I was sitting inside. I started screaming liked there was no tomorrow. My mom used to scream at him: “Déjalo quieto Juan, no lo molestes!” Or times when we used to sit in the couch and out of nowhere he started tickling me. And every time I sat with him just for the fun of it.

His work demanded a lot of time from him, and the time he spent on the road was a lot. So he was not there in the morning process I explained before, or if he was, he was sleeping because of the schedule he had. But we got to see him every day.

When we started growing up, I used to go with him and help him in anything he needed. And that time I really enjoyed because he taught me a lot, and many stories and sayings I know now, where born there. I met a lot of people, old and young, when I was with him, and when he had the idea of having a Laundromat, I was there every afternoon and every Saturday taking care of the business (place my mom did not like too much). It was a good time.

When I was 17, my dad had an argument with my sister, then with me and my mom, and one thing led to another, and he ended leaving the house. I get teary eyes just writing about this, since I never showed like it really mattered to me. My brother was already in college and my sister was about to finish middle school. It was a really hard time for us. We made up a couple of weeks after that, but he was not living at home anymore. So I had to make sure to spend time with him.

Years passed, fun continued and after the three of us moved out of the house, my folks decided to get back together. We were happy and kinda surprised, but since both of them are crazy, it made sense.

These memories are some I share with my brother and sister. I know they must have some of their own, but at the moment the three of us are now, I know we rather keep the happy ones. We are who we are, fun, weird and crazy, because of what they taught us. I sometimes take time to listen to myself speaking and I can see a lot of them in me. I guess that’s the point in being a son to such wonderful parents.

This post is just a THANK YOU to those two human beings who raised us. I know it was not easy for them; sometimes there was no money in the house to pay the bills but we always had food to eat and a bed to sleep in. I wish I can be half as good a father to my kids as they were to me. Half good is awesome anyway.13966_369542725446_8151787_n

Special Edition Post: Puerto Rico Shake

I have been out thinking about what to write for the past couple of weeks. Write something else about Christmas in Puerto Rico, maybe some family stuff; I was not sure about something that would make people read my post. But I got a signal dressed as an earthquake.

temblor_10Last Monday, January 13, at 12:01 a.m. – the first minute of the day – Puerto Rico shook, and according to the Richter scale, it did for 6.4 degrees. How long was that shaking for? I don’t have any idea, and I don’t really care. It was terrible, and to make matters worse, there was another one. The second one was as bad as the first, and people freaked out. Why did we freak out? Because it was scary. Why did we freak out as we did as still talking about it today, and tomorrow? Because we are Boricuas! And to say it in a different slang, because we roll like that!!!

brian-griffin-family-guy_0
He was brought back. Don’t worry fans!

For us Boricuas this is something huge. Huge like an impeachment (long word?), huge like Batman getting a beating from Robin, huge like the dog that died in Family Guy. I mean, it’s HUGE. We have survived hurricanes, to the point where we laugh when we see people in the United States running like crazy to protect their houses in a simple mini storm. A hurricane for us is like a present in Christmas season for kids, we get them every single year. But the earth shaking like that!?!?!? That’s a different story.

Nobody can get ready for an earthquake. I mean, we don’t know when there arriving or where are they coming from; there is no way to know what to expect from them. Can we have a plan to deal with it when the occasion arrives? Yes, we can, but then again we are Boricuas. We tend to leave stuff to the last minute, and in the case of a shaking from hell, the last minute is when we are in the middle of it.

iPhoneThe reaction on the god forshaking (get it?) day was amazing. Social networks had the busiest day ever. People wrote the same thing for the first couple of minutes after the shake: “did the earth just shake?”, “Ay santo, esta mierda tembló (Oh Lord, this shit just shook)!” One of my friends even asked a neighbor if she was ok. I mean, can you walk out and ask face to face? You need to take your phone and start writing? But after a couple of minutes, the funny people got on board too: “After shake party at my house”, “Please God, don’t let my beer bottle be broken!”, and stuff like that.

And God comes back into our lives. People start praying more and asking for blessings and thanking God for keeping us away from harm. And other people get mad because those Christians only remember God when something happens, and the atheists get mad because there is no God and we should not be thanking something that does not exist and never will. It’s a funny thing to read!!! Even the news channels have the topic for a couple of days and we get brochures and emails on how to deal with an earthquake in our respective jobs.

imagesCABX3KAY
Yes, Mr. Heisenberg, the earth was shaking!

Personally, I did not feel the shake. I was watching Breaking Bad, at it was a good episode that required all my attention. But I was working three years ago when on Christmas Eve the earth decided to shake. That was really scary for me and all of my co-workers. And we spoke about it for days, and now that this new one happened, we bring it back. We all remember where we were on 9-11, and everyone in Puerto Rico remembers where they were during this last shake.

My family and I, and I know it’s the same for many families in the Island, will work on an emergency plan so in the future this kind of thing don’t get us con los calzones abajo (without our pants). It is something we all have to do because we have to be ready for this kind of surprise. And things work better when we plan ahead. But we can’t deny it has been a couple of crazy days and all this shaking talk. The only shake we should be doing is the one in Harlem. Until next time, cójanlo suave!

P.S. Here is a link of a news station in Perú that reported the earthquake in their morning show. The visuals they used is not from Puerto Rico. In fact, it’s from an earthquake that happened a couple of years ago somewhere else. They even say the visuals are from what happened. I guess my country is not the only one full of crazy people!

My Christmas Memories

Today is the day after Christmas: Thursday, December 26. For us parents, today is still a hectic day; a day of trying clothes, running to get batteries, a lot of boxes lying around and kids running around and refusing to do anything else but play. Today is a great day to be a kid.

For us grownups, today is the day we reminisce about life and those Christmases ago, when we were kids running around the house, or in the neighborhood while our parents smiled at every little thing we did, or screamed at us because we refused to take a shower (we needed the time to play). Today we understand our parents even more, we know why they looked so tired yesterday, and continue being tired today. Helping Santa means the day will be long and the night will be not long enough.

wpid-IMG_21911577428628.jpegAs you all know, I have a big brother and a baby sister who is now 30 years old. When we were growing up we received all kind of presents: balls, bikes, skateboards, roller skates, video games, action figures, Legos, and so on. My greatest memories are not what we received, but the fun we had. When my sister was big enough to open her presents, she never wanted to do it alone. She walked to my room (I was maybe 10), and whispered:

“Franco, estás despierto? (are you awake)”.

“I am now, Frances”.

“Vamos a abrir los regalos (let’s open the presents)”

And I was up in no time. We walked really quiet making sure we did not wake my parents up, something that I now understand was dumb because the door to my room made a lot of noise and so did my sister’s. After we opened the first present we looked at them amazed that we got what we wanted or something different, but still awesome. If you ask me right now about what I got those days my sister woke me up, I would say I don’t remember, really. I remember the fun on doing that.

This is not the one I had, but I needed a picture.
This is not the one I had, but I needed a picture.

I always shared a room with my brother so that meant we usually woke up around the same time on Christmas day (I was up first, but I considered my job to wake him up). One year, I think I was seven or eight years old, I wanted an electric guitar; it had no strings, just buttons with different melodies. I woke up, woke my brother by calling him. We checked under our beds and THERE IT WAS… the guitar. I was still dark outside, but that did not stop us. I was able to turn it on (all the way up) and just pressed one button. Can you imagine someone playing a guitar at four in the morning when everything is quiet? The noise was incredible. We were scared and we knew my parents along with the whole neighborhood, were awake. The same way I turned it on, I turned it off. I pushed the guitar under the bed and my brother and I pretended to be sleeping just when my father opened our door. That is still a funny story in my house to this day.

Spider-Man and me!
Spider-Man and me!

We grew up, and 11 years ago my brother became a father, and so did I four years later. Now it was our turn to help Santa during this season. Different times, different types of presents, and new ways to make it unforgettable. I remember when my oldest son opened one present around five years ago. It was a Spiderman suit, with muscles and all. His face, the joy I saw on him and his happiness made my day. He wore that suit all day long, and the day after that and for some more months. He grew out of it, and to this day he still asks me why did I give it away, he says I could have come up with a way to fix it so he can still use it.

Christmas was a great time for me and I know now that my parents had a lot to do with it. I try to make the same for my kids, so does my brother and my sister. What does this post has to do with being Boricua? Nothing. Today I just want to ask you to make this Christmas season a special one. Make it special for you, your family and the kids. They will never forget the happy times, and they will pass it on to their children. Until next time, cójanlo suave!

Blog to a Friend… AGAIN!

Remember my friend who wrote a love post in Spanish a couple of weeks ago? Well, here he is again, refusing to open a page here at WordPress. But he is a good writer and he brings good traffic to my blog, so here is his new post. Hope you like it.

Cada mañana me levanto pensando en las sorpresas que tendrás para mí. Pienso en mis hijos y cómo tus decisiones afectarán sus vidas, sus logros y como enfrentarán los fracasos que les pongas en el camino. Pienso en lo que hasta hoy me has dado, en lo que me falta por lograr y en lo que, a pesar de mi sacrificio y esfuerzo, me has quitado. Pienso en esas movidas raras que haces a diario tratando de lograr en mí un jaque mate, mientras me las ingenio para hacerte quedar mal.

Le echo un vistazo al pasado y veo esos momentos difíciles de mi vida. Veo las lágrimas que derramé por tu culpa y las que hice que los demás derramaran. Veo las vidas que me afectaron y las que afecté. Veo cientos de cosas que pasaron y hasta el auto que me robaron, sólo porque me quedé con las cartas más malas en el juego de barajas.

Pero mirando en el mismo camino, veo las alegrías que me regalaste. Siento los abrazos de gente que me amó y que aun me ama. Siento los besos de cariño, los besos de amor. Veo a mis viejos luchando por mí y a mis hermanos jugando conmigo. Veo a mis hijos nacer y cada paso que han dado por el camino que les pones delante. Veo sus caritas adornadas por sus sonrisas y de la mano a la mujer que amo.

Road_to_lifeCada mañana me levanto pensando en las sorpresas que tendrás para mí, Vida. No sé qué decidas poner en mi camino, Vida. Pero agradezco lo que has dejado en mi camino, lo bueno y lo malo. Y te puedo asegurar Vida, que estoy listo para lo que tienes en agenda para mí; las tristezas que llegarán a marcarme, que me golpearán como para dejarme tirado y sin aliento. Pero no creas que ganarás, que haré lo que digas Vida. Las herramientas que me dejaste en el camino y las que recojo a diario con cada paso que doy y cada persona que conozco serán suficientes para luchar sin dejarme vencer. Quizás no gane, Vida, pero sé que tampoco lo harás tú. Y eso para mí es suficiente para seguir por tu camino con una sonrisa.

If you have any comment, please write it here. Or if you, as my friend here, want to write something about anything, there is always a spot in my blog (because I am running out of ideas). Until next time, cójanlo suave!

Navidad musical

Christmas time is here, and as you know I would say, Puerto Rico is the best place to be during the holidays, or if you are not in the Island, find a Boricua and I guarantee you will have the best season of your life. Today’s blog is a must-read. And if you click on the links in red, you will also listen to great Christmas music from Borinquen. Many of these songs you will hear during our Christmas season that extends until early February (yes, I wrote February!).

Christmas for Boricuas begins in November and depending on how broke and sad we are, we start earlier. This year, 2013 (because I don’t know when you are reading this post) we started early. We celebrate Thanksgiving, then Christmas, New Years, Three Kings and Octavitas, which is eight days after January 6 (Three Kings Day). If you make the math, everything should be done around January 15, but we like having longer parties; no need to rush the end of a good time. We have the longest Christmas Season in the World (just take my word for it).

And every party is better with the proper music. From décimas to Salsa and Merengue, old and new, we have them all. Here is a list of songs and a little bit of explanation to all of them.

  • How about a wing?
    How about a wing?

    Dame la mano paloma (Give me your hand pigeon) – If you read the title it makes no sense since pigeons have no hands, but that’s not the point. The song goes: Dame la mano paloma, para subir a tu nido, que me han dicho que estás sola y a acompañarte he venido. After that part of the song, people can add their own rhymes. For example: El día que me dijiste, que ya tú no me querías (repeat twice), hasta la perra de casa me miraba y se reía (The day you told me you did not love me anymore, even the dog looked at me and laughed). Then you go back to the chorus and so on. You will hear this in EVERY Christmas party where Boricuas are gathered.

  • La bomba. The song goes: La bomba ay que rica es. Le sube el ritmo por los pies. Mulato saca tu trigueña, pa’ que bailes bomba, bomba puertorriqueña. ¡BOMBA! (La Bomba is really good, the rhythm goes up your feet. Mulato, get your lady, so you can dance the Bomba, Puerto Rican Bomba). Then someone says a Bomba like: Una vieja y un viejito se fueron a coger gandules, y estuvieron en la brega sábado, domingo y lunes. ¡BOMBA! (An old guy and an old lady left to get green peas and they stayed on it Saturday, Sunday and Monday). Then the chorus goes again, and so on.
  • Chuito_el_de_Bayamon_-_El_buen_Borincano_-_1976Jíbaro music. In this category we have people like Chuíto el de Bayamón and Andrés Jiménez. The last one is my father’s favorite. The style of music is unique; just a guitar, a cuatro some maracas and a lot of music. The lyrics go from the simple life in the country side to other things in life and Christmas. And the Le lo Lai is always there too. Listen to this song from Andrés Jiménez and you will understand what I’m talking about. 
  • Salsa music. Salsa is one of our most beloved music. Some say it started in Cuba, some others say it was in New York, but everyone agrees a Boricua was behind it. For decades we have enjoyed the music and Christmas time brings new songs to the genre. One of my favorite is Héctor Lavoe. I’m not a huge fan of his regular salsa, but from Christmas season he is really good. This link has the full production Asalto Navideño from back when Christopher Columbus arrived to Puerto Rico.
  • Some Christmases ago...
    Some Christmases ago…

    El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico – the best salsa group in my book. For over 50 years (which means 51) they have sang and made many people around the globe dance and enjoy. They have a couple of hits for Chirstmas season. La fiesta de Pilito, No hay cama pa’ tanta gente, and El Arbolito. They even have TV specials and LP productions just for Christmas season (for those of you who don’t know what an LP is, look it up, and learn some history). And every Chirstmas I dance along with my father to their amazing music.thCA02O2O2

  • Danny Rivera and Vicente Caratini. When I was growing up and my mom played this music, we knew Christmas was officially started. That meant a lot of singing, a lot of eating and some tembleque for the whole neighborhood. El cardenalito is one of my favorite because I sang it in one school play in fourth grade and it means fun time in my mother’s house. It turns on the Christmas switch!

There are many more songs to enjoy Christmas with and I know all of you have a special one, or one you remember for one reason or another. Maybe your drunken uncle played the song even during the summer, or your sister tried to sing the lyrics but was never able to. Now, as an adult and a father I try to do the same thing in my house, so the new part of the family and my sons learn to enjoy the time and have fun memories to write about.

Let me know what song is good for you, or share a bomba with me (any bomba is a good bomba). Write it in the comment section so everyone can see it. Next time, I may talk about Christmas presents, then and now. Until then, cójanlo suave!

¡A las millas (Really Fast)!

Welcome back to another edition of my blog (that’s the best intro I could come up with). Finally Christmas season is here, and with it more and more fun stuff to do, which for us Boricuas is a lot. But in this specific post I decided to discuss something else.

Last November 19, a new study surfaced stating that kids today are slower than kids were 30 years ago. I will discuss the real reason on why that is happening. Not the scientific reasons behind it that, even though they are really important, they are not explained in the reality of a Boricua (that would be me).

Trompo
Trompo

I grew up in a neighborhood full of kids. Weekends were awesome when I was growing up and I lived next to a basketball court and a big play ground, huge. After school we were playing outside and on weekends we started riding our bikes early in the morning or maybe played basketball, baseball, tag, hide and seek, trompo, gallito,or anything that would keep me away from my school books. There lies the first reason why kids today are slower; we used to play outside. That is a universal reason because technology 20 years ago was not even close to what it is today. So how does being a Boricua make that any different from another person that is not blessed with being Boricua?

My point of view in that specific topic is unique to us Boricuas, or so I like to think. When I was growing up, on Saturday mornings when the summer sun was hitting my neighborhood, I don’t remember my mom getting some sunscreen for us before we went out to play. I do remember her telling us to be careful and to drop by every now and then to get some water and stay hydrated. Today, kids get sick if they go out and play under the sun and they can even Google all the bad things that sun can do for you.

We used to ride our bikes all around the neighborhood, uphill and then down just for fun. We took a break from riding the bike when we found a ball (volleyball, basketball, baseball) and we switched to that game. Then we took a break to go back to riding the bike.

thCAWKQ762As a kid, playing outside, we were able to hear and see the rain coming. So imagine a bunch of kids playing basketball and all of a sudden one of them just stopped playing, looked to the one side of the court and screamed “RAAAAAAAINNN”. We all dropped everything and started running. If you we usually a slow runner, on that specific moment you were Flash, and so was everyone else. Kids today get the weather information and rather stay indoors playing or watching TV.

thCALKX0EAThe same thing happened when we were playing baseball. There was always one of us who hit a home run but the ball got into the house of the worst person in the neighborhood: that lady who hates kids, and games, and fun (kind of like in The Sandlot movie). When the ball was in the air, and we knew it was going to that house, we all screamed: “NOOOOOOOOO. IT’S IN HER HOUSE, RUUUUUUNNNN!!!!!” and we were gone. Nowadays kids play baseball in baseball parks in their communities far from the fun of batting to someone else’s house, far from the adrenaline rush you get when you were the one batting or when you are the one who has to go to the old lady’s house and kindly ask for the ball back when you think she will hurt you. That type of fun is gone.

Speed is also developed when your mom calls you by your full name when you are playing outside. Usually it was around the third time she called you, but you decided to ignore the first two. Even your friends tell you that your mom is calling you, but you don’t care. Here is the way it was for me:

– “Frankie ven, hora de subir (Frankie, time to get inside).”

– Me: Waved my hand like saying “Gimme a minute”.

Five minutes or less later:

– “Frankie te dije que vinieras hace rato. AVANZA! (I told you to get in here. HURRY UP!)”

– Me: On my way mom. We are almost done.

thCA8VUP3JAnother five minutes or less later:

– JOSÉ FRANCISCOOOOOO!!!!!!!

– Me: Started running like the World was coming to an end. Two seconds later, I was home.

That does not happen anymore. I mean, I call my kid by his full name but it is when he did something wrong in the house so he does not have to run.

Technology has speed things up in terms of learning and developing, but outdoor sports have decreased (totally my opinion). And it is not the kids fault, it’s ours as parents. Sometime we want to give them everything we didn’t have but forget to give them everything we did have.

Don’t forget to comment about your experiences. For example, falling when you rode your bike and had to run home to tell your mother half of the skin from your knee is in the pavement, because we did not wear any safety stuff. You know, stuff like that you want to comment, you are more than welcome. Next time I will talk about the Christmas time for Boricuas, music edition. If you have any ideas I could use, email me at enlopositivo@gmail.com. Until next time, cójanlo suave!