Saturday, March 28, 2009


This will have to be rather quick post because it is 2am, I have a headache, and I'm tired. So why aren't you resting, you say? Because an event so momentous occurred that I cannot wait until tomorrow to write about it. Well, momentous to me. Not so much in the grand scheme of things.

I've been thinking a lot about old friendships ever since Bika wrote an entry on the subject (which in turn led to an in-comment discussion) on Bika's Journal:

"It's really hard for me to accept separation from people as the reality of life. As far back as I can remember, I've had to say goodbye to people, places, and things that I love. True.. I've experienced different cultures and met some absolutely wonderful people along the way... All the friends that I'd include in the trove are dispersed pretty much all over the world right now. I guess this my very roundabout way of saying that I miss everyone."

To which Brandon responded:

"I think no matter what you're going to have to say goodbye to different people throughout time. It would be nice to go back home and see friends again."

To which Bika then replied:

"It's the drifting apart bit that's hard to accept, because it takes so long to cultivate close relationships with people only to see it fade away with time."

I started college with a clean slate. I severed ties with all people from my past. Hmmm.... that makes me sound rather like an ass. Let me rephrase that. People went off to different schools. Others who initially started the journey with me soon sought other paths. Others were simply lost in the void of life. And the rest I hoped to never see again.

I soon found myself a great new group of friends (I may have written in-depth about this particular subject, but am not sure. If I haven't, then I just may.). My four years in college were wonderful because of these people. But as is the case with most friendships, you start drifting apart.

We each were focusing on our individual interests and I eventually moved to Boston/London. I lost touch with a great group of people. But then the unexpected happened. One of these friends reconnected us on Facebook tonight. He had been the first in the crew to drift off, so it was great hearing from him again. I often wondered what became of him. Suddenly, I'm being transported back to the laughs and good times we shared years ago. I sense a reunion will be organized, and I cannot wait for that day.

So this "quick post" is my long-winded way of saying that it is possible to revisit the past. The past is not another land far beyond our reach, it is merely in the shadows waiting to be rediscovered.

That's all I have to say for now. I'm sleepy. I have a headache. But, oh, what a good mood I'm in!


- R

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Things I overheard #2

Actually, this isn't so much something I overheard as something that happened to me. Ok, so it does not at all fall into the "Overheard" category. It was simply so odd that it warranted a mention on The Berto Blog.

I'm currently sitting at Starbucks (anyone surprised?). An old eccentrically dressed (i.e. could pass for a well-dressed hobo) old woman and her son (at least I assume it's her son, but he could be her caretaker) sit across from me. The woman makes small talk about my laptop and I humor her. I hate small talk, but I didn't want to be rude to such a kind looking old lady.

Then the old woman offered me a cookie. My mother always told me never to take candy from strangers, but she never mentioned anything about cookies.

I didn't take the cookie. Mostly because I don't believe in the kindness of strangers, but mostly because I didn't like the type of cookie she was offering me.

My friend Jacqueline had this to say on the matter: "lol. take the cookie! Realistically, the older the person is serving the cookie, the more delicious the cookie will be. So you're pretty lucky."

As I told her (Jacqueline, not the old woman), it was a store bought cookie. Maybe I should have taken it because it would be far too awkward to ask for the cookie now. "Actually, I will have a cookie. Thank you, kind stranger." Even more awkward if I follow that with "Oh, on second thought, I don't like those kinds of cookies. You can have it back. Thanks anyway."

Jacqueline's response? "why is the old woman buying store bought cookies?! I'm very disappointed with her. But I'll try not to judge."

I've actually seen this pair before and they struck me as kind but quirky then too. If I see them again, I'll strike up a conversation and turn it into reading material for you fine people. In other words, I like to exploit other people's lives.

On that note, my father asked me why we (meaning my mother, sister, and I) enjoy knowing the lives of others. I'll tell you what I told him... Escapist entertainment. Other people's realities serve as an escape from my own. But I guess that is just a fancy way of saying I'm nosey.


- R

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Things I overheard #1

I've come to the realization that I frequently refer to conversations I overhear (i.e. eavesdrop on) at Starbucks. But I do all this on Facebook. Occasionally, the subjects are so interesting that they result in conversations about said conversations. That being said, I will now include the most fascinating of these on this blog. Let me know if you like the format of this first "Overheard post" or if you prefer I write in story form.


The Pyramid Scheme

Me - listening to some 19 year old trying to get others to join his "marketing company." Getting a headache from his rapid-fire talking and constant use of "you know what I'm saying?" The whole thing sounds so dodgy.

Jacqueline - "you should be like "no i don't know what your saying" and see how many times you can say that until he gives up."

Me - "haha. i want to tell him to shut up. not every starbucks conversation is pleasant to listen to........ and he just told them to invest $100. suspicions confirmed."

Shruti - "he is doing a terrible job of marketing himself."

Jacqueline - "do it. just be like " you're ruining the chillax coffeehouse vibe man." i take it you are eavesdropping? if so, then you should tell whomever he is talking to, to " just say no to dodgy marketing plans from 19 yr olds""

Me - "he was trying to win them over with promises of ferraris and $2100 a week. it all sounded like a pyramid scheme"

Shruti - "i am surprised those guys are even entertaining him."

Me - "he's gone now. unfortunately, i couldn't help eavesdropping. they were at the table next to mine and he was shouting rapidly at them. dizzying them with razzle dazzle and such, but i was not fooled. i should have thrown myself at them with a big dramatic "Nooooo!!!""

Cady - "yeeeep pyramid scheme! i have/had friends that got caught up in that...sigh..."

Me - "it was pretty nuts b/c the whole scam was so obvious. i could not believe how long they put up with the kid. no one "invested," but they all gave him and his "associate" their cell numbers and addresses. *sigh*"

Jacqueline - "really $2100 a week? at that rate they should just go for broke and sell cocaine."

Shruti - "you could have saved a bunch of souls you know."

Me - "i really should have done something. yet another thing to add to my list of regrets. the two dudes are still outside, talking on their phones (i.e. continuing their shady dealings). could i escape 1st degree murder charges if i say "i ran them over with my car for the greater good"?"

Shruti - "i would probably want to do the same thing."

Jacqueline - "well is it going to ruin your car? because that's not good. Instead you should sic a crazy transient on them. Then you can watch from afar and lol and not get in trouble because the authorities wouldn't believe the crazy transient if he claimed you were involved."

Me - "OMG! they're back and with a fresh batch of victims! two of the people were in the previous group, brought along friends, and are now referring to the dudes as their "business associates"! i don't know if i can handle this shit again. and i don't think my head can once more handle his word barrage."

He is still here and using the same story he used on the last group. And is STILL throwing out "you see what I'm saying?" every other word. He is a 19-year old with only a high school education and is scamming/corrupting the youth of San Clemente. I seriously cannot believe that two of his previous victims brought 6 friends back with them.

Shruti - "talk about people having loads of idle time in today's world."

Me - "*sigh* good news... all but one of the kids left. He looks unconvinced, so he may escape unconverted. *crosses fingers*"

Happy Ending (sort of)! He said he was not interested, but gave him his phone number and address anyway.

I don't know what is worse. That people like this kid exist or that the youth of America are so easily brainwashed.


- R

Friday, March 20, 2009

Mariana: Portrait of a Modern Woman (an unfinished piece)

Here is another unseen story of mine. At least I have a good excuse for not showing this one.... I never finished it. I may finish it one day. I may not. Time will tell.


- R


Mariana: Portrait of a Modern Woman

The sun was shining, a cool breeze swept the land making the day’s warmth bearable, and there was not a cloud in the pristine blue sky — it was an excellent day for a piercing. Mariana called me the night before at 11:45 PM, not exactly an I deal time to call someone. My first instinct was to worry that something had gone wrong. I had spoken to her about four hours prior to her call; she was in the middle of a walk, her new nightly exercise routine. I assumed the worst: she was kidnapped during her walk and her captors allowed her to make one phone call; it’s actually a doctor calling to tell me that Mariana had been attacked by wolves and a roving gang of violent eight year olds; the police are calling to inform me that my friend is trapped in a sewer. It was her telling me she has decided she should get a nose ring. A nose piercing, she felt, would give her an air of culture and street cred. Not wanting to be rude by telling her this was a foolish and conformist reason for putting an unnatural hole in her nose, I just laughed it off as though my polite giggle of compliance translated to: “Why didn’t I think of that?”

It became quickly obvious that she had her mind set, but I convinced her to wait until that Friday rather than the next day, Tuesday. She agreed to wait and I agreed to accompany her. This is happening, I thought to myself. She is getting her nose perforated by a sharp needle.

The next morning I was informed in a timely manner by an orange paper on my classroom’s door that my twentieth century British fiction class was cancelled. My first instinct, as a friend, was to call Mariana and tell her I was free to accompany her this very morning. Then reason kicked in and I decided against it. It’s not that I didn’t want her to get a nose ring it’s just that I didn’t think it suited her and so she shouldn’t get one. Ultimately, the side of me that wants to see my friends happy prevailed and I called her. It might as well have been written in the stars because her class was also cancelled and she could indeed get a piercing today.

No sooner had I told her the “good news” when she had hung up on me to look for piercing parlors. Once again, I imagined the worst. A seedy shop tucked away in a dark alley. All the employees are covered from head to toe in tattoos. Anything that could be pierced was and I knew because these guys proudly showed me. Each piercing was prefaced by an appropriate anecdote, “I see you’re checking out my Prince Albert. That one takes me back. Best. Sixteenth. Birthday. Present. Ever. God, I love my parents.” The walls are decked in photos of men, women, and children and their respective piercings, a gallery displaying the piercers’ triumph over humanity’s better judgment. It would be here that my friend’s virgin nose is deflowered by veteran, unclean hands. I will be an unwillingly witness to its loss of chastity.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Happy Birthday to me

Last Friday was my birthday. I feared the worst since it landed on Friday the 13th. But nothing happened. Nothing at all. My birthday came and went just like any other day. At least I didn't spend it completely alone like I did last year. It was a chill rather uneventful event.

My mom actually took the day off from work to spend the day with me. She's never done that before. I'm pretty sure it was because it's been 4 years since the last time I was home for my birthday. Once I was in Italy. The next two times I was in LA. And last year was spent in Boston.

The day started early with breakfast in Laguna Beach. She took me to Las Brisas, a cliff side restaurant with an amazing view of the ocean; it's one of my favorite restaurants. Later in the day, my grandparents treated me to lunch. My first choice was Fisherman's, a restaurant on the San Clemente pier. My grandma wasn't too keen on the idea of sitting outside since it was a bit chilly, so I was asked to make another choice. Instead I opted for another San Clemente restaurant -- Avila's El Ranchito, an upscale Mexican place. I had been there for drinks once before (hi, Leya!), but had never eaten there.

And that pretty much sums up my day. I spent the rest of the day relaxing and reading the incoming birthday messages on Facebook. As usual, my godparents called to wish me a happy birthday but no one else in my family did. No need to pity me or say "awww...." I'm used to it by now. In fact, I haven't even received a birthday present from any of them since my 16th birthday. You see, the rule is the following: No party, no presents. I haven't wanted a party all these years because I finally got tired of not being the guest of honor at my own party; no one pays any attention to me and all my music is vetoed.

The one highlight of my day was getting a call from a dear friend. I've known her for most of my life, but we had a falling out last year. Nothing dramatic; we simply lost touch and I did little to remedy the situation. She was right to get upset with me. I surely sounded a bit emotional on the phone, but I was just so happy to hear the voice of one of my best friends after a year of silence. "You think I'd forget your birthday?" she said. They were the sweetest words I could have hoped for.

The next day, however, was the true momentous occasion. Like last year and the year before, I asked to see a show for my birthday. So my parents took me to go see the show of my choosing. I saw RENT with Adam Pascal as Roger and Anthony Rapp as Mark. They originated those roles, so it was amazing to get to see the original stars of the show. Mostly, however, I (as well as my sister) was very excited to get to see a live performance by Adam Pascal. I'm a big fan of his (as is my sis, but she mostly just thinks he's hot). We still can't believe we actually got to see him in a show. The biggest surprise of the night was that my parents actually enjoyed the show. My mother (aka She Who Likes Nothing) really liked it and thought its realism was great. They even "moo'd" during the "Jump Over the Moon" scene!

So that's it. My birthday in a nutshell. Would I have loved to go out with all my friends? Of course. Unfortunately, my friends are scattered all over and it would have been too difficult to organize. Plus, my coolest peeps are all on the East Coast (you know who you are).

Ciao for now,

- R

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Losing It

I've been fighting the flu for the past several days. Hence I've been feeling less than chipper. I didn't want to ignore my blogging duties, but my mind has not been sufficiently active enough to write something witty or profound. So until I no longer feel tired and achy, here is another piece of classic Roberto. And I am using the term "classic" loosely. This one is better than the last, though.


- R

p.s. a recent thing I overheard at Starbucks: "...let's take the most corrupt people in America -- the Chicago colored -- and put them in the White House. What a great idea."

Urge to kill rising.


While waiting at the Social Security office for a replacement card, I noticed a man who looked like Colin Quinn and resembled Dennis Hopper’s character in Blue Velvet. He stood rather than sat despite there being several empty single seats, but who wants to sit next to complete strangers? That’s why I placed a sweater on the chair to the left of me and a ham sandwich on the seat to my right. To fool others — mainly crippled old people who for some reason feel I should give up the seats I am not actually using — I would look at the time displayed on my cell phone and tried my best to look annoyed.

Every now and again I huffed and tried my best to frown in a way that says, “Where the hell are Benny and Martha? I selflessly save them a spot so they will have a place to sit and they have yet to show up. Where could they be? There are crippled old people here who need these seats, but do they care about any one else but themselves? No. This is unbelievable! I’m giving them five more minutes.” Colin Quinn on the other hand kept standing and would sometimes pace around with his arms crossed. Unlike my feigned expressions of annoyance and impatience which served to protect the integrity of my buffer zone, his expressions seem to either mask or blatantly reveal, depending on how you look at it, his malicious intentions.

He would transition from a serious and grave look to a delusional smile. Colin Quinn would then emit a chuckle which no sane person could describe as anything else but psychotic. This in turn would eventually be followed by a growl. I don’t pretend to know anything about dogs, but I would say his growl resembled that of a scruffy, grey yard dog. His expressions occurred in a cycle which would repeat and be intermittently interrupted with a mixture of frantic stares and curious glances.

Is everyone so numb from the boredom of waiting for their number to be called that they are too self-absorbed to notice this man? He is clearly plotting to kill or eat someone. Looking up from the tiny blue notebook where I was jotting down my observations, I noticed that he was staring straight at me with a smile that caused a dreadful chill to ripple from my neck to my toes.

He must surely know I am writing about him. I quickly return my attention to my notebook. Would he wait until I left the building to maul me like a hunger-crazed hyena or just lunge at me here and now? Would anyone protect or save me from the snarling lunatic? Are they so bored and hungry for stimulation that they will actually find amusement in my being torn to shreds, eaten, or both?

At this point beads of sweat are forming on my brow in hordes, dripping down my face and back, and I am finding it increasingly difficult to write in my little notebook when it is dampening with every passing second. To make matters worse, my family will probably be billed for the reupholstery that will be needed for the chair I have by now ruined with water damage as a result of my drenched back.

Oh God, I think to myself. His maniacal laughter is going unnoticed. Don’t the rest of these people realize that their intellectual superior is being threatened?

As Colin Quinn leans against a wall and licks his quivering lips in anticipation of the feast he will make of me, I start to think of how I will be remembered. “Remember me as a peacemaker,” I’ll say as the light of life fades. Who will inform my friends of past and present times that I was viciously taken from them? Will my friends in turn speak well of me to others, counseling future friends, acquaintances, and lovers of their unknown loss? Will my family leave a place setting for me at the dinner table in memoriam for ever more?

Assuming there is anything left of me after Colin Quinn has had his fill, where will my remains find their final resting place? A coffin of gold embedded with jewels?

I have heard of a company in Chicago that can turn eight ounces of cremated ashes into a diamond. A testimonial featured on NPR told of a woman whose husband had a sparkling personality and loved jewelry so she saw it fitting that the man she swore to love forever be preserved as a diamond, a jewel De Beer’s frequently tells us is eternal. Will my sparkling personality be immortalized in diamond form, and how will my family know to whom I wish to send a piece of myself?

Will an altar be made on the spot where my life was ended prematurely? Saint Thomas รก Beckett has a surplus of visitors, which is probably in violation of several fire safety codes. The United States needs a holy blissful martyr to seek. Pilgrimages could be made to Mission Viejo, California; sinners will find peace and redemption by praying at my tomb. Meanwhile, everyone else, those who come to see and be seen, will find many statues and commemorative paintings worthy of a spot on their digital camera’s memory card. A gift shop will sell pins, t-shirts, posters, and other similar objects emblazoned with my devastatingly handsome image as well as auction off my once prized possessions to the highest bidder. Con artists will hurriedly reproduce and sell a myriad of objects, pawning them off as official relics of Saint Roberto the Glorious.

I can see it now: it will be the biggest news since a president almost choked to death on a peanut. Men, women, and children of all ages will flock to my altar by the millions, hoping for a miracle or to hear a tour guide regale visitors with stories of my greatness and understated magnificence. As an English major in college, my only hope is that my death and its proceeding events will inspire poets across the nation to create the next Decameron or Canterbury Tales. Only then will my death not have been in vain, for it was for the greater good.

Or perhaps no one will remember me. There is the possibility that the sixty or so witnesses of my death who did nothing to stop the psychotic Colin Quinn will not want to inform people of my passing. So ashamed of their ill-gotten pleasure will they be that they will want to erase any evidence of my ever being at the Social Security office. They’ll probably bury me out back. My olive skin will be camouflaged nicely against the brown dirt. As for the car, well, they will most likely find some cliff off of which they can send it plummeting. Mind you I don’t know where one can find a cliff in Mission Viejo, but guilty, death sentence-fearing people will find a way. Thusly will I meet my maker. No funeral. No altar. No pilgrimages.

As far as I can remember, I have frequently thought about my own mortality and what awaits me after I die. Moreover, I often find myself wondering about the exact details of my death. How will I die? Where will I die? Will I die among friends and family? Will there be witnesses? Will I die alone? But the one question that plagues me more than any other is whether or not anyone will care.

That is what frightens me the most. To die and be forgotten is one thing; to be forgotten implies that you were remembered at one point or another. But to just die and have my death make no impact whatsoever because my life meant nothing to anyone to begin with, that is what chills my skin and induces those tiny tremors and that all-too familiar itch on the surface and inside of my nose, respectively, that present themselves in those seconds before a sneeze.

I matter to me. I find myself to be witty, intelligent, loveable, and utterly unforgettable. But does anyone reciprocate those same feelings?

During my K-6 years at Las Palmas Elementary School, my class went on a field trip to an archaeology museum. The trip featured an explorative hike in the hills behind the museum.

“Try and find some fossils,” the curator told my class. “Maybe, if you have a sharp eye and know what to look for, you’ll find some Indian arrow heads or a sand dollar. I’m sure there is a budding archaeologist among the lot of you.”

Always looking for the opportunity to impress figures of authority and make prominent my superior intellect and ingenuity, I marched up that rocky hill and imagined myself finding a fossilized archaeopteryx — a prehistoric bird I had recently read about in a National Geographic. During my search, however, I found myself being more entranced by the plethora of crevices and fissures scattered across the face of the hill. My interest in fossils quickly ebbed as my thoughts focused more and more on what would happen if I fell into one of those abysses.

I feared falling in and not being able to be rescued. I did not want to die so young, especially because my untimely end had been my own fault. I am positive that my classmates would not have gone for help until they got in a few good laughs and guffaws at my clumsiness. I pictured the news anchor relaying my death to the masses, “In other news, a boy fell into a gaping hole today while looking for fossils; his classmates laughed on as he suffocated and was crushed to death. The city council is planning to erect large, yellow caution signs in front of the yawning chasms so future visitors will be able to see them.”

Although there have been times when I have wished my own death, I do not actually want to die. I do not want to die alone, forgotten, and unloved. I tell myself that over these recent years I have developed friendships and deepened older ones that will ensure my death will mean something to someone. Yet even at the zenith of happiness I continue to feel that perhaps I am expendable, ordinary, and unimportant to anyone other than my parents — two people I have also doubted would care.

Facing a possible death, I begin to ponder over how the people I care about will learn of my death. I assume that if someone thinks of looking inside my wallet they will call my house and inform my parents. Then what? Will my parents think of looking in my cell phone’s contact list? Will they call each and every number on that list and relay the news? Then, assuming there is a sense of loss and sadness by those who survive me, how will the world be any different without me.

I guess since I am dead it really won’t matter what happens. I think the reason that I fear death and the afterlife so much is that I spend far too much time contemplating it. Of course I am scared of the world existing without me… I’m still in it! When the time comes for me to bid this world adieu I’ll be ready, assuming I die at the age of one hundred and fifty after having lived a happy fulfilled life. I don’t think I will ever be able to overcome my trepidation about my death being meaningless, but at least there are worst things than dying at one’s proper time. I am ordinary and unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but that is okay. The world should not stop because I have left it, no one is that important. I only pray that I be missed and remembered fondly by my friends and family long after I am gone.

Of course, with my luck, it is very possible that I will indeed be remembered — just not as a martyr. In interviewing the people who knew me, journalists will hear allegedly true stories of what I was really like. “A black belt ninja master of the eighth degree? Not bloody likely. He could barely open a water bottle,” will say one of my “friends.”

“Bedded hundreds of women? Maybe in his dreams,” another will argue. Some other dear friend will add, “Cured disease and made blind men see they are saying. Biggest bullshit I’ve ever heard. The guy gives me some Advil and lends me money for contact solution and all of sudden the dude is mother fuckin’ Jesus!? For Christ’s sake!”

“Not only does he lose his Social Security card, but he liked getting pedicures, was afraid of spiders, and I think I saw him reading a recipe for quiche once,” will add my biggest fan, my mother.

I don’t know what’s worse; the fact that I will die hungry and covered in sweat or that the most probable thing my post-mortem future holds for me is a tombstone my friends and family will affectionally engrave: “Here lies Roberto Hernandez. Lost his Social Security card and got him self eaten because of it.”

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

On Lies and Mothers: A True Story

To tide you over until I write an original post, I present a piece from my early days. So, as promised in a previous post, a piece of classic Roberto. Well, maybe not classic. Well, maybe not even good. This piece is actually my first foray into creative non-fiction. A few of you (assuming you few actually read this) have already read this. I apologize for the rerun and ask new readers to be kind. It's a bit convoluted and I'm trying too hard to be amusing. Overall, it's not great but a fair first attempt at this genre of writing. I sincerely hope I have improved since writing this piece. You can let me know.


- R


On Lies and Mothers: A True Story

It was a wonderful day, one that began wonderfully and ended wonderfully — birds were melodically chirping, the sun was shining, the warmth mixed perfectly with the cool breeze, it was one of those days when you could accurately say we were having perfect weather, and I swear I could hear a Disney princess singing to the trees as the squirrels helped her to pick berries for a pie; truly a lazy hazy day of summer, in spring. Now if only this story actually began this way. In reality, it all started with a night of drinking. I wouldn’t call it a night of heavy drinking, but rather it was a night of steady, incessant drinking. I would like to say that I had the good company of friends to help me drink away my sorrows and I would also like to say that the night was not spent watching the entire first season of Xena: Warrior Princess. This, however, would make me a liar. So there I sat, nestled between four large and fluffy pillows, atop the green 100% polyester throw that lies upon the green comforter which covers my bed. It took the lucidity that only alcohol can provide to make me realize how much green there is on my bed. It all looked so much better in the catalogue.

I’ll admit that it was a pathetic night; one that my friends won’t soon let me forget. It’s not like I planned for nothing to go right on the exact day that my close friends all decided to go home early for the weekend. To add possible injury to insult, it started to rain. It was exactly what I needed… a cracked skull from slipping on the slick stairs leading up to the dorms. I’m sure it would have been painful if I had tumbled down a flight of stairs, but it would not have compared to the utter shame and humiliation that would have ensued from surviving such a plummet. I wouldn’t call myself a lucky person. Case in point, had I fallen, I would have survived with a scratch and a bruise but would have landed in front of a crowd of cruel creatures commonly known as college students. I am also positive that I wouldn’t have even taken a single one of them down with me. Like I said, I am not a lucky person.

Eventually, I made it up to my dorm room to seek comfort in the warm and gentle arms of the large bottle of Absolut vodka which is conveniently kept in the back of my closet for just such an occasion. Who needs people when you have the company of alcohol, barbeque-style Oberto! beef jerky, animal crackers, and potato chips. I sat there, watching Xena save the world from impending doom and bloodshed over and over again while almost literally drowning my sorrows — the Russian fluid chose to delay its journey down my esophagus by first making a quick detour at my wind pipe. Oddly enough, this sobering (well, almost sobering) near-death experience brought to my attention that I had yet to decide on a topic for the article I must write for my journalism seminar — this being that article.

Despite my thoughts having become a tad bit cloudy on account of the 5th… 6th? … 12th? … well, on account of the alcohol I was currently drinking/unintentionally killing myself with, I searched the dark recesses of my mind; I searched every corner of my soul; I searched around my room; I searched for anything that could be inspirational, stopping just short of digging through the trash can situated next to the toilet whose lid had been left up by one of my suitemates. I either had to find a worthwhile memory or create a new one.

Memory is a funny thing. I’ve always imagined it to be a tiny library inside our heads with a vast collection that spans our entire lives as well as having a record of images and recollections that actually belong to others, — either real people or imaginary (e.g. characters who solely exist on TV, in movies, or in books) — which we unconsciously (or deliberately) claim as our own. My librarian’s name is Steve. Steve is 5’6, blond, of average build, mostly dependable, clean shaven, and has a penchant for checkered shirts and Dockers. He reminds me of Jimmy Olsen from the Superman comics. Not that I have ever read any Superman comic. My knowledge of the Man of Steel is limited to common knowledge like his distaste for kryptonite and what I gathered from the 90s television show, Lois and Clark. Steve prefers to style is hair in the way that gel or pomade is used to flatten the hair against the head, except for a flip at the front. My mother refers to this style as the “statue of liberty” or “sun” cut, which, much to her dismay, her son sported during his junior year of high school.

My mother… an interesting character, to say the least. She has a unique talent — now I do not actually know every mother on the planet nor do I care to know them, but I’m sure my mom is different from all others — for making everything, be it achievement or just change, as in new clothes or a new hairstyle, seem just okay. Mediocre. Different, but certainly not remarkable or special. My mother is just expressive and emotional like that. While one hundred other people were weeping to the point of dehydration from witnessing Leo freeze to death in the Atlantic Ocean, this woman chastised her family, “Why in the world are you crying? It’s a stupid movie.” “I-I-I know, bu-but…. [blows nose into napkin] … I just can’t believe Jack and Rose don’t end up together. They could have had such a beautiful life together. Why, God, why!?” “You and your father better stop crying right now! You two are embarrassing me. From now on I go to the movies alone.”

This is a woman who responded to the news that her son had been admitted to UCLA with an “Oh? That’s good. Now go set the table because we are having lentil soup for dinner….. and please tell your father to stop his hysteric jumping and crying. You aren’t the first person to go to that school and you won’t be the last.” While her husband and two children wept at The Phantom’s fate, — and continued to be saddened about it long after the musical’s conclusion — my mother, being the sentimental fool that she is, said with a laugh, “Are you serious? He was a disfigured psychopath. I would choose the cute rich boy too. I’ll admit it’s flattering to have someone kill for you, but murdering in the name of love can only sustain a relationship for so long; there is no security. Plus, where would they live? Does he expect Christine to give up fame and fortune as an opera singer to go live in a sewer?”

The news could report that a busload of orphans, nuns, kittens, and sick puppies crashed into a hospital, killing numerous blind kids and cancer patients, and she would change the channel to a telenovela. I wouldn’t say my mom is heartless. I don’t think I would even go as far as saying that she was born without any emotions. I just think it has something to do with robots not programmed to be emotive.

My mother is simply a tough woman. Makes sense. My grandmother is an even tougher woman. Seeing as any half-witted lion would choose me as the night’s dinner over the blind and crippled antelope, it becomes apparent that this strength of character is a trait passed on from mother to daughter. I may be my mother’s son (for better or worse), but I certainly didn’t inherit her better traits. Friends, family, and complete strangers mock me for wishing it were possible to serve in the Peace Corps in somewhere nice like France or England, but I do not see it as a sign of weakness; it’s merely a matter of choice. I’m sure there are Parisian bakers who just wish there was an American college graduate who could assist them by dedicating two years of his life to baking croissants and decorating pastries. Likewise, I subscribe to the theory that there could very well be a poet somewhere in England in need of someone to be their muse for two years. People can be so close-minded… as if only underdeveloped and war torn countries with no running water need help.

Still, I wish I had inherited the matrons’ tough as nails temperament. I inherited their attitudes and the family stubbornness, so why couldn’t I have been imbued with everything else? Something must have gone wrong while I was in the womb because my family tree seems to have always bloomed hardy fruit.

There are many stories about my relatives and ancestors. There’s the one about my dad’s mother, Grandma Maria, who heard the cry of La Llorona and bravely went out to face the mythic apparition with a shovel and a crucifix while my grandfather pretended to be asleep. There’s the one about my great-grandmother who served alongside General Santa Anna. More than likely she was a nurse tending to the soldiers’ injuries, but the way my dad tells the story he makes it seems as though she led the siege of the Alamo. I normally don’t listen to the stories because it is usually my grandparents who act as the bards and once my grandparents start talking it is hard to get them to be quiet. Some would call me rude for trying to silence my elders. I would call it a bigger crime for them to interrupt me while I was reading a spider its Miranda Rights for having entered our home without permission. When I do manage to sacrifice a few precious minutes from interrogating intruders, I have noticed that most of those long-winded family stories revolve around women. It’s the women who are out facing ghosts and participating in war. What does that say to me? That I can be proud to say that the women in my family were not oppressed and subjugated individuals. My female ancestors were as tough as any fabled hero. Moreover, it says to me that I come from a long line of inactive men who are found on the sidelines while their wives are scoring touchdowns. I have a bright future ahead of me.

Like my dad, I will be the emotional intellectual who will be constantly reminded that a movie is not worth one’s tears by my future wife. My sister, on the other hand, will inherit that heralded feminine trait and will end up finding herself a passive husband like many others before her. Truly a bright future to look forward to.

I wish I had not been born into such a family. My family is one with a long standing tradition of producing strong, willful women and submissive men that yield to their better halves. This is not something to brag about. Why can’t both the men and women of my family be tough, fearless, and outspoken? I often wished, and occasionally still do so, that the popular childhood dream of being taken home by one’s family by mistake or that one was adopted were true. I still find myself…well, I wouldn’t call it lying per se… um, reinventing my family and its history.

I’ll be perfectly frank; I never considered my family to be all that amazing. One is likely to hear people say they are related to Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Angelina Jolie, or some other impressive historical figure. Not wanting to be left behind, I usually made up a connection to some important or noteworthy figure. Seeing as I come from Mexico, all my peers are forced to accept what I say since they cannot actually verify that there is a relation or that the figure I chose actually exists. So far I have been related to murderous triplets, war heroes, assassins, famed magicians, and countless other men and women who may or may not have existed.

Honestly, I don’t understand why lies have such a bad reputation. The truth is overrated, especially when lies can give you such a good reputation or at least allow you to become accepted by your peers. Acceptance has always been a big issue for me and no amount of denial can deny its veracity.

The most common lie I have told revolves around ownership or possession. In elementary school it was the X-Men trading cards. Kids would bring albums to school which could not fit even one more card. These same kids would gather around trading their precious cargo with other collectors and making or breaking deals. While I have always been an obsessive little fan boy when it comes to the X-Men, my parents never bought me a single trading card. I was a deprived child. There was no reason, however, for my peers and those whom I desired to be my friends to know this sad fact. As far as they knew, I too had as many cards as they but would never part with them. No, I couldn’t bring my cards to school because I was afraid they would be damaged and because my mom said no as I might lose them. She never lets me do anything. Doesn’t she think I can take care of my own things? I’m in elementary school; I’m not a little kid anymore, for crying out loud. Anytime I can’t do or have something I blame my mom.

Mothers are wonderful scapegoats because it is so believable. When you have a robotic mother like I do, it becomes even easier. In my honest opinion, only someone without feelings would senselessly refuse to buy their first born — and as far as I am concerned, her most important child — the item(s) that would make him one of the cool kids. Such a blasphemous act could only be remedied with a wonderful lie which got me compassion from my peers. My mother is weird too, they would say. She sounds like a monster, some would add. Yes, yes, I do have a horrible life and I am glad you understand why I can never bring my huge collection of trading cards to show to anyone.

In middle school it was tickets to the X-Files convention. There was a contest in which the winner would be given two tickets to the event. I saw no harm in saying that I had won said contest and now possessed tickets to this convention. I also saw no possible repercussions from inviting someone to attend the convention with me. I refrained from informing my parents of my plan to attend this convention and that I had volunteered them to drive my guest and me to this event. What could go wrong? The lack of actual tickets I pitifully explained by saying that I was awarded the cash to purchase the tickets at the box office. Pathetic, but then again so were my middle school years. The day of the event had arrived and my guest called me early in the morning to ask at what time I would be picking her up. I said that my mom and I would be at her house around 11 AM. My parents still had no knowledge of their obligations to act as chauffeurs to an event they knew nothing about. Alas, it was time to tell my mom what was expected of her. Why delay it a moment longer?

I waited two more hours before getting the nerve to tell my mom what she had been committed to do. Surprisingly, picking up my date, driving to Santa Ana and back, and hearing about these plans until now were all inconsequential compared to her only major quarrel. And just what would she be doing while this girl and I had fun at this “X thing?” Was she expected to just sit in the car patiently for several hours until we decided we had had our fill of fun? Or perhaps I expected her to sleep in the car and be mistaken for a homeless woman? I don’t see how she could have become upset since I offered many suggestions as to what she could do with her time. She could drop us off, go home, and come back when needed. She could stay in the car and read her favorite magazines. She could use the time I was gracious enough to give her and knit. She could use the free time to learn a new language. She could go somewhere nearby and idle away the hours until her services were once again required. Or she could use her time wisely and think of a great present to give me for my birthday. All were great suggestions only a loving son could give. For some bizarre reason she didn’t seem to think so and instead suggested that I make this day even more momentous by taking the bus to Santa Ana.

It was a response I was not prepared for. Being the clever litigator that I am, I reasoned with her and she agreed to take me. It’s amazing how well excessive whining can work, especially when combined with threats to call child protective services for intentionally putting her child in danger of being kidnapped by making me ride the bus. The only catch was that it would not be until my dad came home from work. This was not until late in the afternoon, so I called my guest to tell her that our plans had become altered as a result of the will of my cruel and thoughtless mother. Great scapegoat. Since no one answered my call, I left a message on her answering machine saying that we would arrive at 4 PM. My father arrived and I once again called the girl, but was once again answered by her answering machine. Not knowing what had become of this girl, I told my parents that it seemed that they were no longer obligated to take anyone anywhere. I arrived at school the next day and discovered that my guest was still upset at having been forgotten by her benefactor. I was told that even her mother was upset with me for going back on my promise to take her daughter to the convention. How could I have just left her there after saying I would take her with me, she scolded. It was shameful and utterly embarrassing.

It was time to tell her the truth and reveal all that had transpired as a result of my grievous lie. Why keep lying? I never won any contest. In fact, I never even entered any contest. I made it all up so as to look cool in front of you. I know I should not have said anything. Yes, I know it was stupid of me to invite you to something that was never going to happen. In my defense, you technically invited yourself and I got caught up in the moment and hastily agreed to take you with me. But the point is that I lied, and I am sorry for making getting your hopes up. I fully understand if you want to tell everyone in our class what a loser I am. I will face the embarrassment and heckling with quite dignity.

Then again, why incriminate myself when my ‘fall-to-scapegoat’ could clear me of any blame and might even earn me some pity. I really should thank my mother and apologize for any trouble I might have caused because she was, and occasionally continues to be, one hell of a scapegoat.

I may never be as assertive and tough like my mom, but I came out with a lovely compensation prize: her infallible ability to lie. Perhaps there is something to be said for having the emotional range of a rock, and that is that you’ll never feel any remorse when you blatantly lie to someone’s face or pretend to be best friends with someone when all the while you gossip about how fat they are getting. Although I may not have inherited her more desirable personality traits, an ability to tell a stone-faced lie has truly come in handy over the years. There are those who see this valuable gift as something that is negative and not something to be proud of. I would call them small-minded fools, though not to their faces. While they are forced to face responsibility for their actions or are stuck playing card games with the boring kid down the hall, I am laughing all the way to whatever life has in store for me next. I always hated being compared to my mother, but age has given me the insight to realize that, in an unconventional way, she did indeed gain me acceptance. It just goes to show that people place too much importance on the truth, and that is no lie.