Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Out of the Texas Panhandle and Into the Syracuse Oven

Syracuse? Hot?! Yes, my friends; Syracuse is officially one degree short of melting point. And it is from this sweltering city that I report to you fine people out there in Blogger world, fresh from my trip to Houston. H-Town sure didn't feel this freaking hot, though, quite possibly, the central air conditioning that's been placed in every single crevice of that metropolis probably had something to do with the disparity. The humidity here in the Cuse is freaking awful. Today, I was walking for about five minutes to the 'Fucks, when I rubbed my Starbucks-approved polo shirt and noticed that it was completely soaked with perspiration. And this was from FIVE MINUTES!

But, I can't complain, though. I'd rather have this weather than the crappy summer we had last year, where temperatures barely rose above 60 all summer long. Weather like this gives me an excuse to go and sneak into the nearby neighborhood pool here in Cuse at 2 in the morning, bypassing all the potheads and orgie fanatics mucking about in the nearby outdoor amphitheater. Thank God that my new apartment has ceiling fans all over the place. I can just chill, with my arms and legs spread out and let the air chill my crotch. Ahhhh yes... that's the life right there!

So, as I mused in my last post, I was forced to come back to Cuse without doing anything with my late grandfather's body. I still marvel at the bureaucratic BS surrounding this entire thing; the fact that we have to get a SPECIFIC doctor to certify that my grandfather is officially dead doesn't make any sense to me. I'm not sure what it's like in other states, but I know this would've never happened right here in New York State. Then again, a lot of things don't make sense to me about Texas. In either case, I'm still waiting for word that Abuelo's closing ceremonies can go forward as planned, finally. With any luck, that word should come any day now.

It was cool spending time with the fam out there in Houston, especially my uncle Angel. I stayed in his place the entire week and beat down my two little cousins, Alex and Gabriel, every chance I got. I had a great time while I was there, and, as usual, found it incredibly hard to leave. And, as usual, I found myself considering living in Houston for a little while after I graduate from Syracuse in order to spend time with the family down there. Every time I go over there, I always get this little feeling in the back of my head that makes me think of nice, happy thoughts consisting of me just connecting with my relatives down there. After all, with just my mother and one of my uncles left in New York City, I always feel somewhat isolated from the rest of the family that's centered in Texas. Part of me has always wanted to have that family-type of environment, where everyone gets together during special occasions and calls on one another when shit hits the fan. I don't have that kind of experience being in NYC, though from time to time, I try to reconnect with my uncle and with my cousins there. It's no replacement for what could happen in Houston with my family down there, but it's certainly a lot better than nothing.

Of course, I always snap back to reality when I think about just how fractured my "family" really is. You got one person arguing with another here, someone trying to extort money there, and my grandmother running the "no one loves me" gambit, angering and annoying everyone around her by playing favorites whenever it suits her and pitting her own children against one another. It really is a crappy situation. For example, my grandfather hadn't even been dead for 24 hours when people were already arguing over his will. When I found out what was happening down there in Houston while I was packing my bags, expecting a week of solidarity and unity out of everyone, I flipped out. How could they?! It was as if their desire for the almighty dollar had dissolved their sense of compassion and sensitivity. I was happy to hear that Angel cursed them out and kicked them out of his house after they came storming in, demanding to see the will. As everyone in the family is so quick to point out, Angel and I, along with my mother to a slightly greater degree, have very similar rapid-fire responses in these kinds of situations, so, I'm confident that Angel got at them the same way I would've, with unrelenting and deadly precision.

Because of the will situation, I feared that I was walking into a minefield when I landed in Houston, but thankfully, towards the end, I saw some signs of hope for recovery and unity. My grandmother and Angel started talking to each other again, for the first time in about three years. (If I remember correctly, they stopped talking because I think my grandmother said something like, "you're not my son" to Angel, and he, being the hot-head he is, stopped talking to her. (That's where I get it from, in case you wondered) My grandmother, of course, was too hard-headed to apologize to him, and then, after awhile, completely "forgot" that she ever said that to him, and started complaining to the rest of us that he "denied her as a mother." Other disputes and events only compounded the situation and made it worse, so eventually, the chances of Angel and my grandmother ever making up seemed incredibly low. However, with my grandfather passing away, I guess Angel felt that it was time to just drop the communications embargo. Deep down inside, I don't think he would have ever forgave himself if Abuela passed away and he maintained his silence. He showed up at her house for a visit one day, along with us, and surprised my grandmother. She would never admit it, but she was as happy as I've seen her in a long time. She welcomed him with open arms, and though she never apologized for what happened before, deep down inside, I know that she's thankful that Angel was able to forgive her faults. She was even happier a few days later when she was invited to a big family dinner at a local Mexican restaurant. Because of Abuela's bridge burning over the years, she hadn't been a part of many combined family functions for a long time. On this day, however, she was as happy as she could be. Four of her eight sons and daughters were sitting right in front of her, engaging with her and making her laugh, along with 5 grandsons and 1 grandaugher. I looked right into her eyes and saw just how it filled her with incredible joy to be in that position. I smiled right at her, and she beamed right back, secretly thanking me for being a part of a moment in her life that she wouldn't soon forget.

And neither will I. Even if I am all the way in Syracuse. :-)

. . . . . .

While I was out in Houston, I was able to give fellow Blogger, Freebird a holler on the telephone. I wasn't able to meet her in person (after all, she is a resident of H-Town), but I did speak to her for over an hour on the cellie. She's definitely cool people. After I hung up that phone, all of a sudden, the words that she had written on her blog seemed to leap out at me; I could finally match a voice and personality to her typed musings. It's an awesome transformation. She now seems so REAL to me. I think everyone should connect with their favorite fellow bloggers. It adds such a wonderful dimension to this whole blogging experience.

Who knows? Maybe if I can ever figure out where Bakersfield is, I can pay Veronica a visit. (Nora and I wondered where the hell that place was in Cali, lol.) I could beat down her bitch ass neighbor, for example. :-)

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Picture Game

I noticed today that Google has updated Blogger and has now included a built-in picture tool that takes pics from your hard drive and places them online. I guess this is Google's response to Yahoo's buyout of Flickr, the online photo-blogging tool that many people used to place pictures in their posts.

I don't know whether or not to celebrate Google's continued pace of innovation and business strategy or to fear it.... I suddenly question whether or not that Google bar that's sitting in my internet browser window is actually a good thing...

It reeks too much of Microsoft. (Shudder)

Friday, June 24, 2005

Skeletons and Hand-Tailored Suits in the Closet

"It looks good on ya!"

I looked in the mirror and sized up how I looked with my Abuelo's old, beige ascot hat. It wasn't too bad, actually. With the right clothes, I could actually rock that bad boy.

A few hours after I arrived in Houston, my mother, my uncle Angel and I started going through some of my Abuelo's old belongings and documents, looking to see what we could uncover about the old man. Abuelo was definitely a packrat; he saved practically anything of seminal importance he possibly could. Old passports. Plane tickets. Ship logs from when he was a merchant marine in his youth. Each thing we found, though seemingly insiginificant upon first glance, revealed an aspect or history about him that practically reached out to us, dying to be told. Unlike many other packrats, however, Abuelo was as tidy as anyone could be. He might have saved everything, but at the same time, his organizational skills were so superb, he was able to make everything fit in a relatively tiny space and kept it all in excellent condition. For example, we found his naturalization papers, in sterling mint condition, in one of his dresser drawers. They looked as good as when they were first issued to him over 35 years ago. In the same place, we found his old Cuban passport from the early 1940's. The more we dug, the more stuff we found from his earlier years. Some things we all recognized; it's amazing how two generations of family could point to the same thing and all say at the same time, "hey, I played with that thing when I was a little kid!"

There were other things, however, we had no idea where they came from, such as a wedding band that was hidden in his stuff. It definitely wasn't the one he had with my grandmother, so we all began to wonder. We suspect that my grandfather may have been quite the "playa" in his youth, and might actually have another family hiding around somewhere. My uncle and mother started digging through some of his old tax return files, which went as far back as 1954. During a three year period, we saw that he claimed a "Victor Ruiz" as his "nephew" and dependent from the years 1957-1960. The thing is, we have no idea who this person is, or where they could have come from. We later asked my grandmother about it, but she had no idea who he was. Whoever he was, he was in my grandfather's life before he and my grandmother married, so, it's hard to track anyone who might know about this individual. We suspect that he might be the son of one of Abuelo's siblings, but we really can't verify that information since we've lost contact with that side of the family for well over 20 years now. The more we dug, the more we found that simply boggled us. One thing's for certain, Abuelo definitely took quite a number of secrets with him right to the grave.

. . . . . .

As of today, it doesn't look like my mother and I won't be able to see our grandfather's final closing ceremonies take place. Before he passed away, my grandfather specified that he be cremated, thinking that it would be the least troubling thing for us to deal with. However, instead, cremating him is turning into an epic freaking way to go. According to Texas law, my grandfather's body needs to be signed off by the doctor that was with him when he died, and then paperwork needs to be transferred to a judge, who can then issue a death certificate to the funeral home in charge of his cremation. Unfortunately, the doctor went on vacation or something, and we've been having the hardest time trying to find another doctor to start the paperwork process. In the meantime, gramps' body is literally chilling in a freezer, and we can't do anything about it. It's now Friday, and we still haven't heard word yet from doctors. It's freaking ridiculous out here.

Still, we can't view this as a wasted trip. We got to spend time with my family, be with them during this rough time, and serve up a few laughs in the meantime. I'm sure Abuelo would like that, after all.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Keeping America Safe from Terrorists and Me

As I ran into Syracuse's airport a little over an hour before my scheduled flight to Charlotte, NC, (where I would then catch a connecting flight to head to good ol' Houston, TX) I had no idea about the kind of trouble I was getting myself into. It's hard imagining having any kind of security inspection-related problems when you're leaving from an airport like Syracuse's. It's like flying out of a closet. Well, sure enough, the local TSA guards at the airport had a problem with me and placed me through this ridiculous inspection. And this wasn't just any ordinary inspection. This was THE mother of all inspections. Apparently, I had to get the guard that took their job so seriously, that they made me miss my flight to Houston in an effort to search every single piece of article of clothing in my bag, and every inch of fabric on my body. He even made me try to take off the buttons on my khaki shorts out of fear that, "something might be inside of them." Like, what?! I spent over 45 minutes being searched by this overzealous prick in Syracuse. It was ridiculous. I had to wait till the next day to catch an early flight to head to DC, and then head to Houston on a connecting flight. I finally arrived early the next day, and I hadn't missed much, but still, it was the principal of the thing. I felt violated after that thorough ass search. There was no reason why I should've had to have gone through that crap in Syracuse and miss my flight. None whatsoever.

Syracuse airport guards: Keeping America's "middle of nowhere" cities and towns safe from them evil terrorists and people named "Ray" since 2001.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Lost in the Shuffle

With the frenzy surrounding my grandfather's passing, the tradition of Father's Day has gotten lost between all that has happened the past 12 hours. I didn't realize what day it was until I saw this headline on that said, "Don't forget Dad today." Usually on Father's Day, my mother and I would get in on a conference call and dial up everyone in Houston to wish them a Happy Poppa's Day, including Abuelo.

Not this time.

Once our family patriarch, my grandfather is no longer here to hear our phone call or our questions about whether or not he received our latest Father's Day card with a scantily clad woman on the cover. Regardless, however, I know that he can now hear me when I say, "Happy Father's Day, viejo."

For everyone else, give your pops a very happy Father's Day. Make it much more meaningful than just another Hallmark holiday.

X & Y

As I start to get my clothes together for a trip down to Houston for my grandfather's passing, I can't help but reflect on the past couple of weeks here in Syracuse. Much has happened since I last blogged on the Musings, though, thanks to peanutheads at Time Warner Cable, I haven't had the internet access necessary for me to discuss it all. (More on that in a little bit) For starters, I moved to a new place, which makes my old apartment look like a dump. I registered for some summer classes and for a film project that's going to grant me the credits I need to get out of here in the Fall. I started strengthening some old friendships and started some new ones. And, finally, the big news: I cut my hair. That's right folks. After a little over a year, dating back to May 15, 2004, I finally decided it was time to move on with my life and get a haircut. Few people understood the significance of growing my hair, and as of this moment, I'm not completely ready to discuss the symbolism behind it, but what I will say is that the "phase" is over. Good 'ol Ray is back, people. Halle-fucking-lujah. :-)

So, as far as the new apartment is concerned, it's cool, but it certainly has its growing pains. It's taken me about two weeks to start unpacking everything that i had from the other place. See, after dealing with having a crapload of stuff in my room for the past couple of years, I've decided that for this new place, I want to maintain a minimalist look to it, especially in my bedroom. So, I'm having difficulty finding ways of storing all of the crap I have in such a way that no one will notice its there, but so far, that's proving to be one of the more difficult things I've ever done. As Apple's award-winning designer, Jonathan Ive, always says, "It's so difficult to make something look simple" And that's definitely the case with all my stuff, especially all the computer equipment I have. I have freaking wires up the freaking wazoo in that room, and it just doesn't vibe. So, my task for this summer is to find an inexpensive solution to making my room look airy, simple, and fresh.

One of the cooler developments in this new place is that I got this dishwasher that my landlord simply told me to disregard, to actually work. I've never had a dishwasher before, so this is definitely exciting news. For those of ya'll wondering how the hell I've never had a dishwasher before, please keep in mind that I'm from New York City...we don't have dishwashing machines in our apartments unless we happen to live by Central Park. It was a weird experience operating that thing for the first time. I didn't know what to expect, and was kind of fearing that the machine itself was going to explode and create the Niagara Falls in my kitchen or something, but alas, everything went without a hitch. Plus, in conjunction with my dishwasher, my dear momma got me a new Sony TV to chill in my living room. It's freaking awesome. Now, I can jack people in "Grand Theft Auto" in high-fidelity color. :-)

So, I mentioned before how I hadn't been blogging earlier because of a lack of internet access, right? Well, like I said, blame that all on the tools at Time Warner. Making a long story short, basically, after I was told that my internet service, "would just transfer automatically from (my) old apartment and into the new one, provided ( I ) keep the equipment," I was forced to endure this horrible span of two weeks where Time Warner disconnected my internet service at the new place and forced me to schedule a "reconnection appointment." Two weeks later, they come over hours after they said they would, called me while I was working at the 'Fucks, and asked in a bewildered tone, "Where are you? We're at your front door." What follows is a word for word dialogue while dealing with these pricks.

"Well, I'm not there anymore because I was forced to go to work. You're three hours late for your appointment."

"Well, sir, according to our records, our appointment was in the afternoon and not in the morning. If you're not here, we're going to have to reschedule another appointment for next week."

"Look, whatever. Why can't you just do what you have to do without me being there? You don't need to do any work inside my apartment. I have all the equipment and all the wiring. You just need to connect the cable right at the telephone pole outside of my house on the corner."

"Well, sir, we need your permission."

This is where I start to act like a smart ass.

"You need my permission? Well, I'm giving it to you now. You called me, I'm telling you to connect it."

"Well, we need your signature to operate on the pole."

"So, you need my permission for the pole?"

"Yes sir, that is correct."

"Don't you guys own that pole?"

"Uhh, yes, we do, sir."

"Okay, then, if that's the case, then how can I give YOU permission to operate on something that isn't even mine?"

"Uhh...let me connect you to my supervisor. Hold on."

Some young sounding guy got on the phone and explained to me that despite the sheer stupidity of the situation, it was Time Warner policy to be this way. He told me that I had little choice but to sign some paperwork in their main office to grant the cable people "permission" to do their job. I finally obtained full internet access on Thursday. TWC pro-rated their fees to not include charges from the past 2 and a half weeks in an agreement that I made with them, and they also agreed to cut my monthly rate in half for the rest of the year.

All this crap, just for a simple connection where you plug cable X into slot Y.

Then again, one can argue the same thing about sex. :-)

. . . . . . . . .

I'll be updating over the next couple of days. I leave for Houston on Monday afternoon and come back to Cuse on Sunday evening.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

It didn't seem approriate to publish the blog I was going to publish this evening. After just getting a phone call from my mother that my grandfather had finally passed away, somehow, it just didn't feel right to publish an entry about fucked up landlords, ridiculous cable guys, and Grand Theft Auto.

So, in memory of my Abuelito, here's one to him.

I'm going to miss you.
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