Monday, May 31, 2010


Joe Cool just taking in the beautiful view. One more step and I would be history.

The van was packed, every inch and cranny was taken by some sort of cover, ice chest, tent, supplies, etc. etc. No space was unused. We were supposed to hit the road at 3:00 a.m. but by the time we hooked up with the rest of the party we it was already 4:30 a.m.

Not one inch was wasted, we had supplies or passengers occupying the space inside the van.

We got to Payson pretty fast, there was no traffic at all. A quick mandatory stop at the local WalMart to buy last minute things and a stop to McDonalds to get some breakfast and we were on the road again. We drove through some of the areas devastated by last year's fires. Not a pretty sight at all. When you catch a glimpse of how big the forest is I can see how frustrated the firefighters can get when they see the fires get out of their hands. To that add the fact that the wind blows pretty hard and it's easy to see why fires spread so fast.

The ground no longer black but you can see the lifeless trees.

A few minutes later we got off the main road and into the side roads. The pavement ended and it was nothing but dirt roads. Needless to say our pseudo off road vehicles (a Dodge mini van and a Cadillac) were completely covered in dust. I guess leaving late by one hour made a big difference because most camp sites were full and therefore closed. A nice older gentleman closing one of them told us our best bet was to to go some 25 miles outside Payson and into the forest.

Those in the Cadillac were probably saying, "Eat my dust".

The van and Caddy had to morph into off road vehicles.

A dusty van and a wishful sign. Too bad we got stopped. See ya next year Suns!

We drove up and down those dusty roads and finally we found a pretty good spot for our camp site. No camping fees here, but no facilities either. But we managed just fine. The tents went up and so we started to enjoy the wonderful noises the forest make. When the gusts of wind came it sounded like we were camping next to a raging river.

Lunch consisted of Sandwiches and chips. The the task of building a fire pit started. I turned out to be one heck of a supervisor but the camping expert had the most awesome looking fire pit in no time. I pays to go with someone with experience.

Here's our campsite once all the tents went up.

We played catch for a while which by the way gave me a sore arm which still persist. The kids run free and got hurt, from falls to scratches, to every thing in between, but it was all fun and they loved it. So it was all good and part of the experience. Then it was time for dinner. The menu read, Havanero Burgers made from scratch. My tummy said yummy. Wow! those things were like totally and awesomely tasty. I for one had never had them before, now I want more. While at it, they also made the beans Havanero style.

Havanero style burgers and beans. Ummm yummy!

Sometime during this time, the weather started to drastically change and by the time we were finishing eating some of us were starting to feel very cold. I told them to pay the heater bill but nawww they chose to ignore me. lol I took a bunch of covers but the coldness seemed to perforate them all reaching all the way into our bodies. Yes it was cold at night, but again it's obvious we survived. I got up before everybody else and enjoyed the coldness of the morning.

Sunday morning I woke up to the smell of chorizo and eggs with jalapeno peppers. A coffee and some good music out the van made it for a perfect and fun morning. But of course neither of us had cables and then this happened.

Yep, dead battery. Luckily the people on the next campsite did have some cables.

All in all, this my first experience at camping was really nice. I'll do it again now with a little more of personal experience. I can understand why it is hard with large groups of people, but with a small group such as ours it was very easy and enjoyable.


Friday, May 28, 2010

It Does Mean a Lot To Us

In memory of those who've fallen, and in honor of those who've served.

Most of you that have been following me for a long time, almost four years now have heard my story and or pieces and bits of how I came to be here in this United States of America. Living in Arizona and going through the crisis we are going facing the recent events it is easy to take us immigrants as ingrates just because we strive for something better for our families, our people, and ourselves. I wish there was an easier way to satisfy everyone but that won't happen anytime soon. America is so divided right now that I wonder how our soldiers do it. Thank God they do what they do and of course thanks go to all of them whom put their lives in harms way just so you and me can have a better way of life.

The following was sent by a dear co-worker of mine and it just made me remember my own story and that of my family. Although very different, it is also very similar. Mexico and Cuba, well not so much the same but here it is, a guest commentary by my dear friend Adela.

Memorial Day is a very meaningful holiday for me and I felt the urge to write this for all those who serve/are serving our country to maintain our freedom.

Most of you know that I was born in Cuba and understand what it is like to live in the realm of communism and appreciate the freedom our country allows us more than you could ever imagine. To better express it, about 5 years after my family came to make the US our new home, we were finally able to get my grandmother out of Cuba. On her first trip to a grocery store, she stopped cold at the entrance, looking toward the inside of the store with her mouth open. Once she got over the “shock” of what she was seeing she said, “This is paradise!”, and then proceeded to cry tears of joy.

My grandmother’s statement has always had a special meaning to me because it emphasized the fact that we are so fortunate to live where live, as well as a reminder that we often tend to take for granted what we have. Even though I was fairly young, I remember much. In Cuba, we stood in lines with ration books in hand not knowing what we would be able to get that day other than beans and rice. Meat of any kind was extremely rare, and fresh anything would be a crap shoot. There were no canned goods of any sort. If we found fish, it was usually bad and fed to the dog, as there was no “dog food”. You could only get milk if there was a baby in the house. Even for shoes you had a ration book that would only allow you a pair per year, if you could even find a pair to get!

Every where you went there were armed guards that would watch everything you did and said. There were also “committees” on every block that were “owned” by Castro who were responsible for making sure no one was doing anything against the “rules”. They would report incidents. Basically they were like “little” Big Brothers. Once my family declared to the government that we were leaving they came and inventoried our entire house, down to the last fork. It took 2 years to get their approval for us to leave including thousands of borrowed dollars from relatives and friends who had already left. Much of the money was stolen by the government, but you couldn’t say anything. Once approved to leave, they took over our house and made us move out. If there was anything missing from “their list” after we moved out, they would not had let us go because basically after you declare your leaving you are then a “traitor”. So, for 2 years labeled as traitors, we walked on eggshells all the time, making sure that we followed all their rules so we wouldn’t get into any trouble. Imagine!

I believe that sometimes we forget that we live in the greatest country on the planet. It’s a wonderful and awesome privilege to be able to live, eat, shop and travel where and when you please; to have a job; to practice whatever religion you choose, or not (I remember having to pray Castro in school after he took over; our churches’ doors were chained); to be able to publicly complain about our government, verbally or in writing, without fearing that we will be arrested never to be seen again (it happened to one of my uncles), or shot on the spot; and so many other things we need to treasure and be thankful for!

So, yes, THANK YOU! I so thank you for all that you have done and continue to do to help preserve our freedom. We owe you all very much!

When you cross paths with a military person, thank them! Most are so humble that they act almost a bit puzzled and shy about my thanking them (like it is undeserving), so I tell them again, “Really, I mean it, thank you!” It usually brings a smile to their face that says they understand that you believe what they are doing is very important. I think they need that from us!

I hope you all have a safe, great and happy weekend!


God bless us all! We are just one race. The human race. Happy Memorial Day and stay safe.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Laila Makes Her Grand Entrance

I have had the joy of being at the hospital for the birth of 9 out of my ten grand kids. With my oldest granddaughter it just wasn't possible but God knows if I could have I would have. To me just being there by my kids side is more important than anything else.

So on Monday Nikki was admitted to the hospital at around 6:00 p.m. or so. By 8:00 pm she started feeling the contractions and we knew then that it wouldn't really take that long. We started taking bets, my sister in law, Nikki's mother in law, and my daughter in law said the baby would be here before midnight, I said she would be here between 12:00 and 1:00 am.

Well, guess who won. Of course me, Laila Graciela made her grand entrance to this world at 12:57 a.m. She weighed 6 lbs. 9 oz. and is pretty as can be. It did not feel like a long wait and for once I did not fall asleep while waiting. Yep, I was pretty awake for this one.

Of course "Jamma" had to be there to give Nikki support but most importantly to deliver Laila to her. My three kids became parents recently and it is their belief that Sylvia had the babies with her before sending them over to us.

So, with thumbs up Nikki said I am ready to have her mom, bring her over. Then Sylvia listened and the contractions started, and then they intensified, and then this smiley face was no more.

Yeap, pretty soon she was doing a 180 and all of a sudden it was like leave me alone don't be asking me to breath and I hate you men. And I think the word epidural, epidural, came out of her mouth quite often. Unfortunately that was not to happen until all the fluids they were giving her were finished.

Finally she got the epidural and in a matter of minutes she once again was a happy camper. Here she is again with her thumbs up gesture. She loves me!

Her husband on the other hand got a thumbs down. Umm I wonder why?

OK, I don't hate you.

And then before you knew it, this was the scene inside the room. Of course after the epidural she did not suffer any more pain. She said it was relatively easy and painless. Lucky Loyiel, he wasn't choked and cussed as I was once upon a time.

It wasn't long till this little princess made her way to my arms. She must have been hungry because she was crying in every picture we took of her during the first hour. It felt so good to have her in my arms, she is my number 10 foe 2010.

This here is the assisting team to the delivering doctor. Jeniffer, Loyiel, and Kika.

And so here we are once again, me congratulating my smiling daughter. She now has the pair, one boy and one girl and I am told that this is it for them. Ummm we'll see if that is true.


Sunday, May 23, 2010


Maryvale Stadium, a baseball stadium but today the place where we celebrated our Pentecost mass.

Mass is at 9:00 but I want you all here at seven, is what my sister told us. But I knew that would be two hours of doing nothing so I got there at around eight. I was right, we had plenty of time since we didn't really have to practice, and there was a team that was in charge of setting everything up and they did that very early in the morning.

The Spirit who came as a great rushing wind and as tongues of fire on the first Pentecost will come more quietly but no less powerfully upon us today and upon the gifts we will place on this altar.

If we believe the Spirit will make of bread and wine we offer the presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the sacrifice of this Eucharist, will we fail to believe that the same Spirit will make of our wounds, a font of grace? Of our mistrust, a new-found hope? Of our brokenness a stronger Church, nourished by the bread and cup of this holy table?

Will these gifts be transformed - and us who receive them, too? Yes, says the Lord! He has promised and he will do it!

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your people and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created anew and you shall renew the face of the earth.

-- Fr. Austin Fleming, Homily for Pentecost, May 23, 2010

Maryita and I.

This princess on the photo is my niece. She has the voice of an angel. She has been singing in the choir since she was a little girl. Now as a young adult, she is our lead vocalist, she can easily direct the choir, if her mom is not available it won't be a problem for her to step in and lead us into singing in mass. She is just a joy to be around and if you ever listen to her sing you will agree with me.

My sister Maria Elena and I.

And this is my sister, she is our choir director and fearless leader. She asked me many times to join them and for different reasons I always declined her invitation, but now I am happy I joined. I am definitely having the time of my life serving in this ministry and have even told her to call me as much as she wants. There are times I feel we live at church with all the practices and masses but it's all good.

Rea, empty mike, Maryita, and Elena.

I was very comfortably sitting in the back with the rest of the choir ready to sing when Rea looked at me and exactly as I was snapping this picture she said, Jose come down here, yep, that microphone there with no one in front of it was now mine. I guess I am moving up in the world but I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go.

Well, the shirt says it all. Ever since we moved from Los Angeles back in 1990 we registered with St. Vincet de Paul Parish and have remain here. My dad was very active in the Parish and now my sister. And now some of my nephews and one of my grand kids have full scholarships and are attending the school.

This is my newest niece Cristina. She is in the choir and has adopted me as her tio Jose. I love when my family grows.

Here are a couple more images of this wonderful Pentecost celebration.

Part of the combined choir.

The Congregation.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

One Saturday Morning

Nikki and Atali.

When el Daddy~O goes missing in action the search parties begin. OK not really but the texts did start coming. Except the daddy was safe and happy as can be, so all is good. In any case I was happy to have a McDonalds breakfast with my daughters, and grand kids, boy I had been wanting one for the longest time and they always told us they just stopped serving them. So this morning Michelle takes off and goes to get them. I must not have been the only one with that idea as shown in this image that she captured.

Holy breakfast line Batman! And there's plenty more behind me!

Nikki and I took off. She was told there was a nail in one of her tires and so we went to a tire shop to get it patched. After that we decided on visiting "mi chica". Yes, how fast time passes, it has been five months but then again if I close my eyes it seems like only yesterday. So chairs off the truck and we camped by her and my dad for a good hour or so.

There we saw this sign and of course Nikki had to take the photo op.

They say that before the babies came to us, and I am talking about Ramon a.k.a. Little Joe and Atali they got to spend some time with Sylvia and that they came to us only when she was good and ready to send them to us. Well, Nikki was kindda like, "Mom, I am ready".

Poor girl, she definitely is ready to bring this baby into the world. So anytime now, my number 10 will be here and we can't wait.

And of course while there Ducky and I posed for a picture too. Of course we just had too look cool for her.

So, all in all I had a fantastic morning and as I head to Manny's tonight for karaoke I intend to have a fantastic afternoon as well. So, thank you Nikki for hanging with the old man, and just an FYI, no I am not shaving my beard. lol


Sunday, May 16, 2010

An Outing With My Lil Sister

My little sister and I.

So after the outing with my nieces, and after we ate the bionicos, and after I almost took a nap, my sister asks:

Chely: Hey Fide, do you want to go out dancing. I have free passes for the Mayan.
Me: But I didn't bring clothes to go out dancing.
Chely: You look good with what you are wearing.
Me: Huh! (pause) (*thinking* Ha, my sister speaks the truth, lol) Sure why not.
Chely: OK they are good if we get there before 11:00 p.m.
Me: Oh wow, plenty of time.

So since I am wearing the same clothes I wore all day well then basically I am ready.

Chely: Aren't you freshening up?
Me: Who? Me, naw I smell good. lol

I wait for a while and then:

Me: Chely, hurry up. It's getting late
Chely: Don't worry I am almost ready, we will make it on time.
Me: Still hurry up, it's 10;30 p.m.

The Mayan

And so we finally leave, and we get on the freeway, and I remembered that my sister drives like an old lady. Je, je, je, I was right because we got there at exactly 11:00 p.m. And so it's $10.00 for parking. We go inside hand the passes to the fool at the door and (you may be asking yourself why I'm calling this big subject at the door a fool) well, because he said I can't take them it's past the deadline. "But, come on it's only by two minutes" Chely said, but he just looked at her and said no it's past the deadline.

So what to do, what to do?

Me: So, what do you want to do?
Chely: Well, we are here. Let's just go in.
Me: OK

And just like that we walk to the ticket booth and literally had to cough up *cough* *cough* *cough* $40.00 bucks. The way I see it is as a $20.00 fee per minute for being late.

We go in and she gives me the tour. I had been there once before but it was such a long time ago. So it was cool to go through the whole place. The Mayan is an architectural beauty, and there has got to be some stories to that place. Ummm if you don't know what I mean, you can probably Google "The Mayan Theater" in Downtown Los Angeles.

When we got there it was already happening. The salsa was playing loud and clear.

Anyway at The Mayan they play a little bit of everything but Salsa, Merengue, and Bachata are the primary types of music there. We started dancing to some dance music and of course Chely and I can still disco, and so to this day when we dance peoples eyes just shift toward us.

Long Island Ice Tea anyone?

We danced for a while and then we decided to go get a drink. She wanted a Long Island Ice Tea and so did I. They gave us our drinks in this small plastic glass and charged us $10:00 each. Well, so much for a free night, free passes, etc. etc. And people say there is a recession. We drank most of our drinks but we lost them when we sat them down on the stage and we went dancing. We came back to them but there were like ten more glasses around them so we didn't want to chance taking someone else's.

Que rico!

So we continued dancing, and dancing, and then we danced some more. Oh a brief break to go to the restroom but then we came back and danced some more.

Now, only three months ago I would not have been able to dance more that a couple songs but given the great shape I am in right now it truly felt great to be able to dance for a little over three hours straight.

All of a sudden I found myself teaching Chely how to dance Salsa. It brought back memories of years gone by, back in the disco days when I taught her how to do dance disco. Truth be told, she is now way a better dancer than I'll ever be, but never the less I could still keep up with her and that really boosted my ego. Ummm somebody recently told me that 50 is the new 40. In that case I feel like I am 30.

We got to hear only one set played by the band.

After closing time we enjoyed some hot dogs with chips and a drink. And it only cost abut $3.00 so far the best deal of the night. lol

Un perro caliente.

And so, my little sister and I had a great night out together. We remembered old times, we created new memories, and marveled at the fact that we can have fun together. Yep, I am one lucky guy to have her as my sister. Oh and yes, when she was 13 she was a pain in the butt but then she introduced me to her friends and...

LOL -- Wouldn't you like to know. That would be an entirely different post.

When I saw this sign I got a little bit too excited, I thought for sure this is a coed restrwoom. -- Well, they lied. Tha only meant both men's and women's restrooms were usstairs.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

They Really Love Me!

And so while at the reception eating and mingling with the family I started to feel very sleepy, remember I drove in the afternoon and got to L.A. at almost 1:00 a.m. So I asked my sister and my mom if they were ready to leave, they did so we said good bye and left for my sister's house.

The idea was for me to go and take a nap but somehow during the ride I kindda got a second wind and was pretty much very awake, that and the fact that my sister drives kindda funny and kept giving us whiplash. lol It was during the drive home that my niece asked me to go out with her on a Jamba Juice/picture taking/sight seeing/come and see my school/and let's get some Bionicos trip.

We got home and immediately enlisted her two sisters April and Thalia to come with us. Now these three together are a riot and so much fun to be out with.

Crystal and I.

Now my sister had told me that Crystal was not too good a driver but she drove me all over the place through La Puente, West Covina, and the City of Walnut and let me tell you she was pretty good at the wheel. Sister, I must give credit where credit is due, she is a good driver and gave us no whiplash. LOL

And this here is my niece April. Quite the cutie isn't she?

Every household has a little clown and Thalia takes this title. The youngest of the three she is so funny that it doesn't take too much effort for her to make you laugh. She is also the actress and would like to take on Hollywood someday... I think!

Thalia and I.

Our first stop was Jamba Juice in West Covina. Now if a place is not within five minutes of me I don't go, but these girls don't seem to mind driving for miles just to go get a juice. Crystal said, "You have to go where you can find them".


Ummmm que rico! Jamba Juice anyone?

Second stop, Snow Creek Park in the City of Walnut. Here is a charming park that is perfect for family pictures, quinceaneras, weddings, etc. Crystal has already done a few shootings here but on that day we had the bunnies that run freely all over the park to pose for us.

Don't strain your eyes but if you look hard enough you'll see the bunny sitting right under the bushes.

Scene from Snow Creek Park.

So pretty. I liked the view from this area.

These two were either cold or afraid of the bunnies. Nah, they were cold.

OK so now back to La Puente but not before Crystal showed me her school. Mt. SAC. College.

Mt. SAC -- Mt. San Antonio College.

So, we are headed to a place where they sell the Bionicos. I started calling them Bionics but was promptly told that the proper name is Bionicos and that they originate from somewhere in Mexico.

I learned a little history of the paletas in this little paleteria called "Paleteria Los Reyes de Michoacan". It is amazing how a small business of this type is surving the carnage of the economy but with a few loyal buyers it seems to be staying afloat.
I was recently told about the Bionicos by a dear friend of mine so of course I had to try it, and I must agree it was really good. The mixture of fruits and creams topped with raisins, coconut, and peanuts was pretty much to die for.

And of course I being the Six Million Dollar man that I am, finished mine in a few seconds.

So I ate all these food, drank all this juice, and devoured all these fruits, what to do next. Well according to my sister we must go out dancing so more on that on the next post. A night of dancing with my little sister.

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