Teacher

I don’t remember when and where I first went through this exercise, but it still makes a valid point. Without looking it up tell me who won the Super Bowl in 1987. Again, without using external resources, who was the most valuable player in the 1963 World Series?    If you’re not into sports, then tell me who won the best actress award in 1993.  I bet you can’t recall any of those people without having to research it.

If I would ask you, however, the name of your favorite teacher, how many of you could tell me not only who that teacher was, but what grade you were in when you had that teacher?  Most of us can.  Obviously, your favorite teacher was more important than the information in the questions above.

I have been blessed by being around a lot of teachers in my life. Some of them were my teachers, some of them were teachers that I worked with, and some are related to me. School is starting in many places this week, so teachers are on everyone’s mind.  I wonder how many of us ever really thanked those teachers that influenced their life?  I can honestly say that several teachers made an impact in my life.

No one ever believes me when I say that I am a shy person. But leaving that aside, I was absolutely petrified to speak to anyone.   I started school as a first grader at Vilas Elementary in El Paso, Texas. My sweet old teacher Mrs. Wilson saw that I was struggling to talk to people and placed me at a desk with another little boy named Jorge who spoke very little English. This not only helped me have someone to talk to, but it helped Jorge learn to speak English. I still don’t know to this day how Mrs. Wilson knew that I spoke Spanish. I think it is one of those ninja things that teachers have. For the next 5 years, Jorge and I became good friends until I moved to the other side of town and lost touch with him.

There are two teachers in high school that really made a difference in my life. The first, Ms. Betty Griffing, was the speech and drama teacher at Riverside High School.  I started off in her English class when I was a freshman. In that class she made us prepare speeches that we had to deliver in front of the other students. It was there that I discovered that this is something I enjoyed doing, and that I was really pretty good at it.

I used to be a student trainer in the athletic department until one day they changed the training staff and I no longer had a position. The change was devastating because this is something I enjoyed doing and it gave me a chance to earn my Letterman’s jacket. This is back in the day where only athletes were able to earn their jacket, and as small as I was in high school, being an athlete was out of the question.

Miss Griffing saw me sitting there almost inconsolable and asked me to become part of the speech and drama team. I thought “what the heck let’s give it a shot.” Over the next three years, she spent a lot of time honing my speaking skills and my limited dramatic skills. By the time I graduated from high school, I had become captain of the debate team, vice president of the student council, and president of the International Thespian Society, which is an honor society for drama students.

My time with Ms. Griffing was a little bittersweet. Although she did her best to refine my skills, she could be a bit overbearing at times, especially with her religious views.   I know that she made a lot of people very uncomfortable with her views which resulted in some people leaving the program. This is certainly something that would no longer be tolerated in the school system today.

But I choose to remember her for her ability to get the most out of any student in whatever speech or drama activity they were involved. I thank her for the ability I have today to get up in front of a group of people and make presentations without the fear that so many people feel. As a side note, it is interesting that many studies show that the biggest fear most people have is speaking in front of a group. Most Americans fear that more than death itself.

The other teacher was a favorite of many.  Ms. Honie Lou Lucas, later known as Honie Lou Laster, was the teacher for English IV, a class for seniors.   Although I mentioned that it took me a while to get out of my shell and become a public speaker, writing was something I always thought I did well.  Well, apparently I was wrong.

Ms. Laster, I thought at the time, was crazy.   She made us write with the writing instrument from hell – a fountain pen.  My handwriting was bad enough, but now I had to write with a pen that would blotch every other word I wrote?  If having to re-write papers because of the ink blotches wasn’t enough, she wanted us to “justify” our writing so that it went from margin to margin.    What did that have to do with writing?  Nothing I thought.  But, again, I was wrong.    Her “crazy” rules made me more disciplined, made me pay more attention, and made my penmanship a bit more readable.

Writing essays and papers became an exercise in trying to meet all the guidelines that she set out for us.  The harder I worked, the more she found for me to work on.  That challenged me to try even harder.     Finally, I remember writing a research paper on Sumeria.  I had never worked so hard on a project in my life.   I double and tripled checked my work.  I thought it was perfect.

Do you remember “A Christmas Story?”  Ralphie is asked to write an essay on what he wanted for Christmas, and he chose to write it on the Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle that he coveted so much.  With much pride and confidence, he strides up to the desk and hands it in, expecting to get not only an A+, but an A with many pluses after it.  In fact, the narrator in the movie says “I knew I was handing Miss Shields a masterpiece.  Maybe Miss Shields in her ecstasy would excuse me from theme writing for the rest of my natural life.”  The result, however, was a disappointing C+.

That was exactly what I was feeling when I turned in my research paper.   It was top-notch, high-quality, A-1, Pulitzer Prize winning stuff.  Or, so I thought.  I got an A-.   I was pretty competitive in high school. (My lovely wife says I am still that way, but that is a story for another day.)   One of my fellow students got his paper back, all marked up, with several suggestions for corrections, but he got an A+.  What!!!!

I could not let this injustice pass.  I grabbed his paper from him, picked mine up from my desk, and marched up to her desk, expecting that due process would restore the A+ that I thought I deserved.  Ms. Laster just smiled, handed the other paper back to the student, and asked me to sit down next to her at her desk.  “Randy, Randy, Randy,” she said.   That A+ that he received was the absolute best he could do.    Your work was good, but you are a lazy writer.  You still have more in you that needs to come out.  When you get there, you will get your A+.

She was right.  School was always pretty easy for me, and although I thought I had put all my effort in the research paper, I knew I could have done more.   She was not putting me down; she was trying to get my maximum effort.   It took a few more papers, but I finally got the A+ that I wanted so badly.

After graduation, I lost touch with her for a while, but I understand that she kept us this same effort with all the students that came after me.  When I returned to town after starting me career, Honie Lou became not only a client, but a close personal friend.   I missed it when she moved away to Arkansas.      We would write letters back forth to each other.   Very often, she would answer my letters with my own letter included – with comments and corrections.  Always a teacher.

You don’t have to be in a teacher’s classroom to be affected.   Father Martin Elsner, a Jesuit priest, taught at our high school after the Jesuit high school in town closed.  His sweet and gentle spirit touched us all.   Jan Herron, who did just about everything at the school, was a dynamo of action then, and continues to influence students today.  They both helped form my life.

On this morning’s news I heard that Governor Abbott is touting a plan to put the best teachers on a path to making a six figure salary.  I hope that this is not an empty promise.  Teachers deserve it.   As the memes out there say – if you can read this, thank a teacher.

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Did I really just say that?

downloadI knew it the second it slipped out of my stupid 18-year-old mouth.   There was no way to bring it back, it had already been said, it had already been heard, and I was awaiting the consequences.  My dear old mom was riding my case (and appropriately so) about something that I did or didn’t do, and I had been mouthing off to her.  Her anger was building up like one of those late summer thunderstorms, and I knew I was on the edge of her nerves.   She told me something like “you must think that I am a real idiot.”  My idiotic response?    “You said it, not me.”

No amount of beatings with a chancla or grounding could ever have been as bad as the look on her face.   She did not have to say or do anything that made me feel worse than I already did.   Oh, I got hit, just not immediately, but the damage was done.

I was remembering that incident the other day and I thought, how many other things did I say (or almost say) that I immediately regretted?  Unfortunately, there are more than a few.

I had this amazing math teacher in High School, Ms. Debra Little.  She taught us pre-calculus and analysis.  She was passionate about math, and it showed.  Since I have always been a bit of a math whiz, I did really well in her class.    She suggested that I consider majoring in math in college.   The words out of my mouth were tragic.  I said “what am I going to do with a math degree?  Something useless like teach?”

Keep in mind that I was still that cocky 18 year old when I said it.   Her response was silence.  That hurt look in her eye said all that needed to be said.   I saw her several years later at the courthouse as she was getting ready to go to jury duty and I was preparing to go in for a hearing.   There were not enough words to apologize to her for what I now understood to be hurtful words.  She smiled, said thank you, and went on her way.  I am not sure if she forgave me, but then, I am not sure I have forgiven myself.

We were sitting around with my cousins from Georgia and were playing cards.  As guys are destined to do, we started picking on each other.  The problem was that it wasn’t just us guys at the table, my cousin’s wife Cathy was playing cards with us too.  Insults kept going back and forth to each other, and before long, it was getting out of hand.  I am not sure how it started, but I looked at Cathy and made the comment “Yeah, it’s because you have cerebral palsy, right?”  My cousin Darrell’s eyes immediately became the size of a softball.  I mean he was really shocked.

Cathy very calmly said, “I do have cerebral palsy.”  It didn’t stop there.  I missed the not so subtle clues, so I continued, “right, and I bet you have one leg shorter than the other, too?”   Calmly she said, “That’s right!”   It was only when I looked at Darrell’s face and realized she wasn’t kidding that it hit me.    I bet I apologized for the next several days because of my stupid comment.    Cathy is one of the sweetest people I have ever know, but there it was.

I no longer ask young ladies how many months along in their pregnancy they are, because more than once I have been told, “I AM NOT PREGNANT!!!”

I was watching a movie at a theater with my high school girlfriend. When the movie was over I threw my cup and popcorn on the floor.  She looked at me and told me I needed to pick it up and put it in the trash.   And what did old dumb ass do?  I told her I didn’t need to do that, because that’s why they pay janitors for, to do all the dirty work.   The tears in her eyes surprised me until I remembered that her father, my future father in law, worked as a custodian at an electronics plant.

When I worked at the DA’s office in Laredo, I was sharing with the receptionist at our office my opinion about one of the district judges.  The judge had just given me a rough time in court, and I proceeded to tell her what an idiot I thought the judge was and made a remark that his family must be all inbred.   She remained totally silent.  It was one of the DA investigators who witnessed my diatribe in the office that told me a short time later that the receptionist was the judge’s sister.  I am thankful that the judge had a great sense of humor.  He summoned me to his office, made me wait outside for 3 hours and then called me in.  Luckily for me, he also happened to be my bosses former law partner.  He laughed, asked me if I felt better getting that off my chest, and asked me if I learned anything.  I could not resist.  I said I learned that everyone in Laredo is related to everyone else, so I should be careful when I say something.   After about 15 seconds of dead silence, he started laughing and told me to go back to my office.    There was never any other mention of the incident.

Sometimes you just miss saying the dumb thing.   As I entered my courtroom to start a hearing, the bailiff did his usual thing and announced “All Rise!”   I noticed one guy just sat at the table and never bothered to rise.   Just as I was about to say something sarcastic or snarky, he rolled his wheelchair from around the table.  Wow, that would have been awkward.

I heard or read somewhere that we must always remember to engage your brain before you pop the clutch in your mouth.  It’s a lesson that I am still learning.

 

 

 

Yep, I’m a crybaby

38128105082_4a9754f26f_mI am about to turn 62, and I finally can openly acknowledge what I have known for a long time.   I am a crybaby.     It feels like I am in a 12 step program and I am in a meeting saying out loud “Hi, my name is Randy, and I am a crybaby.”      “Hi Randy!”, they respond.

Why the sudden revelation?   There has been a lot of change in my life in the last couple of years.  Some wonderful, some not so wonderful.    I have found myself on the verge of tears but something inside me stops me – something that has stopped me for 60+ years.

“Men don’t cry,” I’m told.  “Crying is a sign of weakness,” I am reminded.  “Suck it up, buttercup,” I am mockingly told.

Growing up, I was ridiculed by the other kids because I would cry over little things.  I just could not help it.   One particular classmate was merciless in his taunts.

Looking back, I know that this was the beginning of my attempts to be stoic whenever these situations came up.  It comes from a deep troubling place in my life, which one day I will share in detail.  It’s nothing horrific, but I missed out on  a huge part of my childhood because of the responsibilities that I was asked to take on being raised by a single mom.  More about that later.

I remember sitting in a movie theater watching Forrest Gump, and right after Jenny dies, my daughter Jessica turns to me and asked “Are you crying?”    My immediate response was a quick denial.  She knew different.   I was in a dark room thinking that I could hide the emotions that had come out unexpectedly.

Most times I can hold it in really well.   When my mother passed away, I should have broken down immediately.  She was my mom after all.  But I needed to be strong to help out my dad, who for quite a while was in a state of shock.    So during the days leading up to the funeral I held it in, being the strong one for my dad, my brother, and my half-siblings.  I delivered the eulogy, and although many people in the chapel were crying, I held it in.

Fast forward to five years later, when my dad passed, I became the default head of the family, so of course, I had to help plan the funeral and arrange for the closing of his estate.  One  more eulogy, one more tear less event.    It was so tear less as a matter of fact, that I was accused of not caring for my dad because I was not distraught.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.    It’s just that it was expected (or so I thought) that I put on the facade of a person that had it all together and made decisions without emotion.

The problem is that when you hold it in for so long, you never know when it is going to come out.  Something totally innocuous, like a sad picture, some melanchonic music, or a fleeting memory will make me just flat out burst into tears.    During moments when I am really tired, or really sick, those emotions come to the surface and they want to come out.   This is certainly part of the issue I have had in the past with battling clinical depression.

It’s getting better, though.  I have a loving wife who has convinced me that it is ok to cry.  It’s normal.  It’s not unmanly.  In fact, it is an important coping mechanism.   We have been together a long time, but it is finally soaking in.  It’s OK!

So look at me.  A crybaby, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.

I can say that I cried at my daughters’ weddings as I gave them away.  I cried at the birth of my grandchildren, at the loss of my dogs over time, and I was a crying fool when I watched the ending of “Coco” with my family last Thanksgiving.

Today, when I heard of the shootings in Florida where 17 kids (so far) were killed, I shed a tear, especially when I found out that two of the victims hit close to home.  They were part of the Young Women’s program that my daughter’s friend is involved with at church.  As the tears came, I realized that the wall was coming down.

Why did it take so long to realize this?   I don’t know, but maybe I will go have a big cry over it.

 

 

 

 

Goodbye to the Clown

The title of this blog may sound demeaning when you consider that this is a reflection on the life of an amazing person.  I chose to call it that because for many people that went to school with him, Ralph Alvarez was the class clown – the one mimicking Mr. Heil, the semi-permanent substitute we had for a while our junior year, the one who ran through a pep rally in full Jerry Lewis style, or the one drawing a mildly inappropriate cartoon that made a comment on the conditions at school.

I was quite shocked when I heard of his passing.   When I shared this news with friends, they also were quite taken aback.  We always wondered what had happened to Ralph, and now we find out he has passed and we  have no way to reach out to him to tell him how he touched our lives.

We all have our wonderful memories of Ralph.  When I asked for people to share their recollections, most people recalled what a great talent he was.  He went to state finals with his rendition of “The Hollow Men” by T.S. Eliot.   Anyone that ever saw him perform pantomime in Speech competitions were enthralled with his precise and very effective movements.  I can still recall his interpretation of a Charlie Chaplin piece, “The Great Dictator” which just gave you the chills.  Even if you were not familiar with the movie, his pantomime told the story in an incredible way.

Many of us saw his wonderful cartoons and caricatures.  He did a parody of “The Exorcist” which he called “The Abortionist” which was drop dead hilarious.  My one regret is that I did not get to hold on to a sketch book that I had of his with pages and pages of his drawings.    He came by my office one day, about 10-12 years after graduation, and asked if he could have it back to use as a portfolio of his work.  Of course I gave it to him, but I honestly wish I had made a copy.

He had a unique way of punching through things that were too serious.  We once had to perform a record pantomime in class as part of a project.   He and I had done “Santa Claus and His Old Lady” by Cheech and Chong which he nailed.  Most of his record pantomimes were so funny you didn’t realize how well he was mastering the recording. Our speech teacher, Miss Griffing, told us all we had to do a serious song lip sync, and she made sure that Ralph got the message that this was strictly serious, no kidding around.

We did not know what to expect.   Curtains opened, and he sat there in a chair, with a smoking jacket, holding a pipe, looking all sophisticated.  The song was “This Guys in Love with You” by Herb Alpert.  Word for word, line by line, he lip synced that song and he had us in awe!  He was doing it!  Playing it straight.  Expressing every emotion that is in that song.   Until . . . it came to the part of the song where there is a short trumpet solo.  Without breaking character, he held the pipe to his mouth, and pretended he was playing the solo on his pipe.   We lost it.  We were rolling on the ground  in laughter.  When the solo was over, he went back to playing it straight and really showed us how to do it.  We expected Miss Griffing to be quite upset.  She just shook her head, smiled, gave him an A, and went on the next student.

I think Miss Griffing had it in mind that she was going to make Ralph be serious at some point in his life.  It was no secret that Ralph did not want to wear our bright orange graduation robes for our various Senior activities.  If I am not mistaken, she either bought his robe for him or had it made available to him, which she forced him to wear at our Senior assembly.    Ralph had a serious part to read as part of the ceremony.  He was given  his lines, and told to say those lines and nothing else.

The day of the event came, we all did our part, and it came time for Ralph to do his speech.    He came to the podium, stood there silently for a few moments, and then said, to the entire crowd assembled there, “I feel like a spokesman for Sunkist oranges.”   Of course we all lost it, and I will never forget the look on Miss Griffing’s face – a combination of anger, laughter, and resignation.   He then went on and did his portion of the program perfectly.

One of his dearest friends, Pat Grissom, mentioned that Ralph had a photographic memory.  I never realized that, but now I understand how he learned his lines (and everyone’s lines) so quickly.   He was also quite smart.    Pat mentioned in his recollection that he and Ralph were a debate team at El Paso Community College, and in one tournament they beat the #1 ranked team in the nation from USC.  Apparently Ralph did his argument on school reform in his Vincent Price voice.

We all expected at some point that Ralph would have been a successful artist or performer.  For whatever reason that never happened.   But to consider his life a failure would be to shortchange him as a person.  Ralph was a kind dear friend.    He was always so positive, even when things around him weren’t always good.

When he came to pick up his sketchbook, he found out that I had just gone through a divorce.  His words of encouragement and understanding meant the world to me at a time I was having a difficult time.

A story about him was shared with me by my friend and primo Joe Alanis.  Joey and Ralph were neighbors and grew up together.  He mentioned that he could never get Ralph to give up his street shoes to play ball, but he knew every word on every George Carlin album.   (My first instance of hearing about Al Sleet the Hippy Dippy Weatherman was from Ralph, not the record)  Anyway, Joey mentioned that the only one of his classmates that gave him  a graduation present was Ralph.  It was a copy of Winnie the Pooh that belonged to Ralph, and he presented it to Joey with a personal inscription which is too personal to share.    That is the Ralph I knew.   That is the Ralph that those of us who had the pleasure of being around him will remember.  I am embarrassed that I lost touch with him, and that I never said these few short words I’ve written here face to face.

This story is also called Goodbye to the Clown because that is the name of a play that most of us that were in Speech and  Drama are familiar with.  The imaginary clown in the play helps the young girl get through the trauma of the loss of her father.    Ralph was that way in a lot of ways.  His humor, his kindness and his caring helped carry us through school and those difficult emotional times that we call high school.  He never let us get down and he certainly never let us take ourselves too seriously.

Thank you Ralph.  May you rest in peace, and may you make the angels laugh.

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Happy “Dad’s” Day

Today would have been my dad’s 84th birthday.  He taught me hard work, mechanics, carpentry, frugality, and even a few new cuss words I had never heard.  When other kids were playing, he had my brother and I working on cars, busting down swimming pools, helping around the house, and any other chores he could come up with.

He was far from perfect, as most of us are.   He had an inherent mistrust of people, a bit paranoid at times, and quite insecure as well.    You see, he grew  up being largely unwanted by his family, and it took a lot of time for us to break through that wall.

He spoke a lot about his boys, my brother Art and me.  When I went to claim my dad’s remains and make funeral arrangements in the little town of DeBerry, Texas, his neighbors, friends, and fellow church members knew all about Art and me, even though we had never met them.    My dad spent a lot of time talking about us.

I call this post Happy “Dad’s” Day because this man was my dad, even though he was not my biological father.   From day one of his marriage to my mom we never used the word step-father or step-sons.   When we asked him what we should call him after he married my mom, he said “call me Don.”    We asked if we could call him dad (my brother and I were 10 and 8), he said that would be ok.   We never called him anything else.

On Father’s day this is the man I think of, not the biological father who chose to leave us when I was two years old, never to be seen again.  Thank you Dad, for loving us, protecting us, and showing us what a Dad should be.   I hope I make you proud.

Miss you.

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The death of part of my childhood – RIP Dennis

I grew up in a much simpler time when kids could play outside for hours at a time without parents having to worry. We knew that we would be at each other’s parents house and no one worried. When it was time to come home, our parents would yell out the door for us to come home. Sometimes it took calling us by our full name, middle name included, to get us home, but we went home, and we were safe.

In fifth grade we moved from the Sunset Heights area in El Paso to the Lakeside area, all the way across town. Normally that kind of move would be tough, but for me, and for my brother Art, it meant the start of a great set of friendships. The first day of school I went to my class with Mr. Rhymes, and sat in front of someone who would be my best friend for the next 49 years, Hugo Echavarri. Across the street and down about three houses lived the Romero family, with a young boy my brothers age, named Dennis. The four of us would spend the better part of several years playing street football, Monopoly, Stratomatic football, cards and a number of other games. Sometimes we would start early morning and play till it was time to go to bed.

We invented a game called Calvin Hill, where we would throw a football up in the air and whoever caught it had to get to one side of the end zone (our lawn) with the other three tackling them. We did this during the heat of summer, on rainy days, and even a couple of times when it snowed. We would be banged up, scratched and bleeding at times, but we kept on going.
Our street football games would go on forever, and sometimes included Dennis’ sister Donna. We hated it when she got all girlie on us and quit playing because she would break a nail. Sometimes a kid from down the street named Louie would join us as well. When Dennis and I were playing on the same team we made up an audible system to call plays depending on where Hugo and Art lined up. Did we use numbers? Nope, we used cartoon characters.

We played a lot of tennis, we “experimented” with blowing things up with a balloon full of acetylene gas and oxygen from my dad’s welding torch. We even came up with a way to use a battery and steel wool to set off the balloons. One time Art and Dennis blew a big hole in the back yard with their little experiment.

These were fun times, and innocent times. But as happens, as we got older, we kind of lost touch. Hugo and I remain best friends, and of course I keep in touch with my brother, but Dennis and I lost touch. We managed to find each other on Facebook a few years back, and spoke maybe three or four times since that time.

About ten days ago I was driving to Round Rock to take my granddaughter to a Daddy-Daughter dance. My phone went off, and it was a message from Donna, Dennis’ sister, advising me that Dennis had passed away that morning, peacefully, in his sleep.
Certainly I am sorry that we had not kept in contact more often, but I choose not to linger on that. We had a lot of good times together, and those memories will always remain. But I can’t help but think that a little part of my childhood died when I learned of his death. I will miss you my friend, but our good times will always be in my heart.

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Just when I thought . . .

As I get older my mind and my heart want to tell me that we have come a long way from the early 60’s when the world was a much meaner and heartless place. No, I did not go to Selma, nor was I involved in the farm workers strikes, which even as a young kid showed me how less than perfect the world could be. But I did not have to be there to see the cruelty in the minds and hearts of people.

My mom raised my little brother and I as a single mom for a large part of my life. That sweet woman, a Mexican immigrant, worked harder than anyone I have ever known to provide a life for me and my little brother. She did this while having to answer the questions of people who would see us together and ask – “Where is those boys’ mother? Do you have permission to be out with them? Shouldn’t you be back at their home taking care of them until their mother gets home?”

You see, my brother and I were much lighter than my mom. These clueless people thought that our dear mother was the maid that was taking care of us. It never occurred to them that we belonged to her.

I was exposed to that sort of crap early on. We would walk to the park a block from our house and the Border Patrol would follow us. My mom would try to find a place for us to live and had to subject herself to claims that the place was rented once they saw she was “not like them.”

I have a vivid memory of being in first grade and my mom looking for a cheaper apartment for us to live. As we walked around the Sunset Heights area in El Paso, we encountered a sign that is clearly imprinted on my mind. I learned to read pretty early, even before starting school, and the sign clearly said “apartment for rent. No dogs or Mexicans allowed.”

You know, it was not until that time that I realized that people looked at us differently. Even though they called me the little gringito or “el pocho” when I visited my grandparents in Juarez, it didn’t affect me because I spoke the language, played the games, and fit in regardless of how “guero” I was.

So I carried this in my heart for a long time. Being in El Paso, which is predominately Hispanic, and going to a high school that was overwhelmingly Hispanic, this feeling of discrimination slowly started to fade away. Then one day, a sportscaster on an El Paso television station (Chip Taberski) called a football game between our school (Riverside) and our big rival (Ysleta) the “battle of illegal aliens.” Boom! the feeling was back.

After getting married to my high school girlfriend, we moved to Austin where I was finishing law school. We went to eat at a fast food joint, and in conversation another patron asked us if it was difficult being in a mixed marriage. My wife, a Mexican-American, and me (the half Mexican kid) were apparently considered an oddity to these people. He was quite surprised when I questioned his lineage in Spanish as we left the place.

I finished law school, moved to Laredo where I worked in a city where everyone, regardless of racial or ethnic background, spoke Spanish. We all got along, there was little to complain about in terms of disparate treatment. Naive as I was, I thought the tide had turned.

After a couple of years, we moved to El Paso. We looked for an apartment, and found a great and affordable place in the newspaper. We called, made an appointment to see it and showed up at the landlords house, which was the other side of the duplex. When she answered the door, she took one look at my wife and told us that the apartment had been rented. We told her that we had just called, but she insisted it had just been rented. When we returned home, we called back, and this time I talked to her on the phone. She was friendly as heck and insisted that we come right over and look at the place. After mentioning to her that we had just been there and been told that the place was rented, she quickly hung up.

Shall I go on? I could name you several times when this type of stuff has occurred in my life. Previous posts to this blog talk about many other experiences.

So why do I call this post “just when I thought . . . ?”

Probably because I had lulled myself into self delusion and thought that this sort of crap doesn’t happen anymore.
I thought that little by little we were approaching a society where blatant racism like that had gone away. Don’t get me wrong. Recent events in this country show that it is not all gone, just the contrary. But I really thought that the old plantation mentality had at least mellowed somewhat.

Then this showed up on my Facebook page.

http://www.latina.com/lifestyle/our-issues/austin-landlords-demolish-pinata-store-jumpolin-sxsw-party

I cannot recall having felt this amount of unfettered rage when I read about this. Roaches? Really?
Drug Dealers? Is that the best you can come up with?

This has set me back quite a bit. Quite frankly, it just pisses me off. All those memories of the stuff my mom went through, of the unfair treatment we received growing up, and the kind of junk that people talked about Mexicans not knowing that I am Mexican despite my last name came flooding up.

What a disappointment. I just have to work harder in my own little world to try to make sure my grandkids don’t ever see this. Good luck with that. OK, now I have partially vented. Discuss.