Archive for the Social Category

Very Important Texan

Posted in Social on February 14, 2010 by Johnny Gringo

Some times the most important Texans that ever lived never quite make it in the history books or the front pages of the newspapers. By some freak of nature these giants of character and staunch proponents of independence escape the notoriety that lesser men and women ride to celebrity.  These VIT’s (Very Important Texans) share the same quality DNA as any of the great leaders in the free world. Due to their obscurity, we benefit because they were allowed to walk among us. I had the honor and great privilege to know such a person, Georgette Becu. Georgette’s story begins as many great American Icons began. She was born in the depth of the Great Depression in 1932. Her father abandoned the family (before she had a chance to meet him), and her mother died from an automobile accident when she was only 8 years old.   She left school after the 8th grade and married an abusive husband. She divorced him by age 16 . If hardship and heartache had a poster child, Georgette’s picture would grace the cover.

But Georgette belongs to a historically elite breed of masterful decision makers. It is precisely because of people like her that the battle between nature and nurture rages on in the world of psychology. By all accounts she should have wound up a causality of humanity instead she found herself the victor standing tall on top of the mountain called adversity.  As Midas turned what he touched into gold,  Georgette took the lemons life handed her, and turned them into lemonade stands.

By the time I met her, she had fallen madly in love with a successful attorney, and gave birth to a child she desperately wanted. She took all the love she was denied as a child, and poured it unto this new life she created and adored. She was beautiful, vivacious and loved life. Her smile could rival any of Hollywood’s movie stars. The attorney showed her the world. He took her to New Orleans, California and Mexico. He bought her and their new born son a house in the suburbs. But life was not through handing her adversities.  It was the 1950’s, she was 22 years old, and a brand new single mom.

The attorney had a great sense of humor, but not such a great sense of responsibility. It seems he already had a wife and a son. He was very good at multitasking, but not very good at thinking ahead. He was a pillar in the community. The King of Spain deeded his family a plot of land in downtown San Antonio years earlier. He was very well connected, but Georgette never benefitted from this side of his fortune. Instead she got herself a job in a cafeteria, bought a sewing machine, and learned to sew clothes.

She would make $35.00 a week at the cafeteria, and make all her own clothes. She would buy a pattern, then cloth, and sew the entire dress. She got so good at it she started earning money from sewing for other people.  With an 8th grade education, she read, wrote, and spoke Spanish fluently. She managed to find the money to send her son to Catholic school. She worked in the cafeteria by day, a cocktail waitress by night, and sewed clothes on the weekend. She borrowed some money,  enrolled in a secretarial school learning typing & bookkeeping. She was able to leave her cafeteria job, and become a bookkeeper.

Her absolute unquenchable passion was music. Rhythm and blues, Mexican tear jerking love ballads and Elvis. She adored the King. She would put her son on the washing machine and sing Love me Tender while doing laundry. In 1958 she and her sisters went to see him perform at the Joe Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio, Texas. In 2002 her son took her to Graceland.  They stayed in the Heart Break Hotel, watched the 24 hour Elvis Pressley Movie Channel, went to every attraction (including all the museums), the Lisa Marie air plane, Sun Studios and of course a 6 hour tour of Graceland itself. She loved every single minute, including the 220 mile round trip to his place of birth in Tupelo Ms. Georgette loved the way music made her feel. She allowed it to flow through her. Music took her from the deepest depths of sadness to the stratosphere peaks of happiness.

She worked for over 30 years as an office manger for a small vending company that placed Jukeboxes and pool tables in bars, hotels, and restaurants. Her duties included ordering the records for the Jukeboxes, typing the labels, scheduling service calls, and dispatching mechanics to various locations utilizing a two way radio. Full charge bookkeeping as well as payroll services were her main responsibilities. Her bilingual skills were a perfect fit, because that job  demanded someone to write and speak Spanish. Her impeccable honesty garnered the respect of her coworkers as well as all of the companies’ customers and vendors. She retired in 2000 shortly after the owner died. She traveled to Europe 5 times to visit her favorite nephew who owned a Mexican Restaurant in Germany.

Georgette was very frugal, hardworking, pragmatic and practical. She learned life mainly through the school of hard knocks. She was very independent and proud of it. But, she had a very deep spiritual side. Even before she started attending church, regularly she prayed to God. Her favorite Saint was Saint Jude the patron Saint of lost causes. She loved her pastor. She loved her church but mostly she knew she was loved by God. She took Communion very seriously. She read her Bible everyday, and did her devotions in the morning. She was a Deaconess in her church as well as a Stephen Minister and constantly volunteered to prepare communion. She sat in the same seat on the same row each and every Sunday for over 15 Years. She belonged to a group of church ladies known as “Joy in the Morning” that met every Tuesday morning. A lot of well meaning people go to “church”. Georgette went to a church building to worship. She would frequently ask “How may I pray for you today?” Georgette could very easily have pounded her fists on the table and asked God “why?”. But she often raised her hands up to Him and asked in total humility “why me Lord? What have I done to deserve so much favor?” Georgette’s spiritual attitude was not one of great expectations but one of great anticipations. She did not expect good things, nor did she fear bad things. She learned long ago that expecting good had only two outcomes: ungratefulness or disappointment. But anticipation had only one outcome: Gratitude.

If music was Georgettes intangible passion, then her 3 grandchildren were her deliciously tangible delight. When Georgette’s son brought home his bride-to-be to meet his mom for the first time, she spotted a note next to his graduation picture that said “this space reserved for a picture of my grand children.” Christmas was very important for Georgette. She loved to give gifts. The rule of the house was that everyone would take turns opening gifts on Christmas day. This ritual would sometimes last hours because she would shower her grandchildren with presents. She would babysit, take them to the movies, teach them poker, and teach them Spanish.  She poured unconditional love out to her grandchildren.  It brought great joy for her to be able to give. Her bible cover had pictures of her grandchildren. Her apartment had pictures of them on practically every wall. If pride was an illegal drug she would have been arrested long ago. She cherished the title “Mimo” bestowed upon her by each of them.

Georgette’s legacy is not that she simply overcame adversity. It is not that she came out of a bad environment, and turned into an upstanding contributing citizen, although she is all of that and more. Her legacy is not found in her public life but in her private life. Her legacy is not what she did openly but what she did privately. Georgette was a very private woman. She cherished her privacy. Except for the first 18 years when she raised her son, she lived alone all her life. She never remarried, nor did she ever have a roommate. Yet at her memorial service there were over 350 people seating in the pews. What a lot of people did not know is the amount of physical pain Georgette was in at any one time. She was diagnosed with lung cancer and a third of her lung had to be removed. She had 19 major surgeries for arthritis. She underwent a triple by pass heart surgery. She had steal pins holding up her neck from the deterioration of her spine. She had major back surgery. Everyday she was in a constant state of pain. When her family asked her back doctor what could be done for the pain the doctor said, “I don’t know how to treat the pain because, I don’t even know how it is that she is still walking”. During a carotid artery operation the surgeon clamped the wrong valve and sent Georgette into cardiac arrest causing her to wear an oxygen tube for the last year of her life.  No one ever knew the amount of pain she was in at any given moment. Georgette never spoke of the pain. One Sunday morning Georgette was sitting in her customary 3rd row in front of the church. A hymnal propping up her back to relieve the excruciating pain. Georgette sat stooped over. A very beautiful twenty something young lady sat next to her. Georgette introduced herself chatted with the young woman. She could sense the young visitor was apprehensive about a long trip she was getting ready to go on. Georgette grabbed the hand of her new friend and prayed. Then as is the custom in her church she filled out a prayer card and sent it up to the altar to be read during petitions. A few minutes later the pastor read aloud to the entire congregation a prayer from Georgette for the safe travel and minimized anxiety for Ashley’s trip abroad. The young (about to be traveler) was so touched by the act, that she immediately bonded with Georgette. This is Georgette’s legacy: It is NOT about us. It’s about our neighbor. Regardless of what is going on in our lives we can always minister to those around us. Everyone has a burden. Not everyone has a Georgette.

She died on all Saints Day 2009.

Happy Valentine’s Day mom. I miss you. I will love you forever. You are and will continue to be the most important Texan in my life.

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Janie and Barba the 2 Loves of My Life.

Posted in Social on June 8, 2009 by Johnny Gringo

The English have their Tea. The French have their Red Wine. The Japanese have their raw fish. Every ethnicity has their own delicacies. The Texas-American-Mexican is no different. Janie frontThis dish is so rare it can only be gotten on the weekends. Thousands of little shops all across Texas start turning the lights on around 4:30 Saturday morning. The work day ends at noon or when the commodity runs out. Then Sunday again 4:30 am the lights come on oven begins to heat  and it starts all over again until noon or when it runs out whatever comes first. You generally won’t find tables and chairs in these kitchens and the menu if very limited. Corn and flour tortillas a few avocados and the main course. Not a lot of inventory. Imagine the rent going on for 31 days a month and the cash register only rings eight of those days. Ah but you better get there early because you never know when they will run out.

 Children are suspect of it until they work up the courage to try it. Then they wait with great anticipation until dad comes home with it. I remember the my first time. My cousins told me that it came from the brains of a cow and if you inspected it closely sometimes you might find an eye buried down inside the mound. I loved mine wrapped up in a flour tortilla. Just plain no hot sauce or salt or anything to ruin the flavor. My mouth would water as the tin foil was slowly unfolded and the steam would come curling up. Any second now it would be touching my lips then the roof of my mouth and then…ecstasybarbacoa1. It leaves taste buds screaming for more. As in precious stones and illegal drugs you can only purchase this item by the quarter, half or full pound. Even pronouncing it’s name is titillating. You have to kiss your lips twice all the while curling your tongue to roll the “r”s. Barbacoa. Saying it as you are calling a lamb Baaarrrr ba KO Ah. Mexican Bar B Que. Mmmm mmmm good.

 You have to be careful. There are places that give you all meat. But there are some places  that mix it with fat. By far the very absolutely best place in San Antonio is Janie’s Barbacoa located on the corner of Bandera Rd and Huebner Rd. Every Saturday and Sunday there are two constants at Janies. Her hair wrapped up in a hair net and her big beautiful smile.

 Oh I know the policemen have their donuts and the Jews have their bagels but the Mexicans have it the best. We have our Mexican Bar B Q. I’m all grown up now and I like to have my Janie’s on thin corn tortilla’s. Don’t tell my doctor but I load that baby up with lots of salt.

 What’s so significant about some shredded meat you might be asking? Memories and warmth. It’s the warJanieSmile2mth we get from our memories of our traditions brought to us by thousands of Janie’s from all over the state continuing the rich heritage of our common brotherhood.  It is the common execution of our rituals that make us unique. And it is that uniqueness that adds a bit of color and distinction a great big beautiful state called Texas.

My Friend Sonny

Posted in Social on May 31, 2009 by Johnny Gringo

ISonnyCommunityf you were to ask my friend Sonny to think outside the box his response would be “What Box?” To say that Sonny is creative would be like saying Donald Trump needs a haircut. Sonny developed his religion of creativity at the temple of Walt Disney. A quick study and faithful disciple Sonny soon excelled in all things art. While Disney’s passion was animation the gospel he preached was imagination. Imagination was Sonny’s salvation. Long before John Lennon wrote the lyrics to his signature song Imagine the seeds of creativity had taken root in Sonny’s mind inspired by imagination and fueled by a spirit of fun. Consequently this is what drives Sonny’s perpetual creativity machine:  Imagination, inspiration and fun. This trinity of Sonny’s creativity led him to become a disc jockey, actor, impressionist, artist, comedian, writer, serial entrepreneur, motivational speaker, website designer, master of ceremonies, story teller, community benefactor. But there is more to Sonny’s creativity then mere entertainment. While most artists use their pain as a motive to create Sonny depends on an entirely opposite, less used motivation tool. Joy. Sonny loves people. In everything he does he does to bring joy to people. I have known Sonny personally for over twenty years and I know he has used his SonnyCommunitychildrencreativity and celebrity to bring joy to the less fortune without any expectation of return. Except maybe for the joy he receives in giving.

 I was driving down IH 10 one day and saw Sonny standing on top of a billboard 100 feet in the air! He vowed to stay up there until a semi truck was filled with groceries for tornado victims in other state.  These core values that Sonny embraces did not come from Disney or a government sponsored program they were learned at home from his mom, dad, aunts and uncles who stood on the shoulders of the family members that came before them.

 This blog is dedicated to showing how the Hispanic culture has contributed to the greatness of Texas. Thousand upon thousands of obscure Hispanic families teach their children these values every single unsung day. SonnyKidsThrough the medium of  tradition flows the character of Texas. And it is the character from her people that makes her Great.

 Happy Birthday Sonny and thank you for contributing to the Legacy of the Greatness of Texas.

 Vaya con Dios mi amigo.

My Friend Alex

Posted in Social on May 19, 2009 by Johnny Gringo

Alex

My Friend Alex is a doctor. Not the open your mouth and say aah kind. But the open your mind so you can say aah kind. He’s got more degrees than a thermometer. A bachelors, 2 Masters and now a doctor. This guy is a amazing. By all rights he should have been a statistic. Born in Laredo Texas, product of a broken home, terrible student, angry young man.  Reminds me of that Elvis song “In the Ghetto”. ..he’ll grow up to be an angry young man some day…and his hunger burns..” Know what turned his life around? A book. Yeah one book. Hal Lindsey’s “Late Great Planet Earth”. Then an Air Force guy reached down and gave him a helping hand. This air force guy introduced him to another man named Jesus not the Hispanic name of Jesse but the What Would He do fame. If that black kid in Chicago had met Jesus Elvis would have had one less hit on his hands. This one event made my buddy an avid reader. Turned his grades around graduated from High School and packed up all his belongings from a life time of collecting put the all in a pillow case and moved to Austin. Became a student at the University of Texas met Earl Campbell got a Bachelors, then a Master. All the while he carried his Bible everywhere. The making of a movie right? It gets better he marries a Martha Stewart (pre Jail Martha) Then they have 1.2.3.4.5 ! Kids ! Then like the Beverly Hillbillies they pack up and move to Dallas Texas to go to Seminary. Not just any seminary one  of the toughest in the Nation if not the World. Gets another Masters degree there. Now he is ready to go to work. He comes down to San Antonio and gets hired at a Bible college. Only one small problem. He has a wife 5 kids no house and they said “oh, yeah and we don’t have any money to pay you”. Does this stop the Laredo kid? Nope. He calls some buddies up says “hey I can help in this Bible college but they don’t have money will you support me?” He raised all the money he was going to need in a matter of weeks. Call Steven Spielberg because there is still lots to go. In addition to being a Professor he starts up a church in his spare time between teaching, the wife and did I mention he has 5 Kids? Lets see lets take an inventory Pupil, Parent, Partner, Professor, Pastor, President. President? Oh I did I mention he started a non profit organization to help people learn? Hispanic Bible Institute. 

Alex and Julie

 The Beatles said “…the love you take is equal to the love you make..” Alex loves Jesus, his wife and his 5 Daughters. This guy would put Barry White to shame he is a Love factory. How do I know? I’ve had the good fortune to know him and the greater honor to have been loved by him. My friend Alex and his life is why I chose to write this blog. Texas is Great because of her Hispanic culture. Alex is a one in a million guy but his story is repeating over and over again between the Rio Grande and the Red River. The moral of the story is “It doesn’t matter where you start, what matters is how you finish.
  (Hermano, no te digo vaya con Dios porque Dios ya vive en tu corazón eternamente)
 ¡feliz cumpleaños!

The Flamingos

Posted in Social on May 14, 2009 by Johnny Gringo

Deep in the southern part of the northern hemisphere lives a family named after a bird. Like the flamboyant bird the family is riddled with color. Mother is dark skinned with a Caucasian background and Dad is white with a Hispanic ancestry. The 3 children are typically American fluently bilingual in both English and text messaging sharing blond hair, hazel eyes and red blooded sibling rivalry. 

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Mom is the Chief operating Officer of the family. She is responsible for planning the meals, picnics and family reunions. She cooks, cleans, mends, washes and drives. She manages the calendar with ninja precision. PTA meetings, Teacher conferences, doctor, dentist and hair appointments scheduled like a project from NASA. If it absolutely, positively must get done mom gets the charge. After palates, low fat yogurt and a brisk walk through the neighborhood she settles down for her personal bible study. But first she prays. She prays for her husband. Her children. Their friends. Her family back home. Her Country and all the people that have lost hope. And at the end of the day she looks into her husbands eyes and asks “How was your day, honey?” Regardless of his answer she smiles and tells him “I love you.” 

If mom is Country, Dad is a little Rock ‘n Roll. The radio alarm blares out the nostalgic sixties music. Elvis, The Beatles and Otis Redding. The preachers of a rebellious religion. Heart pumping, hips shaking Dad’s ready to shave misquoting all the lyrics he grew up with. He notices one radical gray hair growing wildly in his left nostril. Slowly his mind starts wondering back to his youth. Just how many decades have I lived?” He asks himself looking around making sure no one heard him. Born in the 50’s, grew up in the 60’s, the King died in the 70’s, Reagan saved us in the 80’s, the children were born in the 90’s and then there was Y2K and 911. My God! How can I still be living ! Slowly moving into the shower he notices a lot more scalp than hair these days another reminder he is on the back side of forty and going down hill quicker than he climbed up. Dad is the family alarm clock. Up the stairs the 114 year old dog looks down and says “oh hell, How am I going to make it down those stairs and why is this guy in his underwear coming up here? Jake ! Sadie ! Wake up! The fire truck is almost here! Jake jumps right out of bed and starts getting ready. Sandman Sadie is practically comatose. Sadie you have to get up and get ready for school. Why? So you can go to college. Why? So you can get a good job. Why? So you can support your parents. Why? So we can continue to make your life miserable NOW Get OUT of BED!!! Just 5 more minutes. You just had 8 hours! ! Whats five minutes going to do?. That’s how much time I need to wake up. 

 Number one Daughter was born during the Reagan years. Conservative, Smart and Funny. Qualities only outdistanced by her Charm. Just like the Gipper. Addicted to Starbucks little miss prissy maintains a 3.0 average carrying 20 hours. Like the light shining from the moon is a reflection of the suns rays so too is her immense beauty a reflection of her mothers’ magnificence and grace. Her Dad gets to enjoy the view of her life coiled around her little finger. At 19 Boys are a factor just as there is a reason for penicillin. But at 19 God is also a factor. Whatever her human relationships bring her; she will always be taken care of and comforted by Him. In addition to her two native languages mentioned above she has a immense passion for signing. Way back when she was still ‘daddy’s little girl’ she acquired an infatuation for Sign language. To Sign is to live. In-depth Communication without words. Embracing without arms. Connecting without formalities. Like a little chick peaking its beak out of the shell, Number one Daughter is slowly gaining confidence from who she is instead of what she does. Intelligent and compassionate encompassed by her goodness she begins her journey into adulthood armed by her love from her parents and self-assured in her security in God. 

Then there’s the football player. A 13 year old Hummer on Cleats 1st born son drinks milk as though the government just announced that cows have become extinct. A gold medal contender for the future Olympic event of mercilessly teasing his younger sister Jacob Anthony Garza has mastered the art of concealing his mischievousness behind a devilish grin. The official family banker and electronic genius “Jake” masterfully assembles all incoming furniture, stereo gear, camping and exercise equipment. A photographic memory for Bible verses this student of honors classes skillfully balances his academic schedule with his extensive social calendar. The family abode is overrun with his neighborhood groupies. “Dad, can I have a sleep over” is heard as often as his constant refrain of “I’m Hungry”. Bike, Playstation, TV, Guitar, MP3 Player, Computer and Cell Phone all purchased from his earnings through his neighborhood lawn mowing enterprise. But his capacity to earn money is only surpassed by his tender hearted generosity. Whether it be Katrina Hurricane victims, younger children or stray cats this 1st year teenager stands tall in the sanctuary of humility.

 If King Kong had a Minnie me it would have to be the last child of the Flamingo Family. Sara Noelle named after a character in the Bible and the time of year she was born, this early Christmas present roared into life. Fear to this seven year old little piece of dynamite is only found in a dictionary yet to be discovered. Weighing in at 40lbs she has been known to make her Big Brother groan for mercy. Thin, acrobatic strong willed and sassy “Sadie” as she is known to her local subjects, commands the playground as a general in desert storm. If number one daughter was captured by solitude, Sadie was destined to be the apex of attention. Magnetism, Charisma, Photogenic, whatever the label, she is a solar system in a universe of mere mortals. Playful, energetic and brazenly curios, third child loves life, corn dogs and anything that contains sugar. This may be the reason why when she goes to sleep she is so delightfully sweet.

 So there you have it. Dad, Mom, Number one Daughter, the football player and Sadie, birds of a feather. This flock living in the Alamo City is interdependent. Each and everyone as independent as eagles yet dependent on each other for love and support. The Flamingos are as diverse as America.  One family under God with Liberty and Thankfulness for all.

My Friend Zeke

Posted in Social on May 13, 2009 by Johnny Gringo

My friend Zeke is the classic Texas-American-Mexican. If the police were to ask me for any Identifying marks for my friend I’d have to 1st tell them about his Grin. Zeke has a constant grin that screams “I know you’re full of BS but I like you anyway”. His grin has a way of revealing who he is inside. The 2nd identifying mark I’d have to tell them is his absolute love he has for his family. Zeke loves his family. I don’t know how long ago he passed the 30 year  mark in his marriage but in all those years I have never heard him complain about his wife other than to mention her fiscal prudence when he wanted to buy a fishing boat.

Zeke

Ever notice how people will tell you how impartial they are about their children then spend the rest of the afternoon bragging about their favorite child? That’s not Zeke. Zeke doesn’t just love his kids he cherishes them. He holds each of them in the bosom of his heart like a miner transporting Nitro-Glycerin, delicate, gentle and loving. I once saw a sign on the front of a church that said “God doesn’t love all of us he loves each of us. That’s my friend Zeke.

The 3rd identifying mark I would give the police would be his loyalty. Regardless of circumstance Zeke is the one constant in the storm of instability. Whether you were stabbed in the back or you shot yourself in the foot Zeke has that uncanny ability to raise his eyes above the event and quietly avail himself in anyway he can. In a world where the so called “good” people are more than willing to give you the shirt off someone else’s back Zeke stands up along side of you extends a hand and says “here take mine.”

Zeke is one strand in a thread of fiber that weaves throughout the fabric of Texas. Quiet people doing loud things in a silent meaningful way.

Cinco de Mayo is NOT the 5th Tablespoon of Mayonaise

Posted in Social on May 5, 2009 by Johnny Gringo

“So Mr. Burns what is your dog’s name?” The old man kept fixing his coffee and said “Cinco”. “That’s a strange name for an Irish Setter. Why did you call him Cinco?” “Well,” came the reply “it was the 4th or 5th dog I’ve had”.

 Cinco De Mayo. A big deal to a lot of folks but ask most people and they could not tell you the difference between Cinco De Mayo and the 16th of September. I personally think it’s because it’s hotter in Mexico than here in the United States and since we have Memorial day and Labor day they wanted two holidays also. Only they spread theirs farther apart since their summers are much hotter. In celebration of Cinco De Mayo I have enclosed a video of my favorite Mexican singers. Its okay to say favorite even if she is the only right? Well let me know how you like it. By the way just in case you were wondering Cinco De Mayo is NOT Mexico’s Independence day. That comes after our Labor day. Well  I hope you enjoy