Friday, December 11, 2015

The Art of Getting Snubbed: Michael B. Jordan

I was almost not going to write about Creed.  I gushed about it enough on my radio show the week after it came out.  I was absolutely enamored with this movie.  It was an extension of a beloved franchise, yet there was a freshness to it.  The script was written in a way that took the elements we loved about the Rocky movies, yet always reminded us this is a Creed film.  The boxing scenes were enthralling and action-packed, and reminded us why there was ever a demand for boxing movies.  The cinematography was some of the best I've seen in a while, giving us one of the most gorgeous fighting movies.  This is all before we get to the outstanding acting, particularly from the film's stars.  I was going to write all of that in my Creed movie review.  I was going to give Creed the coveted Guapo stamp of approval.  But time passed and I hadn't written the review, so I decided to shelve it, and that was that.

Then the Golden Globe nominations came out.  I read through them like I usually do.  There were some nominations I agreed with, some I didn't.  I saw Sly Stallone's name under Best Supporting Actor, which I agreed with because he gave a really performance.  But under Best Actor I failed to see the one name I thought was a shoo-in.  Despite having one of the best performances in film this year, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association had failed to give one of the best young actor's recognition for his brilliant work in Creed.  In other words, the man was snubbed.

Look, I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  Snubs will always happen.  They are a fact of life.  I thought Straight Outta Compton was also snubbed at this year's Golden Globes.  But this Michael B. Jordan snub is just egregious.  I don't want to take anything away from the Best Actor nominees, but I'm looking at this list and I believe the guy has to be in the conversation.  Part of this is also me thinking he never got enough recognition for his work in Fruitvale Station portraying Oscar Grant.  (All my posts in some way will have a connection to Oakland.  Just face it.)  I never knew Oscar Grant and I don't know what he was like.  I can't judge Jordan by how accurate he was to portraying the real man that was killed by a BART officer.  But what I could judge was how he showed us a flawed individual without ever letting us forget he was still a human being.

When I was planning on what to write in my Creed review I was going to talk about how there are great actors, movie stars and movie stars who are great actors.  I was going to talk about how Michael B. Jordan had already proven to me that he could be a great actor.  I was going to make the case that this movie finally put him in the movie star and great actor category,  Michael B. is still really young and his IMDb page is still pretty short, mostly filled with television roles.  His movie career is still relatively short.  And still he hasn't found the right role to jump start his run that all great movie stars have.  Fantastic Four was a bomb.  It was a failure of a movie that is almost unobtainable. Unobtanium, the precious metal they are mining for in Avatar is named after the level of awful Fantastic Four achieved.  It was the kind of movie that can put people out of a job.  Yet this wasn't Michael B.'s fault and I hoped that his next project will give him room to shine and show the world he was a bona-fide star.  I walked out of Creed with many thoughts running through my mind, but the main one being, "Damn, Michael B. can carry a big-time Hollywood film."  Michael B. can absolutely sell movie tickets with his name.  He is a bankable star that can get people to the movie theaters.  That's what I wanted to write.

Now, though I find myself defending the idea I thought was already established in everyone's mind, which is "Hey, Michael B. Jordan was a great actor who was great in Creed."  Let's not even talk about his physical transformation from Average Joe to Globo Gym.  (His transformation was almost as impressive as Chris Pratt's.)  Michael B. had a terrific script to begin with, but he didn't sit on it.  He gave Adonis Johnson the necessary depth to make this movie work.  The writing gave Michael B. the character, but his acting choices brought Adonis to life.  Nothing in his performance felt forced and the chemistry between Adonis and Rocky, and between Adonis and Bianca (played by Tessa Thompson, who I fucking adore) was as organic as the food you buy at Whole Foods.  Michael B. Jordan will be fine.  He will be an A-list movie star and the face of a few franchises.  He will collect accolades and awards throughout his career.  I'm not worried about him.  But for now I just want to let it be known, the man was snubbed.

El Guapo is a talented blogger on the rise, regarded by many as a cross between Bill Simmons and Socrates.  Through real life experience and expertise in many facets of life, the Guaps aims to provide readers with unique takes that will enhance the way they think and live.  Keep up with his main blog Infinite Wisdom From El Guapo’s Brain.  NBA fans have to place to go with his basketball blog, Infinite Wisdom on the NBA.  Like him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.  Leave comments in the section below.  Stay Guapo out there!

Monday, November 30, 2015

1st Annual TV Seasons Hall of Fame

Can you dig it!!!  Welcome to the 1st Annual Television Seasons Hall of Fame.  Or T-SHOF for short.  I am El Guapo, proprietor of the Infinite Wisdom blogs and co-host this evening.  My co-host is non-other than Omar De La Cruz from Penny For Your Thoughts.  Now, for those who are not familiar, Omar is my best friend and is something of a film and television connoisseur.  He agreed to lend his expertise for this grand event.  No collabo has ever been as anticipated as this since rumors of a J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar joint project started circulating, except that might never happen.  (Just putting that out there.)  This is like when Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro teamed up to make Heat.  We're basically the Splash Brothers of blog writing.  So, that's what you guys get to look forward to.

So what is the T-SHOF?  It is a ceremony of epic proportions that celebrates television in a way nobody has.  Of course, we have the Emmy's to celebrate TV, but this is different.  The Emmy's award TV shows and the people who work on them.  Omar and I are immortalizing them.  See, winning an Emmy is kind of like earning a trip to the Pro Bowl: it's cool.  But being selected to our Hall of Fame?  That's just like... being selected to the Hall of Fame.  So, yeah.  This is better.  Now, we're not here to countdown the greatest TV shows ever.  The internet is saturated with lists like that and they all contain the usual suspects: Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad, etc.  What we want to acknowledge are the greatest TV seasons, from premier to finale, that have ever graced the small screen.  We are rewarding individual seasons for their excellence.  We are looking for television seasons that had a profound and memorable impact on on the small screen.  Shows can have multiple seasons in the Hall, but they can't be inducted in the same year.  (This is to prevent a show from dominating a HOF ceremony.)  In theory, a show with only one really good season, like The Newsroom, can get recognized in the HOF, and a show like Breaking Bad can have multiple seasons get inducted, just not all at once.

Omar and I have worked ferociously putting together a pool of nominees and voting on them.  A lot of TV hours have been logged between us and it shows in our bloodshot eyes.  If you think a show was left off our Hall Of Fame, don't worry: this will be an annual occurrence and TV seasons will get inducted every year.  So sit back, crack open a beer, and enjoy an award ceremony bigger than the Oscars, Golden Globes and Dundies combined.


Mad Men
Season 4
Omar De La Cruz: 
I'll admit that it took me a few tries, spread across a couple years, to really get into Mad Men.  All the non-stop awards and recommendations from respected friends kept me watching, but it didn't take long for me to get hooked on the fascinating inner workings of Madison Avenue ad agencies and the charismatic persona of Don Draper.  Season 4 is Mad Men at its best. Without giving too much away, we follow Don Draper during the year of 1964/65 and while the world's eyes may have been on the fight between Ali and Liston, mine were firmly glued to the existential storm raging inside Madison Ave's most secretive ad man.  From crippling alcoholism to Disneyland, this season has it all.

Breaking Bad
Season 4
El Guapo:
Breaking Bad is a show that would top any best series list.  Just look at the series' accolades.  This series inexplicably got better and better from season to season.   Picking one season is hard enough, but I had to go with my gut and go with season 4.  The fourth season is the pinnacle of creator Vince Gilligan's masterpiece.  Jesse goes full depressed mode while Walter scrambles for his life knowing Gus's end game.  A season in which Gus and Walt play cat and mouse is a classic whether you're a television connoisseur or just a casual viewer.  From the opening scene of the season premiere to the final credits of the finale, no other show had quite the grip Breaking Bad had on audiences.

Game of Thrones
Season 3

El Guapo:
The best season of GoT is absolutely debatable.  You can make a case for any of the seasons (except season 5) and I would have to sit and strongly consider your case.  What makes a great Game of Thrones season, though?  Is it character development?  Is is memorable scenes?  Is it plot advancement?  Well season 3 has you covered on all fronts, but all I really need to say are two words, and they rhyme with lead bedding.  Yes, the Red Wedding was and still is one of the most talked about moments in television.  This was a standout season for many of our beloved characters.  So much happens this season from King's Landing to across the Narrow Sea.  Plus, Jamie Lannister pulls off the amazing feat of being a despised character to a favorite, all in less than a season.  All it took was losing his hand.


Arrested Development
Season 2

El Guapo:
The Bluthe family is undoubtedly the most dysfunctional set of relatives ever assembled on television, and that's what made the show so great.  Perfect in its casting, the show delivered laughter because some of the best comedic actors and actresses were working with genius writing.  Arrested Development season 1 is classic in it's own right, but season 2 is when the series really hit its stride.  George Sr. fakes his death and hides in the Bluthe attic; Gob takes over the family business; Buster attempts to join the army; Tobias blues himself; George Michael begins to date Ann (her?).  Every episode brought an avalanche of hilarious moments, but episodes like !Amigos! and Hand to God were in another level.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Season 4

Omar De La Cruz:
I started watching this show only maybe a year or two ago but once I started I simply could not stop. It is vulgar, disgusting, offensive...and I mean that in a good way. One time I watched three seasons in 3 days because the show was that addictive. Season 4 is in my mind the best serving the gang from Paddy's Pub has offered. In addition to solving the gas crisis, this season also has an entire episode dedicated to solving the mystery of who pooped the bed and most importantly, introduces us to the infamous NIGHTMAN!

The Office
Season 2
El Guapo:
The Office had a run like no other that produced nothing but quality TV until Steve Carrel left the show.  During that time you could guarantee that any given episode would have you quoting lines from the show to your friends and family.  Season 2 was the pinnacle of the whole show.  It's as close as a show can get to perfection.  Kicking off with the season premiere, The Dundies, this season came running out of the gate and never slowed down.  The relationship between Jim and Pam became a focal point of the season, and a classic will they, won't they dynamic ensued.  But it was the antics of Michael Scott that kept people tuning in each episode.  Seriously, you can pick any episode from season 2 to show to an Office virgin and you will get them hooked.

El Guapo is a talented blogger on the rise, regarded by many as a cross between Bill Simmons and Socrates.  Through real life experience and expertise in many facets of life, the Guaps aims to provide readers with unique takes that will enhance the way they think and live.  Keep up with his main blog Infinite Wisdom From El Guapo’s Brain.  NBA fans have to place to go with his basketball blog, Infinite Wisdom on the NBA.  Like him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.  Leave comments in the section below.  Stay Guapo out there!

From humble beginnings: Myself on the far left; Omar second one on the left

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Robert Zemeckis: Director/Writer/Producer/Prophet

" I wish I could go back to the beginning of the season, put some money on the Cubbies!"  And that's just what I did when I recognized what year this was.  Whether I make some money back depends entirely on Robert Zemeckis and how good of a prophet he is.  That last quote was from Part II one of the the greatest franchises in cinema history: Back to the Future.  Back to the Future originally came out in 1985.  I wouldn't be born for 8 more years.  (Don't know how the world managed.)  So I'm not gonna sit here and write about the first time I saw it in theaters because that didn't happen.  The first time I saw it was sometime in the late 90's.  My uncle had the VHS trilogy set.  I borrowed the set and didn't give it back for a while.  I've said before that Jurassic Park is my all time favorite movie, but BTTF is in the Pantheon.  Definitely top 5, but even more likely top 3.  I could write a whole paragraph gushing about the series, so I think I will.

BTTF is most likely one of the most consistently good trilogies ever made, in terms of quality.  (The best in this category are The Lord of the Rings and original Star Wars trilogies.)  Now, yes, the original BTTF is clearly the best, but the second and third are also really good movies that kept the elements that worked in the first movie without tiring out the gimmicks.  When talking about sci-fi movies I usually write how there are good "science fiction movies" that are not necessarily good movies.  Back to the Future does not fall into that category.  Back to the Future is a really good movie that isn't limited by its genre.  It's a good comedy, a good adventure, a good sci-fi; you name it.  The story captivates you as you clutch your seat belt seats in your DeLorean.  It remains one of the most original movie plots ever written, in my opinion.  At their most dramatic moments, these movies have you at the edge of your seat, face gravitating to the screen.  Even with all the time travel, space time continuum talk, it doesn't take away from the adventure for people who don't like science jargon.  (I personally like time travel theory, but that's just me.)  The characters aren't just likable; they are absolutely adored!  This isn't a hyperbole: these characters might be one of the top 5 most lovable characters in the history of film.  I'm talking about everyone from George McFly, to Goldie Wilson, to Jennifer, to even Biff.  Sure, Biff is a bully, but we all still get a kick out of him when he gets common sayings wrong.  Then there is Marty and Doc, a legendary duo that has very few rivals.  Their friendship is sincere, their bond is unbreakable and you have to really be the most evil person in history to root against them.  The actors who play them, Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd, were casted perfectly.  No other actors could have played Marty and Doc.  Nobody!  This movie should never, under any circumstance, be remade.  This whole universe was written and directed by the amazing Robert Zemeckis.  (Writing credits go to Bob Gale as well.)

Robert Zemeckis doesn't get talked a lot when discussing great directors, and that's a shame.  Put his resume up against anyone and Robby Z can hold his own.  Besides BTTF, Zemeckis has also directed Who Framed Rodger Rabbit?, Forrest Gump, Cast Away, and a whole bunch of solid films.  The guy knows what he's doing behind the camera.  The Walk recently came out, and although it hasn't has a lot of buzz at the box office, the reviews are solid.  Some have said Oscar-worthy; who knows?  What I do know is that the movies he makes are generally really good movies, and although his directing style isn't as pronounced as, say, Quentin Tarantino, when you see a Robert Zemeckis film, you know it's a Robert Zemeckis film.  So I've established he's a good writer/director/producer.  But can we add /prophet to his title.  See, in Back to the Future Part II Doc takes Marty and Jennifer to the future so that they can get Marty's son out of trouble.  The date they travel to is October 21, 2015.  (Quick tangent: for the last couple of years people on social media have been putting false dates that Marty and Doc traveled to.  It happened at least 4 times.  It got me way more upset then it should have, but whatever.  This is not a false alarm.  This is the date.)  Part II was made in 1989, four years before I was born and 26 years before this year.  Zemeckis and Gale had no idea what the future would look like, so they took a shot in the dark.

A couple of things stood out from their version of 2015.  First, the kids there were their pants inside out.  I'm doing that as we speak so we'll call that a hit.  Power laces?  I know people are making them, but they're not out yet.  No flying cars, though considering how many bad drivers there are, I'm gonna chalk this up as a good thing.  Jaws 19 isn't out yet, but I'll give the movie credit for coming up with face to face video chat.  The big thing that's missing: the hovercraft!  Aside from the power laces, the only thing I really wanted from 2015 was a hovercraft.  Yeah, I don't know how to skateboard, but that shouldn't stop me from achieving my goals.  So far, looks like Robert Zemeckis' batting average isn't very high.  But here's one way he can finally achieve that /prophet title: the Chicago Cubs have to win, nay, sweep the World Series.  It can happen still.

Today the Cubs play Game 4 against the Mets down 3-0 in the NLCS.  A daunting task but if the Cubbies rip off 4 in a row they are in the World Series.  I like the Mets.  Daniel Murphy has been an absolute stud in the playoffs.  Yoenis Cespedes is still my dude.  If they end up winning it all I'll be really happy for them.  (In fact, I have no problem with any of these remaining 4 teams winning the chip.  Yes, even you KC.)  But I gotta pull for the Cubs here, both for Zemeckis' sake and my wallet's sake.  I know the odds don't look favorable and teams rarely don't come back from 3-0.  But I recall one team that did.  They named rhymed with Loston Led Lox and they had not one a World Series in 86 years.  They were down against the Yankees in the ALCS and things looked bleak.  But they beat the curse and ended up winning the World Series.  You know who else hasn't won a World Series in a long ass time?  The Cubbies!  The last time they won the chip was 1908.  I don't think I know anyone who knows anyone who was alive when that happened.  But the thing about fate is that it doesn't make any sense.  If Zemeckis is right then his name will be sung in Chicago.  They might erect a statue or even name a cocktail after him.  If he's wrong, no biggie.  He's still the guy who made the Back to the Future trilogy.

El Guapo is a talented blogger on the rise, regarded by many as a cross between Bill Simmons and Socrates.  Through real life experience and expertise in many facets of life, the Guaps aims to provide readers with unique takes that will enhance the way they think and live.  Keep up with his main blog Infinite Wisdom From El Guapo’s Brain.  NBA fans have to place to go with his basketball blog, Infinite Wisdomon the NBA.  Like him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.  Leave comments in the section below.  Stay Guapo out there!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Jay Cutler: American Role Model

The following is an exclusive interview I had with Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.  On Monday night we met in an abandoned parking lot in Inglewood for reasons Cutler would not disclose.  I told him we could have met at my apartment or a local Denny's but he insisted.  We talked about football, important issues, his wife, and his position as a role model.  

El Guapo: Well, Jay.  Let me just start off by saying thank you for meeting with me.  I know you are a busy guy, but it means a lot that you would take the time to talk to me.

Jay Cutler: No problem.  I wasn't doing anything anyway.  The hotel I'm staying at doesn't have a lot of channels, so...

EG: Right, I get that...

JC: Plus, my agent said you've been emailing him every day for the last month...

EG: Well, I'm persistent...

JC: Not sure how you even got his contact number...

EG:... and resourceful...

JC: ... and in the last email you said that for everyday you don't hear back, a Bears fan dies.

EG: Well, my words were twisted there.  See there it sounds like I made a threat, when in reality...

JC: Honestly, I don't give a shit.  Fuck Bears fans.

EG: Snap, crackle, pop!

JC: Yeah, well, they've never really shown me love.  That kind of sucks.

EG: I feel you.  I've always said you're the most under appreciated QB in the league.

JC: Thank you, Del Taco.

EG: It's E... it's El Guapo... but that's fine too.

Jay Cutler shrugs.

EG: I shouldn't really be talking to you.  Especially after yesterday.

JC: What happened yesterday?

EG: You kidding me?  You guys beat my Raiders!

JC: Oh.  That's who we played?  I honestly never know.  I just care who's on my team and who's not on my team.  It simplifies things for me.  Knowing the names of 32 NFL teams is a lot more work than it's worth.

EG: I guess, but the name of the team is on the jersey.  You could just read it.  It's not like you have to memorize it or anything.  I would understand if the jerseys literally just had a number, but it has a name and a logo.  You have to at least recognize the logo, right?

Jay Cutler shrugs again.

EG: You're doing great by the way.  Speaking of yesterday's game, you threw an interception.  It seems to happen a lot with you.  Bears fans certainly don't like it.  I have you on my fantasy team as my QB2, I don't like it.  Yesterday I did like it, but any other day I don't.  How does it feel when you throw an INT or even worse, a pick 6?

JC: It feels a lot like buying 1% milk.  I don't really mind.  The way I cope is I usually just tell myself that I made a completion to Sherman or Revis, or whoever I just threw it to.  Then I go back to the bench, drink some Gatorade, hang out with teammates, until I'm called back to the field.  Then I just see where it goes.  If I throw another interception, I throw another interception.

EG: ... So what I'm internalizing is that you have a positive outlook on life?

JC: Most definitely.  Look, I get paid millions of dollars to play catch.  Sometimes with my team and the other team.  Chicago is kind of a cool city.  I found $20 on the floor on the way over here.  Plus, have you seen what my wife looks like?  Have you seen her?  (Singing) I'm waaaay up, I feel blessed.

EG: Oh, I have definitely seen her.  I am Googling her as we speak...

I'm looking at photos of Kristin Cavallari.

EG: Oh yeah.  She is... Mhmm... I bet you don't fumble those!

JC: Come on.

EG: Sorry, I got a little carried away.

JC: I mean, that's my wife, and I don't even know what that means...

EG: I said I was sorry.

At this point it gets quiet for about three and a half minutes.  Jay Cutler checks his phone a couple of times.

EG: So what you looking at?

JC: Fantasy football.  Checking my standings.

EG: No way!  You do fantasy?  I have you on my team as my QB2.

JC: Yeah, you mentioned that.  Who's your starter?

EG: Drew Brees.  I mean he had a hell of a game yesterday.  I was kind of worried last week because of the injury.  I ended up starting Blake Bortles because you were out too.

JC: Yikes!  You lose?

EG: What you think?  And I didn't start Alfred Blue and he got something like 26 fan points.  I thought this way gonna be my year.  Who you got on your team?

JC: Well, I got myself.

We both chuckle.

EG: So who was your first round pick?

JC: Uh... me.  And then I auto picked the rest of the way.  So I'm not sure who is on my team.

EG: So I'm guessing you're in last place.

JC: First, actually.  4-0.

EG: Wait, how?!  I carefully and meticulously researched my players by reading a magazine and watching Hard Knocks and I'm sitting at 2-2.  You drafted yourself in the first round and auto picked the rest and you're undefeated?  How in the world is that possible?

Jay Cutler lights a cigarette.  He sticks it in the side of his mouth, not really inhaling.  The cigarette is just an extension of his existence.

JC: I guess I'm just naturally talented at life.  I once showed up an hour late to my SAT, got nearly a perfect score.  I've never lost at Bingo.  When I went to Vanderbilt...

EG: Oh, the uh... Commodores? Right?

JC: Who fucking knows?  But when I went there I had a lot of free time on my hands.  I sometimes went to practice.  Girls would come by my place and, you know.  I'd Cut them up.

EG: Clever.

JC: I decided at some point to try out for the university play.  Why not?  Never acted before.  Tried out for Raisin In the Sun.  Got the part of Walt.

EG: But you're not black...

JC: No.  I'm Jay Cutler.

EG: So you played the lead black character in a university play with no acting experience and played football?

Jay nods.

EG: Sounds like college was fun for you.

JC: Big time!  My friends used to say, "J!" My friends called me "J"...

EG: Jay is your name.

JC: No, not Jay. "J".

I stare blankly.

JC: Like, the letter.  That was my nickname.

EG: Sounds the same though.  Why would that be your nickname?  Let's just move on.  Now, Martellus Bennet recently compared you to Jesus Christ.  What are your thoughts on that?  I mean, your initials match.  Coincidence?

Jay laughs.

JC: He also compared me to Keanu Reeves.  Both are high praise.  Did you ever see the Matrix?  So fucking awesome!

EG: Don't get me started on that!  I wrote an entire blog about the movie.  You should read it!

JC: I don't like reading.  It's not fun.  But I do like watching movies and TV.  I started watching Empire and I realized that it's a lot like the NFC North.  See Aaron Rodgers is like Luscious Lyon.  We are all trying to take his spot.  Matthew Stafford is like Andre.  Teddy Bridgewater is like Hakeem.  I'm like Jamal.

EG: Interesting.  I've never though of it that way.  Why is Matthew like Andre?

JC: No talent.  Shots fired!  Actually, I'm changing my pick.  I'm like Cookie.  No, wait.  I'm Jamal.

EG: Final answer.

JC: Jamal.

EG: Why Jamal?

JC: Because Jamal takes over the Empire.  Just like I'll eventually take over the NFC North.

EG: I think I'd be Bunkie.

JC: Why would you be Bunkie?  Doesn't he die in the first episode?

EG: I don't know.  I just wanted to be a part of this metaphor.

Jay Cutler shrugs yet again.

EG: I know you're a busy but just one more topic.  I've told people before that I look up to you as a role model.  I mean, your life is great.  You're basically Tom Brady without the talent or cheating.  Or rings.  You have this nonchalant approach to life that I just find inspiring.  Should people be more like Jay Cutler?

JC: Short answer: yes.  The Cutler way of life is hard to master, but once you do, everything around you takes care of itself.  I could go home and cry in the shower like Andre after I throw an interception.  I could.  But you know what I do instead?  I go home, Cut up my wife...

EG: Brilliant... Again...

JC: and light a cigarette.  Life is so much better when you give zero fucks.  I got mail saying I had jury duty last winter.  Do you think I showed up?

EG: No?

JC: Hell no!  Well, not initially.  It's a long story I won't get into.  But do you know that song "Don't Worry Be Happy"?

I nod.

JC: That's the soundtrack to my life.  I play that before games, after games, on the way to the bank, during the baby-making process.  I even played it after I accidentally ran over my neighbor's cat.

EG: You know, I had a high opinion of you coming into this interview.  I never thought that opinion would change.  But after hearing everything you've said, so apologetically I might add, the only thing left to say is that you're the greatest human being to ever grace the gridiron.

JC: Thank you.  I appreciate that.

EG: We should go eat together sometime.  Maybe bring Kristen too?  Make it a double date?

Jay Cutler shakes his head.

EG: Well, thank you anyway for stopping by.

El Guapo is a talented blogger on the rise, regarded by many as a cross between Bill Simmons and Socrates.  Through real life experience and expertise in many facets of life, the Guaps aims to provide readers with unique takes that will enhance the way they think and live.  Keep up with his main blog Infinite Wisdom From El Guapo’sBrain.  NBA fans have to place to go with his basketball blog, Infinite Wisdomon the NBA.  Like him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.  Leave comments in the section below.  Stay Guapo out there!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Hard Knocks: A Farewell to Charles James II & His Happy Socks

Today the NFL kicks off his season and everyone is excited, as they should be.  Football is back!  My fantasy team looks really good.  So why do I feel so sad inside? Why does it feel like a piece of my soul is missing?  Why, in this high 90 degree weather, does the sun look grey and gloomy?  If you've been watching Hard Knocks on HBO, you know my pain.  It's the same feeling you feel when you lose somebody you love (on a TV show).  

A few years ago I used to watch Boardwalk Empire, another great show on HBO, religiously, first with my mom  and later with my girlfriend.  I loved this show so much.  I even created an entirely new blog just for that before the show ended last year.  (The blog was surprisngly well recieved.)  For those unfamiliar, the show was about the prohibition era, set in Atlantic City.  The main characters were Nucky Thompson, played by Steve Buscemi, and Jimmy Darmody, played by Michael Pitt.  Many people, including myself became increasingly attached to Jimmy.  He was a WWI vet, a stewart to Nucky Thompson, and you could see his internal struggles.  Now, a lot of people died on this show, but when Jimmy went, it felt my a piece of me died as well.  There was a whole in my chest.  I didn't want to sleep that night.  It was the first time a death on TV devestated me.  My mom burst in tears when she saw him die.  She said it was like watching one of her own kids die.  It took a while to recover from that loss.  (For all those crying out "Spoilers!", I'm not apoligizing.  You shouldn't have been sleeping on this show.)

Years later I'm a little more seasoned.  I've seen enough of my favorite TV characters die that I've been hardened.  (I can thank Game of Thrones for that.)  But this season of Hard Knocks: Houston Texans was different.  First of all, Hard Knocks is a great show.  I was borderline addicted to it.  JJ Watt is not a human being.  Watt and Wilfork had the bromance of legends.  Brian Cushing is hilarious.  These are players we fell in love with and had secure spots on the roster.  There were also players who were fighting for their careers.  Obviously I knew coming into Hard Knocks that players were going to get cut and it was going to be sad to watch.  Kind of like seeing a marriage proposal where the girl says no.  Watching Kourtnie Brown and Lynden Trail get cut was like that.  I saw how hard they worked, I saw how they struggled to find their place, I saw them make good pays that gave them life, and I saw them give up plays that basically sealed their doom.  

The cases of "EZ" and Charles James II were unique because I got really attached to them.  "EZ" was great because he was essentially a child in an adults body.  I don't mean that in a negative way.  He just looked at the world with such joy and wonder normally reserved for kids before they are hardened by life's disappointments.  Charles II was my new Jimmy Darmody.  He had this "happy socks" that distinguished him from the rest of the players.  If he ever decided to start his own sock line I'd cop myself a pair.  He, along with "EZ", were by far the most charismatic of the whole bunch.  Unlike "EZ" though, I really though CJ2 was going to make the squad.  CJ2 was an undersized cornerback, and that really worked against him.  But he worked his ass off in practice.  He was tenacious, resiliant, competitive and any positive quality you would want out of an athlete, just not long enough.  He was good though, and he was versatile.  Coach O'Brian even tried him at running back and CJ2 looked like a natural.  Did I mention he had "happy socks"?  "There was no way he could get cut", I told myself after episode 4. 

A few days after that episode news broke that Charles James II had been cut from the Texans.  An overwhelming sadness came over me and I wanted to play sad songs in my car until I cried myself to sleep.  By the next day I had come to terms with the sad reality and I had to mentally prepare myself to watch the final episode.  It was like knowning your boss is going to fire you when you go into his office the next day.  Somehow, knowing made the whole ordeal worse.  When I had time to watch it I made sure to watch it alone.  I needed time to be depressed afterward.  And throughout the episode I saw Charles as he had bad practices and a bad pre-season game against the Cowboys.  I watched him wait in anticipation and anxiety to see if he got cut from the team.  It was hard for me to see him not know his fate when I knew very well what waited at the end of the episode.  But even with knowing how the episode ended, there was a part of me that was foolishly optimistic.  Deep inside of me I was able to convince myself that maybe those reports that Charles were fabricated to throw us off.   I was waiting for Coach O'Brian to call that other cornerback whose name I can't remember to tell him he's been cut.  In the end that other corner was just longer and... that's it.  Once again I was devestated.  It was Jimmy Darmody all over again.  The difference was Jimmy was a character and Charles was a real person.  Charles had dreams.  He had hopes.  He had socks.  All was wrong with the world and I needed a bottle of whisky to make it right again.  

But another difference between Jimmy and Charles arose.  Jimmy died in the show and never came back.  Charles James II got signed with the Baltimore Ravens and still has a future in the NFL.  I would be lying if I said I didn't wish he signed with the Raiders.  Usually when I root for a non-Raider it's because the player is originally from Oakland.  Or his name is Richard Sherman.  But CJ2 was an exception.  I'm happy for the guy.  And his socks.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Straight Outta Locash...

... crazy mothafucka named Gusto".  And so begins the hit single by CB4, a gangsta rap group featuring MC Gusto, Dead Mike and Stab Master Arson.  Way back when, around a time my father was not considered old, CB4 tore up the charts with monster hits like "Straight Outta Locash" and "Sweat From My Balls", a song so versatile you can play it anywhere, from the club to your nephew's baptism.  CB4 rose to prominence in the rap game, gaining popularity in major part because of their explicit lyrics and gangsta attitude.  Their popularity, however, didn't come without some opposition.  Many people were deterred by the strong, suggestive lyrics and put off by the influence these trio from Locash had on the youth.  Parents threw out CD's found in their kids' bedrooms, ministers cursed the rap group into damnation, and politicians sought to flat-out ban CB4.  There's no denying their lasting impact.  Even today, in 2015, when my dad is so far removed from relevance he probably thinks the George Lopez show is still on air, we can sit back and play some classic CB4.

CB4 is not a real rap group.  CB4, rather, is the subject, and title, of the 1993 mock rap biopic by Chris Rock.  In this film, three losers from Locash, played by a young Chris Rock, Allen Payne, and Deezer D, take up false personas as thuggish, gangsta rappers in their rise to fame.  As MC Gusto's (Rock) popularity increases, he and the rest of the group become increasingly attached to this facade.  Meanwhile the real Gusto, played by Charlie Murphy, seeks to track the boys down, believing that it them that landed him in jail.  The rap group CB4 is most notably a parody of N.W.A, with the song "Straight Outta Locash" obviously mirroring "Straight Outta Compton".  But you could argue there was a table spoon of 2 Live Crew, and, in retrospect, some Rick Ross (the rapper, not Freeway).  I first saw this comedy with my dad, years after its release date.  I still find it funny after a 4th time watching.  I could make the case that it's one of Chris Rock's best movies.  It came out during Chris Rock's hot period in the early 90's while he was still a cast member on SNL.  Definitely in the top three, and I think you might agree with my argument.  But what if I told you it is the best rap movie ever made.  (I'm gonna wait for you to stop choking on your water...  Let it all out...  I know, it went down the wrong pipe.)  Yes, I'm being serious.  I'm gonna make this case.  This isn't a joke.  In film history, there has never been a better movie made about rappers, real or fictitious.

Now I'm not talking about movies staring rappers; that would be a whole other topic.  (Though CB4 does have plenty of cameos from prominent MC's.)  The movies I'm talking about are films where the subject is the life, or events, of a hip-hop artist or group.  CB4 is a great movie about a hip-hop group.  The group is fake but the movie isn't.  We'll slide the film to the top of the list.  Who's contending?  Well, there's Notorious, the biopic about Biggie Smalls.  I wouldn't crown Notorious, though.  The truth is that it wasn't that great of a movie.  A lot of it had to do with the performances, which were average at best.  The only performance I would call stellar comes from Angela Bassett, who plays Voletta Wallace, Biggie's mom.  Notorious wasn't a bad movie, but it felt more like a missed opportunity than anything, and in the end was rather forgettable.  Who's next?  8 Mile?  It was okay.  When you think about it the best part about the movie was the soundtrack, more specifically the song "Lose Yourself" by Eminem.  And even then "Lose Yourself" is either slightly overrated or very overrated in Marshall's catalog, depending on who you are talking to.  Hustle & Flow would be a better argument.  Terrence Howard's performance earned him an Oscar nomination.  However, I think this is another case of the soundtrack being more memorable than the film itself.  I still have CB4 reigning supreme though.  There haven't been a lot of contenders.  The problem isn't that hip-hop movies aren't being made right, so much as the problem being they aren't really being made at all.  To be frank, "hip-hop movies" isn't actually a genre.  If Blockbuster Home Video was still around less than half a shelf would be reserved for those types of movies.  So for years CB4 has been sitting pretty at the top just waiting for someone to knock it down, or at the very least just join the party.

Well we finally have a new member in this small club with the release of Straight Outta Compton, the N.W.A biopic produced by Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, and directed by F. Gary Gray.  Since rumors of an N.W.A movie circulated I had been anticipating it's release.  The only other summer movie I had been more anxious and excited about was Jurassic World.  I saw it in theaters the Monday after its weekend release.  I had heard nothing but great reviews from my friends and the critics wrote favorable pieces as well.  I went into that dark theater with my friends, excited, anxious, and even nervous, and when I left the theater I had one thought on my mind... I loved it!  "Finally!" I thought.  "A rap movie done right."  Straight Outta Compton wasn't just a great rap movie, or a great music biopic.  It was actually a great fucking movie.  Who knows?  It might win some awards.  The movie was very long, but I never really cared what time it was because I was enthralled.  The subject matter was relevant, even when the subject matter is a rap group from the late 80's.  You didn't even need to be a N.W.A fan, or even a rap fan, to appreciate the film.  I knew who N.W.A was, but even if I didn't the screenplay was good enough to get an unfamiliar viewer invested in the live's of these characters.  The performances were superb across the board and we weren't subjected to weak, shitty dialogue.  In particular, the performance of O'Shea Jackson Jr., playing his father, Ice Cube, stood out.  Sure he looks like his dad, but he can really act as well.  This was his first acting job and I gotta say, I see a lot more jobs coming his way if he plays his cards right.  Unlike his father, O'Shea Jr. has a lot more tricks in his repertoire and compared to the rest of the actors in the film, not including Paul Giamatti, playing Jerry Heller, O'Shea has the most range and most potential.  Speaking of Paul, glad to see him again.  Even if the movies he's chosen to do haven't always been successes, Paul is a great fucking actor and embraces his roles.  More of the same in Straight Outta Compton.  And if that wasn't enough, F. Gary Gray does an exceptional job shooting this film.  The visuals, the creative choices and the pace of the film all blend well with the great performances and worthy story to make a great movie, and, if you care about this kind of stuff, a box office success.

All this is good, so why not just call it a day and and say Compton is the best rap movie of all time?  The more I thought about how this movie, the more certain things started to bother me.  Most of these things you've probably already read about.  The movie glossed over the groups history with domestic violence and violence towards women, especially Dr. Dre's history.  The movie mainly focused on the rap group's stance against police brutality and censorship.  These are things that N.W.A. rapped and talked about, but the movie made the group out to be saints for Christ's sake.  Dr. Dre was a do-no-wrong guy with nothing with a dream in the movie, and as much as I love Dre and acknowledge his impact on hip-hop, I can't just pretend he never hit Dee Barnes.  Look, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube produced this movie about themselves, so I shouldn't be surprised when they tell their story the way they want to tell it.  I do the same when I tell the world my adventures.  I always tell the story in a way that makes me come out in a good light.  So this means I might omit some bad things and really highlight some positives.  It's the nature of storytelling that makes it so unreliable.  Everybody does this except Young Jeezy who "never exaggerated one line, one dime/ never lied to the people, not one time".  So I'm not shocked that if Dr. Dre and Ice Cube are going to tell their stories, they are going to make themselves look as good as possible.  But that doesn't mean I can't call them out them for it.  Compton lacked what most biopics tend to lack: honesty.  Most biopics tend to portray their subject as the perfect human when what we really want is to go more in depth and learn about this ordinary human being who did these extraordinary things.  I didn't learn anything about N.W.A. I didn't know about before, nor gained a new perspective on the matter.

But let's get one thing clear: I'm not trying to vilify N.W.A. and I'm not trying to disregard their importance in rap culture and L.A. culture.  Eazy-E, Cube and Dre (along with MC Ren & DJ Yella) didn't just make an impact on hip-hop, they left a crater.  And this movie did a perfect job making that known.  I also don't believe anybody in this movie is a bad guy.  They were kids who made bad decisions, but not bad people.  (Except for Suge.  That motherfucker is a bad guy.  And scary also.  Jerry Keller might be bad too.)  This movie's take on the rap group was undoubtedly a good one and I don't disagree with that.  I just wished that weren't spoon fed our take on the group.  Honesty would have taken Compton a long way.  Even the aforementioned Notorious did a solid job of not over-glorifying Biggie.  Obviously the movie was very pro-Big (and anti-Pac) but we were given a glimpse into both the pretty sides of Big's life and they incredibly ugly sides.  Just too bad it wasn't a very good movie.  Compton is the inverse.  This brings us back to CB4 which was a good comedy movie while also being an honest movie.  (But CB4 isn't a real rap group.)  Too true, but it might as well have been since you could buy the soundtrack.  But even with CB4 not being about a real rap group, the candidness about the movie is still refreshing.  It's a spoof about music biopics, except the joke is that it's the most honest one ever created.  (CB4 could have been released this year and it would have served as the perfect response to Straight Outta Compton.)  The fake characters in CB4 can feel more authentic than the ones portrayed in Straight Outta Compton.  Look, Straight Outta Compton is a great movie that I would recommend to anyone.  And if it wasn't a biopic and I wasn't forced to think about all the things left out, I might have called it the best rap movie ever made.  But it is a biopic, I have to consider those things and CB4 is still the GOAT (for now).

Straight Outta Compton received a Guapo certification.

El Guapo is a talented blogger on the rise, regarded by many as a cross between Bill Simmons and Socrates.  Through real life experience and expertise in many facets of life, the Guaps aims to provide readers with unique takes that will enhance the way they think and live.  Keep up with his main blog Infinite Wisdom From El Guapo’s Brain.  NBA fans have to place to go with his basketball blog, Infinite Wisdomon the NBA.  Like him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.  Leave comments in the section below.  Stay Guapo out there!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

What I Got Out of the Special Olympics World Games

One day my memory is gonna go out the window.  It happens with old age.  That's how I'm able to convince my grandma that events that never happened actually happened.  But when that day comes there are several events that will stick, events that are etched into my memory.  That will probably include the Warriors championship season, the birth of my little sister, our family vacation to Guatemala and a bunch of firsts throughout out my adolescence.  Maybe later on that list will include my wedding, the birth of my 1st and 3rd children and the day I buy the Golden State Warriors.  Right now I will add the 2015 Special Olympics World Games to that list of unforgettable experiences.  From July 25 to August 2nd, athletes from all over the world met in Los Angeles to compete for gold, bring awareness and spread joy.  Now the things I might say might seem a little cheesy, but I swear it's a real.  Those 9 days clearly had an effect on me and that effect can very well follow me for the rest of my life.  I wish everyone I loved had the opportunity to experience what I experienced, whether it be working on the event, volunteering, or even just going as a spectator.  I know it wasn't possible for everyone, but I'm glad at least some of my friends were able to be a part of this, in any capacity.  Go up to anyone who was along for the ride and they'll talk your ear with some of the many stories they've accumulated over that 9-day period.  Here's my story.

To be 100% honest, I didn't even know there was such a thing for the World Games for Special Olympics.  I didn't find out until I applied for my internship.  I, of course, knew about Special Olympics.  For those of you unfamiliar, here's a brief synopsis: In 1962, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of John F. and Bobby Kennedy, held a day camp for people with intellectual disabilities.  At this time people with intellectual disabilities were treated like lepers.  They were ostracized, rejected and a good deal of them were institutionalized.  Shriver thought that through the power and common language of sports, people with intellectual disabilities can show the world what they are capable of.  The first World Games was in 1968 at Soldier Field in Chicago and the movement has grown ever since.  The aim is not to look at these athletes' disabilities, but instead to focus on their abilities.  We want to get to a place where at school, at work and in life in general we can grow to accept and include them.  Now, I had volunteered there in high school as part as my community service hours.  I knew it was a good cause but I wasn't that invested in it.  At the time, I needed the hours so I can play sports in high school.  That's why I was there and knowing it was helping someone out was icing on the cake.  But unless you fully immerse yourself into something like this, you're just not gonna get it.  I didn't really completely get why it was important for me volunteer at soup kitchens until I started to chat with the hungry at the table and listen to their stories.  (Not trying to paint myself as some kind of saint.)  Same thing applies here.  I didn't fully immerse myself in Special Olympics and so I didn't really get much out of it my first go around.

This last spring I was desperately looking for internships.  The previous summer was a giant dud.  I scratched and clawed trying to find an internship in either the sports or entertainment industry.  Nothing happened, though I thought I came close a few times.  Over the winter I thought I might have had something with NBC Universal but that didn't work out either.  I met a young woman at my college who had gotten an internship with the Clippers and looked to be on a path towards success.  I wanted to ask her what she had done to get to the point she was at and she rattled off a bunch of places she either worked or interned at.  Special Olympics was one of them and so I went home and applied.  Less than a week later I was called for an interview and I got the internship.  Now I don't want to talk about my professional experience from working for the World Games.  This isn't a job interview.  Don't get me wrong, I learned a lot of valuable experience I can take into the professional world, but the personal experience means so much more to me than anything I can ever learn about the sports industry.  The people I worked with were remarkable and so full of life.  I admired the fact that they put so much work into the World Games and they all did it with such a great attitude.  Their positive attitude robbed off on me and had me fully invested in this experience.  I didn't know a whole lot, but I knew that I wanted to give the World Games everything I had to give.  Even on the most stressful days I've never left the office being unhappy.  Most of it was because I knew what I was working for: the thought that my hard work would pay off when athletes from all over the world converge in Los Angeles for one week of competition.  But I would be denying credit if I didn't say that my co-workers and supervisors didn't inspire me.  So if anyone from the office is reading this, thank you for sharing this experience with me.

One of the great things about working at the World Games HQ is that there were several people working there that had intellectual disabilities and I was able to have amazing, genuine interactions with them I might not be able to at another workplace.  When you are able to work with, laugh with, and share stories with people who are different than you on a daily basis, you get a better understanding of them.  And one thing I understand is they aren't different from me.  The people I had the privilege of working with were hard working, capable and all around enjoyable and thoughtful people.  One person whose presence I enjoyed in particular was Marco, the in-house artist.  Marco is an incredible artist who made this lovely mosaics all for the Special Olympics World Games.  He made a boatload of them and each one was even better than the last.  Aside from being talented he was also one of the happiest people I ever met.  Every single day he was at the workplace he would go around to every cubicle, every office and high five, fist bump, or hug everyone who was there that day.  He would say hello and talk to them for a little bit and he'd be on his way.  I looked forward to seeing Marco and getting to see his smile and absorb some of that joy.  Every time I got to speak with him it was as if my batteries were recharged.  He was the type of person whose love just oozes out because he has so much left over.  I wish more people were like that.  I wish I was more like Marco.

Being in the office was great, but nowhere near as great as being on site when the World Games finally began.  I had the pleasure of being at the Opening Ceremonies at the LA Coliseum.  Something about seeing athletes from all over the globe all in the same spot in anticipation for week of competition just gets me pumped.  This was actually the biggest sporting event Los Angeles hosted since the 1984 Olympic Games (which was boycotted by the Soviets).  The Opening Ceremonies were absolutely spectacular.  Similar to the Olympics, each country came out one by one to the roar of crowd filling this ancient coliseum.  (I'm exaggerating the word "ancient" a bit.)  We got appearances from notable public figures like Oakland native, Trailblazers star Damien Lillard and First Lady Michelle Obama.  (It takes someone like me to put those two on the same playing field.)  This amazing night to kick off the World Games ended up being but a footnote to me however.  My best memories come from being at UCLA where some of the games were being held.

UCLA held football (soccer), tennis, volleyball, judo, gymnastics and baseball.  I spent a good chunk of my time at UCLA busting my ass, working.  However I knew I could not be at the Special Olympics World Games and not witness the event as fan.  Here's something that I learned: these athletes from all over the world are REAL athletes.  It's something most people don't really understand about Special Olympics.  When people picture Special Olympics they have an image of their mind of someone who is incapable.  If you spent one day at UCLA or USC that week that image would be shattered.  Take soccer for example.  I got to see a lot of soccer games throughout the week and the games I saw were as competitive as any I've seen in my life.  At Dominguez Hills we sometimes get cheap tickets to see the LA Galaxy, and MLS team.  (For those unfamiliar, the MLS is basically a retirement league where players spend their twilight seasons. Got 'em!)  The games I saw at the World Games were just as competitve as the games played by the Galaxy.  The Brazilians were superb (of course) because not being at soccer is like a sin in Brazil (I think).  I saw a game between England and Iceland and both teams went in.  When the match was over I chatted up one of the England soccer players and he was showing off all his cuts, scratches and bruises (and proclaiming his love for Mexican food) with great pride.  And that was one of the points Special Olympics wanted to get across.  We are not focusing on disabilities, we are focusing on abilities.  These are real athletes playing real sports and they really want to win.  These are also humble athletes and there was no malicious play, just good sportsmanship.  There were no borders and rivalries from countries, just friendly competition.

While on the job I spent a lot of time at the festival area where the awards ceremonies would be held.  While I thought these awards ceremonies were very long, especially because it was so hot in the LA sun, the ceremonies brought me some of the most touching memories.  The way the ceremonies worked was first place got a gold medal, second got silver, and third got bronze.  Standard stuff.  4th through 8th place got ribbons.  What I admired about these athletes was how down to earth they really were.  Of course they really wanted the gold, but you could still feel the same joy radiating out of the 7th place finisher and the gold medalist.  And man, could I feel that joy!  I remember they were awarding medals for gymnastics and a young girl ended up receiving the silver and she burst in tears.  At first sight I thought she cried because she narrowly missed the gold and I really felt for her.  But moments later I saw her kiss her medal like a newborn baby and I came to the realization that these were tears of joy and that this moment meant so much to her that she might not ever be able to explain it to anyone.  The athletes that would get on stage to receive medals were usually very supportive to one another, which is something you might not see at an Olympic event.  I recall multiple times when athletes would grab the hands of their fellow competitors and Reach Up (one of our sayings) in celebration, no matter the country of origin nor what place they finished in.  The emotion didn't end on the stage though.  I saw two parents of the young gymnast from Venezuela who won a bronze medal and as soon as they saw their daughter with that medal around their neck, jumping for joy, they both turned into Yosemite Falls, hugging each other.  They probably never pictured never seeing their daughter win a medal in a world competition, but there she was.  This was amazing.

Like I mentioned before, this being a World Games you had countries from all over the globe competing in sports and then socializing after.  It was great to see athletes from different countries interacting and competing and enjoying life.  Most didn't speak the same language, but the common tongue there was sports.  The currency there were these pins that athletes loved trading like people at Disneyland.  I got some myself, as well.  The athletes really did not care what country you came from, they were just happy you were there.  Even people who absolutely don't get along were able to get past their differences in honor of Special Olympics.  I'm of course talking about me and Clippers coach Doc Rivers.  As a Warriors fan I really don't like the Clippers.  And since Doc left coaching the Celtics for the Clippers back in 2013/ joined the evil empire, we haven't really been on speaking terms.  (Full disclosure: I didn't actually know Doc before this.)  But as I was working at a baseball game I saw a tall figure approach me who sort of looked like Doc Rivers.  So I asked him, "Umm.  Are you Doc Rivers?"  He smiled and said yes and shook my hand while thanking me for all the hard work and commitment I brought to the Special Olympics World Games.  He asked if he could take a picture with the Guaps...  OK.  That didn't happen like that.  But we did end up taking a picture together.  As he was on his way I wanted to throw a dig at him, because of course I wanted to.  I had a whole menu of juicy topics to throw at him.  There was the fact that the Clips choked up a 3-1 lead in the playoffs to the Houston Rockets. I could have said something about his son Austin Rivers AKA a Parody of Allen Iverson AKA the Charlie Chaplin of the NBA.  I could have brought up the DeAndre Jordan fiasco, you know, when DeAndre locked himself in his house with other Clippers to avoid Mark Cuban.  I even considered throwing a simple "Cool Story Glenn" a'la Draymond Green.  In the end I just told him to have a nice day.  If Special Olympics could do that, I'm not sure if there is even a limit now.

The Closing Ceremonies came and went.  They were basically one huge party with music performances that included Carly Rae Jepsen and someone else I didn't know.  Athletes from countries all over the world soaked in their last moments in Los Angeles by dancing and trading shirts and pins.  I was right there with them just trying to hold on to the week before it fled.  When it was over I sat in a chair and a bittersweet feeling came over me.  As I headed home I experience the same emotion I did when I graduated high school, nostalgia.  On the train ride home I met an Irish couple who had the chance to see their son win the gold in open water swimming.  The next day I went back to the office to turn my security card in and say my good-byes.  It's been over three weeks and I still miss interning at the World Games.  I put everything I had into Special Olympics.  What I got back was so much more.  This won't be the last time I'm involved with Special Olympics, I guarantee it.

The "R" Word
One of the things that was stressed to us at orientation when I started interning was the terminology to use.  The word "retarded" is a very offensive, hateful, not to mention, childish word.  That word really hurts and one of the missions of Special Olympics is to get people to stop using that word.  If you're an adult you shouldn't be using it anyway.  But if you see someone saying that word, whether they are a child or an adult, educate them and let them know why they shouldn't say it.  Now some of you smart Alec's might say, "Wait, but isn't "mentally retarded" a medical term?"  It was.  Emphasis on the was.  Instead we refer to a person with an intellectual disability exactly how I did just now.  We don't use medical terms that aren't in existence anymore.  We don't use Gay-related immune deficiency anymore when talking about AIDS.  So if you are talking about a person with an intellectual disability keep in mind the term you use.  And please, please do not call someone who is doing something dumb a "retard".  There are so many other things you can say that does not alienate people.  Check out to learn how you can Spread the Word to End the Word.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Ballad of Sandy/ 3 Year (And 1 Month) Anniversary of Guapo Knows All

My, oh my, where have the year gone?  You read the title right.  I've been blogging for over 3 years now and there are no signs of me slowing down now.  And yes, I'm celebrating the anniversary a month late... again.  I forgot.  Sue me.  It was the Finals and I was preoccupied.  Last year I had no excuse.  I deserve a little break this year.  I feel bad for my future kids, though.  I can totally picture me just forgetting my son's birthday or missing my daughter's ballet recital.  Kids eventually forgive though, just as I expect my readers to as well.  I mean, the blog post is here ain't it?  Better late than never.  And what if I meant to drop this piece a month late?  It could be our little tradition over at Infinite Wisdom.  Kind of how I like to celebrate Valentine's Day the day before to avoid the lines and crowds at restaurants.  The only difference is that here it doesn't make as much sense.  So I fucked up 3 years ago and wrote my first post right in the middle of the NBA Finals.  My timing could have been better.  But here is where we all have to move on with our lives and get to the matter at hand.

I know why you are here.  I know what you seek.  I know how far you have traveled and how far you would continue to travel to get what you came for.  I know I'm the only one that can give it to you.  And I know you know that I know all this.  I don't deceive you when I title my blog Infinite Wisdom From El Guapo's Brain.  I am wise and good looking.  While I can't give you good looks, I can most certainly pass on my knowledge to those who wish to be enlightened.  In the words of Eminem, "Fuck dropping a jewel, I'm flipping the sacred treasure."  I'm not satisfied sitting on this mountain of understanding by myself.  I've tossed some rope down for you, and I got a firm grasp on it too.  Will you join me?  Of course the journey will be long and strenuous.  The average man will give up and settle on the knowledge he has.  You will need to be tough, but most of all you will need to be patient.

I wasn't always a patient man.  If you ever get to meet me you might notice how laid back I can be.  At work or at home, with colleagues or loved ones, I aim to display a level of patience that optimizes the quality of life.  People are different and the things they do sometimes can rub other people the wrong way.  Everyone wants to world to be at their level of understanding and the truth is that this will never be the case.  The point is to accept this fact.  It makes day to day human interactions much easier, but most importantly it takes away unnecessary stress and allows you to be happier in general.  Again, I didn't always believe this.  I was as impatient as they come.  I would bark at anyone who displeased me, I detested waiting in lines and I absolutely despised repeating myself to people who I felt were incompetent.  I also knew at the time that this was no way to live life.  It's OK to get upset at people.  Humans have emotions.  Letting those emotions control the way you react and letting them have an effect on your attitude is not OK.  I knew all this and I wanted to change.

The summer of 2013 I had broken up with an ex-girlfriend and I was back home for the summer.  I got my old job back at Bath Fitter and was ready to move on with my life.  I thought the best way to get over a break up was to drink a lot (which I did) and also work on myself.  I made it a goal of mine to become a much more patient guy.  I visualized my goal in my mind and I also prayed about it.  See, my high school scripture studies teacher (I went to a Catholic school), Mr. Shelton once told the class that the way prayer works is much more than just asking and then receiving.  He said if you ask God for strength, God isn't just going to magically make you a stronger person.  Instead, Shelton said, God is going to put you in a situation that gives you the opportunity to grow and become and stronger person.   I took these words of wisdom with me when I completed high school.  I knew if I prayed for patience that God wasn't going to make me resigned overnight.  He's not a genie.  I knew He would send a challenge and I had to be ready for it.

Into my life came Sandy, and old white woman, short and stout.  She was around the age of 70, maybe older.  She waddled like a penguin when she walked and she had this permanent look of confusion.  She was friendly however and she took a liking to me.  It had been a year since I left Bath Fitter and all of my former co-workers were no longer employees there.  The only person still there was my boss Jen who was kind enough to give me my old job back.  Sandy was the first person I met from this new generation of employees.  I shared a lot of my shifts with Sandy.  This became increasingly difficult quite quickly.  Part of my job was to try to convince people to have somebody come over and check out their bathroom and give an estimate on the price of replacing their tub.  It's a little hard to do, only because most people aren't in the market of spending a couple of Gs to replace their bathtub.  I can do it though and I've done it in the past.  Sandy... she... she's not as good.  She talks a little slower and she gets herself confused a lot.  That's not a problem for me, until she jumps into my pitches and scares off some of my potential leads.  It happened quite a few times and it usually bugged me quite a bit.

She wasn't any better in staff meetings.  She would do this thing where she would raise her hand to ask a question.  The head honcho would look at her and gesture her to ask away.  Sandy would begin to ask her question, only 5 words in she would stop mid sentence.  She then acted as if she had completed her question.  The boss would then be baffled and try to decipher what the question was about.  It might go something like this:

Sandy: I have a question.

Boss: Go head, Sandy.

Sandy: Usually when people come up to me...

Boss: Yes, Sandy?

Sandy: (Still pausing.)

Boss: Okay, yes.  People should be coming up to you.  I think that's what Sandy is trying to say.  Right?

Sandy: (Staring blankly)

This happened more than once.  It happened more than 5 times.  I remember going home and telling my mom all about Sandy and how annoying I thought she was.  My mom though I was being mean.  I wasn't the only one who didn't like working with her.  My other co-workers absolutely hated her.  Looking at your schedule and seeing Sandy's name next to yours during your shift was like finding out your dog ran away at Bath Fitter.  It just wasn't easy.  If as a guy you were too friendly to a girl she would bring it up to the boss that you are being flirty at the work place.  She would be mean to workers from other companies in the same area that were getting more business than us.  She cared too much about Tupperware.  Seriously.  She once asked me if I knew what Tupperware was.  I told her yes, because I do.  She then proceeded to explain to me in detail what Tupperware was and all the fun adventures she's had using the product.  She listed all the food she's ever been able to put in Tupperware.  If there's a limit on how long a conversation on Tupperware should last, my money is at about two minutes.  She exceeded that limit by at least a half hour.

The week of Fourth of July, 2013 I was scheduled to work at the Marin County Fair for five days.  I wasn't alone though.  I had a partner and her name rhymed with Randy.  (It was Sandy.)  As I saw her waddle to our booth I told myself to suck it up and make it through these five days.  These weren't short-shifts, mind you.  These were cinco consecutive eight-hour shifts.  All with Sandy.  She did her usual routine: scaring off leads, being mean to people, asking me questions I thought were dumb.  At one point she asked me if I was good at math.  I said yes.  Apparently in her latter years she had taken up arithmetic as a "hobby" of sorts and she wanted to test me.  Her first question was: "What's heavier? A pound a feathers or a pound of bricks?"  You know what my answer was.  But she was shocked that I got it right.  Absolutely stunned.  She continued to ask me simple math questions for about 3 hours straight.  

At one point within those five days she asked me if I wanted to know how she got a recent leg injury.  I said sure.  She stared at me blankly for the next 20 seconds before finally coming back to reality.  When she finally got around to telling her story it went like this: "I was walking up the stairs to my apartment and somebody threw a rock at my leg.  I think it was a police man.  But when I turned around nobody was there."  Now, I wanted to debate the plausibility of this story as much as I want to debate the plausibility of one of my family's ghost stories, but I bit my tongue and decided to go along with it.  The last day I decide to clean one of the bathtubs we are displaying.  Sandy takes the opportunity to complement me on my cleaning skills, which I kind of appreciated, sort of.  What she said next, I didn't appreciate.  "You must get your cleaning skills from your mom.  I'm sure she's great at cleaning bathrooms."  Whoa!  That is not something you want to say to a Latino, especially one that comes from such a proud family.  We appreciate hard labor and our family comes from humble beginnings, but my mom is a teacher and a health educator.  Assuming she's a housekeeper is a no-no.  But before I unleashed hell on Sandy, I sat back and took a breath.  She's old, ignorant and obviously confused, I told myself.  What's the point of getting mad at her.  She doesn't understand what she's saying.  For Christ sake, she thinks a police officer threw a rock and her leg and then disappeared.  I let it go.

An hour later I got a text from my boss, Jen that she was coming over to visit us.  At this time I am very mad at Jen for putting me with Sandy for five fucking days!  I tell myself I'm going to give Jen a piece of my mind when she comes by.  When I finally see her approach the booth Sandy is looking at some Tupperware in another section.  Perfect time to vent to Jen.  But when Jen approached the first thing she did was hug me.  Confused, I embraced her back.  She thanked me.  "I'm so sorry for putting you with her for five days.  But you are the only person I know who is patient enough to deal with her.  Thank you.  I know how tough it must have been, but I knew you could handle it better than anyone.  Don't worry, you don't have to work with her again."  Jen just called me patient.  Someone called me patient!  When Jen wrote me a letter of recommendation highlighting my patience I finally realized Sandy's significance in this chapter in my life.  I achieved my goal and my life is better because of that.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that you never know how important certain people are in your life until much later.  And although I like to laugh at the memories of working with Sandy, I do appreciate the impact she had on my life.  This is the 3 year and 1 month anniversary of the first time I wrote a blog post, but it's also the two year anniversary from the last time I worked with Sandy.  Stay Guapo out there!