Rebel Leader

“We want Burger King!” We yelled in unison.

I was 11 and my two cousins were about the same age. We had just left Cuba a few months earlier. We had left a country where the food was rationed and burgers were a luxury if not a thing of legend.

“You’re not going to eat there!” My aunt replied. “We made dinner so that you guys can eat at home!”

In response, me and my cousins locked ourselves in our room, and in the tradition of many Cuban political prisoners, I decided that if our demands were not met, then we wouldn’t eat at all.

“We’re on strike” I said softly, with tears in my eyes. Then I slammed the door and climbed onto the top bunk bed. My cousin Yinet was up there with me. Danay was on the bottom bunk, but was also firm in her belief. No Burger King, no food.

It wasn’t as if we never ate there. As a matter of fact, we had just had dinner there only a few days ago. But in our youthful stubbornness, we needed to eat Burger King that night. But to be honest, my reason for organizing the strike was more than a desire to eat a cheeseburger, minus the pickles.

A few months earlier, I had not only left my friends and my country, but I had left behind my parents. For legal and complicated reasons, they weren’t able to leave Cuba. The day of my departure, I remember being kissed and hugged by both my parents at the airport. And even though I wanted to say that I loved them and I wanted to cry, I felt numb. I wanted to prove to my dad that “men don’t cry,” an adage that I had been told all my life, which only confused me when I saw a few tears in his eyes.

In Cuba, you have to walk from the airport to the plane. That is, you’re actually walking on the runway. I remember walking in a single file, following my aunt and uncle. My two cousins and my great grandmother were also with me. Before I stepped inside the airplane, I did what most Cuban exiles in front of me did, I looked back, not only to catch a glimpse of my parents, but to say goodbye to the island. Our destination was South Florida.

Now, a few months later, my numbness was shattered and a wave of regret and emotion had come over me. Had I chosen the right thing? I missed my parents very much, but I didn’t feel comfortable sharing my feelings with anyone and I didn’t want to cry in front of my cousins who were girls. So, I made my stand with the Burger King issue. When I cried that night, I wasn’t thinking that my aunt and uncle were being mean, but I was crying for my parents. It was a charade. It was a ruse, just like the Cuban Revolution.

But unlike the Cuban political prisoners, many who have died of hunger strikes, my aunt finally gave in. They would drive to Burger King and buy us dinner. My uncle did warn us that if we pulled a stunt like that again we would go hungry that night. I’ve never seen him so mad, so I believed him.

Later, as I ate my cheeseburger, I felt a bit better, now that I had unchained my deep emotions and allowed myself to cry. Sometimes a good cry is all that the soul needs.

Breaking Bad Wins Big!

So, Breaking Bad won big at the Emmy’s last night! The show won for best drama once again. Bryan Cranston won his fourth lead-actor Emmy. Aaron Paul won his third award for best supporting actor and Anna Gunn won her second. Breaking Bad is still one of my favorite shows ever (if not my favorite) and I’m very excited about its continued success.

Here are some earlier posts that I wrote about the show. Some may contain spoilers:

Breaking Bad: The End

Breaking Bad and Christianity

The Music of Breaking Bad

A Writer’s Superstition

I recently read an interview with John Green where he said that when he’s working on a novel and people ask him what it is about, he’ll lie to them. He’ll say zombies, or something else completely different. And then I remembered that many years ago, I read that Gabriel García Márquez did the same thing about his novels in progress.

And it turns out, that I do something similar. I don’t lie to people, I just don’t tell them what the story is about. I only tell a few people, like my wife or a close friend and that’s it. In the past, when I have enthusiastically told many people about my novel in progress, I have never finished it. And even though I’ve never been a superstitious person, I am in this particular topic of writing.

I don’t know what it is. It could be that subconsciously you feel the pressure that too many people are expecting you to deliver a flawless product. Or it could be that once you tell too many people about the story, the magic is lost.

So then, I started thinking about writers and their weird habits and superstitions and here’s a list for you. I got them verbatim from The Odd Habits and Curious Customs of Famous Writers.

-John Steinbeck, who liked to write his drafts in pencil, always kept exactly twelve perfectly sharpened pencils on his desk.

-Truman Capote wouldn’t begin or end a piece of work on a Friday, would change hotel rooms if the room phone number involved the number 13, and never left more than three cigarette butts in his ashtray, tucking the extra ones into his coat pocket.

-Agatha Christie munched on apples in the bathtub while pondering murder plot.

-Alexandre Dumas was also an aesthete: For decades, he penned all of his fiction on a particular shade of blue paper, his poetry on yellow, and his articles on pink

Click on the link above for more interesting anecdotes.

What about you? Do you have any superstitions that are particular to writing or how you write? Share them with me!

The Futility of Some Subjects

This post is probably influenced by my lack of desire to attend school today, but there is some unbiased truth to this.

I understand the need for basic schooling, that is, essential math, reading and science, etc. Sorry highschoolers, but you’re stuck. However, once a person reaches college, things should be different. If I’m studying Mass Communications, why am I required to take a Geology or any other natural science class?

Will I ever use Geology or Calculus in my line of work? No, never. And I know that because I actually work in the same field that I’m studying for. No one has ever said, “Hey Israel, can you tell me what kind of rock this is? I’m not sure about its age in relation to its surrounding.”

That has never happened.

So, I think forcing students to study subjects that are in no way related to their field of study is a complete waste of time and money. This is even more true in our digital age where I can learn about Geology (if I wanted to) by just performing a Google search.

The system needs to be changed!

Death in the Age of Permanence

After reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (video review coming soon), I began to research the girl who inspired the book. Esther Earl was only 16 years old when she passed away from thyroid cancer. And although she passed away four years ago, anyone can see her Youtube account  or even her Twitter feed.

A cousin of mine, who sadly passed away in a car accident almost two years ago, has his Facebook wall still up. It now serves as a sort of memorial space, where friends and family use it to grieve and somehow connect in spirit. Any of his Facebook friends can visit his page and see his status updates days and weeks before his passing. This was a real person, with real ideas and feelings and all of this out there, forever living in the Internet.

Before the Internet, people who passed away were remembered by photographs or journals. But even those items could be lost or destroyed, or at least they could be stored away. In our day and age, there are thousands of Twitter, Youtube, and Facebook accounts of people who are no longer alive. These accounts will linger on forever, or at least until those companies stick around.

It’s just an interesting time to live in. You can scroll through a deceased person’s blog or Facebook feed and learn from them and perhaps even fool yourself that they are still here.

How does a surviving family member cope? Is it healthy to read through your loved ones Tumblr over and over and over again? What if you read things that your teenage son or daughter kept from you? Will that affect your memory of them? I don’t have the answers to these questions. I just know that these are questions that our society is dealing with and will deal with as long as human beings are around and our technology progresses.

My Novel has an Ending!

Although I haven’t finished writing it yet, something magical happened yesterday. A bright spark of creativity came over me and I outlined the novel all the way until its ending! I’m very excited about that.

I sort of knew how I wanted to end it, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to get there. However, that all changed yesterday. It was as if something or someone took over me and began writing the outline, chapter by chapter. The information just flowed out of me.

Don’t get me wrong, I will still allow myself to be surprised by the characters and the story. And I’m well aware that this will be my first draft, but still, it feels pretty amazing. I outlined everything, all the way until the end! And speaking of the ending, it’s very…resolved, which I’m usually against, but I think it works for the story.

If I end it on the previous chapter, it works well, but you don’t get to see what happens to the rest of the characters. And I don’t want to end up being some Peter Van Houten. I don’t know, I guess I’ll get some feedback from my entrusted early readers and see what they think

Anyway, I guess now I have to go back to this: