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I have always depended on the goodwill of strangers



In the late ‘90s, many years of working as a dishwasher, farmer, and ice cream peddler, I finally developed the kind of work experience and self-esteem that pushed me to apply for my dream job: Assistant Manager at the local Goodwill. “It’s the perfect job,” I used to think, since the second-hand store provided a steady supply of records, films, clothes, bad art, and a little bit of money — basically all of the essential goods a restless, anxious teenager needs in order to survive the vicious boredom of the American suburbs.

Cristina, a friend of mine, held the position I was applying for. She was getting ready to move away for college, but homegirl put in a good word for me before she left. After lighting a few veladoras (Catholic Mexican candles) to La Santa Virgen de las Tres Marías de Thalia Sodi — a saint to many, but a horrible fictional character to most — I got the gig.

I still remember the first day I stood in front of the Goodwill with keys to the store in my pocket. It was like standing in front of the gates of heaven, except my Saint Peter was not a bearded apostle in a luxurious silk robe, but mildly drunk homeless man who wanted to purchase “a cheap sweater” and needed me to “hurry the fuck up and open the store.”


Taking selfie by shooting a ceiling panel with a DLR camera I found in a donation box. Surprisingly, the camera still had working film.

Gutter punks, theater geeks, older hippies, and low-income families made up most of our clientele. The average shopper was polite, but the occasional eccentric, such as one middle-aged woman whose dark, runny, evil urges led her to take dump in the dressing room floor before wiping her ass with an old Garth Brooks shirt — the latter being entirely understandable — kept us on our toes (or knees, scrubbing).

Even more delightful than our clientele was our own staff: a volatile concoction of backgrounds, age groups, and creeds. I met a lot of characters while working there, but the most intriguing was Jeff, our sixty-something-year-old garbage man. All my coworkers hated dealing with Jeff because he was mean, angry, and foul-mouthed.

I never took offense to Jeff’s disposition. I liked him because he would come up with hilarious insults. Once, as I opened the rear door of the building so he could access our stash of trash, Jeff gawked at my outfit from head to toe and quipped: “Oh, God — does a color-blind, mentally-challenged clown stock your wardrobe!?”

Oh, Jeff. You did a great job at ridding us of our garbage, but you really should have been a drag queen.


Angry Jeff taking out the trash. Photo by Yourstruly.

Although working at that particular Goodwill was great, it was still located in Dixon, a humble, mundane cowtown (or lambtown) in northern California. By then I was hanging out regularly in the Bay Area, since I loved getting my counterculture fix straight from the source, or Sacramento’s Midtown area, which had its on set of fun weirdos. Dixon is close enough to Sacramento, but commuting back to the Goodwill for work became a nightmare, so I quit.

I moved to Manhattan in 2006 and still live in New York, but I go back to Dixon every other year, give or take, to visit friends and family. Shopping at my old job during my visits used to be a must, but the original store was shut down. The last time I shopped there I bought a pair of shoes, which I paid with my credit card. Even though the shoes cost less than five dollars, the cashier, an older woman, asked for my identification card (California employees always card).


The view from the office window. Photo: Yourstruly

“New York! Well, aren’t you a long way from home, young man,” said the well-mannered lady after she suspiciously examined my ID. I smiled but didn’t immediately reveal I already happened to be home. “Does Jeff still work here?” I asked while she bagged my shoes. “Jeff… the garbage man? Well, uh, yes,” she replied. Before waking out of the Goodwill, I asked her to relay a message: “That’s great. Can you please tell that bitter asshole that a color-blind, mentally-challenged clown misses him dearly?”

“Ha. I’ll tell him,” she promised.

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Andrés Cantor, the most important sportscaster of a generation, liked my Tweet




This past Sunday I logged on to Twitter to see what 45 was up to, and a friend had tweeted a video clip of Andrés Cantor, the Argentine sportscaster, belting an elongated “gooooooool” after Colombia had scored against Poland. I immediately replied with a simple innocuous response acknowledging I grew up listening to him, and his emotion never gets old.

Monday morning I woke up with a notification on my phone: “ANDRES CANTOR liked your reply.” Having worked around celebrities in a previous life, something like this wouldn’t make me  giddy, but this was different. I remember Andrés, along with Norberto Longo, announcing the Italia 1990 World Cup matches on Univision.

At the time, Univision was the only broadcaster airing all the matches, so non-Spanish speakers also got to experience Cantor’s signature phrase.  He made watching the matches so much more exciting. It wasn’t just his particular enunciation, but his narration, which adds nail-biting suspense, and has a way of scrambling one’s feelings.

He knows his audience very well; just this week, during Mexico vs. Sweden, in the last minute of the match, he began to narrate the results of the match, which allowed Mexico to advance to the next stage. His energy matched those of the stadium, as he announced in Spanish: “Korea takes out the champion (Germany), Korea advances Mexico!

OH. MY. GOD. How can you not get caught up in the drama?

It’s not the same, but there have been some improvements with soccer matches called in English. Fox’s F1 has the English language rights for the world cup. They had two Latinos with thick accents announce Mexico vs. Sweden, and they added their own flair with dramatic cadences in English. But it’s Andrés Cantor who has laid the foundation for dramatic futbol game calling.

I remember during the 1998 World Cup, when Mexico played Germany in the round of 16, the match was tied 1-1. Pavel Pardo tried to do some fancy footwork against a German player, and Cantor quickly commented to stop it and not to do this against Germany. I was thinking the SAME thing — what an idiot! That match had me on the edge of my seat, and Cantor read my mind. Mexico ended up losing the match and getting eliminated.

I heard Andrés for the first time during the 1990 World Cup, but it was in 1987 that he was hired at Univision to call the matches for the Liga MX. For most, it wasn’t until the 1994 World Cup that Cantor came into the limelight. He was recognized with several awards, including a regional Emmy and a National Career Achievement Emmy, for his work during the tournament. He even made an appearance on the David Letterman show.

From a 1994 interview in the LA TIMES:

He said his ‘Gooooooaalllll!’ call isn’t really a trademark, and not even unique. That’s the style of the announcers he listened to as a youngster in Argentina.

Andrés Cantor is very much the voice of soccer in the USA. He came up a time when there was only one network broadcasting the World Cup, and he called the matches like the announcers from his childhood. Ultimately he’s written the announcers playbook, and many who’ve come after him have been influenced by his style. Yes, Cantor’s booming voice has become an unmistakable trademark, but for me his observations are just as important. He’s always saying what I’m shouting at the screen, and, apparently, liking my tweets.

Tizoc Schwartz co-wrote a short film on the word ‘Chingar’ and has written other stuff you’ve never heard of.  He’s a carb enthusiast, and dislikes social media.

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Drunkards in the night: A hallway, two keys, and one lasting memory




Last night I met a student from upstate New York. She was drunk and locked out from the apartment across from mine, which she leased through Airbnb. She was given two keys; one unlocked the front door of the building, the other one unlocked her anxiety, frustration, and some other door elsewhere, but not the front door of her leased apartment.

I asked her if she was okay and she said “yes” with plenty of confidence. I entered my apartment only to be distracted by her weeping a few minutes later. I don’t know my neighbor — I mean, I’ve seen him, we wave at each other. But I don’t know his name and definitely don’t have his number because, well, it’s New York. Not having to speak to your neighbors about pleasantries — or at all — is one of the perks of the city.

I walked back to the hallway and asked the woman, who was in her early twenties, at most, if she had my neighbor’s number. In her state, my question barely registered, so instead I asked for her name, and to unlock her cell phone, which she was fumbling with. “Nawn…cie. Here.” She handed me her phone where, coincidentally, a group text was blowing up on the screen.

I got in on that: “This isn’t Nancy, but a stranger who found your drunk friend in a hallway in the LES. Someone should come get her. She’s locked out.” I offered her a glass of water, but instead she bolted inside my apartment, ran directly towards the toilet, and threw up. She figured out the layout of my place almost instantly, which was very surprising considering her altered state.

After handing her a wad of napkins and the glass of water, Nancy crawled towards the living room. “Sorry. You’re so kind, and decent, I think. I’m from Ithaca. That’s not relevant to this situation, but yeah, I’m from Ithaca,” she explained while climbing on top of an office chair (I don’t have real living room furniture).

Her friend, Rachel, texted back: “OMG. I’ll be there in 20 minutes! Please take care of her.” I relayed the information to my sudden guest. “Well, Nancy. I guess Ithaca rolls pretty hard on Monday nights,” I quipped. “Naw. Just me,” she replied, before adding that she’s a “computer science student.” “Is that relevant to this situation?” I asked. “Yes. There’s nothing wrong with computer science, actually, but my dad forced me to study that. I’m not good at it, so I’m always getting wasted.”

Nancy’s struggle was all kinds of endearing, but it wasn’t my place to dish out advice because 1) she didn’t ask for it, and 2) she already knew shit was wrong, but simply decided to deal with it in an unhealthy, self-destructive way, just like most young people. It’s actually an important stepping stone in youth, the kind that simply needs to play out.

Rachel finally showed up, adding: “Thanks for taking care of her. We didn’t think she was this drunk when she left the bar.” Still woozy, Nancy looked in my general direction before she left, and mentioned a parting gift. “It’s next to your toothbrush. Thanks, dude.”

She left a memory — yeah, figuratively, but also literally. A 4 gigabyte Samsung DDR3 RAM laptop memory module.

Nancy’s funny. Nancy’s gonna be alright.

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