The counting


I grew up literally next door to my grandparents. When school ended I went there at least as often as I did my own home. The school bus dropped me off at the end of the block and I’d run home, the sidewalk’s crests, valleys and slants as immutable as the big blue water tank towering over the town. As I ran, I made sure each foot crossed an equal number of cracks; if one foot got too far ahead, I’d make my gait as awkward and contorted as I had to to make sure the number evened out by the time I reached the front door. On especially unbalanced days I’d cheat to achieve equality. Crossing from the sidewalk into a driveway or past the edge of the lawn counted as a crack. Each step up the front porch could, too. By any means necessary.

We moved upstate to a neighborhood that didn’t have sidewalks. I’d never even known that was possible. Our new home was in a suburban tract where if you wanted to walk, you were out in the street. There was a sunken sliver of space between the streets and the lawns for water to flow down into the grates. In junior high and high school I’d get off the bus blasting Metallica, Public Enemy or Vladimir Horowitz in my walkman at volumes I knew then were dangerous and am now, at 41, beginning to pay the price for. As immersed in the music as I was, no matter how far from the non-sidewalk I was, I always accounted for the cracks. I always made sure by the time I got home that each foot had passed an equal number.

A girlfriend discovered a variation on this fixation when I was in college. Continue reading

Am I one of “those hyphenated Americans”?

This morning I responded to a tweet about the electoral college and slavery, and so naturally in minutes I was faced with the joy of being marked as “other.”

This time was different, though. I’m a light-skinned Puerto Rican who since age 10 has mostly lived around non-PRs, so I’m used to being labeled “other,” usually by ignorant-ass well-meaning white friends.

In high school I was walking upstairs talking with a friend who said something horrible about Spanish-speaking people. When she remembered I was there, and not white, she said “I’m talking about spics. You’re one of the good ones.”

A friend I hung out with every day after school for years “found out” I was Puerto Rican late in high school. “Wow,” he said. “I can see Dan [a darker-skinned mutual friend, also Puerto Rican] climbing up trees barefoot looking for coconuts. But not you.” He wasn’t kidding. Continue reading

Fiat lux

Today Jacobin published “Against the Salary Cap” online, a piece I wrote on why — spoiler — I am against the NBA’s salary cap. You can read it here:

You can also read more of my writing here, soon. I haven’t done anything with this site in a while, but I aim to again. Miss y’all readers. Talk to (ideally not “talk at”) you all soon.

(Forbes image created by Nick DeSantis)

my infinity war


In eighth grade, maybe one Saturday a month, my friend’s mom would drive us into the city of Rochester to a store called Comics Etc. There I’d find one of my first speculative fiction loves, a monthly comic called What If? that tweaked some event from Marvel’s past and explored the consequences, e.g. “What if Kraven the Hunter killed Spider-Man?” (spoiler: Spidey’s girlfriend was sad), “What if the Hulk killed Wolverine?” (spoiler: Wolverine’s friends were sad), and “What if Captain America led an army of super soldiers in WWII?” (spoiler: Nazis used the ballot box to take over the U.S. Hmm….)

In retrospect it sounds like a one-note tune, i.e. “What if a character too commercially profitable to ever kill off actually died?”, but at 12 I fell in love with the concept. The Choose Your Own Adventure books had been some of my favorites as a child. The tales we love as children become the ghosts that haunt us the rest of our lives. What If? was a gift: here were adults who could write and draw showcasing the far reaches of the imagination. I was hooked.

For a kid whose curiosities and relationship with the unknown and the ineffable often ran into tensions with their family’s relationship with the Bible and church, reading about heroes and villains who could do the impossible, all the while saddled with relatable human weaknesses and struggles, approximated the kinds of questions and thinking that weren’t usually welcome in Sunday School. I wanted to understand the stories I learned in church, but the parts that seemed the most meaningful were often frustratingly unaddressed. I wanted to know the divine in the human and the human in the divine, because the greatest mysteries I could fathom were God and me. Continue reading

Being laid off

My department head emailed me a week ago to set up a meeting. He’s the third department head I’ve worked under at my current job, but the first to ever request a meeting. We agreed to meet Monday. I wondered what the meeting was about. Three thoughts ran through my mind:

  • I forgot to include some required information on one of my syllabi; perhaps he wanted to let me know in-person such slovenly behavior was unacceptable or even legally precarious. My boss has a military background, so I could imagine him being very attention-to-detail.
  • We’ve never really spoken much, despite working in the same department for five years. From his social media posts, it’s evident he’s a curious, open-minded dude with a potentially robust sense of humor. Maybe he wanted to have a brief chat and get to know me better, man-to-man.
  • I was getting laid off.

I spent the weekend rationalizing why it wasn’t the third idea, rationalizing why even if it was the worst-case scenario, why that really wasn’t such a big deal. I exhausted all the logical possibilities and spent some time in the mushier world of my emotions, a realm I have an attraction/repulsion relationship with. I got to work Monday and looked for my new boss in the big office the old bosses had used while in power. He wasn’t there; he still resided in his smaller, humbler stomping grounds. This seemed a good omen. I reached his office. He welcomed me in. As soon as I sat, he got up and closed the door. I knew then what he announced moments later. Bad news. You’re being laid off.

Continue reading


Image result for time

I am in Kentucky. Visiting future in-laws. Time being what we will of it, I do not wish to call them “future” in-laws. The future is “then,” and they do not feel like “then,” and no one knows what then will or won’t be. This is now, and they feel like now, which feels like this.

So. I am in Kentucky. Visiting in-laws. Seen and heard birds and accents and people I’ve never known before. Shopped at a 24-hour Wal-Mart. Been bitten for the first time in my life by a horsefly. Been bitten for the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth time by a horsefly. Been to a supermarket with signs saying you must buy cigarettes in the checkout lanes and not at the service desk, the opposite of what signs say in NY. I’ve gone to a baseball game and scored a goal in a family soccer game and met more tennis players in a week than all the prior years of this life.

I think I’m eating elk tonight. I am enjoying Kentucky. Enjoying my future in-laws. Time is a bit stretchier here, now. This.

Survivor’s guilt

4+ years ago, I finished my creative writing MFA. For many days since, until maybe hopefully recently, I have struggled with guilt.

Since graduating, I entered a career that lets me talk about writing (which I like) and editing (which I love) with hundreds of people I would otherwise never have met from all across five continents. I get to share what I find interesting with roomfuls of (generally) open and willing humans. And I have struggled with guilt.

I’ve worked as an editor on fiction and non-fiction publications. I’ve sold book reviews and sports features. A half-dozen websites have “hired” me to write for them, and some of them even pay (poorly). I have been able to spend much of the past few years writing about sports that I care about, and even to spend most of that focus on the teams I care about and root for. And I have struggled with guilt.

15 years ago, after finishing my undergrad program, I narrowed down my career pursuits to three: law school, American studies, or writing. I got into law school and an AMS PhD program, which meant I might make a good amount of $$ down the road, or at least pay nothing while advancing my education and getting on track for a university job while incurring less student debt. Nope. I love writing and thinking about writing and talking about writing and writing about writing. So off I went.

The year I started the MFA, I’d contracted a bacterial lung infection. Continue reading