Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Ode to Pantera Dude

Dear Pantera Dude,

Do you remember me?, because I remember you. You were a white boy. About seventeen or eighteen—my age back then. I vaguely remember you had long bleach-blond hair and blue eyes. And you wore Doc Martens, and I think a lot of dark clothing. Our Catholic parental units signed us up for a confirmation class at Santa Paula Parish. I attended the weekly evening class with my sister, who I think you may have had a crush on. That could explain why you hung around us, toward the back pews furthest from our elderly teachers. I remember you sat behind us, or sometimes next to me (I think).

Here’s why I remember you: you brought either a Walkman or a Discman to our confirmation class and played Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power, and, on a few occasions, you let me listen through your headphones and it was FUCKING AWESOME. I had never heard Pantera before. I was just beginning to purposefully listen to alternative rock, which, in time, served as my gateway to a galaxy of rock bands and musical genres in the years and decades to come. But thanks to you, I became familiar with Pantera’s powerful, heavy, testosterone-driven brand of groove metal from listening to songs like “Hollow” and “Walk” in the Lord’s house.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

My Top Five Favorite Warriors (of this Dynastic Run)

I’ve wanted to write this for a while. Since at least last season. With Kevin Durant’s imminent departure, with Andre Iguodala (a.k.a. Iggy) and Shaun Livingston (a.k.a. S Dot) nearing retirement, it was clear that some seismic changes were in store for my beloved Warriors. And the present Golden State Warriors hardly resemble the great squads we’ve had in the recent past. Steph Curry—The Pipsqueak Fundamental—is out with a broken hand. Klay, the second Splash Brother, is rehabilitating from a torn ACL. Iggy was traded to Memphis to create salary cap space to add D’Angelo Russell and his max contract, and Livingston retired after managing to play 17 years in the NBA.

Nothing lasts forever. Impermanence is the only constant, but I want to put down my five favorite Warriors from this historic run. This is basically my ode to them (and probably my ultimate act in sports fandom to date).

#5 - Andrew Bogut
First, a couple of things to know about me:
  1. In team sports, my fandom gravitates toward teams who play outstanding defense. For example, when I used to watch football, I loved teams with a physical, hard-nosed, and unreleting defensive identity far more than teams with a flashy, high-scoring offense. I admired teams with punishing defenses that imposed their will on their opponents.
  2. I generally have a weak spot for assholes.
So of course I loved Andrew Bogut.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

2019-2020 NBA Season Predictions

The 2019-2020 NBA regular season lifts off this Tuesday! It’s going to be quite an intriguing season, but first, let’s zoom back to the NBA Finals because some NBA-landscape-altering shit went down in that series. Then-Warrior Kevin Durant, one of the greatest scorers of all-time, a player who briefly seized the title of Greatest Basketball Player Alive before his injury in the Warriors vs. Rockets series, tore his Achilles tendon in Game 5 of the Finals, which will keep him out until the 2020-2021 NBA season. And then, Klay Thompson, the Iron Man of the Warriors dynasty, tore his ACL in Toronto’s close-out game, which will presumably keep him out of action until the All-Star Break in mid-February 2020. For the first time in four seasons, the Warriors aren’t the prohibitive favorites to hoist the Larry O’Brien Championship trophy. After an offseason in which nearly half of the NBA’s players were free agents, a total of 9 teams—by my count—have legitimate championship aspirations if the ball bounces their way (see what I did there?): the Clippers, Lakers, Nuggets, Rockets, Jazz, Warriors out West, and the Sixers, Bucks, and Celtics in the East.

Rather than project the 1-8 playoff seeds for each conference like I have in years past, I’m gonna change shit up and break down my predictions for conference playoff teams into three tiers: the Cream of the Crop (in Macho Man parlance, or the top-3 seeds), Middlers (not to be confused with the Urban Dictionary term), and Low-Hanging Seeds (bottom-two seeds).

Here we go.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Soundtrack for Ballad of a Slopsucker

Two Soundgarden songs. A song from the singer I would have loved to make it out with more than any other. Two film theme songs. My all-time favorite metal instrumental. A song from my homeboy de Arequipa. An iconic 90s rap song straight outta Oakland. This is the soundtrack for my short story collection.

“Mailman” – Soundgarden

A Pedestrian Question
“Theme from Ghost World” – David Kitay

El Cenote
“De Cara a la Pared” – Lhasa de Sela

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Shit I’ve Learned About Wyoming (Part Two)

photo by Juan Alvarado Valdivia

Thanks to the good folks at the Ucross Foundation, I was blessed with an opportunity to visit Wyoming a second time. I learned a lot about the The Equality or Cowboy State on my first trip back in the winter of 2016, and I learned some more this time around.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Our Favorite Baby Care Products and Doodads

Over two years ago, when Maria was very pregnant with our son, I strode around our local Target store picking up stuff for our homestead. After I picked up all the things on our list, I walked over to their Baby section. Once I stepped in off of the main aisle, I remember feeling like an invisible boundary had been crossed. It was my first time there—ever. I peered around, mostly with curiosity, but also with some trepidation. I understood the cribs and strollers just fine, but there was an assortment of products that I was completely unfamiliar with. I remember feeling daunted when I strolled down the aisle with shelves stacked high with diapers. I didn’t understand the numbers on the boxes, or the distinction between regular diapers and “nighttime” diapers, or the difference between diapers for “cruisers” or “swaddlers.” (To be honest, that one still befuddles me.) It felt like I had entered some new sub-world.

In the two years (plus some change) Maria and I have been parents, we’ve come across a number of items that have really truly helped us through. Most have simply made our 21st century lives easier, but there are some that I don’t know how we would have done without. Like taking inventory, I thought it could be fun and useful to give a shout out to these wondrous gadgets and products, especially for those embarking upon this wild frontier for the first time.

For Toots & Poops

Maria and I have learned A LOT about our special little guy, including that he has fairly sensitive skin. Early on, he was getting a bunch of diaper rashes even though we were responsive in changing his diaper after poops and thoroughly cleaning him. At first, we were using standard baby wipes, which are typically scented with chemicals, but then Miguelito developed a painful bacterial diaper rash. A doctor recommended we use water to spray him clean, then dry with a cloth, which eventually healed his rash. Then, a pack of WaterWipes came with a compostable diaper service we tried out, and they worked great. They are not cheap, but they’ve been worth it for us.

For similar reasons, the A+D Diaper Rash Cream has been our go-to ointment since we switched to it. We started out using Boudreaux's Butt Paste Diaper Rash Ointment and Desitin Maximum Strength to treat Miguelito’s diaper rashes, but we found that his rashes responded better to A+D cream. (We also started using more generous portions, thanks to a pediatrician’s advice.) Ever since we switched to A+D coupled with WaterWipes, our little guy has never had another terrible diaper rash.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

My Top 5 Most Hated NBA Players

With a title and premise like this, it’s unnecessary to write an introduction. I’m just gonna let my hate flow.

5. Clint Capela

Okay, so before I plunge deep into this list, let me be clear about one commonality with each player on this list: the better they are, the more likely I hate them. Take Clint Capela, who used to be a late-round nobody drafted by the Rockets. Early in his career, I didn’t dislike him. I had no reason to. In fact, I kind of liked him because I delighted in laughing at him when he would snatch an offensive rebound against my beloved Warriors, miss the putback, and then inevitably brick the subsequent free throws when he shot less than 40% from the charity line.

But he’s gotten better over the years. A lot better. Earlier this season, his stats looked like All-Star material. But I can’t stand Capela because he’s basically a volleyball player playing basketball. On offense, his only two talents are crashing the offensive boards with his size and length and rolling or hanging around the basket for alley-oops. Capela is basically an oversized pogo stick with long arms adept at grabbing a ball in mid-air and throwing it through a hoop when it is spoonfed to him by players who have honed far superior basketball skills than him. As a 5’8 has-been with average athletic ability at best, I find it deplorable to watch a player like Capela with his uncanny combination of size, strength, agility, and speed excel at a simplistic skill that is akin to the soaring slam dunks I can throw down on my toddler’s goddamn fucking toy basketball hoop.

And one last note on Capela: it looks like he got shit on by a pigeon with a nacho cheese diet. It’s a bad look, guy. Bad look. Makes you look stupid. (Oh wait, you probably are.)

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Let’s Get the Band Back Together (One Last Time)! (or My 2018-2019 NBA Playoff Preview)

We have finally arrived at the NBA playoffs.

This season, my beloved Golden State Warriors are again the heavy favorites to seize and take home the Larry O’Brien Trophy. But the 2018-2019 NBA Playoffs will undoubtedly play out differently than recent postseasons. For one, with LeBronto’s move to the Western Conference, the Eastern Conference will send a team other than the Cavs to the Finals for the first time in four seasons. The Eastern Conference is relatively wide open with their top four teams—Milwaukee, Toronto, Philadelphia, and Boston—having a legitimate chance to emerge.

In another anomaly, I think this NBA season is also markedly different because I think the only teams who have a puncher’s chance of beating the Warriors are out east, not within the Western Conference. Milwaukee is a long, athletic, sharp-shooting prototype similar to the dynastic Warriors. With superstar Kawhi Leonard, an emerging two-way star in Pascal Siakam and a deep bench, the Raptors can play a number of lineups, including small-ball lineups, with the very best. The Sixers traded for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris to form the most potent starting five outside of Golden State. And Boston added Warriors-killer Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward to their already-talented roster. (And if you’re the gambling type, holy shit, I think Boston would be the team with the most bang-for-buck upside to bet on, given how low their current odds are of winning the title.)

Here’s my picks for the opening round matchups:

Friday, January 4, 2019


Since he’s nearly twenty-one months old and almost three feet in height, Miguelito recently outgrew his plastic baby tub. He has graduated to our adult-sized bathtub. Compared to his baby tub, we use a large amount of water for his baths now. This has bugged me and Maria a little since we live in drought-prone California. So tonight, after we bathed Miguelito, when I was about to unplug the tub to drain the tepid water, I realized I could reuse the bath water. I had not showered this morning and thus due for one, and Miguelito had not peed during the bath (yay!) I feel a little weird and embarrassed to admit how excited I was to essentially recycle that water, but I was. To boot, it had been years—probably over a decade—since I had taken anything resembling a proper bath à la Dude.

With Maria’s go-ahead, I whipped off my clothes and slipped into the bathtub while she dried and cleaned and clothed our son. I pulled back the shower curtain and took a seat in the inch-high water. The blue whale-shaped bath rinser we use to bath Miguelito was floating in the water. I grabbed it and poured water all over my body. I giggled to myself. Miguelito likes to meditatively use the bath rinser to scoop up water and slowly pour it out, again and again and again, so it kind of made me feel like an overgrown baby to use it. But it worked quite effectively.

Soon after, Miguelito was clean as a clean whistle and dressed in his pajamas. Past the bathroom door, I could hear Maria let him loose. As I finished lathering my arms and legs with soap, I heard Miguelito open the bathroom door, then the pitter-patter of his feet. He pulled back the shower curtain as he has many times on me in the past few months. But this time, he didn’t look up at me and laugh with glee as I stood and showered. Instead, he found me at his eye level as he found me sitting in the tub where we had just bathed him. He furrowed his brow and gave me a what-the-fuck-are-you-doing!? look. I smirked. ¡Hola Miguelito!, I said, as I dipped his bath rinser into the water so I could pour the soap off of my other arm. He studied me as I went about my business. And before long, he was grinning. A look of understanding flashed over his face. Since he’s not talking much (thus far), I will never know with certitude what he was thinking at that moment, but I think he figured it out—that I was bathing, just like him. That I’m just an overgrown kid.