Chapter Eight 8

I told Mike looking worried "Mike how am I going to cash this check?" He looked at me with a smile on his face and told me, "Daniel as you might know by now, you are not the only illegal person working in this country. Let me show you something. Follow me." We jumped on our little red Yugo, and we went to a close by neighborhood shopping center. When we got there, he pointed his finger to a sign hanging on a window of a convenient store, and he said, "Daniel every time you see that sign, it means that they will cash your check, even if you don't have any identification whatsoever."
After I learned that, I realized that pretty much every other store could cash my check, and then again, I was in disbelieve but oh well. I went to one of those stores, cashed my check, and finally I had in my hands a whole bunch of American dollars. I said to mike, "I guess this means something like, "Welcome to America Compadre! Mi casa es su casa.""
We both were very happy that day, and we totally agreed that this event, needed to be celebrated accordingly. That day we hurry up; went home; showered, and changed clothes as fast as we could. We couldn't wait to get us some food, some real food. We decided that we needed to celebrate with pizza and a beer.
Mike took me to a pizza place where some scenes of the TV series Miami Vice have been filmed. It was a little restaurant right in the heart of South Miami Beach. It was a very peculiar place that had a Vintage look style. The place looked almost like a bar in an old western movie. After we took a tour around the place looking to all the pictures of movie scenes hanged all over on the walls, we went outside, and sat on a table on the sidewalk of a busy boulevard. That boulevard once was a busy street, but now the street was closed to traffic, transforming it into this very inviting place, with people walking everywhere. We ordered their specialty; Mike's favorite pizza; the New York style pizza cooked on a stone oven. What a place to be in a Friday night at sunset time.
We waited for our pizza drinking our beer, and talking about the lucky timing at which we found work. I wanted to ask Mike a whole bunch of questions about the English language, but that night, that night I give him a break. Sometimes I know, I did get a bit obnoxious asking so many questions, but I couldn't wait to speak the language. We were seated in a very relaxed way in the middle of this boulevard, looking at the people walking by, and having a good time. We were just enjoying the moment celebrating our first checks.
While seated and talking to Mike, I realized that I had never seen so many people looking happy. Everywhere I looked people was having a good time, to the point that it was contagious.
After e few minutes, about half way of my glass of beer, I realized that the beer went up to my brain really quick. All of the sudden I was tipsy. For a bit I saw everybody moving in slow motion. I don't know what happen. I guess the paint fumes, and a little bit of alcohol don't mix well in an empty stomach. I was in the middle of this realization when I saw a couple that stand out of the rest of the people, and this couple really caught my attention. They looked just like people in a movie scene, and the place where we were at, really looked like a movie set. I remember looking at a beautiful tall skinny girl in a short purple dress. She was my kind of girl. She was tall, skinny, fit, with a short skirt, and a long jacket-meaning a long set of sexy legs. She had as a companion a handsome guy, taller than her, and dressed in a dark blue suit jacket, with a black sport T-shirt under. This couple was the perfect example of Miami vice style, and I was right there, first row in the U.S., watching everything happening live. I have never been happier in my life to be in a place where I wanted to be. This couple made a very nice couple, and the contrast of colors between them was astonishing. I will never forget that moment, and I don't know what kind of face I had at that instant, but the girl looked back at me as she passed me by, smiled and put her head down, as if she was a bit embarrassed. Soon after that moment the food arrived. We said cheers and started to enjoy the meal. The pizza was just perfect, and it was delicious.
That moment is an iconic moment on my life. That day I realized that the possibility of me staying here in the U.S. was a real possibility. What a moment! It felt almost like being inside of a Hollywood movie scene, and I still don't know if I was just happy, or it was the beer or the paint fumes, but whatever it was, I still remember that day like as if it was yesterday.
In my mind while eating I went for a little ride inside my mind, and before I got lost in my thoughts I said to mike, "You know me by now. I'm sorry if I do not talk while eating." Mike said to me, "Don't worry Daniel, I know."
While eating I started to think, "Ancient wisdom is a legacy. Wisdom is the fruit of human experiences, and those collective experiences are the pure essence of Humanity.
To know for sure the outcome of something before hand, is a task that no human can accurately calculate.
I thought at the time that if I stayed in my country, somehow, someway I was not going to receive a good retirement pension. For me my golden years, even if they seemed at the moment really far away, they were one of the most important things I worried about, because I knew they were coming, and quick. My prediction of my own destiny and future in my country was a very nefarious one. I knew if I worked my whole life over there, no matter what I did, or how hard I worked, I was going to ended up receiving a pension that the only thing I was going to be able to afford, was nothing but misery."
I thought, "Here in the U.S. if there is a job there is a way. If you can find a job, and cash a check with no objection to your legal status, it means that they are giving you the opportunity to escape the chains of an oligarchy, and oppression. This is your chance. I saw a chance that was given to me, and I was going to do everything in my power to take it.
My family was a typical middle class family in a democratic nation, but since I was six years old the U.S. had put in power "La Junta" and at the head of the "La Junta" Augusto Pint-of-shit. The highest Rank General on the Chilean Army at the time. He didn't even know how to speak his own language. How Pint-of-shit got there, still remains a mystery. Some say that he was not the one with the highest seniority, some say they were a few more generals with more seniority than Pint-of-shit, but they were not willing to kill and slaved their own people, so they just kill them. Some say that they were four of them ahead of Pint-of-shit, and they were in the same room. They asked the one with the highest seniority if he was going to do as they say. He tried to negotiate a better outcome for our people, and the U.S. seeing that the general was not surrendering unconditionally they shot him and the head where he stood. In the same room with pieces of brains scattered all over they asked the next one on line, and the same thing happened. He followed the same tradition of Battle of Concepcion heroes, and asked for what he thought was the right thing to do, so they shot him too. They shot the next one as well, until it was Pint-of-shit's turn. Like the coward that he really was, and after seeing four great men dead on the floor, he bent over as far as the C.I.A. wanted. He was the one that became the cold blooded assassin that killed hundreds of thousands of his own people, and became the supreme slave master. In my account of the events he became an employee of the few super wealthy, and since then even to this day, things have not changed much. We still have nothing but a, "Showcracy" but not a true democracy.
Since 9-11 of 1973 I saw my family suffer the social injustice and I saw them go down in the social ladder. I saw them go from middle-class to third world country poor people. I saw that with my own eyes, and I did grow up in the after math of a nation falling victim of a more powerful and merciless thieves."
After that little celebration working hard and studying English as much as I could was all I did. The time went by really fast, fast like never before. I was working hard but no matter what, I always found the time to write a letter to Veronica. I was sure that here in the U.S. we could have a life together. Here in the U.S. I thought it was the place to pursue happiness. At that time in my life I was in love with Veronica. I felt the need to let her know that I was doing everything I could, to get the most out of this situation. I wanted to let her know that I was looking for a better future for the three of us, and I was feeling so well, that I was even considering the possibility of being the four of us.
Here in the U.S. I thought I was in heaven. For some reason I thought I have escaped the tyranny and oppression of a country that has fallen one more time, under the rule of a super power. I thought here in the U.S. I could dream of freedom. Now could that be possible? For how long? I didn't know. Still what I was doing was illegal, and I could be deported at any time. Back then I was really afraid of "La Migra." Sometimes you forget about it because you are having so much fun, and working so hard that you don't have time to think about it, but deportation was always something hanging over my head.
I was 25 years old when I started working here in the U.S. and I thought that here in the U.S. I was going to be blessed with the opportunity to have the means to support a family, so I thought.
I thought that here in the U.S. was "the place" That place that my father Luis once taught me, and I wanted to believe that. I wanted to live here in the U.S. and I thought that if I work hard I could afford to have a family. I thought here in the U.S. my son Sebastian will be able to grow in a land where the people trusted in a God as much as I did, and I was so happy to see in every American bill the proof of that, because in every American bill had the words, "In God we trust." I thought maybe here I could afford to have a family, and maybe have a child of my own, maybe. Believe it or not when I came here for the first time, I felt happiness in my heart like I hadn't felt in long while. I saw hope with my own eyes.
At my work I did my best every day, and I put in a hard honest day of work. When I first got here I was twenty-five-years old, and I still believed in a living God. A living God that was looking from far away, but always looking, and regardless of what I was going through, I always dedicate a little time to God saying a prayer and giving God thanks for all his blessings.
Before I came to the U.S. Veronica knew that after I got fired from Fusa Financial, I didn't want to stay in Arica no more. I felt weak against Paste, and I feared for a moment of weakness, and that I was going to get hooked in Paste again. There in Arica I was not a very happy person, and I was aware of my weaknesses. I wanted a fresh start as well, and here in the U.S. was now a very good candidate place to pursue happiness. The U.S. was giving me the opportunity to start all over again, and I thought in my mind that all I had to do, was keep working hard and the rest will followed, just like the Bible says, "Help yourself and then I will help you."
Here in the U.S. I had a lot of time to think about what was going on in my life, and every day when I was writing a letter to Veronica, I thought long and hard about our relationship. I was trying to find the answer if she was still the one. I thought about all the good and all the bad in our relationship, and the result depended on how I was feeling that day. While here away from her I thought hard about how much I wanted to be with her, and mostly comparing one day with the other, it was right there, right between good and bad, not quite hundred percent sure. I had my doubts, but at the end one thing was for sure, I thought this time apart was going to be, a make it or break it kind of thing.
I had a clear reason why I didn't want to stay living in Arica, and that was because in that city I had too many bad memories,-mainly referring to Paste-at the same time I had the best moments of my youth, and all of that in that same precise city. Knowing that my options were limited because the only other place I would've loved to live was in my home town La Serena, but to find a job over there for me was pretty much next to impossible. For me it was time to find out what I was going to do of my adulthood. I knew at that moment that staying here in the U.S. could be awesome, but I didn't know if that was even possible. At least I knew I was giving it a try. The rest was not up to me.
On one of those moments I started thinking about me and Veronica and all those times where we did break up and then come back together again. That was our story. She has become just like my cigarette addiction, I wanted to quit smoking badly, but I just couldn't. Every time I did quit smoking, after a few days later I will quit quitting, and then I'll quit again. When I got back with Veronica, I did remember how much I loved her, and then I would remember why I broke up with her. At that time in my life all I wanted was just a little bit of peace and stability. I knew cigarettes were bad for me for sure, but I couldn't quit, about Veronica I wasn't sure if she was good or bad for me. When the three of us were together, sometimes we had such a good times, that those moments made me forget all about the hard times we ever had. That was a problem for me, because I didn't want to have so many ups and downs like that. I wanted something more stable, and as far as I knew at the time, I was willing to give it a try, and that was what I was doing in every aspect of my life. I was giving my best and waiting to see what life through back at me.
Writing to Veronica one letter a day for me was a way to prove to her, that not even a day went by without me thinking of her. For me to write a letter was a very difficult thing to do. My whole life pretty much I have been a rebel without a cause in school, and I thought that writing was a waste of time, but even though, even if it was super difficult to put an idea in writing for me, anyways I wrote a letter to her every single day. There was a period of three months where I was writing to her a letter a day, and it was hard for me to believe that during all that time, I received back only four letters from her. For her to write a letter was super easy, but she wrote only four letters back to me in all that time. How Ironic that our song with Veronica, was a song that once we sang together, in one of those tea times. Before we became more than friends, we share a moment trying to sing a song together, and the song was More than Words by Extreme. Ironically that was what I felt with her, for some reason I didn't feel like she really loved me, I didn't see it in her actions and what I needed from her was precisely that, I needed, "More than words."
Writing a letter a day was the best way I could find, to let her know that what I was doing, I was doing it with her in mind. It was my way to show her that I meant what I said, when I said to her, "I love you." Up to that moment I was convinced that she never believed me, why? That I don't know, but always she made me doubt her, and she made me rethink about our relationship mainly because her little lies. What happens in a relationship where trust has never existed on one of the parts, at least it has been lost many times over, what happens then? She was always lying to me in little things, but one after another to the point that made me wonder about the bigger things, things like being faithful or saying I love you. I didn't know really what to make out of that, but regardless a letter a day it was, "Give and you shall receive. Blessed is the one who loves, not the one being loved."
In the two months working for Chris as a painter helper, I went from house to house from Fort Lauderdale to the Callos, and pretty soon I got to know Miami like the palm of my hand. Our crew could paint really just about everything. In two months I have been involved in so many painting projects, that I was amazed about how much I have learned, and in just a couple of months. We painted factories, offices, banks, condominiums, and residential houses inside and out. I was so impressed by the professionalism of everybody that worked for Chris. I really liked how important it was for them the word "Pro."
After two months and a half of being here in the U.S. Mike received the news that Sigrid's paperwork have been approved, and Mike just needed to go back to Chile and pick her up. Sigrid at that time was about five months pregnant, and Mike's dogs the three of them were still back in Chile.
I said to him, "Would be nice for me to go over there too. Now that I know that I really want to stay here, and I know that I don't have a job to go back to. I want to go over there and sell the few things that I have, and I want to say goodbye to everybody because if I over extend my Visa, I'm not going to go back unless I do get deported." I said to Mike, "There is no way I'm coming back to Chile. They will have to deport me. I'm not going back. at least not on my own." That was my attitude at that moment in time.
I was well aware of the rental laws in Miami, and they were merciless. You don't have the rent money on time and you were in the streets. You don't pay your rent and they will say to you, "Sorry but if you don't pay rent, get out of my property. I don't care if you have children's with you, or nothing, I do not care!" That was the law in FL. and everybody I knew warned me about it, but I didn't care. On those couple of months, I made a remarkable progress learning the language, and I was so excited about it, that I could not see pass that. In many was ways I was completely blinded.
After only a couple of months of being in here I found to be a very exciting subject to think about, and that was the prospects I had here in the U.S. compared with the opportunities I had back in my country. It was scary to think that after all my calculations here in the U.S.-a complete strange country-I could have a way better life than the one I could have back in Chile. I thought, "What are the chances of an illiterate succeeding in a foreign land?" In my calculations the chances were very slim, but for sure better chances than the ones I had staying in my own country. It was pathetic to say the least, but it was true. In two months working hard here in the U.S. I was already able to buy me a ticket back and forth to Chile, and I was able to buy it cash.
Mike asked me seriously, "Are you sure that you want to go back to Chile? Are you ready? Can you do it?" I said, "I am sure. I want to go back and say goodbye to everybody, and ask Veronica if she wants to wait for me. I want to know if she would consider seriously the option of coming over here with me. I knew back then that if I over stayed my visa, it will be a long time before I could go back. I knew if I stayed I'll be leaving the life of an illegal alien. Pretty much a criminal being forced to hard labor. Pretty much being a slave by all definitions. I knew that, but at the same time, it was the only way I could afford some English classes, and the chance to have a life. Pathetic but true.
I knew I will become a stranger and an illiterate in a foreign country, an outsider that doesn't even know how to speak. I asked myself, "Do I take the chances that have been given to me or not? Back in Chile I could make a living working in suit and tie, and here in the U.S. if I want to be a real help, I'll be working most likely with my hands. I thought, "Well I'll be getting paid to stay in good shape, and I'll be getting free English classes. Free English classes every day if I get to stay here in the U.S." Mike said to me, "I was just checking." and added, "Like they say over here in the U.S. you better double check. Measure twice and cut once."
A few weeks after that conversation we went back to Chile. Mike to get his wife and his three dogs, and I, I went over there to sell my stuff, and ask Veronica if she was willing to follow me.
I had my doubts about Veronica wanting to come over here, because she will have to leave everything behind including her university education, and because over here in the U.S. she will be just like me, another illiterate and illegal person living in the U.S.
On that trip for some reason Chile didn't feel like home at all, and Mike's wife Sigrid, at the time was living in a house that Mike rented for her, and that house was only a couple blocks away from my mom's house. At that time though my mom's house has been rented out long ago, because my mom was already here in the U.S., more specifically, she was living with my sister Belinda in Billings, Montana.
While staying at Mike's house, one of those days, I borrowed Sigrid's car and something really bad happened. Getting out of the drive way I didn't realized that four kittens were taking a nap right by the rear wheel and I run them over. Just a few days after we got back, Mike let me used his car, and I started to back up to get out, when I saw Mike hitting the passenger side window with the palm of his hand really hard saying, "Stop!, Stop!" I stopped as fast as I could, and got out of the car being really worried. I didn't know what happened and I asked Mike, "What happened?" He said "Didn't you see the kittens under the wheel of the car?" I said, "No, what?" He said, "You just run over these little kittens." I felt so bad, but it was already too late to save them. A couple of them were still moving and mike broke their necks. There was not other option. They were badly hurt. I felt terrible that day, and I thought, "This is a bad omen."
That same day in the afternoon, Veronica told me that Adrian-her ex-husband-wanted to talk to her. I remember being really emphatically clear saying to her, "Please don't! I have a bad feeling about this." As far as I know she didn't, but that day, I really felt darkness all around. Indeed it was a really dark day. That day Veronica was going to give me an answer as well about coming with me to the U.S. how ironic.
She said to me later that day, "I don't want you to go to the U.S., because over there you will meet another woman, and you are going to abandon me." and she started crying. I said, "Over there we can have a better life, that's why I want to go over there. Over here I don't see a future for me. Over there you will find a true democracy, and you can see the progress everywhere you go. At the same time I don't want to stay here in Arica. As you know La Serena is too expensive, and it is such a closed society, to the point that I see more chances to succeed there in the U.S. than in my own home town." She said, "I know you. I know that you are just looking for excuses to live me." I said, "I guess you truly don't know me at all. In the three months I was there in the U.S. I received only four letters from you. For me that was terrible, and on top of all not even long letters, the few letters you wrote on top of all that, were very short." We argued for a while, and we went to sleep that night agreeing that we disagreed. We completely disagreed. She didn't understand my point of view, and she was upset because she thought that I was not staying in Chile, only because I wanted to break up with her. She said she loved me, but her actions, and her words told me otherwise. This was exactly one of those moments where I really didn't understand her at all. What a dark day that was.
In one of those days in Mike's house we decided to throw a barbecue to smooth things out. Both of us, Mike and I, had nothing but trouble on our relationships since we got back from the U.S. Sigrid was complaining to Mike that she agreed to go over there thinking that he was going to have a decent job, not just a painter's job, and I, I was supposed to be already speaking English and getting a better job.
On that barbecue that we had together to smooth things out, I remember something happening in my heart that day. I remember missing to be around my boy Sebastian. He has become a link to a happier me in the past. He has become a continuous reminder of my daddy Oscar, and I realized that we had bonded. In my heart he was my Champ, my son, I was proud of him, and I was his daddy.
Sebastian was always happy, and he loved playing heroes. He had a lot of imagination and he loved to get in character. Many times while he being in character you had to call him by the name of the hero or you'll be in trouble. That day he was being Batman, and he was running around in a mask with a cape of Batman. He was running around as happy as a child could be. I knew that day in his world, he had everything he needed to be happy. There it was his mother, and his dad. What else a child could wish. While I was cooking the meat in the barbecue, Mike had made that day a custom for him out of some gray thick plastic he had laying around. I remember that day my heart telling me that everything was going to be okay. That day I felt my daddy Oscar in my heart, and one more time, I wish I could talk to him. I would've loved to ask for his advice, his opinion, and I would've loved to know what he thought about all that.
One of the things I have missed the most in my life is my daddy Oscar, and moments like that one, made me realize how much I really have been missing my daddy Oscar all of my life. Before that I never processed in my mind and in my heart the lost of my daddy Oscar. Actually the first time I was able to process the lost of my daddy Oscar, was the time when I went through the lost of Mr. Alejandro, because when he passed away, the pain I felt brought me back to the day of the funeral of my daddy Oscar, and then for the first time in my life I was able to know what I felt in my heart back then. To lost Mr. Alejandro was hard, but the lost of my dad was even bigger than that, and they stack on top of each other. The lost of Mr. Alejandro brought me back to my childhood, and it made me remembered the pain I felt when I learn that my daddy Oscar passed away. At that moment after all those years, I was finally able to process in my mind, what I went through when I was just six and a half years old. In my heart that day understood that I wanted to be by Sebastian's side the rest of my life.
Life goes on, and there are things you never really get over them, but you must keep going. I knew if my daddy Oscar was still around, he would've told me something around these lines, "Let go, and move on." Easier said than done though.
Now I was twenty-five-years old, and all of that was behind me. Now I had the chance of not disappearing out of Sebastian's life, and I wanted to be by his side for the rest of his life. That day ended up well, and we had a good time, just like we used to have before we left. That day it all made sense to me, but still none the less Veronica and I, were walking on thin ice. We both were facing crossroads on our lives.
The handful of memories I had of my daddy Oscar have shaped my life and my beliefs up to that moment, in a way I did grow up under the shadows of a ghost. All my life I have been missing my daddy Oscar and Sebastian was a continuous reminder of that love.
That moment in my life was one of those moments where there is a crossroad, a crossroad where you know that the sole result of one decision might change the rest of your whole life.
If I would've been able to foreseen the future, I would've broken up with Veronica right there. That's what I should've have done, but I'm only human.
That night we talked about our future with Veronica a lot. We talked a lot, but we couldn't find any common ground, and at the end I said, "Look, before we continue arguing about what it could be, I have to succeed over there first. For the moment I know I am going back to the U.S., and that is really good for me. I really want to learn another language, and being there is the best place for me to be at the moment. That it is my goal in the short term, and in the long term I really don't have a clue, because I may go over there, and be back in a couple months, because I can't find a job or I could get deported. I don't know what's going to happen. I really don't know, but I'm willing to give it a try. I am just asking you if you really want to come with me to the U.S. in the case that something good happen to me over there. I want you to tell me if you would follow me, otherwise our relationship makes no sense at all. She didn't give me any definitive answer, and those were very vague terms for a relationship. My intentions back then were clear, I wanted to live my life in a place worth to give my life for, I wanted to live in a true democracy.
In Chile I felt like my Dad Luis has been cheated out of a decent retirement, and I had the feeling that it was going to be my story as well.
In my mind relationships from far away do not work, but for the moment all I wanted to do was to give my best, trying to find a better future for the three of us.
In those very vague terms with Veronica, I came back to the U.S. I came back to the U.S. as a young man full of dreams, well educated and with a clean record. In college I received a scholarship that was given to me by Pint-of-shit and read, "For his excellent grades, and his impeccable conduct." Not a rapist or a criminal I must add.
I felt at that time in my life, like one slave running for freedom. I thought that couldn't be a better place in the world to escape slavery than here in the U.S. That's what I thought back then, and I didn't want to live in a place where I have to go to work, and my job was to scam people. That's what I realized after all this time working for the financial system in my country. I realized that the economic system in my country was nothing but a scam. Borrowing money is what I did, and throughout History borrowing money is closely related to slavery. With that little bit of financial knowledge that I had back then, I was able to see how much interest they charge to the people, and for me that was straight out criminal. It didn't matter the numbers, what was important was the fact that people was asking for money, and they did it, because they were desperate just to cover their basics needs (Food, Roof, Health and Education.) Paying for education in Chile all of the sudden became almost impossible to afford, and the banks were capitalizing on it. Many in my country worked themselves to death, just to educate their kids, and then when the kids finally finished their studies and received the diploma, there were no jobs for them. The only thing that they really had after all that sacrifice was a big debt, and they were force to go and take any job that they could find. Borrowing money is one of the oldest ways to turn people into slaves. Many times in History, borrowing money at high interest rates have been straight out illegal, and no true democratic system should allow that to happen.
Yes! That was my choice, "I prefer to be an illiterate on in foreign democratic country, than work with suit and tie on my own Oligarchic country."
A few days before my 26th birthday, I was back in the U.S. and this time it was different. This time I knew what I wanted was to stay and live permanently here in the U.S., at least I was going to give it a try.
With a lot of enthusiasm I started working really hard in this gigantic new country, and when I came back I had already a job. It was nice to have a job, and they had no problem giving me my old job back.
Now here in the U.S., I had to pay all my bills in dollars, and they were so expensive for me. I was always short on money, but some way, and somehow I survived. It was a very stressful situation to know that if I run out of money I had no place to stay, and I will have to go back to my country. It was stressful to know that if I didn't have money to pay for my own expenses, even how I was going to get money to buy me a ticket to go back to my country. In a way, "I was all in." I didn't know what would've happen to me if I ran out of money, and I prayed to God not to have to find out what would've happen every single day. In a way I have never been so aware of God as well. Here in the U.S. I truly prayed with all my heart daily.
After we came back to the U.S. from Chile Mike and I took different roads. Mike and Sigrid and soon the new baby had to have their own life, but I cannot thank him enough for all what he did for me at that time in my life. After we came back, Mike, Sigrid and three dogs rented a little house and Mike like you can see, he had his hands full.
Mrs. Dora the lady who was renting me a room on her house, she and I had became friends, and she surprised me buying a little birthday cake, and sang happy birthday the day of my twenty-six birthday. My very first birthday here in the U.S. for me it was a lonely birthday, none of my family was there, but I was happy. I was thinking in my head, this is the greatest birthday ever! All my life in my country I've been dreaming and drooling for a car, and here in the U.S. I got my first car ever in just a few Months. A seven years old, 1985 Yugo that for me was the coolest car ever. I loved it! I was so happy to have a car of my own. It was a dream come through, and I said mine because when we came back Mike sold me his half, and now I had the title, and the car was all mine.
The days flew by really fast. I was working as hard as I could, and I had no life, but this lady did take me on Sundays to her church, and it was nice to have somebody to talk to. She had a daughter named Dora, and everybody called her Dorita. She was very nice and she corrected me, and taught me so many things about the English language. They really made me feel at home.
One of those days Mrs. Dora took me to a card dealer, because she wanted to buy a car for Dorita, and she showed me a few cars that she could afford, but none of them was working. They all had some serious problems, and she asked me, "Do you think that you can fix one of these cars?" I said "Maybe." She has heard my stories about fixing cars, and that I was a really good mechanic, but I wasn't a real mechanic. I have never had been to school to learn mechanics, but anyways Mrs. Dora took me over there, because she had faith in me. These cars they were all in a row, and I checked them one by one. I looked at five cars and all of them had very bad mechanical problems except for one-a Chevy Corsica V6 3.0-for what I could see, my diagnostic was that this car had a curved head engine, and all the rest was just fine. Mrs. Dora asked me, "Can you fix that?" I answered "Yes I can" I said, "There is a chance that I might be wrong though. I am not a mechanic that graduated from some school or has a degree in car mechanics, but as far as I can tell, I can fix this car." She and the dealer salesman started willing and dealing and argued for a little while. At the end she bought the car.
She bought the car and said to me, "Now that your work is very slow maybe we can give a hand to each other. You could help me fixing the car, and I will take that as a payment for rent. What do you say?" I really liked the proposal and we agreed. Very next day early in the morning I started working in the car.
I still remember working on that car like it was yesterday. I was right about the car, the car had a blown gasket. While working in the car Mrs. Dora cooked breakfast, and her daughter Dorita was there that morning, so we had breakfast together. Dorita she spoke Spanish and English very well. I was so impressed by that. She taught me English as much as she could, when she had the chance. I was always asking questions about the language anyhow. She had the patience to explain to me how to say things in English, and gave me very good examples. One of the hardest things for me to understand was the fact that straight translations not always made sense. I remember her trying to explain me that some letters, even if they were the same, they had different sounds depending where they were. Many of those sounds I have never heard before. She really helped me with that. I was baffled trying to learn this new language that it was by far way more difficult than I ever expected. I asked her that morning while having breakfast, "Aren't you happy that shortly you will have your own car, and all for yourself?" She said, "Well I wish it was a newer one, like all my friends have." I was blown away by her answer. For me was so hard to believe that someone having so much, compared to what people have in my country was still not happy, and I could tell that the car was not good enough for her. In my mind I said, "Preposterous!"
For me it was so hard to believe how poor I was. For the first time she made me realize that I came from a very poor country, a third world country. I know the few Chileans that are at the top, or around the top, "The elite" for them things were completely different. They lived in a luxury world, but not me. I was a third world country poor person, and to realize that was a very humbling experience, shocking nonetheless, but very educational. There I learned that not everybody see the world with the same eyes. I learned that for other people reality was a very different thing. My question at that time in my life was, "Can I be part of this nation? Is this what I want?" The U.S. was no bed of roses, but to learn a different culture, and have the opportunity to study this culture, pretty much one house at a time, for me it was a priceless. A perk that came with the job, because painting all around town, makes you know the truth, the real truth of many households.
It was hard to believe how poor I was, but that was my reality, and here in the U.S. my chances of succeed on coming out of that situation were far greater than back in my country, so I thought.
A few days after that breakfast, I got the parts I needed to fix the car, and I started putting the engine back together. I had to rent a few tools, like a torque wrench, but after a couple of days of working under the scorching sun, I started the engine, and the engine fire up the first time. The car started working like a clock. I was so happy! The car was in perfect conditions, and it was a great nice car. I even wished I had a car as nice and fast as that one.
The car was running so good that Mrs. Dora said, "Let's go to Disneyland." And so we did. We went for the weekend to Orlando, and we had a wonderful time. My first time in Disneyland, "What a dream come through." We had such a good time on that little trip. I drove all the way from Miami to Orlando. Back then I loved to drive. I was young, and drive over the highways here in America was like playing in a full size roller coaster for me. I wish we could've stayed longer because there is so much to see in Disney, that you wish you had more time to see it all.
A few weeks after we came back from that trip, I suffered my first big disappointment with my little Yugo. The car got its first mechanical problem. I just got out of a highway and the engine stall on me, the engine completely stopped working, and no matter what I did, I couldn't get it to start again. My Yugo died on me, and I could not fix it. You needed especial tools to do so, and I didn't have them, and the engine was so different and so weird, that I tried to fix it, but I couldn't.
This moment in my life was one of the lowest points since I made it back to the U.S. Work was slow, and I had to take my car to the mechanic. Everybody knows that when you have to take your car to the mechanic here in the U.S. you are in trouble. Had no choice, but to take it to the mechanic's shop. They told me not to worry, they will have it done in no time, and it was going to be around three to five hundred dollars max. Regardless of my objection of having to pay money that I didn't have, I said to the mechanic to go ahead and fix it. I had no other choice.
In the mid time Mrs. Dora helped me out letting me use her car so I can keep working. That was a big deal for me at the time. Without her help I don't know what would've happened to me, maybe at that very moment I would've have to start packing my stuff to go back to my country. I was glad that she was able to give me a hand, and I was very thankful of her friendship, and help.
My car has been at the mechanic shop for almost a week, and finally they called me to let me know that the car was ready to be picked up. I went over there, and they explained to me that they had to bring a Yugo specialist, and now the bill instead of being three to five hundred max, now the bill was eight hundred and seventy dollars plus tax. I said, "I don't have that kind of money. You said in the worst case was going to be five hundred dollars. I don't have that much money." They said to me, "You authorized the repairs." Of course I received a call from them, but the person who called me didn't speak any Spanish, and it turned out to be a big confusion. At the end to make the story short, I had to give them the title of the car. There was no way I could afford that much money. I was devastated. I thought that was the end, no car, no work, no work, no money, and I couldn't use Mrs. Dora's car forever.
Back at home at dinner time that night, I told the story about what happened to my car to Mrs. Dora and she said, "Don't worry you can go to any car dealer and get a car. It doesn't matter if you have papers or not. Any dealer will be happy to finance you a car. You gotta go to those with the sign, "Buy here. Pay here." I said. "I don't have any money for a down payment." She said, "Don't worry I'll borrow you the money." I couldn't believe it, I never thought somebody that knows me so little would've help me that much. I said thanks to her, and I was back in heaven. I thought for a moment that was the end of me here in the U.S., but now thanks to her I had another chance. I grabbed the five hundred dollars from Mrs. Dora and I went car shopping the very next day.
Trust me there is a drawback when you know a bit of finances, because what you can afford is a cruel mathematical reality. I estimated what was the maximum amount of money I could spend, and the results were about five thousand dollars max. With that idea in mind I went to the dealers looking for a good reliable car. I started looking everywhere. I went from dealer to dealer looking and looking. There were so many dealers that I was overwhelmed by the amount of options I had. Looking and looking I found the car of my dreams, and I was not looking for it, but there it was. That car was a Pontiac Fiero. I really loved that car. Back in my town there it was only two persons that had that car. For me that car was a dream car. I looked at it, and it was clean, nice, and working just fine. It was a beautiful car, and for only six thousand dollars. Still a bit out of my league but close enough. I wanted to test the car, and they let me drove the car all by myself. I was so surprised about that. I was surprise but I didn't ask twice.
What an experience! I got in the highway, and I had the pleasure of driving the car of my dreams at sixty five miles an hour. That speed was really fast for me. Coming from such a small town where the speed limit is fifty miles an hour in the highway. I was blown away by it. It was amazing to be able to go that fast and a highway. At the end of the ride I started dealing and willing with the salesman; I got a little discount, and I bought the car. Another happy moment in the U.S. for me, and on top of all that, I got to drive the car home that same day. Awesome! I was amazed by the fact that they give me credit even knowing that I was a complete illegal. Life was back on track one more time for me, and everything went just fine for a few months.
One of those days though when nothing new was happening, I met Dorita's older friend Ashley Rainwater. Dorita introduced her to me, and I have never seen a girl that beautiful, and that close ever. What a beautiful woman. She looked just like a model for me. When Dorita introduce her to me, I kissed her on the cheek-that is a tradition in my country-and she was okay with it. Actually I think she liked it. I was blown away that day. How I wish I could speak better English then, because I would've love to go out with her, but I was in a relationship with Veronica, and that was not an option. Any how I never thought possible that she could've have been interested in me anyways. After a couple of weeks she left, and I didn't make much out of it anyways.
About a Month later Ashley came to visit Dorita for a second time. This time, she was friendlier with me, and she was talking to me about some Salsa classes she has been taking. Out of the blues we ended up dancing Salsa in the kitchen by the hallway, and nobody was around that day. I will never forget that moment. We danced salsa in that little hallway, and when the song ended, I was holding her very close, and we looked in the eye, and we almost kissed, but I couldn't do it. I just turn my face gave her a hug, and pretty much I ran away to my room. I thought, "What in the hell just happened. Why didn't you kiss the most beautiful girl you have ever seen? I asked myself. What in the hell!" I said to myself, "If I love Veronica and Sebastian, and you do love them truly. You cannot do that." Call me a chicken but I didn't. I said, "She deserves better anyways. I'm just a spic here in the U.S., and I have a girlfriend with a child that I love dearly. Besides I'm 26 and she's not even 19 yet."
That moment for me is unforgettable. Many times I have wondered in my mind what would've been of my life, if we would've kissed that day. I guess I will never find out, it was just another could've, would've moment of my life, and that's it. Anyhow I still remember that day when I met Ashley Rainwater, and we dance Salsa in that little hallway. I know I will never forget that moment, that moment was another crossroad in my life.
Life kept going as usual, and I was happy to make it one day at the time. I was working hard, and on top of all I was going to school at night. For me to go school at night was a big sacrifice. After work I was exhausted. My work was mainly outside out in the sun, so it was really tough on me. At that time in my life has been already over ten months since I came back to the U.S. and all I had in my mind was, "how I could get ahead, so I can buy Veronica's Airplane Tickets."
One of those nights in the classroom my teacher asked me in the middle of class if I got a business card. She knew I was working as a painter and she asked me if I could give her an estimate to paint the outside of her house. "Lucky me" I said, and over the weekend I went to her house; met her husband, and I gave her an estimate. She liked it and I did get the job that very same day. I was so happy that day. For the first time I was contemplating the real possibility of Veronica and Sebastian finally coming over the U.S.
I did get the job done in two weekends, and the day after I finished painting my teacher's home, I received two thousand dollars cash. That was more than what I needed to send the money for an airplane ticket to Veronica. I was so happy that day. Another great time here in the U.S. the place where things do happen.
When I took the job, I didn't have a clue how I was going to do it, but I said, "God will provide and somehow someway, I am going to get that job done." My first problem was how to rent a high pressure washing machine. I didn't have a credit card. Good thing at least I already had a Florida Drivers license. Looking and looking for a place that would rent me a pressure washer. I found this little paint shop where the owner said after learning that I didn't have a credit card or enough money for a cash deposit, he said, "I tell you what. Leave me the cash you have in hand and your car, and I'll rent you the machine. I can give you a ride where you are going to use the machine, and anyways the machine does not fit in the trunk of your car. Deal?" Deal! I said right away. I was killing two births with one stone. Even if I got to rent the pressure washer, I didn't have a truck to take it with me. The owner said as I was living, "Do you mind if I take your car for a little spin." I said, "No I don't mind. Go ahead; just treat it with care please." I was so glad that somebody without even know me took the risk of borrowing me a very expensive tool. After I got done pressure washing the house, I had plans to go and celebrate my good luck. After the house was washed all the rest of the work I had to do, was nothing but painting, so I had all the tools to finish the job. Something so simple, but if you don't have the tools, you can't do it. I wanted to celebrate, but I had no friends to hang out with. I was working and working and nothing but working at the time. Work is all I've been able to do, and that was the only thing I was able to afford to do anyways. Work and study English hard, was all I did at the time. Anyhow my social life was ended since I got here, and I was getting used to it. I was going to school and working for my future, so no complains there.
Like I said that day, I felt like celebrating. After I finish washing the house and I received the down payment. I picked up my car, and I went home; took a shower very quick, and on I went for a joy ride. After I took my shower and got in the car, I realized that the guy has left in the ashtray of the car a joint. A joint like I have never seen before. It looked like a caveman's club. I couldn't believe it. I thought, "Awesome! Woo who! It has been probably only no more than three times, at the most four times that I had smoke a puff of pot up that moment in my life, and I don't want to exaggerate, but I'm positive that it has been no more than five time that I had smoked pot in my life up that moment. One playing Pinball and the other times with one of my friends nicknamed the Smurf-he was short. Well the thing was no more than four and "One Puff" at a time. Those few times they have been very good experiences.
And just like in the song Hotel California "The warm smell of colitas-a pot cigarette butt." I took a puff and I got in the highway for a joy ride. I light up that joint and took one puff. I was driving in the highway along the ocean in a warm beautiful day, a typical day of South Florida, and it was amazing. I was driving, and the radio started playing a song that for the first time I was starting to understand what the lyrics said. The song was Lights by Journey. For the first time I understood the phrase, "When the lights go down in the city. And the sun shines on the bay." While listening to the song I started thinking about the most beautiful girl I have ever met, and I foolishly refused to find out if she would've kiss me back. The moment came to my mind, the moment when I was face to face with her in my arms, and looking at each other's eyes.
Like the other song says, "In a dark desert highway, cool wind on my hair, (It was getting dark at that moment. The sunset was already gone) the warm smell of "Colitas" rising up through the air. After that magical drive I saw a shimmering light. The sign said, "Dancing Dirls" My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim, I had to stop and see these girls for sure. When I got inside that place, I sat at the edge of the dancing platform, and while I was drinking a Coors light-my favorite American beer at the time-a beautiful woman dressed in a little sexy white cowboy attire, started dancing right in front of a gentleman that was seated right by my side. Close enough for me. What a sweet moment.
I was working really hard but little moments like that one, kept me going, and to know that I was making progress learning English really made me feel good.
Actually at the time in my life I was being exploited, I was working 60 hours to 80 hours a week and getting paid only for 45 to 55 hours a week max, and no overtime. I had no choice either, "If you don't like it, you can always go back to where you came from." I said, "Work is work." At the time I didn't care. Every day that I was able to make it, was a day more of learning English, and a day more of contributing in a positive way to this new country that was lending me a hand. I was in the prime of my health so I didn't care how hard I was working. I learned at the time that here in America, they tried to get as much as possible out of you, and they had no shame on doing so. I was in disbelieve that here in the U.S. they allowed the exploitation of people like that by the thousands, and as far as I could see, with my own eyes, they had a whole system going based on that. The exploitation was at a massive scale, as massive as the highways.
The time went by very quick, so quick, that I couldn't believe when finally Veronica and Sebastian were on their way to the U.S.
Mike has been renting a house with two rooms for a while, and Veronica was Sigrid's best friend, so she had a place where stay when she got here. She was coming over here to take a look, and see with her own eyes if she liked things here. That was great because I had no money at all to pay for a hotel room, or any room for that matter. At that time I was renting a little room that had not even a private bathroom. It was impossible for me to receive them where I was staying at the time. I did thanks Mike and Sigrid one more time for their help, and is all I could do anyhow. All my hard work went to the airplane tickets, and like always money was really tight, I don't know what I would've done if my friends Mike and Sigrid were not there to give us a hand.
It was a moment of a new beginning for me, a moment of freedom and independence. All I ever wanted from society was a place where my work the only thing I ever had, was enough to make a living enough to have and raise a family in an honest way.
I was living renting a room still but not at Mrs. Dora's house, I was working so hard that I needed a place with a better mattress. At Mrs. Dora's place I have been sleeping for a while in this two feet wide old camping bed and it was killing my back. I needed a better place to stay, so I moved from Mrs. Dora's house to an apartment where I rented a room from a young couple. Another young struggling couple trying to live the dream here in America.
Hard work and the extreme hit were taken a toll on me. For the first time in my life I started to understand what my friend Abelardo was trying to tell me all along. He used to tell me all the time, "No matter how hard you work, you are not going to be rich." And his famous quote was, "Don't you be a fool." But he said it in Spanish, "No seas to guevon" (Don't you be a dumb ass) He used to say, "You need the money, but you need your body even more. Don't work so hard. Is not worth it." He was a coworker of mine at A+painting with Chris Newton. We painted countless houses together, and he taught me many, many painting tips, and all of them were absolutely true, and soon enough I found out what he meant. Working more than extra hard for a long period of time, and breathing all those fumes, working under the sun, under the scorching heat it was really taken a toll on me. By that time I was being exploited but I didn't care. The only thing I cared was to get the money to afford how to receive Veronica and Sebastian here in the U.S. I wanted to make the best out of that experience. That adventure we were about to live together.
I was working hard, and waiting for them to get to the U.S. when I experienced something I have never experienced before. For the first time in my life I started to dream at night what I was supposed to do the next day at work. I woke up in the middle of the night having these nightmares. I wanted to rest but I couldn't. I could not rest enough for my body to recover. I was working so many hours a week that I started having nightmares, and I started experiencing symptoms of being burnt out. In my quest to make enough money to survive, I heard that other companies paid more, but you have to work harder, and I didn't care. At the time all I cared was about the money. I was money hungry. I left Chris Newton Company because I was barely making it with six bucks an hour. After about six months working for him I asked Chris if I could have a raise, and he tried to talk to me and explained me why he couldn't give me the raise, but I didn't speak English well enough to understand all what he was saying. I did understand a few things though. One of them really got stuck in my mind, "…if you want to earn more money learn how to speak English." He got frustrated and at the same time he turned around saying, "English man, English!" I couldn't express complex ideas in this new language at all. I thought when I came to the U.S. that in six-months I should be able to speak English with no problem. Man was I wrong or what? This language was far more complicated than I ever expected, and I realized as well how cocky I was thinking that I was going to be able to speak English that fast. Being here in the U.S. for sure has been a very humbling experience.
To improve my situation I needed to find a better paying job so I move to a different company, because I found a job that I paid me seven dollars an hour. By that time for me to find a job was not a difficult task, all considered I was able to speak English well enough that I could find a job easy. I realized that there were more jobs that I could think of. Once you get here might be difficult at the beginning, but soon you learn that there is plenty of jobs available, but none of them give you a life. A lot of people cannot work in construction, they don't have a trade, and they do get paid even worse. They get paid about four dollars an hour, and in some cases only $3.50 an hour. I was lucky that I was able to make more than that, but raising a family here in the U.S. with that money is near to impossible. Now I can see that, but at that time in my life it is hard to believe how much faith I had or in other words how naïve I was.
By then when I left Chris painting company, I didn't know how much Chris have taught me about painting, but soon all those skills were going to be put to the test. In this new company they tested my skills. The first day of work they test me on cutting with the brush, and I had no problems. Second day they test me painting walls with the roller, I did very well. Third day they let me use the sprayer, and I did very good as well. They hire me in the spot and they told me that I could be a supervisor. They told me if I did well having a crew of my own I could make some extra money. They said that they could give me another fifty cents extra an hour. This job had the potential to get up to nine dollars an hour, and I never had earned so much money in my life. Even though that was the case, here in the U.S. that money was not much at all. I had to pay everything in dollars as well.
By the end of that week I was driving a paint truck 40 feet long, and I had five people under my supervision. With their help, we were painting about a house a day. It might sound like a big stretch, but no, what happened is that there it was these massive projects, about three hundreds houses each, and you follow the finish carpenters, you go house by house, and see what needs to be done, in each one of them. At the end you are painting about a house a day, some small houses, some huge houses, but at the end about a house a day.
At that moment I realized how well Chris have taught me how to paint, because I would get into a house that was under construction, and I knew exactly when and what that house needed to have done. In my obsession to succeed and to provide for my family, I worked even on Sundays.
That was the point where I started having these bad dreams about working on my next day assignments. I was working so hard, I was so tired that I lost track of when I was asleep and when I was awake. The exploitation and the work conditions were deplorable. I remember one time I run out of paint thinner, and the big boss happened to be there, and he said to me, "Use Gasoline, it will work just fine, just get that house done." And I did, even with a full-proof fumes-mask I got badly intoxicated. They didn't care not even a bit. A few months after I understood why he didn't care. A few Months later I saw him driving a brand new sport Camaro.
When I saw him I remembered one more time the words of my friend Abelardo, "Don't you be a fool. You do need the money but more, you need your body even more, and especially your peace of mind."
As a teenager playing water-polo and swimming I was no stranger to push my body to its limits, but I thank God I followed my friend advice, and I stopped working so hard, and especially on Sundays. After that for some reason I was never the same again. I had to accept that I had my limitations, and I was humans after all. Nonetheless I was disappointed with myself, because I felt like I was failing to provide for my family. I felt like I was not doing enough, certainly I was not making enough money.
I remember talking about it at Mike's home at dinner time. One of those days I was invited over for dinner, and I remember that night very well for two things: One it was one of the first dinners we had together since Veronica and Sebastian got here, and second we had for dinner Brussels sprouts, and don't get me wrong I love Brussels sprouts, but not everybody does, especially Mike. We were seated in a humble little roundtable that was nicely decorated, and we were talking about how fast I became a supervisor at that company. I remember very well, closing that subject on our conversation with the remark, "Easy come, easy go."
One more time we were having a great time together. Sigrid not long ago she had the newest addition to their family-a beautiful girl named Erica-and she was seated on her high chair spilling food all over. Veronica and Sebastian were by my side, and we had another great time together.
After three weeks working for this company I received my first check, and I was not happy at all, my fears were confirmed. I heard about it but I refuse to believe it. Sometimes we hear what we want to hear. We were getting cheated on the hours we worked. They were stilling money from us, and I was working so hard for them, Like I have never worked for nobody, and they cheated us. I remember receiving complaints from my crew, and I even complained to the big boss, but you know what they say, "If you don't like it Juanito, you can go back to your country." Let me explain: We started working at 7 AM loading these huge trucks with hundreds of gallons of paint's. Then drive to the construction site, prepare and organize everything for painting, but you didn't make a penny until we started moving the brush or the roller. I couldn't believe it, we were being cheated and exploited here in the U.S. As soon as I realized that, I started looking for another job, but after a complaint to the owner he replied quote, "if you don't like it you can leave any time, but that is how we roll over here." What sucked the most was the humiliation of having to stay. If I was by myself probably I would've left at that very moment, but having a family behind you changes everything. I had to swallow my pride and keep working.
I was working so hard that Veronica and I had no time to be together. She started complaining about staying at home all day long. We were barely making it, barely surviving, and on top of all, when I got home the only thing I wanted was to rest, and they the only thing they wanted to do was to go out and see all this new stuff. I wish then I could do that but many times I didn't have the means to afford not even the gas to go for a joy ride. We were behind in on everything; we didn't have anything, and we needed everything.
Veronica and Sebastian were right I was working too much but I wanted to rent a place for the three of us, and in order to do that I needed lots of money, and I didn't have the money. Even working as hard as I did it was not enough. At that moment Veronica has been here only for a couple of months, and she was still staying with Sigrid at Mike's house. Every time I got home they wanted to go out, and I wanted to stay home and rest. I was exhausted, burnt out and I remember making a big effort just to go out and play for a bit with my little Champ. He like always made me laugh, and reminded me what life was all about.
Mike at that moment offered me help one more time he said to me, "… if you want to, you can move into my house, at least that way you guys can be together, and maybe then, you could find a better job." I did listen to Mike and we started living on Mike's house. We had a full house for sure. It was very nice of them, very nice indeed. I really appreciate what Mike did for us at the time, and with his help one more time, I was able to relax a bit, and I was able to try to find a better job.
Finally after a few weeks of looking I found another job. Paid me the same seven dollars an hour, but at least I had the weekends off, and they did start paying me as soon as I started doing anything, actually the only thing I had to do to start the clock was to show up on time, unbelievable but true. That was nice for a change.
The problem remained the same though, "How to afford a place for the three of us, so we could have a normal life." The problem was that in order to rent a place in Miami, we needed to have up front the first month of rent, one month as a deposit, and the last month of rent, plus two deposits, one for the gas and the other for the electricity. For me to save that money would've taken me about a year to do so, unless a miracle happened.
Three of us in each room, was taken a toll on all of us, but Mike and Sigrid didn't say a word. they knew I was doing everything humanly possible to fix the situation.
Mike one of those days came home with a bigger smile on his face than usual, and he said to me, "Daniel I have the solution to your problems my friend." I said, "Tell man what's up" He said, "…my landlord talked to me about exchanging some work for rent. She said in a way to give me a hand I could helper to fix a house she wants to put for rent, and like you know by now, I don't know anything about construction, there is where you come in. You know a bit of everything so maybe you could rent a house from her, and exchange work for rent. So if you are interested we could go and talk to the landlord, and I will translate for you. What do you say Daniel?" I said, "That's great news awesome!" I asked Mike "What kind of work does this house need to have done?" Mike said, "I'm not sure but we will talk to the landlord together and we'll go from there." I was excited.
Back then my faith was still strong. I thought someway somehow God will provide. I had the conviction that I was doing something good, and because of that, God will someway somehow help me to find the way to succeed.
Soon we worked out an agreement with the landlord, and I started working every day after work in this old beat up house. The house was pretty much a trash can. I was tired after work, but I wanted so bad to have a little place for the three of us, that I couldn't help to start working as hard as I could one more time. My body never really recovered after being burnt out, but I kept going. Here and there the three of us had little good times too, but they were very limited. We liked to go play mini-golf at this nice family entertainment center, we went to ride carts, and I was hanging in there. I could see Sebastian happiness in his face, and that made it all worth it. By then Sebastian started going to school and everything was just fine for a little while.
A little happy humble moment in my life, a little bit of luck, and I had hopes once again. Little by little I fixed everything broken on that house. I started with the bathroom. Mike was so surprised to see me fixing plumbing issues. I had to build a new bath pretty much from scratch. I installed a new vanity sink, new toilet, and new everything. I was surprised to somehow I was putting in practice all the carpentry lessons that my father Luis taught me. I figured out how to fix the bath then I moved to the kitchen. I installed new cabinets, new countertop and sink, and after I installed the tile floor, you could say that old beat up house was a home one more time. The only problem was, that the house had no AC, and the landlord said that she didn't have enough money to put one right away, but she will. At that time I was so desperate for some peace in my life that I didn't care. We had a livable place, and we moved there regardless. The house was not even a block away from Mike's place so we really liked the fact that we were going to be neighbors now. That was great! I was at the edge of exhaustion, but very happy. Working so hard got me in a bit of trouble after being late for work a couple times. That's the story of my life. It was so hard for me to wake up in the morning, like always but, I did what I could. Actually a Cuban coffee made marbles in the morning for me. The shot of espresso and hot Cuban bread and butter were at that time what got me going in the mornings.
Life went okay for a bit. Sebastian was going to school; Veronica at home, and I was working hard as always. We had no TV, no dining table, no furniture and no AC, and that was hard for all of us, especially for Veronica. She had a University degree, and she didn't cope very well with the fact that here in the U.S. she was nothing but an illiterate. I could see her motivation and hopes going down the drain. On top of all that she was pretty much recovering still from a very serious body surgery that she had done back in Chile. A few months before she came over, while I was here in the U.S. she had to go under surgery, and she almost lost her life. She had an abscess inside of her, and almost killed her. In a way she was still recovering from that, and for some reason after the initial glow of being here, she was not the same person. At least not the one I once met. Sebastian overall was happy as happy as a kid should be. He was learning English, and faster than any of us. He really liked to go to school here in the U.S. He was thrilled with the idea that he was in the same place where the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lived. At the time the TMNT were his heroes. My life was spinning around them, and I was completely dedicated to the success of our new family.
At work one of those days, the owner of the company talked to me, and I thought he was going to give me a raise but he said, "For your good work I'm going to send you to a very fancy, and nice project. There are not many houses on that project, but the work needs to be excellent, so you need to take your time, and do a good job. I know you are not going to disappoint me." Having that being a good time I asked him for a raise, but he said to me that I needed to speak a better English first. Then we'll talk about it. He gave me the address and left. Of course, with my Tarzan kind of English I couldn't argue, by the time I was able to put an idea together, and translated into English, he was already out the door.
Next day I went to the address he gave me, and for my surprise I ended up in a painting crew that had two Chileans in it. The supervisor was from Chile, and one of the painters that I worked with was from my country too. For a moment I felt right at home. Almost as if I was working back in my country. I liked the fact that I was around some people from my country, but they always are so obnoxious, even for me. Let me give you an example: After a few weeks, at work on my break, the Chilean supervisor called me aside and told me, "You need to educate your butt. I've been noticing you're taking a long time when you use the "John" If you need to use the restroom use your break. Maybe if it is an emergency it would be okay, but if you go and use the "John" every day like you do, you are taking an extra break, and that is stealing from the company." I was in disbelieved and I knew that nothing I could say could help the situation. I was out of words anyways. For the first time since I got here to the U.S., somebody at work said something to me about going to use the restroom or taking too long to use the bathroom. Before that everybody that I work with, they told me, "Hey, if you gotta go, you gotta go! Hurry up though." After that conversation I tried not to upset him again. Anyways I thought he was out of place, and when I started working with them I knew something like that it was going to happen sooner or later. Chilean people let me tell you.
This new project was a small project, but the houses were big and very fancy. This job had a different approach to building. The focus of this job was quality and customer satisfaction, not just production. I felt almost like working for Chris Newton again, almost. In this project my knowledge and painting skill's really shined. I was told many times how well and smooth the houses started to come out since I got there.
This small change was very good for me, because in a time when I really needed to take it easy, I found a more relaxed and nicer work atmosphere. At that time I was working every day fixing that old fixer-upper and I had no time to spend with my family. The only time I had to spend with my family was dinner and that was it. I was working so hard and I was so tired, that when I got to my bed, I used to put my head on the pillow, and I was already snoring.
The people that gave me my first job here in the U.S., I'll always remember them because we not only painted together, we had fun painting together. Around them I was always treated with respect and it was nice to do everything in a very professional manner. They taught me the meaning of the word "PRO" They used to say to me, "If you want to make more money, you need to be a Professional Painter. No matter what you do, you need to know what you're doing, and conduct yourself in a professional manner." Working with them I was impressed by the quality and the speed at which they painted. They left no drops on the floor, and every line between colors was just right, not perfect just right, just like the work of an artist. I remember at the beginning I couldn't do it, and I couldn't keep up with them, but practice makes perfect. Since then I took the word Professional very serious, and I took a lot of pride on what I was doing. In my family as well I heard many times, "Any honest work is a good job. No matter how humble it could be, a job is a job." I was happy to have a trade that I could pay my bills with, and they always told me, "Here in the U.S. if you want to succeed, you need to be a professional. After I left Chris' company I thought every other company was going to be around the same, but boy was I wrong. This new project reminded me of my first job as a painter, and the whole crew I worked with. In this small project I found guys that were in the business of building better homes, and I could tell the difference.
In this small but nice project I started working under the close supervision of the carpenter in charge of passing the houses inspections, and I didn't spend much time with the painting crew. On that project I got to work closely with the lead Carpenter, the one that everybody refer to him as "The punch out guy"-there was a punch list indicating all the details that the houses need to have done before they get sold, and there is where the name came from. He was the one making sure that all those details in the punch list were taking care of. This guy was a young energetic Cuban American named Bob Rodriguez. He was easy-going and he was always in an up-beat mode. He was always very polite, and I really liked his personality. Every time he needed something done, he asked me with very good manners, Could you? Would you please? I really liked that. The work atmosphere at my new job was very nice, and I have no complains working over there except for one: One day we had to paint a house that was out of this project, and when we got there we were pretty much the only ones on that project. At lunch time a guy from Colombia before the half hour lunch was over he started painting, and he started to paint the wall right where I was eating my lunch. I asked him nicely, almost joking with him, "Hey come on, don't be an ass. Let me finish my lunch man." He was serious and he kept painting closer and closer to where I was. We started arguing about being quiet, and respecting lunch time. The argument little by little escalated to the point where we started a fist fighting. At the time I had a pony tell and after an exchange of punches, that none of them landed on our faces, he grabbed me by my pony tail. That was the first time in my life that I had long hair, and he thought he had me. I was bending forward looking at the floor, and he had me by the pony tell with both hands, and I couldn't move. He freed one of his hands and try to punch me in the face, but I had no problem blocking him with my fore-arms, and every time he tried to punch me I responded back with a punch up to his face. Even if I could not see his face I could feel it in my knuckles. He was very surprised to see some punches coming back to him, and after a few seconds that seemed like an eternity in that stalemate position, my Chilean co-worker came to separate us. He almost got hit by both of us throwing some punches getting away from each other. My Chilean buddy was very skinny, and he got lucky he didn't get knocked out. The fight ended right there. He was bigger and taller than me, but he asked for it, and he got some of this Chilean Fury. He was so obnoxious. We were not even finished with lunch and he started painting right where I was eating and he said, "You better move or I'm going to paint you over." He thought it was funny, and I said, "You better stop or I'm going to fuck you over." That is how the fight started. He really made me mad that day, and to say the least, I wasn't in a very good mood either. From that moment on he had a lot more respect for me. I could not stand him, but it was work and you not always like the people you work with. I know one thing though, I am not a hatter and he was one, because of his size, he was used to that everybody just got out of is way, but not me. That was my only objection to my new job.
In a lighter note Bob Rodriguez job was to insure that every house as they were being built, passed all the inspections with no delay, otherwise was his responsibility.
At work everything was okay. I was starting to learn a lot about the residential Construction Codes and I was working hard, but not being exploited like I was for a little while in another jobs. I really liked to be painting at that project.
Everything was going good at work but at home was a completely different story. Veronica was not coping well adapting to this new culture and her new situation. I don't blame her either, our home was empty of furniture, had no curtains and I had no money to do anything about it either. I had faith though, faith in a better future and I still thought someway somehow things will work out at the end for us. So far we were surviving, and having them by my side, especially to have my Champ close to me, it was a blessing, and that kept me going.
One of those days talking with Bob Rodriguez he asked me if I could give him a hand taking down a basketball hoop. I immediately thought of Sebastian, and I knew he would've loved to have a basketball hoop at home, so I asked Bob, "Hey what are you going to do with that basketball hoop after you take it down?" He said, "You can keep it if you want to." I said, "Awesome! I will."
I went over his house on the weekend, and I gave him a hand taking this nice basketball hoop out. This hoop was right on the side of his driveway, and some of the teens around while he was not home would came and start playing waking up his new born daughter. After we were done we put it on the back of his little Mazda truck and dropped it in my house. That day I got to know his family, I met his wife and his few months-old little girl. He had a lovely family. We talk for a bit, had a soda, and after a few minutes break, I said good bye to his wife, and we went outside again, secured the load on his truck, and headed straight to my house. When we got there Sebastian was waiting for us. He was so excited. He knew about the basketball hoop and he couldn't wait to start playing on it.
On that old house with no air conditioner, I didn't have many things, but I had just the perfect spot where to put this new basketball hoop. That day Bob met Veronica and Sebastian, and we talked for a bit before he left. That same day Chevy was begging me to put the basketball hoop up, and I was so tired but I haven't seen Sebastian that excited in a long time, so I started working on it right away. Sebastian was my little helper that day. I remember Chevy couldn't wait until the concrete around the base was dry, so he could start playing on it. All weekend long I had to explain to Sebastian that the concrete needed to dry first before we could play. Monday after work he was waiting for me to get home, and I still remember the excitement on his face. As soon as I got home we started playing on it, and it was a lot of fun. We really had a good time together that day. After we played for a bit dinner was ready and right after we went at it again, just for a few minutes though, I was very tire and I needed to rest. That was truly a happy day to remember. No matter how tired I was, I always had some time to play with my little Champ.
Everything was going okay at that moment except for the A/C and the lack of furniture, but Veronica and I, instead of growing closer together, for some reason we started growing farther apart. Veronica knew at that moment that I couldn't make it on my own. She knew I was doing everything I could, but there it was no way for me to cover our basics needs. She even tried to help me out working a little bit here, and a little bit there. She wanted to see if she could find something that she would like to do, and the only thing she could find was manual labor. She work a few times cleaning mostly, and she really didn't like it. I guess she was sad because she was looking at the reality just how it was, at that moment. She was more realistic. I was looking at thing as they could be someday, somehow. I was unable to see the truth because I was looking at the future like dreamers often do. She was down to Earth and I could tell. Her attitude was hard for me to understand at that moment on time, but I have grown older and now I know better.
Out of all the things that were bringing us apart, let me mention one and this one is closely related to the last straw that brought down, what was left of our relationship. Right after they got here from Chile I asked Veronica to register Sebastian for school, and I told her months in advance. Then later on, two weeks before the beginning of school, I asked her, "Did you register Sebastian for school?" And she said, "No I haven't. I haven't had the time, and I don't speak English." She started giving me excuses and reasons why she didn't register Sebastian for school. I just couldn't believe it. She said, "I don't speak English." What a lame excuse, especially in Hialeah. In this town is hard to find somebody that speaks English. I couldn't understand how she didn't find the way to do something so important like registering Sebastian for school. At the same time being so close to the beginning of school classes, we got lucky that we found a place for him where to go to school. Most of the good options, like better neighborhoods and newer schools, all of those places were already full. I could tell in a way that she was not happy, and there I was, nothing I could do about it either. I guess the lack of time to spend between us, was taken a toll on our relationship. The little time I had after work I took her shopping, laundry, and to run errands. I had to take her everywhere, she didn't know to drive and taking the bus was unacceptable for her. We were always looking at things from such a different perspective, always! I wanted to stay home on the weekends, and they were begging me to go out for a ride on the weekends. I did understand them, but the money was so tight that I couldn't afford even gas for a joy ride. The only thing I wanted to do at the time was to rest.
I remember I was trying to quit smoking because in a way I was trying to boost my stamina. Back then I was always so tired all the time, and I knew that the first thing I needed to do was to quit smoking. At least I knew that much, I didn't have to see the Dr. to know where I needed to start. I knew I was working hard, but not as hard as I was working when I was being exploited. I wasn't a heavy smoker either, but I knew for a fact that smoking was bad for me, and like I wanted to give all I've got, even those few cigarettes I smoked, they weighted heavily in my consciousness. I guess there is a reason why people say, "Wait 'till you get older." But I was only twenty seven years old, and maybe I was just burned out. Maybe I had no time to recover, and I didn't have money to see a Dr. either. Regardless of how I felt at the time, for me the only thing I could do was to keep working or else.
It has been over a year of extreme work, and under extreme weather conditions for me. Coming from weather that almost never exceeded 80°F was really hard on my body, especially working outside under the sun with temperature was over 110 F. All that combined was taken a toll on my body, but I had no choice. I was the only support that they had here in the United States, and the sense of responsibility was heavy on my shoulders. Sleeping at night without air conditioner was hard too, and on top of all that the windows didn't close very well either. Sometimes in the middle of the night roaches crawled on our bed through the window cracks in between the glasses. A few times I woke up yelling on top of my lungs, "A roach, a roach!" around once a week roaches, big flying roaches got in between our sheets, and run on the side of our bodies waking us up in the middle of the night. By the way that is the only thing I don't miss about Florida.
One of the first things I learned about American culture was the fact that is pointless to spend time on what could've or should've been, and it was better to let go and move on, "Be part of the solution, and no part of the problem." The problem was, I couldn't make it for the three of us, and I was doing my best to take care of that.
There is a saying, "I used to be so certain, and now I can't figure it out." There was a time when turning the page over and moved on was a breeze, was easy. I used to do that, and I was able to let go and moved on, I had the strength to do it, but now I couldn't. I started to have problems even thinking about it. It was a really frustrating situation to realize that no matter what I did was not enough to provide for my family.
In our relationship with Veronica was not only about her and I only, there was in between us my little Champ. I knew I really love him like my own son, but Veronica and became a sour couple, in a sour situation. Sometimes I had to say to myself, "Take it easy, rest, maybe you're just too tired, and you are over thinking it."
I was barely hanging on to the ladder in which I was painting, and I was barely hanging on to the idea that we could eventually succeed. While painting the fascia of these houses, a task that required a lot of patients, up high in the ladder, I use to find solace and time to think about our relationship. Up in the ladder while painting I found time to think and rethink what I was doing to do with my life. Now my favorite time to think was while being up on the ladder. That time made me feel like I was walking along the ocean, back in the ocean of my hometown. There's nothing like walking and thinking trying to connect and make sense of the struggles between your heart and your mind, and the struggles between what you would like to happen, and the cruel reality of what can you afford to happen. I was trying to get over the hurdle that a human see what he wants to see, and I was starting to realize that no matter what I did, she wasn't to be happy with me, I wasn't happy with her either. For me being around her was like a trip to heaven, then a trip to hell, and back and forth again. Was her fault or my fault? I used to wonder, but no matter what I concluded as the result of my thinking, didn't change the fact that our relationship was not working. What I could've done different, I don't know, and I just couldn't find the answer, because here in the U.S. and back in Chile, our problem was exactly the same one.
One of those days early in the morning when I got to work, I saw the owner of the company talking with my supervisor, and then the supervisor came over to talk to me and he said, "The owner was talking to me, and he said that he just lost a big project, and that there is going to be some changes over here. I am sorry but we are going to have to let you go. It's nothing personal, and it doesn't have anything to do with how you're doing your job. Over here we have a rule, the first one to go, is the last one that got hire, and that person is you. Sorry but you are the first one on line to be fired."
I picked up my stuff; I put everything away; I leaned on the side of the car by the front door, and I started to think what I was going to do next. Right before I got in my car to start looking for another job, I took a moment to breathe deep, and I remember looking up to the sky. I closed my eyes saying, "Oh my Lord. Now what?" When I opened my eyes I saw Bob, like always, driving fast and stopping quick. He stopped right in front of me, and he rolled down the windows, saying to me, "I need first thing in the morning touch up on house five, then eleven and a walk through on the 15th later on the afternoon. You got it? He started to leave, and he was almost gone when I said to him, "Wait up Bob! Wait up man. Sorry but I can't do that. I just got fired." He got really surprised, and he said to me if I was kidding him. We started talking and he couldn't understand why they were letting me go. I explained to him what just happened that morning and he asked me, "What are you going to do now?" I said, "Well before I got here I was looking for a job, and that is going to be my full-time job now." He asked me, "Do you know anything about carpentry?" I said, "Yes, I come from a family of artisans, my dad and my brothers made a living out of making artistic creations on a wooden lathe. In my house there was always a little shop, and I know how to use a welding machine too. The big difference is that over there, you do everything by hand pretty much, and using nothing but handsaw and a wood chisel. Over here I see every carpenter using a whole bunch of tools that I have never seen before." Bob said, "So you're telling me you have good carpentry skills?" He said, "I have to see this with my own eyes." And he added, "Why don't you work with us as a carpenter helper? We are looking for a carpenter helper. Do you know how to read a tape measuring? Are you interested?" I did ask him, "How much?" He said, "Well carpenter helpers usually start at nine bucks an hour, and after a couple months if you do well, you could be making 10 bucks an hour." I said, "Where I have to sign. What I have to do to get higher" he said, "To be a carpenter helped here, you got be able to speak English well enough that you can understand when they are calling the measurements to you. You need to be able to cut the pieces of wood precisely at the right angle an exact measurement. You will be the one who goes and get the wood, and give it to them, you will be the "gofer" the one that goes for these and goes for that." We laughed and I ask him, "Am I going to be working with you?" He Said, "Sometimes, but you will be working with me and another two Carpenters. They work for the Same Company I work for, and you have seen them before. Well I have to go to work now, but come over tomorrow morning at the same time as always, and we will go from there." Take easy he said, and see you tomorrow.
He left as quickly as he came. I think in his mind he was a Daytona kind of guy. He always drove that little Mazda Truck like if it was a racing car.
And just like that, I got another chance for a job. I was so happy, but at the same time worried about what Bob said, "You need to speak English well enough to understand when they call the measurements for you to cut." I didn't know if I could do that yet. I didn't know if I could understand that much English. Anyways I was not going to let pass the opportunity without giving it a try. At the same time for the first time in the U.S. I was offered that much more money. As a painter I was doing seven fifty and hour, and I have never ever made that much money, that was a record for me. In my country with numbers of unemployment always in the double digits was hard to find a job, and sometimes can take you months, if not a year or more to find one. It was hard to believe for me that I had a job interview the very next day I got fired. Unbelievable!
All this time since I got here I have been studying English as much as I could, but I wasn't sure if I was up to that challenge yet. At the same time I knew if I was able to work around people that speak English only, my chances to learn good English were much better.
The only thing I needed to do was to understand how long the cuts needed to be, how many degrees, and the side of the angle that the piece of wood needed to be, left or right, short side or long side, oh man! Was I exited or what? That night thinking about it I almost couldn't sleep.
Next day I was the first one to be there at the project. I had the jitters that morning, and in my mind I was thinking that probably the solution to all my problems could easy be this opportunity. Maybe this was the change for a better paid trade. I didn't know Carpenters made that much money. Finally five minutes before the hour, Bob Rodriguez arrived, and so did my ex-supervisor. They arrived at exactly the same time, and my ex-supervisor passed me by and as he passed me by in his car he turned his neck as fur as he could. I guess he was surprised to see me there. Anyways he didn't stop to ask me or talk to me, he just kept going. Bob in the other hand he came over, say good morning to me, and with a smile on his face. We started talking for a bit while we waited for the other two carpenters to show up. I remember that morning they had a little safety meeting, and Bob told them that I was going to be the new helper. He introduced me to the guys, and soon after he told me to go and help Bob Maureen saying, "You will be helping him today, and you will be cutting some baseboards for him today." I followed this guy, and he was a retired marine. He always looked pissed.
Bob Maureen had a tough look on his face. He was intimidating. I have seen him before working in some of the houses, and he was the kind of guy that was always upset at something. Upset with the tools or with the materials or whatever, but he had to be cursing at something. He was the complete opposite of Bob Rodriguez, and now, he was my boss that day. I was starting to get really worried, I said, "Okay that's it, I don't think I am going to get the job. Not with this guy." He doesn't know me but he already doesn't like me at all.
I was intimidated that day I have to admit, but I just said in my mind, "Let it be your will and not mine" and I followed him to the trailer to get the tools. As soon as we got to the assigned house after loading the tools in his truck, he asked me to set up his tools in a very specific way. In the mid time he went outside to smoke a cigarette. When he came back he grabbed a piece of wood on his hands and said to me, "Right down the measurements I'm going to give you." He drew some lines on that piece of wood and explained to me that the lines indicated the side of the angle, an outside or inside angle, 22.5 or 45 etc. he asked me, "You got it?" I said, "Got it!" He started measuring the baseboards one room at a time, and he was dictating the measurements to me without not even looking to me. Right after I had to go and cut the pieces, and bring them back for him to nail them. It was a very fast system he had going. I had have never seen it before, and he was talking very fast too. It was really hard for me to understand what he was saying. I had to catch the things he was telling me in mid air. He was measuring and giving me the numbers that the piece needed to be cut at, and what kind of angle it was, long or short point… etc. Oh man what a task! I was shaking and sweating, but I did my best. That was one of the toughest days I had since I got here, and it was not physically hard, but it was mentally hard. That day I felt the pressure for show.
At the end of that day, actually I was surprise of myself. After the day was over, I was able to sort of understand what he was saying, and I wasn't completely sure, but I tried my best, and out of all the cuts he gave me, I got wrong only a couple of cuts in the whole house.
At the end of that super though day when we went to the trailer, I was in disbelieve that after all I did, he was complaining about my lousy performance. When we went back to the trailer Bob Rodriguez asked Bob Maureen, "how the rookie did?" and he responded, "I want somebody that speaks English. He messed up." Then Bob after talking a bit more with Bob Maureen, he call me to the side and asked me, "So what happened? How come you messed up?" I said, "Well as far as I know I got wrong only two cuts out of the whole house. Two cuts where my fault. I messed up. Sorry. I thought at list I did okay." Bob said, "Only two cuts wrong in the whole house?" He turned around and he went right back to talk to Bob Maureen. They argued for a little bit and Bob came back to me saying, "I'll see you tomorrow at the same time. You're hired! Welcome to Carpenters brotherhood "Loca."-that is how sometimes he used to call me, it means crazy girl in Spanish.
What a day! I was giddy with excitement. I couldn't wait to get home and tell the news to Veronica and Sebastian.
By then I realized that I wasn't as brilliant as I once thought. If I was that smart by then after almost a year and a half, I would've been able to speak perfect English. By then I realized that in many ways I was just full of it. For sure being here in the U.S. it was a very humbling experience. From learning how to speak the language to the way Pro Carpenters work, I was completely impressed. I realized that I was not that smart, but oh well, at least I wasn't dumb.
That day on my way home I did ask myself, "Do I need to be that brilliantly smart to be happy?" I was expecting better from myself of course, and that is a good thing, because at least I was trying. I said to myself, "Be patient with yourself, don't be so hard on yourself, you are still growing up, you are not an old-man yet." I thought, "When can I call myself a mature adult? When can I start taking myself seriously?" The radio was playing, "How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man. How many seas must a white dove sail, before she sleeps in the sand… (Bob Dylan. Blowing in the Wind) I love that song.