Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sticks and Stones

LBJ Grasslands
Alvord, TX

It's one of those mornings where my brain is a little foggy.  The coffee maker appeared to be malfunctioning only because I left the water in the pot instead of pouring it into the coffee maker.  Let's just say I am not quite lucid yet.  However, I can still tell a story.

Growing up was not easy for many reasons.  I was the only Puerto Rican kid in my hometown of Winsted, CT; it was a fact I hid because despite Rita Moreno, it wasn't cool to a "Spic".  Our town was so small that most thought I "passed" for Italian.  (In those days that was a politically correct complement.)  Most were Irish or Italian in my town and if you were Polish you were from Torrington.  My teachers in elementary school constantly tested me, like a rhesus monkey, to see if I could actually achieve like the others.  After all it was obvious that I had an  ethnic handicap.  Despite my teachers, I believed in no child left behind before it became main stream.  (This child new he was destined for better things and he still does.)  

Being so chubby that it required a squad of boys to get me up on the the dreaded gymnastic horizontal bar did not make me extra popular.  I had my enemies.  Bullies who not only verbally taunted me with names but who physically challenged me after school.  Although I knew how to temper my rage, I also learned to stand on my two feet and fight the bullies.  I could launch both a physical assault or I could hammer them intellectually. Bullies don't like to be intellectually challenged.

Time passed and by the time we were ready for high school some amazing things happened.  My #1 bully, Bruce Thompson, became my friend.  Bruce was a good guy with many personal demons and lots of sadness.  We became friends thru another friend Choo Choo aka David Lasko.  It seems that 
Bruce was intrigued by Dave's intellect, his humor, and his artistry.  Bruce grew to admire how different we both were.

Years past after High School and I learned that Bruce became heartbroken and committed suicide.  To this day, I feel like I could and should have made a difference in Bruce's life.  Somehow I should have been a better friend.  I could have been more honest and open and shared some of my fears and doubts.  We all have them but we are never alone.

It bothers me to think that I let sticks and stones get in the way of real friendship.  He needed help and he never got it from any of us,  his friends.  After his death, I never feel sorry for myself.  Instead, I do feel a responsibility, to be honest, open, and a caring as I can with all of you.  Yes, I am idealistic, but we all need caring friends sooner or later.

Please don't worry, you are not going to catch my melancholy.  It's not contagious.  Every once in a while make yourself reach out to someone and just really ask them how they feel and how they are doing.  We were put on this earth for a reason and I know that that reason goes beyond a 401K or a round of golf.  Think about all the people that are no longer in your life and ask why.  Get to know your "friends" beyond the superficial.

At times,  I have allowed the stick and stones to break my bones.  I've not quite gotten to the point where  "names will never hurt me".  Just maybe today, I should begin working on that part of my ego.  

My name is Eliazer (Al) Hernandez son of Pablo and Josefina Hernandez and the little brother of Lydia and Zaidy.  I am the gandson of Evangelista Hernandez Vargas and Pablo Hernandez Soto and of Leonor Lisboa Cardona and Manuel Rios Roman.  This is all I have to say today, I have some coffee finally brewing and I know I need a few more cups.  If you ever need a friend full time or part time, I am available.  By the way, late next week I will be in my home town archiving memories with my camera and hanging out at ABC House.


  1. Wonderfully told and presented Al. So much in your words. It connected with me. Thank you.

  2. Beautiful, thanks Al. Sometimes I tell my children about how hard it was to be different, to have a really long and, apparently unpronouncable, "Spic" name and parents with accents. I often wonder how we can better teach children to view differences in positive ways - i don't think as a society we've yet solved that problem.

  3. Eliazer, you hit the nail on the head, but I never thought you wre Italian, your conversations with Mrs Holmes in Spanish class were always so entertaining. She would tell you you were not speaking correctly because of your Puerto Rican dialec. Walter and I would laugh at her, not understanding that were so many variations of the Spanish language. Don't feel sorry for those you did not help as a youth. Their problems were far greater than we knew or than we could handle at that time in our lifes. Look ahead, care for those close to you. Lend an ear, a kind word, and some subtle advise it does go a long way. You do effect those that you touch. But we can not change the world other than one person at a time.
    You are a good man! I hope you find some good in Winsted when you get back. If so take some pics because the goodness in town is fleeting. Frankly it has become a very depressing place.


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