Passion Blog Post #5

“Therefore, you should probably go to bed.”

“Okay. I will be back in early May.”

“Alright, love you bye.”

“Love you too, goodnight.”

A typical, weekly conversation comes to a very stereotypical end. Another phone call to my grandfather ends because he is, as he puts it, old. He really just is tired and once it is past 9:30 P.M. he typically falls asleep.

I am excited to go back to my hometown. Which is odd, because I hate where I live. Do not get me wrong, I love my friends and family. However, Johnstown is not the prettiest place to be. It is not the prettiest place to live. It is not the safest place to live.

I could continue, but I do not know how many hyperlinked stories you would want to read.

It is truly ironic. That the drug problem would follow my family.

My grandfather left the Bronx to escape the crime wave during the late 1970’s and 1980’s. The crack epidemic was rampant. People laid passed out on the streets.

Image result for 1980s drug epidemic bronx

And yet, after the “War on Drugs,” drugs are still a problem (I have opinions on the “War on Drugs” but that is not the focus of this blog). We moved from a crack epidemic to an opioid epidemic. I think when my family left the Bronx they thought they avoided an environment of hypodermic needles and people passed out in bathrooms. But, alas, crime does not care about what environment it finds itself in; it will adapt.

Last summer, I went on a run and almost stepped on a disposed needle.

Last summer, a police officer overdosed on heroin in the evidence locker of the police department.

Every month, someone passes out in the Sheetz bathroom on Broad Street after overdosing.

Thank God it is cold in Johnstown, that way the needle-scarred arms are hidden behind heavy coats.

My city might be crumbling, infrastructure failing, people dying, but I guess it still is home. But, it is not home like how some people adore the physical location where they live.

No, Johnstown is home because my family is there. And if my family moved, I would also. Because that is the story of my family, we move from an island, to the projects, to the city, to the suburbs.

After all, as Francisco Alarcon said, “I carry my roots with me all the time rolled up, I use them as my pillow.”


Johnstown on a nice day:


Passion Blog #4

My grandpa is the best and funniest man alive. He is great at telling stories. He often repeats himself.

My grandpa once told me a story of when he went with my great-grandfather back to Puerto Rico to visit family.

Apparently, they had a fantastic time.

They cut papayas and mamey straight from the tree and ate the delicious fruits.

My grandpa wants to take me to the island to visit where he used to live. It would be a lot of fun and any travel to the island right now will help in the rebuilding of the economy of the island.

And honestly, with the weather we are having right now, I would jump at the chance to go somewhere warmer.


Conversation Two…Passion Blog #3

Well, my grandfather’s birthday went very well.

This year was a little bit more lowkey. My mom invited him over the day before his actual birthday by saying he forgot his hat here. Once he walked through the door we all yelled “surprise”; he was so happy. We then sat him down and sang happy birthday to him. He blew out the candles and we all had some delicious Dairy Queen ice cream cake.

He opened up his presents one by one. He read each card with care and thanked us each with a hug. He received a picture of us grandchildren placed on a canvas. Apparently, there is no limit to what WalMart can do at this point. It was a picture taken from last year’s birthday party for him. It is amazing how realistic it looked. It appeared as though it had been painted. Amazing, 21st Century technology is truly phenomenal.

My grandpa is 70 years old now. He always jokes that he is now so old. To me, he has always been old. Thankfully, he still has his hair, so I have hope for a bald-free future for myself.

Anyways, he had a lot of fun and told us all stories from a long time ago, which typically happens when the family gets together. We ended up talking late into the night about the importance of living life to the fullest since tomorrow is not promised. We also ended up drinking coffee and playing dominos late into the night, as per the usual tradition of staying up late on holidays and birthdays.

This all occurred on Friday.

My sister and I attended my grandfather’s church on Sunday as he was preaching that day. It was a great message and it meant a lot to him that we were there.

Overall, that weekend was pretty great as my sister and my grandfather both had birthdays back-to-back.

I would never trade my family for anything as the memories we have will transcend time.

Conversation One

Well, it is the most wonderful time of year. February.

The month of darkness, despair, and depression.

It is cold, dreary, and if it was any longer than 28 days we would all die.

However, for my grandpa it is a wonderful time to reflect on his life. Because on February 25th, 1948 he was born. And, after all, everyone loves their birthday. He is happy because this upcoming February 25th he is turning seventy. He always jokes that he is getting so old, un viejo, an old man. His favorite part of his upcoming birthday is me coming home. You see the end of February is a popular birth week for my family.

My mom was born on February 21st.

My sister was born on February 24th.

And my grandpa was born on February 25th.

Due to all these wonderful people being born on these days, I am going home after our Deliberation Nation project. Which is super annoying because I just want to be able to enjoy the week, but, alas, I will be stressed. Thanks Curry.

Anyways, we will be having a surprise party for him organized by my older sister. I believe that it will be happening at my house. The last time I talked to him he had no idea.

I do not know what to buy him so if you have any ideas leave a comment.


Conversations with José – An Introduction

My passion blog for this semester will be based on conversations I have with one of the wisest men I know: my grandfather (abuelito, papo, etc.).

José Antonio Hernández de Gómez was born in February of 1948. He was born in the rough and tough neighborhood of Spanish Harlem, colloquially known as El Barrio (the neighborhood). Eventually, he and his family would move across the Harlem River to the Southside Bronx. The same place where Jennifer Lopez is from for reference. During his entire upbringing, he and his family would take trips to Puerto Rico to visit family in the pueblos of Trujillo Alto and Río Piedras. He recalls climbing trees in the tropical climate of the island with his sisters and picking fruit right of the trees.

Eventually, he would graduate from high school and join the navy in 1964. Now, as many of you know, the United States engaged in a little conflict known as the Vietnam War during this time. In fact, he volunteered to be among the first troops in Vietnam but was deferred to a ship bound for Europe. Instead of fighting in the jungles of SouthEast Asia, he visited the fjords of Norway, the bars of Germany, and the vineyards of Italy.

After his service, he lived in Washington D.C. during the chaotic year of 1968. He remembers the city burning after the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy like it was yesterday. The next year, 1969, my father was born in the nation’s capital.

A few short years later, José moved with my father to Carolina, Puerto Rico. There they enjoyed everything that the poverty-stricken island had to offer. The bombings of the independent movement and abuses of power by the federal government caused my family to flee, yet again, the homeland. This has led to my grandfather’s disdain for the likes of Oscar Lopez Rivera and others tied to the independent movement for the island. My grandfather wants statehood for the island, and if you ask any Puerto Rican, they will have an opinion on the subject.

Back in the mainland, my father went to 1st grade speaking no English and was subsequently held back. My grandfather would struggle with alcoholism during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. This would leave my father to my bisabuelos, Eusebio Hernandez y Flores and Justa Gomez de Perez.

My grandfather would eventually break his addiction with the help of a rehabilitation church called Peniel, which is where my parents left (as there is also a congregation that is not in the rehab program).

After a long story of chaotic family relations between the 1990’s until 2010, I reconnected with my grandfather after he moved back to Pennsylvania from North Carolina. I love him dearly and do not remember his mistakes that other family members recall with fervor.

Since 2010, my abuelito has instilled knowledge into me that I could not find elsewhere. Therefore, this Passion blog is dedicated to him, a man that has been through a lot, and can make a mean domino partner.

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