Best o' Ernesto

Oh, to be a star columnist three mornings a week.

I am Hispanic.

I am a columnist. I am a columnist because I am Hispanic.

And because mi madre works at the morning paper. And because mi papi is a local institution. But mostly because I am Hispanic.

Being Hispanic is not enough. Mi familia must have something to do with my job.

I think this because there are other Hispanics, some at the paper where I work, who connect one thought to another. Even in writing. And they make much less than I do.

Many Latinos like this work at the Star. The staff of the paper is diverse, yet some talk of "diversity hires" and laugh when I am nearby.

Like the homeless, copy editors confront difficult days every day. Such as prose like mine.

Adverbs, in particular, are not my friends. A bobcat in my yard scooted elegantly away. It is fun talking randomly to people. These are examples. There is not much an editor can do with this other than go rapidly to lunch.

However, they have been working with me. My paragraphs are getting longer, and sometimes I now write about things other than my return to Tucson. I talk about problems in the community. Not answers. Answers are hard.

Still, when my column comes in, the guys on the desk take a break. Or they get busy with the church calendar or community listings. Seven-year-olds' thoughts about fall. Anything. It is a game they play. Ha ha.

But back to me.

I was born in Tucson. It is my home. Mi corazon is here. Mi corazon was here even when I lived in New York and San Diego. San Diego is nicer than Tucson. In San Diego there was a beach and good fast-food chains.

Sure there are better places to live than Tucson. I cried through the whole plane ride here when I left. Tears fell in every column for months after I arrived.

It was not a long flight, but it made several columns. That is good.

For $78,000 a year, I must file 600 words several times a week.

One-sentence paragraphs help, but it is hard when you have no ideas.

Wait, here's an idea. Tucson is not the same town as when I was uno nino.

The Rodeo Parade is not downtown. I remember when it was.

This leaves me with a void. Also with a house in Casas Adobes.

Some have criticized me for living there and not in el barrio. This troubles me, but I do not answer them. I have too much trouble constructing an argument.

Facts can also be hard: Photographer Louis Carlos Bernal's work includes a picture of Jesus Christ peering into an impoverished bedroom.

Also, general observations: In times of trouble, artists turn to their medium. For a columnist, there are many times of trouble.

So I fill space with short sentences that could be related. They are not connected thoughts. They are thoughts that are near each other. The thoughts are neighbors, good neighbors, neighbors who help each other and share laughter and tears, neighbors in the same barrio. Or suburb. That is a figure of speech. It is colorful and full of life.

Also, it reminds you that I am Hispanic.

Here is another idea.

The Catholic Church is not the same as when I was a boy.

I am sad about that. When I was a youngster, there were no sermons about child-molesters. Now there are.

I am also sad to learn there are downsides to being a priest. A priest told me this. It was another new thought.

So, being a priest is like moving back to Tucson. It has downsides.

When I came back to Tucson, I had to leave behind In-and-Out Burger, and my daughters complained. I complained, too. I missed those burgers. They were the best.

Then In-and-Out came to the Northwest Side. I was glad.

I had my hamburgers again and did not have to hear to my daughters complain. At least not about hamburgers.

I got a column out of it, which also made me glad.

In that column I was glad that the chain was here. Then, I was sad because these chains are coming to my town, where I was born and went to church and lived in el barrio. Some say chains make Tucson less unique. I am not sure.

My column on this subject had no point. I was glad and then sad. Sometimes it is the other way. Sometimes I am sad or glad the whole time.

This is like One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr Seuss, where the fish are glad and sad and bad. The sentences in this book, which is a good book, are short and all have the same structure, like mine.

My sentences do not rhyme, however. That is a difference. Some think my columns read like Dadaist verse. Some just want to move away. Maybe to San Diego.

I am a columnist. I am Hispanic. I used to live in San Diego.

I wonder if we are all on the same team. There are no cheerleaders.

I have filled the space, but I am left with a void.

The End.

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