Friday, May 02, 2014

Jose Paiz August 22, 1960 – April 24, 2014


     I was thinking all the way back to when I first met Jose in 1983 and I was struck by the fact that he made me laugh every time I saw him. Even when he knew just a few hundred words of English he used those with humor and humility. It might seem odd but despite this terribly sad occasion I am determined to laugh with him one last time today. Despite his desperate struggle to come here from El Salvador and to get a job with the library, he never lost that twinkle in his eye and he was never intimidated by a screwed up system that made it as difficult as possible to assimilate. He had a sense of humor that was rare and refreshing along with a spirit that lifted those around him. He took our differences and differing status in the library hierarchy and laughed at the silliness of it all, thus making us equals. Like everyone here who worked with Jose, I feel like he made me a better person, a more understanding man and a more compassionate worker in a place that gave us glimpses of the best and worst that mankind has to offer. He was tested many times but never defeated. We had a running joke that lasted over thirty years that I was the white oppressor and he was the Latino victim but in reality we were peers from the minute we arrived late to... the walk up the hill to the Savoy garage after work. I think I truly bonded with Jose when we shelved and shifted the entire (and I do mean entire) History department book collection in the dank Spring street basement by ourselves back in 1989. During that time he exchanged many a bit of Salvadoran philosophy with me and the evil brought upon our world by the character known as Chepito.  I told him when I saw him the last time a couple of months ago that in 34 years and hundreds of co-workers he was in a small group of my favorites.  I really want to keep this brief and I can hear Jose saying to me “hey Creason, cut the bullshit, let’s get on with it man” but I would like to mention just a few of my favorite things about this unforgettable guy.
     He taught me how to curse in Spanish. While many of these phrases I cannot repeat here it was Jose who gave me verbal ammunition to take to the streets of Los Angeles where I surprised many a Latino driver with my observations. His tutoring allowed me to say with no hesitation “NO MAMES! Or…oh never mind.
     When we shelved and shifted together with our other pals like Miguel or Ricardo or Teresa he taught me about all the nicknames in Central America…of the Catrachos, the Ticos, the Chapin, the Nica, and as Jose said the pince Gabachos. During that time I tried to bring in music for the crews to listen to including wonderful salsa, meringue, cumbias and for Jose some live Foghat! We got to hate “slow ride.”  Just to bate him sometimes I would bring in “folk music” and then we would howl with laughter hearing him say “Folk music” which sounded very much like a well-known curse in English.
    We had thirty full years of insults back and forth as to futbol or soccer as I call it versus baseball which Jose called a sissy sport. Eventually, he got me to pay attention to the World Cup and several times he even took Van to a Dodger game on Library night. I even have pictures of Jose at the stadium! We used to joke that I would ride with him to Huntington Park after Mexico lost to the US in 2002 but luckily he never called me on that one.
     Probably the funniest running comedy act in Central history was Jose and Koala the parking lot attendant at the Savoy garage. Jose gave as well as got- each day trying to outdo each other with practical jokes and I remember being doubled over with laughter seeing him driving out the driveway unsuspectingly toward home with a string of twenty noisy tin cans trailing behind his car like a newlywed. Koala left us a few years back so I would assume he will be waiting in paradise with some prank to welcome his old pal-nemesis.
     I could go on but I wanted to add one last note about Jose that always struck me. About 90% of the time we talked it was banter but sometimes we talked about family and our kids. There was glow he had when he mentioned his children and a soft light in his eyes when he talked about his wife Ana, even when he mentioned her watching how many beers he had had. He worked at the library and was truly beloved by his peers but everything he did was for his family. That, to me, is a pretty good man.
    Adios muchacho.

“You Learn”

After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,

And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
And company doesn’t mean security.

And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises,

And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,

And you learn to build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans
And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.

After a while you learn…
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.

So you plant your garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

And you learn that you really can endure…

That you really are strong

And you really do have worth…

And you learn and learn…

With every good-bye you learn.” 

Jorge Luis Borges

Después de un tiempo, uno aprende la sutil diferencia 
entre sostener una mano y encadenar un alma;
Y uno aprende que el amor no significa acostarse 
y que la compañía no significa seguridad;
Y uno empieza a aprender que los besos no son contratos 
y los regalos no son promesas;
Y uno empieza a aceptar sus derrotas con la cabeza alta y los ojos abiertos;
Y uno aprende a construir todos sus caminos en el hoy, 
porque el terreno de mañana es demasiado incierto para planes 
y los futuros tienen una forma de caerse en la mitad.
Y después de un tiempo uno aprende que si es demasiado 
hasta el calorcito del sol quema.
Así que uno planta su propio jardín y decora su propia alma, 
en lugar de esperar a que alguien le traiga flores.
Y uno aprende que realmente uno puede aguantar, 
que uno realmente es fuerte, 
que uno realmente vale, 
y uno aprende y aprende…
y con cada día uno aprende.


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