Thursday, July 28, 2011

Twenty years earlier

When I was a child, the concept of twenty years seemed to me like a lifetime

In my mid 20s, twenty years earlier took me back to an innocent happy childhood

In my mid 30s, twenty years earlier took me back to a small world, full of dreamy future possibilities

In my mid 40s, twenty years earlier took me back to a beautiful youth, energy, and hunger for knowledge

In my mid 50s, twenty years earlier took me back to self realization and a few but major life changes

In my mid 60s, twenty years earlier took me back to stability, strength, determination and prime

In my mid 70s, twenty years earlier took me back to years of better knowledge, wisdom and peace of mind

In my mid 80s, twenty years earlier took me back to years of celebration, satisfaction and content

In my mid 90s, the concept of twenty years seemed to me like a moment

And if there's one thing I could have done differently, I would have lived every decade celebrating what it brought into my life instead of yearning to 20 years earlier.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Did Jesus really write that?

I have been preaching and scolding and alerting and warning and the list goes on when it comes to banking. We live in the Fraud capital "with a capital F" of the world, LA that is. Identity theft is an all-time high and stolen bank information has become an expectation on a daily basis. If a day goes by without a client coming to our branches to file a claim on their missing money, stolen card or lost checks, then that day must have been a day off for the fraud operators (Yes, they take breaks too, sometimes they get more than they bargain for, so they reward themselves with a day off or two. They are humans too you know, so they say).

But our clients have not exactly been innocent. That's why I started the blog with the word preaching. I used to think that to most people, bank information should be confidential and guarded at all times. But I found out that people don't look at it that way, even after it's compromised. "Don't share your account numbers with anyone, don't give your PIN to people, don't enter your debit card number on an unknown website to purchase God knows what you are embarrassed to purchase in person, don't lend your credit card to your friend for a day or two, and for heaven's sake, don't forget your wallet at the cash register every time). 

I guess working for a bank for so long made me panic and overprotective when it comes to banking. By far, I have witnessed more than enough drama and headache caused by mostly carelessness (the honest truth). I find every morning at least 3 debit cards left in our ATMs overnight (Here's how it goes: Once they get their money, they get so excited and snatch it leaving their debit cards behind, exposed to the person standing behind them in line to either call them to tell them that they had forgotten their card in the machine or to simply clean up their accounts. Thank God we programmed our machines to swallow the card when 30 seconds go by with no activity from the customer, who at that point is speeding to the nearest bar to get a drink or two, and don't you love it when they look for their debit card and not find it so they innocently shrug their shoulders and use their credit card instead to give to the bartender for an open tap to keep adding their and their friends drinks and not have to bother paying for individual drinks separately? And of course they forget the credit card too at the bar. Then they come to us for rescue and say …. "Me!!!! I'm not good with money, I like to spend it, that's all I know". And I like to smack you on your face right now, that's all I know. Well, I have to empathize with their situation, it's a policy.

The most classical line is "I thought I had money in my account, I don't understand why it's overdrawn" and what makes you think you have money in your account? well, I'm swiping my card and making purchases, and it's working every time. I see, well then you're absolutely right, it's the debit card fault in that case.

But the tables turned after 9 years of employment at the bank. Yes they did and I'm guilty this time. One of my main clients wrote me a check and I lost it. She's been my client for 8 years now and last week I, for the very first time, lost her check. Now I'm not gonna bore you with how I lost the check but I did figure out that I must have dropped it while getting out of my car to go to my apartment. I panicked. Oh I panicked big time. I went back to the car, looked under the seats, looked in the street, back to my apartment, looked inside all the grocery bags (that were already in the trash) looked on my dining table where I put all the paperwork and mail, and my pride just refused to admit that I, Mr. Preacher about banking and neglect, have lost a check.

I wrote my client an email since it was too late to call (and since I was so ashamed of myself) telling her that I lost her check. But the one thought in my mind was "I exposed her bank account number". If you live in LA, you would understand the golden opportunity a lost check fallen in the hands of the wrong people creates. Got the name, the address, the signature, the handwriting style and the sequence number of the checkbook. Oh boy, how can I apologize enough. I called next morning and asked if she got my email just to make sure she's acting on it. 

Next session to teach her daughter was yesterday, she told me that she needed to talk with me on my way out. I knew it was my time to get scolded, preached, alerted and warned that this should never happen again, ever. That I'm being trusted and that I made a mistake. I finished the lesson and went to her. she handed me an envelop and asked me to read what was inside it.

My heart dropped as I was opening the envelop. I thought she was going to show me a bunch of fake checks cashed from her account or an overdrawn bank statement. I opened the letter and she said to me that it was a letter from Jesus C. I read the letter and it said the following "Dear Mr and Mrs. DeFalco, I found this check on a curb in Santa Monica and I didn't find your phone number printed on it to contact you and tell you that your check is lost. I don't know if you or the payee lost the check but I wanted to mail it back to you hoping that you didn't change your address in the meantime. I'm sorry the check is so dirty but it looks like many people walked on it not realizing that it was a check with $ 225.00. I decided to immediately send it back to you. My name is Jesus C and if you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me, here's my phone number."

Yup, the dirty check was stapled to the bottom of the letter. It was there safe and sound and that Jesus C restored my and my client's faith in humanity. What a relief … yes, there are good people out there and I was so lucky that the check I lost fell in the hands of one of them, coincidently his name was Hessoos C (Jesus, and the C was not a short for Christ)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My spontaneous friend

My friend you need a break, you're not just physically at stake, stress is not good for your delicate 
And if I really get on your nerves, have you heard of those organic herbs? Try them, they might calm down your 

I'm sorry about your common sense, but I say in your defense, it didn't go well with your uninhibited 
You were born an artist, your talents are countless, so what's a flaw or two like the lack of compassion or 

Of course I know you meant well, when you wrote me "go to hell", your message was eloquent, elegant, classy and full of 
You accused me of being on time, said that discipline is my crime, that I have structure and dare to show 

According to you these qualities are bad, make me a robot, Alas, how sad! to lack life and lack what you excel at; 
So you don't like my routine, but you don't want to sound mean, when you tell me that all my themes lack your 

Yes I know what you meant, with the "Thank you" intro you sent, acknowledging my prolonged patience and 
But just like milk that gone bad, lacking the freshness it had, you stayed 3 more nights beyond your expired 

Ironically you said you're proud. Well that pride of yours is missing sound. So you chose convenience priced with 
Yet you celebrate yourself, you said you and everyone else, who knows you. And you wonder why I don't celebrate your 

When you know who you really are, quote "Cute, smart, fun and popular" then why the constant search to validate your 
Yes you have tons of friends, but please stop and don't pretend, that you know the term 
"Quantity VS Quality"

Give me some credit will you, what do you mean I can't handle you. It's my choice not to instantly react to your 
My friend you're spontaneous, spontaneity comes out of your anus, with the fragrance of Aster flavored with your 

And if stability was a vice, and coming through for you did not suffice, then I accept my imperfection and embrace my 
So let me throw you a farewell, A spur-of-the-moment to wish you well. Go on, off you go. And don't leave a trail of your spontaneous personality


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Chicago's Easter

Easter's morning is an adventure
The kids are looking for a hidden treasure
The eggs seem to be their only pleasure
It's fun and for their parents it's leisure

No kid leaves with no reward to keep
They run and jump, they move and leap
And as they're searching and digging deep
Chicago wakes up from its winter's sleep

The parks are back to life as normal
The celebration of spring is formal
But the music suddenly turns soulful
For one kid is left behind feeling awful

His heart is broken, his wings are clipped
From life and joy, his face is stripped
When I heard his cry and read his script
I believe it was a beat my heart just skipped

For him the city's memory is always winter
With wind that's not just cold but bitter
And though the river seems calm and glitter
Chicago's Easter becomes a hitter

Easter has nothing to do with going more East
It's a resurrection of life and love deceased
It's overcoming death, according to the priest
It's supposed to heal and give hope at least

I have never been to Chicago but through your eyes
I saw myself in the river getting baptized
I held your hand by the lake in the cold nights
but now I’m the kid who's left with no ties

Easter's morning is an adventure
The kids are happy, there is no pressure
Chicago smiles, a smile I treasure
I think of you, I wish we stayed together

But somethings are just not meant to be
Chicago's Easter is just a memory

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Let's talk! .... what?


Look at you, so proud of yourself juggling your personal and professional life on your gadgets at the same time; twittering, posting your status on Facebook, emailing a friend, texting a co-worker about the conference tomorrow, then leaving a message for a client of yours, while looking up on your blackberry or iPhone the weather in three days before you schedule an outdoors meeting. All that, while you're sitting with your spouse in a restaurant silently getting ready for your meal, and the best part is … he or she doesn't mind because they're doing the same thing.

The important questions is, while you're feeling so good about your "missions accomplished" and "done, done and done" and the time efficiency you are skilled with, can you still communicate in person and have a full length conversation with a neighbor or a stranger or even a cousin, without feeling that you could be doing something more important on one of the gadget you bought and called a "Life saver"? Let me answer that for you. Yes of course you can silly, and you know why? because once upon a time you've seen it happening and learned how to do it.

Now let's direct the question to your kids who sit in the back of your SUV watching cartoons while their mom is dropping them or picking them up from school as she plans and arranges other activities for them on her bluetooth to keep them busy so she doesn't have to spend more time with them to keep them entertained, because, you know, she has a life too. Your kids mastered playing electronic games on their breaks, they prefer watching TV in their own bedrooms, race cars on their brand new PS "Whatever version is out there now", not necessarily with friends, but with the play station itself. You wonder while taking the elevator, making small talk with a neighbor, why they're so shy and don't want to make eye contact or even say hello to the same person you're talking with, who happens to either compliment them or tell them that their kids go to the same school. You push them to change their cranky attitude when you tell them that there'll be another family with their kids joining you for dinner at the restaurant you're going to. And are you seriously shocked when you notice that they say hi with unease and sit next to you with their cellphones on, preferring to play games or text their friends over making real connections with real human beings their age who are sitting across the table from them?

Your son is genius, your daughter gets straight "A"s at school. They're gifted in solving math problems and have great memory that helps them learn French and play the Piano. But when it comes to social circles, they're so shy and prefer to withdraw to their bedrooms. And you wonder why.

The simplest kind of entertainment is an ordeal for the next generation. Being spontaneous and learning how to share a laugh over a get together kind of thing is considered a Chord. Getting to know someone new is not something they would want to do, unless of course it's over the internet. Your kids will be okay, don't worry. It's just the gap between generations that is getting bigger and bigger, and one day they're not going to call you "old fashioned" like you used to call your grandparents, they're going to call you "ancient fashioned" because even though you yourself communicate with them in texts nowadays, they see you from time to time taking walks with friends, arranging movie nights with relatives, talking in person with people, nodding or saying hi to a neighbor instead of being on your iPod listening to therapeutical music dealing with the lack of real life they're going through.

Our kids will never miss the things they'll never know

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Call me "Irresponsible"

He called me at the bank asking me to help him with something I had no access to. I gave him the appropriate department's phone number and told him that in case he struggled with his English, he could always ask for an "Arabic Translator", to which he laughed and said right away "My English is good man, I'll handle the issue".

Two hours later, I received a second phone call from him, telling me that he had no problem language-wise however, he failed the authentication test. I opened his profile on my computer right away when he told me that his date of birth didn't match. He said he was born on 06/16 and to my surprise I had it as 09/19. He got annoyed and wondered where I got that from. I apologized and asked him to call back customer service after I fixed the date.

An hour later he called back and asked me to go over his date of birth again. He sounded a bit frustrated. I was embarrassed and I apologized again for his inconvenience and assured him that we take customers information very seriously and that this mistake had never happened before. He said that he wanted to go over the year this time. I thought to myself, how irresponsible of me to enter the year incorrectly too, was I drunk or was I holding the keyboard upside down!!!!

I didn't have the courage to tell him the year so instead I asked. He answered and of course it didn't match. I said to him "I beg your pardon!" He gave me the year one more time. I said that I was sorry because his voice was getting cut off and I couldn't hear it correctly (It really wasn't, but I was shocked at that point). He impatiently told me the year for the third time. I said "Sir, you could not possibly be alive today if you were born then, you would have been dead for a good 578 years now".

I had the date of birth right all along as I was copying it from his passport when I opened his account. The 28 year-old man was giving a customer service representative working for an American corporation, during his visit to the United States, his date of birth in the Hijri Calendar (AKA Islamic calendar).

Heard the song "I'm an Alien, I'm a legal Alien, I'm an Arabic man in LA"?

This blog is not to be taken as making fun of any Arabic person because I would be making fun of myself first. It is the irony in this incident that I wrote about, nothing more, nothing less. Laugh on ...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Economy of Words

She told him "You talk too much", he shrugged his shoulders and walked away murmuring "Because I know too much".

Our knowledge reflects what we are interested in, which is not necessarily the case for others. I think knowledge comes from listening, observing, and reading, not from talking too much. A man of a few words is a man who lets his actions, not his lectures, speak for him.

That answer sounded interesting when I first heard it, street smart if you will, and now I think of it as  plain stupid. It got me thinking about the blogs and songs I wrote last year, and made me want to challenge myself into continuing my writings with less words, yet without taking away from the meaning I'm trying to express.

So to start, I wanted to create some proverbs and take it from there. I came up with a few and tried to keep them as short as possible (well, they're supposed to be short right!) and I will be adding more, this is a start

There's a fine line between Self Confident and Arrogant, which one are you?

When I said "thank you for your inspiration", I didn't necessarily compliment you. It's the pain you caused me that worked up my creativity.

Music is timeless; it's a subjective authentic expression and it doesn't have to be current to make you current.

You don't need to write or sing or paint to be an artist, just dare to think differently.

 A man who is not capable of trusting others is a man who himself cannot be trusted

 If religion is right, then I take pride in being wrong

We are so caught up in our diets to a point where we don't realize that trimming the saturated fat has nothing to do with food.
When we were so young, the world was so big. It was full of dreams, possibilities, innocence, joy, excitement, care free uncertainty, and love. The world didn't change much, we just grew older!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Not Married Yet? What's Wrong With You?

I was not surprised when I ran into her during my vacation last year, I was walking in her neighborhood afterall. She looked the same, with her short straight hair, her heavy make up and most importantly her beautiful smile that lights up any place she visits. I stopped her without even thinking and asked "Mrs. Y, do you remember me?" She looked at me, looked through me, and I felt that I lost her for a second. I told her my name and she said to me that it's been 18 years. She immediately jumped into the marriage question without even asking "How are you?". I fulfilled her curiosity with the "Single" word so we could move on, but we got stuck there. She complained that her son was not married yet and that she was really sad about it. She said that she was not the kind of mother who puts pressure on her son to tie the knot but she was worried because she wanted him to have his own family, with kids running to him every time he opens the door, and a wife who cooks for him and keeps him company. I asked her the same question I ask other parents usually when it comes to marriage, "was that what he wanted too?" I then lost her completely, she said she didn't know, she just wanted him to be happy.

Once upon a time, seems ages ago, I left a place that was single-minded about marriage. I arrived to a place where singles are allowed to live their lives with no judgment (or maybe with some, but at least not to your face). I embraced that culture and learned to love my life as is. Every day I meet all kinds of customers at my work place; the happily married with kids and dreams and future, the miserably married with kids and unfulfilled plans and past, the happily divorced with "I would never do it again" promise, the bitterly divorced with a mistress called Candy and a glass of whisky and a cigar, the totally indifferent ones with expired dreams and suicidal thoughts, and finally the singles. But regardless of the marital status, I notice that those people are not so different. What's different about them is the knowledge they have about themselves …………..  or the lack of it.

Married or not married is not something you add to your resume. You are not more impressive either way. You are more impressive with how you make the best out of your situation regardless what it is. Some people who are married wish they never got married, and some wish they'd  done it a decade earlier. But does marriage seem to be the taken for granted-future of any human being? Does it have to be the destination and the destiny? Does the fact that some people are not cut for marriage and prefer to be single sound pathetic to you? According to a research at UCLA (oh who the hell I'm fooling) according to most married people (at least the ones I know), Marriage is the ultimate goal of life, and according to a lot of single people, sadly enough, it is too. The reason I say sadly, is because it tells me that those singles are not happy with their status quo (Says the single man). Marriage is great, but it doesn't define you, it could possibly make you a better person, it could make you happier, but is it a guarantee? One thing for sure, it's not a competition, and married people are not one step ahead of single people.

My last customer before I wrote this blog was a single lady in her early 60s. She was happy and respectful and I might forget her name and her face altogether, but I don't think I would forget her smile and positive energy. She said to me that she wants to make sure her debit card would still work while visiting Australia in two weeks. I said to her that we wouldn't wanna mess up her trip by blocking her card. She volunteered with more information, telling me that she and her friend once a year plan a trip somewhere in this beautiful world to see something different and this year they're so excited about Australia. She had a book in her hand and naturally it grabbed my attention so she added, "every birthday my friends and I buy each other books, I love reading and discussing books with them." That woman, doesn't have kids, doesn't have a husband, made her own family with her friends and is making the best out of her single situation to the best of her ability.

The question thrown at me from time to time is "Well, who are you going to leave all this for? Who's going to carry your name?" All this what? I'm not a millionaire (yet) and if I had kids, I'd love to leave everything for my kids, but since I don't, why should I worry about that? As for my name, well, I would like my name to be remembered by the difference I make in life, otherwise, I don't want to be remembered at all.

I agree that marriage is a great way to celebrate life, and that having kids gives it a dimension a single person might not understand or have the privilege to enjoy, but it isn't just one way. Or is it? and if you say it is, what do we do now? should we ask Jesus why he didn't get married?

Monday, February 7, 2011


She came to the branch where I work and anxiously looked around. She was clearly worried. I was helping a customer as she paved the walk way back and forth with impatience. She was a beautiful young lady with blond hair and blue eyes. But her impatience took away a little from her beauty. As I finished my transaction with my customer she approached me and screamed her heart out at me which took me for a second by surprise, but I immediately pretended that nothing had happened. I smiled to her, shook her hand and asked her slowly to have a seat so I could help her. Her words as she was yelling with difficulty were “My Debit card is not working, I need money”. She struggled so much in uttering those words because that young lady was deaf. I talked to the customer slowly so she could read my lips and assured her that I’ll be taking care of her. We used a pen and a paper and she was happy to learn that her debit card is back to normal.

The minute I made my final payment on my very first car loan, I started driving it around feeling good about owning it. I stopped at a traffic light and I suddenly heard  some kind of screeching. I recognized that sound, it felt that someone took a key and just scratched the paint off of it. I was pissed and as I rolled down the window to investigate, I heard a voice saying "I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry". The tone of the voice expressed fear and regret. It was the voice of someone who must have been physically and mentally abused. I immediately said “don’t worry about it, it’s nothing, really nothing” I wanted to get out to check on him and give him a hug had I not been in the middle of traffic. I added “Are you okay?” and he said “I’m alright sir; I didn’t mean to hit your car”. It broke my heart for he was a blind man, possibly in his twenties, walking with the help of a stick that he feels his way by.

That stick was what scratched the paint off of my perfect looking car and turned it into an imperfect one. I said to him “No need to apologize at all, we’re good”. I couldn’t care less for my vehicle. His closed eyes opened mine.

It’s so easy to drift away with the temptation of wanting to have the perfect life, the perfect apartment, the perfect car, the perfect lover and most of all, the perfect looks. But perfection is a state of mind. Perfection for some people is imperfection for others.

Life is all about sympathizing and knowing that what we worry about is nothing compared to what other people go through every day and every minute of the day. The less blessed ones are not there to just wake us up and tell us “Hey, you’re lucky, you have your health. What would you do if you were in my shoes? would you worry so much about the wrinkles on your face, the bone in your nose that you don't like, or the extra pounds you want to get rid of, or would you worry about not knowing what love or being loved is?” They’re there for us to reach out to and help, to feel their pain and offer understanding, love, and patience without feeling superior. To learn to want less and be content, yet want more to make a difference.

Bottom line is, we’re not going to take anything with us, we’re not going to maintain our looks. Looks fade, properties come and go. Living a good life is about appreciating what we have instead of taking it for granted. Living Perfection is about sharing what we have with the less fortunate  ones. 

Perfection is a smile you put on someone’s face

It’s the warmth you give to someone’s heart

It’s the light you shed in someone’s darkness

Perfection by itself is a flaw, an obsession, and an addiction.

Perfection becomes perfect when we help, share, accept, and love. Who said it's for God only ....