By MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ
Words cannot express how much I’ve anticipated writing this column. It’s what I look forward to every year. And now it’s here.
That’s right, people… it’s my annual Christmas Scrooge list. And just like my fellow fat man, Santa Claus, I made a list and I checked it twice. Now here are the people who were naughty and not very nice.
I want to start with someone who’s actually a nice guy, but it’s a person who also deserves to be on this list for what, in my opinion, is a rather petty situation.
Scratch that. I wouldn’t even call it a “situation.” Joe Rodriguez’s bizarre accusations that I somehow cut the community out of the annual San Benito News “The Best Tamales in Town” contest are laughable.
Joe’s beef with me started on sbnewspaper.com, where he posted a few comments in complaint over the judges selected for this year’s contest.
“Judges for the tamale contest should have been people from the Community! Not the Mayor! (sic)” exclaimed Joe. “As always it’s the same group running all city committees, city boards, Chamber, …and now this. (sic)”
Joe struck again when learning that San Benito Chamber of Commerce President Zeke Padilla and San Benito CISD School Board Secretary June Aguilera would also judge. What’s got me curious is why no fuss was made when Place 4 City Commissioner Celeste Z. Sanchez judged last year and even hosted the 2011 contest. That’s two years worth of participation by a city official who rivals the mayor in public service.
Being a little selective, are we?
Oh God, listen to me. The absurdity is contagious. Please, spare me the conspiracy theories, Mr. Rodriguez before I, too, begin to question everything.
To put it simply, this wasn’t an event affiliated with the city, nor does the selection of city officials to judge somehow mean local residents weren’t involved. This may come as a shock to you, but Mayor Joe H. Hernandez, Padilla and Aguilera all happen to be from the community, and – in some cosmic coincidence – share much in common with people normally selected to judge these sort of contests.
Is it really that unheard of for a city mayor to judge a warm, community-based event? Umm… hold on. Let me check.
Nope. It’s not.
Besides, who do you think makes this event possible? The community, of course. They’re the contestants, the guests of honor, and the winners. So whatcha talkin’ bout, Willis?
Do me a favor and drop Tamalegate, seriously.
Oh, and before you ask why I would risk giving credence to the matter by writing about it in this space; to be honest, I just wanted an excuse to put “Tamalegate” in print.
In all seriousness (not really), what I’m getting at is this: You’ve earned the title of Scrooge this year, Mr. Rodriguez. To you – a bona fide member of the community – I offer my congratulations.
Next up we have Rio Hondo City Administrator Hipolito Cabrera.
Unlike Joe Rodriguez, I can’t really say if this gentleman is a nice guy, mostly because I’ve never held a conversation with him. Come to think of it, I’ve never been introduced to him, formally or otherwise, nor has he returned my numerous calls since he began working in Rio Hondo. For six months, I – along with a number of reporters – have made repeated attempts to get him on the phone, including a number of visits to Rio Hondo City Hall.
Yes, he was involved in some highly-publicized nastiness this year that may or may not have scared him away from the media. Still, before any said nastiness occurred, I called him during the early summer months and left messages with a receptionist about wanting to feature him in the newspaper. Despite explaining that there were no other intentions involved besides wanting to meet the then-new city administrator, and to introduce him to the citizens of Rio Hondo, we never heard back.
To this day, I don’t even know what his voice sounds like.
Then there was that time.
One day in October, I decided to try one last time to meet Mr. Cabrera. After taking an enjoyable drive down to ole Rio Hondo, I approached the front desk at city hall, of which the interior now appears dark, intimidating and ominous (not exactly giving the appearance of an institution that employs an open door policy); and saw several people scrambling about behind tinted glass so inaccessible and unfriendly that there might as well have been a wall separating the public from the officials whose salaries they pay. The entry to where employees’ offices are located, once an open hallway, is now closed off by a heavy glass door pitch-black in color.
Regardless, no colored windows could keep my charm from penetrating. Smiling, I spoke to a polite woman who informed me that the city administrator was tied up. Meanwhile, I observed Mr. Cabrera – pointed out to me by Mayor Alonzo Garza in passing – speaking casually with another city employee.
“Okay,” I said. “Can you just tell him that I’m not here to talk to him about a story? I only want to meet him, shake his hand and say hello.”
So after the polite woman passed the message along, she walked back to the window and apologized. “I’m sorry, but can you leave a message? He’s busy right now,” she said, appearing embarrassed for having to deliver news of yet another failed attempt at cordialness between two professionals. Well, at least one professional, anyway.
If he hadn’t denied every single request to speak to me, maybe I would’ve understood. The only problem is that Mr. Cabrera has.
You, sir, are rude. Oh yeah, and a Scrooge.
Finally, we have this year a special treat. Someone whose name I don’t even know, but for now we’ll refer to him as Vin.
On a particularly cold December night, my wife and I were walking through the HEB parking lot toward the store when Vin, some 20-something fella, decided to pull his car out while we were in front of him.
Facing our direction, and looking straight at us (it’s not like he could’ve missed me), Vin drove fast and furiously toward my wife and I even though we were a mere five or six feet away.
He stopped right at the nick of time, I guess when he noticed a 6’1” tall, 400-pound gorgeous hunk of man was in front of him, and proceeded to give a half-hearted apology.
Then he and what appeared to be his girlfriend began to laugh, as if it was funny that they nearly hit two people.
“Watch what you’re doing, man!” I yelled.
They didn’t seem to be laughing too much after that, but all I wanted to do was get my point across that maybe it’s not a good idea to mow people down.
Call me crazy.
So here’s to you, Vin. You’ve just been Scrooged.
In conclusion, I want to remind our readers, and our Scrooges, that this – as always – was written in good fun and not in spite. So please, have some holiday cheer… and Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.