For twenty years, Dan, my longtime business partner and I argued about everything. All day, every day.
Don’t get me wrong. We agreed on most of the important things in life, but we disagreed about all the unimportant stuff. Like who’s better — the Beatles or the Stones. Or which one of us was better at Jeopardy. Stuff like that. And when you spend eight or ten hours a day with someone, the little things sometimes get blown out of proportion.
For years we had an ongoing argument about who could do the best Mexican accent. He offended me by saying I did a horrible Mexican accent. I told him it was absolutely authentic because I had learned it growing up with my buddies Freddie Gomez, Johnnie Rodriguez, and Herman Sierra.
He thought his Mexican accent was spectacular and couldn’t understand how I thought otherwise.
One day I realized what the problem was. My affected accent was authentic Mexican, but Dan’s was actually Puerto Rican because he had grown up in New York City. The only Mexican accents he’d ever heard were on the old “Cisco Kid” TV show.
Which brings us to today.
Jamie and I hailed a taxi and headed for the beach. Our driver, Giuseppe, was a very funny young Spaniard who told us he speaks fluent Spanish and French, a bit of Italian and a bit of English. After we complimented him on his English, he asked how much Spanish we speak.
Having mastered all the dirty Mexican words on the playground and having grown up in the middle of Southern California’s rich Mexican culture, I assumed my Spanish was more than passable.
Giuseppe begged to differ.
He tried to teach me to say a few Spanish words correctly. He failed.
“No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no,” he said after each of my attempts.
So I’d try again.
“You put the emphasis in all the wrong places,” he laughed.
So I tried again.
“You make it sound like it’s Italian,” he said in disgust.
So I tried again.
“Your Spanish sounds like bad English,” he sighed.
And with that, I gave up. My apologies to Freddie, Johnnie, and Herman. And Giuseppe, too.
I may have made it sound like Italian or bad English, but at least I didn’t make it sound Puerto Rican like Dan would have.