The MAN known as “Johnny 2 Guns Salcido”

In the spring 2006 I bought myself a digital SLR Nikon camera.  I was in my mid-20s and I had recently discovered the Phoenix nightlife scene. So trying to work at my craft of making photography, meeting people and having a good time, I often went to a venue known as “Coach & Willies” and hung out with The Ritmo Latino Entertainment crew. Individuals from the group always went out of their way to give me a phone call to invite me to their events. It was at one of these events that I met Johnny “2 Guns” Salcido.

 He had a neatly trimmed beard, wearing dark slacks, a brown striped shirt, with a dark brown Boston Red Sox hat a big “B” on it. My camera called attention everywhere I went, and I had caught his eye, and he recognized me and called to me, asking, “You are Cruzzer right? The political activist?”

I said “Yes,” as he turned to his entourage of friends around him and said “Yo, Everyone, my man right here is going to be Governor one day.”

Frankly I was surprised. Very few people in the nightlife scene knew I was politically active, and I really didn’t want to mix what was known about me in the scenes I fraternized with.

This is the night I met Johnny '2 Guns' Salcido. He is on the right with the cap. Next to him is AL3 (center) and A. Bomb on the far left. The Boondocks consisted of him and A. Bomb.

This is the night I met Johnny ‘2 Guns’ Salcido. He is on the right with the cap.
Next to him is AL3 (center) and A. Bomb on the far left. The Boondocks consisted of Salcido and A. Bomb.

As I tried to make sense of what the “B” on his cap stood for, I quickly came to learn that Johnny 2 Guns, also referred to as J2Guns, was part of a local hip hop rap group known as The Boondocks, and he was going to perform that night at Coach and Willies. J2Guns, was also celebrating his birthday that night.

“This is how it’s going to work, I’m going to give you $50 tonight, you take pictures of my friends and I, and next time I’ll give you more, just make sure you have a good time as well.”

I was in complete shock. Here was a man who was willing to give me some money to do what I loved to do, and have a good time.

So I started snapping photos of him and his entourage of friends. He pulled me aside for a brief moment that night and said to me, “Gabe, keep doing what you are doing, keep your head straight and one day you are going to be Governor Cruz,”

I laughed, but the thing I was not telling anyone, yet, was I had already made plans to run for a position on my “City Council” that summer. Johnny had read me well.

I took many photos of him and his friends that night, and we struck a friendship. He often invited me to his house as he would sit on the couch watching “The Young and The Restless” like a hawk. “This is my show, this is the soap opera I never miss,” he said to me. His phone would buzz or ring but he didn’t answer it, glued to the TV he was. Only after the show was over, would he take the time to reply or answer to everyone.

2 Guns would often hire me to make photography of his family parties or events he was involved in promoting. I told him I was willing to photograph his events for free, since I deemed the work I was doing only as practice, but he was insistent on paying me. He paid me very well, for my knowledge or lack thereof in the skills I was trying to acquire.

One day when I visited him at his home, he gave me an invitation to a Quinceñera he was going to have for his mother. It caught me as strange, but he told me that it was something his mother wanted but never had, so he was going to have one for her. This is to me defined the essence of the heart and person Johnny Salcido was.

In the summer of 2009 I was with friends from out of town who I didn’t quite know well at the time. We were in Scottsdale Arizona walking through old town when we decided to go to Saddle Ranch. I had no idea Johnny was going to be there, nor did I have any idea I would end up at Saddle Ranch with these individuals, but running in to Johnny, he put them all at ease saying, “Trust him, he’s going places..” I didn’t know about this until later in the night someone from the group said this to me.

Johnny 2 Guns Salcido with Samantha Black. This photo was taken in the summer of 2009 when I ran in to him at Saddle Ranch Scottsdale.

Johnny 2 Guns Salcido with Samantha Black. This photo was taken in the summer of 2009 when I ran in to him at Saddle Ranch Scottsdale.

I always looked forward to reading his Facebook Posts. I had my phone set up so when he posted, it would go straight to my phone. One of my favorite posts that I saved was when he talked about how empty The Cardinals Stadium looked. “I seen a lot of empty seats at the [Arizona] Cardinals game today. This was a perfect time to stick some unprivileged kids in those seats. The kids are your future fan base. And you NEED to expand. Cardinals organization.” That was one of my favorite posts of his that he did in September 2012. How can the world not love an individual who had constant posts of positive insight? He was very business minded. He would crack jokes about having an alter-ego who was a luchador wrestler named “El Senor Dos Pistolas” and telling me he was a big fan of the luchador “Porkey” He even co-promoted an event in Arizona that brought an array of wrestlers from not only around the country, but Mexico as well.

In October of 2012, he told he was going to have surgery. He also told me other news which caused me to be somewhat sad, but he was so positive and said he would beat it with no problem. He had a courage to confront cancer that words can’t describe. One text he sent me said “If you are having to battle something in life. Do it with VIGOR!” It was truly inspiring to know that he was not going throwing in the towel easily.

From there on, I specifically remembered Salcido in my prayers everytime. I’d shoot him a text often to let him know that he was in my thoughts, and he’d always respond with humor, trying to make me laugh in some way.

On the morning of March 1, 2013, I awoke from a text from a friend who was a fan of The Boondocks music, saying Johnny had passed away. The cancer had beat him. Not much else to say, but he fully welcomed me from the moment I met him. He was a true gentleman. The memories and opportunities he gave me though, gives me extreme comfort that he took the time to make me feel important. I know many people will, and continue to miss him, and yet I feel honored and blessed to know that he shared with me a piece of his journey in life with me.

Thank you Johnny 2 Guns Salcido.

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Wing Hing, Great Food at a Great Price

Since 2006, I have been walking through the doors of 7420 West Cactus Road in Peoria Arizona.

It sits on the corner of a strip mall plaza next to a Church’s Chicken, but you will really have to be looking for it in order to find it. Even looking at the exterior, you might be fooled of what is waiting inside. For those who stroll in for the first time, the theme music of “Twilight Zone” is going off in your head wondering what you are doing here. You may notice that the interior is old, and does not look like much, in fact, you get the “hole in the wall” feel, yet the inside of this place is amazingly clean.

This Place is not much to look at, but then again, that’s not why I am here, I am here to eat and stuff my face full of Chinese food. This is a restaurant I love to call a “gem” because many people are unaware of it, never do I have to fight for a parking space, which often leaves me confused.

As I walk in, I am greeted by Tam, an older Asian woman, “Hi… Long time no see…”

Tam, the gracious host of Wing Hing Restaurant in Peoria Arizona

Tam, the gracious host of Wing Hing Restaurant in Peoria Arizona

I was just here two month ago, but I’m such a regular here, there was a period of over six months that I’d often visit and stop in once a week to eat here.

“Hello Tam” I reply. I sit down, and right away she places a small cold glass of water on the table.

“Would you like something to drink?” she asks. Not mocking her, but I can hear her voice in my head and say what she said exactly in the accent and tone in which she says it. She’s the sweetest and very upmost polite host I know in the restaurant business.

After choosing my drink, she asks if I’m getting the same thing as always, which happens to be Shrimp Lo Mein, but not this time. I am definitely not a Chinese food professional but this is legit food. I have been trying different items on their menu as of late. My favorite selections though tend to be Shrimp Lo Mein, Sun Devil Chicken, Orange Chicken, Cashew Chicken.

If it is your first time here, I recommend you start off by ordering some crab puffs. Those things are sensational.

Choose your dish, but choose wisely, you will later learn why.

After making your choice, Tam starts you off with the Egg Flower/drop soup with a side of hot Chinese mustard, sweet and sour, and a plate full of wontons. If you are sick in bed at home, call a friend and have them pick you some takeout of this. The soup here at Wing Hing is always fresh. I have been to other Chinese restaurants and those are yellowish color compared to the stuff served here.

When Vanessa Miranda and I ate here, before she passed away, she always commented on how much she loved the soup. We’d be sitting in another restaurant or on the couch watching TV in her apartment and she’d make a comment about Wing Hings Egg Flower soup. My father and younger brother Max are also huge fans. My dad always says, “If you go to Wing Hings, bring me some soup.”

As I am I finishing my soup, Tam is bringing out my food, steaming hot. My table is soon filled with dishes, each full of large portions of wonderful food of whatever I just ordered. I feel like I think I’m about to have a food coma just by looking at my food. What am I going to do with all this food? I’ll sometimes order a side of steamed rice, which is brought out to me in clay pot, because I know I’m going to have leftovers, and I want to add rice to whatever I’m taking home. Remember how I told you to choose wisely? Now you know why.

Throughout the week, my friend Livi Alcaraz will text me or leave me a message, “Let’s go to Wing Hings for lunch,” I know he likes that Wing Hings gives you a big portion of food to eat. We both tend to get stuffed for about $20 but that is not best part. We are always taking boxes of leftovers home. Whatever I don’t eat, Tam will pack the food into a box, and she’ll tape it do so it doesn’t spill open on my way home. Nobody can beat that lunch special with the servings they give you, well maybe someone can, I just haven’t found that place! Best value for your dollar. You get a lunch combo with more food than most dinner combos AND soup w/ wontons and eggroll for UNDER 5$ !  I think Subway charges just as much of a sub-sandwich.

I have never had a bad meal here, in fact, I can’t think of one single thing I don’t like about this place, other than I live half a mile from the delivery zone. So, yeah, it is not the most awesome looking place on the outside, or inside. It does not have the glittering neon sign lights outside promoting it, but you are here to make your stomach happy, so I do recommend you check it out.

I have sent many of my friends to eat here. When I take someone out to eat for the first time, Wing Hings is always my first choice on where to invite them. The place is never crowded, which like I said earlier, it surprises me, because this place should be packed. If you are in the area and in the mood for some Chinese Food,   I hope you check it out and see for yourself.

I’ll be a regular as long as this place exists.

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Something chased me that night..

This blog, this story which I am about to post is a true story. It is not a piece of fantasy or a work of fiction that I thought up on a boring day or night. I have tried to remain open to unexpected twists of fate this experience may have brought or may still yet bring me, but the clear recollection of this event is still etched in my monochrome mind.

It had happened after one of those summer monsoon desert evenings in Glendale Arizona in June of 2004

It had been a steady quiet day for me, I had been feeling moodier than usual without feeling any less optimistic of what was going to happen that night. I was feeling like a stick of dynamite, ready to explode, all that was needed was someone with a match to light the fuse. I was full of anxiety, for what, I do not know. Around about 7 p.m., my older sister and I got in to an argument. To this day I don’t even remember what the argument was about, but what happened afterward is something I will clearly not forget.

Being so angry and knowing the only way I could control my emotional tantrum and not do something iniquitous was to go run the anger out of me. When I was much younger, I had joined the cross country running team in high school because it was the most efficient way for me to clear up my thoughts, since I often have a difficult time expressing my anger, I ran, often for long distances to calm me down. To this day, I still run vast distances to clear my thoughts.

This time, my anger allowed me to extended myself beyond my own current limitations of personal control because I ran and ran, and maybe there was a weird undercurrent which made things a little bit tilted, but it seemed like a good idea that after running so far, that I started to get angry at myself for ending up far from home, and knowing I have to get back to where I started, I would be tired; so I stopped to gather my thoughts of where I was at.

I live near 51st avenue, between Glendale and Northern.  I ended up on 19th Avenue and Thunderbird. The main roads are broken off only a mile apart, so it goes like this:   Northern – Olive – Peoria – Cactus – Thunderbird.  4 and a half miles to the north from home.


I had run about four and a half miles to the north of where I lived, than I thought, I’m on 19th avenue, and started doing the math in my head,  51st avenue – 43rd avenue – 35th avenue – 27th avenue – 19th avenue: 4 miles to the east

I realized and said to myself “What the heck !!! I’m almost 9 miles away from home. Why did I even get mad at my sister?

My anger towards her had been mollified. It was gone.

Not to scale. This is a map so you get a better sense of what happened. The Green is my path back home, pink is whereabouts the owl started following me.

Not to scale. This is a map so you get a better sense of what happened. The Green is my path back home, pink is whereabouts the owl started following me.

So I started running/jogging back home. After stopping for water to drink at a Circle K, which is a corner convenient store, I decided to continue on my trek back home. I got close to the West Campus of Arizona State University, better known as ASU-West, located between 43rd and 51st avenue, on Thunderbird, when I decided I was going to take a short cut through the campus. Back in 2004, much of ASU-West was undeveloped and made of desert landscape. So I started jogging, cutting through the desert field.

“I am almost home, 4 to 5 more miles and I’m there,” those were my personal thoughts, but then I heard a hoot and looked up at a Palo Verde tree and saw an owl. I had often seen coyotes and rabbits in the undeveloped desert portions of the University but never an owl.

I got a pretty intense feeling of evil from that creature staring at me with those big black bug eyes it had, as it tilted the head on its body back and forth examining me as if it was looking and piercing right in to my soul. I felt dizzy. Never had I strongly felt myself in a trance along with an extreme sense of vertigo. Consuming dread raced through my entire body, the sensation I felt was extremely nauseating.

Then, I noticed that the owl flew to a nearby lamp post. It waited there staring at me.

I regained my composure. I thought it was odd, I was still dizzy so I decided to slow down a bit and just jog as I continued south bound. I was already running/jogging something what I like to call, “running poles” in which I run from one pole to another, and then I jog from that pole to the other, then I run to the other one, then I jog and so forth.




The owl flew from lamp post to lamp post following me. I stopped, it stopped. Clearly this owl was following me but it was keeping a certain distance, watching me.

When I arrived to 51st avenue and Cactus, there is also a major canal just a stone’s throw away. I honestly got scared, thinking of La Llorana, The Weeping Woman of the River, which is a boogey man like tale that comes from the Mexican culture. I also thought intensely about the owl.

Was this a messenger of evil? Of warning?

As of Mexican descant, in our culture, we are often raised with different traditions of superstitions.

I turned around at the owl and got angry. My attitude shifted a bit and I thought to myself, ‘I am going to fight back whatever the hell this thing is..’

I was not going to idly stand by and let this other reality of something sinister affect me. I picked up some rocks and threw them at the owl, but the owl stood there just gazing at me, acting as if I was not going to win with just of rocks being thrown at it. I felt as if that owl communicated somehow with me that night. It clearly said to me with a strange a voice to my head as if were speaking me via telepathy saying ‘If you are going to beat me, it’s going to require finesse,’

My left leg was shaking and trembling as these words entered my mind. Maybe it was adrenaline?

Runner’s high was starting to seem to kick in to my body.  I threw another rock at it. I was excited and knew I could hit it. The owl tilted its head started at me and I felt as it communicated again saying “I want something you have,”

I thought in my mind, “I have nothing you want you little $hit other than a can of chinga tu madre that I can give you heads up if you want it” as I threw another rock. I clearly was cursing profane words to it in English and in Spanish.

After five or six rocks I stopped. I felt as if this owl was laughing at me and mocking my weak aim. I figured it would stop following me, so I decided to continue to “run-jog poles”

Sure enough, this owl continued to follow me but clearly keeping it’s  safe distance.

Pole to pole it flew, following me.

I kept turning back time to time checking to see if the owl was continuing to follow me. I was getting a heightened sense of fantasy this moment, it was something beyond physical.

Was this really happening?

When I reached, Butler Avenue which is a half mile between Olive and Northern I felt I had reached a critical point and I felt I needed to make something happen, and it had to happen soon. The owl was still following me but keeping its same distance apart as it had been for the last several miles.

I started to become frustrated because I had tried to evade this owl without any success and I thought to myself, “What if this thing follows me all the way home..?” I was still scared but continued “running poles,” and I reached the south corner of 51st Avenue and Northern where there is a Walgreens located on the southwest corner.

I stopped and thought to myself, I am almost home and this thing keeps following me, what am I going to have to do? I am not going to let this thing follow me all the way home! I clearly was still stricken with panic.

I picked up some rocks and again chugged those at this owl, who at this time had flown one circle around the lamppost when I threw the rock at it and then it took a swoop at me.

I am thinking, “Damn, someone trained this little f–cking  flying monkey to attack also” (I have always been fearful of those flying monkeys from Wizard of Oz)


At this moment when I thought about this, I felt an intense emotional shift. It stopped on a light post there, looking at me. I ran. It didn’t chase me. I wonder why. I started to pray in my mind for forgiveness about being mad at my sister. I prayed that this thing would not follow me home. I prayed for safety and comfort. After a bit, I got home. Everyone was asleep in bed. I didn’t want to wake anyone up, they would probably think I was surely crazy. Throughout the night, as I laid in bed, fully awake with some fear, I wondered what my little encounter was about.

The next morning I wrote about it in one of my journals. This is one of the many experiences, that I can’t explain, that have happened to me throughout my lifetime. I have many of them, many which I do not share.

Maybe I’m disillusioned since my perception and my reality becomes whatever I imagine. I acknowledge that something that was beyond my current mental limitations or perception, followed and chased me that night. I wish I could give some type of explanation of what it really went on, other then it was something evil and it was something very real.

What it was, I do not know.

My name is Gabriel Ramiro Sandoval Cruz, many people refer to me as Cruzzer, and to the best of my knowledge this is a true event that I experienced in my life.

Con Safos Y Sin Fin. . . .

With Safety and Without and End


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Sesame Street will always be my Utopia

Though I am in my 30s, I am always excited to learn about new cultures and also share my own. The idea was implanted in to my head, not by my parents, but by a TV show known as Sesame Street on PBS. Sesame Street is something real special to me to this day for many reasons.  Even before I started grade school, I was way ahead of the curve among my peers, I knew my abcs, I knew my colors, I knew how to count past 50, thanks in hand to Sesame Street.

The Sesame Street program I grew up with was so much more different then the program shown now days. These days, one character’s personality seems to treated more important and dominate over the others, but I won’t say who, it is not rocket science, even the young ones can tell you who it is.

Sesame Street than was awesome for some many reasons, aside from being part of my childhood. They would have a letter and number and they would re-emphasize that number and letter throughout the programming and I was always excited to see another one for another number and letter.  There was also a various array of characters, I don’t think there one personality which dominated the other personality of another character.  I picked up on this and it was important as I will mention way later. Some of the actors, or individuals, included Big Bird who was a big yellow bird with orange legs who was friends with Snuffleupagus, who was a brown furry elephant. It has a green puppet monster who lived in a trash can named Oscar Grouch, he was always grumpy with temper. He would try to annoy others or give them a hard time, many times whatever he was doing ended up backfiring on him. There was a clumsy blue puppet monster named Grover who was silly, and I liked his voice. I would come to later learn that it was the same voice of Yoda, who appeared in the Star Wars Saga, and like Grover, Yoda was also a little somewhat silly.  Cookie Monster was a blue furry monster who was always hungry and would find a way to con people around them for the food they had. There was one individual named The Count, who took the appearance of a Count and he loved to count numbers.  One ..! One Apple!  ha … ha.. ha… ha Two! Two apples!  Ha.. ha.. ha.. ha.. and so forth till the set amount of apples or whatever objects he was counting. Part of my inspiration of wanting to study journalism in college is in fact due to Kermit who would do “News flashes” !

There were also human characters on the show who interacted,  people like Mr. Hooper, Gordon, Bob, Linda, Maria, Luis and many others who different backgrounds. I liked watching when Linda came on because she was deaf and I used sign language to communicate, so I was always learning something. She’d teach you words.

Yet, the most important aspect of watching Sesame Street was that I learned was tolerance, respect and it made me well aware that even though the characters were also so different, they all treated each other with respect and dignity.. The personalities they displayed, they never acted as if one was better then the other.  They often met up, they were all good to each other.  To this day, Sesame Street is the place I’d like to live; I wish the world was more like Sesame Street, where no one is judged. I still often think of a place where the “air is sweet” where ‘the sunny days sweep the clouds away.

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¿What are you doing with my name..?

Ok so this is where it all begins… from nothing.

This is my grandfather Manuel on my mother side, who many people, even outside of family referred to him "Papa Manuelito"

This is my grandfather Manuel on my mother side, who many people, even outside of family referred to him “Papa Manuelito”

I have always had this idea that I might be able to leave behind a few words of knowledge or wisdom for others. Help others learn from mistakes I had made, so that they may lead better lives. I have finally resigned myself to the fact that I probably won’t get around to writing the story of my life. When you combine that scenario with the fact that I am also unlikely to father any children any time soon, it seems logical (to me at least) that I could chronicle my life from the beginning in the hope that perhaps one person out there will read this and make better life decisions because of it.

I expect a lot of people will be incredibly upset by some of the things I will write. I should probably mention in advance that there are two sides in every story and this is just mine. As such what ever I am writing is likely to be affected by bias, prejudice, favoritism, predisposition, and finally whatever mood I am in at the time of writing.

My first memory is of my being, is being present at my grandfather’s funeral. It’s hard to explain because he died way before I was born, but I remember all the arrangements that were made, who made them, the flowers, everything. I remember his burial. I was with my family as my parents were going to the funeral and I looked out the window and saw Boston Store which was located at Valley West Mall. I remember the youthful faces of some of my cousins who babysat my older sister who was still small at the time. I just remember really not wanting to be there, everything was so chaotic. Looking back it may only have been the passing of a family member, but being present when I should have not been around, and I wanting to know what was going on… It was utter confusion.

As I grew a little older, I saw a picture of my grandfather smiling with my grandmother.  From that point I could no longer tell whether I was remembering an event or the photo. The mental picture I have of the event is the same image as the photograph, almost as if I was going through an out of body experience. Interestingly enough, that is how I have lead the rest of my life, as if I were watching someone else, watching myself making decisions and being cold to all the events.

Several years ago, around the summer of 2010, my grandfather came to me in a dream and I was smiling happy to see him, but he was upset with me. He said to me in an upset manner in spanish, “¿Gabriel, que estas haciendo con mi nombre de Sandoval?” (Gabriel, what are you doing with my name of Sandoval?) My smile turned in to a thoughtful frown. I had made my grandfather Manuel disappointed in me.

A couch potato, an activist, a teacher or friend to many, as someone who I never gives myself any credit that I really deserve. I am my own witness to my every deed as my grandfather is. I am a private but silent Judge and Juror observing and waiting until the very end to hand out my own sentence.

My name is Gabriel Ramiro Sandoval Cruz, many people refer to me as Cruzzer, and to the best of my knowledge this is a true story in my life.

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Missing You Venessa Miranda

I talked about her briefly in one of my posts in the past, I hope to go more in to detail about her today.



Venessa Natividad Miranda September 8, 1975 – July 17, 2012

“Hunger, a poet once said is the most important thing we know, the first lesson we learn, but hunger can be easily quieted down, easily satiated. There is another force, a different type of hunger, an unquenchable thirst that cannot be extinguished. It’s very existence is what defines us, what makes us human, that force is love.” – Abraham Setrakian in The Strain.

Vanessa Miranda would often send me texts every weekday at 9am, mainly "good morning," with words of encouragement for the day, pictures of anything, from her old school typewriter, or what she ate, to sometimes pictures of her doing funny things at work.

Vanessa Miranda would  send me “good morning” texts every weekday at 9am, at Noon, she’d text me pictures of anything, from her old school typewriter, or what she ate, to sometimes pictures of her doing funny things at work.

Two years ago, today, July 17, 2012, I lost someone who was of great importance to me. Her name was Venessa Miranda. She was truly a pleasant and amazing soul. In Spanish I’d say she was “a todo dar”

On June 28, 2011. around 8:28pm a friend of mine on facebook posted a status regarding “La Bamba”

Being a smart alec, I posted a quote in regards to the movie. It was during that moment that I had beat another friend of hers to quoting the same quote. What caught my eyes was that this individual was wearing something purple. I don’t know what it is, but I am a huge sucker for women in purple. So this was how I came to be acquainted with Venessa Miranda.  She sent me a “friend request” and I accepted.

As we chatted over the next couple days on facebook we had some things in common, like 80s music. I kept telling her how much she needed to download DJ Scene’s “2080s Mix”,  We even exchanged phone numbers, and on the night of July 8th, I invited her out to dinner. She accepted, and of course, she wore a Purple dress. We talked for quite a bit that night. I was happy at the long conversation that we had because it had depth. She told me she still hadn’t downloaded the mix I had told her about because she only got online via her phone. So when I got home, I burned a couple copies of it, and I tossed them in my car for the next time I met up with her.

At the time I was working 12 hour shifts, but at 9am every morning, just as I was going on a quick break, she would always send me a text message wishing me well that day, or just conversation in general. She never missed a day. Funny thing, My Uncle had died on July 6th (two days before we met,)  but I never mentioned it to her, she knew something was troubling me I told her a couple days later but did not go in to any details. I told her that I was headed for the funeral. Anyways, to make the long story short, I had no idea where she worked, but I told her that my uncle had a Mariachi playing at his funeral, and then she said, “Ralph Cruz” which was my uncles’ name. She then told me about her job. It really made me feel at ease. I was having a difficult time coping with everything and I decided that I needed to deactivate my Facebook, because it was becoming a distraction in my life.  It was just a personal choice I made for the time being in order to get certain thoughts of mine in line.  So on July 21, my Facebook got deactivated. (It stayed deactivated till Sept. 4) She texted me later that morning saying what I had done was “rude,” and “If I didn’t want to talk to her, then just tell her,” I had no idea what she was talking about, then she asked why I “had deleted her off Facebook,” I then texted her back and told her that I “liked her essence,” and I would explain later that day what I had “deactivated Facebook” and that I “was not ignoring her or pushing her away.” I told her I’d call her that night and tell why. It is kind of crazy, but I think this incident made us draw so much closer. I called her that night and explained my situation to her and she was compassionate, even supportive of what I had done (deactivating Facebook.) We talked on the phone for more than 2 hours that night in which we talked about everything and we talked about nothing. I told her a lot of personal things in my life that I had never confided in anyone. She was really supportive and encouraging regarding those matters in which I don’t think some professional counselor could have ever given me.

I was often spending much time in the gym, even on Saturday Nights to clear the mental distractions I was having in life, then one Saturday night she asked what I was doing, I told her where I was and it turned out she lived several blocks from it. She was at a party but we met up at the parking lot of the gym and I gave her the cd which she popped right in to her cd player of her small van she drove and started singing to the 2080s mix. I was definitely impressed that she did know her 80’s music. We went to Dennys to eat that night, she ended up ordering for me (Chicken Ranch Melt) and I ordered for her (Buffalo Ranch Melt.) Two weeks later of me giving her that cd, she told me that it had already been scratched up since she played it so much, so I gave her another one.

“Love, you see, is the one force that cannot be explained, cannot be broken down to a chemical process. It is the beacon that guides us back home when no one is there, and the light that illuminates our loss. Its absence robs us of all our pleasure and our capacity for joy. It makes our nights darker and our days gloomier, but when we find love, no matter how long, how sad, or how terrible, we cling to it, it gives us our strength, it holds us upright, it feeds on us, and we feed on it. Love is our grace…” –  Abraham Setrakian in The Strain.

We spent a lot of time together, just about almost every OTHER Saturday when she didn’t have her kids, but we also gave each other plenty of space. I remember being with her on September 3rd and telling her how much she had help me grow as a person that last several months, telling her Thank You, and giving her a kiss on the forehead. We’d talk to each other about places we had never ate before and we’d go there and eat there together. She didn’t like that I liked garlic buttery shrimp, I knew she loved egg flower soup.  I nicknamed her “cookie”

One day in December she sung to me “It Will Rain” by Bruno Mars. She said every time she heard that song, she thought of me. From that time on, I’d ask her to sing it to me and she would. The last time I spent with her was on April 14, 2012. That night I told her again how much she meant to me and that I was so grateful she had come in to my life and that I Loved her.

In early May of 2012, her and I had got in to an argument over something stupid. It was real childish now that I come to think of it, but what made it more childish; was the fact that it had been done over text messaging and neither of us was budging. We had never ever argued before. I became sad. Some of my coworkers picked up on this and often asking why I would space out.

On Saturday July 14, 2012, one of my coworkers said to me, “I don’t know what’s wrong with you, but just call her,” aside from that I was having a personal sentiment that I did need to call her, even shoot her a text, but my pride was getting in my way.  I felt like I had done nothing wrong, so why should I apologize? All weekend the same sentiment bugged me. Sunday, another friend of mine said, “If you don’t call her you are going to regret it,” People knew it was eating at me that I had not talked with her for a while. Monday came and I had the same sentiment that I needed to mend the situation between her and I. I went to sleep before calling her at 8pm which was the normal time I would often call her when we’d talk on the phone. I woke up on Tuesday July 17 and I had made the decision to call her that night. Sometime in the evening, the mutual friend had posted that she had passed away that evening. I called the mutual friend and got the details. I was in shock. I didn’t sleep for several days over the regret I felt. I went and saw “COOKIE” at the viewing and I wore my purple tie because I knew that was her favorite color. It was hard for me not to break down, a part of me was mad at myself for not being able to fix what I could have fixed so easily. It bothered me that the sentiment of reaching out to her lingered with me whole weekend lingered and I did nothing.

“There are many things I did not pause but to ask her, now I am filled with questions. I ask those questions in the quiet moments hoping to someday hear them answered in the wind. . .” – GC

After two years of being gone, I still haven't deleted her phone number off my phone. Sometimes I just want to call her up and tell her this..

After two years of being gone, I still haven’t deleted her phone number off my phone. Sometimes I just want to call her up and tell her this..

So what took me so long to share this with the world? At this point in my life, I feel as if I am in a rut, I’m often look to the sky and wonder what Venessa would tell me, if anything. I know she would not be mad at me. She helped me grow as a person immensely in the short time that I knew her, and considering all the time we spent together, I am sometimes sad that we never got a photo together. I still catch myself at times at 9am looking at my phone wondering if she will send me a “good morning text” with a message of encouragement that she always gave me. At times I want to think to myself that she is still mad at me or gone on a vacation and I just want to dial her number just to talk. Yes, after two years, I haven’t deleted her number off my phone. I could go on forever on how beautiful her soul was, but some of the best moments in life are the ones you can’t tell anyone about. I had many of those with Cookie.

I just want to let Venessa Miranda, Cookie, know, and whomever else comes upon this blog, that wherever her essence may be dwelling, that I think of her every day, I miss her a lot and she is not forgotten. She truly was a special person, more special then people realize or know.



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Street Fighter 2 was more than just a video game to me, it was part of my childhood


I don’t think there is a video game which made a bigger impact on my life, and still continues to do so, then Street Fighter 2.

Today (July 8) is Video Game Day.

Today kids don’t realize how good we had it with games back in our day. We actually rode our bikes to the mall or corner 7-11 to play the “awesome games” on arcade machines. Yes, kids, we got out of the house and did other things then just play on our smart phones/tablets. I was just coming in to age of memory as the Atari console was fading. I remember Pac-Man, Pong, and Astroids on the Atari.  I was given a Nintendo system in 3rd grade, so when I first caught a glimpse of Street Fighter 2, you had no idea how blessed I really felt, the graphics, the sounds, it was overwhelming. So many memories.

There was always big crowds around the Street Fighter arcade console, which intimidated me. If you waited long enough you could put quarters on the edge of the screen showing people you were next in line. Then if I got lucky, I got to play the winner, who was usually some skilled kid who knew how to properly block and was great at his timing with punches and kicking. I’d go crazy that I’d be trying to learn to throw a simple fireball, or Ryu’s Dragon Punch and my opponent was throwing combinations in every shape or form.  Then I’d lose and it stung your ego when you have just lost in front of so much people your age. Word would get around back to your classmates at school.

The game was complex, you had so many choices of characters, but they were all balanced in some shape or form. What many people don’t know was how much this game influenced the roots of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, THE UFC.

On the arcade, I was never great at it, but I loved it. When it made it’s way to the super Nintendo,  which I did eventually get, this is were I perfected my craft. My brothers and sisters would play hours. One time I was destroying my brother and younger sister all day long, towards the night, my younger sister beat me with Chun Li. Wow, I literally lost to a girl. She would make such a big fuss, and still does to this day about it.

Today, whenever I see a Street Fighter 2 arcade, regardless the version of it, I still dig in to my pockets for quarters. Very few people have seen the huge SF2 video game collection I have amassed. Street Fighter 2, it is a true timeless masterpiece.

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Amor Revolucionario – Revolutionary Love

This is something I love to share with my friends every Valentine’s Day since 2003, maybe 2004 when  I read it in the “Column of the Americas” The author  is Patrisia Gonzales, so much gratitude to her for capturing a fraction of a sentiment that I often feel yet unable to form words and express.

Amor Revolucionario – Revolutionary Love

By Patrisia Gonzales –

I once fell in love with a voice over the radio that woke me up each morning with words of love for his people.

I once loved a man because he could sing 101 songs in the fields as he worked as a farmworker.

I loved another because he had a laugh that embraced all those around him, though he had been tortured.

These men, I loved for their acts. I loved them, as I have loved others, for the stories they gave me. They were not meant nor destined for romantic love. I shared with them “revolutionary love.”

And then I began to love a man page by page, from a book he wrote about surviving death and disappearance. His revolutionary love called out to me, and I married him. Revolutionary love does not have to lead to romance, though when the two arrive together, their marriage makes the relationship a destiny. This alchemy of revolution of spirit and matter and love has helped us endure the hard times in a relationship that seemed to defy reason. Learning to love became my act against oppression.

Mexican freedom-fighter Benita Galeana first taught me about revolutionary love. She was nearing 90 and had a houseful of men and women who adored her and pampered her. Emissaries from freedom struggles the world over paid her visits. Of the men, especially, she’d say, “Ellos me tienen amor revolucionario!” (They have revolutionary love for me!)

Che Guevara once said that true revolutionaries were motivated by love. While living in Mexico City, I got to shake Nelson Mandela’s hands after his release from prison. Madiba’s hands were big and strong, and I felt the revolutionary love for his people that kept him alive while imprisoned for decades on Robben Island.

Even those of us who are not freedom fighters can love in a revolutionary way because of our love for doing what is just and good. “Amor revolucionario” is the love I have for the people organized to transform their conditions and for all people anywhere who are treated inhumanely. It is a love for freedom and a passion for a different kind of life than what’s accepted as normal.

Once, while having dinner with some comprades, we had an intense discussion about acting with love. They said they did things with love. I said I cannot love everyone, but as a Buddhist, I can have compassion for everyone. Love, for me, is inspired by some kind of deeper relationship. But I do love certain people, sometimes from first sight, because of how they live. I love men and women with revolutionary love because they give me hope for the possibility of change. I love them as brothers and sisters, and sometimes not at all like that, but as simply men and women who dare take a stand.

Perhaps revolutionary love is biochemical and molecular and releases endorphins like romantic love and chocolate. And it is deeply spiritual. In this country, romantic love and lust are glamorized by Hollywood. It’s a sugary love, scantily clad and drunk with illusions that allow people to accept the deceit of comforts. Revolutionary love is coarse dark chocolate, ground with cinnamon and chile, and a truth that makes you naked. And it’s just a bit bitter.

Revolutionary love, like Love, can sting. It can keep you up at night because of unrequited ideals. You can go hungry because of it. It can blind you with anger, causing you to strike out and judge others because you can no longer tolerate life’s contradictions (so why can they?). Or because what you have sacrificed for what seems impossible and illusive. It can drive you crazy — I know many who have succumbed to what Roberto calls “revolutionary madness.”

I believe our lives are a love story — to love ourselves, to love what we do, and to search for purpose so that we can love how we live. For those of us who have survived injustices and violence, to love is a primal, everyday act against injustice. For all revolutionary love leads back to our souls for the revolution that begins inside of us, so that we can begin to love, and change

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Arizona native Estevan ‘El Terrible’ Payan prepares to fight on the biggest UFC Card of the 2013 year

Here is an article I wrote for ! I hope to write more on other “Arizona Fighters” real soon.


By Gabriel Cruz

It was January 2nd 2012, a Monday morning and Estevan Payan was at Dunkin Doughnuts hung over from celebrating, when his Mixed Martial Arts coach Trevor Lally called and asked him if he wanted to fight that coming Saturday on January 7. For Payan, the money Strikeforce was offering was too good to pass up. He weighed about 182 at the moment he got the phone call, but by the time he was ready to get in some mitt work Payan had already worked his way down to 169lbs. By weigh in time on Friday night, he stepped on the scale and weighed 160lbs, which had been the weight agreed by him and his opponent Alonzo Martinez to fight at because of the late notice in his Strikeforce Debut.

Since that call, when Payan was hung over, Payan has matured a long way, in many ways…

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I am not surprised when I login to Facebook and I see an average of 5-30 people requesting me to be there friend on Facebook. I push myself to talk with 5 complete strangers in Public everyday.

This is an image of  something I see constantly see every time I log in to Facebook, I am happy but it was not always that way.

Some of the people who are reading this know my story of high school, how I got kicked out, how one teacher said I would never amount to anyhing, how I battled depression for over 5 years. While growing up, even past high school, I felt alone because I had high standards that I never compromised. I hated myself for a long time because I had a tough time making friends. It hurt when I felt I was in a lot of people’s corners but no one was in my own corner. There were people who did believe in me though, so I trudged on.

In college, things changed when people actually respected me for my values that I had. It still wasn’t easy. I worked hard and pushed myself so hard to learn how to really communicate with other people because I had no social skills whatsoever. I had to work at my personality, but I already knew who I was so it was not hard but I just needed to learn to refine my personality. Since then, I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of people from all walks of life. People interest me. I want to know what makes them happy, what makes them tick, what motivates them to get up every morning, or how is it came to be that we crossed paths.

Every day I try and have 5 interactions in public with complete strangers. Lots who want to keep in contact with me, so I am not surprised when I login to Facebook and I see an average of 5-30 people requesting me to be there friend. It is not so much talking with people, but listening to what they have to say. 80% of my interaction is body language and listening. LISTENING TO WHAT OTHERS HAVE TO SAY, LISTENING TO WHAT THEY WANT TO SHARE WITH ME IS REAL IMPORTANT TO ME. The other 20% is telling you the truth. Easier said than done. I’ve hurt people along the way, and I am sorry and I am trying to be a better person. Sometimes learning to accept defeat has allowed me to actually win in the long term.

As I myself have had demons I have faced, I am sure everyone out there has their own demons which they are fighting, whether it be at school, work, family trouble, or personal ones. Sometimes people feel that they have no one to turn too, or feel completely lost and need someone to loan them an ear. I am always open to talk to someone who needs that ear, I am also willing to get in your corner to cheer you on in your battle with your demon. I mean just imagine me in your corner shouting instructions on what to do or cheering you on “GO (insert you name here) GO! GO (insert your name here) GO!”

Even if you need me to remember you in my prayers for inspiration on a test, or that something in your life may go well, please let me know.

I may not know you all personally, but what I do know is that all of you are strong and wonderful individuals that all deserve happiness and respect, if you really want it, you will find it as I have.


I am so grateful for so many of you who continue to push me to be a better person. I do pray for a lot of you, whether you know it or not.  Thank you!

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