I’M ONLY HUMAN, AFTER ALL
(Living The Life Unscripted)
"In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." - Andy Warhol
Recently, I had the pleasure of a Monday morning charla (chat) with my new friend and local radio Dj Estevan Gonzales on KSWV Suave Radio 99.9FM 810AM. We talked for a good hour about everything from the (New) Mexican food we love; the creativity and leadership potential of our daughters; and the recent passing of Vicente “Chente” Fernandez, indubitably the best known Mexican musical icon of the last fifty years.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed our discussion, in listening to our recording I heard all my verbal stumbling and factual inaccuracies - loud and clear.
Granted, we are often our own worst critics, but the fact that these errors were recorded for posterity and public consumption made my blunders all the more poignant.
Over the last nearly thirty years of my professional communications career I’ve set best practices and coached hundreds of speakers for conferences and presentations. Likewise, I’ve written many executive speeches for others and have spoken in public before crowds many times. And I’ve had a couple of podcast interviews about one of my books, 25 Lessons I've Learned About Photography.
However, with the latter, the matter at hand was not open-ended, and it was a subject I knew well, as it took a year to write the book, not to mention, I lived the story told therein.
That all said, this was quite different because on the radio your remarks aren’t prepared or your delivery is not rehearsed. Granted, normally this kind of conversation is meant to be casual and free-flowing, but if you want to make it interesting, you need to be prepared to pontificate on anything, which also means - as I’ve learned - you’ve also to be willing to make mistakes.
Admittedly, I don’t feel my errors were unforgivable, but I was surprised by the extent of them.
As consolation, I’ve reminded myself of a few pieces of advice I’ve offered over the years. First, you’ve got to always keep in mind while you’re at the podium and all-eyes are on you that the audience is made of people and people-are-people, “they are human like you.” Thus, if you make a mistake it’s not the end of the world, for no one is infallible.
Second, “if you make a mistake, you’re more likely to notice more than others. So, move on. If you obsess over the mistake you will likely blunder even more and then the audience will definitely notice.”
Finally, the fact that you’ve been asked to speak in the first place means that someone had enough confidence in you to enlighten, inform or entertain others. Your usually not asked to speak unless your an “expert” on something- whether it’s a certain issue or simply your own experience. Thus, it follows that your listeners may not immediately know that you’ve actually made a mistake. Subsequently, don’t ever be afraid to correct yourself in the process if the moment allows for a correction or clarification.
In addition to the aforementioned guidance I’ve provided on the job, I will add that we have tried our best to encourage our children to feel comfortable in expressing themselves in front of others here at home, Hacienda Dominguez. Whether or not they are tactful about it is another matter entirely and one that cannot necessarily be taught.
We also try to teach by example, so that whenever we host parties we are apt to give toasts; at dinner, family members take turns saying grace; and whenever it is someone’s birthday, everyone is required to extemporaneously say “what we love” about the birthday girl or boy.
To err is human; to forgive, divine. - Alexander Pope
Yet, despite all this practice and preparation, I was somewhat aghast that my radio talk was riddled with error and that I frequently tripped over words, much like trying to traverse a room full of toys, with empty boxes, toys and wrapping paper on Christmas morning.
Ultimately, one of the more important points of this long-winded musing is that I’ve gained a great appreciation for anyone who gives interviews or takes questions that may be scrutinized by the listening public.
And since we’re on the subject, I would dare expand upon the underlying premise here that our vulnerability, imperfections and apt to err both “on the air” and off, is what makes us most human.
Making mistakes is not a function of or limited to the realm of public expression and scrutiny, but it is rather pervasive throughout our daily lives. We guess and presume and fill in and infer and deduce and estimate a lot about everything, but most of the time no one is scrutinizing your every word (okay, sometimes spouses do) or even paying attention to half of what we say and do. Thus, when we are wrong or do something incorrectly or not very well or stumble, trip and fall upon our words or facts or faces, most of the time there isn’t anyone there to notice. So, without consequence to answer to, we forgive ourselves and move on.
Alas, this is not how we react if we find fault in others. Whether it’s someone who mispronounces your name or even forgets it; a child who spills yet another glass of milk; your significant other who often misplaces her keys and then blames it on you; or a sibling who doubles down despite knowing they are wrong because they’re embarrassed, too proud, or their ego is just too big for their britches - we can be unforgiving with them, despite knowing we are as imperfect.
In kind, I would ask that all of you consider these lessons and that you employ some of the magnanimous philosophy taught by the man whose birthday we just celebrated. For Christ advocated tolerance, understanding, patience, compassion and forgiveness toward all our fellow men and women, despite our differences and because he understood we are all only human, after all.
So the next time you watch or listen to an interview via podcast, YouTube, the radio or print, keep in mind what I’ve offered above, for we all blunder, especially if we’re expected to blather unscripted and unedited.
“He that is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her.” - Gospel of John, 8:7
Anyway, if you still likewise recoiled when you listened to my interview, I’m sorry - please forgive me! T’is the season after all…
To come clean and as my penance, I offer a list of corrections and clarifications from the talk.
1. 2:14: My father was actually born in Parral, Mexico, but grew up in Ciudad Juarez.
2. 2:25: The musical genre of music that Vicente “Chente” Fernandez is best known for is “la ranchera” not “el ranchero.”
3. Vicente Fernandez passed away on Sunday, December 12, 2021 (not Saturday).
4. 3:46: We have 8 ducks and 10 chickens (not 9 and 9).
5. 4:23: Not “monocrop culturing” but “monoculture,” “the cultivation of a single crop.”
6. 9:12: I said “September” but I actually did not have my first conversation with Chris Eide, head admin of Turqouise Trail Charter School until November 10, 2020.
7. 10:04: I said it right the first time- “Governance Council” but then subsequently called it “Governors Council.”
8. 10:11: With me, as the newest member, there are now nine members, not eight, on the Council.
9. 12:29: according to the latest census data, the town of Los Cerrillos has 182 residents and in 2016 had nearly 500. I said it was between 300-500, so close, but still inaccurate.
10. 12:35: I said that “in our community there might be two dozen households over a mile, square mile.” In terms of the geography I was referring to we should add a mile or two because it is probably more like 2.5 square miles. Our 350 acres alone is only equal to .55 square miles. That said, the zip code we live in - 87010 - is 163.4 square miles and the town of Los Cerrillos is a little over a square mile.
11. 20:00: unforgivably, I stumbled when I tried to remember some of Chente’s hits. According to Billboard “Fernández holds the record for the most entries on Hot Latin Songs for a regional Mexican solo act, with 61, the record for the most entries on Regional Mexican Albums, with a total of 52, and the record for the most No. 1s for a regional Mexican solo act on Regional Mexican Albums, with a total of 17.” See below for a list of 20 that made the Billboard Charts.
12. 21:30: I said Chente’s concert at Madison Square Garden was sold out with “50,000 people,” MSG’s capacity is actually 20,789.
13. 24:16: I incompletely stated my academic credentials, which include a BA from UCLA in international arts and culture and cultural anthropology; completed curriculum for masters in global political science at SJSU; and earned Masters in International Public Law, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.
14. 25:00: I couldn’t remember Sondheim’s first name - Stephen.
15. 35:00: Estevan asked what were some of my Mom’s favorite Mexican dishes, I forgot to mention perhaps my absolute favorite - chile rellenos!
16. 39:39: “ you don’t get all the credit you deserve when you run for office,” I meant to say when you “hold” an office or “serve in public office.”
17. 44:44: I stated that Javier Solis died in 1969, he actually died in April 1966. I also said “Ranchero great,” but as I stated before, it’s actually “Ranchera,” with an “a” at the end.
CHENTE’S GREATEST HITS
* “Dos Corazones” peaked No. 10 on chart dated Feb. 6, 1988
* “Aunque Mal Paguen Ellas” peaked at No. 4 on chart dated Aug. 26, 1989
* “Por Tu Maldito Amor” peaked at No. 10 on chart dated Dec. 2, 1989
* “Que Sepan Todos” peaked at No. 6 on chart dated June 1, 1991
* “Yo Quiero” peaked at No. 9 on chart dated July 25, 1992
* “Aca Entre Nos” peaked at No. 8 on chart dated Oct. 31, 1992
* “La Fiesta” peaked at No. 8 on chart dated Feb. 20, 1993
* “Lastima Que Seas Ajena” peaked at No. 3 on chart dated Sept. 25, 1993
* “Miseria” peaked at No. 6 on chart dated Sept. 24, 1994
* “No, No y No” peaked at No. 8 on chart dated Dec. 17, 1994
* “Aunque Me Duela El Alma” peaked at No. 2 on chart dated June 24, 1995
* “No Te Vayas” peaked at No. 5 on chart dated July 6, 1996
* “Nos Estorbo La Ropa” peaked at No. 4 on chart dated Nov. 1, 1997
* “Me Voy a Quitar De En Medio” peaked at No. 4 on chart dated March 27, 1999
* “Borracho te Recuerdo” peaked at No. 8 on chart dated Jan. 13, 2001
* “El Ayudante” peaked at No. 9 on chart dated Sept. 29, 2001
* “Estos Celos” peaked at No. 3 on chart dated Oct. 20, 2007
* “La Derrota” peaked at No. 7 on chart dated June 14, 2008
* “Para Siempre” peaked at No. 2 on chart dated Aug. 16, 2009
* “El Ultimo Beso” peaked at No. 1 on chart dated Feb. 21, 2009
Conspicuously absent from this list are many of the crowd favorites that any fan would know including:
* El Rey
* Mujeres Divinas
* Que de Raro Tiene
* De que Manera te Olvido?
* No me sé rajar
* La Ley del Monte
* Amor de los Dos
The list is much longer, but I’ll leave it at that.