Sunday, August 10, 2014

Guides: Benny Millares

[This is one post in a series about people who have had a great impact on my life.  You may wish to read the introduction to the series.]

I moved to southern California in 2007.  While The Mother had lived in this area before, I was in a strange new place where I knew no one and recognized nothing.  Little things were different: when I ordered chow mein I got chop suey, and when I referred to interstates by their numbers alone, I got funny looks from the natives for leaving off the definite article.  And of course I was starting a new job where I knew no one except the few people I’d met during my interview.

I started on the 2nd day of July (because the 1st was a Sunday).  Another person started on the same day as I did—someone who had also migrated from the East Coast, who also had long hair and a scruffy beard, whose name differed from mine by a single vowel and one doubled consonant.  Oh, he was significantly taller and far more Cuban than I, but we were doomed to be confused with each other for my entire six-year tenure there.  This was how I met Benny Millares.

Independence Day was during our first week of work.  Both of us had left our families back on the East Coast to work on the move, so we were both alone in corporate housing.  Had it been up to me, I probably just would have sat at home and maybe watched some fireworks on televsion.  But Benny convinced me we should go out.  We drove around the Hollywood Hills, window-shopped the ritzy houses in Bel Air, cruised up and down the Sunset Strip for a while.  We ended up in Venice Beach, just wandering around, stopping to chat with random strangers, watching fireworks when we could get to a place we could see them.  I’d like to say this is the sort of thing I’d done in my twenties, but the honest truth is I was never the sort to do that sort of thing on my own.  Oh, I’d tag along if my friends suggested it, but I was never the instigator.  This incident, on my third day of knowing him, became a metaphor for our relationship: he constantly forces me out of my comfort zone, pushes me to try new things, think outside the box, do more, be better.

When I ran my own business, I was usually the thinker and my employees were the doers.  But I could never think big enough to have that relationship with Benny.  It was always he who had the grand ideas and I who followed along, implementing as hard as I could and trying to keep up.  This was one of many role reversals we went through at work: first he despaired of ever seeing any change in the status quo but I was optimistic, then I lost hope while he found it; for a while, I was his boss, then he became mine.  But it was our respective roles as designer vs programmer that most defined us.  He’d think ’em up, and I’d code ’em down.

Benny stayed on after I left that job, but only for about six more months.  At that point he’d squirreled away enough money to afford to move to his Florida compound with his wife, mother, stepfather, daughter, son-in-law, and grandson.  A couple of months ago, I was able to parlay a work conference to Orlando into a bit of a family vacation—myself, the eldest, and the Smaller Animal went, while the girls stayed home.  Since Orlando is only two hours away from Benny’s new place, we knew we had to at least drop in for a visit.  But Benny, on top of being the deep thinker, hard worker, and gregarious extrovert, is also a generous soul, so we ended up staying there for several days.  I knew his wife, of course, having spent many meals and a few nights in their company in California, and I’d met his daughter a couple of times, but I didn’t know the rest of the family yet.  But I believe it really is true that good people attract other good people into their spheres, and all of Benny’s family are good people.  His stepfather welcomed us, his mother cooked breakfast for us, his wife cooked dinner for us, his daughter and son-in-law sat with us, watching movies and drinking beers.  And his grandson and the Smaller Animal spent nearly every waking minute togther.  All three of us had an excellent time and we hope we can go back again someday.

This just further illustrates why I’m pleased to know Benny.  He’s taught me, he’s managed me, he’s challenged me, he’s given to me and been willing to accept from me as well: the very definition of friendship, as far as I’m concerned.  Without Benny, my time at that job would have been quite different, and possibly much shorter.  He introduced me to Android phones, Cuban food, and e-cigarettes.  He’s traveled with me, eaten with me, and entertained me time and again with stories of his many jobs prior to his software career.  He’s been there when I needed him, and he continues to be available even though he lives on the other side of the continent.  I can easily say I’m a better—and more well-rounded—person for knowing him.

[For this exercise, I also asked my two boys to contribute their thoughts about our hosts.  The eldest gave me the following few paragraphs.  The Smaller Animal provided a few disconnected sentences at the very end, but it was like pulling teeth.  That’s more due to his shy nature than any lack of enthusiasm though.  Basically, he only talks when you’d rather he were quiet.  But I know that he really enjoyed hanging out with Anthony and considers him a new friend.]

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Hey, how’s it going.  It’s me, the blog owner’s kid.  He posted my story about a bard one time? remember? no?  Well, good.  That story really kinda sucked.  Totally pulled the ending out of my ass.  Regardless, I’m pretty sure about five people are going to read this: my dad, my mom, Benny, and whoever else reads this blog for fun (the weirdos).  Anyways, enough grilling on my dad’s blog, let’s get to the meat and bones here.

Let me start off by saying: I’m still a minor.  If I walked up to some random 35 year old man, and tried to strike up a conversation, he’d brush me off.  Comparatively, if I walked up to some 14 year old person, and tried to strike up a conversation with them, they’d probably at least tolerate me.  It’s an unfortunate aspect of our society, that we think kids are stupider or less wise or whatever than adults (which is total BS, by the way).  But thankfully, there’s a lot of people who consider that opinion to be the stupidest thing possible.  And I’m friends with people like that.  I’m friends with Benny.

So, I’m guessing my dad is gonna shove this in the middle of his blog post, so I won’t try to explain who Benny is, I’ll just tell you why I like him.  He’s amenable, happy, and actually pretty fun to debate psychology and the future of life and immortality with.  Seriously, we talked about all that.  Again, he’s a fairly old guy with a fully grown daughter with a child of her own.  And he discussed philosophy with me.  Maybe that’s not super impressive to some people, but to me that really speaks to a level of understanding, that just because there’s a huge generation gap between us doesn’t mean we can’t chat and debate and argue.

So, earlier, I said I considered Benny to be my friend, and I can say that with complete sincerity.  Not only for all those reasons up there, but also because he’s an amazingly gracious host.  He accommodated us, even after we showed up at like 5 or 6 in the morning, gave us directions to his house in the middle of buttfuck nowhere, paid for things that he really didn’t need to ... I mean, come on.  Tell me right now you wouldn’t at least talk to the guy.

Anyways, I’ve fulfilled my obligations.  Goodbye, five people reading this, and if you’re among those five people, Benny: hey.  How ya’ doin’?

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One thing that I liked about Benny’s house was the cats.  They are like Fred and George, but they have collars ... I can’t remember what their names were, but the one that looked like Fred was named either Tiger or Lion—I think it’s Tiger, actually.  I liked the pool, and I liked how there’s a waterfall at the pool.  I liked the drums that were in the shed place, too. 

I liked playing with Anthony because he’s cool.  He’s fun to play with.  He likes the same stuff I do, I think.  I’d like to go visit him again sometime.

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So there you have it.  Thanks again for having us Benny.  And thanks for being such an awesome guy.

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