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Will I Be a Good Father? Starring Chris Garcia
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Episode 3
Will I Be a Good Father? Starring Chris Garcia
Comedian Chris Garcia didn’t plan on having children. Then he became a dad in the middle of the pandemic, opening his heart in ways he never imagined and helping to heal the loss of his own father.

Sponsors Include:
Match with a licensed therapist when you go to talkspace.com and get $100 off your first month with the promo code WILD.

[SEG A: ERICK PERSONAL INTRO]

ERICK: Alright, you ready?

[Clears throat]

For some reason, the intense humidity in Culiacan feels nice this Monday morning. It’s just past dawn, and when the breeze hits his wet skin, Manuel Galindo feels an incredible rush of dopamine. It’s the start of a new day but the end of a great night with his boys.

They’ve just exited this club out of the side entrance and turned a corner from the alley to the main drag. There’s a lot of construction being done along this side of the street. So it’s loud, messy, there’s broken gravel, large rocks really, everywhere.

But none of that is as noisy or messy as Manuel and his crew.

Their entrance onto the Boulevard Emiliano Zapata is a jack hammer. And yet, they aren’t the ones demanding attention. Tigres Del Norte La Puerta Negra

On the other side of the street, there’s a shiny, dark red cadillac playing some Tigres Del Norte music. Some drug ballads to underscore the fact that these two men are narcos.

And everyone in a one-block radius seems to be a little tense and pretending not to be. But not Manuel.

This crazy engineer, fresh out of college, with a sick afro and killer mustache, decides he’s vibing too hard right now to be stifled by a little pressure.

So he picks up a piece of sidewalk and throws it at the drug dealers’ cadillac. Then another, and another until the glass is shattered and one of the narcos puts a bullet through Manuel’s throat.

And that was just one of the times my dad almost died before coming to America.

I’m Erick Galindo and this is Wild.

THEME MUX SWELL: I Got Everything by Mz.007

SHAKA: This is WILD — A show about what it was like to grow up during the pandemic. Season 1: Home Forever.

Babylon (Instrumental) by Fenton Joseph

[SEG B: INTERVIEW]

ERICK: Yeah. Do you feel like fatherhood has changed you at all?

CHRIS: You know, it's a little early to tell. Um... But I think, you know, in my head, I always thought that a kid could ruin everything.

ERICK: That’s stand up comic Chris Garcia and he just became a dad, which may seem like a crazy thing to do in the middle of the pandemic but it also helped Chris realize something about his own father Andrés, a Cuban refugee who Chris often struggled to understand as a child.

CHRIS: My dad was a beautiful man. He was born and raised in Cuba. And he um… in his 20s, late 20s, some time during the late 60s, my dad wanted to leave Cuba. And so he filled out papers to leave. And because of that, he was like considered a traitor by the government. So he was put in a forced labor camp where he was for a little over a year. And he was taken away from my mom and my sister, and you know, eventually fled to Spain and fled to the United States.

ERICK: Was your relationship complicated with him that way? Like, would you guys argue a lot?

CHRIS: You know, when you're not getting along with your parents in high school. That was the boiling point that it came to. But my dad, you know, he worked in aerospace, and all those jobs went away. And so he and he was desperate to try to get a new job, but it was hard.

L'enfer C'est Les Autres (Instrumental) by Angèle David-Guillou

CHRIS: And so computers were starting to become a thing. Like he didn't know how to use a computer or anything. And so he asked me to help him with a resume. And I'm just like a 16 year old punk, you know, that like, creative kid... And so he has to make a resume and bright paper, like probably bright blue, bright yellow, probably used like Comic Sans, or used like a crazy font, all caps. And I was like, “Oh, I'm gonna make this…” In my head I was like, “I need to make it stand, like stand out from the rest of the pack.” And so I just made a ridiculous looking like resume. And then I remember, like, I had to get it printed at Kinkos so I walked all the way to Kinkos, I walked back and I was like, proud of it because I was like, “Hey, I did this cool thing.” And he was like, “What the fuck is this man?” Just looked. It looked like a ransom letter written by a clown. Like it was probably like Gadzooks, Comic Sans, Courier New. I was just trying to be artsy with it, you know? And make it look cool. And my dad was so mad. And then you know, he was probably so frustrated ...he in his mind he was like, “You're trying to sabotage me.” You know, you hate me, and you're trying to destroy my dreams. You know, you know when you're not right in the head and you're all frustrated about something? And then I was like, “Oh yeah, well fuck you.” And then I just took it and I wiped my butt with his resume and I crumpled it up and I threw it in his face and I was like, as soon as I threw it, it was like slow motion. I was like, Oh, no...

CHRIS: My dad never beat me or anything but you like, he held me and he was like, “I have a gun.” I was like, Okay, well..I'll try it again. Maybe I'll use Helvetica this time. Maybe 11 point font. And, you know, or maybe I'll use a template, I use a template and just do it. I'm good dad.

ERICK: I just love that he was like, “Just so you know ...I’m strapped.”

CHRIS: [laughing] Yeah.

ERICK: I’m not fucking around. And that was ...that was probably the worst it ever got.

ERICK: Sometimes I struggle with like my own father. Because my dad's tough, you know. And it's like, I noticed you're a very progressive dude, you're really open with your emotions. And that's a little hard when you're raised by like immigrant fathers. They don’t fuck around...

CHRIS: They don't share their feelings.And they're mad all the time. [laughing]

ERICK: Exactly — How were you able to sort of evolve that way?

CHRIS: I kind of came out like that. I was a lloron, as you say, like a crybaby from the beginning. You know, and I even ... went to therapy a little as a kid because I was scared of the dark. Like, I was just a sensitive kid, you know, and I think sometimes that was frustrating for my dad. You know, Cuban sons are supposed to be tough. And I use the word journal as a verb. You know,I sneeze when I eat too fast, like I do these… I’m not like tough. I think as an immigrant parent, your goal should be having a kid that can't change a tire... that means you did it! You did a good job. If your kid is a sensitive and can’t do shit for themselves. That means you succeeded.

ERICK: Let’s jump to January 30th of 2017. It’s just a couple of days before Chris’s dad Andrés will turn 75. By now, papa Andrés has been living at a hospice center in LA for a minute and most of the time he is not lucid. He rarely even recognizes Chris.

CHRIS: Unfortunately, in his late 60s and 70s, he actually got Alzheimer's. And I realized through that, it made me so much closer to my family. And I realized I didn't know all that much about my dad. So I tried to learn as much as I could as possible about him. But then, you know, his memory was kind of gone.

ERICK: But Chris still spends as much time as he can with his dad at hospice. To add to the stress, during all of this Chris has to be funny on stage because that’s how he earns a living. In fact on this very day, Chris is scheduled to perform stand up comedy on a hugely popular podcast that could change his life. As he’s trying to mentally prepare to be funny in front of strangers. Chris gets a call he’s been dreading.

CHRIS: I got a call from my dad's hospice, saying that he only had like, a day or two to live. And so I went to hospice, and my mom was not around, and my sister was, she was out of town. And so to spend the day with my dad being like, wow, this is it, you know, and it was so sad. And I had a set that night.

Two Dope Queens Intro: Hello… You beautiful angels. It’s me Phoebe Lynn Robinson.

CHRIS: I was supposed to do … on that show to Two Dope Queens, for WNYC and I was like, about to cancel it. Cuz I was like, I was sad. And also I had sold a sitcom about me and my dad, and I found out that day that it wasn't gonna to happen.

CHRIS: I was like, this day sucks. Fuck this, you know, like, I don't want to do this and then ... but sometimes when you’re a stand up the little bat signal goes up, and you're like, I gotta do I gotta do this set. But I was also... I smelled hella bad. I ran home and I put on a sport coat, I never wear. It wasn't even a nice one. And then I ran over to the Teragram Ballroom where the show was, and because it was a … it was a big podcast at the time. There was like celebrities there. So I walked in, I‘m all frazzled. And the first person I see is Jon Hamm. And I'm like the handsomest guy in the world, like fuck this guy, like, what am I doing? And like, I didn't even think about my set.

PHOEBE: Our next set we’re bringing to the stage — He’s fantastic, you’ve heard him on This American Life. He’s tearin’ up, touring all over the country. TWO DOPE QUEENS: Please give it up for Chris Garcia!!!

CHRIS: Hello everybody. Hi...

CHRIS: You know, all the comics get on stage and they make fun of their immigrant parents. And I think those days are done…

CHRIS: And I just went up and I just like, let out my heart. Like Trump was elected a week before that, or a week or so before that, I found out my dad was about to pass...

CHRIS: Me and his mom Matica, is her name — we’re refugees from Cuba. In our 30s we came to the United States — Yeah, United states did I stutter? What’s your problem. We came to the United States, a year later we had Chris. Our little golden boy. Our second chance. Our first born American kid — we had him. I put everything...I broke my back for this kid. I worked blue collar jobs, graveyard shift, to put him in a good school — equada privada … Private school...

CHRIS: And I just like, it was an out of body experience.

CHRIS: He goes to UC Berkeley — one of the best public universities in the United States. And you wanna know what he studied?… Anyone want to take a gander on what this mother fucker studied! He studied POETRY! Are you telling me — I floated through shark invested waters on a hub cab so this mother fucker can read hikus.

Announcer: Give it up for Chris Garcia!

ERICK: A few days after this set, on February 5th of 2017, a day after his birthday, Andrés Garcia, husband, father of two, man of science and dancing passed away. He was 75 … and a day.

SHAKA: Wild will be right back after this commercial break

Babylon (Instrumental) by Fenton Joseph

__________ MID ROLL BREAK _____________

SHAKA: Now back to the show

Babylon (Instrumental) by Fenton Joseph

ERICK: Chris’s set on Two Dope Queens wound up having a huge impact on his life. As a direct result of it, he got to do a podcast called Scattered which is a love letter to his father. The podcast dropped in 2019 to much critical acclaim. That same year, Chris got a gig as a writer and actor on the Netflix sitcom Mr. Iglesias. And just as the second season was about to drop, the pandemic hit.

And still, none of that was as big of a life change as becoming a dad.

ERICK: Did you always want to be a father?

CHRIS: I don't know. I probably... I figured I probably would be but you know, I put it off for a long time. Because I was so focused on having fun. And then also pursuing stand up, which is not easy. And so I consciously was like, I can't have a kid right now. Like, it's just too much. And so I waited ‘til I felt comfortable enough to like, have a kid now, during a pandemic at the end of the world.

ERICK: In the winter of 2021, Chris's wife Valarie went into labor. It was almost four years to the date of his dad Andrés’ birthday and the anniversary of Andrés death. And all of this felt like much more than a coincidence.

CHRIS: Okay, so midnight strikes, and she's going into labor, So I'm like, “Holy shit.” This is like biblical, like, my dad's birthday is the fourth. He died on the fifth. And then the morning of the sixth as the sun was coming up, my daughter was being born. I'm like...this is incredible. And, you know, as the sun was rising in the next day, she was being born and so we named her Sonny.

Babylon (Instrumental) by Fenton Joseph [SEGMENT C: THE TRIPLE A’S]

Not Your Baby (With Horns) Instrumental by Lucian Baby Oh Baby by Fat City

SHAKA: Yoyoyoyoo. We appreciate y’all rocking with our Host Erick G and our guest Chris Garcia. We appreciate the love it's that time again, New seg debut! Today we have the Pandemic Daddy Diaries Volume 1. I’m Dj Willy Wild WayZ & I ain’t playing games. Without further ado — I give you, The Tripple A’s.

ANGEL: My name is Angel Bourassa. My son Adrian was born on April 20, cue all of the 4/20 jokes. Sitting right next to me. He's … He's sleeping, but he's making those little noises like he's thinking about it. The first few nights, we felt blessed. He would just knock out for two, three hours at a time. But the past ... the past three nights, I'd say he doesn't want to sleep. He's become a full on night owl.

AARON: My name is Aaron Delgado, and I had a daughter back in December, 2020. Her name is Amada Delgado. She was born on December 18. I was not allowed to go to any of the checkups, none of them. I heard her heartbeat for the first time through a video that my wife sent me, you know. Instead of being there in the room, you know, so I missed out on that. But it is what it is, you know, she's healthy. She's great. She's causing a ruckus behind me and it all is well.

ANDREW: My name is Andrew Cohen. My son Chase Cohen was born in November, 2020. So it was a good thing. And it was a bad thing. You know, I live in a smaller apartment, two bedroom apartment. And when I moved in here, it felt like so much space. And I never knew how aloud babies could be.

ANGEL: That sound can wake you up instantly. And starting to understand too is he just a little fuzzier is that straight up like no, he wants to eat, it's starting to come into me.

AARON: It was tough like wanting to celebrate. And then at that point, no hugs, none of that, the normal things that you would do with your parents, when you tell them hey, I'm having a kid, you know, you could see the excitement in their face. We were excited, but there wasn't any, like physical contact.

ANDREW: It was really really really hard because you feel like you're drowning constantly weather changing every diaper or tending to him for every nap like it complicates it and it's need to practice not getting like resentful in those moments and just trying to stay balanced and realize that everybody's going through something like this.

ANGEL: Yeah. I think it's feeding time. So that's what I cannot help. Sorry, I'm sure you can hear him in the background. Getting a little fussy.

AARON: The moment my daughter was born, what I tell people, there's a section of your soul your contents. Yeah, exactly...

ANDREW: It's a learning experience like everything else. He is a wonderful kid. And he knows how to flirt every time we go to the doctor or sees anybody's all smiles and giggles and he's glowing but you know, every now and then he can be a bit of a jerk. But he's a good kid.

SHAKA: Yea Yea Yea. You heard it here first, that was The Triple A’s - Angle, Aaron, and Andrew. Pandemic Daddy Diaries Volume 1. This is Wild. Let get back into the show with your Host Erick G and our guest Chris Garcia.

Babylon (Instrumental) by Fenton Joseph

ERICK: Is it weird trying to raise her in a pandemic? Does that come into your mind?

CHRIS: I'm just kicking it with this little girl and it has made our world smaller. I found it quite comforting. Like, I think what we're learning from this whole experience is that we're a lot more resilient than...than we think...that we're capable of doing a lot, you know. And that's one thing I learned from my dad and Scattered is that that foo was so resilient. You know, and I... I have that in me too. Like we come from that. Any immigrants’ kid comes from that, you know, any generation. So we're tougher than we think. And, you know, hopefully we can do it with joy and then, make space for ourselves to heal through these traumatic times at the same time.

CHRIS: But I think the difficult thing of having a parent with Alzheimer's is that the last 10 years of his life he wasn't his own self. Like he was losing his mind, you know, so I didn't really get to have those adult conversations that adult has with their adult parent. So I couldn't really be like, “Papi. I'm so sorry, dude. I didn't know... like that resume thing? Do you remember that?” He's like, “Oh, yeah, I remember that.” Of course, he would remember it, but I didn't really get to have those conversations, which was tough. But luckily, through like talking to my family, and therapy and stuff, I do feel like it's been done. Like it's been settled. You know…

CHRIS: Learning all this stuff about my dad and making good on his promise, and taking him to Cuba, and scattering them with my mom and his sister, who is his best friend. You know, it was incredible.

Force Of Nature (Instrumental) by Our Many Stars

ERICK: You took him like all the way home.

CHRIS: Yeah. And when I was like, you know, in the back of my head when we were there, I was like, why, if my dad was in a work camp, may have been tortured. All this stuff was in Cuba, why would he?... Why would he want us to come here, if he never wanted to be there when he was alive. And then when we were out on the boat, and I saw my mom and I saw my Tia, his sister and my sister. We're all in that boat in the beautiful waters. It hit me that, “Oh, my dad's here on his own terms.” No one could fuck with ashes in the water. Like, he's, he's like, free. And there at the same time. And it was like, just textbook, my dad just being so smart and figuring out a way to survive, you know. And so he got to have his wish, being in Cuba and be free in this beautiful place that we found. And in peace, you know...

[SEGMENT D: POEM BY ASTRID]

Goodest Grief is a Red Rose

Inspired by Angel Nafis’s poem “Ghazal for Becoming Your Own Country”

Since birth I’ve

filled my grief with

my father’s shadow. It’s

molded me into the emptiness

of adulthood where I can’t recognize a

life apart. To call on grief by its name

is to face the unknown half of myself. A

tenderness quivering inside the tomb of my body

that howls at the moon. She echoes silence. I want

to scream but stop at my throat thinking about the

photo albums we could have pieced together.

The unlocked character I never uncovered but

will always revel in all its mystery. How

nostalgia does not exist to hold me when I

need it most. How I will never know your

face, the lineage tied to your last

name, or a third language to teach my

children. Someday, they will gather

around my bed, listen to broken

details about you, and the stories

that began in spite of you. They

will wonder how the silhouette of

a parent could shape a child

and I will tell them you were

the dirt who bloomed me

into a bed of red roses where

I built their loving

protective home.

CHRIS: My wife and I had our first kid. First time I’m a dad and last night, I was like, teary-eye, I was like putting her to bed. It was late... it was like around midnight. And I was just like, it was like my dad was with me. And I was like, I don't know, you know, those moments where you have a connection with someone that may not.... be there anymore, like in this case was my dad and I just felt like his spirit. And I was just like, it's your granddaughter. You know, I'm tearing up. That's that's how I do you know? Um, but yeah, I saw I still I was like, trying to introduce her to him and...

ERICK: Yeah. Do you feel like fatherhood has changed you at all?

CHRIS: You know, in my head, I always thought that I would resent a kid because getting in the way of my fun or my dreams and all this stuff. But I think it's... as soon as I held her or even last night, even though you know, she cried for like two hours, she wouldn’t go to bed. And it's and I didn't feel like it was taking anything away. It just felt like it gave me … more of a purpose in life... more of a reason. I was like, “Oh, I have this thing that I made with the love of my life. And I'm so excited to share this life with her and give her a beautiful life.” It wasn't like, “Oh man, I got to change his diaper again.” Which is definitely a thing, but I think already has given me more patience and more depth. And I think it's made me realize that I'm capable more than I thought I was. And I think one thing that we forget, all of us individually is how resilient we all are. It's easy to forget it, especially in the midst of a pandemic or having a baby, or everything else that's going on in this country right now. But I know that we've overcome things before a whole lifetime of things before and that we can continue to.

ERICK: That's beautiful man… man

CHRIS: Man don't have a kid though. Don't have a kid... it'll fuck everything up.

Babylon (Instrumental) by Fenton Joseph

[SEGMENT E: OUTRO]

ERICK: You know what’s wild? My dad was born with red hair. At least that’s the rumor.

When I was a kid, my father didn’t talk much about his life back in Mexico. He worked a lot and was always focused on our future.

Don’t get me wrong. He had a good time. He loved bumping oldies and rancheras. At parties, he danced cumbia and salsa while dressed like Frank Sinatra.

He was so dope. And such a giant to me. Not just to me, my brothers, my sister, my cousins, we all worshiped him.

Then one day, my father’s appendix burst. And for the first time to us kids, he seemed human.

While he was in the hospital, my tia Ramona, the original storyteller on my dad’s side of the family, sat us kids down and started telling us stories about my dad. The adventures he busted. The things he overcame.

Legends, man.

Like how he got shot by narcos and lived. How his promising boxing career ended with him in the ICU.

And the craziest story was that he was born a red headed Mexcian like me, two of my brothers and several of our cousins.

But one summer, at his grandma’s ranch, he caught smallpox, which was still a thing in 1950s rural Mexico. My dad’s smallpox started on his head and his grandma acted quickly to stop the spread. She used some sort of topical medicine used to treat cows for pox on the ranch.

The medicine worked but it also knocked out all of his hair. And when my dad’s hair eventually grew back, it came out black.

I don’t know how much of all the legends are true, but I know when he came home from the appendix emergency, my dad had a brand new scar.

Me and the rest of the kids traced our fingers on it and then along the other scars, the one above his eye that may have come from a boxing glove, the roundish one on his throat from the bullet. It kind of looks like the scar from the smallpox vaccine that he has on his arm.

And those are only some of the stories I still tell his grandkids.

I Got Everything (Instrumental) by Mz.007

[SEGMENT F: HIGHLIGHTS]

ERWIN: Highlights. I had my morning cup of coffee. Checked-in on work and answered a few emails. Put together with a delicious carnitas sandwiches with avocado and salsa all snug together in a soft bolillo bread ... top that snack off with a sweet bread and half a cup of coffee.

GAB: This week I got a bunch of snacks sent to me from a guy named Super Snack Supreme from a contest that I won on instagram. It was amazing. I got to share it with my family. There were cookies and snacks from all around the world. I love getting mail. Especially from different places. It was definitely a highlight this week.

JAVIER: I’m finally going to take a break from work. I definitely drank too much coffee again. As I do everyday these days. I’m pretty excited because my wife made a butternut squash soup with coconut milk and a hatched chile cornbread from scratch. So I’m pretty excited to eat that.

AMELIA: And a lot of people wear crocs at school even if they’re suppose to wear shoes.

ANGIE: I only thought it was going to last two weeks to a month. Maybe — I never imagined a whole year. I thought I was going to go into Freshman year of high school in person.

RAH-SAN: That last part of high school, where I’m supposed to be enjoying my years, going to prom, enjoying my senior year — like going out having fun in the summer and the sun — like that’s gone.

ERICK: Those were sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, sisters, brothers, the KIDS!. — And they have all had to adjust to going to school, and trying to make friends from home. That’s on the next episode of WILD.

[CREDITS]

Read this week by Marina

This episode of Wild was written and produced by Erick Galindo, Shaka Mali, Megan Tan and me, Marina Peña.

It was sound designed by Lushik Wahba and mixed and engineered by Eduardo Perez.

Megan Tan is our Senior Producer. Our Producers are Victoria Alejandro and Lushik Wahba. Marina Peña is our associate producer and fact checker. Shaka Mali is an associate producer at large and our announcer. Erick Galindo is our host and editor. Jessica Pilot is our Talent Producer. Our Executive Producers are Antonia Cereijido and Leo G.

Thanks to poet Astrid. And to our special guest appearances by Erwin Recinos, Gab Chabran and Javier Cabral. Shoutout to Marisa Klug-Moratya for shooting our album art and Steve Rosa for the assist.

The theme song is I Got Everything by Mz.007

Our website, LAistStudios.com, is designed by Andy Cheatwood and the digital and marketing teams at LAist Studios.

The marketing team of LAist Studios created our branding.

Special Thanks to the team at LAist Studios, including: Taylor Coffman, Dae Kim, Kristen Hayford, Kristen Muller, and Leo G.

WILD AF is a production of LAist Studios.

This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

[GOODBYE]

ERICK: WOO! I nailed it. I think… I’m Erick G — I’ll catch you next time

This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.