World Ball Notebook
1. hit the street at dawn
2. coffee, or not
3. make like a neighborhood dog (make the rounds)
4. stretch, with the chill still radiating from the concrete
a. if in seattle (pioneer square) stop by the cannery workers union hall doorway where gene viernes & silme domingo were assassinated
b. if on valley boulevard san gabriel valley blvd check stop in at the wah qing restaurant shot up by 2 guys in black ski masks (black bmw, 25 or so shots, they killed the waittress there standing at the register, new immigrant from china who rode her bike to work, planning to bring her son over)
c. if in east l.a. go by the silver dollar bar on whittier blvd where ruben salazar was killed by sheriff deputy
d if in southern colorado on highway 25 north of trinidad find the monument located at the edge of the field that marks the site of the ludlow massacre by rockefeller gunmen of 2 women & 11 children (erected by the umw, the marker used to be watched over by an aging rancher)
d. if somewhere else, do your homework, get the word, find out where it happened
6. the day begins there
When an arsonist who had been torching buildings in the area set the garage next door on fire, and the kids woke me up on the couch saying that the garage next door was on fire, I went out and got the garden hose and turned on the water, and climbed up on the brick wall, pointing the stream from the hose at the garage, from which thick white smoke cascaded upwards from under the eves and then the walls of the garage suddenly turned white, emitting a bright light from the inside as the whole garage exploded in a wall of fire, a shining blast of flame. And even though our house and the neighbor’s house were separated by thirty feet of paved concrete, I could see your neighbor’s roof start to smoke, even as I watered it down. As if the roof as it heated up released inflammatory vapors wafting toward the completely enveloped structure of the garage. I called to Marina and told her to bang on the neighbors’ door in case someone was inside asleep. No one was home, and the fire trucks soon arrived, but the neighbors never said a word. Shorb Street was like that.
go to one of those forgotten countries that was secretly bombed, embargoed and fucked by our own country, with medical supplies for war victims, water pump & well parts for rural development, messages of solidarity from poets & writers etc., stand at a bus stop in the capital to catch a bus to the outskirts with the working poor you see are being destroyed by that life, legs bowed, feet splayed, skin cracked and sagging as if under a great weight for too long, faces and hands worn, hair faded to a lighter color sometimes from lack of protein unlike the teens who in our country dye ‘highlights’ in their hair. unlike in your country---you note these people are not merely worn down, aged before their time by exposure and travail, they are actually losing parts of themselves: many are missing teeth, some fingers or limbs, and one man stares at you with one eye, a patch taped over the other with Scotch tape, the gauze stained with blood. what happened? car accident, he says. i want to go to your country, he says, to get an operation to fix it so that i can get a new eye. a glass eye? yes, a glass eye, but first i need an operation to clean out the eye so that can be done. is it true what they say about your country? he asks. what's that? oh, that life is so much easier there. yes, yes it must be easier than here. yes, i want to go. when you get back to your country, it's easy to see how new everything is, and that the people are not broken down like that by their life here---they do not stare through one eye, speak through missing teeth, lean against their missing strength. instead, they drive the freeways incessantly, as if hounded by a wordless, mindless fury.
cesar e. chavez avenue,
lying from the porch
of a little clapboard house
with 2 women chatting (one older, one younger)
on the porch,
small kids wandering in and out
of the open front door
3 generations, palm trees
neatly clipped over the house,
at hillsides behind city terrace
(more palm trees on the dry summer hills),
people busy in the street
lots of passing traffic, dense with WORDS
in every direction, on all surfaces
in two or more languages: BUS ZONE,
TIENDA DE ROPA/ PARA DAMAS, CABALLEROS Y NINOS,
JUGUETERIA/ PERFUMES Y REGALOS
(tied to the window bars on the corner, 8 inflatable vinyl pools in 4 sizes and an inflatable killer whale),
AUTO REPAIR, FOR SALE, FOR RENT/SE RENTA, YOLI'S MARKET
(magazine racks with tabloids, newspaper racks with La Opinon, revistas)
TACOS TORTILLAS BURRITOS RICO MENUDO Y POSOLE FIN DE SEMANA
taco trucks and tire repair places, wrought iron workshops,
beauty shops and barbershops, boarded up bars no one goes to any more,
THE PLAYBOY, one of the reasons the neighborhood is jumping because of small-time capitalism, carnicerias, CARNICERIA AMESCUA,
everybody hustles on the avenue to make money,
someone set out brightly colored brand new brooms all along their fence line for sale, and a girl stands outside the supermarket with bootleg cds and dvds of all the latest movies (still in the the theaters) arrayed by the bus stop,
LOS ARRIEROS COMIDA TIPICA COLOMBIANA: i duck inside to have a bowl of mandongo (columbian menudo), tripe soup that tastes like split pea soup, green with unidentifiable vegetables,
an old guy joins the women on the porch across the street,
sits down on the bench to talk with them;
an old guy using an umbrella for a cane shuffles slowly into the restaurant,
the proprietress (with her chinese columbian husband
and a fat jolly buddha by the register) convinces the old guy to sit down, have chicken for lunch.
anywhere in the city my life could have taken me, waiting for my daughter,
an hour to wait for my youngest, the last one home, here
at the edge of the city’s infinite plane.
Rushing through crowded streets in late afternoon
exhaust, fading daylight leaves a film of dust, particulate
on the skin from puddles, smog, excrement, shattered concrete.
In newspapers hanging pinned against the streetcorner kiosk
news of flooding in the north, teenagers drowned, photographs
of the 16 year old pulled from the river, mud plastered in her face
and hair, mouth slightly open. Oaxacan papers. One shows the girl
covered by a blanket, the other her shirt pulled above her small
breasts, policemen staring at the body. It was supposed to rain
here in the city too, but the sky threatens and it does not begin.
The air thickens and swirls. My day seems done, whatever it was---
I take leave of somebody else’s friends, a delegation of Indians
weary under protest banners in the zocalo, with happy families
strolling through my life. To take it in hand and turn it down
some definite route. Along a wall of scored gray sixteenth
century stone. Centuries old adobe, cracked stucco fallen away
like desiccated plaster under bricked up windows or boarded up
doorways. Minibuses, taxis and sedans bottleneck on Independencia
---the motorcycle cop halts them all, one hand upraised.
The bus driver, his whole cargo looking over his shoulder,
stares down the broad empty avenue, as he leans out
to point straight ahead. The cop doesn’t bother to respond,
turns aside, unclipping the helmet strap under his chin. Taxis
lean on their horns, circle and dart away. There an accident?
I ask the cop, who shakes his head. A demonstration, he says,
pointing with his nose down at the zocalo,
where a column indeed marches into sight,
under banners and skyrockets, brass band blaring
in the air. Kitty-corner to get away, across the vacant
street, I hurry and slip through the crowd under the awnings
of the Benito Juarez market. But I’ve gone the wrong way,
not clearing the distance, as the procession rounds the corner
in front of me, and people from the market
block the sidewalks behind. Brass blares from a church
courtyard; three men strolling toward me
light rockets that sizzle high a second, then pock the air,
cracking like billiard balls just overhead. A block down,
traffic resumes as shadows fall, plate glass going flatly unreflective
in every darkening wall; shoppers with plastic bags
spill from stores. I move south by southeast,
in deepening dusk---stop, sensing someone at my feet.
A woman with two small children beside her sits on the marble
step of the clothing store, but she’s not barefoot, just tired in the face,
nursing her infant, the breast engorged, blue veins swollen
under the skin as the baby draws the dark nipple
down. I step out, hurrying down the avenue.
when the officer of the state patrol asks you to step out of the vehicle you translate this to mean, I feel it, I too feel I must vomit…
when the sergeant of the utah state patrol asks you do you have any weapons on you? will you lift up your sweater? you translate this to mean that even out here on the steppes, our spirits are fried in the grease of an automatic entropy---
when officer lilly of the beehive state says there is a strong smell of alcohol, I’m going to search your vehicle, you translate this to mean, I refuse however to recall the frogs flattened on this highway of a summer, I must live in this present.
when his backup arrives in the form of a plainclothes officer in sunglasses and t-shirt and they converse in whispers out of earshot, you translate this to mean they do not wish you to hear about the incident at last weekend’s departmental barbecue.
when the cleft palate backup officer of the utah state patrol takes you behind the patrol car and his fellow officer takes your brother up the highway to get the stories straight, you translate this to mean it’s not so much we don’t trust you, it’s that we no longer trust ourselves in a situation like this.
when the officer of the scar and the fuzzy stiff upper lip behind sunglasses asks you where are you coming from? you heading to moab? studying your face fixedly as you reply, you translate this to mean I myself would like a Budweiser as much as the next man if only I were not somehow nailed to the mast of this ship hurtling toward its doom---
and when you restate again that you came from monument valley this morning and canyonlands this afternoon, you really mean to say I am searching for common terms here, something even you should understand.
and when they search the vehicle, pulling out beer cans from the camping gear and pouring empties onto the tarmac, and you step forward to ask, what are you looking for? and officer lilly puts a hand on the butt of his pistol and says, get back over there! what he really means to say is, I may not know, but I sure as hell don’t have to admit that on a public right of way!
and when the shorter scarred lip officer escorts you back to the patrol car and stands immediately behind you, and you do get a chance to ask him something close to its own meaning, what is this about? he’s already given up pretending to be the good cop; they won’t be discussing anything further with you after this point.
Southern periferico highway out of Managua ascending the slopes outside the capital
Acid leached black volcanic slope above the power plant where the Somocistas dumped bodies
Farther along, a decade later, on the grass someone dumped a clutch of sea turtle eggs, smashed, yolks exposed
(c)Sesshu Foster 2004
|top of page||streetnotes||xcp|