Sunday, December 30, 2007

used to be fun....

....thailand that is...all of SEA (southeast asia), for that matter. it used to be fun, what a Westerner expected; howler monkeys screaming in the jungles, the buzz of insects getting louder as the heat rose, then sotto voce as a cloud darkened the landscape, then rise again higher, to a pitch where it was all there was, all that ever was, as the sun filtered shadows through palms dusting the air. the rubber trees in perfect formation, jungles so green, so lush they breathed and pushed out to overtake the roads, the air filled with incense to buddha, a whore wearing 'obsession' would mingle, sea breezes, monster clouds thumping down so low you could snatch them, rise up and bounce.

tamarind trees with petite leaves would shimmy among the elephant ear palms as they reached down to grab me, kitty in the basket, winding our way through the jungle roads on our motorbike. "oh no kitty, look out!" the cat with ears pinned back by the wind, was fearless, hunkered down, licking. we would stop at a place in the jungle we loved, drink chang beer, 'lil' miss mouse face' would have a can of cat food, hiss at jinitras' dogs & cat, get all humped up on the table, they'd slink away after i smoothed her down. i smoked cigarettes, heard wind chimes on the porch at the house, the cheap painted glass chimes from stolers' with the creaky wood floors, poor lighting. mom always got them i thought because they were delicate, adding to the summer, the birds, her hollyhocks, the cat and the dopey little cow bell he had to wear as he stalked. it seemed to me to be a musical note nature, unable to provide, whispered to mom to bring to this party. in this bubble, gazing out into endless jungle, cat on my lap purring, no one else but jinitra to ask quietly if i wanted another chang, this had always been all that ever was.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

a sad story

TIJUANA, Mexico - An illegal immigrant who took refuge in a Chicago church for a year to avoid being separated from her American-born son was deported from the United States to Mexico.

[Ed. note: translated from spanish.]

here's how the first nights' conversation went, reunited once again, with her beloved family:

"flaco, help your sister find some twigs for a fire...NOW! and stop playing with chi chi!"

"but he's hungry mama!"

"you and that damn rat! there are 13 mouths to feed, not counting your glue-sniffing father and..."

"and what mama?" little flaco knew, he could tell by the way his mother walked.

"and, and...another on the way", she stammered. "yes, from the good Father, our blessed priest from Our Lady of Las Vegas Night, the church in chicago where your brother lino and i lived in sanctuary. Go! go and find some matches too!"

flaco took the bow-legged sister, the one they laughed at, the one with the crossed eyes, asunta. they peeked out the door and always threw some rocks to scare away the dog packs, those mange dogs, roaming and snarling. they scavenged quickly as the night came down in dusty colors, gunshots, screaming women in the distance. when the dogs came too close, they would scurry to an abandoned truck and hide, listening to the drunken noise of the men, maybe papa among them. they found nothing but broken bottles, hurried home empty-handed and saw their father pass out in the doorway. flaco saw something fly out of his hand.

"look!" she held up a can of sterno and two wooden matches. "a full can too, your father did not drink it...yet!" mama was happy. she walked past her husband and kicked him as he lay on the dirt floor, his nose dripping, chi chi sniffed the glue-soaked rag around the fathers' wrist and ran off squealing.

a can of beans cooked. "tell us about america mama, and the big city of free things!" flaco was excited to hear everything. "did you bring us anything?" his mother leaned back on the old car seat, opened a paper bag, and handed flaco a key ring. "you are nine years old now, old enough to drive. this you will use for your car key." "but mama, ernesto showed me how to hot wire cars, i won't need a key!" "then use it to open beer bottles." asunta opened her present; "what is this mama?" "they call it a barbie doll." "but it has no head mama!" "make one from mud," the mother answered. then looking proud, their mother opened a package and took out a louis vuitton handbag and manolo blahnik shoes. "THESE, she exclaimed, are gifts to me from Father annunziato, a great man! full of passion for both women and men, a true friend to those in need, boy or girl, it did not matter to this fine priest, he cared for his flock."

"what is this chicago, mama?", asunta asked.

"it is a city proud to harbour the poor immigrant from mexico, without distinction whether illegal or not. Father annunziato saw me and lino and all as having america as a natural birthright. many were the nights when we would pray in bed together, i would admire my blahniks', caress the wonderful leather as he fondled my prayer beads. and this he would say;" 'i care not that they, the bush fascists, call our brothers, the MS-13, murderous gangs from guatemala, we elvira, my sweet sanctuary orphan and your 8-year old lino, are the sandinistas' of the 21st century!' "many were the nights i would fall asleep clutching my louis vuitton hand bag weeping, exhausted from his flaming passion, a passion not just for me and lino, but for all his sheep whom he tended with such love; the love of a father, a friend, from the youngest of fresh-faced alter boys, to the housewife in glen ellen suffering the heartbreak of an unfaithful husband, he touched everyone where it counted most." flaco, asunta sguatted, petting chi chi, spellbound.

"chicago? mama, more about chicago! we hear such things from men in the village who were deported, about food stamps and this 'welfare'. are such things true? men with shiny shoes, women with large feeding breasts, not sagging like women here?"

"flaco! do not repeat what you hear men in the village say! yes, your brother and i had what they call High Definition TV, beer, good beer, not tecate, not that piss, but miller lite and a fine thing, called wine coolers. never once did a refried bean pass our lips, but steak of the cow, no dog. the good Father and i would dine many times in his private dining room, oh!, such candles and silverware with chairs fit for kings and high priests! such food, my children! tender veal, pork chops and roasts, mushrooms swimming in gravy, all served by a negress, a black woman, with whom i would talk about repression by the american pigs! she is considered lower than the filth in chiapas state, but she taught me about this welfare of which she knew much; free housing, free beer and cigarettes with something called food stamps, giant cars for free, how one can forge documents, take the identity of dead people, sue people in court falsely, and make much money. everyone in america loves the darker-skinned people, they despise the white man. the women are, as you say flaco, large-breasted with mighty hips and thick legs, buttocks like a beast, from eating much steak of the cow, pringles, which is a delightful, salty snack and drinking great amounts of alcohol."

"paco said there is much gays in those big babylons, he calls them pee pee puffers."

"they too, flaco my son, they too, are as the blacks, an endangered species, and paco should know, for he too, is a pickle smoocher, as i have heard said. paco is the one with the lazy eye and harelip? pity, for he is an educated man, much admired in our village, proud to have finished the third grade."

"yes mama, it is he with the bewitched mouth. he stole one of those giant TV's from the factory where they are made in tijuana. he had a job there, but was fired when mrs. gutierriez saw him with it and called the federales. she screamed, 'you are loco paco! you have no electricity!'"

flaco and his sister were getting sleepy. "mama, will you be going back to this chicago to be with lino?"

"Father annunziato says it is so. the message he read in the chicken entrails before i left say so, verified by the magic eight ball. one night, very late, after our prayers together in bed, he had what are called delirium tremens and a fevered vision of me in a lovely black donna karan cocktail dress. it is time to sleep now, lay down and don't hog your side of the dirt floor flaco. remember, you have your sister to share with."

"one more question mama, will asunta and i and elbanco, jesus, otilio, raul, zumac, erubiel, placenta, virgilio, crotilda, jaimenacho, eru and zapopa be going too, to this magical city?"


"our youngest brother mama, zapopa!"

elvira scratched her head in wonder. she pondered this for a bit, 'i thought it was 13 kids, oh well...' "no, you two will care for your papa. the others were sold to mr. sanchez who owns the brick factory, there is only money enough for one to cross the border my children."