Thursday, November 24, 2016


I’m walking around and I see brown folks in their doorways, taking in the afternoon sunlight.  I see kids in their yards, tossing footballs and playing tag.  I love the footsteps that I make as I pass through hoods I’ve known since childhood.  I stop one guy crossing the avenue with what looks like a pair of tall boy cervezas in a brown paper bag.  Ask him if he knows when the next bus is due to come through this way.  He politely replies that he doesn’t know.  He’s visiting from California.  All of a sudden this low-income hood takes on a cosmopolitan flavor:  people fly in from Califas to eat pavo in zip code 76115.  That’s hype!  Later, sitting on the bus bench, I see a different young vato trying to cross the same avenue—to the same tiendita—maybe to buy snack provisions before the Cowboy game.  But then I look more intently and see that he’s faltering at the curb, and almost gets hit by a fast-moving car.  I stand up and squint even harder and see that the guy is using a walking cane—the white skinny cane that a blind person holds.  Damn, that’s brave.  Blind and trying to make it to the convenient store across a high-traffic avenue.  I watch him Frogger it, he moves forward half a lane, then doubles back a few steps.  Lets a car pass and then creeps up a bit more.  I take a few steps myself, towards him, thinking I will just go ahead and do a good deed for him today.  But before I’ve gotten any closer, he’s done it, skirted across the avenue and is well on his way to the refrigerated beers or sodas or microwaveable burritos.

Our people wing it however they can.  On foot, on bus, me with my bici--blind at times, but still keeping the body moving forward in time, to countless destinations and away from so many regrets. 

This afternoon, a favorite word hits me, and I clasp it in my mind’s mouth, over and over, ‘cause I really like it.  And am so glad that it exists.  And thankful to Roberto Dr. Cintli, el profe, for introducing me to it so many years ago.  REINDIGENIZATION.

People walking, sorting their lives out, moving to where safety and a possible opportunity exist.  Re-arranging our timeline across this geographic region—a landmass called North America.  We are all Americans, shuffling ourselves about.  And reproducing here and there, which means that many brown people, new babies, might happen to be born in this part of this land mass, this continental homeland.  

The United States is being reindigenized.  The genocide of long ago wreaked an horrific devastation, but some seeds of continuation were also sowed deeply.  And we have continued to grow, sprout, reproduce, reinvigorate our tribes and tribal affiliations.  The original colonizers and massacre operatives thought they’d finished us off, but we’re coming back.  Like bamboo in your backyard.  Or buffalo in the prairie.  That’s all we’re doing.  Just reindigenizing.  If you cut black hair to the scalp, it will still grow back black.  It may take 500 years, but it’s got thick roots, and it will always come back.

Happy Reindigenization Day.

Monday, July 04, 2016

Memoir Photos: Summer of 1986

After I graduated from Goucher, I left Maryland and stopped in Fort Worth long enough to grab a suitcase and duffel bag, filling it with enough clothes, books, and other stuff for my move to Austin.  My parents had to stand by as I made my post-college decision to not return to FW (at least not yet, not then).  I had more learning and new experimenting to do.  I worked at the UIL office and got turned on to group living in a handful of housing situations.  When I met Clarke and Peter, we seemed to get along as lovers of experimental literature, art happenings, and crazy music.  We formed a band, along with Peter's girlfriend at the time (now my good friend, Kendra) and the rock-and-roll drummer Lorenzo (who we had to force to listen to jazz and King Crimson for the sound we wanted), and later adding a math genius guitarist named Greg.  Our band name was Opiattitude.  We played The Beach and lots of house parties and the UT-art students halloween party in the fall of 1985.  We even got to play the infamous Liberty Lunch.  People compared us to the Talking Heads and The Residents.  This flattered us a bit.  I mostly danced and set up visual elements, like box springs/mattresses lit up onstage, and sometimes I did some vocals.  Somewhere a video exists of the Liberty Lunch show, but I've yet to see it.  In the late spring of 1986, Clarke invited me to drive up to Maryland with him, as he was moving to Baltimore to be with his girlfriend, Jennifer H, who was studying at the Maryland Institute of Art at the time.  The idea sounded great to me, because I was missing my college friends and was ready to quit the UIL job.

So when Clarke and I rolled into Balto, I reconnected with Julia F (she's the pensive new wave friend standing next to Debbie Reighn, who's looking at me in this b/w photo which was snapped on my college graduation day) and Sallie something-something, both of whom put me up for weeks at a time.  In between, I stayed with my friend Ceci Epstein in DC--Washington, that is.

I had lots of unscheduled time to practice some art, including making some stencils--which I still have and use for t-shirt prints every now and then.  Ceci and I bounced around the city, visiting cool bookshops, record stores, and Smithsonian museums.  This color photo of me was taken by her, outside of one of the National Gallery museums.  It's one of my favorite photos ever taken of me.  (Thank you, Ceci!)  Ceci was my punk rock maestra.  She turned me on to DC hardcore punk and got me into some fine (dingy, dangerous) punk shows back in the mid-1980s.  No regrets.  And i still have pretty good hearing ability, thankfully.  (Though there was that one show in DC, with Reptile House opening for the Butthole Surfers.  My ears felt like they were about to bleed off.)

By late June, an Austin suitor named James let it be known that he was missing me so much that he planned to visit me in the DC/Balto area and scoop me up to drive us to the national Rainbow gathering, which that summer was scheduled to happen in the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania.  I was starting to get a huge crush on a Londoner named Sean F, who was visiting his architect brother in Baltimore, but it was too late (and seemingly too rude) to put James off.  James claimed to have done lsd all the way from Austin, hence he drove nonstop to be quickly at my side again.  Egads.  Oh my.  Whatever.

Before heading to the Forest and all the hippie forest Rainbow family folks, James relented to stop in the Philly area--specifically Phoenixville--so that I could have a few days to catch up with another great college friend, Debbie Reighn.  Debbie was so happy for my visit that she prepared way too much food; the uber-bowl of pasta salad was about as big as a Texas wading pool.  I was flattered by her enthusiasm and thankful that my college friendships seemed to be standing the test of time--one year after graduation.  Haha.

For the 4th of July, Debbie's ogre boyfriend--who resembled a real frog in a Kermit suit--lent her his fancy late-model car so she could drive me and my boyfriend into Philadelphia for a nice dinner and maybe some live music somewhere downtown.  The dinner was lackluster and overpriced--in a tourist district--and it was too crowded and too late to think about visiting some of the historical sites so we just opted to stop in at a punk/indie music show on the "bad end" of South Street.  That part was cool and fun, as we got to watch a local band called the Electric Love Muffins do their cute raucous set while their local fans got hyped and happy.  When we got out of there, it must have been around midnight, and the fireworks stuff was pretty much over, and the sidewalks teemed with pedestrians rushing to nightclubs, parking garages, hotels, home.  I appreciated the sheer number of Philly folks surrounding us, as crowds typically make me feel safer when I'm out at night.

But the climate changed suddenly, when we found ourselves stopped at a traffic light behind a car, and a horde of young people (were they all boys? were they actually teens?  how many?) swarmed our car and a brick (was it just one?  or was it just one that hit the windshield?) shook the vehicle and I rushed to close my half-opened window and was glad that my door was already locked, but felt a horrible dread as I jerked my glance over to Debbie's side of the car, and noticed that she was hurriedly locking her door, but her window--it was wide open.  And like a nightmare moment, the window was moving too slowly, as hands and lengths of boy arms were shoving themselves through it and reaching, grabbing, twisting, ripping.  OMG!  They were trying to get us, trying to grab at us.  Too late on my side, because my window and door were secured, and my boyfriend in the back was screaming, but he got punched in the face by one of the kids who actually shattered the back window to pummel James.  I was in a momentary stupor, and our car couldn't move forward, because there was a friggin' car stopped at the red light in front of us, and its driver probably hadn't noticed we were being attacked. So I yelled at Debbie, "Go! Just go!  Drive on the sidewalk, we have to go!!"  And I decided to honk the car horn, to make the car in front of ours wake up and run the red and hurry up, so we could get on and away, save our lives.  I'll never forget the look of hate in his eyes, as one of the kids screamed into my face, "BITCH!"

Finally, after what seemed like 10 minutes, the light changed and Debbie got control of the wheel, and we lurched forward, and we were trembling and the boys somehow slipped away and got left back there, though they'd gotten Debbie's purse, and had left their footprints all over the car.  And Debbie's blouse was ripped and it was hysterical for us, we were in a chaotic mind, and could barely speak, as the car did all the talking for us, screeching away from that attack and that near-death moment and the horrible 4th of July ending in the City of Brotherly Love.