walking waste in the land of the straight (days 1.5 & 2)

bumper sticker #1: Home of the Free, BECAUSE of the brave
bumper sticker #2: Freedom Isn't Free

house in Albuquerque, NM, front lawn: big statue of liberty replica (about 12 feet high); giant american flag; giant statue of eagle in mid-flight, wings spread, on roof of house, house painted red white and blue.

16 hour train ride from LA Union Station to Albuquerque. couldn't get to sleeping pills packed away, so couldn't sleep, up in observation car at 4 a.m., watched sun come up on Arizona desert. Old gay guy up all night in observation car, moved over to sit by me in big empty car, kept giving me the eye. Cute. Then Amish family came in, all dressed in Amish clothes. Or maybe Mennonites, one of those things, they didn't speak English. Trip.

snippets overheard here/there:

"You know what my mom said? 'You go out there, you better not come back.' I don't know, I guess, you know, cuz she says I use a bunch of hot water or something. I says, 'Well, $200 a month oughta cover it, doncha think? God, I do NOT wanna live there."

Same woman, later telling me about her son who lives in Aztec, NM, (a tiny town--the same town where they found my uncle drunk-dead a few months ago). Says that when he comes to visit her in Albuquerque (a real city), "He's like a marble just rollin around in a big box."

“Actually, I’m thinking that I’d really like to roll around with you,” e.g., get it on, e.g., play around, e.g., e.g.,…

"It stands to reason."

"The scientific community's divided" [on global warming]; repeated about 7 times in the space of a minute.

"I don't know why they don't just use the neutron bomb. It's the perfect weapon, send it into those caves where they're hiding out, kill 'em all, and it leaves all the structures standing, doesn't destroy anything. The way it works is it sucks out all the oxygen so they can't breathe, see? But everything is left undamaged."

"Normalicy. I just wanna get a little normalicy for a little bit, that's all."

Normal. Malice. Nor-Mal-I-see. Normal-icy.

Mom's cousin Mike and Kelly's house: NASCAR shit everywhere, Mike drives a giant white truck with FREEDOM ISN'T FREE and MIA/POW ribbon magnets on it, "fuck with the bull, you get the horns" patch, Harley Davidson everything--drives this fat Harley he calls Shirley. All the Mexicanas in our family married gabachos--except our mom. THANK FUCKIN GOD!!!! the interesting thing is that Mike is actually part Mexican--his mom was my grandma's sister. but his dad was white, and he is totally white, you wouldn't know he was Mexican at all. but here and there, he says some Spanish words etc., but, he's white. totally fuckin redneck harley nascar white. but still...there's something more there, underneath, it's interesting, I'm paying close attention, there are little clues, snippets, little hints that his identity is not so clear-cut and dry as the surface reveals. his wife Kelly is totally white, but she grew up about an hour from the border in southeast Arizona.

I'm thinking how every white person has that Cherokee woman waaaay back in their background, right? buried, erased, defaced. and I'm looking around, and I'm thinking that is what is happening with being Mexicana/o now, in a few generations, my distant relatives will have that one Mexicana waaaaay back who married a gabacho. is the only thing separating me from this same fate my Mexican dad?

I am very wary of those who attempt to lump my identity in with American, with white, because of my lineage. I look around and I see very clearly that we are VERY different, even as I recognize the similarities. Yes I have my own issues and struggles and dealings with identity and etc but I'm sorry, but this is NOT my culture, this is NOT my community, these are not my bonds, my ties. This is not my world.

Y punto.

(damage, lots of damage everywhere. you can see it in the faces, hear it in the voices. years of smoking, drinking, addiction, fear, power, anger, pain. etched in people's cheeks and eyes. bright blue sky blue crystal blue eyes bright with power and privilege but surrounded by cracks and fissures, dryness, damage, deterioration. fear.)

Uncle Alex comes to Mike and Kelly's NASCAR house, Tio Alejandro Miguel, our grandma's brother. at one point, he says to me, "oye, y hablas español?" and I say "si, claro," and he gets all happy, face lights up. he speaks english with a similar western drawl as Mike and Kelly but there's more Chicano in there, and now he speaks to me in spanish. I'm just kicking back, watching all this, interesting intersections of identity performance and navigation, hostile territory, overlapping multilayered identities, language, always the same stuff, the same issues, the same points of reference, the same navigational tools everywhere, just have to tune in, stay tuned in, stay on the right frequency to understand and read the subtle differences and variations.

Went into Wal-Mart Supercenter in Albuquerque and in Durango. Amazing. fuckin amazing gigantic, you have to go into one just to see it. they have these giant surveillance camera balls hanging EVERYWHERE from the ceilings, the whole area above you filled with them, look like big alien pods everywhere. fuckin store is humongogigantitiously big, it's like a whole city in there. they have their own government and everything. I think it's communist. Either that or capitalist.

before I left L.A., I hardboiled half a dozen eggs to take with me on the trip. then, when I was leaving with a bunch of shit, and just about to get to my car, after going down the elevator of my loft and walking a block, I realized I had left the eggs in the refrigerator. for a split second, I thought fuck it, but then immediately, something in me said I had to go back, I had to get the eggs. it was a weird feeling, like bad luck, like I couldn't leave L.A. without my eggs. noir, hardboiled detective, shaman, spirit vision quest, corniness, hay que llevarse los huevos a huevo, cabrón. I went back and got them. I ate them on the 16 hour train ride.

on the train, this (anglicized) Chicano guy sat next to me. he was some kind of spirit guide, communicated something to me. he told me how he is trying to develop a film project of Carlos Castañeda's books. He told me how his fiancée is Yaqui, like our dad's family, like Don Juan in Castañeda's books. He told me about his company, how he designs, develops, and fabricates visual elements and environments--for movie sets, for public exhibits, public spaces. a kind of magic, conjuring, illusion.

in Albuquerque, I stayed with Pauline, my abuela’s namesake, and about a 3rd cousin to me. She's in her 70s but very active--yoga, biking, hiking, very alive. very Catholic, but seems like a sensual person who lives here now, not afraid to enjoy this world. the plan was that we would put the bikes in her husband's truck, drive over to her mom's house (her mom, my great-great-aunt Margaritte, is 93 and still alert and alive and going), and then we would park by the university (UNM) and bike around in the evening. We went to meet Margaritte, and she was really cool. then I needed to buy some water and some measuring spoons for my green Superfood. she said we could go to Wal-Mart. I said maybe we could just find some little store somewhere along the way as we were biking or something. she insisted, so I said okay even though I really hated the idea of going to Wal-Mart. We parked, went in, and I'm glad I did, it was the second time in my life that I went to a wal-mart, and it was amazing and grotesque and sad and depressing and absolutely fascinating, I felt like a rat that was observing all the other rats in this maze and I was just a rat too who happened to see it for a split second and it was kind of like disneyland almost, like the futureland stuff, some crazy sad dystopia, watching the people there, lots of brown people shopping, building their lives on all these cheap goods, cheap feelings, cheap expectations desires hopes, and the ceiling of the Wal-Mart is open so that you can see the steel girding structure and frames, a giant lab box, a prison, a big warehouse where WE are being stored prepared dumbed down, and next to the cameras, TV sets so that you can watch yourself walking down the aisles, hyperreality TV, to have and to hold, to be, to not be.

anyway when we got outside, the truck wouldn't start. like the starter just wouldn't kick in. Pauline finally called her son David to come take a look. he's about my age. he came in his giant red pickup truck with his son Dusty (another completely assimilated anglicized line, Pauline married a white guy too). David couldn't start the truck either, so we loaded the bikes in his truck and went home and ate, and David went back with the neighbor, Rick, and a few minutes later, he called to say they got there, turned the key, and the truck started immediately. felt like something did not want the biking plans to go through as designed.

outside, the sky in New Mexico gigantic and overwhelming, blue and then filled with piles of white white clouds and then some gusty warm desert wind and then darker clouds and some sprinkling.

after dinner, even though I was exhausted from sleepless 16 hour train ride, Pauline and I rode bikes around her neighborhood. it was beautiful, sun setting, re-energized me, felt life flowing back through me.

waiting in line at the Albuquerque Greyhound station, this young white kid, tatts, white tanktop, faded haircut, "Hey man, cool bracelet." I say thanks, looking at my right wrist, then realize he's talking about my left wrist bracelet, and he sees and goes, "well, all of them are cool." tells me he's on his way to Madera, CA, with his fiancée and their baby. this guy is like, 17, maaaaybe 18. he's from Ohio. Cleveland. He reminds me of Eminem, Atmosphere, that whole Anti-Con scene. he's very earnest and, I think, scared out of his fucking mind. He says, "Yeah, we're gonna live with my fiancée’s parents out there in California. I'm gonna try it, you know, even though it never seems to work out, but you gotta keep trying, you know?" and I go, "Yeah, man, that's the most important thing, you gotta keep trying."

I'm sad, really sad.

pinning hopes on a change of scenery, barrelling through life headfirst, like watching a car wreck in slow motion and nothing you can do about it, the kid holds his tiny baby in his arm and talks to it in hip-hop wigga rhythms, "What you think about that, huh? What you think, little man?" Breaks my heart with sadness and with hope and with a deeper sense of this country and its future than I feel I've had in a long time. I'm surrounded by George Saunders' world, not just in his stories, but I see it so clearly in the real world around me here.

then, I get into this line waiting for the bus. there's all these Mexicano/Latino migrant workers sitting on the benches. baseball caps, clean jeans and cowboy shirts or t-shirts, windbreakers, packed duffel bags. suddenly, they all get up and form a big-ass line, next to our line. I ask one of them, "A donde van ustedes?" and he barely whispers, "Colorado." That's where I'm going, so I ask people in my line where they're going, and they say the same thing. So I just kick back and watch as these two parallel lines form, and of course, the one I'm in is all white people, the other one is all the migrant workers. Both lines going to the same place. There's all this confusion, everybody's all worried, no information, bus is delayed 45 minutes, do I get in this line or that one, where you going, he's going....well I think that one...eventually I just shift over to the migrant worker line just, you know, because. why not? that's my line. whatever.

again, the future, the future, futuro, el futur--

on the bus, I sit next to this older Mexicano. we don't talk for the first 3 hours of the trip, he's asleep most of the time. then he sees the Heriberto Yépez book I'm reading, in Spanish, in preparation for my workshop with Yépez at Naropa, and the guy figures I must speak Spanish, so for the last hour of the trip, he asks if I speak Spanish and of course I do so we start rapping. we have this really cool conversation. He's from Durango, Mexico, but he works in Durango, Colorado, where we're headed, where my mom was born and grandma grew up and was born and etc. He tells me how he tests people to see if they speak spanish, how he'll say, "que hubo, como andas?" and if they don't respond, he knows they don't speak spanish and he just backs off. we talk about navigating languages, figuring out how to communicate in a given situation without offending or alienating the other person. He tells me about the little prairie dogs that live around Cortéz, Colorado, that pop up out of the ground all straight, they're really cute, I saw them once when I visited this area. He tells me how when one of a pair of prairie dog mates gets run over by a car on the highway, the other mate will run back and forth from the edge of the road to the roadkill, like it's trying to bring the other one back or something, until it gets killed too. "Son muy fieles," the guy, Osvaldo Valdez, says. They're very faithful.

I think about how we can intertwine with others and propel each other forward, but also, how we can intertwine with others and drag each other down. I've been through plenty of the latter, but have yet to find very much of the former. does it exist, or is the best we can hope for a mate who will commit to being roadkill with us if we bite it?

something sickly romantic and beautiful in that, no?

will you be my fellow roadkill, to have and to---SPLATT!!!!!

Before I can ask Osvaldo about all this, he tells me how he's a Jehovah's Witness, and luckily, we're almost at our destination of Durango, CO. but he doesn't come on too strong anyway, so that's cool. He just says how he used to be into drinking and womanizing before, and then he got religion and doesn't do that stuff anymore. He tells me how it's too much work anyway to be sleeping around etc., and he tells me this funny little story about a guy named Pedro who was going to a dance by himself, and his girlfriend said, "If you're going to the dance, take me with you, because you already have somebody to dance with." He insisted on going by himself, so she got all fixed up and went to the dance herself. He danced with some other ladies, so SHE danced with some other guys. At the end of the night, he told her to go home, and she said, "NO, you come with me. If you go with somebody else, then I'M going with somebody else." and then Osvaldo ended this cute cuento with his favorite phrase he used throughout our conversation, "Si, joven, así va la historia."

Yes, it does.

everywhere voices channeling important, relevant, timely information. tune: in correct frequency, round & round, see;si--

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