Monday, March 28, 2011

Wild Things

I sat in the rally planning meeting feeling like a fly on the wall as the preparations continued. "No one can sell anything" one of the organizers explained. "Tell that to the palatero man!" someone called out. People started to giggle, reminiscing about the palatero man who mysteriously popped up at a rally to sell his little Mexican popsicles, weaving his jingling cart through the chanting crowd. My mind wandered to Phoenix. I had gone to Arizona from Tijuana for a rally and was stunned by the shear quantity of Mexican food that appeared during the march: elote, paletas - all right there in a pueblo vs. Arpaio rally in Phoenix. It did seem funny. So quick thinking. Entrepreneurial.

I watched Alec try to feed Momo her bird-food birthday cake. She ignored it. His ipod started a new song. "This will bring them alive," Alec commented "they like the MC5". I didn't know our birds liked the MC5.

I watched the strange image on the ultrasound machine, as if I would be able to see with my untrained eye the thing they were looking for. I guess most people see babies in a situation like this, but they, well, we were monitoring an ominous, threatening thing that was definitely not a fetus. They had dragged me back in to see if it "had changed". I mentally started counting up the sick days I have acquired in the short time I've been at my new school, all while staring at the image on the screen. Maybe eight? What if this thing had transformed itself into what everyone feared in the last six months? Eight paid days off wouldn't be enough. I started getting pissed at my job again, pissed that they rejected the thirty odd days I had stock piled in my first four years of teaching, pissed at them for opting out of a law that everyone else has to follow. What if I need the days, what if....."The doctor says you're good. No more six month check ups. We'll send you a notice". I grabbed my clothes and got out of there.

My eyes wandered to the cats. The rest of the dinner party guests continued talking, but my eyes were locked on the eyes of one of the many feral cats my friend has taken in. You can tell how tame each is by their eyes. This one was not too tame. I liked looking into its wild eyes.

The advent of spring and a cycle of antibiotics to kill the devil flu has brought me back to the land of the living. My light is beginning to shine. I run out of school minutes after the kids and have been working the kind of short work week that critics of teachers claim believe we always work. I like it.

The wild bird continues to nest on the porch, spring has sprung, the world keeps rotating and many things just can't be tamed.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fly, fly, fly

"You know, I always wanted to be a cop. Not like a normal cop, like the FBI or DEA or something. Just want to cause a ruckus in the street" Alejandro told me over lunch at a diner in an almost rural area outside of Atlanta. I laughed. And felt uncomfortable for doing so. If that was some white kid's ambition, or even a black one's, I'd tell him to go for it. But Alejandro, well, it's out of the question. Fuck your dreams, fuck your ambition and fuck your contributions to our country. You can do nasty work that we need and that no one wants to do and run from the law while you do it. And there is not a damn thing I can do about it.

I looked at the now filled bird's nest that has been sitting on my front porch since last August. A huge full moon hung in the sky. I didn't think about much, not about the people walking or the activity of full moon nights. The bird went crazy, it flew out of its nest and circled the ceiling, pounding its wings in panic. I felt terrible.

I went to the Confederacy again on a little driving day trip through the Andersonville concentration camp, Americus and beautiful Plains, GA - home of J.C. It doesn't take long to hit the Confederacy, just drive south of Atlanta about twenty minutes and you will start to see it. The old state flag, you know, the one that's indistinguishable from the Confederate rebel flag, statues of black folks with huge teeth and lips eating watermelon, all the markings and fixings of the Confederate States of America. It's all right there. We stopped in to a small restaurant and got some barbecue in Andersonville. The woman tending the shop was freakishly nice and friendly. As I ate my sandwich, my eyes scanned the walls of rebel flags and racist symbols, all the while exchanging pleasantries with this more than pleasant woman. A black couple perused the items for sale. Were they doing the same thing we were doing, trying to act like everything was okay in this bizarre state of utter bigotry, out of fear, fear of what, not accepting them for what they are or fear of outright confrontation? Is that what they were doing too?

I remember moving to the South. I was ten. It was the first time I heard the words "War of Northern Aggression" instead of the commonly used term: The Civil War. Even at ten I was confused, were they pissed about something? Were they actually still worrying about this? As I walked around the acreage at Andersonville and read about the filth and scum that killed nearly 13,000 people in seven months, the voice of my tenth grade history teacher filled my ears. "Sherman was a war criminal! He burned from Atlanta to the sea!" No sir, Andersonville was a war crime and I'm glad someone burned this bitch to the sea.

"Ching ching!" went the staple gun as my sister and I ran around the neighborhood quickly posting flyers against Georgia's looming, Arizona copycat immigration bills. "Hi!" I said and waved at one of my students and his mother, then slyly turned and stapled another flyer to a pole. The trip around the neighborhood businesses was pretty telling. "No," one shopkeeper answered as we asked him if he would post one of our rally flyers in his window "nothing political." I had seen his jaw tighten when I said the words "anti-immigration bills" No, I just want folks' money. No convictions, I'd sell to anyone. Dude, it's money. And I felt an equal amount of joy when I told a neighborhood restaurant owner about E-verify provisions in the bill, while eying his Hispanic cooks in the back. "Put it in the front window, I'll get you some tape" he instructed, then talked my ear off for fifteen minutes about how wrong this bill is. Tell me, mister, tell me. I love to hear it.

Though the full moon didn't strike me like it normally does, I did feel the feral side of me start to rise. Eight more weeks of school. That's it. Eight weeks. And then Arizona, Tijuana....I felt the feral side rise in Egypt and I can feel it rising up again, shining and glowing and rising.

Friday, March 4, 2011

This little light of mine

I watched the man with the dark mark on his forehead yell into the camera on television. I remember those guys from Egypt. They get that mark from praying, praying hard.

They want him back in court. At the detention center. I'm worried. "I'm worried too" Alejandro said in his email. I can't go. I have to work, I just called in sick last week and contracts are about to come out. I'm worried. He shouldn't go down there alone, but even if he comes with an army they won't be able to stop the state from taking him back if they want him.

I still wear the friendship bracelets my students in Tijuana made me before I left. They are starting to fray, disintegrate. Everything is.

"This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine!" the music teacher sang with the kids during our morning meeting. I was surprised when tears sprung into my eyes. I want my light to shine. "All around the world, I'm gonna let it shine!" they continued. My light feels sick and weak and tired. I want to let it shine, but it's dim and struggling.

"So, have you been involved in advocacy?" the church lady asked me at the pro-immigration meeting. "Yeah, sure, I've been pretty involved in some things for the last few years, mainly in Arizona and Tijuana" I answered. "You should join our group!" she went on. "Yeah, okay, because I'm pretty worried about the legislation that is happening in Georgia" I answered. "Just send us an email telling us why you want to join and we will read it to the members and decide if you can." she answered. "Are you kidding? Why are you so exclusive? Don't you realize that immigrants could really use some friends right now?" I responded. "We don't want the enemy to find us" she answered, wide eyed. Give me a fucking break. While you hide from the "enemy" no one else can find you either and a bunch of fat rednecks continue making Juan Crow laws against brown folks. Just so you know. Keep watching out.

I wrote the little sentences and questioned why I bothered. I like what I do during the summers in Arizona and my solo activities on behalf of immigrants here in Atlanta. I do not like the "advocate" community in Atlanta. There's a lot of hierarchy and competition and sitting around talking and a huge amount of inaction, served with a giant side of self promotion. It's different than what I have experienced in Arizona and California and even Tijuana. It doesn't feel like the immigration situation is being changed much, but folks certainly are aggrandizing themselves. It's embarrassing to watch.

"Whadya gonna do next year?" one of my teacher friends from the school asked me over beers. "I don't know. Thinkin' of really going feral," I answered, knowing she was one of the few people that would get that.

"I'm gonna let it shine"