Wednesday, March 30, 2011


The last time I saw my grandpa (on my dad’s side) alive he was eighty nine years old, bedridden, decrepit, missing teeth, dying of cancer, and all this with a smile on his face.  He was a mirror to my projected future – old age, sickness and death.  Like Ashvaghosha’s Life of Buddha I was the perturbed Prince encountering the all too real truths of life.  And during this encounter, my grandpa and I tried our best to speak to one another, but that had always been a difficult endeavor because he spoke only Spanish, and I understand only bits and pieces of it.  And on top of that it took him a lot of energy just to say a few words, and many of those words were slurred and mumbled.  One of my cousins stepped in to serve as interpreter the best she could.  After we discussed various matters pertaining to our mutual lives, I asked if he was up for a game of dominoes, his favorite game and mine too.  He said (with a hint of embarrassment) that he had forgotten how to play.  And that struck me to the core, not that I wanted to play dominoes that bad, or that the game itself was even that important, but the idea that he forgot how to play something he loved so much was so, so symbolic of him dying to this world.  Picture Michael Jordan on his deathbed forgetting what the game of basketball was or Muhammad Ali forgetting about boxing.  That just wouldn’t be right, but that’s how it was.  Eventually, it came time for us to say our goodbyes, and his last words to me were, “Nunca olvides que tu madre y tu padre” (“Never forget your mother and your father”).  These words will always be kept in my heart, but I must admit I’m glad he didn’t say - never DISOBEY your mother and your father because that would be a much more trying task.

When I was in my child form, my grandpa would always tell me that I should be an astronauta (astronaut), which is something that never really interested me.  I just was never much into physics and spaceships and black holes.  Stuff like Star Trek didn’t appeal to me.  But now that he has vanished into the great beyond, a little something inside me kind of wishes I could maybe go to the moon, or Mars, or some distant universe.  I'm not sure what I would do if I ever actually went into outer space, but maybe I would simply look out into the heavens and say, “Estoy aqui abuelo.  Estoy aqui.”

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Leran's Short Story

I Remember When I Got Caught Shoplifting at Wal-Mart

            Raging bodily chemicals.  Puberty.  Thirteen years of age.  That was probably the most awkward time of my still very short life.  I could sum up this particular experience (of which I will soon describe to you) with a million excuses:  my parents didn’t love me, my friends were doing it, or a personal favorite - the devil made me do it.  Unfortunately, I will have to take responsibility for my actions.  Kleptomania.  I just loved to steal, the thrill of beating the system.  It was so easy, how could I stop, having a rush every time I did it.  So why did I stop, and how could that day have had such an impact on my life?

            Well one day, as far as I can remember a weekend day, Mr. Sticky-fingers (A.K.A. the narrator) decided he needed to liven up his evening.  Well, since I usually went solo on my thieving escapades, it was strange of me to pull a stunt like this when I rode up there with my parents.  Being a hormonally unbalanced adolescent, it made total sense to me.  I had a creative plan on how to do it, too.  The objective was to steal prepackaged assortment of “The Savage Dragon” issues 1, 2, and 3.  The way I went about it was I bought a copy of “Daredevil,” and put it in one of those blue plastic shopper bags.  I entered the foodateria with it, and then moments later I reentered the store.  Ingenious plan to a na├»ve little eighth grader.  Wow, I still remember how proud of myself I was.  Back to my formally referred to ingenious plan:  I finally sneaked back into the isle, grabbed the object of my desires and bagged it.  Then it was time to split.  As I walked towards the exit, my conscience grabbed hold of me.  I eventually broke its grip in a matter of a few rapidly passing seconds, again showing my great character and strong moral fiber.

            Just as I left Wal-Mart, moments away from proclaiming my manhood to the world, a gentle tap on the shoulder and a whisper to the ear took place.  A blow so devastating its furiousity has yet to be matched in the years that I’ve been on earth.  I was overcome with a fear that was unimaginable just ten seconds earlier when I marched in triumph.  By the way those whispering words were, “Come with me.”  A far cry from, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” but it too left its impact on the universe of my soul.  “Fall from Grace” was inscribed across the cover of the Daredevil comic I had just purchased, an appropriate title given that moment of my life.  Though graceful I was not, for tears carried across my shocked and disappointed mother’s face as the Wal-Mart employee escorted me to the security personnel’s office, for her little angel I am not, nor will I ever be again.

            As worthless as I had ever imagined myself to be, I sank to a new low that evening.  All doubts and suspicions my parents entertained in the back of their conscious minds began to surface.  Next thing I knew I was responsible for anything and everything that went wrong.  If something was missing, I had it.  This in itself was punishment alone.  Pride and honor are things no longer considered to be associated with myself.  I choose not to disclose any more information of this traumatic time due to the pain I feel on the reopening of this wound.  All I can say is that I have never entertained the thought of shoplifting since this incident, and that once incomparable thrill has been replaced by a dark and torturing chill.

Written by my dear friend Leran (pronounced Lee-ron), the 6th of October, 1997
Edited by Roy Murrell and Aguilar Elliot

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

John Brown (1800-1859)

White Man.  Radical Abolitionist.  Courageous Crusader for Social Change.

Henry David Thoreau wrote of John Brown, “It seems as if no man had ever died in America before, for in order to die you must first have lived.”
            - from “A Plea for Captain John Brown”

Ralph Waldo Emerson said of the execution of John Brown: "He will make the gallows holy as the cross."
            -from “A People’s History of the United States”
(Northern Union) soldiers (during the Civil War) marched into battle saying, “John Brown’s Body.”
            -from “Lies My Teacher Told Me.”

W.E.B Du Bois described John Brown as thus, “…he showed one weakness of his character:  he did not know or recognize the subtler twistings of human nature.  He judged it ever for his own simple, clear standpoint and so had a sort of prophetic vision of the vaster and the eternal aspects of the human soul.  But of its kinds and prejudices, its little selfishness and jealousies and dishonesties, he knew nothing.”
            -from “John Brown”

Malcolm X was once asked if any whites could join his organization (OAAU – Organization of Afro-American Unity), and he replied, “If John Brown were alive, maybe him.”
           -from “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”

 "Tragic Prelude" by John Steuart Curry
After being convicted of treason for trying to incite a revolt of slaves, John Brown said, “Had I so interfered in behalf of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, the so-called great, or in behalf of any of their friends… it would have been all right.”
            -from John Brown’s Speech to the Court (1859)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Law Dawgs

Ladies and Gentlemen, the story you are about to read is true, only the dialogue of the people involved has been somewhat constructed because the memory has its limits...

One Spring night in the year of 2007 in Stafford, Texas (a small city outside of Houston) I, a man standing six feet and one inch, weighing two hundred and ten pounds, and wearing street attire – baggy shorts, a hoody, and a bandana, was out jogging in a back alley street near my suburban neighborhood.  As I went about my routine, several police cars whizzed by me.  I didn’t think much of it, and so I just continued on with my business.  After I jogged about two miles, I headed back home, and when I reached my abode, low and behold several police cars were parked right outside my house.  Several coppers were walking around my yard, searching for something.  I wasn’t sure what my next move should be.  I thought about announcing myself, but that seemed too awkward.  And I also didn’t want to startle the cops, because bad things tend to happen when you startle people carrying guns, so I decided to utilize some of my latent ninja abilities (probably not the smartest decision).  I crept past them, without making a noise, and got inside my house.

A few seconds later, the door bell rang.  I answered it, and it was a bald headed gap toothed officer, and he said to me, “Sir, there has been a robbery and our dogs led us to your house.  We think it would be best if you let us have a look around for your own safety.  The robber could be hiding here.”

I thought that maybe I should just say no, and make them go get a warrant if they wanted to check out my house, but I guess niceness overcame me, and I let them come into my home.  Several coppers entered and searched my entire house.  After they conducted a thorough investigation, the gap toothed officer approached me and said, “Thank you, everything has been checked.  Be careful, and if you see anything out of the ordinary give us a call.”  They left my house, and I locked my door.

And then… 

A few minutes later, the doorbell rang.  It was the police again.  The gap toothed officer said, “I know we just checked your house, but we don’t know where this robber is, and we really think he’s somewhere around here.  Do you think we could check your house again?”  I smiled, a grinchy smile.  I said, “Fine, go ahead.”  The police searched my house a second time.  The officer said, “Okay, the robber is not here.”  And they left.

And then… 

A few minutes later, the doorbell rang.  It was the police once again.  The gap toothed officer said, “Sorry sir, I know we checked your house twice, but our dogs are telling us the robber has got to be somewhere around here.  Would it be alright if you came outside and let one of our dogs sniff you?”  My initial thought was that I didn’t realize dogs had so much influence upon the actions and decisions of the police force.  After mulling it over for a few moments, I said, “Alright, but that dog better not bite me, or I’ll bite back.”  The gap toothed officer laughed, and said “He won’t bite you, I promise.”  So he guided me into the street, away from my house.  He said, “Stand still, and don’t make any sudden movements.  We’re just going to let our dog sniff you real quick.”  I said, “Okay.”  Another cop, a portly one, held a German Shepherd dog on a leash.  I got a little anxious because to me animals are unpredictable, even trained ones.  So I prepared myself to strike, if the dog decided to strike at me.  The portly cop walked the dog past me, and in a matter of seconds they were done.  The gap toothed officer said, “Okay, that’s it.  You’re clear.  Thank you so much.”  I walked back toward my house.  I opened the door.

And then…

The gap toothed officer said, “Hey, sir… sir.”  I turned around and he approached me saying, “Can I ask you to do one more thing?”  I crossed my arms together, and said, “What’s that?”  He said, “Well you were the only known suspect that was outside at the time of the robbery, and we’d really appreciate it if we could take you over to the scene of the crime, and let the witness look at you.”  I pondered this for a moment, and then said, “Fine then.”  I don’t know what the hell was wrong with me, and why I was so obliging toward people that were willing to throw me in jail had they the slightest grounds to do so.

I went inside the police car - the backseat, the uncomfortable seat.  They took me to the apartment complex, next to my neighborhood.  A multitude of people were outside, there was a lot of commotion, and I was slightly concerned that I was being led to the gallows to meet my bitter end.  The gap toothed officer told me to stand in the middle of the street, and as soon as I did so, they shined a bright, blinding light upon me.  The witness looked me over and told the coppers that I wasn’t the guy.  Then, the gap toothed officer gave me a ride back home.  We said our goodbyes, hoping never to see each other again; at least that was my hope.

And then…

The end.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Inuit Poetry

Utitia’q’s Song

I am happy.
This is good.
There is nothing but ice all around.
That is good.
I am happy.
This is good.
For land we have slush.
That is good.
I am happy.
This is good.
When I do not know enough
It is good.
When I tire of being awake
I begin to wake.
It gives me joy. 


Nanook of the North (1922) - a film about a family of Inuits