Friday, June 30, 2023

2 Minutes. Go!

The Scrub Jays are smart, but the ravens are smarter. Scrub Jays will take a peanut from a ten-year-old's hand. Ravens ask for the peanuts. Fly away. Wait until they are thrown. Then, they bide their time. They will not budge until I am out of their eyesight. Smart birds. 

I come in peace, but I am a rare bird myself. 

My neighbors go to war with the ravens and then wonder why there are rotten animal carcasses left on their steps. Why things go missing. Why their emergence from the house starts a goddamn riot of noise in the neighborhood. I just smile. 

Go ahead and fight the squirrels, you might stand a chance. 

The ravens are smarter than you are. 

I'm happy when I feel the light scrape of the Jay's talons on my fingers while they swoop down to take an offering. I am happy when I see the cautious mistrust of the ravens. 

Birds are royalty. Evolution took them into the clouds, and left the rest of us struggling animals to fend for ourselves, on the ground. We can look up, but we can't take flight. Not without money and technology and a little bit of faith.

So, give a bird a peanut. Some popcorn. Seeds. Tell them you see them. Let them see you. Then, fly away, you have bigger things to do.

Friday, June 23, 2023

2 Minutes. Go!

She's not a little bird, she's a beast. She drops what she thinks are truth bombs from her bunker where she is Player one, two and three. She's got open eyes, but she just can't see. Got baggage stored under the family tree. She's got one of those 'hello, my name is..." stickers, and she wrote VICTIM on it. Slapped that shit right onto her forehead, more dread, more sadness trending madness. She's dressed for the journey, painted eyes, drama-tized. She's smelling conspiracy everywhere. She feels affronted, but like, that wasn't yours...and you wanted to take it. From someone else. Someone kind. So, fuck you. Fuck your stupid, cool attitude. Fuck your sad stories about your old man, his mom ... no one cares. You're a parasite with an agenda. You always pick yourself the winner, sit by the window. Someday, I'll be dead, but the words will follow behind me in a comet tail. They'll use yours to line birdcages. Its cool, though, "bad writer" is better than "victim" any day.

Friday, June 9, 2023

2 Minutes. Go!

I teach 8th grade, and the year just ended. It was a tough year, but I know all about tough years. I'm not trying to sound dramatic, but I've been through it. On many levels. And maybe it started in 8th grade. 

I went to a huge, inner city school in the south, and it was a scary place. There were fights every day. The principal got punched multiple times. A kid got stabbed with a pencil. People brought guns to school. Upon reflection, it was hell. It was the kind of school that makes school shooters. I never wanted to hurt anyone at school, but I knew kids who did. This was before Columbine; we never imagined long guns and explosives in hallways. We imagined simpler revenges.

There was a kid who sat behind me in my social studies class 8th grade year. He had failed numerous grades, and he was a seventeen-year-old 8th grader. He was even mature for his age. Physically, at least. He was a man, and I was a boy. He sat in the last seat, back right side of the classroom. I sat in front of him. 

Almost every day, this kid (I'm glad I don't remember his name) would fill his hand with lotion, reach around and smear it on my face, saying: "I just came on your face, white boy." I didn't realize at the time how fucked up this was; at the time, I just wanted to be the kind of kid who would turn around and stab someone with a pencil. Punch him at least. Anything other than sit and take it. 

But I sat and took it. Never even turned around. Just wiped my face and thought about explosions and blood and violence, so I wouldn't cry. I began to consider stoicism a virtue. I turned the other cheek, but out of fear, not benevolence. 

I used to lay awake at night thinking about it. How one day, I would just turn around and try to break my fist on that dude's fucking face. I knew he'd kill me. No doubt in my mind, but I would have that one moment where the pain in my hand would match the pain inside. I dreamed about splitting my knuckles open on his teeth. I was a skinny kid. So, I just stayed home as much as my mom would let me, which wasn't often enough.

About 3/4 of the way through the year, an ally presented herself. I don't remember her name either or I'd track her down and give her the biggest hug in the world. I don't even remember how it started. I remember this:

She was huge. Dark-skinned and beautiful and just BIG. I didn't have a crush on her. I was in awe of her. And somehow, she found out that I liked Hip Hop. I can't imagine a scenario where this happened, but I swear it's true. Somehow, she found out that I liked Hip Hop and that I had a freakish ability to remember lyrics. I could rap for her. Only her. And she loved it. Almost as much as she loved Richard Grieco - the only other thing I remember about her. 

Believe me when I say she put a stop to the lotion shit with a quickness. I don't know how. I don't know if there were explanations or threats involved. I just know the big motherfucker stopped fucking with me, and I had a new friend. And she was huge and black, but was head over heals for Richard Grieco. I remember her many speeches about how she was "in love with that white boy." Maybe I wondered if she wanted me to be her Grieco stand in. Maybe I didn't question it. 

I've had some dark shit happen to me, but those repeated months of humiliation and rage changed something in me. They didn't make me violent. They didn't make me want to shoot up the school. They gave me a suicide trump card I knew I would never play. They gave me hardness. They gave me the capacity for cruelty. I didn't want those things, but that's what I got. I control them OK, now, but that wasn't always the case. 

I know there are kids going through hell every day. Some of it, I see. Some of it, I don't. But I know it's there, and I'm constantly hoping a new student will show up, pictures of Richard Grieco on her binder, to act as safe haven for the kids who need it. To be the safe port in contentious storms. To be the kind of savior you don't even know you're looking for. 

Friday, June 2, 2023

2 Minutes. Go!

The man stands on the overpass shouting at the traffic. Maybe he's angry. Maybe he's dropping benedictions on the harried commuters checking the time on their phones. There is tension radiating off of him in waves.

He is wrapped in clothes and blankets, all "homeless grey" - this is his disguise. Maybe his protection. 

Maybe the soiled clothes are a moat to keep interlopers away. 

He caught my eye. Just a flash. In between changing radio stations and checking the time. Just one man, alone on an overpass. In simpler times, he might have been taken for a prophet. A seer. Maybe people would have gathered at his feet like Socrates. 

He is fighting a battle. That much is clear. But that's something you can say about everybody. Everybody is fighting something. Maybe this man is fighting himself, the world, addiction. Maybe this man is channeling the voice of God. 

He caught my eye, but I wonder if he caught anyone else's. I wonder if he wanted to be seen. I wonder if I'll see him again on the same overpass. I wonder if people will look when I am the man on the overpass, shrouded in sodden, stinking rags. 

I wonder what my battle will be. 

I'm comfortable admitting something that you won't. Here it is. Given a few different circumstances, a few bad breaks, and some bad luck ... that motherfucker on the overpass is me. Or you. You're not so clean. 

Start preaching.