Young and daring freedom loving fearless punk Addicted to excess school he flunked Found love early the free bird also found a cage Never ending bliss decreased he then turned to rage
Went to Vegas risked it all and lost even the house Defeated he returned feeling smaller than a mouse His pride he also lost but one thing he gained . . . a divorce Now he lost his mind his soul and all there’s nothing worse
Pawned his ring and bought a gun Put it against his temple now he’s gone Better learn a lesson my son Simple truth I’m a bad example now I’m in hell Just concentrate do the opposite and you’ll be well
Born from the same genes and innermost Sperm and ovaries, root and soil Equal and yet so different Unequal and so indifferent Same blood both ways Separate litter, separate mind, soul, and all else too Nursed and bred by the same hand and rules Heartless and faked yet sometimes Humble and straight Some handsome outside And handsome inside Some pretty in and out Although not all the time You could forget you are good When you remember you could be mean and cruel And all the while remain impeccably firm As you convince yourself how flawless you are However, you never say it Clearly, you have your favored precious Thank God they are interchangeable Not as a son or a daughter Where you could never decide or proclaim Who your favorite is Fraternal love eternal and ephemeral It could be applied in the same sentence Pleasure and pain, love, and indifference Love them all is your final recourse A gift from God could also mean A Satan’s curse Nevertheless, the plague can eventually fade away But you will never dissuade Satan of course Relatives, kin or blood, you can never escape Like it or not you are stuck You cannot repel or refuse My best advice, enjoy and ignore Alternatively.
Dedicated to my seven brothers and sisters. I love you all.
EDMUNDO BARRAZA Visalia, CA. 05-28-2012
“I sought my soul But my soul I could not see I sought my God But my God eluded me I sought my brother And I found all three.” – William Blake
Me gusta la poesía en prosa Porque no tengo la obligación forzada de encontrar Palabras con un final similar Y también la otra clase, la poesía en rima. Más bonita y más difícil La que le habla al amor y el amor escucha. Por cada cosa que me gusta alguna otra me disgusta . . . Me disgusta el orgullo inútil, patriótico e inservible De la gente enamorada únicamente de su propio país Que egoístamente piensa que el suyo es el mejor Cuando la humanidad debería ser una sola familia, un solo país Un solo mundo sin fronteras sin barreras ni muros de separación Me gusta la democracia que permite cada seis años Cambiar a un bruto por otro bruto. Me gusta el Dios de todos, el Dios bueno, el que pone atención El que nos protege y nos ayuda a no cometer errores irreparables El Dios bondadoso, real y constante y siempre presente. Me disgusta el Dios que te exige que no trabajes un día a la semana para que lo veneres El Dios que te obliga a una vida imposible con sus reglas y mandatos El Dios que trabaja sólo seis días y luego desaparece. Me gusta el Dios de alma pura el que le asigna un angelito a cada niño Y que nunca permite que se vayan a dormir con hambre o que mueran chiquitos Me disgusta el Dios que te hace a su imagen y semejanza; lleno de errores, egoísta y celoso Me gusta la vida al principio con su inocencia infantil —que después los adultos contaminamos Me disgusta la vida al final Cuando ya sin energía iniciamos otro ciclo y de nuevo exigimos ayuda. Me gusta la oportunidad que todos recibimos al nacer Oportunidad de aprender, crear y decidir Me disgusta aceptar la realidad . . . que la mayoría desperdiciamos esta oportunidad Me gusta saber que hay esperanza en el Mundo y que constantemente nace gente admirable Me disgusta saber que por cada ganador del premio Nobel Nacen millones de idiotas que probablemente echarán a perder todo en un instante Me gusta la Madre Naturaleza que sabe como defenderse de su peor enemigo . . . el hombre La Naturaleza indestructible y capaz de sanarse por sí sola. Me disgusta el hombre insensato e irresponsable El cual inevitablemente encontrará la manera de arruinarlo todo Me gusta dar mi opinión y me disgusta que la ignoren —inevitable también Me gusta tener razón y me disgusta ser irrazonable Me gusta la gente inteligente y la que no es también, pero sólo cuando tiene excusa Me disgusta la gente tonta cuando tiene en su poder la capacidad de evitar serlo. Y dentro de mí hay todo esto Y me gusta y me disgusta.
Killing an ant with a nuclear bomb, total exaggeration Stoning a woman right after she’s been raped, abomination Creating the final solution to exterminate a wandering nation Inexplicable and contradictive, killing cancer with radiation Tormenting and torturing without mitigation
Crying at the bottom of the sea to drown your sorrow Fighting foreign wars all over the world, non-stop in a row Committing suicide today for things that will disappear tomorrow Saint Sebastian expiring and receiving another arrow Asking money from a beggar, when he has nothing to borrow
God never lies you can’t insist Begging God to make me believe he doesn’t exist Asking God to become friends with Satan so evil can cease to exist Declining access to hell even if I persist or desist Satan always lies he can’t resist
There’s no solution or substitution for disillusion There’s no compensation or restitution for revolution Brain surgery needed for a mind so narrow And heavy, impossible to carry in a wheelbarrow Angry and nonconformist, I raise my fist Only to be censored, disqualified and dismissed.
The middle is a convenient and easy place to be, where no arguments or controversies exist. The middle is a comfortable neutral point where conformity shares space with submission. The middle is a tedious place where no one, voluntarily should remain for a long time. Life is meant to be a continuous experiment. The middle is fine, but only temporarily. I must go to the extremes, both extremes. I should never be static, I should never allow myself to be overtaken by docility or mediocrity. I would rather be invisible than mediocre.
If I ever get lost, I should dig deep inside in my mind to find myself again, and break on through to the other side, to my inner light where my subconscious remains in the midst of heaven and hell. Limbo? Then while there, I should visit my personal storage dump, where all my repressed memories lie, and cleanse myself of regrets, fears, and sins too. And reconnect the mind and soul with my spiritual mortal body.
I should also distance myself from all human suffering that obscures my individual enlightenment, by crossing the abstract threshold that leads to the path of my intangible insight that helps me to assimilate the objectives of a meaningless life. I would also liberate the confined beliefs that could help me realize that suffering is never inherent to any situation. My good deeds will eventually guide me to my karma and to my final encounter with the ecstasy of reaching my own nirvana.
I need to find the point where the past and the present collide to avoid an unmerciful future. I need to push the button to pause all brain activity so I can counteract a severe burnout.
Nihilism will cease to exist. My zenith will rise above my nadir. My reborn optimism will help me to obtain the best of all possible worlds. Now that I reached the highest happiness, I will create my perfect destiny. The ominous part of reaching Nirvana leads to a downward spiral to the depths of hell. Once you reach total spiritual bliss, total euphoric ecstasy you will crash against a wall of confusion . . .
Damn! I can’t continue. I ran out of weed, that was my last joint. Now what?
Before I signed the rental contract, the landlady told me that an eighty-six-year-old man had died in the first bedroom. She said she needed to disclose it before I moved in so I wouldn’t quit suddenly without a thirty-day notice.
At the time I didn’t pay any attention and disregarded the comment as useless and unimportant. Later on, through the neighbors, I learned that the old man had lived there for fifteen years. After that, three new tenants moved in and out in rapid succession.
The house was old and unattractive, with a garage attached to the kitchen and living room. The family room was next to the dining room with a narrow hallway and three bedrooms. The floor plan was terrible. It had dark brown paint, dark brown carpet, a dark brown vinyl floor in the kitchen and dining room. This could be the ugliest house on the block. I just couldn’t find anything attractive or pleasant about that house, but I’ve never been a person with many demands. Therefore, I signed the contract.
After a few weeks, the house was finally home, I didn’t care about how ugly it was.
One time, I was alone in the house watching TV in the living room. The volume on the TV was low; it was early at night when suddenly I heard the radio go on in one of the back rooms.
I heard a male voice for a couple of seconds. I turned the lights on and went to investigate. I checked in my bedroom where I have an alarm clock, but it was off. I had another radio, but it was unplugged. I thought it was very strange but I returned to watch the television.
As the days passed, my wife and I kept hearing noises, normal house noises like wood shrinking and swelling, or wind slamming doors.
Another day, I was reading in bed around 2:00 am when I heard the patio sliding door vibrating for a few seconds. I thought it was an earthquake, but nothing else shook. I convinced myself that it was my dog Diego pushing the glass door. I didn’t want to go across the hallway and pass the old man’s room at 2:00 am.
One morning, my wife was cooking in the kitchen and listening to music on the radio. I was in my room when suddenly the music got too loud. I jumped and ran straight to the living room. I was ready to scream at her, but she was paralyzed with a look of terror. I could see from the kitchen the stereo system volume knob turning up by itself as far as it could go.
When my daughter and my ten-month-old grandson Damian came to visit for a week, I put them in the old man’s bedroom. At first, she said it was warm and comfortable, no complaints. They were happy, and I was happy. My grandson was handsome and smart, like his grandpa.
On her last night, my daughter came into our room carrying her son.
“Dad, somebody’s moving our bed, even Damian woke up. We’re staying in your room now.” then, she asked me to get the portable mattress we had in the living room for Damian to play on. I stood up very brave and self-confident, but when I went past that ‘room’, my knees were shaking.
The following day, I knew I had to confront the old man. He needed to know I wasn’t afraid of him. And I wouldn’t be running away like the other tenants. After all, he wasn’t the one paying the rent. I moved my computer from the garage to ‘his room’. That way I had to spend a lot of time in that room.
After my wife left for work, I asked him why he was still in the house. I kept talking to him for a few more days, sometimes even in Spanish, but it appeared he was gone. Or maybe I scared him off, or maybe he never existed.
Just when I was feeling relaxed and comfortable I saw him.
There was a mirror hanging on the bathroom door, when it was shut, I could see that mirror and the one above the cabinet sink. So I could see my body, front and back at the same time.
That’s when I saw him. I was in shock, but not terribly afraid. Of course, it took me by surprise; I jumped back, and in a blink of an eye he wasn’t there anymore. I saw him, but I wasn’t sure whether he was inside the mirror or behind me. He was wearing a light blue suit and a tie. He looked harmless.
“So you’re here after all,” I said, “I hope you’re not shy. What’s your name? Come on man, I know you know my name already, tell me yours.”
“My name’s Peter Shelby,” he answered in a soft, cavernous voice. Instead of getting scared, I got genuinely excited.
“Tell me, are you with God, have you seen Him?” I asked him.
“Ha! I was eighty-six when I died. I was baptized and had my first communion. I gave the church a small fortune in donations. But God was nowhere to be seen. I tried all my life not to break the Ten Commandments. And it was all for nothing, I still hope he shows up.”
“You might be in Purgatory, and God could be undecided on what to do with you. Maybe you’re paying for some pending sins. Who knows?” I said.
“I hope you’re right because it’s boring here. That’s why I was making noises and trying to manifest my disappointment, I wasn’t satisfied with this situation.”
“But why did you have to scare my daughter?”
“You were not paying attention, and that was frustrating. Being alone, bored, and ignored, I just couldn’t take it anymore. Tell her I’m sorry.”
“No, you tell her yourself. No, wait, just leave her alone, never mind. But answer me this, what’s your purpose in life? I mean, in death?”
“I have no idea, I think I need to do something but I don’t know what. My wife died three years before me. We were happy in this house. We spent our best years here.”
“And where do you think your wife is?”
“She must be in heaven; I guess. She was a much better person than I was. I wish I could communicate with her, be with her, and then maybe, I can ‘die’ in peace.”
“Okay, next question, do you eat, sleep, take showers, brush your teeth or go to the bathroom?”
“No, no, no, no, and no.”
“Can you cross walls or doors? Can you touch me or hit me? Do you touch the floor when you walk?”
“Yes, I can cross anything. No, I cannot hit you, although I tried a few times, ha, ha. I just float a couple of inches above the surface; I don’t need to sit or rest because I don’t need any energy. I’m dead.”
“I just need to tell you something; you cannot appear or manifest yourself in any way while my wife is here. Otherwise, she’ll bring the priest with his holy water and won’t rest until she makes you disappear for good.”
“But she seems to be such a nice lady.”
“Well, just consider yourself, warned. Oh, one more thing, how should I call you, Peter, Mr. Shelby, Poltergeist, Mr. Ghost, or what?”
“I don’t care; it’s not like I’m going to get mad and hit you, let’s just be friends and make the best of it, okay?”
“Okay, Peter. Oh, one last thing, is there anything I can do for you? You know; to help you do something, find something. This is so weird man, talking to a ghost, no one would believe me.”
“If you start telling everybody that you can talk to a ghost, they’ll put you in a mental hospital. Oh, and yes, you can do something for me, I’d like to go to the cemetery and see what kind of grave my family bought for me.”
“Okay, it’s a done deal; we’ll go tomorrow morning. What time you want me to wake you up?”
“No need for that, I’ll be ready anytime.”
“Alright, see you tomorrow Peter.”
“Yeah, good luck with that.”
In the morning when I went out of the front door, I left it open for a few seconds, then, I softly whispered, “Are you out, Peter?”
Then, I opened the passenger door and after a few seconds I asked, “Are you in Peter?”
“Yes, I am. Thank you.”
“Okay, now, shut the door,” I said.
“How?” he replied.
“Okay, okay, I’m sorry.” Then, I went around and closed the passenger door.
“Okay, Peter, put your seat belt on.”
“Oh, you’re funny!”
“Peter, you want to drive?”
Then, ignoring my last question, he said, “Man, you need to replace this old piece of junk.”
“Do you want to walk? Do you want me to call you a taxicab, or you want a limousine or . . . ?”
“Sorry, sorry, can we just go, already?”
As I started to drive I asked him, “Hey Peter, do you go out of the house, to walk or float around town?”
“I tried a couple of times, but I think the dogs can see me. They bark at me and I can’t stand it, it’s very annoying. They want to bite me and I want to kick them. Your little dog, what’s her name? Yes, Frida, when I go to the backyard she won’t leave me alone. She follows me around and barks and barks, it’s so fastidious. I just don’t go to the patio anymore, but Diego, the other dog, he doesn’t know I exist. And he’s right.”
At the cemetery, we had to look for his grave because he couldn’t remember where they buried him. When we found it, he said, “Those cheap bastards! Look at my wife’s grave! I bought her a top of the line tomb, now look at mine, the headstone looks second hand, so small and ordinary. But at least someone brought me flowers, and they look fresh. There’s a note in them, can you please read it for me?”
“Yes, Peter. It says, ‘I miss you, Uncle Peter. I hope you’re happy wherever you are. I will always love you.'” signed by Nancy Shelby.
“Oh, my dear Nancy. My favorite niece.”
Back at the house, he asked me to write a letter addressed to her.
“My dearest Anais Neess:
I miss you more than you can imagine, please don’t disregard this note thinking it’s just a joke, and please don’t be afraid. I’m still at the house. I don’t know why, but I’m taking advantage of it to let you know that I left some money for you. You’re the only beneficiary. I found my last friend in the person who’s writing this note. He will give you more details on how to get this money. I didn’t put this in my will because I didn’t want the rest of the family to know about it.
I will keep you in my heart forever. I love you, Nancy.
After I searched for a few minutes on my computer, I found a government site for unclaimed money. A Savings account under the name of Peter Shelby, $45,000,00 I wrote down some account numbers and other details and put a separate note along with the letter, and sent it to an address Peter gave me.
He said Nancy was a nice girl and that she might give me a commission for helping her get this money. I said I didn’t care. Then, I asked if he could show himself again like he did in the bathroom mirror and he said, “I have no idea how that happened, but one time when I was watching the TV with your wife I saw my reflection on the TV screen.”
“You watch TV with my wife?”
“Yes, all the time. I sit right next to her all morning, but when she changes the channel to her Mexican soap operas, I just disappear from there. I like it when she listens to her music while cooking. We like the same kind of music except for her mariachi songs.”
“And how can you move things around, or make noises? I mean if you say you can’t touch anything.”
“Oh, I don’t know, I guess when I get too desperate or frustrated, I might have telekinetic powers, but I don’t know.”
I wanted to try another experiment with Peter, and I asked him to come out with me to the backyard.
“Okay Peter, with your permission, I’m going to paint your body, soul, or ghost or whatever it is. You just stand right here in the middle of the patio; I’ll bring my spray paint gun and some white paint and see what happens, okay?”
“Okay, that sounds like fun,” he answered.
After I got all the stuff I needed, I asked if he wanted a mask and he said, “What for?” and then I said, okay, close your eyes, and then he said, “What for?”
“Okay, okay, just standstill,” I said and started painting him. Then my little dog Frida came and started barking around him. We couldn’t stop laughing out loud. That’s when my neighbor’s head appeared above the fence and asked, “Hey, why are you painting your dog for? Are you crazy or something?” Then, I realized he was right, Frida was painted all white. I didn’t know where Peter was and I couldn’t stop laughing.
Before my wife came home from work I asked Peter if he wanted to do something the next day. “Yes, if you don’t mind I’d like to go to church and have a talk with God because I don’t think he’s in this house.”
The following morning, after many years of absence I went to church again. I guess, I had been busy doing nothing. But the truth was I didn’t need intermediaries, or priests, or churches to talk to God.
When Peter finished with God, he whispered in my ear “Let’s go, I’m ready.”
On our way home he said, “I have a feeling that pretty soon we won’t be able to be together or communicate anymore. I want to tell you that I appreciate your friendship and your companionship very much. I hope someday I can see you in ‘my house’.”
When we went back home, we found a woman knocking at the front door.
“Hi, I live in this house, what can I do for you?” I asked. She seemed to be in her thirties; she had a quiet and tender beauty. She appeared to be a little shy.
“Hi, my name is Nancy Shelby, I believe I received a letter from you. At first, I thought it was a tasteless joke, so absurd and incredible. But when I checked the account, I knew that it was true. I wanted to tell you how fortunate you are to be able to communicate with my uncle Peter. He was such a good person. At his funeral, my mother told me that my uncle Peter paid for all my college tuition. I knew my mom didn’t have the means to afford it.”
“But who’s Anais Neess?” I asked her.
She answered with a smile, “It’s a game of words, Anais Neess, or ‘a nice niece’ I always loved it when he called me that.”
After that day, Peter disappeared from the house. I went crazy talking to him in every room, to no avail. No signs or signals from him. I missed him a lot. Then one day, I received a letter from Nancy, a note with a few words, a check for $5,000.00 under my name, and the most important thing, a picture of Peter.
Now I keep that photograph on my desk, next to my computer. In his room.
Squeeze my lemons trickle down social insecurities third world project criminal justice injustice three strikes or a home-run prison system mutual terror bucket list priority destroy the world total absurdities my mother was a fish as I lay dying experiment stream of consciousness extreme mind fuck non-required grammar uncensored thoughts under subconscious and comatose dreamlike visions dormant and inert subliminal messages from the dark side both dumb and smart need not apply a comma here a period there absent and dismissed obsolete comprehension send me to hell he’ll laugh from there while others remain in heaven bored to death pitiful pride useless words inhumane humans voting against earth republicans ignoring democracy conservative donkeys living in the past way in the past centuries behind implanting fear bible in hand frustrating progress preventing advance stampede of fools proclaiming preposterous promises while the opposition opposes most propositions cut to flashback to the future where non-existing scripts kept unedited in perfect literary freedom analyzed and approved with uneducated brilliance free flowing upstream rivers containing regrets that will get stuck by the stubbornness of indifference deviate back to my naked impure thoughts where people will always find meanness in the words offensive and crude the interior monologue never meant to be heard struggles to find the next line stolen by a ghost writer wrestling to avoid a block that impedes his own free flow a conflict of minds trying to invade and plagiarize universal letters and words without legal ownership voicing internal feelings senseless emotions unobtainable dreams reserved only for exceptional persons with genuine talent that cannot be bought or taught eternal envy of simple minds abundant in a world of mediocrity where billions of people swim unaware of misery or wealth but happier than the rest conformism attracts health and joy stream of consciousness think and write whatever comes to mind unfiltered and uninterrupted unafraid of failure absent of objectives aimless freedom oblivious of pleasing results and disregarding unpleasant goals arrive without traveling see all without looking do all without doing and never become a pirate no end in sight no subject is forbidden except nonexistent exceptions majestic graffiti adorn the walls of a dark tunnel wasted space a desert on the ocean floor as might as well describe my organs too heart still palpitating reversal of misfortune tune for miss American imperialism capitalism colonialism domestic love universal hate continuous flow the stream found a dam unanswered dialogue voiceless speaker overheard thoughts one way conversation never boring and never clear I could go on forever until I die whichever comes first theories that violate logic a brilliant mind required with bizarre succession of ideas the hell with logical sequence I lost my virginity to a whore this is totally inconsequential and irrelevant but that’s the point if an acquaintance is reading I guarantee this is fiction the rest of you consider it true you lose your virginity once did I mention you’ll never find it back question marked with a perennial tattoo inserted in the interior walls of my eyelids one thing leads to another resume the obsolete task of building a lifetime of useless resumes describe your failures instead it’ll be more accurate nothing makes sense when you write an autobiography that belongs to someone else young and daring freedom loving fearless punk addicted to excesses school he flunked found love early the free bird also found a cage never ending bliss decreased he then turned to rage lost is the name such accomplished ignorant no more crying I heard daughter downstairs indicating wise advice to kids
I fled from Mexico in a hurry. The reason was just a tragic, unexpected accident. I didn’t have time to pack anything. Straight from the accident, I ran away to the US. I couldn’t say goodbye to anyone, not even to my mom.
I was riding a crowded bus with my girlfriend. We were standing in the middle aisle when a man started groping my girl from behind. He was near the exit with his back close to the door. When I saw him touching my girl, I pushed him so hard the doors opened and he fell out of the moving bus, and then a truck ran over his head when he hit the pavement. It was an awful sight, his brains scattered all over. I can still hear the cracking sound of his cranial bones.
My first reaction was to escape the scene, the town, even the country.
I moved to the US. Without the slightest chance to return to my family. It’s been a few years since then, but it feels like an eternity. Years later, I found out my girlfriend got married and has two kids. I bet she doesn’t even remember my face.
My name is Pablo, I live in Visalia, Ca. in the central valley, near Fresno. I’m an illegal alien. I shouldn’t be spreading this information because they charge over two thousand dollars to help you cross the border.
I live on the second floor of a twelve-unit apartment building on Santa Fe Street in a run-down neighborhood. I’ve been working at the Rescue Mission for the last three years. I drive a forklift, I also separate donated items and put price tags on them. I used to live in LA, but rent and expenses were too high for my budget.
Recently, my cousin Julian called from Mexico to let me know he wanted to join me. He’s four years younger than me. I’ll pick him up at a McDonald’s in San Isidro, on this side of the border. He’s twenty-four years old.
When my neighbor Mark heard I was going to Tijuana, he asked for a favor. He wanted me to get some weed from a friend in LA. Being a nice guy, I agreed.
I brought Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Bob Marley, the Doors, and others for the six-hour trip.
In a way, the bus incident gave me a push to reach my goal. To move to LA. Having lost Mexico forever, made it easy to adopt LA. Now, I love LA even more than Randy Newman does.
The freeway was an ocean of cars. Lots of beautiful girls everywhere. Magic Mountain to my right, Universal Studios, the Hollywood Hills, Griffith Park, the Observatory, the Zoo, the cemetery on the hill. What a great trip, even the San Onofre nuclear plant seemed friendly.
Julian gained some weight and muscles since I last saw him. His skin was dark, not the burnt kind, but the tanned kind. He was close to six feet tall, his eyebrows were heavy. He said he crossed on his first attempt. Did I mention he was lucky too?
We still have to go through another checkpoint in San Clemente. I told him we needed to stop behind a warehouse or somewhere dark because I needed to hide him in the trunk.
The immigration checkpoint was closed, so I kept driving. I thought about playing a little joke on my cousin. I got off the freeway in a rest area and looked for a place where nobody could see us.
I parked the car and went to the rear and slammed the trunk, I yelled out loud in Spanish, ‘No señor oficial, no hay nadie en la cajuela se lo aseguro por favor déjeme pasar soy ciudadano americano.” (“No, officer, there’s nobody in the trunk. I assure you, please, let me go. I’m an American Citizen”) When I opened the trunk, Julian looked terrified. He was shaking. His pants were wet.
“Eso no es nada gracioso.” Julian said, “That’s not even funny.”
I kept laughing until my jaws hurt.
To get Mark’s weed, I had to drive through Topanga Canyon. I drove that highway from the valley to the ocean. A few miles of beautiful curves and mountains, deep green canyons and precipices. The weather gets cooler as you get closer to the ocean. The area was famous for the laid back hippie-style community and its marijuana crops.
When we arrived, Mark’s friend, Pete was a little high already. He met us with a friendly smile and two beers. He rolled a fat one while inquiring about our mutual friend.
I thought Pete would be like a Cheech and Chong type of guy, but I was wrong. He wasn’t Latino or Asian, or even a low rider. He was a short white guy with eyeglasses and long hair. Very friendly and funny.
After I gave him an update, he said Mark used to live there. Until one day, when Mark burned the weed patch. He said Mark was so high, he pushed the barbecue grill to the ground by accident and started a fire. That was the last time he saw him.
Pete said he was making a delivery (part of his crop) in Van Nuys. When he came back, the firefighters had the fire under control. He thought they were going to call the cops, but they just told him to never leave the barbecue grill unattended. He mentioned one of them said, “sorry about your loss” Pete said they were high and in a good mood.
By the time he finished the story, we were also high and in a good mood. I made a comment about his marijuana, ‘powerful shit man, powerful shit.’ and Julian asked me, ‘qué quiere decir eso?’ (what does that mean?) and I told him in a mellow way, “caca poderosa hombre, caca poderosa” and we started to laugh.
When I told Pete the story about the fictitious Immigration officer he laughed so hard, he dropped the joint he was rolling.
After three more joints and three more beers, we took off.
It was getting dark. I was high as a kite. My mouth was dry and I couldn’t stop smiling. Julian was smiling and that made me smile too. I was happy.
But I couldn’t concentrate on the road. My eyes were squinting. I had my face close to the steering wheel like an old lady. Instead of watching the road ahead, I was following the line in the middle of the road with so many curves. I was trying to concentrate on the double yellow line, not on the traffic. Julian’s conversation wasn’t helping.
What a strange trip it’s been. I felt comfortably numb. Driving on the long and winding road. I smoked two joints before I smoked two joints.
Wow, I needed my normal brains. I just wanted to get out of those curves. I was thirsty.
I wished we were in Visalia, at the Green Olive, with a beer in hand and my normal brains, but we were at the Top o’ Topanga, the highest point between the ocean and the valley.
I thought that once we reached the city streets my fears would disappear, but I encountered a different kind of fear. A million red lights.
Not all red lights were traffic lights. I was confused and wanted to use the breaks constantly.
Panicked and desperate I pulled over at a liquor store to get snacks and a six-pack of sodas. After a while, I felt brave enough to continue, and I said to myself, “I’ll be fine once I get on the freeway.” Julian was talking to himself too.
I felt a lot better when we reached the freeway, but immediately, a new problem emerged. The car was not moving. The freeway was! We were just floating in the car! The earth was circling fast. I was just keeping the car in the middle of the lane, watching the world come at us.
It was the weirdest feeling, I was hallucinating. Fuck! Powerful shit indeed. Julian couldn’t notice the kind of trip I was having.
After what seemed like an eternity, we reached the Frazier Park mountains, another great area at the other end of the valley. We could see the San Joaquin Valley, two straight lanes of black asphalt as far as I could see.
The effects of “la caca poderosa” were fading away. My brain began to function again. Gaining control of my little shitty cerebellum was good.
For the first time since Topanga Canyon, I heard Julian’s voice saying, “. . . and that’s how they got my partner and put him in jail.”
“Oh, that’s very interesting,” I replied.
I felt good we still had time for a couple of beers. We went to my favorite bar, the Green Olive.
We ordered two beers and sat at the end of the bar. I noticed a beautiful White girl in her late 20s, she had gray skintight gym pants, adjusted to her fine looking body. You could see the fine curves of her ass. Anybody could tell she wasn’t wearing any panties.
After our third beer, Julian asked me how to say “me gusta como se te ve tú pantalón,” in English, (I like how you look in those pants) but instead of the right translation, I told him, “You have a lovely camel toe.”
He practiced the sentence a few times, and after gulping the rest of his beer, he gathered all his courage and approached her.
I couldn’t hear Julian’s voice from the end of the bar, but I saw her slapping Julian on the face.
I was still laughing when he sat on his stool.
When I translated what he just told her, he said, “pinche cabrón pendejo.” Then he went back to her and told her, “sorry, amiga, sorry”. I’m sure she knew Julian was just an innocent victim.
While smoking outside, in a dark corner, I saw a couple of guys coming out of the bar too. I recognized one of them from my apartment building. He lived right below my unit. We’ve seen each other, but we have never spoken.
I didn’t like him, and I was sure the feeling was mutual. He had a swastika tattooed on his neck. The other guy looked like his replica. Baggy black pants, black boots, and a white tank top, big muscular guys.
They were half drunk and they stumbled a little. Before they crossed the street, they pushed a black guy with a shopping cart to the path of an oncoming car without any apparent reason. The car ran over him and the driver never stopped.
My downstairs neighbor saw me before they ran away. I knew I was in trouble.
I went inside to tell Julian we needed to leave right away. I didn’t tell him what I just witnessed.
I was in deep shit. I was sure I’d be his next victim no matter what.
Unless, I got him first.
I drove around my apartment building twice, to check for any signs of danger. We went in until everything was quiet.
His room was dark, I assumed he wasn’t back yet.
With a jigsaw, I made a small square hole on the wood floor under my couch, and then on the ceiling of my downstairs neighbor.
“What are you doing?” asked Julian
“I’ll tell you later, let’s go to sleep. We need to find you a job tomorrow.” I replied.
In the morning, after I pushed the playback button in my brain, I got a blurry vision of past events. Julian was lying on the floor, next to the couch where I slept.
I felt a cold sweat when I remembered about the supremacist piece of shit from downstairs.
I looked for the little hole I made the night before. The hole was about the size of a quarter. When I looked through it, a sudden shiver ran through my body.
My downstairs neighbor was inside the little hole. He was sitting on his couch. He was looking up, in my direction. He had drywall dust on his hair. His eyes squinting, full of curiosity.
My immediate reaction was to get the gun I kept under the couch. I put the barrel in the hole and pulled the trigger. When I looked back again, he had blood coming out of his left eye.
My cousin woke up with a look of terror.
“Qué pasa, qué pasa?” (what’s going on?) he said.
I told him to look through the hole and then I covered the hole with a sock. I told him what I witnessed the night before in the bar, and all about my neighbor.
“Good, it was either you or him,” he said in Spanish.
Julian was like one of those friends you can call at three in the morning to get you out of jail or to take you to the hospital, or even at more critical times when you need help to kill your worst enemy. He would never question your motives. If you’re lucky, you would only get a friend like that in your entire life. At the same time, you wouldn’t like guys like him as your enemies.
When he was a teenager, a stray dog bit his ankle right above his shoe. He was bleeding and in pain, but he followed the dog and kept going for miles relentlessly until the dog couldn’t go on any longer.
The dog was so exhausted, he just gave up and accepted his fate with resignation. Then Julian knelt down, grabbed the dog by his mouth and forced it open until he broke his jaws.
The dog kept walking aimlessly around the neighborhood for days. Unable to control his mouth, he died of thirst and starvation in less than a week.
Half an hour after I shot my neighbor, someone knocked on the door. Two cops were investigating a shooting downstairs and asked if we heard or saw anything. I told them I heard a gunshot, and that I saw a guy running away from the building. I described the skinhead’s friend.
“Thank you, guys, you’re good citizens. Thanks for your cooperation and your valuable information,” they said.
After the cops left, I said “I’m glad I killed that mother fucker.”
Julian liked the sound of what I said because he kept repeating over and over, “Maaddaa faackaa, maddaa faackaa.” pronouncing it without the ‘r’ sound at the end. I knew he’d be saying those words all day.
After we left the apartment, we stopped next door to give the weed to Mark. He asked us if we wanted some, and of course, we declined.
Just thinking about it made me shiver.
“Caca poderosa, hombre, caca poderosa.” Julian kept saying as we left.
One day, after I came back from work, Julian gave me a big surprise.
He had a thick wad of hundred dollar bills. He was fanning his face with them.
“Where did you get that money?” I anticipated an incredible story.
“Robé un Banco.” ‘I robbed a Bank,’ he said.
“What?” I replied.
“I went to this bank, I think it’s called Bank of the Sierra, and I gave a note to one of the tellers, but she couldn’t understand it because I wrote it in Spanish, so I called a Mexican looking guy waiting in line to come and translate it. Then, she gave me all this money, almost seven thousand dollars. I gave three hundred dollars to the guy that helped me and left.” he said in Spanish.
“What did the note say?” I asked him in complete disbelief, and he gave me a crumpled note.
The note said: “Este es un robo dáme todo tú dinero o exploto toda la dinamita que traigo bajo mi ropa.” [translation] “This is a robbery, give me all your money or I’ll explode all the dynamite that I have under my clothing.”
“You crazy mother fucker! We need to do something right away.” I said.
After a long lecture, (surely in vain) I made him wear a pair of sunglasses, a baseball cap, and gave him another shirt. I burned the note and threw away the T-shirt he was wearing and took him to the barbershop.
When the barber finished, Julian looked in the mirror and said, “I like it, I like it.”
He was completely bald and unrecognizable, but still handsome.
At work, I asked the trash collector driver if he could find a job for Julian.
“Yes, they need another driver,” he said.
“But my cousin doesn’t have a driver’s license,” I replied.
“No problem, neither do I,” he said.
“And he doesn’t have any papers or work permit,” I answered.
“No problem, neither do I,” he said.
Julian insisted that I take half the money he ‘collected’ from the bank.
“I didn’t participate in the robbery, I wouldn’t have even if you asked me.”
“While I’m living here, half of what I make is yours,” he said
It was useless, he’d get mad if I refused.
While having breakfast at Denny’s I was reading the paper I came across an article about a black homeless man who was run over. ‘A hit and run,’ they claimed.
There was another article about the shooting in my building and the killing of my neighbor. Next to it there was a picture of the ‘killer’ (his friend,) and a picture of the detectives receiving a medal from the Mayor for their excellent investigation leading to his arrest.
Another article mentioned a bank robbery, including a blurry picture of Julian taken from the surveillance cameras, it said they arrested one of the robbers.
A lot of shit happened since my cousin arrived.
Across from our table a woman, probably in her early 40s, kept staring at us. She was attractive and elegant. After a while, she approached our table. I thought she was rude when she sat in our table without our permission.
Pointing her finger to Julian, she said . . .
“I know you! I know it’s you, even without hair I know it’s you.”
“Excuse me lady, what are you talking about? I’m sure you’re mistaken,” I said to her, having no idea what she was talking about. “My friend doesn’t even speak English,” I continued.
“I knew I was right! I just knew it!” she said.
Then with her index finger straight up against her mouth and nose in a softer voice and looking at me, she said,
“Shhh, don’t worry, I’m not going to say anything to anybody, but this guy just robbed my bank last week.” she continued, “I’m the manager. Listen, I want to make a deal with you guys. I need you to rob the bank again, but this time there’s 25,000.00 dollars involved,” then she grabbed the newspaper and pointing to Julian’s picture, she said, “That’s him.”
“Okay, let’s say for a moment that you’re right,” I said, knowing there was no use denying it, “what’s your proposition?”
“Okay, here’s the deal. I have a gambling habit. I gamble with other people’s money. Our customers’ money. I go to a casino in Lemoore all the time. I’m in deep shit now. Sooner or later they’ll find out I’m swindling money from the bank. I keep going back to the casino thinking I can win the money back, but I keep losing. I swear if I get even I’ll quit for good,” she leaned closer to the table and continued.
You both show up at the bank, use the same method, no one gets hurt of course. I’ll make sure everything goes smoothly. I’ll make sure the teller has 25,000.00 dollars ready for you. You just come with your little note. But this time you must write it in English. I’ll just report a higher amount and we all win. My name’s Linda, I don’t even need to know your names.”
Her plan sounded pretty safe and I agreed. We exchanged numbers and said she’ll get in touch. When I translated everything to Julian he got excited and said. “I like it, I like it.”
Julian started working for a waste management company in Dinuba collecting trash around a rural area. He always had great self-esteem and that allowed him to work in any job without fear of failing. I bet he could even apply for a job as an astronaut.
Anything was better than passing notes to bank tellers saying he wanted to blow up their banks.
Linda called to give me some instructions.
“Okay, everything is set for tomorrow at 5:55 P.M. Make sure you’re our last customer. I’ll be working in register number four, don’t worry about anything. It’ll be fast and easy,” she added, “we’ll meet after the operation and I’ll give you your part.”
We showed up as city workers. We wore brown boots, yellow helmets, yellow safety vests, and dark sunglasses.
We left the car half a block away from the bank. I was a little nervous, but I didn’t show it. There was no need to carry guns.
I heard it was easier to rob a bank than a 7-11 store. They were right. It was a piece of cake, in and out in two minutes. Linda was at the cash register. We just gave her the note and she gave us a white canvas bag with a lock. It must have been the easiest bank robbery ever.
Boom, just like that, we were out of there. A second after I started the car, I heard an alarm going off.
Next day, we met with Linda and gave her the canvas bag and she gave us twenty-five thousand dollars in cash. Sweet!
A few days later, on my lunch break, I grabbed a hamburger from Carl’s Jr. and went across the street to the Green Olive for a beer to celebrate my growing bank account.
When I drove out of the driveway, I watched a patrol car passing by. The cop turned around and followed me. He put his lights on and pulled me over.
A tall, bald-headed white guy with a menacing look came out of the patrol car.
“Driver’s license and registration, please,” he said.
He walked back to his car and checked my record.
I wasn’t worried. I knew I was clean.
“Are you drunk?”
“No,” I replied.
“Well, I just saw you coming out of that bar. I know you weren’t drinking milk, so I’m going to ask you again, are you . . .
“I just told you, I’m not drunk!” I replied.
Damn! I raised my voice a little and that’s a no, no. I regretted it right away. And I interrupted him too. I knew that was rule number one . . . ‘never interrupt a cop if you don’t want to end up in jail.’
“Step out of the car motherfucker, I think you’re drunk,” he was insanely pissed off.
“Officer I just told you, I’m not drunk. I only had one beer with my lunch.”
“Shut the fuck up motherfucker, you’re going to be drunk in fifteen minutes,” he said while handcuffing and pushing me to the back of his cruiser.
He drove his car behind a boarded-up warehouse the parking lot was deserted. He parked and went to the trunk. He came back with a bottle of whiskey.
“Drink it, you piece of shit, or I’ll kick the shit out of you,” he said while putting his baton against my neck. Knowing when a battle was lost, I obeyed him and drank.
“Look all around you, not a soul in sight to save you.” then he pushed the play button on his radio and Freddy Mercury started singing, “thum, thum, thum, another one bites the dust, another one bites the dust, and another one gone and another one gone . . .”
Mother fucker! He just ruined one of my favorite songs.
When Julian came to bail me out the next day, I told him the whole story.
“Maaddaa faackaa, we need to find this maadda faackaa,” and added, “We’ll get him ‘primo,’ I swear, we’ll get him.”
Amazingly enough, the next day, I found the stupid cop on the front page of the newspaper. He was being honored by some ladies from MADD. (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) The Visalia chapter was giving him a medal for most drunk driver arrests in Tulare County. I felt my blood boiling inside my veins; his name was all over the place. Good.
Another article in the paper caught my eye, “Another bank robbery, this time they escaped with 125,000.00 dollars.” Oh, Linda, you’re such a smart woman.
It was easy to find the cop’s address on the internet.
In the morning, we drove by his house. He lived near Farmersville, on a new housing development. We found him mowing his lawn. His patrol car was in the driveway.
I sent Julian with his broken English to tell the cop that he had witnessed a drunk driver crashing his car into a tree.
Nearby, in a secluded empty field, I had the front end of my car leaning against a tree, as if I had just crashed. I was still at the driver’s seat with my chest against the steering wheel. I had my gun hidden between my legs.
When the cop got there, Julian was behind him.
“Are you okay? the cop asked.
Gun in hand, I came out of the car and pushed him to the back seat.
“If you don’t do as I say you’re dead in a second, motherfucker.”
We tied him up and covered his mouth with duct tape. As I drove away, Julian kept him down, with the gun against his head.
“If he moves, even just a little bit, shoot him in the head, Julian.”
The cop knew I meant it because he stood still. Then, we headed for Dinuba, where Julian worked.
We didn’t go through city streets, instead, we took a longer route through the fields. We drove across cornfields and orange trees on a two-way highway. When we arrived, the sweet taste of revenge filled all my senses.
The big yard was enclosed with a chain-link fence. Several trash trucks were parked neatly inside. The place was locked on Saturdays.
Nothing else to see for two miles in the surrounding areas.
“Look all around you, there’s not a soul in sight to save you.” I proudly said to the cop, when we got him out of the car.
He wrestled and complained when we put him in a residential trash container. He calmed down a bit after Julian hit him on the head. His body barely fitted inside.
I gave Julian the signal to operate the controls. The cop looked terrified when the thick metal arms slowly approached the container.
His muffled screams and expression seemed to be coming from a silent film. I especially enjoyed the moment when the container was horizontal, just before he went down.
A heavy muted sound was barely audible when his body hit the truck’s metal floor. When Julian turned the compactor on, I put my ear close to the truck to hear the cracking sound of his bones being crushed.
The sound must be similar to the sound you hear when you step on a cockroach, only a million times louder.
Julian needed to make many more stops to fill the truck with three tons of garbage. This was his first stop. I envied his job, I thought it was extremely satisfactory.
One slow weekend, while I was listening to classic rock and having a few beers, Mark showed up. I offered him a beer and he offered me a toke. He accepted my beer and I declined his toke. As I was narrating my trip to Tijuana, including my out of body experience while driving back, Julian stepped in the apartment with none-other than Miss-Camel-Toe herself.
We introduced ourselves, her name was Kim. After a while, I blinked an eye to Mark, and we moved to his apartment. I was sure those love birds wanted to be alone.
Mark was amazed at Julian’s progress. He wondered how, after only a few months, he already had a job and a car and dating gorgeous girls and communicating in English.
A few days later Kim showed up with a bloody nose. Her upper lip was split open and swollen, she had a black eye too. She said her ex-husband beat her.
“The fucking bastard can’t leave me alone. It’s not the first time he hits me, but it sure was the worst,” she said while looking at herself in the bathroom mirror.
“If I call the cops, he’s gone by the time they come,” still sobbing, she continued. “He lives in Madera, but every time he comes to Visalia to visit his buddies, he gets drunk and ends up in my house. And then he begs me, ‘come on honey; take me back, I know I can make you happy, you know you need me’. Stupid asshole, I need him like I need a dead rat in my ass.” she said.
We all laughed, but she complained right away, “ouch” cupping her jaw with her hand.
“You know, I’ve seen a ton of movies about abused women, and most of them end up dead. If I try to defend myself, he just hits me harder. I just don’t know what to do anymore.” she said.
“You’ll be okay Kim, we’re going to help you. He’ll be out of your life soon, you’ll see,” I said.
Julian was mad as hell but kept quiet. After we fixed her a little, we gave her two shots of tequila and four aspirins. Then, we left her to rest.
“I think we can plan something around this fog we’re having, like for example . . . ”
In ten minutes Julian found three different ways to get rid of him.
In the morning, I explained our plan to Kim.
“Call him and say that you’re going to give him another chance, tell him to come to your house to celebrate the reunion. But just get him totally drunk and bring him to us.”
“Okay, that shouldn’t be so hard, and then what?”
“Just get him drunk and bring him to us. But he needs to be all fucked up drunk, okay? It’ll be foggy tonight. Bring him around midnight, when the fog is at its heaviest.”
After she left I went to see Mark and asked him if we could use his van.
Sure enough, Kim showed up at midnight. “Okay guys, I got him in my car he’s all fucked up, now what?” she said, full of satisfaction.
Julian and I carried the son of a bitch to the rear of the van. Kim was driving, we headed to Delano, a small town, thirty miles south of Visalia.
The fog was so heavy, we could only see about a hundred feet in front of us. Julian and I were in the back of the van keeping an eye on the stupid guy.
A couple of miles past Delano, I told Kim to pull in front of an eighteen-wheeler, and then, we just pushed the guy out of the van.
As simple as that, the motherfucker won’t be hitting any defenseless girls anymore.
When I closed the van’s back door, I could see Kim’s eyes in the rear-view mirror. She didn’t seem surprised at what we just did.
During breakfast, I made a comment about a story I was reading in the paper. A funny story, well sad, but also funny.
“A basketball player from a local high school team was surfing in Australia. He was floating on his surfboard face down and pushing the water with his hands. And then, a shark bit off his left hand. Somehow, he managed to swim back to the beach and survived.
After spending a week in an Australian hospital, he went back to his hometown.
Hundreds of students received him on the baseball field, where they brought him from the airport in a helicopter. When he came out, he saluted the crowd with his right hand, and he got his hand chopped off by the helicopter blades.”
Then Julian made one of his typical silly comments
“A man living in the US gets a visit from his ‘replica’. The man had emigrated decades before. His ‘replica’ remained in Mexico living an alternate life. Now he wants to find out about ‘his other life'”. The eternal internal question “what if”.
Filmed under ‘lock-down’ conditions. My son Carlos Barraza and I were forced to experiment and learn other areas of film making. In other words, my son and I were the total cast and crew.
A week after we finished editing, we received our first Semi-Finalist award from FENACIR — A famous film festival in Mexico.