reading and writing the poetry and stories of our people and places

Monday, September 28, 2009

Brewery, Casino, Cork Fest, and State Fair

Kris and Otto came down this weekend. Thursday night, Geen and us went to Marble Brewery. Nine 5-ounce glasses of various brews, including one whiskey-beer and a wine-beer (yeah, they weren't as good as they sound), later we left with smiles on our faces. The stout won.

Friday evening, Kris and I left Geen to study while we went out. (Not: Gina was invited, but she had homework.) We stopped at a sports memorabilia shop, and I bought an Albuquerque Dukes (former minor league team) cap. We made a quick stop at the Apple store to buy Geen a new power cord for her old iBook. It literally burned last week. Scary.

Then Kris and I stopped for dinner on our way to Sandia casino. She ordered a margarita, but it was too sweet even for me. She scans the beers on tap over my head and announces, "I'll have a Shiner Bock." I hadn't even seen Shiner Bock. Forget the water if there's Shiner Bock.

Then we headed to the Sandia Casino. We waited in line for our as advertised $40 for new customers. Since I had already signed up for a card, I got...a replacement card. Kris' forty included $20 on a debit-type card for slots and $20 in coupons for the tables. Kris split her coupons with me. We walked around the tables for a while. She likes craps and roulette, and I like blackjack and roulette. I never gamble much money. Forty, maybe sixty, dollars is enough to make me calculate in my mind for a week what I would have done with that money if I hadn't thrown it away. While we were waiting in the 20-person line, we could see the light pole showing the roulette numbers that were coming up. She nudged me. Nineteen had come up. Red 19. She knows that is one of my numbers. Years ago, she saw me place a bet--my only bet--on red 19 on our way walking through a casino in Las Vegas (Nevada) and it came up. We chatted in line some more. Later, she nudged me again. Nineteen had come up again. Right after the other one.

I watched Kris bet on craps for a while then we both left the table. I like roulette and 19 had come up twice, but the tables were crowded or there was no space. I like to stand in the middle where, it seems, everyone else likes to stand too.

I found a seat at a blackjack table and Kris wandered away. Part of the reason I chose this table is because the dealer looked to be Chicana and her name was Casandra. Or, her name tag said Casandra. Two days earlier was my future god-daughter's birthday. I think Kasandra turned 9. Right or wrong, Casandra was good to me. Usually, I like to sit as close to the dealer's left as possible. This time the only open seat was second from dealer's right end. The man sitting next to me (on the dealer's immediate right) was especially helpful. Also, the cards were kind to me no doubt. I've played a few times, but I'm still often not sure what to do and when. He helped me out. Dealer's showing 10, don't bother busting for her; You can double down on any two cards; When the cards are hot: bet more chips, win more chips; Listen to your gut. Have you lost yet, he asked me a few times. Of course, I had and I did, but I was winning more than losing. Next dealer, my luck continued. I got a few blackjacks--some? Four. When the third dealer came and I lost a couple hands, I got up and walked away. I did a mini victory lap just glad to be in the black. Then I started looking for Kris.

I spotted her at a roulette table. She had maybe 10 chips. How are you doin, I asked. Not so good lately, she said. She placed another bet. Her chips were the only ones not swept up by the dealer. We can go any time, I told her. We left soon after.

The next day, Geen and I went to Cork Fest down the road. Kris wasn't feeling well and stayed home. I read and Geen checked out the art. Goldie Garcia, the Queen of South Broadway and bottle cap artist extraordinaire, and a friend sang karaoke. Last year, I heard her sing and told Geen that Goldie should do "It Must Be Him" by Vikki Carr. It's a heart-wrenching Chicana/o classic. I saw a drag queen do it at Galeria de la Raza some years ago, but I'm sure that Goldie can make it her own. This year, I remembered to tell her my suggestion. I'm crossing my fingers already for next year. I bought Otto, the four-legged leg of Kris' life a Garcia-glittery St. Francis enclosed in clear liquid plastic-filled bottle cap. Later, I drove Geen to the library. I came home and heated the timeless cure-all for Kris: chicken broth. A few hours later she was back from the dead and talking shit again.

The next day, I tagged along with Kris and Claire, a friend of hers from the Bay Area now living here. We hiked up La Luz. Well, we hiked up two miles of this part of the Sandias. We were keeping a good pace but still stopped for water. Claire said the peak was seven miles up. After about an hour and a half, I asked hikers coming down how much more we had to go. A woman told me that we were approximately two miles up. We walked a little more then headed back to reality.

The three of us had lunch at The Grove. I ordered Geen's usual: The Farmer Salad. The server brought it and I dug into that garden of a salad. Until I uncovered a creature from the garden. It was a green inch worm or baby caterpillar. I don't know what it was, but it was undulating between my organic baby lettuce and golden beets. I knew that I could and should just flick the protein to the side and eat the veggies, but I didn't. It looked at me. It stopped undulating and looked at me. I bothered the nearby server. The staff whipped up another salad. Or they just piled on more veggies and I was happy.

After our eating, I took Geen some lunch, an order of Tuna Toasties. She was studying at Zimmerman Library, and met me at the duck pond. These days, she's working at the office or reading a book. It was nice to sit with her in the sun. She invited me to lay my head in her lap. A sweet quiet moment then we left her to continue her work.

Kris and I came home before heading to the state fair. My first state fair. I think Kris' too. Geen, who grew up in Sacramento, Cali's capital, is familiar with state fairs. I've heard of them. Isn't there a movie with Judy Garland called "State Fair"? Or is that "The World's Fair"? Judy Garland. Where did that come from?

The New Mexico State Fair was fun. We didn't go on any rides, but we ate corn dogs; split a rez dog (authentic souvenir from the fair to the first person who can describe one); checked out the African American, Hispanic, Native American, and Fine Arts (open to all) Pavilions (who knew state fairs had art?!); and had "Boss c/s" hats custom made. I wish they had allowed us to photograph some of that art!

We heard food and merchandise priced at "2 for 1!" the last hour we were there. We got two pickles. I saw lots of raza, more black folks than I see most days. I saw lots of youth, lots of young couples. Lots of tank tops and tattoos. What's new? I saw folks out in the still-warm weather on the last day of the fair. I thought of my students who during Free Write have been writing, "I went to the fair last night," "I'm going to the fair this weekend," or "I can't wait to go..."

When we were walking to the car, we saw workers taking down the tents. a crowd of mostly--if not all--men waiting outside the fair's back gate. They were shabbily dressed. I thought of The Grapes of Wrath and the scenes when men were fighting to work. I couldn't put words to it, but I saw the novel's images in my mind when I looked at those men. There were some cops standing inside. I noticed a cop unlocking the gate. He marched out forcefully. The crowd backed up. None of his partners followed. He stopped and returned inside. I couldn't hear what was said. I wonder.

At the corner, cars are coming and Kris can't pull out. A young couple--he's pushing the stroller--stops at the curb. They wait for her to go. She motions for them to go. As they pass, the young woman with thin eyebrows, says, Thank you. Just that makes me feel more connected to her than the crowds inside. I want to say, we had a good time at the fair, didn't you, homegirl? And mean just that.

I bought a baseball cap with Olde English letters. This cap might get me a second look from cops and homies, but I can bet all the money I spent this weekend that nine times out of ten, I won't get accosted or arrested. It's not true for many people I saw last night and many of my students I see Monday through Thursday.

Sunday hikes, organic yuppie food. I'm not so far ahead--stressing about sixty bucks as if it were six thousand. I'm just not where I was. It's the 1,000 miles, the grey hair, the college degrees. And more. Some I know; some I'm still figuring out at 44.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Moon Fall, Moon Rise

Fall came early this year. Some say fall begins on September 21st. Some say Labor Day. Geen told me that a colleague said fall begins when the State Fair is in town. The Fair started Friday night. We missed the State Fair Parade yesterday. Fall came the week R was here during “summer vacation,” the third week of August.

It was hot while he was here. But it was cool enough one night that we wore sweatshirts when we sat on our plastic lawn chairs and talked while we looked up at the sky. I saw a shooting star. Weeks earlier, when the suegros were here, suegra went outside a few nights when she couldn’t sleep. She saw bunches of falling stars, she said. I was happy for my one.

Two weeks ago, Geen was working on a paper and I got on the phone with my friend Tanya. I went outside to chat--partly because of our house’s bad reception and partly because my volume increases greatly when I’m yakking. She needs near silence to work.

I eased myself onto the hammock that a former co-worker gave Geen. It felt like my first time sitting on it all summer. I just laid back and watched the sky. The clouds hid the moon. Or tried to. Her light broke through here and there, but she didn’t have a chance.

About 9 that night, the air was still warm enough that I didn’t need a jacket though I thought it might rain because of the overcast sky. Slowly, the clouds morphed and separated. I would get caught up in my conversation then see the sky anew.

When the moon was revealed, she was—a word I don’t often use—awesome. I could see the shed, the hose, the plastic lawn chairs, the old crate full of empty plant pots. It was night, but it wasn’t dark. Okay, it was kind of dark, but it wasn’t dark. Yes, it was like someone had turned on a light in the room and the room was earth.

I thought of the Astronomy course I took in community college. I got an A, but what did I remember? I thought of runaway slaves and how they must have loved and hated bright nights. I imagine that they could travel north more easily, but the slavecatchers could find them more easily. I thought of Aztec moon goddess Coyolxauqui. So powerful she had to be brought down.

I finished my conversation with Tanya and came back in the house. Geen finished her paper. Carefully and slowly, one by one, we went out and sat on the hammock together. We wrapped our bodies around each other and shared where our minds had been the past few hours. Then we watched the moon climb and separate herself from the other bodies in the sky.

We wondered about the sun. If the moon was this bright at 11 o’clock at night…And the other stars? We overwhelmed ourselves with thoughts of the heavens. After our questions tired us, we came inside. Geen raised the blind in the bedroom. We saw her at her highest point, wished each other a good night, and let her watch over us…Then Geen lowered the blind so the sun wouldn’t wake us too early.

I wish I noticed the sky more when I was home. When I lived in San Francisco, my eyes were much more focused on concrete—not wanting to step into a mess, not wanting to attract the attention of the wrong person. I tell myself that when— if?—we move back to California, I’m going to look at things, especially the sky, more. I’m going to notice. I’m going to remember.