Tuesday, January 29, 2013

pocket life

When I was growing up, there was a toy called Polly Pocket. A blonde, fingernail sized, Zelda Fitzgerald little darling that would dress up in various outfits and professions. A forward- thinking, working woman of the early 90s who partied hard, yet accomplished her goals. She had no male counterpart as far as I knew. She inhabited various shells that would fit into the cotton pockets of 7 year-old girls across the nation.
Her worlds were like makeup compacts, but instead of pressed powder inside, you would find an ancient bejeweled Egyptian palace, a vet's clinic, or a big city apartment.
It was this last one that really got me. Polly's apartment transported me from my concrete block back steps in the desert to an urban evening full of promise. I would crack open her pastel abode and delight in moving her from the living room (complete with hot tub) to the breakfast nook (where a fridge opened and shut) to the bedroom, where, through a miracle of Small Science, a switch would illuminate a backdrop of stars through a window even smaller than Polly herself. A pinprick cosmos, waiting; satellites swirling and echoing and imaginary people on pretend sidewalks below. moving always forward.
I would often linger Polly by the window, turning on the delicate plastic moon, watching the city light up and thinking of a velvet skyline right before twilight that I might be a part of one day. I would get chills.
Unconsciously, I took these pocket experiences of my small self to San Francisco and neglected to re-scale my expectations. On Polly's microplanet there were no homeless people. No gangs, or flakes, or drugs. No isolation, because Polly was made of plastic and didn't really need a community. There was only the cozy comfort of a fake fireplace (which I did eventually have) and the knowledge that everyone out the tiny window was going about their lives, inside their warm star-squares, as you were, preparing for the next little adventure.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

a perfectly awful encounter/everything is wrong

you know you are in for a perfectly awful encounter when one or two of these things happen to you at once:

you walk into a room that smells like smoke, look around and see twenty beer cans, but are not offered one.

the thing that is on tv is a movie in which a monkey is turned inside out inside of a transporter box.

a terrible man with an oppresive southern twang speaks loudly to anyone that will listen "LETS GO OUT TO THE BACK YARD. THERE IS A GRILL AND WE CAN EAT SOME OF THEIR FOOD. THEY'RE COOL. YOU CAN SIT AND SMOKE AND THEY'LL TALK TO YA. I WENT OUT THERE ONCE," he is smoking cigarettes and he is drunk and it is only 3 on a sunday.

(why are the windows closed. why is the tv muted, and bad music is playing, and the other two lumpy men in the room look stoned but there is no pot. i feel like the inside of an empty frito's bag.)


(she is out of place. her tight body and dress and perfect makeup. what is she doing here? we were on an errand. one of the men is pretending to kiss her and she tenses. everything is wrong. these people are trash. is she thinking it too? why am i here, why am i anywhere now?)

the only light is frozen in january through the wrought iron and windowpane you can see dogs and grilling and you hear laughter in the courtyard.

"BACK DOOR FUCKERS," he repeats because no one has said a word.

the facts about my upbringing

Historian Ralph Emerson Twitchell once claimed regarding the Old West, "Without exception there was no town which harbored a more disreputable gang of desperadoes and outlaws than did Las Vegas."

in new mexico, in san miguel county, there is a little town called las vegas. it is split in two by the gallinas river. i used to swing on weeping willow branches over the muddy water. on the fourth of july i decorated a bike with red and blue tin foil and road it over the small bridge that spanned west and east.
the racial makeup of the city is 54.21% White, 82.94% hispanic. skip the other numbers. those are the ones that mattered.
there were probably about 14,100 people when i lived there.
we had a wal-mart (no mall) and a gas station called alsups that sold chimichangas and coca-cola. the biggest building in town was at the university. it was called simply "the high rise", and it was 9 stories tall.
there were pow wows at the gym. there were traditional hispanic dances and spanish songs. there were plays in the summer.
there were the monsoons, and you could see them coming from miles away. june through august, dark clouds thunderous and mounting in a brilliant azure sky. at summer art camp,after a morning of tye-dye or paper making, i would watch the sidewalks disappear in a matter of minutes. for a desert, we got a lot of water in the summer. in between, it was dusty. in the winter, always snow. enough to inter-tube, enough to play snow ball catch with the neighbor's dog, gordie.
there were gangs, and robberies, and everyone was poor. there were ghost stories and monster trucks. when i went back, things were the same. they tore down the high rise. but they have not replaced my old elementary school's playground equipment in 18 years. there are gelled hairstyles and hot springs and barking dogs and lowriders.
if las vegas could change, i am not sure it would. if could do anything differently, i wouldn't.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

new year

11:54 pm EST 2012
i ran away from a city blazing in my wool mittens and fur hood
what would i tell them if i escaped?
i swear i met the devil tonight i swear she had no necklace or adornments only black lips and ridiculous phrases (isn't it stupid that there's a law that you can't drink and drive?) and oh god, oh god my little leopard print shoes could not get me away fast enough.
it wasn't midnight, not yet. i had time to turn and toast a glowing, green, horrifying skyline. glittering zombie hoards rushing, pushing past me. a parade of hundreds of regrets waiting to happen. i tripped and stumbled by the leering freaks in front of the porno store. empty old grain silo i'd climbed four winters ago with friends i never remember. over the rail road tracks, no loitering sign in the shadow of neon, i opened a small bottle of champagne and said i hope i'm a million miles away next year. or i hope i'm not awake at all. fuck you. and i drank, and threw the bottle. ran and ran and into the car. locked the door, and turned on the safe music just as the fireworks exploded in red and gold spazms over that rotten town.
but, this year is different, i would tell them.
it's not the town or the people. it's me.