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Work 4 Peace,Hold All Life Sacred,Eliminate Violence! I am on my mobile version of the door-to-door, going town-to-town holding readings/gatherings/discussions of my book "But What Can I Do?" This is my often neglected blog mostly about my travels since 9/11 as I engage in dialogue and actions. It is steaming with my opinions, insights, analyses toward that end of holding all life sacred, dismantling the empire and eliminating violence while creating the society we want ALL to thrive in

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Danny beginning...

Danny wants me to skip the beginnings of his life and start the interview with this year since he’s been in México, this year since he’s been out of prison.

He is here without his family, he tells me mournfully. He hurries to correct himself – his mother, his father, his sisters, his brother.

Danny slipped down his rebellious, treacherous path at that vulnerable old age of 12. He ran away from home, on the streets smack within reach of a waiting gang’s arms, did the terrible things he had to do to pry open those welcoming arms, and he was in!

In to drugs that is, staying in the streets, being bad and thinking he’s hot shit, getting picked up by the police and put in juvenile hall and the only way to get out was to have his parents come get him. The next day, he’d return to the streets.

Soon he was hooked on every drug except heroine. He’s done them all, he says as he lists crack, cocaine, pills, weed, meth – I lose track, but all of them.

And he did what he needed to do to pay for them. And to keep his gang status. But he’s told all this to another writer when he was facing his 3rd strike and a mandatory 25 years to life in prison at the age of 21. So the judge would show leniency. And she did.

At 21 years of age, he was in jail for the 3rd time since 18 and was sentenced to 7 years without parole. He’s been in every prison in California he says – San Quentin,

He tells me he wishes his parents could have seen what he needed at 12, he wishes they could have sat down and talked about it. I ask him if he’s figured out what he needed at 12 years old and he says no.

He only says his parents were too strict and he decided the streets were a better place than the home his parents provided for him. Several times during his youth crisis, he was sent back here, Playa Azul, to live with his grandmother.

He regrets that he was sent away – to him, this was avoiding his problems, postponing dealing with them, not facing them. The minute he returned to the states, there were the drugs and the gangs – and his problems – waiting for him.

Danny is the oldest of 4 children and the only one born in México. He tells me this last stint in jail made him really examine his life. He had to ask himself if he wanted to spend the rest of his life in jail?

Danny says he decided to quit using drugs while he was in prison. He claims he could get any drug he wanted in prison but he really had to gather all his will power, which he feels is weak.

First he quit drugs, then he had to quit hanging around inmates that were users. Danny sips a bottle of beer as we speak. I ask him if he was able to get alcohol in jail too and he says, hell yea, prison alcohol – the guys made it.

We are sitting outside in plastic coke chairs under a palapa next to the restaurant that Danny owns. There are two other people in the restaurant, also drinking. Business is very bad, people are afraid to come to Michoacán.

Danny wants to buy me breakfast in his restaurant tomorrow while I interview him about his life since he was released from prison. I agree and promise to bring tamales. He grabs another beer while I tell him and the workers good nite.


Finally, I am parked although I’m pretty sure there is not going to be enough sun here. It is really peaceful and calm, very close to the ocean, quiet, maybe ½ mile from the main part of the pueblo, so I do hope enough sun will beam for me thru the lovely palm trees.

The old granny has shuffled her chair closer to my truck, and Joana appears with a plate of food for her. I discretely watch her eat, as a couple of chickens and a dog scurry to rest around her swollen feet, anticipating their share her meal.

Joana beckons from the edge of her property across the street, where she has wrested a plastic chair. I take it from her hands to the shady spot she indicates and get my stool from the truck.

We sit and begin to talk. Joana shows me her leg just above her ankle, the one she favors. Now I see it is twice the size of the other foot, and along scar runs down the outside. I see her feet are also gnarled in that arthritic way, mirroring great granny’s.

I can’t figure out how many children Joana has, or how many are still around, besides Javier which I THINK she says is the oldest but doesn’t make that much sense to me.

Joana tells me she’s lived here all her life and I think she is 71 years old. Her leg hurts her and she tells me more about it but I can’t understand.

Suddenly Joana throws up her head as if she has just heard something, and tells me there are many bad people around. She furtively begins to start in different directions.

I notice her eyes don’t line up and I have difficulty knowing which eye is looking at me, which eye to look at.

When I’m not duly terrified, she pulls her plastic arm chair closer and motions toward the pueblo, secretively, barely above a whisper, telling me a womon’s throat was slashed – as her eyes bulge and her checks appear to sink in the farther she draws her finger across her neck.

I try to confirm, she’s talking about a womon here, in this little town. Yes Joana insists, her esposo has killed her. I think it was a couple of weeks ago, but I’m not sure.

Then she tells me there are violent boys, adolescent males, who are ‘malo’, bad. They are staying in the village. I cannot go out, especially at night, I must stay home and do I have a lock on my door?

This is a womon who sleeps in a hammock between tree trunks under palm leaves, brilliant stars, and the ocean breeze.

This is also a womon whose eyes have grown piercing together, and her checks, still sunk in, have a slight tremor all the way to her protruding chin.

I try to change the subject, to tell her I have a daughter and I can show her pictures but Joana is on a rave. She tells me men love to fight, to kill, to torture and I should be careful. How can I travel sola with so many bad men around?

I show her my muscle and try to send calm energy around her, as I place my hand on her quivering arm.

I tell her I will be right back and I run to my truck and get my photo album. When I return, Joana seems a little calmer. Or maybe it’s the maniacal smile touching her lips that softens her face.

She tells me my speaking Spanish is not very good and maybe I read Spanish better – probably because I want her to spell the words for me I don’t understand.

When she realizes I read Spanish, she beckons me to come with her. I pick up her chair and carry it across the road, following her to the third building at the far end of her property.

I see it is a bedroom with two lovely wooden bed frames, in the far dark corner, that are antiques and matching, standing high off the cement floor. Each bed has heavy duty mosquito netting bunched around it, leaving me to wonder if there’s a body in the bed.

She reaches inside the door, where a small matching dresser sits, loaded with papers. Even from peering around her shoulder, I can tell she is pulling out the jesus christ shit.

I protest, telling her I have already told her I am jewish and a lesbian. She wants me to read her Spanish bible that has a laminated cover with that dead man on a dead stick in the middle and soft pastel colors of sheep, flowers and other imagines – I don’t want to study long.

I assure her I have read this book – in english – several times. She is doing the darting eyes and drawn in cheeks again. She finds other little books, mary and this virgin and that, and tries to pawn them off on me.

I look into her shrinking eyes and ask her, why do YOU believe in the god of the conquistadors. She is momentarily slowed, finally agrees but tells me that was a long time ago.

I agree, too long to be carrying around the burden of catholics.

Back in gear, she’s found yet another little pamphlet that is suspiciously jehovah witness m.o.’d.

She has already told me that she saw jesus over the sandy hill. She closes her eyes momentarily before they fly open to convince me that  s h e  s a w  j e s u s.

I think she tells me she was sleeping, she was a girl, and she saw jesus. Her face might have become beatific if her chin was quivering and her eyes weren’t shooting sparks of anger at the non-believer.

I try to ask her so what, she saw jesus, what did that mean, what did he do for her – obviously not heal her poor leg.

And more obvious, not allow her to live in her old age filled with fear. The frown across her brow is enough to stop me from attempting to discuss baby jesus with her.

I hope her terrors have not infected her son but I more hope they don’t infect me. I tell her I have to go, which I do, and that we will talk more later.

Meeting my neighbors

Joana gets dropped off in front of her home by the local ‘taxi’, which is a pick up truck with a palapa over the bed and people perched around the edges. Joana gets out the front seat, and limps across the sand into one of her little structures.

Javier takes me over to meet her and the old man sleeping in the hammock. He turns out to be the father and around the same age as Joana, and not the great great grandmother, and much sprier than both.

To her retreating back, he impatiently proclaims his hunger and demands his food.

Their land actually stretches pretty far, with three main groupings of buildings. On the very far end, Javier points out his little room and gestures vaguely to a cement structure that is a bathroom and shower. The open sandy space in between has a rickety bench and maybe a clothes line hanging among several palms.

The middle structure, where Joana has disappeared into, seems to house kitchen supplies and a long table. We are standing in the dirt and sand center between the indoor kitchen and another building at the other far end of their property.

There are two hammocks, these without unintentional holes hanging between trees, and another large table with a chair and a box by it. Joana leans against the doorframe, asks me if I want to eat, and motions to Javier to get me a chair. 

I want to talk with Joana but not around her demanding husband – it would be great to have Javier there to translate in case we get in trouble.

So I tell her I will return later.

The son

When I reach the end of the road, that indeed does end at yet another restaurant, I see there are small parking areas with rental signs.

Unfortunately all the spaces are too small for my truck and too crowded with coconut palms – that might deliver their treasures right through my solar panels!

And they are charging for parking here. I’m looking for free parking.

I head back and my gardener approaches me with hopeful eyes. No I tell him, I need something bigger, more sun – to his surprise – less palm trees. But he understands and nods and tells me I should feel free to park anywhere.

I continue walking, determined to try to find someone close to my parking space to ask permission. When I come to the spot, I see there is an occupied house across the street. As I yell ‘buenas dias’ because I have not yet mastered the art of whistling to get people’s attention, a young man comes riding up to me on a bicycle and asks me if he can help me.

In english. Grinning and apologizing for his english, as I grin and apologize for my Spanish. He tells me he has learned english from the tourists that come here – he has never studied. I tell him I study all the time.

Javier wants me to come park by his house. I tell him I just returned from that direction and didn’t see anything appropriate. He insists there is a good space and tells me I should park by friends so I won’t get molested.

As we walk back – actually I walk, he rides his bike – I tell him about the old womon with pink eye. He says she is a neighbor, homeless, that his mom has asked her to stay with them. He tells me she is not right in the head.

I ask how old she is and he tells me around 84. I talk with him about her pink eye and he says his mom tries to get her to go to the doctors but she refuses to go.

But she does accept food from his mom.

When we get to his place I see it is exactly opposite where the old woman is sitting and the old man is sleeping. The old man turns out to be not so old, maybe in his 60’s, and Javier’s father.

Javier wants me to park in between palm trees. I think the sand is too soft and there is not enough sun but Javier promises me other cars have driven in here and I agree to try it.

Great Great Granny

I hear the whack whack whack of a machete on a coconut many feet before I see an incredibly old womon dragging herself across sand under coconut trees to a plastic arm chair a few feet off the road on the beach side where, miraculously, there is no fence or buildings – but lots of soft sand and several palm trees.

I approach her saying Buenas Dias. She nods and responds. As I continue down the road, she calls out to me. I cannot begin to understand what she is saying but I’m interested in trying to talk with her.

I head back onto the sand and shady area and ask her to please repeat what she said. She talks so fast I can’t begin to understand her – and I suspect she’s not making sense anyway.

I ask her name. She rattles off something. I point to the little structures on the other side of the road where I see a very old man sleeping in a hammock and ask her if that is her house.

She says no, the hammock is her house. I see a very holey hammock, very close to us, hanging between the palms and wonder which part of her is supported by that hammock.

She jabbers some more but I cannot figure out what she is saying. I ask her how old she is. She tells me 54. I repeat 54 to her vigorous nodding. No way.

This womon has no teeth, her eyes are pussy and draining liquid, her hair is shaved so she has more on her protruding chin than her head, her hands and feet are bumpy and twisted with arthritis, and her skin is skin of an 80 year old womon.

She cannot walk but drags herself from place to place. She has on a baggy top and several layers of skirts around her waist so it is hard to see how fat or skinny she is, but I think she is eating.

I ask her if her eyes hurt her. She rubs them vigorously to my protestations. I point back to the pueblo and tell her she needs to go see the nurse at the clinic there – she will give her medicine for her eyes.

She scoots her chair around so her back is facing me. I tell her goodbye and she struggles to turn around quickly, talking to me in a language I cannot understand.

But I can understand she doesn’t want to go into town to the doctor. I will try to find if there is a visiting nurse that will come to her. She has a terrible case of pink eye, or maybe something worse.

I continue looking for my ideal parking spot.