Archive for September, 2012

the Kingsville Underground (KU)

Posted: September 27, 2012 in Fiction
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“Only now do I understand the lonely hero who alone had waged war against the fathomless, elemental boredom that strangled the city.” 

–Bruno Schulz, Tailors’ Dummies

The cold night came as a godsend. In the middle of a marathon like summer, the heat blazing at will, a gift from the venerable kings of the city was given. They had summoned the favor owed to them from the great horizon with the mighty form of an ancient past. Standing tall like spires into the heavens, the kings called out in one loud harmonious voice to the four winds, beckoning the North wind forth. And because the favor owed to them was long overdue, the cold night wind fell on the town with a sort of vengeance. The winds blew leaf and other debris into whirling and chaotic dirt devils, the trees danced at the behest of mighty gusts; so mighty in some places across the city that when blown against some wall or other such flat edifice, the leaves were said to form sinister faces. This is how the Third Epoch befell us: as a soothing gesture before the fall.

He had always wondered what it would be like to peer out of a second story window, strike up a match and light up a pipe of smoke. You know, to accentuate a point; to summon drama and emphasis from the act alone. He rarely had anything that important to say, however. Being from a small town is like that; all the moxie in the world, but with a chance for bravery that is always either too early or too late. And with the state of the city before the fall (sexual scandals among the university elite, embezzlement charges brought against several county employees, one member of the business community involved in stealing monies customers had paid her for the grave stones of their loved ones) you would think there would be a lot for a hero to do. But his story is not that kind of story. And as some would come to say: Yuvàl ain’t that kind of hero. The Second Epoch ended innocuously enough: a blind man walked into a bar.

Yuvàl entered the Kingsville Underground (KU), paid the cover charge, and sputtered over to the bar where he ordered his usual drink: straight Crown on the rocks. Unlike the other early birds that mooned about the room, he was still and observant. He would strike up a conversation at will to anyone that would listen. This time it was Mel, the bartender.

“Can you believe this,” he said, “of all the days to forget my damned overcoat, I pick the day a stringent norther rolls through.”

“Mr. Yu,” offered Mel, “it shouldn’t get that cold tonight.”

Already hip to the routine, she placed the drink before him clinking the glass with a spoon.

He moved his arm in a most methodical fashion, almost inching his way forward, toward the glass. When his hand had reached the vicinity of the drink, Mel would take his hand the rest of the way. Once in his grip, Yuvàl had no problems sipping from it.

He retorted: “Not that cold?! Little one, have you been outside in the last hour, it was cold enough for an old man like me walking over here and it will be even colder when I walk home after Last Call,” adding at the end of the sentence in his best Tony M, “let me tell ya!”

“Maybe you’re right,” she said, “I’ll see if I can’t maybe find something for you. Do you need help to your table?”

“Not at all madame, thank you. But I will have another one of these at the table,” he said shaking the ice about in the glass.

He continued.

“Is anyone here yet?”

“Sure are,” said Mel, “Dino and Dominick are over at the stage setting up.”

He turned right, toward the stage, and let out in loud vulgar death metal grunts: “Dominick the Devil, where art thou?!”

Even before he could catch his breath Dino interrupted, already walking toward the bar.

“What’s up Yuvi Hall?! Bout time you get here. Want a shot?! I’m buying!” he said as he placed his hand on Yuvàl’s shoulder.

You bet your ass I do,” he fired back, “especially if you’re buying.”

Hell yeah! Two Jager Bombs, and one for yourself, pretty lady.”

The three raised their shots in the air carefully taking the time to clink the glass in Yuvàl’s hand.

To the KU and all that come here”

While this was taking place, Dominick begrudgingly assembled his drum set. Though methodical, having every little piece already laid out across the stage floor and labeled, he appeared haphazard and hurried. He was sweating and you could easily see he wanted to finish the task as quickly as possible. His eyes cutting back and forth from the equipment on the floor to the half assembled facade of the drum set on the stage. He clearly was not cut out for this part, he was thin and ibis like. He much preferred the fine tuning of the drums: the sound of the tom toms to get just the right punch and tone or the angle of the cymbals to attain fluidity and balance with his, as the band would constantly tease him, suspiciously short arms.

As the glasses were emptied and placed on the bar, Dominick walked up slowly, full of intentionality. Peering at the three he asked in a calm stern voice, knowing full well the answer: “Did you bastards just take a fucking shot without me?!”

The question sent Mel and Dino scurrying for a hiding place; she behind the bar pretending to work, and he, pretending to chat amidst the others that were standing near by.

Yuvàl stood his ground.

Bout time you get your ass over here, you dirty beast!” he said imposingly.

I gotta set my shit up man!” countered Dominick.

A blind man could set that shit up faster!”

I’d like to see you try bitch!” he spat back.

Allowing the pretext to dwindle, he and Yuvàl began to laugh raucously.

Continuing in quite a different tone,

How you been, Dom?!”

Dominick took a step back, raised his tatted arms in hip hop fashion and said, butchering an infamous Biggie lyric: “Beats, Bitches and Dro – that’s all this Nigga know.”

You ain’t big or black motherfucker, now help me to my table.”

Once at the table, the two began to speak of still more introductory things. It was them that had hit it off in the few weeks since Yuvàl had begun to hang out at the KU.

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Who?

Posted: September 21, 2012 in Life, Poetry

who could have guessed last night would fall on me like rain

that it would unfold in the golden flowers of the taste of your skin

and that the tips of my fingers would trace the shape of your lips

leaving a residue of song on my hands like the hiss of palms in the night

tell me who?

who could have guessed when we touched

you would touch more than the skin of me

that your hands would ignite the molten core of me

and leave me crumbs like clues toward your indelible self

or that when I pressed my lips to yours

that my hands could so quiver crawling up and down the length of you

who would have guessed that the years we had behind us would stand mute before this hour of knowing

tell me who?

who could have guessed what I would remember when you whispered my name

 

Junot in Austin

Posted: September 13, 2012 in Fiction

“The News”

Toward the end of the summer of 2012 as the Fall session began to roll in, I got the news that Junot Diaz was going to do a reading at a bookstore in Austin.  Needless to say, I was elated!  Junot fuckin’ Diaz?  In Texas? Really??  The thought burst, and any notion of yet another wasted year of my life subsided.  He would be doing a book signing as well to promote his newest collection of stories called This Is How You Lose Her.  This would be a monumental occasion for me, never mind that I would have to purchase the book at the location, “support your local independent bookseller” kinda thing, to get it signed. But I didn’t mind too much, it would only add about 25 bucks to my expense account. It would still be an amazing honor to meet the guy and get my book signed. But between us, I only really want him to sign my copy of Oscar Wao, it was that book that changed everything for me.  It was that work that brought into my hands a new day.

I had met another Dominican author a year earlier over at the Blue Room.  On campus, the English department had hosted a reading and book signing event by Angie Cruz.  Although I had not heard of her at the time, I had read enough Dominican-American literature, Alvarez and Diaz among them, to know I would be in for a real treat.  And to top it off, the girl was smoking hot. Coffee-colored skin and curly hair, bella farfallina.  She read from her own newest novel at the time called Let It Rain Coffee.  I had quite the time, completely enthralled by her street smart Washington Heights accent as she read from her work, the kind of accent I’d only heard on television.  She had a rhythm to her, a sway. When she got into the reading, she’d move a lock of her bangs behind her ear with every breath.  I got to meet her and everything, had her sign the books I bought there.  Both of them. I talked about my growing taste for Dominican diaspora literature. She talked about how tired she was from the drive.  As she signed my book, I struck gold. A real connection, an interested exchange: I confessed to her that I had not read her books.  That I happened upon a flyer for the event, saw her Dominican roots, and thought: why not? I’ll go.  Told her I was reading a lot of Junot Diaz.  Oh Junot, she exclaimed as she stopped writing to look up at me, he reads my manuscripts.  If you like his stuff, I think you’ll like mine as well.  I offered my hand, a gesture for a hand shake, she moved that persistent lock of hair from her bangs behind her ear, took my hand and gave me my books.

For Ernesto,

con fe y esperanza.

Angie

To this day when I read from her book, I read that line first.

“The History”

I had done it before, missed out on an opportunity I thought I couldn’t live without.  One time Santana and Manà were touring together, they were doing a show in San Antonio.   I had wanted to go desperately, planned to go only minimally. But how could I not? It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see those two great bands together on one night.  I didn’t go for reasons all my own doing. Sure, life reared its obtrusive head.  Vehicle problems, work issues, and the money just wasn’t there.  I had not made any real plans, either to get the time off from work or save the money I needed for the concert. Waited til the last minute like always.  I fell prey to Steinbeck’s infamous line: The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.   Regret it to this day. To this very moment even; I regret it.  Never got to hear those rabbits

“A Tuesday”

As it came to pass, the event took place on a Tuesday.  A damned Tuesday.  On the surface of it there is nothing inherently wrong with having a major life event on a Tuesday, I guess.  You live life knowing the good shit happens on the weekend is what I’m saying.  A Friday or Saturday event in Texas might be asking too much of Junot, he’s a New Yorker after all.  If given the choice, I suppose I too would rather be in New York on a  weekend; even if Austin is the epicenter of IT for us South Texans. And were it not for the fact that my Tuesdays were already taken, I’d have no reason to even consider the issue of the day of the week.  But as fate would have it, I had been going to Texas Ranch over by Richard street for something like ten Tuesdays in a row.  Was besotted by a local band that had begun to play on Tuesdays.  Tuesdays!  Who’d ever heard of such a thing?  Decided to go watch them only because they played Spanish Rock, which I have a particular weakness for.  Best choice I’d made in a very long time.  Truly a cosa nueva.  No longer would my longing for an emphatic musical act remain an amorphous jelly of desire in my heart. Alas some months earlier, rumblings of a new thing began to spread along the streets of this sleepy little town. I was awake with a newness of life.  I spent Tuesday nights there among the dandy, the jaded, those that deemed themselves attractive and among those that couldn’t help but emit beauty. All came for something. And in the passing of a Tuesday night, some left with everything.

To Be Continued (for another post)