Diego Huerta

santa-muerte

Ningún Santuario Pt. 4

It was a delayed double-take that caused me to go back outside and inspect my front door.  Arriving home after work, I climbed the stairs to my second floor apartment on Candelaria Road and half-noticed something pinned to the door frame as I let myself in.  It was common for the complex’s management company to post announcements about litter collection or progress on the swimming pool repairs to the doors of all the units, but it wasn’t until I was inside and had tossed my keys on the counter that it finally dawned on me that what was affixed to my door wasn’t a note from the leasing office.

Back on the landing, I saw that someone had stuck a black figure to the door frame with a pin that had been twisted into the shape of a crucifix.  It was a construction paper rendering of the Mexican folk art hero Diego Huerta, the sharp dressed skeleton groom often seen at Dia de los Muertos celebrations.  There was no writing on the figure, but it was clear that it had been left as a message, obviously delivered to the wrong recipient.  Finders keepers, I thought as I removed it from the door and brought it inside.

Changing out of my work clothes, I scanned the walls of my little studio apartment for the perfect spot to hang my new macabre piece of art.  Just below the poster of Ozzy Osbourne hitchhiking his way to Hell seemed most fitting, so I jammed the same twisted pin with which it had been posted to my door into its heart underneath the portrait of the former Black Sabbath front man.

I was going to meet Grace and her new boyfriend for beers at the Blackbird Buvette on Central in about an hour, so I nuked a frozen burrito and ate it on the sofa while admiring the dapper corpse gracing my living room wall.  “Welcome home, Senor,” I said aloud without feeling even slightly ridiculous at the fact that I was speaking to a paper skeleton.

To my surprise, Jose, Grace’s new beau, wasn’t nearly as amused at my anecdote about the unexpected visitor to my door as were Grace and I.

“I’d keep alert if I were you,” he deadpanned without a hint of irony.  The incredulous looks on our faces made it clear that we thought he was joking, so he elaborated in an alarmingly somber tone.

“In Mexico, it is used as a warning that you are marked for dead.  It’s become a sort of disrespectful calling card of the drug cartels, but there are still many people who use it in earnest to warn an enemy that he will soon meet a bloody end.”

“I’ve only lived out here for two months, Jose.  Even for me, that’s not enough time to make a whole lot of enemies.”

Jose took a swig of his beer and in a slightly more relaxed tone said, “Just keep an eye out.  Someone is in trouble and this person’s adversary thinks he lives at your address.”

The festive mood of the evening having been thus ruined, we finished our drinks and paid the tab.

******************************

The grave was a simple dirt mound with a plywood crucifix upon which a stained John Deere cap had been hung.  Three men in black suits walked up the hill to the unofficial family cemetery in the dusty badlands just outside of Oaxaca.  In unison, they made the sign of the cross, knelt on the ground in a semi-circle around the grave and began to pray.

Sabes bien Amada Muerte que el peligro y la aventura son parte del camino por el que transito en esta vida.  Permite Amada Muerte que tu proteccion y salvagnarda esten a mi lado, para mantener distante peligro y amenaza.  Permite Amada Muerte que los ojos de mes opositores no vean mi presencia ni las huellas de mis pasos que conducen a tu templo, donde majestuoso aguardas paciente al fin de los tiempos. Amén.

After observing a moment of silence with heads bowed, the men rose and wiped the dirt from their perfectly creased pant legs.  One stepped forward and pulled an orange cempazuchitl flower from his pocket, placing it in the center of the mound with the petals facing north.  At this, all three men stepped back from the grave and watched intently.

Two or three minutes passed when they noticed an almost imperceptible movement below the dirt causing it to ripple very slightly.  A gnarled finger poked through the mound, followed by four more that began scooping away at the loose mud until a pair of hands emerged from the earth, frantically digging their way to the surface.

The men nodded at each other, turned and walked back towards the town.

Laços de Família

trail

Ningún Santuario Pt. 3

Chapter 2

Rolling up I-25 in the passenger seat of Grace’s red Charger, I alternated between conversing idly with my chauffeur and leaning my head out the window like an ecstatic dog out for a ride, letting the hot desert wind whip my hair into a knotted mess.

“Don’t worry, I’ll take sheep shears to your coif when we get home,” Grace chuckled.

“How far to Santa Fe?”

“About 20 more miles or so.”

I marveled at the vast cactus-pocked vistas all around us, thinking it quite odd that the relatively short distance between the two major cities of New Mexico was so utterly barren aside from one or two roadside casinos that seemed to rise from the sand like alien mechanoids flashing messages touting their award-winning slots and “world-famous” buffets.  Majestic mountains rose to the north, just beyond our destination.

Our plan for Santa Fe was to explore the art galleries, museums and historic churches that punctuated the cobblestone streets of the historic district.  However, Grace’s first stop was a Blakes Lotaburger restaurant on Cerillos Road just off the interstate.

“None of these in Jersey,” Grace said as we exited the car.  “You’re in for a treat.  Just don’t look baffled when you’re asked the inevitable New Mexican question, ‘Red or green?’  They mean chili.  And if you truly want to establish yourself as a local, I’d suggest you request green.”

The day was pleasant enough to have shaken the disquiet I had been feeling since the moment I started my trip one week ago.  Grace and I were the same old childhood friends we had been back east and our style of good-natured insults and sarcasm had clearly withstood the test of time and distance.  After entering our third gallery devoted to southwestern artists, we wondered aloud how many more takes on a fucking Kokopelli could possibly be imagined.

“Warhol might have made it interesting,” Grace joked.  “Maybe a quartet of identical but different colored Kokopellis sucking a cock.”

We stopped at Loretto Chapel next, located at an intersection whose 4 corners were each occupied by a Catholic church.

“Is this the entire Diocese of Santa Fe or did we somehow arrive at Vatican City?” I asked.

“Shut up, Heathen,” Grace joked.  “This one’s pretty cool.”

The chapel was small and of Gothic construction; the centerpiece being a wooden spiral staircase rising three stories to the top of the building. Placards placed throughout the lobby, informational pamphlets, and a nun who greeted us at the entrance all informed us that what made the staircase worthy of the epithet “miraculous” was the fact that its construction utilized no nails, glue, screws or any other fastening implements.  They all went on to attest to the fact that it had been built by an anonymous carpenter that the devoted have no doubt was sent by God.  While my mind naturally went on the defensive and devised any number of structurally-sound explanations for the construction of the staircase, I was still sufficiently amused at being among the largest throng of unquestioning Catholics since my Sunday school days.

Our last stop in Santa Fe was a trendy jazz bar on Don Gaspar Avenue.  A few cold beers downed to the blaring tunes of a live honky-tonk band and we were ready to call it a day.

I caught a quick nap on the drive back to Albuquerque.  In the morning, I’d need to find a place to live.

*****************************

The old man sat behind the wheel of his pick-up truck taking occasional pulls at the 16 oz. bottle of Tecate resting between his legs.  It was well past midnight, but the full moon afforded him occasional glimpses of his quarry circumnavigating the shack across the road.  He watched as the man entered the structure and reemerged with a large machete.  Instinctively, the old man’s hand grasped the .22 pistol on the passenger seat.  From his position parked in the swale, he could just make out the silhouette of the man he called “La Abominación” sharpening the machete blade on a strop of wizened leather hanging from a metal pole protruding from a concrete base behind the structure.

La Abominación went back inside and after waiting a few minutes more, the old man grabbed his pistol and exited the vehicle.  He crossed the road and stepped carefully around the assortment of trash, rusted tools and defunct appliances until he finally reached the sheet of corrugated scrap iron that served as the front door.  He lifted his leg and kicked in the door, brandishing his gun at the startled vagabond.

“Vaya con Dios, que esqueroso bastardo!”

Stumbling backwards, the man grabbed his machete from a hook on the wall, regained his balance and charged at the intruder.  The old man easily sidestepped the attack and fired three shots into his victim’s back.  La Abominación fell to the floor with a sickening thud. Grabbing the motionless body by the fist, the old man turned him over onto his back and smiled sardonically at the look of abject fear now frozen onto the face of his prey.  From his breast pocket, he pulled out a Te-Amo cigar, bit off the end and spit it at the body on the floor. He lit the cigar, drew in a mouthful of smoke and exhaled with an air of satisfaction.

“Arder en el Infierno, Retrasado.”

This Is Not A Test

planes

This is what we’ve waited for. This is it boys, this is war! The President is on the line as ninety-nine red balloons go by. – Nena

If you are younger than 72 years of age, you have never been alive during a world war.  If you are a U.S. citizen younger than 152 years of age, you have never experienced a war fought on American soil.  Considering the hysterical national reaction to a one-off attack on the “homeland” (Pearl Harbor, World Trade Center), I find myself wondering lately how typical American citizens would react to an all-out air or troop invasion of the United States.

Overall, this country has been inhabited by a mostly affluent and complacent population for longer than I’ve been alive.  Most of us have the luxury of speaking our minds and engaging in political activism and protest that is unknown to the citizens of most other countries on Earth.  Most of us also have our basic needs of food, shelter and employment fulfilled, leaving us with leftover time and cash to pursue frivolous and/or excessive acquisitions and hobbies.  While we are all familiar with the ravages of war as they are displayed on CNN, often because we sent our troops halfway across the world to deliver said ravages on the whim of the President and Congress and defense contractors, what we see usually seems less real to us than a game of Call of Duty.  The only American citizens who have experienced the full horrors of war are the soldiers who were dispatched to Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other little oil-rich, Islamic and/or Communist corners of the globe.  In other words: we have no idea what we may be getting into now that we’ve allowed a power-mad, hair-trigger xenophobic narcissist access to the nuclear codes and command of the armed forces.

Perhaps the prospect of a war with North Korea or Syria isn’t too concerning for the collective of lazy, arrogant arm-chair generals we’ve become.  However, should either of those possibilities come to pass, I’m afraid all of us will be horrified at the implications once we allow them to sink in.  In both scenarios, the small and unstable nations I just mentioned would be the least of our worries (at least for those of us who are not currently serving in the military).  We all had a good laugh when El Presidente recently conceded that such situations are “more complicated than he thought”, but that sort of ignorance from the Commander-in-Chief is no laughing matter.  An actual declared war with either of these rogue states would also involve Russia and China; and I assure you, neither of those global juggernauts would be fighting for the interests of the United States…but they would fight with everything in their arsenals to defend their own allies and strategic interests.

At the risk of scaring the living shit out of you, I’d like to remind you of an exchange that occurred about a year ago between MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and Donald Trump.  Matthews: “Where would we drop — where would we drop a nuclear weapon in the Middle East?”  Trump: “Let me explain. Let me explain. Somebody hits us within ISIS — you wouldn`t fight back with a nuke?”  Matthews: “OK. The trouble is, when you said that, the whole world heard it. David Cameron in Britain heard it. The Japanese, where we bombed them in 45, heard it. They`re hearing a guy running for president of the United States talking of maybe using nuclear weapons. Nobody wants to hear that about an American president.”  Trump: “Then why are we making them? Why do we make them?”

The horrifying realities of war that many less fortunate people the world over have experienced all too frequently might soon be making their way into the lives of the average American.  How will we react?  Do we have the collective psychological strength to handle such a thing?  Unfortunately – yes, I said unfortunately – we may never know.  Considering the probable major players in such a conflict, the only question to ask might be: how will you react in the approximately 2 minute interval between spotting a mushroom cloud on the horizon and the inevitable deadly shockwave?  I suppose if you’re lucky, you’ll be in the presence of your loved ones and may get to say a final goodbye and I love you.  Otherwise, smoke ‘em if you got ‘em and I’ll see you on the other side.

Q&A (In Lieu of T&A)

blueskytag

The incredibly talented and fascinating Joss of she-who-hears.net tagged me to answer 11 questions here, then devise 11 of my own and tag some other unsuspecting souls to do the same. Here are my questions and tags for others; feel free to answer (or not answer) as you wish:

Here are the rules:

  • Give 11 questions
  • Tag as many people as you want
  • Answer the 11 questions given to you

My Questions for whoever wishes to answer them:

  • Guys: who’s your celebrity man crush?  Gals: who’s your celebrity woman crush?
  • What was your favorite music video from the days when MTV played music videos?
  • Which of the Saturday detention attendees from The Breakfast Club was closest to your high school self?
  • Same question, but your present self?
  • How old do you predict you’ll be at the moment of your death?
  • Fuck/Marry/Kill: Gilbert Gottfried, Bea Arthur, Imelda Marcos
  • Why do fools fall in love?
  • What is your all-time favorite album?
  • I like New York in June. How about you?  I like a Gershwin tune.  How about you?
  • If someone put a gun to your head and demanded that you define “you” in a single sentence, what would you say?
  • What is your favorite Pop-Tarts variety?

People tagged:

  • Mazmisc (Come on, Maryellen, the people want to know!)
  • Anyone else who thinks it will be fun to answer my questions (a cop-out, I know, but that’s how I roll).

Now here are the questions I was tasked with answering:

1.What is the most beautiful place you’ve ever been to?

White River Junction, Vermont.  Rolling green hills dotted with cottages and farmhouses, it’s straight out of a fairy tale.  That is, until you meet one or two of the local hillbillies who make you long for a return to the  comparative sophistication of suburbia.

2.If you could recommend one book and/or movie to the rest of humanity, what would it be?

The book would be “The Book (On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are)” by Alan Watts.  Does it sound like the height of arrogance for an author to title his own book “The Book”?  It won’t once you read it.  The movie would be “Requiem For A Dream” for anyone who struggles with drugs or alcohol; “A Clockwork Orange” for everybody else.

3. Describe the strangest thing that has ever happened to you.

Once, I was resting quietly in a comforting bed of amniotic fluid when suddenly a blinding light appeared, followed by a pair of forceps-wielding hands that pulled me into a bizarre realm of lights and sounds and people from which I’ve yet to figure out an escape.

4.What poem or piece of writing has had the biggest impact on you?

Lao Tzu’s Tao Teh Ching.

5.Who’s your favorite artist? (Music, visual art, or writing)

I am the most obsessive audiophile you will ever encounter, so narrowing my favorite music artists down to just 1 is incredibly difficult.  I’ll do it, but in a day or two, I’ll wish I had answered differently.  So…for today, 4/21/17 at 12:25 p.m. MDT, my favorite music artist is My Bloody Valentine.  My favorite writer is Kurt Vonnegut.

6.Was there one moment that changed your life in some way? If so, what was it?

Yes, my DUI on New Years Eve, 2011 and the subsequent 20 hours spent in jail.  Every significant stride towards self-awareness, compassion and inner peace I have accomplished in the past 5 years owes its existence to that event.

7.Share a song with us.

 

8.What are your spiritual beliefs?

Ready for this?  Buddhist/Taoist/Pantheist/Quantum Physics-influenced agnosticism.

9.What do you miss the most? (Person, place or thing)

Person, place, thing: Nikki Nicholas, Manhattan, Stretch Monster.

10.What is your ultimate goal in life?

To jettison the need for having an ultimate goal in life — or any goals, for that matter.  Yeah, I know, that’s not a fun answer.  Here’s the fun answer: to sever my remaining material attachments and live like a hobo, drifting around the country or the world in search of I know not what.

11.What skill have you yet to master?

Listening to someone discuss finance, economics, investments, etc. for longer than 15 seconds without lapsing into a quasi-coma.  To clarify: I don’t really want to master that skill.  I just want people to stop talking about money when they’re in my vicinity.

 

 

Friday Funhouse 4: ZoSo

Easy_Reader_3

Willkommen! 

If you were a child in the 70s, you’re probably familiar with Sesame Street’s hipper, more psychedelic cousin, The Electric Company.  Though educational, the show had me riveted to the TV screen each week to check out the newest adventures of a cheesy live action Spiderman and to see if the two silhouettes speaking half-words to each other would ever forget that this was a PBS children’s program and let slip with “Sh” – “It” – “Shit!” (de doo de doo). 

To my perpetual disappointment, the silhouettes watched their language every time I tuned in, but I was unwittingly exposed to the acting prowess of a young Morgan Freeman and Rita Moreno.  I could never have predicted that one day, Mr. Freeman would go on to narrate my favorite mind-fuck of a program, Through The Wormhole.  Morgan had a recurring role as Easy Reader, a smooth afro-sporting spokesman who might have been the first person to give me the idea that reading is cool.  Rita was a tad less subtle, startling toddlers across the U.S. every week by screaming the catchphrase “HEY YOU GUUUUUYYS!!!!!” at the top of her lungs.  But this little gem finds them combining their talents to sublime effect.  I’d trade all of my possessions for the hat Morgan’s wearing in this clip:

Gratitude Break

I want to take a moment to thank every single one of you who reads this blog and provides such incredible encouragement and brilliant repartee below the posts.  When Maryellen and I started this thing, our only goal was to give ourselves a venue to express ourselves, even if only to each other.  We never would have dreamed that it would generate this much interest from such awesome writers and brand new friends the world over.  We have a comparatively modest following in the WordPress universe, but it is comprised of people who manage to blow my mind every day with incredible prose and poetry only to turn around and tell me that my writing is just as good.  That’s debatable, but I’ll just shut up now and take the compliment.

If you are reading this, then I am talking directly to you.  However, I would be remiss if I didn’t specifically thank for enormous inspiration and encouragement the following amazing writers: OrchidsLantern, TheIncurableDreamer, AnAmericanHaiku and TheModernLeper.  The fact that you do not have books in the #1 slot of the NYT bestseller list is an injustice to you and to the potential readers who have never experienced your genius.

As a token of my sincere appreciation, here’s this:

gene

Impotent Swine

images.washingtonpost.com

Have you seen the little piggies crawling in the dirt? And for all the little piggies, life is getting worse. – The Beatles
As you probably know, Fox News shit-canned Bill O’Reilly today after over a decade of sexual abuse allegations finally caught the attention of advertisers who began fleeing his program like cockroaches exposed to light.  Aside from some momentary embarrassment, Bill-O will be just fine and will almost certainly be given another platform on another odious propaganda network before the ink dries on his pink slip.  Yet this was still a very significant event.  In recent years, women have mobilized effectively and boldly, infusing mutual and contagious courage into a movement that has been desperately needed for almost as long as humans have been “civilized”.  To have so frightened the Murdoch clan that they were willing to let go of their network’s biggest cash-generator is surely a harbinger of bigger things to come.

Which brings me, first, to Bill Cosby.  A similar coalition of women garnered the courage to tell their stories, sometimes at great personal risk, in an ultimately successful attempt to get charges levied upon America’s favorite connoisseur of god-awful sweaters.  Watching this arrogant prick and his entourage arriving at court depositions and pre-trial proceedings with a smug air of untouchability reminiscent of John Gotti is beyond infuriating.  Have you noticed on these occasions that he’s been playing the part of a feeble, sickly old man, complete with a cane and an arm linked with one of his attorneys for support, in an incredibly transparent effort to elicit public sympathy?   I call bullshit.  Though I have no proof, I firmly believe that once he’s out of camera range, he ditches the cane like SCTV’s Guy Caballero would ditch his wheelchair when he needed to run like hell from approaching danger.  After all, in order to mix a Rohypnol cocktail while subduing a young woman not as enamored with his pudding pop as he would have liked, a man needs the dexterity of a person with four fully functioning limbs.   I fear that Cosby will die before he spends a single day in prison, because the Universe does not share our notion of justice.  However, much like the downfall of Bill O’Reilly, the fact that his case has gone this far is another fantastic sign that these efforts to expose misogyny’s darkest side are working.

The asswipe some people refer to as the President almost certainly has some bigger skeletons in his closet than hot mic bragging about his ability to grab women by the pussy.  But since we’ll probably never even see his fucking tax returns, the likelihood of a sexual abuse allegation gaining traction is slim.  Like most sane Americans, I long for his removal from office, but if this did come to pass, would American women be any better off?

Mike Pence recently declared that he does not allow himself to dine with any woman other than his wife and won’t attend functions where alcohol is served unless his wife is present.  Many people who claim to follow Jesus applauded this as some kind of brave pronouncement of traditional Christian values…I have to assume they’ve never heard of Mary Magdeline, but that’s a topic for another day.  My point is, there is nothing honorable about this ridiculous self-imposed rule.  It can be reasonably interpreted two ways: 1) I do not trust myself to refrain from making sexual advances on a woman other than my wife; 2) Women are shameless harlots who will throw themselves at me in the absence of my wife.  Either way, it comes from a horribly misogynistic mindset that sees women as something less than human in the first interpretation and less than moral in the second.  The fact that male superiority is so ingrained in Western religion (all of which was devised by sexist assholes with small penises) gives douchebags like the Veep a holy pass to be as ignorant as they please. Fuck you, Mike Pence.  Because of your self-righteous Dark Ages worldview, I wouldn’t even trust you to be around my dog if your wife wasn’t present.

Look, I know there’s always room for people to evolve.  I haven’t exactly been a paragon of feminist sympathy all my life, but I have allowed myself over time to internalize the fact that I’ve met countless women along the way who are so far superior to me in intellect, courage and ability that the only logical conclusion at which I could arrive is that of inherent equality.  But the people suddenly overrunning the laws and hard-fought social norms of this country are not likely candidates for a change of heart about their own chauvinism.  Regardless, they still need to be loudly called out for every single piece of anti-woman legislation they pass and every proudly Neanderthalic statement they make.  Once these festering dick warts are voted or impeached out of office, we’ll need the residual wind of resistance to resume the forward motion of progress.  Maybe I’m naïve, but I still hold a sliver of hope for humanity in my heart.

If it seems like the pigs are getting louder and slimier, it’s because they’ve been emboldened by a pasty orange lump who temporarily holds more power than he is capable of handling.  But I also think that they realize their fun might be coming to an end very soon, as more and more women help to bring rapists, abusers and harassers to at least some semblance of justice.  I won’t shed a single tear if at some point in the future, should he be convicted, I read that Cosby uses one of his own horrible sweaters to pull an Aaron Hernandez in his cell.  (Too soon?)  The struggle for equality and justice is a dirty business and if a few formerly beloved celebrities and politicians become casualties of this struggle, so be it.  Or, you know, the DNC can do something logical for a change and run someone like Elizabeth Warren in 2020, and then some real institutional changes in the direction of true equality may finally commence.