"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Memory Bank

You reach a point in life where memories outnumber  hopes and you find yourself looking behind you, rather than looking ahead. We exist simply to accumulate memories, of a love, a moment, an action, a reaction. We progress and then regress, time waits for no one and it won't wait for me.
The stark reality is, that we begin to die as soon as we are born, we are given a blank page, then we fill in the blank spaces.

In high school at the end of the year the creative writing class would publish a collection of poems submitted by students. The process was cut and dry, you submitted your work, each submission was assigned a number and then judged. As always I was up against the wall, you had to submit at least six poems, however your grade improved with the number of submissions. 

At the time, I was fascinated by the word structure of  Springsteen, David Bowie and Marc Bolan. They had opened the doors to another realm of thought, their encrypted and abstract lyrics sparkled with a cool cadence. So, I knew what I had to do... cars, suicide, sex & self loathing = poems that will get me a passing grade. I started writing and I kept writing, I submitted 20+ poems and most of them were published.

When the review came out, my sister Emma, read it and asked how I came up with the poems. I was too embarrassed to tell her they came from a dark corner of my mind, so I lied and told her they were song lyrics I had copied. That wasn't the end of it, just before I left for boot camp, I opened the local paper and found three of my poems printed on the editorial page. It seems that my creative writing teacher had taken it upon herself to have them published.

The subjects were predictable: murder in my heart, suicide by car and a hooker who kills herself, I was mortified.  She wrote about how mature and introspective they were, that their relentless dark nature reminded her of Dante.  My sister raised an eyebrow as she looked up from reading the article, then she sneered at me "Wait till they find out you stole those poems." I was confused, Dante?, that's high praise for a freak who spent every last day of high school on the outside looking in. 

Nurturing talent, is a luxury few can afford, it wasn't in the books for me.  Reality took hold, the military, work, unemployment, money, more work, more money, drug abuse, depression and finally sobriety. In retrospect, being on the outside just gives you a better view of what takes place within the circle.  Cue Bowie's "Quicksand" again, I needs to get my poetry on.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Trail of Dead

The story is told that Chapo Guzman traveled in a convoy of black Humvees right into the center of Juarez, stood on top of his vehicle and declared "La Plaza de Juarez belongs to me" the opening salvo in a war that has left thousands dead across Chihuahua. 

Just a few months back the U.S. State Dept. declared that according to their intelligence, the Sinaloa Cartel had won the battle for Juarez and was now in control. The outcome was decided long before Guzman's  brazen appearance in Juarez. The Sinaloa Cartel is a well oiled machine, in order to understand the outbreak of violence along our border with Chihuahua, you have to understand the Sinaloa Cartel. It's a ruthless organization that rewards those who are willing to kill without remorse. 

It's a fine line to walk, as the Gulf cartel found out with The Zetas, sometimes the killers you hire decide they want to kill you. What the Sinaloa Cartel does best is keep its soldiers in check, don't allow your appetite for destruction to devour you from the inside.

The Juarez cartel's frontline in Chihuahua consisted of several established smuggling families and associates. Over the years resentment grew as the mafiosos paraded around frontera towns like Palomas, Ascencion and Nueva Casas Grandes. 

The mafiosos dress in a bizarre style that mimics American western wear.  Garish colored, ostrich skin cowboy boots with the toes curled up like pro wrestler The Iron Sheik. Cowboy hats with the brims rolled up tight like a taco, western shirts with the top buttons open, dark sunglasses and the ever present cell phones. Just like mobsters in New York or Jersey, they carefully cultivate the appearance of never having worked a day in their lives. 

The have-nots gathered around their hard scrabble ranchos and colonias, dreaming of the day they would drive the pick-up trucks and man the Ak-47's. The Sinaloa Cartel (La Gente de Chapo) played off on this resentment, handing off tons of product to the new people or La Gente Nueva to move across the border. This forced the hand of the Juarez Cartel (La Linea) the killings started with both sides taking  the brutality up a notch. 

La Linea declared that there would be a "Limpieza" a culling of traitors and Sinaloa sympathizers. La Gente Nueva were soon being slaughtered by the hundreds, but unable to control its blood lust, La Linea had also started to destroy itself from within. It was just a matter of time before the Sinaloa Cartel would prevail, but what really turned the tide in Chapo's favor was the arrival of the Mexican Army.

The rumor of an agreement between Mexican President Calderon and Chapo Guzman has dogged the President since he took office. Regardless, once thousands of soldiers and Federales arrived in Juarez the Sinaloa Cartel got the upper hand. 

The word went out that the plaza was under new management and all outstanding debts were being called in. People all across Southern New Mexico scrambled either to make good or make tracks. The mafiosos were replaced by a new generation of  narcos, coked up  street thugs, ex-Mexican Army and gangbangers from both sides of the border, all are stone cold killers.

That the Sinaloa Cartel won is not in doubt, that has been made very clear even on this side of the border. Recently right here in town, a new restaurant opened, it's called  "El Sinaloense" this in a city and county where the vast majority of Hispanic residents have roots and family in Chihuahua. 

We get the message, it's purpose is not to serve food, but rather to serve notice. Most locals avoid it, not out of loyalty to Chihuahua, they just don't want to get caught in the crossfire if  La Linea decides to deliver a message of their own.   

The dead know only one thing: it is better to be alive.

Chance City Chronicles

I document and photograph abandoned mines, it's one of the things I do.  I have an entire blog dedicated to that very subject. Which is why the plight of Devin Westenskow hit close to home. Westenskow who was out exploring mines in Nevada with his co-workers, fell into a vertical shaft, 200 ft. deep. Rescuers were able to lower a video camera down to where he was, but unfortunately could not extract him without endangering their own lives. The camera then caught his last moment of life as he succumbed to the traumatic injuries he had sustained.  200 feet is a long way down, add crumbling walls and falling rocks (a large rock split the hard hat of one rescuer) and you have a hopeless situation.  The shaft will be sealed off, thus becoming Westenskow's eternal tomb. There was a similar situation that took place in Utah, after a cave explorer, John Edward Jones became wedged between rocks, Nutty Putty Cave as it is called became his grave and was also sealed off.  Here in New Mexico a mine explorer met with the same fate near the ghost town of Kelly when he entered an abandoned gold mine. He became trapped deep inside the mine, well beyond the reach of rescuers. Near Magdalena, a self styled claim jumper was lowering himself into a vertical shaft when he plunged 60 ft. into  brackish water and drowned. These men went out in a blaze of glory, a modern day Viking's funeral, with scores of first responders, rescue personnel and news reporters at hand. And so it goes, in America we have the right and the freedom to die in the most excruciating ways possible.  The issue of illegal immigrants obtaining drivers licenses  has become the fishbone in Susanna Martinez's throat. I don't get it and this is the only issue that I will ever side with Martinez on. If you're in this country illegally how can you walk into a DMV office and obtain a drivers license? Either the State of New Mexico doesn't care or DMV covets the revenue from these transaction too much to close any loopholes. The solution is easy, don't issue the licenses, ask for birth certificates or other documentation, train your staff to spot doctored or false documents. I smell a rat, maybe an entire nest of rats, if this bill isn't getting past the legislature it's not because New Mexico is suddenly at the forefront of  immigrant (legal or illegal) rights. It's because it provides a slush fund for our beloved lawmakers, "Daddy needs a new F-350, those things aren't cheap" The myth of New Mexico being progressive is just that, a myth. We're no different than Arizona, though we like to look down on our western neighbor. We are the longhaired pot smoking twin brother to Arizona's crew cut redneck jock, but we are cut from the same cloth. I'm going down to Walmart to pay $3.78 for a gallon of milk and $3.78 for a gallon of gasoline, sure is a funny way to balance my budget. We currently have one former Senate President Pro Tem doing prison time, let's find him a cellmate.

" Remember: these hills are not foolproof "
posted on sign at abandoned mine in Arizona

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Chance City Chronicles

Anyone who's worked construction is familiar with Port-o-Lets (portable toilets). Invariably the inside walls of these would be scrawled with all sorts of racist remarks. At one work site it was so bad that a meeting  of contractors was scheduled to address the issue. The only solution that we could agree on was to paint the inside walls black. We started calling whoever was doing it "The Shithouse Supremacists"  Within those malodorous walls, these chumps felt safe and secure enough to let loose with their stream of hatred (bad puns, I know)  The first time I wrote and submitted something online was in the comments section of the local paper. I enjoyed the back and forth banter when someone would respond to one of your comments.  However, it didn't take long for those forums to fall prey to a plague of racists and hate mongers. I started commenting on Yahoo Sports and News web pages and it was even worse. Lesson learned, I needed another outlet for my writing needs. The internet is now populated by the web equivalent of "The Shithouse Supremacists" secure in the knowledge that nobody will ever know who they are, they pollute every forum with their vile garbage. I was taught that your freedom of speech ends where someone's fist begins. However, from behind a keyboard anyone can post anything with no consequences, it's freedom of speech, it's hateful, but it's mostly harmless.  Senator Jeff Bingaman is stepping down, I hate to see him go, he is as honest and efficient as New Mexico politicians get. Already, those dastardly Republicans are lining up their dogs for the upcoming fight. If it's a dogfight then Heather Wilson must be in. Wilson represents the ugly side of politics, she is self serving, looking out only for the self interest groups that bankroll her election hopes. Fool us once, shame on you, fool us twice shame on us, but never again Heather, never again. John Sanchez has thrown his hat into the ring, this shameless gladhander is smoking some powerful stuff these days if he actually thinks he's Senatorial material.  Susanna's lapdog is an arrogant smarmy bastard, an intellectual lightweight with little grasp of political reality. Mr. Deeds goes to Washington, Lt.Gov. Sanchez doesn't. 
Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth, and every other man has a right to knock him down for it. Martyrdom is the test.

Chance City Chronicles

Today more than ever it's important to speak out and stand behind our beliefs. Special interest groups want to rubber stamp us and force their opinions down our throats.  We are bombarded with Justin Bieber, American Idol, Lebron James, tribal tattoos and tramp stamps (Grandma what is that on you lower back?) The lowest common denominators of taste, designed to pound us into one homogeneous glob of pizza dough.  We must rage against the machine, because this machine doesn't kill fascists, it creates them. It's a F-350 driven by Glen Beck with Sarah Palin and Joe Arpaio toting shotguns. If the machine was a sweet running Honda Civic with Ken Block behind the wheel it would be a different story. This is not a picture book moment in our history as a nation and I grew up during some of  the darkest days of recent memory, the Richard Nixon presidency. What's to become of New Mexico? we've been down so long it looks like up to us. The downturn in the economy and the hard times that followed are just a way of life in the Land of Enchantment. As Susanna Martinez is finding out, New Mexico is a state of give and take, poor people give and politicos take. You can tell the honest politicians by their empty pockets, who am I kidding?,  there are no honest politicians in New Mexico. What do you expect when our un-official state motto is "Thank God for Louisiana." Recently I received a package in the mail from The U.S. Census Bureau. Having chased away the census taker three different times. (He was a pathetic, sad eyed fella, who actually stuck his foot in the door as I closed it on him.) "You will have to answer these questions" he yelled at me as he limped away "Fuck you, get a real job" I yelled back. I open the envelope which is marked, "You! must respond under penalty of law!",  In order to keep from being whisked away to Guantanamo or worse, I will fill in the blanks and return the forms. I later ran into that census tool at Walmart, he wouldn't even make eye contact. He was buying apple juice and Jello pudding, that's what thirty pieces of silver will buy you, enjoy your blood money..Judas. "Sunshine and Dust Storms make for a perfect day" ah! screw it, let's go four wheeling.  

"An Asylum for the sane would be empty in America"
George Bernard Shaw

Chance City Chronicles

Hate is the new mean, sometime after we elected our first African-American President, the seeds of hate sprouted across this land. This land is your land, this land is my land, unless we hate you than get the fuck out, has become the new mantra. This is what happens to a country when you fuck with elections, George W. and his little brother Zeb screwed with the natural process and now all of us are suffering the resulting shit storm. Thank God as Americans we have the moral fiber and backbone not to become like France or The U.K.  Who are just fading old whores  still applying layers of make-up to maintain appearance while waving their fists in mock indignation.  We are made of a more durable material, America has been tipped off  keel before (JFK, RFK, MLK) and has always righted itself. Time will heal our wounds, but will time dissipate the concentration of hatred building up inside the pressure cooker we now live in?  Is Barak Obama just a darker, cooler Jimmy Carter, it sure looks that way, good intentions and bad ideas equals poor leadership. It just seems like everyone needs someone to hate, poor Barak, until now he had coasted through life being loved and admired. Is Susanna Martinez just Sarah Palin with a tan and an education? The new Evita stormed into the roundhouse determined to line up all the good 'ol boys and give them each a swift kick to the package. That's not how things are done in  New Mexico, Susanna being from El Paso is not schooled on these matters.  Wherein Sarah Palin likens herself to and resembles a pit bull with lipstick, Susanna is more akin to a Chihuahua with too much rouge. Lots of barking and ankle gnawing with little or no results. Swat her with a rolled up newspaper and she'll soon find her place at the foot of the bed, we'll survive La Dona Anna, hell we made it through eight years of Gary Johnson.

When the rich think about the poor, they have poor ideas.
Evita Peron