Sunday, August 26, 2007

.. [ day eleven ] .. 'Garfield. The big soft chair!' a short story

taken from working title '13 days' ...

In the front of our apartment was a park the size of a football field where all the neighborhood kids hung out, played baseball, football, and staged our communal Easter egg hunts. It was here where I heard my first dirty joke, my cousin “Sister”, informed me that penis's did more than piss. I don't remember the joke exactly, something about belly buttons and Gomer Pyle, “'My Gomer that isn't my belly button? - 'That ain't my finger either!'” I was flush with redness, when I understood what she meant. This same grassy nole was where I was taught how girls ran differently than boys. “Girls run with their arms bent and swaying side to side. Guys – 'like you' – run with their arms bent, at 90 degree angles, swinging straight up and down! Stop running like a 'SISSY'!” Being the youngest of four boys. This name would stick all through out my adolescent years.

This same grassy area served as the buffer between a string of mirrored units which we shared the duplex with a family named the Bracamonte's. Our neighbors most notable and distinguishing features were they had a cousin named “Boy”, and son which I shared his same birthday. Although, my mother was friendly with them, it would be my siblings, who would maintain a long lasting friendship as the years transpired. Our families crossed similar social program paths, we both moved into the projects around the same time, we both moved to the South side of Phoenix, as part of a new housing project that built homes for low-income families in existing well established neighborhoods.

I don't know the history of gentrification, but the newness of the homes into the older well established neighborhoods created more of a distinguisher amongst the pecking order found in neighborhood kids. Our family being 5 deep, instantly brought a impact amongst the street basketball, field baseball, and two-man blacktop football games that further defined the neighborhood order.

My brothers, all ended up going to South Mountain High school, with the Bracamante's family, and over the years I became very fond of sharing my birthday party with Nick, he being very attractive and courteous at that; it was always disheartening, when instead of sharing a cake together, he would just call me on our birthdays.
The Bracamonte's, where also a Hispanic family, but of a Nuclear type. I always sensed an at odds, between my mother and this family. Although, I think it was more based on my mothers protectiveness in keeping us close to her side. My mother a women of short stature, around 5 foot 3, but of huge presence. Although, her stature was synonymous to the Hispanic-maid-type “Carmen Miranda” her maid qualities where more predisposed to being an excellent and frugal cook, the neighborhood mom and bequeathing us with a line of athletic genetics. Giving birth to each of us she always returned to her pre-pregnancy weight and kepping her attractive look, so much so, that when in grade school and middle school male teachers often would ask "Is your mom single?" With disgust most of the time and sometimes shame, I awlays knew what was the right answer, "NO!"

The Bracamonte's had three sons (used to make me thing of the tv show, My three Sons) and a daughter (used to remind me it wasn't the tv show) a year younger than myself. I used to believe, that since our units where single leveled, we lived in the “upper-class projects. It would be my best friend Ricky who would inform me that “the projects” were after all “The-Projects!”

A few days after my first lesson of boys and girls anatomies. My mom dropped me a challenge: “Mike, do you think you are good enough to handle kindergarten?” Kindergarten wasn't a new concept to me. I knew from my brothers that it involved school, and that meant I would be able to get dressed each day and go with them, instead of off to some nursery somewhere. I thought, hey, “School? That could be fun. I would be able to get up each day and leave like my brothers.

But what about this 'good enough' part of her question? Is she implying – I am bad? I mean does good enough imply, that you have to be bad sometimes? Or is 'good enough' mean just better than good? Obviously, If good was part of the question, then I am always good.” So I answered, “Yeah.”

“Mijo, you have to listen and do what the teacher tells you, Ok. Everyone is expecting that you to be 5, so you have to act older, OK?” My siblings being six, eight and ten at the time, it would be several years that my status as the youngest would be challenged, by my sister Raquel. Having a latch key childhood, I became an expert negotiator, always dodging the wrath of the older siblings dominance when ever my mother left the home. I was an early adopter of a concept called Risk Management learning how to make the rotary dial of the phone spin with a level of efficiency that shocked my brothers. I feared no one and they quickly learned, that there youngest sibling was a bonafide, 'cry baby'! Yes I admit it, I had a clear understanding of their power once my mother left the room, and if they crossed that line I made damn sure they got back on the other side.

Growing up was difficult with my brothers, they often starred at me with looks of anger and frustration, and i soon learned that this feeling of uncomfortable, these glares of hate, disgust and resentment was my first lesson of life; Lesson one: If you find yourself hated for insisting on being treated fairly, then you must learn, not to let other peoples problems be yours.

Once my sister was born, my mother took in a boarder from Mexico who spoke no English, and our home was filled with a young lady in her early 20's who showered my sister with affection and coddled to her every need. She soon became her “Nina”, when she was baptized, and not too long after she arrived from Mexico, she moved out of our home after marrying an American citizen. My sisters, Nina, was very loyal to my sister, and especially loyal to my family, and this dedication gave me my first realization that Mexican culture and American culture have are two distinctly different. I often wondered if this was due to our cultural bases? One inborn and driven to protect at all costs, the other based constitutionally on religion freedom from government.

Like a bear protecting her cub, or a dog protecting her litter, trusting no one, not even her owners. While the other more sophisticated and developed; the distinction between these two cultures gave me my first taste of clash. In one hand the raw animalness of an outsider, who loved my sister to what appeared to be an extreme degree of protection where my mother gave unquestioned trust. While the other with the insistence that an “outsider” must be kept an arms distance away.

Being born the same year that the “Berlin Wall” was built; President Kennedy tried to open the doors of Latin America; Social upheaval in America was focused on civil rights; and the Hispanic culture would soon be engrossed with migrant worker rights, and their ensuing riots, led by Caesar Chavez, I find it curious that many of my instincts towards family and who we can trust, was built around an extended family member, who was brought into the home to help my mother. Growing up in an era where television shows like 'Hazel', 'Ozzie and Harriet', 'Andy Griffith Show ', and 'the Bachelor Father's reruns , my concept of family was never confined to my primary baby sitter as a child. The television, and the 'white picket fence families' they portrayed where strong influences in my perception of who I was and added to my conscious that the Hispanic extended family is nothing more than an extension of an idea once preached by a former White House First Lady, “it takes a village to raise a child”. Boy did I have a village.

Being the youngest, I was the most sensitive, to my brothers athleticism and dominance. In Hispanic culture they called it Machismo; where sports take a higher priority over education and religion is the central theme to an idea that our mothers are the core of our existence. Catholicism, strong in our culture elevates Mother Mary to her rightful core of a family unit. Where discussions of sexuality, are limited to virility, and ideas of masturbation and homosexuality, are taboo. My mother was a liberal thinker in one manner a staunch conservative in others.

Our family in many ways was not the typical Hispanic latchkey type, my mother was a staunch believer that our past would not be our future. She attempted to remove us from the many Hispanic constraints that surrounded us, by emphasis education, over anything else. She refused to teach us our native tongue; telling us that Hispanic workers are often prejudiced because of the accent and the language barrier. Her concept of success included a important grasp of the English language, and the need to overcome any deficiencies through education. Being a single mother, with 4 young boys, she reluctantly chose government housing as a temporary solution to reach independence, through the ownership of her own home. She augmented the need to receive help with taking a full-time job, and refusing welfare and other government subsidies to survive. To her it wasn't about qualifying, it was about, empowerment; Lesson two: “You don't need to take, if you can work.”

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1 comment:

ZMan! said...

Also, here is some other links you will find interesting.

Support Groups:
Join ROAR4FREEDOM, SOSEN - NATIONAL and the SOSEN for your state.

Corruption Links:

Let others hear your story:

A lot more of my thoughts on these draconian laws:

Other Blogs:

Flex Your Rights: (Read and Learn These!!)

Myths & Facts:

State Links:

Laws (Still working on these, takes a lot of time)


Tons of other links:
I recommend checking out ROAR4FREEDOM, SOSEN, OPERATIONAWARENESS, SOCLEAR MEDIA, SOHOPEFUL, these are great sites.

More User Submitted articles:





I wish you the best of luck, and GOD BLESS YOU!!!