"Remember El Alma" First On-site Performance Challenging the Alamo, March 2010

"Remember El Alma," First on-site performance
challenging the Alamo
original poem written by Barbara Renaud Gonzalez

Adapted by Virginia Grise; Produced by Bihl Haus Arts, Kellen McIntyre, Ph.D; Performed at Luminaria!
San Antonio, Hemisfair Plaza, San Antonio, Texas, March 13, 2010; 5 Actresses, 1 Musician
A cast of beautiful women, all ages and colors, from
all over San Antonio
; Foto Credit: Joan Frederick @2010

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Dog next door

The guy next door works at the base, and he has a big german shephard named Duke. I call him Dukie, and I admit it, I've been using my feminine wiles so that I can play with the dog, who never gets out of his little yard, maybe 400 sq. ft. The guy built a wire fence for him, so that Duke can see out, but since the guy's house is in the middle of the block and Duke's area is in the back, he rarely sees anybody, except in the morning when the high school kids pass by, but they don't notice him.

Duke rarely barks. He's very sweet, and when I go over to give him treats from the alley-side, he rolls over for a rubdown, and I do my best over the fence.

I live upstairs so I can see everything that goes on in the next yard, and this is not a good thing, because I worry about Dukie. I've noticed lots of things, for example, that the guy comes back at lunch, but doesn't even pay attention to Duke, check on his water or anything. One time he didn't return on Friday night or Saturday during the day, and when I figured that out, I went to check on Duke, and sure enough, his water bowl was dry and dirty and he didn't have any food. He must weigh over 100 pounds, and I have cats and don't know how much a dog like that eats, but I gave him two big cans of dog food mixed with dry, maybe seven cups. And fresh water. I wanted to let him out, his leash is right there, but want the guy to trust me.

I didn't say anything exactly to the guy -- the next time we ran into each other I mentioned that I'd fed the dog and he seemed pleased. That weekend I asked him if I could take Dukie walking and he let me. I took Dukie to the high school next door and he smelled every tree and blade of grass, I think. We were gone about an hour, and when we returned the guy said anytime.

So I walked him again.

Today I went to get him, and Duke was hyped. The collar around his head was loose, and he ran to the street. Me and the guy chased him, he wasn't far away, we were more scared he'd get hit by a car -- we live on a busy street. Finally, Duke got interested in another dog he saw, and I yelled to that man to just stay there so we could catch Duke

My neighbor the guy caught him alright. He was furious, and he squeezed Duke's neck so hard that he made the dog kneel even as I could see Duke wanted to get away. The giu put the collar on Duke and he pulled on the collar so hard I though he would pull Duke's head off. I tried to be calm, saying things like the dog just wanted to run, I have a friend who knows how to train dogs, etc., but he looked at me like I was crazy.

He said that the dog-walking was finished for the day. He took Duke, who was resisting him, back to his pen.

I didn't say anything more, feeling that if I did I wouldn't get a chance to walk Duke again. I made a special plate of meat and dry food for Dukie and took it to him through the alley like I usually do. He seemed Ok, his collar was loose, and he scarfed-up the food as always.

I think I'm trying to figure out how to save this dog. He's not chained, like the last dog who lived here. Or stuck in a garage for five days and nights. I got beat up for rescuing those dogs, and I don't regret it.

Duke looked so good running, he was so happy. The guy never takes him walking or plays ball with him, why does he have him? Duke doesn't bark, hardly. The guy told me that he saved Duke from a family that had chained him all his life.

This is all Duke knows. I wonder now if that time I took him walking was the first time for him. Could that be?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Trying to give thanks/Dia de gracias 2008

I am trying. I am grateful, I really am. That I'm healthy even though my knees hurt and I miss running. I am trying to give thanks that I have such a bounty of quiet to write and think today, but hope my single friends can rejoice in the aloneness, the solitude that comes from divorces and family members dying and children growing up.

I love this weather, it was in the high sixties today, but I'm worried that it hasn't gotten cold at all and it's the end of November. I wonder if my friends recognize what living the suburbs means for the environment -- the cutting of trees and construction of highways and the gasoline it will take for them to get into the city. I am thankful for my 900 sq ft apartment, the windows and space I have, why is it we always want more, even me? Now I want to live in the country, now I want a bigger house, now I want an acre or two, now I want a vista of greenscape, and what will my dream cost to the environment or what if I just gave that money to the people who are suffering?

There are so many people suffering today. From Mumbai to Mexico, I remember the time I almost adopted that ten-year old in the street who was sleeping in an alcove, and it was raining. I'm worried about the chilren in Iraq who are now orphans, and especially the little girls. What will happen to them? Do I have something to give them, to help them, so they can give thanks too?

I want to give thanks, but I don't think it's enough. I want to understand all that I have so that I can give thanks and mean it, to do that I must see what the rest of the world doesn't have.

I suspect I'm not grateful for what I should be. And what is that? Maybe I have so much, where to begin? What about this gift of writing it down? What if I didn't have this computer or this weather or even the sweet potato fluff I tasted today, what if all I had was a piece of paper and a pen? Would I be grateful then? Maybe I'm grateful for all I can see, but not for what truly matters, myself. Myself. And what will I do with me? Not waste me like I waste food? And I don't mean my in the narcissistic way, but the potential to be more way. Like generous. Generous in giving all that I know to be true.
And what is that?

To do something, say something, write something that matters. That's a sacrifice, that hurts, that risks most of all. What will I risk?

What will I risk today?

That we are complicit in the beauty of the world as we are complicit in its cruelty. That we are giving thanks because others can't, and we must help them be able to give thanks, even if it means we sacrifice something.

What will I sacrifice?

What will you sacrifice?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving in the barrio in San Antonio

It's 57 degrees outside tonight. Hazy moon. I walked home from the HEB groceries. My neighborhood is perfectly quiet, people have cars here or they're watching TV at 10 pm. No one's out except someone walking a dog and the crazy lady only come out on weekends.

People were loading up at the HEB. Whipped cream. Cokes, Dr. Pepper, Big Red. Cases of beer. Sausage. Cheetos. Ham. It was packed, because the store is closed tomorrow.

Somehow I remember the dinner party last night where we talked about the original thirteen colonies, quick, can you name them?

Yes, Georgia was one of them.

The thirteen colonies question is one of the questions asked for the U.S. citizenship interview, along with the Pilgrim question.

My girlfriend said last night that in a roomful of Ph.D's, no one could name all the thirteen colonies.

I'm sorry, but Thanksgiving just doesn't seem real to me. i've been to Plymouth Rock, outside of Boston and to the Charles River on the 4th of July. Something happens there.

I really don't like turkey all that much, and don't want to eat so much food anyway. I've read that the pilgrim's feast was a rare occasion, and that modern Americans get to "feast" often, tha we're not starving anymore like those people did.

I am very thankful to be in San Antonio and to see Thanksgiving. Tomorrow, I'm making pasta and salmon. With jalapenos.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Jose made me a turkey sandwich at 10 pm, are you in college?

Jose is handsome, young, hard-working, and tonight he made me the best Subway sandwich with lots of jalapenos and spicy mustard, just the way I like it. It was almost 10 pm on this Monday night and I always wonder when I see these young people working so late...are you in school, mijito?

No, I'm not.

He smiles, cleaning the counter with ganas. He's got a system to do it just right, he tells the manager.

Did you vote?

No. I don't believe in it.

He keeps scrubbing.

It's all about money.

I give him my spiel about Obama and how there will be more opportunities for him to go to college. He smiles, keeps cleaning. Then I tell him how I did it, with loans and scholarships.

I have his attention now.

Latinos are 20% of the electoral vote in Texas, but we're not voting in high numbers, I tell him. Blacks are 19%, and they voted. That means you could get much more help with a college education if latinos voted more.

I tell him my family story, how I went to college, how my brothers graduated from the University of Texas. How my father didn't finish high school. And my mother only went to the second grade in Mexico.

What is your dream? I ask him.

I don't think anyone has ever asked him this before. He stops what he's doing and smiles, but this smile is hiding a big dream from the rest of us.

Sometimes hope is a job. And someone who explains to you how to go to college even if you don't have money. And sometimes, it's a story that whispers, maybe. Maybe.

Where to start? What my neighbor did to his wife

It happened a year ago. My neighbor Rachel knocked on my door during the holidays. She was scared because her husband, (I will call him Big Panza) twice as big as she is with a voice that booms instead of talks, wanted a divorce.

They have three boys and she had no place to go. Panza has been beating her up, why hadn't I see it? Rachel could barely walk, Panza had beaten her in her pelvic area. And she had bruises on her neck and chest too. Rachel was sexually abused as a child. She drinks, and she's bipolar, and with all the medication she takes, she moves slowly, like she's drunk, but she's not. She weighs maybe a hundred pounds and she says she fights back sometimes when Panza hits her.

Rachel's not a great housekeeper. She feeds my cats, and she's very tender with her boys. They love my cats too, especially Snowball and Floofie, and aren't the type of boys who break windows.

Panza broke her jaw ten years ago, and that's why Rachel is always massaging her slightly crooked self. Panza broke her nose. Panza calls her names, he sits on her, he threatens her.

For months I tried to get Rachel to a lawyer, to a therapist, to a shelter. But she was afraid of Panza. She hoped they would get back together. She cried over losing her boys and had no place to go. Before she finally was released from a psychiatric ward after a two week stay, Panza didn't go pick her up.

Now Rachel lives with her elderly mother in the deep westside. She never sees her boys, and I have seen that look in their eyes of mother-loneliness and hate because she's left them.

I hear Panza yelling at his boys all the time. Their grades are dropping. The other day I heard him call one of the boys a Dummy. With all his yelling, I know he has called them much worse.

When he turns on his boom-box voice, he scares the cats, the birds, and even the leaves tremble.

Rachel called me the other day. She says that Panza goes to see her at her mother's house and that he takes her clothes off and does whatever he wants with her.

She thinks this is the way it has to be.

I wish I could do something. It's like I know the ending to this movie, only I want to leave now. But I can't. Something in me wants to see what will happen even though I don't think it will be happy.