Sunday, July 10, 2016

Self-Evident Truths

I am an introspective person, as the title of this blog suggests, but there are times when my "historical context" blares so loudly I have no choice but to bring it to the forefront and do my best to discuss it, to "add my voice," as it were.  Sitting in silence doesn't cut it at times like these.

I've been preoccupied by all of the high-profile violence occurring in our country... I was about to add  the words "as of late," but this is a country -- like many others -- built on violence, forged by inequality, and although we have some lovely language in our foundational scripts and scrolls about self-evident truths, and everyone being equal, someone has always had to be less free in order for the white male power base of the U.S.A. to exist, the way it was designed to exist.

Recently, a couple of changes have occurred in our long-standing modus operandi that have shaken things up and made other truths self-evident -- the ones that had remained mostly hidden up till now.  One is that the electorate in this country selected a black president.  Whatever the motives for voting for Barack Obama (the simple fact that he was different, "CHANGE" being the operative word in his 2008 run, or that he represented a thinking, thoughtful America, or that he was "liberal," or even more to the point, just because he was black), his election terrified a lot of people.  It didn't matter to them how liberal he really was, and in fact he turned out to be a lot more conservative than some of us had hoped.  The election of our first black present, a momentous occasion to be sure, also mobilized a quiet minority of scared racists who are fueled by the rhetoric of reactionaries like Donald Trump and the so-called "birthers."

The other major change is in our personal technology.  Thanks to the advent of smart phones and nearly universal access to the Internet, horrifying incidents of police brutality that we'd never have known about now appear on YouTube and our Facebook feeds daily.  And the overwhelming majority of these incidents involve black men.  True, there have been others who have been victims of police brutality, but most appear to be black males.  There are those who may one day read this and take issue with the two words emphasized in the previous sentence.  Because, as others have already stated, they cannot hold BOTH truths at once, but feel a need to take one side or the other.  Those who side "with the police" will begin almost immediately to question the now dead man:  What was he doing? Where was he going? What was he wearing? What kind of person was he?

This is where the inequality -- the blatant Lack of Rights -- becomes most self-evident:  If you are a black man interacting with the police force, you don't have any rights.  You don't have a right to free speech, or to walk in a "nice" neighborhood at night, and you don't have a right to wear a hoody, or any other clothing you decide to wear.  You are not presumed innocent as a black man.  You are presumed a threat.  This is how it has always been, since the earliest days of our country, when white hegemony kept black people as property to be bought and sold.

None of this is meant to excuse the horrific shooting that happened in Dallas last week.  The answer to police brutality is NOT to brutalize our police.  Instead, we all need to look at these truths as self-evident and to ask ourselves what we're willing to do as a people in the face of them.  If we don't, our biggest danger may not be foreign terrorists but ourselves.  If we don't confront these realities, these truths soon, the FBI will be spending a lot of time with its head on a swivel, responding to the sounds of our well-armed citizenry "locking and loading" in fear-inspired militias all over this country.  Then the only thing ISIS will need to do is sit back and watch us implode on CNN and Al Jazeera.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Diego and His Dogs

A boy, his technology and his dogs
The older of our two boys has an interesting and strong connection with our dogs.  There's a photo I took of Diego recently in which he's seated on the floor in our living room, (or "sala," as we call it here in Casa Reyes-Fuchs) his headphones on, facing the two dogs who are drowsing in the two chairs before him.  Diego is paying attention to them, but not.  He is both attentive and dismissive all at once, and that seems to be just fine as far as Ginger and Ally are concerned.

Of course, the two dogs worship and fawn over me, as they've imprinted on me the role of B.A.D. (Big Alpha Dog), but their love of Diego is far more genuine.  Yes, they love Jackson and Jeanette too, but Jackson's is a "fly-by" kind of love, as he is in a near constant state of motion, so that the dogs wag their tails when he comes by, as if to say, "Okay, we're not going to get too used to this."  With Mom, it's a treat they adore, similar to Diego, but less like a sibling.  They seem to know she's of the B.A.D. class, as well.  

It's with Diego, the teenager, the one who I see breaking out of his shell in how he tries to interact more confidently with adults, like the waitress at our local Mexican restaurant who greets him by his name, that our dogs have the true connection.  Maybe he's a Cesar Millan-style dog whisperer in the making, I don't know.  Or maybe he's just found someone who will love him in the unconditional, non-judgmental way in which he needs to be loved.  

And maybe the dogs have found the same thing.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Nighthawks: Sure It's Crap, but it's MY Crap

A young (uncredited) Rutger Hauer and a bearded Sly on the poster.  What more could you want?

When I was 17 years old, my girlfriend and I went to the movies and saw an unheralded cop drama called "Nighthawks."  Like all boys of my generation, Sly Stallone, as much as I would goof on him, was an undeniable hero, due to the enormous impact of "Rocky" in 1976 and "Rocky II" a couple of years later.  We allowed Sly his flops ("F.I.S.T." and "Paradise Alley") after the first Rocky, and this was bound to be his post "Rocky II" schlock.  

But I'll be damned if Maria and I didn't absolutely love this movie.  What wasn't to love, after all?  You had young, sexy Rutger Hauer playing international terrorist and man-about-town Heymar "Wulfgar" Reinhardt, and young, sexy Persis Khambatta as his evil minion, Shaka Holland.  You had a bearded Stallone as misunderstood Vietnam vet with "57 registered kills"-turned-misunderstood New York undercover cop specializing in "decoy" detail, Deke DaSilva.  You had the Bionic Fucking Woman, Lindsay Wagner, for God's sake!  And, oh yeah, Billy.  Dee.  Williams.

We ate it up.  We wrote each other love notes in high school and signed them "Love, Wulfgar," and "Love, Shaka."  This was our flick.

Normally, my 5 a.m. routine is to wake up, let the dogs out, put some coffee on the stove and turn on the local news, toggling back and forth to Sportscenter.  As it would happen, I woke up this morning and turned on the set, and there, of all things, was "Nighthawks." The wife and kids were sleeping in late, and getting them up wasn't a priority.  So, I watched.  

Rutger Hauer is still riveting.  I realize, now, that he is really what gives "Nighthawks" the energy it has.  The scenes without Hauer feel like an airless room.  The script is "flawed," to put it kindly.  The great international terrorist makes mistake after mistake, and is far too easily located by Deke.  And the image of Stallone taking off the Lindsay Wagner wig at the end, is just too fucking funny.  

Now.  

Back then it was nothing short of awe-inspiring.  

I'm not calling for a sequel, or wanting to start a fan club.  The world has changed since 1981.  Terrorism is not something to be romanticized as it sort of was back then.  Images of buildings exploding on Wall Street and Picadilly bring very real reminders of loss and pain.  At the end of the day, as they say, "Nighthawks" is, quite simply, a good old-fashioned "B Movie."  But it was a lot of fun watching it this morning, thinking back on a youth that was better than I deserved, and giggling ever so slightly at the guilty pleasure of a crappy movie I once loved.  

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Evocations of Summer

This is who I am now, today, in Central Texas, USA -- a middle-aged school administrator on his summer break, sitting  in a local Starbucks, trying to write, and thinking about all the things that summer evokes.  I've had the good fortune of a multitude of summers -- over fifty of them now -- a good forty-five of which contain moments that shine brilliantly in my memory.  Like fish scales or a sunlit lake, they occasionally sparkle.    Breezes bring me back to former summers, as do cloud formations, a young woman's laughter, or the distant call of a passing freight train.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Father-Son "Connection"

Diego and the author, in a rare "cuddly" moment last Christmas
Today my work took me -- as it occasionally does -- to my son's middle school, where members of my AVID team and I were interviewing 8th graders interested in joining our AVID program at the high school next year.  I decided it would be a good idea to run out and get my son some lunch and surprise him in the cafeteria to break bread. Taking my place in the lunchroom a few minutes before the bell, I strategically chose a position where I would be able to see him coming, while avoiding being trampled by a couple hundred 11 and 12 year-olds.

We spotted each other fairly quickly, and he flashed a vague smile, shaking my hand.  I suppose I could have gone for a hug, but I didn't, as he's not generally a big hugger, even in the privacy of his home. "Not this room, we eat in the other room," he said, moving quickly to where he and his friends normally eat.  Pointing to a row of round seats permanently attached to long dining tables, Diego broke it down for me.  "This is my seat, and that one is Alec's," he said, motioning to the one I was about to settle onto.  He raised his eyebrow and said, "You can sit here," motioning to the seat on the opposite side of him.  Obediently, I took the seat he had indicated.

I produced the Subway Sandwich Shop bags and his smile grew a little broader, before he suppressed it.  "Did you get it right this time?" he asked with a grin.  I laughed, (a) because it's a running joke that I can never remember the exacting specifications of Diego's sandwich order (turkey, no cheese, lettuce, no tomato, pickles AND cucumber.  Salt, pepper, oil and vinegar.  NO MAYO), and also because my wife had just texted me his sandwich preferences earlier that morning, when I'd let her know of my plans.

He looked up at a sign on the wall that I could not read and said, "Oh good!"

"What?" I asked.

"We can use technology during lunch.  If everyone behaves well enough in the cafeteria, then they let us use our devices the next day."

"Oh great," I answered.  I had originally pictured us being like those kids at my school when their parents come in, sitting comfortably, laughing, chatting.  That paradigm clearly did not exist in the 6th grade cafeteria experience.

And that was okay by me.  Again, I could have made a big deal of it and forced him (and myself) to put away the iPhone.  "Talk to me, son!" I could have intoned.  "Be here with me in the moment."  Or some such whiny-old-mannish complaint.

But then I told myself, Hey, it wasn't like he was expecting you.  You decided it would be nice to drop in on him with lunch, and I'm sure it was, indeed, nice for him.  On some level.  Two things to consider, though, were that this was his time, and that I was only an interloper.  My experience does not equal his experience.  And my expression of love and joy is not necessarily the same as his expression of love and joy.

In the end, I got to sit with my boy and laugh with him a bit about a new game he was playing on his phone:  something called "aa," in which one has to deposit spokes onto a spinning wheel, trying always to get to the next level.  I watched Diego and his friend Alec laugh together as they played the game, each on his own iPhone.  I feigned interest, asking them about their strategies for beating the game.  They were politely tolerant of me, though I could tell they were much more content just to be playing together, or at least next to each other......

"Well sir," I joked with him as I got up, "good talk.  Alec, you take care."

Both boys shook my hand, and I made my way over to Diego's assistant principal to say hello and drop dime on a group of boys playing "truth or dare" at the next table.  As I left, I took one look back at my son, still a boy, but on the verge of the next phase, laughing, happy and in his space.

A little sad, I made my way out of the cafeteria, leaving the din of too many children behind me.  "This is as it should be," I reassured myself.  "This is exactly as it should be."

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bringing Them Back

Me and Mom in a Photo Booth, circa 1965
November is "National Novel Writing Month," and I've taken it upon myself to give it a try.  So far I'm desperately behind where I need to be to actually be finished by the 30th, but I've got something.  I'm never comfortable writing about my writing while it's happening, but I will say this:  It's both wonderful and sad to be bringing back people who have been gone from my life for many years.  The process of writing forces me to have to recall details and moments, to make the characters "come to life."

In this particular story, I am bringing to life a character based on my mother, another on my father, and an older couple based on my grandparents.  All of these individuals died years ago, and as I flesh out these characters, it brings a host of emotions.  In one way I'm delighted to see them all, and then there's that sadness, that reminder that they're gone.  If you've ever had a dream in which your departed loved one appears, then you know the regret that comes the moment you wake up.  

By spending time on this novel, I'm prolonging that dream a bit.  It's difficult to go on, however, knowing it will have to end.  But then, one could easily say the same thing about life.  And yet we go on, and do the best we can, in the hopes we leave some kind of legacy for those who come after us.  

So, for this reason I will continue to work on the novel, continue to bring them all back to life, in the hopes I'll create something that I can leave behind -- something that will live on, long after I am gone.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Another First in This, the Digital Age

Diego Fuchs at about two months old, in the summer of 2003
It's about 5:30 pm on a Friday, and I've prepared my materials for the meeting with which my day will start this coming Monday.  An Alejandro Escovedo CD is playing in my computer's disc drive, and other than a lone custodian emptying classroom trashcans down the hallway, I'm the only human being in this part of the enormous Cedar Ridge High School campus.

During football season, this is my quiet time at work.  The students and teachers pile out between 4:10 and 4:45, and I'm actually able to sit, and work my way, undisturbed, through what's left on my "to-do" list until having to make my way over to the stadium to stand on the sidelines, greet and "watch" our student section and try not to cheer too obviously for our Raiders.

It occurs to me to do something that I've never done before.  I begin to script an email to my eldest son, Diego.  I can do this, because we have enrolled our children in the district where I work, and all middle schoolers (Diego is in sixth grade now) are automatically given a student email address, which stays with them throughout the remainder of their school careers.

The workload facing Diego far surpasses anything he's ever had to deal with before.  He takes Language Arts, World Cultures, Science and Math, along with a journalism elective, art and Physical Education.  It has been tough, but so far he is handling his business, as they say, and maintains a good average.  So I write him this email, whose subject line reads "GOOD JOB!" :

Hi Diego, it's Dad.

Just wanted to take a moment to let you know that I think you're doing a great job.  Mami and I both appreciate how hard you have been working, and yes, we are always going to push you to be even better, because we KNOW YOU CAN DO IT!

I don't think Diego even knows he has an email account, but I'm looking forward to when he reads this, because my message, along with the follow-up sent by his mami are meant to encourage him to continue to work hard, and to know, as Jeanette said in her first email to our child, "we've got his back."  We always have.

And we always will.
A more recent shot of Diego Fuchs, class of 2021.