Stand & Deliver

Let me tell you something about school. Besides the fact that it sucks – you got all these dense teachers tryn’ to brainwash you into thinkin’ the way they do. I mean, I really want to think like them. “Those who can, do. Those that can’t, teach.” That’s what Uncle Nando says. He dropped out of school when he was younger than me. Talked himself into a job as a carpenter’s apprentice. Now, Uncle Nando’s like 32, and runs his own construction company. I mean, he’s got it made. He don’t even gotta work Saturdays if he don’t wanna. Got a big screen TV right in his office. Drives a bitchin’ Tans Am that’s already paid off. I’m tellin’ you. The chicks are all over his shit. As soon as I get a decent job, I’m outta here. Probably start as an apprentice mechanic. This way I can get parts for my car at a discount. I got a ’74 Mustang, and as soon as I start bringing in the dough, I’m gonna fix the body, paint it candy-apple red, turn the rims inside out, install a stereo system you can hear a block away and get my engine purring like a tiger, Roaaow!! Shit, by the time I’m Nando’s age, I’ll be the boss of my own body shop. (Like an exaggerated TV commercial) “You got a problem with your car take it down to Pancho’s. Ten percent off to any woman who wears a dress up to here.” (Laughs at his own joke) Hey, I know some of you are thinkin’, this carnal up here is full of himself. But I really know how to get around. I’m a walking road map. Ask anybody in Garfield. I get anyone anywhere fastest way possible, guaranteed. (Rapid Fire) El Dorado Disco in Long Beach? Even though it seems out of the way, jump on the 5 to the 710. Unless it’s rush hour. Then you take Soto to Slauson, left on, left on Atlantic but skip the light and cut through the Thrifty’s parking lot, then you’re on Atlantic all the way to Ocean, make a right and then you hit Shorline. And you can put pedal to the metal on the way home ‘cause the cops don’t use radar at night. See? That’s why I’m in no hurry. ‘Cause I know where I’m going. Won’t be long ‘fore I’m cruising around in the fiercest piece of machinery in East Los. Pick up any ruca I want. That’s right, man. Shit. Don’t need no high school diploma for that.


Now you in my classroom. Ain’t teachin’ no pinche math, y’know. Not here, homes. Not in East Los… (Angel looks around the room) Ever see somebody die? Bam! Bam! Bam! And the carnal’s dirt nappin’? I don’t think so. Man, sometimes a vato gets killed, he don’t die. Not right away. Had to steer my bike through three different gang territories just to make it to sixth grade. I was a mocoso when I started out a baby tagger. My homey did buses, but I could climb… reach the heavens, spray paintin’ the signs over the freeway. It was a joke, a game that turned to war. (He assumes a gang pose) You’ve seen the stare. You return the stare, you challenge me… your fear is my friend. Night my homey got permanently taxed, we were down by the street corner. Having a good time, brown baggin’ some brew, forgettin’ our cares… A car drives up slow… Shots ring out - one, two, three loose balas. My homey shot in el pecho and shoulder. My carnal, who had never let me down was next to me sufriendo and all I had was a pinche bruised elbow… I held him tight and tighter…. Tryin’ to keep him vivo, y’know, puttin’ up a big “stay away” sign, flashin’ “no trespassing,” so la muerte would not take him away… Took three hours to die. Three hours. Cursing. Crying. Hurt so bad, he started laughing. Made me laugh. Till his insides started spillin’ out… Coughing blood on my face that I was too afraid to wipe off. I actin’ like it don’t hurt. (He assumes his gang pose) Everybody gotta die sometime… Life goes on… Blood in, blood out, sangre por sangre, carne de mi carne, vida por vida… Barrio… Where you feel bienvenido… Wanted, como en tu casa. Think some math teachers gonna cover my ass? Or give me the respect I get from my homeys? The pride? Not in this life. You wanna talk numbers? Three thousand gang deaths a year in the City of Angels - Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles. You wanna talk math? Homes plus Homes plus Homes equals Strength. Familia. Mi familia. And you don’t turn your back on that, ese. Not on blood. Not when it’s your homey who’s bleedin’. That’s the truth, homes. That’s education.


Kimo reminds me a lot of my father… Not that they look alike, but that they’re both so single-minded. My father started out picking grapes and nectarines in the San Joaquin valley - 12 hours a day, six days a week. He taught himself at night by kerosene lantern at migrant labor camps and succeeded in earning a G.E.D. by his 21st birthday. That’s when he enrolled at Fresno State and met my mother. Seven years to obtain his degree. Five days of harvesting to afford two days of higher education. On the day he graduated, he proposed to my mother, only he insisted on becoming a C.P.A. before raising a family. He made her wait four years before she finally heard her wedding bells. You have to admire a man with his patience and fortitude. But my father doesn’t understand that what worked for him isn’t necessarily gonna work for me. Back in his day, you could look down the road, see something in the distance, and be reasonably assured it would still be there when you arrived, no matter how long it took. But the world I live in isn’t grapes and nectarines. It’s two-way television, talking computers, genetic engineering - stuff that’s gonna feel like ancient history by the time I graduate college. So I’m busy preparing myself for a future that’s hard to see. I imagine worlds where cars skim through the air like boats on water. Sailing up to cities built a mile high, so that you can’t tell the difference between clouds and windows. And everything self-cleaning, by design. Designs pioneered by Javier Perales… This my father calls daydreaming. My father’s centrifugal force keeps me earthbound while I gaze upward to the heavens, through the prism of my own inner scope, imagining whole new worlds. In the time it takes to walk between social studies and gym class.