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Sunday, September 17, 2006

“Con Trabajo” Excerpt

The river of South Texas was brown and shallow. Federal agents patrolled along the river’s edge, driving green trucks on the lower bank and looking out for swimmers.

I parked my ’82 Dodge van in Hidalgo, and walked towards the bridge. I hated driving in Reynosa; there were too many cops and not enough enforced rules. Plus, I once had a bad experience driving in Mexico. I crashed my cousin’s car into a combi bus when I was thirteen. Since then, I avoided driving in Mexico as much as possible.

I crossed the international bridge, and Los Federales ignored me as I pushed the button on the mini-traffic light. I got a green that said “Pase.”

I knew of a particular music store in Reynosa that sold guitarras, requintos, percussion instruments, and, more importantly, contrabajos. I planned to take advantage of it and buy myself an upright bass.

Long before I moved to New Orleans, I had been mesmerized with jazz—Coltrane, Miles, Monk—but living for the past year in the city that birthed jazz only increased my excitement for the last true American art form. I was especially drawn to the double bass. Its resonance and power propelled everything along, and I had to study it. I knew I could find a cheap contrabajo in Reynosa.

I walked through the turnstile, untouchable and invisible.

There was a foul smell of exhaust and sewage in the air, and a line of cars waiting to cross the bridge backed far into the city. They looked like a line of elephants in a circus parade, tail to tail, bumper to bumper.

Suddenly, a swarm of little kids ran up to me, surrounded me, and demanded that I’d buy their chicles. They shoved packs of gum in my face, and said in broken English, “Sir, you buy some! Yes, buy!” As usual, I kindly refused with a low “No, gracias,” stared straight ahead and walked on. Whenever I came to Reynosa, I made sure I knew exactly where I was headed. I acted like I wasn’t a tourist. But, everyone knew I was: from the street kids selling their packs of gum to las viejitas with their plastic cups begging for money; from the street venders yelling out their special food items to the store owners haggling customers for every pesito. They all knew my kind.

I passed a row of pharmacies and bars before I got to the correct street. The sun dried up my skin, and cracked my lips. I felt the warm wind blow, and saw the dust gather up into little tornadoes.

I walked into the music store. It smelled like plastic and dust. No one was in there except an old man sitting behind an office desk.

Oiga, ¿de donde son los contrabajos?” I asked the music store’s attendant.

I'm in the process of printing my first collection of short stories. Please check this blog frequently to be notified of its release.


Loretta said...

What a great story! I will no longer feel embarrassed when I go shopping en la tiendas aqui porque soy una gringa también. LOL

And to think. . . I woke up for a drink of water, thought I'd go online for a few minutes and go back to bed. ;-)

This story truly had me. . . I even jumped when I got to the part of la viejita when your bass fell, like oh my gosh! is it broken?? I could feel your passion and concern para la contrabajo, the new love of your life.

I love this last part: "its neck touched mine as I carried it along the edge of the sidewalk to the other side." As if it, too, wanted to respond in love to the love you were feeling for it and the security of knowing it belonged and would no longer be considered an orphan.

Loretta said...

lo ciento, I meant "el contrabajo", but hey. . . what do you want at 3:30am?

Brock and Adele said...

Roy, thanks for the excellent writing. I saw your show at the Aladdin in Portland OR last night, and was encouraged, touched as I always am when I watch you perform. I hope that your tour continues to be an amazing experience.

PS much respect on the flourescent bulbs. I really dig that.

soupmix said...

Mad skills on the writing! You ever thought of writing professionally, when you're not touring across the country? :)

Having been across that very bridge, it was cool reading about someone else traveling the same place as I had.

Melanie said...

Amazing... when is that book of stories coming out?


Anonymous said...

Hey primo,

I have to agree with everyone here that not only are you a great musician but also un gran escritor.

I hope to see your first book published soon.

Felicidades and keep up the good work, I like keeping track of your tour por este medio.

Saludos cariñosos

Gustavo Fernandez-Cardenas

{kwoo§hie}* said...

the next generation will read this in world literature books.
your writing is a pleasure Roy.
and you music was proven so too- right from the very start. =)

Arka Das said...

Greetings from India. This is very fluid writing. Hope to catch MM live some day.

Vintage cab used on MM debut (two 15" Jensen speakers).