Notes on home and Cartagena.
I began to write this a few weeks ago. A homeboy wrote me a little over a month ago. And of course he made me think of home. A home not many know, a home hidden in plain view among the grey winter forests of south east Michigan. One in which echoes that maddening din of cool light nights, reflected in all directions by the surveillance camera erected across from his home in the shadow of the Huron valley. I remember the smell of frying fish after school, after making another day through white washed lessons in a town that's doesn't give a damn for brown boys or black boys.
I began writing this on the border of Peru and Colombia, in a small island town called Santa Rosa. A town that moans the jungle and shines on the shimmering Amazonian sun, tin roofs and tile, wood and plastic. I arrived by cargo boat from Iquitos, a new found love I have to admit. Waking to the port side window view of the jungle floating past, the jungle of hammocks, the sights you see, the brown river and black night, the changing trees. I can think of no better way of cruising the Amazonian tributaries other than stiffed between families, crates of sugar, pigs, card game, chess, and maté. From Santa Rosa I get my exit stamp and wait for a boat to cross the border into Colombia.
I am worlds away from the Delhi airport where I read my homeboys message. Feeling sentimental leaving the country I had barley know but come to love, hearing from one of my oldest homies- who knew me before I had ever thought I'd be going to university, let alone traveling the world on a travel fellowship- and having him give some love really hit home. It took me back. To say the least. Sometimes when I'm sipping coffee over a new plaza or sitting satisfied after another tastey street food meal, maybe sitting in bed contemplating when I cannot sleep, I think back, back home to the homeboys who I haven't seen since I don't remember when, I think back and I remember it all. I remember all that was to make hearing my friends voice read his message and has such an effect. Maybe it sounds insignificant, but I wrote this for myself. I write this to read an remember. I write this for those that would need no explanation and know what I'm talking about. I write this for the homeboys who won't ever read this; the men, who when we were boys sat at the same lunch table as I, who took 9-5s not University courses, who (we), desired so hard to be men too early.
A boy not 16 takes a boat of gringos across the river, three boys mixed black and brown play and laugh, they can't be yet 14- their skinny bodies shake the earth in what they hope to be. The gasoline powered engine putters the wooden long boat towards shore. A warm humid rain greets the morning. As does news from home: Executive orders, the silent dredged scream of ICE raids, street clashes, political theater, power moves, and the fire next time roars low on the front page of the Times. A brother is shot in America, the border is soaked in blood, a gringo snorts cocaine, and democracy flickers like the last light on a corner memorial. Peace agreements, corruption scandals, and the Andes are mined; Sudámerica waits knowing for its twin north of the río bravo.
A creature of the urban I sit, half leaned half crunched on the steps of pillared statue. Even reluctantly I come to mesh with the energy and patterns of life here in this Caribbean city. The noice; the mass; the lights and b boys; music, fights, liquor shouts, and red light bars. The seedy side of a sweltering city at night, the skinny pimps with plastic chains, the whores painted against cheap motels, beckoning from sinful shadows. The bourgeoisie and their concert halls and Mussolini architecture, thinking they are avant-garde in faux jazz bars- in actuality they are the vibrations followed from the street speaking through velvet junkies and crystal glass moons or styrofoam cup drunks at 6am and the breakfast rounds of tinto y papa rellenos. Breakfast for the good boys and girls who do as they are told.
"I watched the best minds of my generation"
...from the loading bay of a cargo ship on the Ucayali river. Street corridos
I write what I see. A girl too young with skin as brown as I, and a fat pawnshop king, proprietor of the working girls motel I accidentally book as it's the cheapest, needing to wait a night before my original guesthouse is available. Roaches watch from hidden holes between rooms, and scurry from the light- cracks in the wall whisper radio songs and a fan. I drink black coffee and play Nina Simone, "don't smoke in bed". She, asks in Spanish what song. I write it down on a piece of paper. She smiles, later as I am writing, she passes thick with makeup and tight cloths. "Adios". I leave early in the morning when she and a group of woman are returning, the sun is cool and I buy more coffee and play Nina Simone in my headphones, a chill rage in my spine.
The open veins of latinoámerica flow freely through history. And I know a thousand stories. I wonder what my homeboy is doing in the chill midday of Midwest blues.