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Rules of Engagement

Posted in Political Commentary, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 01/30/2017 by Angel D. Vargas

-Friday, January 27th, 2017

“President” Donald Trump signs an executive order re: immigration at 4:42 pm Eastern Standard time. This order “indefinitely barrs” Syrian immigrants from entering our borders. The order also suspends all refugee admission for 120 days, and blocks citizens from seven Majority Muslim countries from entering the US for approximately three months.

The order takes effect. Almost immediately, chaos ensues. At airports around the country, hundreds are detained and questioned. Thousands more are left wondering about friends and family, stranded or turned away before they could reunite with loved ones who were simply traveling abroad. Across the world, millions are outraged.

I am outraged. Aside from the Anti-Muslim bigotry inherent in such a ridiculous order, there is more to be concerned about here. This is in direct violation of the US Constitution’s first amendment. For those who’ve forgotten it, here it is in bold print.

Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Federal judge Anne M. Donnelly, who used to serve in New York as a Manhattan Supreme Court Judge, challenges Trump’s executive order, granting a temporary stay for refugees and others. In her words “irreparable harm” would be caused by sending the travelers home.

Irreparable harm. Those are tough words. But we are living in tough times. As such, I’ve had to look at those two words and wonder if Judge Donnelly’s countermand was too late not to have caused irreparable harm to the way American citizens must now view their own country. Trust issues, anyone?

If I want proof about how bad things have gotten within Trump’s first ten days in public office, I only need to remember how recent conversations with friends, coworkers, and strangers have gone. Walking down the streets of Harlem these days, it seems that the tension is thick enough to cut with a chainsaw. People don’t look me in the eye here, which isn’t surprising given that it’s New York City, but many of the ones who do look wary or fearful. Many more appear angry.

Words are also a problem. Now it seems, everyone must be careful what they say. The media is being slowly silenced by a man so hell-bent in preserving his fragile little ego, that nothing bad can be said about him without consequence. Kellyannne Conway promises that journalists who say anything pejorative regarding Trump “will be fired.” Trump continues to malign CNN and other networks that express concern over his heavy handedness or his apparent inability to comprehend the consequences of his own actions.

And now, it seems, citizens don’t know how to talk to one another. I know I’m having trouble. I square my shoulders now when I engage in political discussions at work, for there is a good chance that emotions will erupt like Mount Etna. My home life has been invaded by tense discussions regarding Trump’s latest gaff or executive order. My personal life has ceased to be about the pursuit of happiness. Once again, I am pressed into making the choice between taking in the news of the day, or ignoring it for the sake of my sanity.

As a Hispanic American, I know it won’t be long before I am asked to produce “proof of citizenship.” I won’t deny the temptation to smash the face of the person who will inevitably do so, but there is no doubt that person will be an officer of the law. My father was one of those. I will never besmirch the honor of his service. Yet despite my father’s exemplary career, he has already come under scrutiny for being “the other” since Trump’s election. Now, it seems, the closet bigot is free to come out and play among us all, like a demonic bully child on a playground primed to be “great again” as it gets whitewashed with hatred and ignorance.

I cannot allow that.

But there is something else I cannot permit. I will not permit the others who oppose Trump to judge me for the confidence (or lack thereof) with which I pursue resistance. I’m still unsure what form this sort of resistance is supposed to take in the face of such tyranny. I say tyranny because I am sure that this is the monster with which we are faced. An emboldened idiot has taken office, blindly signing away the liberty and happiness of American citizens and immigrants, appointing self-serving bigots with seemingly corrupt agendas to surround him and shower him with inane praise. “Good job, Putin Puppet. Now, let’s release the hounds on these peasants.”

But what will happen when Trump goes so far that there is no turning back? Has he already gone that far? It’s not even been two weeks, and I am already terrified at the prospect of what’s to come. Will there be a KKK rally here in my home city? How many more hate crimes will be committed around the world that mimic senseless Mosque attack in Quebec?

When will I have to consider obtaining a conceal and carry permit?

That’s right. I’m considering it. Some of you same idiots that fight tooth and nail to defend the second amendment while threatening to shoot yourself some beaners are forgetting one simple truth. Not all liberals and Trump opponents are pacifists.

Think on that.

I’m not into marching or rallies. I never was. But mark my words. The true patriots of America have often been the dissenters. Without dissent, people will not have reason to rethink their potential ignorance of gravely important matters.

I wonder if those who voted for Trump are starting to understand how bad this might get. When will they scream to the stars in penance for what they’ve done? I’d invite these fools to wait for the inevitable “I told you so,”but that would be my own hypocrisy shining through. I am deeply sorrowful for the sharp decline of our Nation’s values. International friends and acquaintances are asking me “what happened?” to my own country. I can’t even give an honest answer. The truth is more horrible than any horror fiction I can concoct. Yet I know I mustn’t give into the sorrow. And neither must anyone else. The moment we the people give up our desire to do the right thing, I’ll know to look for the mushroom cloud on the horizon..

Frankentrump..

Posted in Drum Roll, Please...., The Flow and Rhythm of Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 01/19/2017 by Angel D. Vargas

So. What happens tomorrow?

Whether or not you can accept that the Forty Fifth President of the United States is none other than Donald Trump, truth is, he’s set to be inaugurated tomorrow in what is sure to be both a momentous and contentious event in U.S. History.

If you’re having a hard time with this fact, that’s okay. I’m having a miserable time grappling with it myself. I fought with myself and my poor memory for years old passwords just to regain access to a blog I’ve not written in for more than a year in order to express that.

Than again, maybe that’s not good enough for some people. I’ve heard it all before. “If you really believed, you’d be out there in Washington for the Million Women’s march,” or I’ve heard “well then, you should have put your vote toward Bernie like all the other cool kids.” The best one I’ve heard yet is “man, our votes never counted anyway, fuck all this happy horse shit. Life goes on, bruh. Life goes on.”

Yes, life goes on, and so often, the best lies we’re told are rooted deeply in the truth. All of the things I mentioned hearing from people in the last paragraph are lies. But they are pretty good lies when you think about it. The power of hindsight lets us all suddenly don our wizard’s hats and wax like Albus fucking Dumbledore about our country’s future. But the reality of it all is that every last one of us is scared of losing something deeply important to us in the coming four years. LGBT rights, women’s reproductive rights, access to healthcare, racial equality, and so many other things seem to be up for grabs in this brave new world of uncertainty.

I once heard some advice from a respected writing mentor, and it’s something that I still keep in mind even when I’m blogging. “Your writing works best when you write what you know.” When I heard that bit of wisdom, I didn’t like it, especially as I was struggling to become a legitimate fiction writer. I still read and write fiction, but nobody can relate to a good piece of writing, fiction or otherwise, if they can’t find something that reminds them of their own lives and experiences. At least, that’s how I’ve experienced success in my own writing.

Funny thing about me is that I only know what I see, hear, and feel.

On January nineteenth, 2017, the night before Donald Trump’s inauguration, here is what I have come to know.

People are angry.

I know that because I can feel the tension in the air when I walk past the Apollo Theater in Harlem to get to work in the morning. I hear it in the words of the young black man who accuses me of not shaking his hand because someone who looks like me would “never shake the hand of a black man in a million fucking years.” I see it in the looks of disgust on other people’s faces when I go outside with my girlfriend dressed to kill, and people give us accusing glares. I know what they’re thinking because they’ve shouted it in my face, or whispered it in not too quiet voices to their friends. “He voted for Trump because he’s white.” or “Look at the handsome white man who don’t give a fuck about the black man.”

Would you prefer it I went out and protested? Can I stand next to a crowd of black people and proclaim that “black lives matter?” Because I know they do. I’ve always believed that, even if you can’t see that unless I pull out a knife like a “typical Puerto Rican,” or curse you out in the Spanish you didn’t think I could rattle off with such a Caribbean flair. Only an idiot would judge a book by its cover, but I beg your pardon if I want to dress a certain way, or walk down the street with my head held high because I finally like who the hell I am. Do you know what a struggle it has been for me to even get to that point in my life? Oh yeah, I forgot. You really don’t want to know that, do you?

You’d rather be right than be happy.

But let me share what else I’ve discovered in my own quest for the truth. I’ve been to at least one community meeting that begged the question of “what next?” I’ve signed numerous petitions, written letters to government officials, and plotted out what to do if I witness sexual or racial intimidation or violence on the street. But none of these things are going to change the fact that the Donald is taking office tomorrow. I made my voice heard in my own way. I have two weapons available to me in this fight now. My fists and my words. I can be lethal with both. Unfortunately, it may come to the point in this country where I can be arrested for using either one.

That sound okay to you? It doesn’t sound okay to me.

Here’s something else that doesn’t sound okay to me. Nuclear war.

You can pound the streets demanding rights for every American, legal or not, and none of that will matter when you see a mushroom cloud in the distance, and you begin to feel the heat as a great wall of super radiated air rushes toward you and you begin to shit your pants.

Are we okay with that? Has anyone else been thinking about this, dreaming about it and waking up in a cold sweat? Well I have. So don’t come to me with your judgmental bullshit because of the way I look or dress. I don’t give a damn about Donald Trump, but now I’m forced to hope that he changes his tune rather quickly when it comes to foreign policy because I don’t want to have a nuclear bacon sandwich for breakfast.

And before you ask, I loathe the idea of protesting. I’ve hated it since college, and I went to a liberal arts college quite known for protests. But that’s just not me. I don’t want to pound the pavement and shout until my voice is hoarse. I don’t want to get arrested either. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that my father is a retired law enforcement officer and I already know too much about that side of things.

And who am I kidding? I may not be a pacifist, but I’m fucking scared. I’ve heard enough rumors and seen enough evidence of the tension building in my own city that I can believe that things are about to go from bad to worse. The return of the subtle racist is already underway. I’m not about to ask my gay friends to get back in the closet to protect themselves, and you’re never going to get me to believe that the Donald “didn’t mean that shit” he said about Hispanics coming to this country and bringing their problems, or “not being the best their countries had to offer.” I bet that racist douchenozzle wouldn’t even know I was Hispanic until he read my name on a resume somewhere, or mistook me for a member of the press.

But there’s so much more to this man’s presence that affects me on an everyday level that I can’t even escape when I go home after work. Every night, my girlfriend and I end up talking about what might happen when Trump takes office. And every single time we speak of him, it’s in these harsh and bitter tones, like we created a doomed experiment in a science lab and set him loose upon the world like a fucking Frankenstein. Too bad we all know that Frankenstein hates fire.

Donald Trump can’t even handle a twitter account. How strong could he really be?

That’s just what I know. If I wanted to write another book, I could start writing about the shit I don’t know. But I’m already writing a book of fiction that I’m pretending has nothing to do with what I truly know. Look for it one day. You’ll know it when you read it, I think. And even if you don’t, I hope you like it.

Young Frankenstein – Puttin’ on the Ritz

 

 

Unknown Samurai

Posted in Drum Roll, The Flow and Rhythm of Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 07/06/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

I wake up. Thoughts begin to tumble in my mind.

They come into focus when the rest of me does.

Cold water hits my face in the shower. I don’t flinch. I make it warm and go about washing myself. I remember to check myself for unusual lumps. There’s still pain in my arms from the last few days. I ignore it and move on.

I get out of the shower. I still look more or less clean shaven even though I’m not. My face looks chiseled because I’ve lost weight again. I eat more when I get to eat, but I don’t get to eat as often. My chest is broad, but not solid.  I will get that back very soon.

The family coffee gets made while I drink the rest of the old stuff. I’m grinding the beans that my best friend sent me. The smell of fresh beans almost makes up for the noise of the grinder. Fortunately, I am on autopilot. I can switch my mind off to the noise anytime I please.

Coffee is brewing in the kitchen while I run back to my room to set up the laundry. This sets up the second half of my day. It promises to be long.

I drink fresh coffee as I finish the task. Time moves faster than I expect.  I guess it really does fly whether or not you’re having fun.

I do a hundred push ups. The first two sets are clips of 25.  I do 50 more before I text my best friend on skype.  She worries.  I scoff, but in secret I worry too ..

I finish getting dressed and I make the mistake of sitting down.  I’m not sure I want to get up again, but I haven’t even put on my shoes yet. It’s minutes before work, and I don’t want to go.  I do what I must, and push on.

I don’t let on that there’s a pain in my right foot from the blister that popped. I don’t bother to mention that I barely got to eat breakfast.  I let it get cold.

I arrive at work. A co worker looks up and says “there he is.” Another co worker smiles. I smile back, but I can tell it’s a tired smile.

I move to the back room and punch in for the day after waiting for five minutes.  My brain is already going. My job is a minimum wage job.  It will do for now.

I make the mistake of believing that my body can move fast and that my brain will eventually catch up.  What else would three massive cups of coffee be good for?  I spend the first two hours screwing up book returns.  I accidentally process two books from the same publishing company in separate returns. I then proceed to lose the paperwork for one of those returns while I switch the forms for two others. By the time I realize my mistakes, my right eye begins to hurt. I slow down and take a breath. I remember that I saw Sherylin Kenyon’s book.  I also remember that I follow her on twitter now in the hopes that she’ll follow me back.  I’ve never even read what she’s written, but it’s still wild to have seen her book in my hands .. It’s even wilder to know that Jerry Seinfeld might have been here too, but I missed him.

I don’t follow him on twitter though.  I guess I don’t want to be a stand up comedian with a hit television show under my belt.

A full on headache ensues when the next obstacle appears in the form of a six legged menace. A cockroach appears and I stop dead. I’m something like 20 times its size, but I freeze. Childhood memories come flooding back and I want to scream. It’s not the roaches that frighten me, but what their associated with ..

And this makes me angrier than I expect.

My chest heaves when the creature appears again.  A young lady points it out to me, and I walk toward it. I try to step on the thing and it scampers, creepy antennae and all. I sigh.  I’ve missed my chance to reclaim my manhood.

Stupid emasculating bug.

The third time it manifests, it scuttles toward me. Goosebumps form on my legs as I drop the book I’m scanning. As soon as the book hits the ground, I clench my teeth and stomp after the thing.  It scampers away, making a mad dash for the bottom of a metal bookshelf.  I go to kick the thing.  I want to hear the chiten of its shell crunch underneath my black Lebron James shoes. I want the thing to quiver underneath my foot ..

The fourth time it appears, I am prepared.  I have grabbed a book from the “strip” list. The thing was going to get its cover torn off anyway.  What a waste. I use it for something much more worthy.  With a discuss throw, I hurl the book at the object of my childhood fear and rage. It connects. The book bounces off another bookshelf and sails across the room.

Now I have to clean the thing up.  I gather an empty box and a broom, but I still have the fight the shakes for 15 minutes before I get the corpse into the box. It’s severed clean in half.

I hope to God I put the other half in the box too.

Funny thing. As soon as I toss the thing into a trash bag and wrap it up tight, I feel a rush. I’ve done more than kill a stupid cockroach. My childhood fear has become less tangible, somehow. I don’t know if it’s gone, but we’ll call this a step in the right direction.

Work goes a bit more smoothly after that. It seems my brain has caught up with my body.  I tear through returns, and get them ready for shipping.  I rip through some more, and I get those ready too.

My day is over at 4pm after a last minute cock up. I punch out and head home only to remember I set up laundry. Damnit.

But I have to do it. Nobody else can.

God, why do I feel like Micheal Keaton in a batsuit?

I make the mistake of sitting in my captain’s chair and turning on my computer.  I tool around briefly on social media sites. It bores me, but I am addicted to them like I used to be to cigarettes.  I need my fix.

I like klout.  I miss my facebook friends sometimes.

But I heave the giant rolling bag full of laundry into the living room with little effort. It’s been done before. I’ve been doing this for a year now. The family laundry is the only rent I can pay while I live with my parents.  Even now, I don’t make much.  Just enough to feel like I have a job.

I heft the large bag downstairs and I begin to feel my body really hurt for the first time.  My chest is sore.  My back is in pain. My arms quiver.  But I can’t let this go.

I won’t spend my only day off between shifts washing clothes.

The laundromat is crowed. Perhaps I was foolish to try to come out here in the evening, but I don’t feel like I have a choice. If I want to rest tomorrow, I’ve got to get this out of the way.

Loading the machine should be easy, but it feels a lot like pulling circus clowns out of one of those old VW Bugs. It’s beginning to piss me off. My right eye hurts worse than before. I drank water at work, but the heat has robbed me of all hydration. The humidity is low, but I don’t quite feel the difference.

I make eye contact with a young, Asian woman and she immediately smiles. I offer a grin, but it feels odd. I don’t know what to do with my face when a woman smiles at me anymore.

It shouldn’t make me angry though.

I turn my head to pretend to busy myself operating the machine I just loaded. I even stop the cycle and start it again just to be sure I “got it right.” She’s not staring anymore, and I feel a sense of relief. It isn’t like me to shrink from a woman’s attention. It bothers me. I must look the way I feel.

I walk to Time’s Square from the laundromat. I feel like a soldier marching to a steady cadence. My bearing feels like that of a warrior. My feet are already throbbing, but I ignore the pain. I just want to move.

As I get closer to Broadway, I realize my mistake. I need to thread my way through a massive crowd. I do what I’ve been doing lately. I push on, refusing to give in. I don’t want them to cut into my work out time. These people don’t have the same need I have to move fast and stay active. I’m thirty two years old. I am not as young as I once was. I feel it catching up with me in attitude more than anything else. I don’t want to waste time. I don’t wish to indulge others their whims. I don’t wish to become overweight and burned out like so many I once knew.

I certainly don’t feel like the asshole that just stepped on my new shoes is going to get a second reprieve.

But the stupid fuckers with their damned smart phones come out. They text when they should be crossing the street. They call people when they should be watching where they walk. Instead, I must watch where they go. That’s been happening too often of late. I shuck and dodge all sorts of arms and legs without batting an eyelash. Little kids whiz by my feet and I don’t miss a step. A cabbie runs a red light and I flip him off as he sails past my back.  I do all this without changing the expression on my face much. I’ve learned to duck elbows, canes, umbrellas from stupid pale women in the sun, and the naked cowboy.

Today, the naked cowboy has a naked cowgirl counterpart that looks old enough to be his grandmother. There’s also a naked Indian

Great, so all we need is a naked construction worker and a naked cop and we have the Naked Village People.

Swell.

Today, I’m fucking impatient.

I call one guy a dickhead before I run past him to cross the street before the light changes. He just stands there texting his life away, unaware of the amazing redhead in the blue dress that just passed him.

Fuckufaizu!!!!!

I begin to treat the crowd like schools of fish. I am a shark that must dart through them all unseen, eyes scanning the area. I thread through them as though I’m trying to create a wormhole with New Yorker Ninjitsu. I used to think of myself as a linebacker when I was larger. But I’m thinner now. People don’t get out of my way as readily when they see my scowl. I don’t care as long as I can get past them. They all seem like pestilential weeds. I want to cut them down with a samurai weapon and toss them behind me. I’ll move on to the next series of targets and deal with them accordingly.

I go through the next twenty blocks feeling this way. I walk back along fifth avenue with the same alacrity. I am getting stared at again. I don’t know what to do. People look at me as though they should recognize me. It’s creeping me the fuck out.

I go back to the laundromat and throw my clothes in the drier. Then it’s off to Central Park to visit my duck pond.

Only  when I get there, it’s kind of crowded and I can’t sit at my favorite Gazebo overlooking the pond. People and their stupid babies want to take pictures by the water. I almost want the kids to drown as they chase the turtle heads that poke out and form golden ripples under the sun.

I sit on a rock by the edge of the pond and try to phase everyone out as I look at the water.

It doesn’t work, but I start to doze off anyway. So much for mind over matter.

I spend fifteen minutes sitting and getting distracted by wandering people and their dogs. When I finally get up, my feet are sending signals to my brain to sit the fuck back down, but I hit the override button in my head and press on. the chafing of my upper thighs begins to burn. My thighs always were a bit too thick, but in this heat, I feel like my skin will be rubbed raw. I bite my lower lip and walk through the pain. I push my limits. I’ve a massive headache and a sudden urge to scream. I’m so tired that everything I see pulsates with the violent waves of a stormy ocean.

I march back to the laundromat feeling like a lonely, unknown soldier. I pass the pain threshold for my feet 10 blocks from the place, but I don’t stop. I am thirsty, but I won’t stop and drink. I must get this done.

It takes too long to fold the clothes that are dry.  I am there for an hour folding my father’s button down shirts. I know he’ll ask the same question he always does when I get home.

“Was it crowded?”

I wonder what I’ll tell him.

I trudge back home, watching the light fade from the sky. I’ve got one more mile to go before I sleep. The pain has stretched from my feet to my knees. Each step makes me want to wince, but I don’t bother. What’s the point of acknowledging pain at this point in the mission? I’m almost home free.

A cold beer and a bowl of food sounds just about perfect. So does a foot rub followed by sex. I’ll only get two of the four tonight. I’m sure you can all guess which two.

I have a full blown headache now. I’ve been on my feet for almost fourteen hours. I want desperately to flirt with the women with the short shorts, but I can’t even muster the strength for a sardonic smile. I settle for a grimace. I get gas pains from hunger. I’m almost home though. I’ll make it all better.

I’ll make it alright again.

I’ll rub my own feet and drink a beer.

I’ll celebrate my productive day. I’ll have another one in a couple of days.

I hope my body doesn’t scream at me then the way it is now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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