a u g u s t    2005


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When I open my eyes it's four days later and 30 years before. Cinco de Mayo, 1976: A parade through downtown San José, California. Santa Clara Street. Second Street. Lowrider cars. Lowrider bikes. Long red and green and purple plastic honking horns. Cotton candy. Balloons. Back then, things were not so regulated yet--at least, not for a four-year-old like me. I remember running in and out of crowds, crossing streets and spaces freely, areas closed off from the normal automobile traffic suddenly wide open for exploration. Nothing flashy in these parades. Still an element of carnival, spontaneity, true festival and community. "Enjoy this shit," I tell my four-year-old self. "In another 30 years, this will all seem like a dream. This place will be saturated, fancy, fenced off, surrounded by corpses and cops, corporate logos and logic of death."

The Big Moment: My dad's small Mexican drum corps unit, marching military-style in high black boots with neverending laces, navy blue white-striped pants, light blue shirts, fat white straps across chests to hold the drums in place at an angle, black berets tilted also at an angle, blazing with red-white-and-green Mexican flag patches. "Hey, how did Pop end up in some military marching thing anyway?" my four-year-old self asks. "I don't know," I respond. "But if I ever see him again, that's one of the questions I plan to ask." My four-year-old self turns suddenly and disappears into a forest of legs. "Hey," I call out. "Ponte trucha... ¡Atravieso!"

I do my best to follow after him as he crisscrosses through space, weaving in and out of the crowds. There's something menacing, predatory in his movements. He's in search of life, claws outstretched, jaws wide open, fangs displayed and ready to devour. His shadow dances over pavement and sidewalk, like some inky-black sinister horror-movie clown that only kind of parallels the real kid's movement, always threatening to break loose and start gnawing on something/someone, and you follow its rapid darting motion first with your eyes, then with your instinct. He turns back to make sure you're still there, waves you on, then disappears again. This time, there are only echoes. Plastic trumpets, parents holding kids up on their shoulders ("Mira mijo, ahí viene Dumbo...mira Dumbo mijo, mira...¡Mira!"), high school marching bands, your dad's drum, RATA-TAT, RATA-TAT, RAT-TAT-TAT...RATA-TAT, RATA-TAT, RAT-TAT-TAT--

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