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Monthly Archives: September 2009

By Reid Wright

It’s quiet now. No cars pass on the road and no trains rumble and click on the intersecting tracks. Only  the chatter of insects and trickle of water in the murky irrigation ditch can be heard. An old cottonwood tree sags nearby, snaking it’s thirsty roots into the ditch. Under its canopy, fluttering plastic flowers are wired to a stump next to a faded baseball cap and a lonely white cross with the name Joseph Angel Garcia.

It was here, last fall where 15-year-old Joseph was taken by his friend John Gamble, 16, who beat him with a rifle until it cracked and splintered into pieces. John then doused Joseph’s slender body in gasoline and lit him on fire. Joseph’s body had to be identified by his dental records.

John left a white bandana with a gang slogan near his dead friend to let everyone know it had been a retaliation killing for when his friend told police on him for a break-in earlier that year.

Just after his 17th birthday, John was tried as an adult and found guilty of first degree murder, kidnapping and retaliation against a witness. He will now likely spend a good portion of his life in jail.

It’s not my place to judge, that’s the jury’s job. But when I was that age, we would settle disputes with a scuffle in the dirt after school, or an exchange of insults that began with “your mamma’s so fat …”

Now I visit the juvenile detention center and see  crayola pictures on the wall with smiling stick figures in front of school houses. Only these stick figures have glocks  and AK-47s in their hands.

What is this kingdom of fear we have built for our children?
Every night, John went to bed on a pillowcase with gang slogans scrawled on it. His father was working all day and his mother was in a wheelchair, unable to get into john’s room, where he kept the .22 rifle and a small hand gun.

Joseph’s single mother worked long hours to buy nice things for her boys. On the night he was killed, she got home late and went to bed because she had to work early the next day.

Philosophers from Aristotle to Sitting Bull have dreamed of the possibilities of how far humanity could go if we just focused our effort on making each generation of children a little better than the last. Instead, we focus on making money and chasing false Idols.

There’s no more heroes.

If you meet a kid who needs a friend, spend a little time with them. Let them know there’s more to life than crime and death. These kids idolize so-called gangsters and respect people who do crime and go to jail.

I read the police reports every day, and people go to jail over the stupidest shit: not showing up to court, not paying a $30 fee, taking a lunch break during their trial and not coming back. And once you’re in the system, it’s REALLY easy to get stuck there.

There’s nothing gangsta about this shit.

Anyway, please spend some time with a kid. It’ll mean more than you know.


By Reid Wright

There comes a time when a man just needs a drink — an unstable concoction to strip away his mental armor so he may look deep into his glass and deep into his soul to find the greater truths that lie beneath.

It had been a long, grueling week and this was clearly one of those nights.

I sought sanctuary at the Blue Cactus Lounge — scoffing when Romero, the bartender, told me the place got crazy at night. I’d found previous ventures to the lounge to be quite boring. The only other person sitting at the bar was a silent old cow-poke with a handlebar mustache who was periodically told in jest to shut the hell up.

Little did I know the Fairy God Mother of Fucked-up showed up at midnight to turn the blue cactus into a forgotten corner of Dante’s Inferno.

“We’ve only got three people working behind the bar tonight,” Romero said. “I’ll be fine, but I don’t know about the other two.”

Whatever. I went back to my Bud Light.

This far out in the desert, good beer is hard to come by. I was mortified at the gas station earlier that day, where the 30-foot-long beer case was comprised of only two colors, red and blue, or Budweiser and Bud Light. At that moment, my inner beer snob screamed and died an anguished death within my chest.

So now I drink Bud Light, or at least I did until Willy showed up with his wife. Willy is a stout 50-ish man who makes a killing working HR at the nuclear waste disposal plant. He found out I worked at the paper and rumbled with a deep laugh.

“Romero, get this boy a drink,” he said. Then he pulled me aside and said quietly, “This is my place.”

Romero returned with two glasses of straight Don Julio tequila, explaining it was his favorite. After drinking the foul yellow water that is Bud Light, Don Julio felt mighty good sloshing over my taste buds and warming my stomach.

Willy handed a thick wad of bills over the counter and the drinks kept coming. Apparently he had a reputation for throwing down large sums of money on a whim. Romero happily helped himself when the security camera panned away. I should have been suspicious of a stranger trying to get me wasted, but I was headed for the bottom anyway, might as well accept the hospitality.

At some point, Willie’s wife taught me how to do the two-step to country music. I was pleasantly surprised to find it to be a dance so easy, a three-legged bull with mad cow disease could do it. Clearly, it was a dance specifically tailored for the Caucasian male.

We had our jolly time and the older couple left. I wound up at a table of young outcasts. No matter where in the country I go, no matter how mundane I dress, the freaks see right through my leave-it-to-beaver façade and recognize me as one of their own.

And I love them for it.

Emily was a slender girl with dark hair and a skull t-shirt. Kim, a stout girl with broad shoulders and spiked hair, was quieter and more reserved. It didn’t take me long to figure out the two were a couple. Also at the table, Leslie and Marco are an older couple. Marco works out at the wastewater treatment plant. He happily explained he’d just been promoted from “Turd-herder” to “Turdologist.”

We went out to smoke. Emily explained to me, as if it was in dire need of explanation, that just because she was a lesbian, did not mean she wanted to sleep with every girl she met.

I wandered around the corner to discover Romero, still in his work shirt, passed out in the fetal position on a concrete bench with a soft smile on his face — the curse of Don Julio claims another victim.

The Blue Cactus Lounge is now down to two bartenders.

On the way back in, Emily said homosexuals in Carlsbad were terrified of publicly coming out and even more afraid of showing up at pride events, for fear they might wind up in the newspaper. I was just about to find out how hostile the environment really was.

The girls stood up to dance. By then, a good number of people had showed up and the place was alive with music and movement. Through the tequila haze, it was really quite beautiful.

Suddenly, a melee erupted on the dance floor and the bouncers dove in head first. Leslie staggered out with blood gushing out of her nose and onto her shirt. A thrashing Kim was pulled out of the pile. I’d never seen such fury. It took three bouncers to get her outside, where she was subdued by Emily’s touch.

What looked like a methed-out Malibu Barbie was escorted out to join her Ken doll at his car. Kim had to be held back again as the two lurched away.

Leslie walked out in a daze, unaware of the blood on her face. Her nose looked broken. All I could do was stupidly hand her some bar napkins. She pushed them away.

Kim said the girl had swung at her and accidentally hit Leslie. She wouldn’t say what provoked the attack, but I sensed a long history.They rushed Leslie off into a car and drove away.

 At that point, I just wanted to go home.

(The names in this post have been changed)

By Reid Wright

Hawgfest announced itself to the otherwise quiet night with a burnout contest. Note the elbow tattoo of the guy in the white shirt.

“You should get this,” a dolled-up chica in porn-star heels said, handing me a shot glass from the display table with the word “Teabagging” on it, with an explicit cartoon of the sexual act. I asked if I could get one for my mother. She thought I was joking.

I left the vendor’s booth and sat down, trying to ignore the young lesbians noisily making out behind me. A portly biker woman chomped at a dangling hotdog with her teeth from the back of a rolling motorcycle. The crowd cheered.  It’s a cultural experience, I told myself.

A wet t-shirt contest is also a cultural experience.

In my mind, I was working for National Geographic on assignment in Zambia, studying some remote tribe. Strictly professional.

But as the water came down and the t-shirts came up, I could only think one thing.

God bless America.

After all, in what other country could lawyers, dentists, receptionists and information techs strap on leather chaps and saddle up their motorcycles to head a few towns over for a weekend to drink booze, roast their tires and flash their naughty parts in mockery of the civilized world?

These are freedoms worth fighting for.

But then again, in what other country would they need to behave this way? All the hours Americans spend bound in undisruptive clothing, working undisruptive jobs and saying undisruptive things — it’s no wonder they behave like animals when given the chance.

Americans have become cows — plain brown cows. Too timid to do anything uncivilized or not politically correct, they graze though life without ever trying to escape their pasture or unleash the kung-fu killer instinct locked away somewhere in a forgotten strand of DNA. 

In the end, they obediently line up at the slaughterhouse and wonder why their life meant nothing.

In striving for a perfect humanity, we forgot  that we are in fact animals —aggressive, loud, sexual, violent, crude, passionate animals.

How long before letting ourselves go on the occasional weekend isn’t enough? How long until the animal within snaps and stampedes through our civilized mind and unleashes its long pent-up fury? 

If you read the news — and read between the lines — it happens every day.