Sunday, June 05, 2005


Channeling my Inner-Cholo

Decided to spend the day exploring Hamilton, Ohio. For those unfamiliar with Hamilton, its the closest city to Oxford and the seat of Butler County's government. Approximately the size of Greeley, Colo., or Lafayette, La, Hamilton really doesn't look like much. But, given that I've now lived within this county for, oh, 10 months and really didn't know much about the county seat, I figured I'd find some me some trouble...

Trouble, it turns out, found me. After spending some time hunting the Goodwill and swinging by Galaxy CDs (the last independent record store in Butler County...talked with the owner about the sad state of music in the area), I stopped by Lowes to look at power tools. I ended up helping these Mexican guys load up a cart full of drywall onto a Dodge Caravan that had obviously seen better days.

One guy was older, maybe mid-forties, mustached and skin leathered by time. He spoke very little English, often broken and with a heavy meek accent. The two other guys, my age, were his nephews, up from Houston to work with their uncle for the summer. We talked in the parking lot over cold sodas - my tip for helping them out.

One of the younger guys would be returning to Houston, the other, Ralphie, would be moving to Baltimore after the summer ended. I noticed that his forearm was covered in the kind of black-ink tat you don't get at university.

"Nuestra Familia?" I ask. Saw his kind of ink all over California, all over the southwest. Raphie and his brother tensed up and looked very nervous.

"Hey, I'm no Schoolboy, fellas." I continued. "Its cool. You out the life?"

Ralphie kicked at the ground, looking embarrassed. Turns out his move to Birthplace of the Bambino is not a voluntary one. His coming to Hamilton is to make enough money to pay his sister rent and his share of groceries.

Ralphie tried to play innocent, but I could tell by the ink, especially the teardrop tats on his chest, that he hadn't been a saint. I asked him if he'd ever caught a case, and he admitted he did indeed have a criminal record. But he wanted to be a comic book artist and his sister had pulled some strings to get him into an junior college. He showed me a notebook filled with poetry (love poems for his girl he left behind and eulogies for the dead) and gorgeous pen sketches. The guy has real talent.

His brother didn't say much. I could tell he was in pain - losing a sibling to a foreign side of the country has to be tough.

"You know it takes a man to get the fuck out of the life," I said. "Men make their lives with their hands and their minds; those cats who stay in ain't nothing but bitches, no offense to your boys. Much love and respect. You got honor, dog."

Ralphie's eyes lit up.

"Thanks, gee." he said. "Eh, you sound like a straight-up cholo, for real. Yo, you a cholo?"

"Naw, I just a striaght-up peckerwood. But you need anything while you here, look a brother up."

I gave him my business card. Told him to give me a call. His uncle shook my hand. And Ralphie gave me one of those "You Cool" hugs I used to get from MY homeboys when I was a juvenile delinquent back in the day. Good kid. He'll make it...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You down homie. And you right. I got out the Life cause I realized men gotta be men and bangers ain't nothing but bodybags.
My teacher said I should right you to say thanks. Wy cousin knows you from Poly and told me I should read what you be posting. Crazy shit gee.