“Butch”, up the street is sixty-one. His orange house has been in foreclosure for a while now. Since he spent ninety days in jail for a third DUI. “One beer, Mike. One beer.” He had already lost the chicken farm after his wife died. “You got to wake up at two in the morning to feed a hundred thousand chickens, Mike. Can’t sleep anyway. You think a hundred thousand chickens is quiet?”
I bother them about smoking and drinking the beers. “That shit’s gonna kill you, man.” Lester goes, “We don’t wanna hear that, man. We know it’s bad for us. We know we should quit.”
Butch drove trucks for a while. Drove his own birds down to Miami to the slaughterhouse and got ripped off. Truck broke down on the way back. Twenty-grand in repairs or some shit. For a while he drove a cement truck. A master driver. Driving down into construction sites and angles no one else would consider. “You got to keep that barrel turning, Mike. If the cement dries out in there, you got to clean it out. Get in there and scrape that shit clean. Wouldn’t make that mistake twice. They fire you. After you clean it out.”
In jail you don’t earn an income. Your friends move into your house and don’t pay the bills. They pawn your shit. Bank sends letters. Finally get out. Owe a lawyer twenty grand. Cost you three thousand dollars cash to get your car insurance reinstated. Not to mention truck license. Cement company can’t let you drive ‘cause of the drunk driving. Plenty of people would say that makes sense. Drunk driving is some fucked up shit.
Did you guess that Butch is black?
We’ve been doing West African Dance and Drum camp. And attending Ifa/Orisha services hosted by an 87 year old priestess, Iya Monifay. She’s from the Bronx. Her and her previous husband were the first blacks in New York state to own a liquor license. In the 1970’s. She had plenty of money. Had a gold record (showed it to us – dust-covered, leaning behind the couch or something.) Left it all to pursue the calling. Lived in a hotel in California with her Nigerian partner ‘till the money ran out and they were cleaning rooms to pay for their board.
Ogun, Oshun, Elegba, Yemaya, Oya, Obatala… Old friends.
A science, Ola Olun says. Ola Olun is the seventh of nine kids, like Rivka. Parents were founders of this village in South Carolina called Oyatunji. There is word it is a “sovereign African nation”. Ola Olun goes, “sure, ‘till the government wants something.”
I teach a bhakti yoga class on Friday mornings now. Bhakti is the yoga of devotion. Chanting, praying. Ninety minutes. There are a dozen or so wild chickens Rivka wants dead. A new community center in the works, and beginnings of a Community Organization, Historic Brownsville Community. I chair it. How rock and roll? Rivka has come out as Transgender. They are identifying as gender fluid. The wispy beard is quite subtle at this point.
Dear Maka is non-gender. Do I identify as male?
Been oil-pulling every morning for years now. Seems to at least be keeping the dead-tooth infections at bay. Natalie had tracked the gum recession and apparently there’s been some regeneration!