Piri

September 14th 1996

To Benjamin Bac Sierra, a Brother poet writer, a friend.

“There is no such word as defeat if we are what we eat, we are what we think, so let us not mug our minds with thoughts of defeat.”

Unity among all the colors—

We are not minorities—

We are majorities of one

United—

Punto.

Piri Thomas

With love to all la familia

Piri’s amor and wisdom

In 1996, I crashed Piri’s party in Berkeley. I think Don Ortez, infamous Latin American Studies Profe over at City, had once introduced me to him, and when I heard he was having a party, I was going to be there. I did not care I did not know anyone. I already imagined myself a writer. I kicked it, listened to poets, drank up, and then it was my turn.

I told the gente there that I had treasured Piri for many years. When I was about eleven years old, I stole his book, El Barrio, from the Cortland library. I was not ashamed of my theft, for it brought me there to that moment. Then I read an early version of the “Lobo” story that I have reprinted below. That writing is the raw roots of my writing, 25 years ago.

Little did I know of all the even crazier mas vida loca that I had to look forward to in the years to come. After I read my work, Piri, author of Down These Mean Streets, embraced me as a Barrio Brother. He liked me, perhaps loved me, took a special interest in schooling me, and I loved him for giving me understanding and for believing in me as a human being and as a writer. He passed in 2011 at the age of 83.

May that great man’s soul Rest in Power.

Whatever I do now, I do in honor of the amor ancestors before me.

This one’s for you, Piri:

It was three weeks later when she doubted me. She had her homegirl’s Regal, and it was her, her chubby cousin Tracy, and me. We had just bought some fortys and a bottle and were on our way to have a good time somewhere by the beach or at the pier, but she gave me a fucked up attitude cause I busted open my forty in her homegirl’s fucked up car, like if I was gonna contaminate the interior with a few spilled drops of malt liquor foam. And so she pulled the car over, all high and mighty, and commanded—       

“Lobo, Lobo put the cap back on until we get to a cool spot.” As if she was the leader of something. And so I said, nice and sincere, like only a charming cholo can—

“Bitch, fuck you.”

Her mouth dropped. Who in the hell did I think I was? I can’t talk to her like that, oh no, she’s a lady, a princess, a goddess. But Goddess didn’t have a chance to say none of that nonsense cause I just took my forty, adjusted my pistol under my shirt, stepped out of the car as if the past twenty one days of falling madly in love with her didn’t mean anything to me, and left her listening to James Brown with her mouth open and no words coming out. I walked away without looking back.

I always look forward.

So I’m a wolf on the prowl and dead straight in front of me there’s a flock of business guys in suits strolling down the street that beautiful Friday morning in the downtown, busy ass traffic city of Inten, and I pulled out my .38 from my pants belt, ripped out some stomach hairs in the process, and said…

“Your fuckin money.” Sober and serene as a priest at mass. They all jumped like little bunny bitches and strangely started throwing their chump change on the sidewalk as if they expected I was actually gonna bend the fuck down and pick up their leftovers like some stereotypical garbage man. I smashed a heavy redneck in the head with my forty. My forty, for some reason, didn’t break, but he buckled to the floor anyway.

“You,” I pointed my gun directly at the guy’s glossy forehead that was standing in back of buckler, “grab the fuckin money and give it here.” He bent over and scooped up the money that was shining and sparkling on silver and gold money clips. I stayed looking at his four eyes as I put my forty down on the hard ground and accepted the money from the scared man that I could tell had never met a true garbage wolf up close and personal. He had never known that garbage wolves have honor too. He’d never known how it is to live in the garbage can, without hopes and dreams—except for distorted fantasies of going to La Pinta, selling drugs, or getting killed. I stuffed his dirty honest money in my pocket and dropped the weight of my gun and the full force of my arm on top of his bald eagle head. I grabbed my Old E and walked back to Sheila in her piece of shit homegirl’s Buick.

She hadn’t left. Nope, not my Goddess, the car door was still open, just like her honey filled mouth, inviting me inside. She had thought I was actually gonna leave her. Silly rabbit.

“Drive,” I said as I scooted in and shut the door. I didn’t look at her as she drove away, and she didn’t look at me either. She simply drove, and her love was telepathically proved. She had the passionate love of a true believer, a partner who would never leave my side.

Mi amor. My love.

Picture of Benny inside U.C. Berkeley’s Cal Campanile, 1996
With the same spirit as Piri, I try to be true. Presenting Pura Neta to the Homies Empowerment Staff in Oakland, The Town, Califas

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