For Marquitos “Lowride”
With lots of love, I share with you that I have completed another book.
Listo, my new novel, is the story of a man and his best friend, an American Pit Bull Terrier—the best and worst of all animals, the noblest beast, the deadliest devil. A wolverine will not cuddle with you on the couch. A lion will eat you alive. In heaven and in hell, this dog of velvet and steel will be your Brother, all of everything that that means.
There is no more plot than this: things just keep happening throughout the Yay Area, especially in San Francisco, while lowriding through the tourist sights, running in the parks, swimming in the Bay, strolling through the streets—the gritty Tenderloin, the magnificent Mission.
These two are Brothers, the never-named narrator and the main character dog Listo. During this journey, you may discover that you yourself become the main character—because the storyteller shares with you, the reader, his deepest songs and secrets.
What does that mean? To be spoken to with reverence? To listen with love?
These are questions that I had to ask within myself while constructing this new book, which integrates short stories and poems into the narrative. Besides being text, Listo is also a book of photography and hand-drawn art.
The literary idea was inspired by a 1914 book of poem short stories entitled Platero and I by Nobel Prize Winner Juan Ramon Jimenez. In that beautiful book, Jimenez wanders the world with his silver donkey. The love, tenderness, and wisdom in it, made me reflect on my own noble friend.
The Pit Bull.
It has been a blessing to share life with these animals that are more moral than me. They have helped and healed me.
In 93 I got out of the Corps, after fighting as a grunt in the war and training to kill all around the world. I was angry, confused, and sometimes scared, yet couldn’t even admit that to myself. Instead of accepting shame, I hid it by drinking, by being vicious, by being a Sav on the streets.
I needed a partner, a Brother, a fellow victim of Vida Loca. On the streets of Frisco City and throughout these states, we all knew that there was one like us but beyond us:
APBT. American Pit Bull Terrier.
We didn’t understand pedigrees or blood lines, but we knew dead-game courage, for we were dying on the streets together—vatos locos and Pit Bulls united in a common cause: Vida Loca, Muerte Loca. We were confused and confident at the same time—all the fucking way in one instant at any instant for as long as that instant needed to be, whether it was one split-second or 3 hours or 20 years or eternity.
We lived and died in the moment.
In March 1995, cops raided one of the biggest dog fighting conventions ever held in the Yay. At a crumbling warehouse on 6th Street in Frisco City, the dogs fought, only ten blocks away from the Hall of Justice. For 75 folks, it was a short ride to the jail house.
For months, they had planned this ultimate fight, this convention. They came from all over the country. Like a boxing card, they had undercard preliminary fights before getting to the championship. Lots of gambling and money changing hands.
During this time period, respectable urban gang members fought their Pits everywhere—backyards, basements, warehouses, cuts.
We practiced fighting on each other, too. We had to. In the 80’s my brother would bring young Homeys over, and if there was anyone my size or age, he would have me box them outside. You needed to be Listo Reddy at any moment.
We were all getting ready to fist fight in prison. By the end of the 90’s, we were in full-force mass incarceration.
We didn’t grow any Yay-O in our backyards, but we were poor, sold Dust, Mota, and kracka, got busted for it, and got sent up the river without a paddle. We got killed on the streets. Like Pit Bulls, we were only playing our role very well.
They created the problem and then blamed us for their fault.
Merica created these dogs, the finest fighting dogs on planet earth, the craziest killing dogs ever known to humankind. There is no serious intellectual or professional debate about this. The American Pit Bull Terrier is America, and it is now world-wide.
They’re in China. They’re in Thailand. They’re in Croatia and Brazil. Everywhere you go, there are people who love pure Pits for better and for worse.
But where did they originally come from? How did they come to be?
Listo, this new book, traces their roots to English/Irish dogs who love to drink both tea and whisky. They are descendants of the original fighting Bulldog who is now the game-bred APBT. The coal-mining English and gas guzzling Irish brought them to these shores.
To understand Merica, you must understand history, but you must be honest with it, and for that, it is not truth, but fiction, literature, that can, paradoxically, help us get to Pura Neta, Pure Truth.
How can these original Bulldogs love living and dying for nothing?
They’re not just the product of stupid simple machismo, but even inside of that, there was an essence, an ugly essence that reveals more about us than it does them. We worshipped these dogs more than we worshipped boxers, who we loved as well. But human Gameness, frankly, cannot compare to what they are. We do not have it, but we do have human ugliness.
We created the Atom Bomb.
We loved our very own Frankenstein, the first American Idol, our own beautiful monster.
We consciously chose hell.
The Pit Bull.
He has shown me what one can be in the midst of hell, and it is beautiful, the golden red sun itself.
Listo Reddy and Marquitos in Monte Carlo–who’s driving? 🙂