Early morning and I beat the Bodega again. I’m open much earlier than they are. Nothing but the sounds of air conditioners and the garbage trucks below competing with me for space. It’s the magic time in the city. The Half Dawn. Almost through with the first draft and it doesn’t feel that great, but at this stage, it never does. Right now everything is so loose and subject to whims. I keep telling myself about the need for structure and not to spit it out like this – really have to start taking those times in meetings to crank out outlines. Should be interesting to see what happens.
Onward. So, now we know about the kids death and all of the stories that are being told. We’re working backwards to make sure that the graffiti tours make sense. That the beat downs make sense. What else could be taking place at the gathers so late at night? The goal is to rebel against that digital age. Each set we did we looked for different players – a group that was being phased out and being replaced by machines. That’s nothing knew in the scheme of things, but instead of having some type of rebellion above ground – trying to destroy what was happening, rather than just battling for position, we moved in our ways. At night. Now, I know many of you out there are waiting on more vampires – on more heroin stories – on more tales of strippers with unremovable markings on their bodies, but I’m not sure I have much to give. You all want more from Valerie – but I’ve told that story many times and the fact is that in San Francisco, they wouldn’t just stand out. However, I can let her stand up and talk a bit for today. If that’s what you want. She seems to be reaching through my mind at this point, so why not let her out and be heard over the trucks running all over Harlem on this day.
For me, the most fun – the height of it all is when we had the money to spend on whatever we liked. I’m not talking material things, though I enjoyed the shopping I did for costumes and the such, but really, it was the little things we were able to do for what we believed in. Alberto and Lila, Lila I think more than anyone, was very instrumental in putting the money to use in the schools. Now, she never joined us for any of the events – she was one of the rare people who did the jobs that only humans could do and were not being displaced by the oncoming digital age. Teaching, though it may pay like crap and be off the radar in terms of glamor positions, still required humans. However, the city was never concentrated on funding, and was now taking money form these groups buying up the buildings south of Market street, building up computer labs and closing down the wood shops. These kids were sitting in front of computers, being trained on how to push the right buttons. It was horrifying.
Lila came up with the arts in the parks program, where kids would receive canvasses and paints to go into Golden Gate park with and just put down what they saw. Everything came from private donors who wished never to be revealed – we had no need for recognition – only for a hand in the battle. See how we moved? The thinking was that if kids could keep a physical connection to the world and their place in it, we might not loose them. The battle was tough because the computers held the allure of being cool and the added bonus of this new connection to everywhere else in the universe.
I remember that Sunday though that everyone is still talking about. That little girl – how she went missing. They blamed it on the program, but that’s just the way the news spun everything around. One of the programs we had was a gardening group that would have these kids going into old folks homes and plant gardens with fresh vegetables. Once they grew, we’d revisit and help them pick, the cook them up. Again, no media coverage, just doing something to keep minds fresh. We’d hire as many of the displaced unemployment line folks as we could.
So on this day, now let me see if I can remember it, Alberto and Lila took the kids down to the Richmond district to help out this one home. The kids were really into it. One of the girls, I think her name was Sally or Wendy – something like that – Oh, I should really know this because it was in all the papers for a while until people got bored and moved on to the next tragedy – so little Sally, she was helping in the garden planting the seeds one by one – very careful. I remember her because she was neater than the other kids and took time spacing out the seeds so they had time to grow. She had overheard that if you add sugar to water when you grew, the plant would be stronger. Not sure where she heard this – probably on the TV. Anyhow, she looked up at me and said:
“We need some sugar to make the water strong.”
Now, I smiled at how cute that was right there because, seeing little people say smart things always brought smiled to my face. Seeing her there in the soil reminded me of being with my mother in the fields out in Watsonville when she used to interview those migrant workers. Man, she took a beating a few times and not just in the physical way. I’ve talked about that already. No need to get further in there. So, anyhow, I moved on to bringing in a few more bags of soil – smiling because of my interaction with that small child. Shel Silverstein was right you know.
A few hours passed and our planting was done. We loaded everything up into the van and went to take a head count and Lila just started freaking out, yelling for that little girl. I wish I could go and remember her name but it’s just not in me to do so. I have little room in there. We looked for hours, then called the police when it started to get dark – of course most of us left before you all arrived, and then the search was on. She went missing for a good 6 months, until one day she just showed up at her parents house and that was the last anyone heard of her. It was the worst because the parents wouldn’t talk to the media – nothing. Everyone just speculating about what happened to that poor little girl. That’s the worst when you don’t know about something – you just kind of let you mind go.
Don’t you think it’s strange that something always seemed to happen to take the steam out of what was happening in our events or programs?