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Parts Dirty Immigrant Storyteller

Where The Weed At from I am a Dirty Immigrant

I was stressed out so I decided to seek out the only thing that calmed me down. Yes, I was going to find some good weed right here at this Christian school. One day, I was playing basketball at the small gym when I befriended this young man. He was quite large, about three hundred pounds and six feet three. He had sandy blond hair that hung down just above his eyes; a haircut shaped like someone had put a bowl on his head and cut the edges of his hair. His cheeks were permanently red, and his blue eyes were expressionless, like there was nothing but air and broken dreams behind them. Frankly he looked like an overweight Huckleberry Finn. He told me he knew where to get the good stuff. I almost laughed when he emphasized good stuff, his eyes lighting up like a Christmas tree.

One afternoon, we walked down the street looking for a place to smoke. The little town was quite beautiful. The houses lined the streets, the grass was brown from the winter cold and there were Christmas decorations on their porches. Their yards were covered with leaves of bright red, orange and brown. Quite frankly it was kind of peaceful.

We arrived at a small bridge where trains went by which was something I had never seen before. We got under the bridge; there were two other young men with us. The fat guy pulled something out of his pocket, and I remember thinking, I had never seen a white tooth pick before. To my dismay he flicked his lighter and lit up the smallest bloody joint I had ever seen. He passed it to me, and before I could take my usual long draw, the other kid had his hand out. When we were done, the big kid stumbled out from under the bridge. He was jumping around like Sugar Ray Leonard shadow boxing. To tell you the truth, he was surprising light on his feet. He was going to tell the world how high he was. I slowed down, letting him go ahead of me. Huck’s antics were going to get us caught. That day I decided to stop smoking. I could tell that this place was going to be a buzz killer.

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Parts Dirty Immigrant Storyteller

Blackanova from I am a Dirty Immigrant

I heard the same sentiments from a couple of women I sat next to everyday at work. I was a little taken aback because these women were always being extra-friendly with me. Anyway, I expected that from the older of the two women. The younger one took me by surprise because she tried her best to portray an understanding of the plight of black people. She joined the conversation by stating that she did not believe in the mixing of races. This woman was a Jessica Simpson look-alike or wannabe, whichever way you see fit to categorize her. She stated emphatically that she would not allow her daughter to date a black man. I did not say anything at first, but when she insisted, I had to respond. I wanted to know why she felt that way, but she did not have a viable answer for me. I insisted, and she said that the children are the ones who suffer, so I informed her that it was people like her that made it hard for children of mixed origin.

She was speechless, her eyes rolling around in her head as she searched for an answer. She finally attacked my failed marriage, stating that it did not work because of our color difference. To tell you the truth, I had to stop and take a breath so as not to explode. Once again I had to explain to her that it was people of her mentality that made mixed relationships hard to maintain. I also let her know that it was not the ethnicity that ended our marriage. But still she insisted. Hell, I even heard her say that if a black man painted his dick white, she still would not sleep with him.

I was not defeated in my effort to show her that color played no role in how people feel about each other. The following day I embarked on a campaign of flirting. I was more tenacious than a politician, and from the beginning I knew I had her attention. I used my writing skills to woo her, using exotic images from my island. Every day she would come in and try to get my attention. She would swoon like a schoolgirl, always looking for my approval with what she wore or what color her hair was, and believe me she changed it daily. I laid on the poetic charm until I knew she was addicted to the attention, and then I stopped. Her reaction to me stopping was a little hostile, the wrath of an ignored woman. At one point I was walking by her when she told me to kiss her ass. For someone who would never date a black man, she sure seemed a little perturbed about losing the attention.

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Chase in the Hood from I am a Dirty Immigrant

The very first day I began working at the retail store, a group of shoplifters helped themselves to quite a bit of merchandise. I had forgotten to lock the doors and they entered and grabbed as much stuff as they could. I was at the other store when I heard a ruckus outside. I ran to the door and saw four young men running down the street, arms filled with cheap panties, over sized bras; I mean the street looked like the poor man’s Victoria Secret was having an auction. The off-duty policeman that worked with us was in hot pursuit. The store owner, a short arrogant sort, his short legs churning like a propeller, screamed profanities as he gave chase. The four young men ran past me, balancing boxes in their arms. Panties, pants, shoes and shirts fell to the streets. The owner stopped picking up his merchandise as he yelled at me to join the chase.

So here I was, running down a strange street in the middle of the ghetto, wondering what the hell I was doing. Now understand, there were no ghettos on my island, hell, there were no real bad areas. All I had on my mind were the horror stories about gang fights and murders. You can thank Hollywood for me expecting to be attacked by gangs. We got to the projects and the young men scattered in all directions. The off-duty cop yelled at me, commanding that I go after the two young men who turned right down a narrow street. I ran after them, but they disappeared into an abandoned building. I looked at the dilapidated structure, black holes where doors and windows once were, hollow reminders of lives long past. A dirty-looking man stumbled out of the main entrance, disturbed by the commotion. He was eating what looked like a sandwich. He looked at me like he saw a ghost. His mouth opened, food dropped out of his mouth and he pointed in the direction the young men went. I stopped. There was no way in hell I was going into that bloody place. I turned around just as the cop pulled out his revolver and disappeared into the projects. For a second, I thought about following, but I changed my mind. Not only did he have his service revolver, but he also had another gun stuck in his waistband. Now would it have killed him to share? I walked back to the main street just as the store owner ran up, all out of breath. “You got them?” he asked. I shook my head.

Where did they go?” I pointed to the abandoned building,

Well go get them!” I looked at him, shook my head and brushed past him. That man was crazy if he thought my big ass would go into that place.

There was one thing I noticed about The Melting Pot City: shoplifters were different from The Wild and Wonderful City shoplifters. When they got caught, they would destroy the loot instead of giving it back. I was standing at the door of the store when a fat lady ran out of the store next to mine. She was jingling and tingling. Small pots and pans fell out from between her legs. The woman looked like she was giving birth to cookware. Three burly men were in hot pursuit. To tell you the truth, they looked like cartoon characters. The Road Runner theme song resonated in my head. When they caught up with her, they proceeded to beat the hell out of her. Lotion, soap, perfume: you name it, it fell out of her dress. I mean, where the hell was she holding all that stuff? As I stood, astonished, the woman started stomping on the items. You should have seen the malicious look on her face. It seemed more like a political statement than shoplifting. At the time, rap music was more lyrically conscious. People felt they had to do something to make change. If they were not going to get their piece of the pie, then no one will. People without power will do anything to better their situation. It is not greed that drives poor people – it’s need.

Anyway, if any of the men got any of the items from her, she would grab it and destroy it. In The Wild and Wonderful City, they just gave the bloody items back. I had never seen anyone shoplift on the island. I don’t know if they were too afraid or just honest, but for the sake of humankind, I hope it was honesty.

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I am a Dirty Immigrant

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Almost Jacked in Brooklyn From I am a Dirty Immigrant

By the end of the summer she was so homesick she started singing country music and no she was not singing the song “Coal Miner’s Daughter” either. Keep in mind that this is that woman who hated country music. Ironic since I was the one who grew up listening to my mom sing country songs all the time. The one incident that pushed us out of The Melting Pot City was the day one of the stores was almost robbed. Both stores were on the same block, one an everyday retail store, and the other a Victoria’s Secret-like store: expensive as hell. Why they would put such a store in the ghetto baffled me. These people could not afford a bloody nightie for one hundred dollars. I was working in the retail store one day when the Colombian worker at the pantry store called me.

The cat is having its kittens – come over here right away.” I was confused. Hell, I had not seen one bloody cat in this city since I moved there; just rats as big as cats. She finally broke down and told me to get over there, so I hurried and went.

As soon as I got to the door I realized what was going on. I stuck my hand in my shirt like I was packing a pistol. My heart was pounding hard, my head spinning. Hell, I thought I was going to faint for sure. I heard about the crime in The Melting Pot City, but damn, the thought of guns took me back to a place in my head that I thought I left on the island. There were three teenagers in the store. One stood at the cash register: bloody kid did not look more than seventeen. A girl was in the middle of the store, her handbag open and her hand in it. Another boy stood at the door to the storeroom, peeping in.

I walked behind the counter and stood there, my skin tingling with fear. I had no gun, no knife, nothing to defend myself. That same helpless feeling as when the fighter jets were bombing the island engulfed me. After about ten minutes, they came up to the counter and bought some items. As they were leaving, the kid that stood at the door to the storeroom stopped and looked at me and opened a small sack revealing a pearl handled pistol. I looked at him; his eyes looked dead. “They lucky you came in bro or we would have jacked this bitch up.”

After they left I half expected a volley of gunfire to erupt around me. There was no marijuana to calm my fears here. I guess it was time for me to go back to good old Blue Grass city. Great; I can give the bible bangers another chance to convert me.

There was one statement that solidified my decision to leave The Melting Pot City. One of the ladies informed me that I should wait until the new semester for the high school started. She said the students had no regard for life. I thought, hell no. I did not survive all that I had just to end up dead in some rat infested store. Despite this, let me add this tidbit: some of the shoplifters did not steal from the store as they said they could not in good conscience rob from another brother. It seems they thought I owned the stores so they felt it was their civic duty not to rob from one of the only black-owned businesses on the block. Funny thing; I used to stand at the door and watch them steal from the stores owned by Koreans and Jews.

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Choices, Choices, Confused Immigrant

The one thing that confused me was the magnitude of choices in the stores. On the island, there were only two grocery stores like the ones here. Most of our shopping was done at little neighborhood shops. They were small wooden buildings owned by someone in the village. You can buy sugar, butter, lard and rice by the pound and everything is weighed right before your eyes. I always wonder what makes one brand better than the next. Are we paying for quality or name? Is it taste? I never knew about junk food. I mean, my snacks consisted of me going to my back yard and picking some mangoes or sapadillas, or guavas, or any kind of tropical fruit I wanted. You know what is strange? Like everyone else, I found myself addicted to it. I went from one hundred and forty seven pounds to three hundred pounds. That was in less than a year until my bloody chicken legs rebelled. I always wonder what the fascination with chocolate is in this country. I have seen people eat it, their face twisted like they were in the middle of having an orgasm, but then again, I can understand why. I am seven feet one inch tall of pure chocolate all day every day and I love myself. The main thing I had to get used to when shopping was the taxes added on. On the island, whatever price you saw is what the item cost. For the first two years, I would always go by the price I saw on the item. Needless to say, I was always short.

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Parts Dirty Immigrant Storyteller

Slapped From the novel I am a Dirty Immigrant

The language between blacks and whites was so different it took me a while to understand what either was saying to me. Remember, I said the brother called me a dog? Well, I thought that sort of slang was universal to all the people of The City of Golden Streets. My ignorance of the culture got me in trouble in a big way. I walked up to this white girl and greeted her with a rowdy, “What’s up dawg?”

Now you know the old saying that white men can’t jump? Well, I learned real quick that white women can jump because that short woman jumped up and slapped me across the face. Later I recounted the story to my friend from The Hoosier City and he educated me on the finer points of language between the whites and the blacks. Apparently some slang words were exclusive to each race, like in The Blue Grass Mountains, people called you cuz, or son, or even boy. Blacks were calling me Dawg, Homeboy, and some even used the n word. Where I am from everyone used the same slang and spoke with the same rhythm; it was a national thing.  

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Frozen Island Boy From I am a Dirty Immigrant

The next day I woke up around five o’clock, normal for me, and looked outside. The sun was bright, and I swear to you, it was bright enough to look like home. I thought it was good weather for a run. So I went back to my room, put on shorts and a t-shirt. Hell, I was going to enjoy a nice jog before breakfast. I stepped outside and immediately my skin felt like god and the devil were having a tug of war match. Then, a sensation like needles pricking me ran through my body. I turned and walked like a mummy back to the room and stood in front of the heater thawing out my frozen tropical joints. Being that cold was not natural. Someone had to piss off God for him to create this kind of torture. To tell you the truth, twenty years later, I am still defrosting from that first morning.

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Bloody Nose, from I am a Dirty Immigrant

I know, I am straying, but damn this story is good. There was a couple at the party dressed like the characters from the movie Pulp Fiction. The gentleman had a line of red liquid running down his nose so I congratulated him on how authentic his costume was and asked him what he used for blood. He looked at me puzzled, and then held up a small glass container on a chain around his neck. The light was dim so I leaned in and saw that it was filled with white powder. I had heard about cocaine use at parties but that was the first time I had seen someone bleed from their nose. I was so embarrassed I just swallowed hard and walked away, as he wiped the blood from his nose.

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Tropical Hillbilly

Now the curious thing about this tri-state area is that in some ways, it is similar to my country. There are lots of people here whose forefathers came from Ireland or England. Now you may find that hard to believe, but a lot of the language and names mirror that of my country. Smith is popular here and I always thought that was funny because one of my bullies back home was named Smith. Smith is also my ex-wife’s mother’s first husband’s last name (hope you get that). Some words that we use are the same too, like the word tarnation. I said it once and a friend told me that I was becoming acclimated to the Hillbilly language. I asked him why, and he said that the word tarnation is an old Appalachian word. I told him it was not because it could be found in the dictionary. He disagreed and I had to get the dictionary to prove it to him. The truth is, this word was invented by an old British writer and it’s a word we use on the island. Once again, we are not as culturally different as we think we are.

Most of the time I lived in this Wild and Wonderful, I worked at a toy store and what a treat that was. It was a good way to work my way through school. Working there taught me a lot about the people in the town and the surrounding areas. Frankly, some were downright strange. Most of them just followed the culture as best they could. Like me. They had to fit into the world around them. What I am trying to say is, you should treat people like human beings. Culture is the only thing that makes us different and even then, there are more similarities than differences.