Archive | August 2012

of flies and curses

my phone has slowly been losing its mind so i asked a local where to go to fix it. she told me to walk down the street to plaza royal or royal plaza, maybe a few blocks; it’s across from the chucherria deportes or something, and i should ask for someone… she couldn’t remember the name, el calbito; tell him she sent me. after a few turns and asking more locals i found the place but not the dude, so a guy sent me to another dude who said to call him that afternoon to make sure he went back to work after siesta. i called and he said to give him another hour. i went in an hour and waited for another hour under un sol bravisimo, an angry sun. caribbean time, i figured. he’ll be here. finally, i got him on the phone and he’s all, oh, we don’t work in the afternoon. for some reason, regardless of all the messiness of my regular spanish, my pissed off spanish is at an advanced level of proficiency. i let him know i no longer needed his services. i told the techie dude who initially sent me to the flaky dude when i couldn’t find el calbito about what happened and if he knew anyone else who could help me. “claro. dejame hacer unas llamaditas.” he sent me to calle 20, six or so blocks away, to a place across from the vidrio (glass) store, but not the first vidrio store, the second one. ask for pollo or coco, they’ll help me. after some more turns i found the vidrio store; i asked a lady in a fabric store and she pointed to the unmarked house where pollo and coco have a tech shop. i sat with them for several hours as coco fixed my phone. caribbean success.

the next day, i took my friend there to get his hard drive fixed and i told him we would likely be there for a few hours. he’s all, “can we just leave it here and have him call us when it’s ready?” and i’m all, “uh… no.”

“how come?”

“i don’t know. you just don’t do that. you sit here with your shit.”

“i trust this guy. i don’t think he’ll steal it or anything.”

“hmm… it’s not that. i trust him too, but you just don’t do that here. i can’t explain it. it would be weird. you don’t leave your shit around like that.”

this tale exemplifies two things about the colombian coast:

thing 1) everything is always more complicated and slower than you would initially think.
my nuclear family suffers from what i call “the romano curse.” if you ask my parents for assistance with any problem, it will get solved, but the path from A to B involves a very long line of twists and turns so convoluted and ridiculous you wish you’d never said anything at all. you can swear up and down that you can practically touch B from where you stand at A, but they will insist only an idiot would fall for that straight path nonsense. their existence is one where getting to a destination does not involve street names and gringo logistics. it’s more about general impressions and visual memory, and the people who you have to ask along the way. i’m quickly realizing the romano curse is actually just a colombian thing, or maybe a coastal thing. there’s never really a rush do get things done, but there is a strong sense of pride in ensuring how you do it is cost effective, has optimum results, and, for no particular reason, involves several people with quirky nicknames. the most beautiful part of the curse is in knowing that everything will work out in the end; if it hasn’t worked out, then it’s not the end.

thing 2) we don’t trust anybody.
mosca. when i was getting ready to arrancar over here, every member of my family took it upon his or herself to school my apparently naive ass on the dangers of colombia. they’re gonna kill you. you’ll get kidnapped. remember when they drugged your cousin a million years ago and she woke up in some warehouse and didn’t remember anything? they may take your organs and sell them. they will express kidnap you for a day and force you to take all the money out of your atm and max out your credit card. people inside a bank will communicate with people outside of the bank about how much money you have and then they will mug you. don’t use your phone in public! they will steal your soul. those people are crazy. but it’s a beautiful place! you’re going to love it!

any attempts i made to remind them that while i did not grow up in colombia, i did grow up colombian, didn’t help. i’m just a gringa. “mosca!” my dad tells me. “you have to watch everybody like a fly.” what do you think i was doing all those years in miami when i was places no 15 year old should be? i was born mosca, yo.

all the locals here preach mosca too. it’s sad to me at times. i assume this engrained mistrust is born of decades of betrayal by each other. that, and the violence and thievery created by rampant poverty and oppression. “no puedes confiar en nadie. la gente aqui son unos hijueputas. rateros! se aprovechan.” does that include you too? all i can ever say to folks is “that’s not just here, you know.” hijueputismo seems to be a part of the human condition. colombians did not birth their own breed of malevolence. and while they may agree with me in theory, they still won’t leave their shit anywhere. myself included. we just don’t do that here.

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then this happened

new things i do:
–       break up factory cigarettes to reroll them
–       force people to make things out of plastic bottles
–       take naps in the afternoon
–       never smoke pot
–       forsake flip flops for real shoes to avoid poo water feet
–       obsess over poo water
–       take a cold shower every day
–       tweeze by headlamp
–       never wear pants
–       never use my phone
–       speak with an affected english accent
–       sweat all the fucking time
–       never read
–       miss ziggy

old things i still do:
–       smoke too much
–       never cook
–       make people feel bad about plastic usage
–       not sleep enough
–       social work my friends
–       boss everybody around
–       get drunk very quickly
–       dance
–       walk fast everywhere
–       speak elementary level spanish
–       obsess over my phone
–       wish i could eat a burrito every day

fundadores school

taganga

cigarette butt clean up on taganga beach

post clean up futbol

my friend rich’s house. why are walls here always painted this color?

bahia concha. took a moto taxi to get here. no helmet. no good.

behind me is a mountain of plastic garbage. swear.

this kid always tilts his head like this as he asks some inane question. but really, he’s pleading with you to never leave. but you will anyway.

amparro’s birthday. the lady in the pink. she turned 35, one year older than me. she lives in the school with her two sons. she’d never had a party before.

good climbing tree. naughty children.

little kittens in a big chair. eventually, momma cat came and stole them back one by one while no one was looking.

colombia knows juice. this is where i sit and drink it. mango. lulo. berry. banana. guanabana.

nos bailaron cuando niños

aussies on the left, irish on the right, one englishman, and one colombian. can you spot the colombian?

donde sea, y cuando sea. if the music is right, i can’t help myself. even when i’m exhausted, my calves are screaming, i can no longer feel my feet or my toes, my thighs are on fire, i’m a little dizzy, my clothes have melted onto my skin, my hips ache, everybody’s left me and i’ve been alone for hours, i must keep dancing. how can you not? this moment of perfect music, of complete exultation, won’t last forever, but it feels like it might. and maybe if i don’t stop moving, it will. that promise is so tempting and alluring, it draws me in. even when i’ve called it quits for the fifth time, the beat picks up again and i’m up too. i can’t let it dance alone. absolute joy. no alcohol. no ecstacy. no pills. no cocaine. your body. the music. the people.

my parents rarely left us at home when they went to a party, and we were never sent to bed when they threw one. we were there with all the adults surrounded by the sounds of drinking, laughter, and that beat. you’d get picked up and twirled around, and if you were old enough to stand you landed on someone’s feet as they taught your muscles how to do the steps. muscle memory lasts a lifetime. when your eyelids got heavy and your head started slouching, you got thrown onto a couch or a bed to sleep until the older folk were ready to leave. in this state, the noises filled your ears and you dreamt with rhythm and chatter woven in to your subconscious.  muscle memory.

part of the reason i love living in the mission in san francisco is the music and the freedom of movement. if it’s nice enough outside, the people are out, music is playing, and it is loud. i’ve started realizing that latinos tend to yell because otherwise we couldn’t hear ourselves over the music. colombia is the same, and the caribbean coast is perfect. hard working class people fill the streets and when it’s time to rumbar, everyone is there. music is everywhere and the joy it brings washes away the litter, the dirty water, the poverty, the drugs, the everything. it fills every void in the most perfect way; without having to spend a peso. my neighbor next door starts playing cumbia at about 10am and turns it off at 12am every day. others complain, but it’s like a lullaby to me. like listening to the thrum of my mother’s voice through her chest when she carried my dozing body to the car late at night, it soothes me and lulls me to bed.

i went to santa marta’s first ever music festival this past weekend, and it was grand (as my irish friends would say). the expense and lack of vallenato deterred most locals, but those who could afford it, and knew what it would be like and what it meant to music on the coast were there. it was a great atmosphere and i danced a total of 12 hours or more. my calves are currently on strike and i sound like joan rivers, but it was totally worth it. i’m very used to being around folks who need more than music to dance. it’s not in their bones and blood. they get too self-conscious, they think too much, and their bodies tense up. but colombians, and many of those who come to visit, are ready for it. and they were with me for the full 12 hours. a few of my voluntourist friends asked for dancing tips and i tried my best to show them, but much like my spanish skills, i can’t tell you why it’s right or how to do it, i just know. they expressed a sadness at not feeling the beat like all colombians, young and old, seem able to do. but every culture has music and every culture has dance; it’s in the distance and isolation from younger generations where it gets lost. muscle memory must be passed down. don’t forget to dance your children.

what the right hand doesn’t know or: and then came the tourists

barrio, los fundadores

in some complicated web of disorder and reinventions descended the spanish, then more euros, then chiquita banana and other foreign entities, corrupt politicos, the paramilitaries, the military, and the FARC, both its jekyl and its hyde. the original folk of colombia have endured their fair share of crap, to say the least.

my story is purely anecdotal. before coming to colombia i knew i could not step foot on its soil without reading up on its history. i prepared for this endeavor knowing i was entering a country with a past likely too complicated and rich to ever properly comprehend. the same way i know you can’t grasp miami’s existence without seeing the arc of its quotidian life, todo el pueblo y su gente, because south beach ain’t it. and the same goes for everywhere else. this is one reason i hate travel. it has too many reading requisites that do not involve dragons or heroes. i prefer to know i’m fully ignorant on a place and its people than read a few books and inflate my perception of what i know, as i am wont to do. but i was heading south no matter what, so i had to at least make an effort.

all too quickly i realized it is extremely difficult to find any books on colombia not entitled a variation of “cocaine cowboys,” “the saddest country ever,” “jungle pirates,” “kidnapped gringo,” “aaaaah! stay away,” etc. i read a few non-inflammatory ones, not cover to cover, and struggled to understand the middle ground truth. truth with the tiniest little “t” you could ever imagine. i got a basic outline and went back to reading about dragons.

i volunteer in two barrios in the outskirts of santa marta; they are referred to as invasiones. essentially “illegal” invasions of people displaced from their lands, los desterrados. while there was a time when this happened quite a bit more -el pueblo looking down the barrel of the paramilitary’s (whether narco or otherwise), the guerrillas’, and the military’s loaded weapons as they fled over the carcasses of their community- modern poverty and oppression can displace you just as brutally. these barrios are built by its people and largely ignored by the populace. the electricity shuts off regularly, water is turned on a few hours a week, and a sewer system is nonexistent; don’t even bother to look for a publicly funded school, a clinic, a paved road, a community center, or a police presence of any kind. and these are the better off barrios with houses made of concrete. you travel up any mountainside and things are far worse. it seems what happens in the ghettos in the states also happens here. when folks are forced to live in places that are not theirs, an attachment fails to form. this abusive relationship creates a cycle of resentment and defensiveness. locals have told me that many of these communities disregard the integrity of their land as a means to ensure no one tries to claim it from them. i have heard in one town, when wealthier people move in, someone might throw feces at the house in order to get them to leave; they litter as a way of staying safe. while a terrible analogy, i can’t help but think of traumatized children who sometimes leave their bodies unclean to keep others away and because it does not feel like their own anymore. what happens when foreigners see this without context? their classist and racist prejudices kick in, much like what i assume happens when they see ghettos back home.

disheartened is an understatement in describing how i feel about the backpackers’ and voluntourists’ lack of knowledge about the country they are visiting. part of me prefers they visit and enjoy it so as to poke holes in the false bubble of insecurity in which colombia has been trapped. i suppose if they find out too much of what’s happened and what still happens, they might not come. ignorance being bliss and all that. the downside of this blissful state is that it can lead to continued behavior of ignorance, digging the country in deeper. the euro and u.s.a. gringo’s penchant for cocaine is a finely cut example.

from my experience in the states, cocaine tends to be a hobby of the middle and upper class. in my age group and economic class, someone has a friend who knows a guy that has a hook up but they haven’t talked to them in months and you gotta hang out with them all night to score some blow. hardly ever worth the trouble. and if you bother to mentally trace the trail of cocaine back to the source, you would find it mixed with a trail of blood down through mexico, central america, and south america. kids get here and coke is cheap and pure. the trail, though, is much shorter to follow and, for me, harder to ignore. when i see volunteers in the morning painting a barrio school with their right hand and at night snorting blow with their left hand, i want to casually bring up child prostitution, the state of the barrios, murders and disappearances, the destruction of the amazon, high priced food, bazuka (santa marta’s version of crack. cocaine cut with cement, among other other things), and the reason foreigners are needed to maintain many NGO’s. but somehow it seems context would ruin their trip. and we can’t afford to lose them.

*i feel like it’s important for me to say that i do not see myself as someone who does not contribute to the oppression of others. i recognize all the shit i do that makes me complicit, and i often disregard this fact and do what i feel like anyway. i know i am no better or worse than anyone else and i am just as capable of doing everything that others do, but i still like to bitch about it.

vias de vida

via sarah b. via facebook via somebody who took this picture ©

i don’t tend to idolize people, or ever wish i could be another person. unless they’re terribly attractive. but one of my oldest friends, she is my ideal. she lives in such an admirable way; i feel actual shame that i am incapable or, more likely, unwilling to exist in the way she does. and i don’t generally feel shame. guilt, sure. i even feel guilty for saying it.

she seems to have successfully shaken off most of what capitalism has made me rely on: a profession, steady income, stuff. she has replaced these things with community, activism, relationships, and self.

money is of no import to her. she acquires it of necessity, not of want, like most of us. i know this is not an easy thing for anyone to discard. when you don’t have the currency to zoom zoom to whatever you want, everything moves slower than how you are accustomed (assuming you are accustomed to having money). without it, you learn to do things yourself. find things yourself. trade with others. engage with your community, human and non. a life lived purposefully with no cash seems to mean a life with more people. or at least, more meaningful connections.

and her life is very much about her relationships, on micro and macro levels. at times, when folks, myself included, seem to obsess over their current partner or crush or friend crush or new ex or next ex, it can come off as shallow. why are you obsessing over this thing when there’s so much going on in the world? but from her, it’s not the same. she structured an unstructured life where connections to people and the earth are able to take precedence. her connection to issues of justice are also threaded in her relationships. she does not separate them because they are not separate. unlike the rest of us, who maybe obsess over these relationships to distract ourselves from recognizing the void and oppression inside and out.

i want this. i want my connections to self, others, planet, to be the most important part of my life. i don’t want to compartmentalize them. i don’t want to fill my hunterless and gathererless life with work and consumerism. how can you want something so bad and not know how to get it? is there an app?

i left my cushy life because i felt like unless i jumped, i would never make a change. it didn’t seem possible in that world; te encadena y te encarcela. or maybe you just do that to yourself. my californian ex pat colombian friend left the states by choice and necessity. he says he has no legitimized profession (his cannabis farm went under) and couldn’t fathom succumbing to the hamster wheel again. he settled in santa marta because his family is from here, y aqui se queda. he rebuilds motorbikes, runs an electric bicycle taxi, and does whatever he can to make some pesos. he tells me this is difficult and he is very poor, but he also says he’s free. i imagine this to be the same freedom my other friend must feel. one that comes from a chosen life. it might not be easy, but at least it’s yours.

bedtime stories

childhood friends know you like no one else. you don’t have to say shit like “i used to be…” because they already know. they remember. they were there. and you love them for that. sometimes, though, it’s like they inadvertently trap you in a past narrative. like you’re expected to behave a certain way and are constantly reminded that that is who you are. even though you remember it and feel it still somewhere inside, you know you’ve grown larger. and not because of all the burritos. when you’re your own best friend, it’s even stickier.

i’ve had a shy streak for as long as i can remember. i once had a sobbing jag at mcdonald’s because my mom tried to make me order my own second helping of fries; in high school, i would call my friend so she could call domino’s to order pizza for me (it’s a total coincidence that those are both food related anecdotes. really, i just ate a lot.). i met a girl once who told me that as soon she saw me she thought my face gave nothing away; that i was closed off. emotionally constipated, is how i chose to interpret her words. and it’s true. i’m not sure what i fear(ed) so much. i suppose that in entrusting pieces of myself to others, even in asking for a simple something or making prolonged eye contact, i give control away. like a ball of separate pieces of yarn, once people grab hold of ends and start pulling, i’m bound to unravel. and then everyone will stand around scrutinizing my innards with their judgy judgy eyes. because everyone’s always looking at me. all the time. it took/takes a lot for me to trust people enough to show myself. i can perform when needed, but sincerity requires a level of vulnerability that i was/am not always willing to risk. i’m primarily speaking about this in the past tense because, while it is still very much who i am, my shell covers a smaller part of me. i’ve outgrown it.

this is the first time i have ever traveled alone. well, not totally. i would say my first day of 3rd grade was kind of like traveling alone. new school in a new city, and i felt utterly by myself. it was the first time i consciously realized i was a separate being who had to interact with strangers. i was scared and i hated it. i suppose shipping myself off to college was another solo travel. my first week there, i’m pretty sure i was holed up underneath my dorm room bed like a frightened kitty cat. so when i set out from grandma’s to venture to santa marta alone, i had to remind myself i don’t like being underneath beds anymore and i probably wouldn’t really fit anyway. the problem is, i’m guaranteed safety and seclusion there; though also Lonely Sad Time. i remember it well.

i’ve now had two first days in santa marta. i came, had one; left, came back, and had another. both have been serendipitously perfect days of enjoyment, city exploration, flirting, pleasant conversation, and friend making. i got a humble room owned by an amazing local family, talked politics, learned local lore, stumbled upon like minded individuals, was inspired to put thoughts to paper, swam the ocean in my underthings, met a 6 year san franciscan ex-pat and told him how everything has changed there (my favorite sf activity), found a boy with smooching potential, and was generally my whimsical, charming best self. aside from missing my puppy dog and sweating like a sinner in church, i could not have asked for better beginnings to this plan half a year in the making. it’s not that i’m surprised by it; i know who i am now. yet, when i find myself alone in my room, i start hearing “once upon a time…” i guess it’s just hard to leave old friends behind.

bus to santa marta.
in case you’ve forgotten what i look like.

la brisa loca, hostel. my first and only olympic watching. i still go there for the free coffee.

sf ex-pat. he runs an electric tricycle taxi. claro.
he’s my landlord’s friend and they took me all over the city. he told me the mayor wants to peatonalizar the city center, make it ped only, and he petitioned him to have bicycle taxis be the primary form of transport. i smell a job prospect…

i was assured that based on the currents and the color of the water, it was safe to swim. there were many dead floating fish. local children had fish fights. guerra de pescados. kids don’t care.

iphone 3vaina camera kinda sucks.

giver of life. giver of sweat and drowsy sleepy feelings.

mirador. friendlies.

sierras. fog. indigenous people who kept the spaniards off their fertile soil. true story, sta marta is a desert. spaniards couldn’t grow shit and were trapped between the indigenous mountains and the pirate seas, resulting in a very poor settlement. hence, a poor sta marta.

home. for now.

where the magic happens

random acts of sex making and community building

when you live in cultures where striking up a conversation with a stranger can lead to macing or stinky eyes, engaging with your community members can seem impossible. unless you, y’know, actually take constructive steps to engage with your community. this is where okcupid throws you a bone.

all my okcupid ventures (and it’s not like i’ve had a ton) have been really positive, or at least entertaining. and who doesn’t love a good story? even the emails are gems. por ejemplo: “you are so beautiful and feminine. i wish you were open to bi-curious men,” and “makin out and sex i can help u. J.K u have ur own toys om[sic] sure.” and then, there are the dates. like the guy who whispered “i want to tear your asshole open” (yep), and later knelt down to kiss my crotch in the middle of a bookstore (yep yep). we made out in front of a banksy in chinatown. what can i say… he made a move. the quickest date i’ve ever had, a 30 minute painful snorefest, i ended with “it was super nice to meet you. take care.” and a brief hug (the international code for “that will be all, kind sir”). the next day, the kid sends me a long email explaining how he met someone else and was sorry things didn’t work out between us. don’t worry, i totally played it cool. one dude, turns out, was in an open love marriage for a visa, and just wanted to argue with me about everything, including my love for my dog. attention hipsters: contrarianism is not witty banter. most of these misadventures are my own fault. i play along with others’ narratives rather than be confrontational or make them feel bad. as a result, these dates can easily last over 5 hours -boys tend to have very, very long narratives. my friend likes to joke that i will marry one of these sad saps because it’s easier than rejecting them. i lack courage.

and yet, my luck on okcupid is far superior to my luck with analog randoms. those date stories tend to be more ridiculous. my first okboy, mi hombre dominicano, is now one of my closest friends. the internet gods have been kind to me. to name a few: my two year, persian, faux beau, musician who won my heart when he showed up bearing pizza (fuck flowers); my filipino boy who loves his dog and his mama; my argentine traveler who helped me say goodbye to san francisco and corrects my spanish like only an argentine could and would; my lovely irish ethnomusicologist who gave me such giggles (“i’ll take a splash of pillow”) and reminded me what it was like to date someone i actually like.

these were all time limited, and primarily sex and company-for-company’s-sake driven, endeavors, but they were still relationships. even those that weren’t that special were an opportunity. i learn about myself, what i’m capable of or need to work on. and this, aside from falling in love and having fun sex, is also what dating and building relationships is all about. and to have someone thrown into my orbit, however briefly, is delightful. i get to explore a little pocket of existence i would have never otherwise known. and there’s something beautifully random about that.

dollah dollah bills

colombian techie’s shoes.

i live in the most expensive city in the united states. i’m used to paying exorbitant prices for all the crap i do not need. down here, i can live for a year or more on a quarter of what i make up there. i have spent over 20 greenbacks on a takeout meal for myself in san francisco (mattar paneer, rice, and two orders of naan. so good.). i mean, it’s probably two meals, but i’m a binge eater. here, i treated three family members and myself to food, alcohol, and milkshakes at the barranquilla bougie country club for the same price. they wanted to go miti-miti, halfsies, but i insisted. my grandma thinks i’m loaded now.

i spent my first week in colombia trying to sort out my phone addiction situation, which, given my family curse, was an overly complicated process, un gran lio enredado. in the end, the kid that works for my granmda took my used iphone to some dude to jailbreak it. it had both hardware and software problems, and i couldn’t deal. the dude spent a total of about 7 hours on it. for service and parts, he charged me 80,000 COP, a little over $40. my grandma’s house kid sat with my phone this whole time, well passed his work hours. when i asked what i should give him in return, my family said, “unos 20mil.” 10 bucks. no. en el norte, this whole venture would have likely cost me a few hundred dollars. unless i kicked it craigslist style which comes with its own set of headaches.

it makes me extremely uncomfortable to know what the worth of a person is, and the service they are providing, but pay them less because i’m a privileged jackass living in a poor place. on the other hand, when i try to offer more, folks look at me stunned. i don’t want to come off as a jerk, either, like it’s a pittance to me. so how much do i pay?

i’ve watched foreigners haggle with taxistas for the price of a cab, usually 10,000 vs 8,000 pesitos. most of these foreigners live with the euro so their coin stretches more. “they try to give you the tourist price.” yeah, because you’re a fucking tourist. you make boatloads more money than them, and you come to their country and you leave your crap everywhere. and don’t even get me started on colonial and genocidal payback. why am i always in this position? pay the gringo price, asshole. i saw how many cuba libres you threw back last night, so don’t even play. ego, power, and greed. i know these kids want to extend their motorcycle diary moment. i get it. i do. but until a totally different market system emerges, when you receive any service you pay the tax. and the rich should pay more. y ya.

the beautiful yuppies of san francisco tend to tip about 20%, regardless of quality of service. unlike my parents whose favorite post-meal game is “how much are they worth?” most people i know see tipping as an expected part of their bill. these folks have to touch you, deal with your overly particular needs, your shmarmy attitude, your gross smell, and maybe your ugly face. they don’t make much, we know, so we pay more. nobody tips here, and if they do it’s 10%. again, when i give my 20%, it’s like i’m being funded by escobar or i’m keen on his treats. i don’t want folks to think they’re taking advantage of me or that i’m una tonta either, i have a sensitive ego too. and, don’t get me wrong, i also want to stay here as long as possible. but i know what these folks would be worth if happenstance had birthed them in another country or if our countries hadn’t raped theirs, and i know their fellow citizens can’t afford to pay them their due, and i know i can. so i’m making a t-shirt: “i pay the gringo price.”

meeting of the OGs

colombian grandma and miami grandma, respectively.
chillin, Old Grandma style.

conversation topics included, but were not limited to:

  • what am i doing in colombia (for the 50th time)
  • people who are now dead
  • people who have died alone
  • people who are old and will soon die
  • both of their bouts with cancer
  • other people who have cancer
  • radiation vs chemotherapy
  • levels of suffering
  • who goes to church more (miami g wins hands down)

on the range #florida

i thought shooting a gun would be cathartic and empowering. this is what the moving pictures have told me, and i believe everything they say. everything. i left the gun range with adrenaline pumping out of my eyballs, nerves shot to shit, and my hands trembling in anticipation of guerrilla warfare. this is what happens when you are in an enclosed space with strangers firing round after round of ammo.

my friend and i went on a lark ala groupon inspiration. in my early 20s, i went through a drawn out panic attack of sorts where i felt like i should prepare for an impending apocalypse and was convinced i might swallow my tongue. i made a list of things i should learn to do and shooting a gun was one.

as we’re approaching the gun range, i hear gun shots and think: fuck! shit’s going down in pembroke pines, y’all. then, i remember where we’re going. we tell the gun dude we came to shoot em up and without much fanfare at all we are given a gun of our choice and a box of ammo.

“this is the safety. you pull it back like so. here is where you put the bullets. remember to hold the gun face down when you’re not shooting. please don’t carry a loaded weapon out of the range.”

that’s it? don’t you want to know anything about me? police record? 5150 history? library fines? nervous ticks? better yet, i would like to know about these people who will have me in their gun sights. i mean, they’re floridians! bath salts! they don’t fuck around. or rather, they fuck around too much. i’ve seen it.

we’re assigned a lane and we spend about 15 minutes trying to stick bullets into the bullet holder thing. why didn’t the dude tell us how to do this? it ain’t easy, and made harder with the total shootout going on around us. every time someone fires, which is every second, i jump inside my skin. and i yelp. pow! “jueputa.” pow! “shit.” pow! “dios.” pow! “juemadre.” pow! “jesus.” pow! “nojoda.” pow! “mierda.” as an urbanite, i am trained to hear gunfire and run in the opposite direction. this went against all of my miami upbringing. i had to get out. i left my friend with two boxes of ammo.

i emerged from the range and the dude asks me how it went. i told him i didn’t fire because the whole thing is traumatizing.
“i don’t know these people and it’s too loud in there. i’m used to living in places where you try not to be around shootings.”
“where you from?”
“you know, miami, san francisco, oakland.”
“oh, california. we’re just waiting for that place to burn up.”
“yeah… we say the same thing about florida.”
bath salts. suddenly, i felt safer in the range. i braced myself and back in i went. my friend had acquired a gun range mentor of sorts and he insisted i try it at least once. he was carrying many weapons, so i complied. my body was in overdrive and still twitching at every shot, but now i was also carrying a loaded gun. how is this legal? i shot the target in the heart and the bullet casing flew back at my face, under my protective eyewear, and burnt me. i ask our mentor what i should do to avoid this hazard but he says there is nothing.

“and it’s worse for you wearing a tank top because the casings can fly into your shirt and burn your breasts.”

uh… i feel like this could have been covered during our training session. why am i not wearing a bullet proof vest? i shot it twice more, with my head tilted back to avoid scarring my money maker, and was done.

back in the shop, they try to charge us over $100, though no one had told us the price of this wasteful hobby. we both look stricken and shake our heads, “no fucking way.” the dude tells us some guy just threw down $1200 cash for less than an hour of shooting. bath salts. we did the miami hussle hustle, and only had to pay $40. i’ll stick with my xbox.