Words of the Prophet

“Tell me about the last time you saw your son Levon,” I asked of Grandma Alice, who despite her frail figure, seemed an indestructible spirit.

She closed her eyes and dropped her head, as if to see him. A sweet smell of corn and carne radiated from the kitchen behind us.

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Grandma Alice at her home near Shiprock, New Mexico.

It was a strange web of circumstance that brought us all together here in Alice’s home, way out on the Navajo Reservation. Two years ago I had been passionately engaged in the writing of this very blog. Each week I sought out someone in Albuquerque who had never ridden the city bus (which was easy to do), and together we would go on a terrific adventure, rolling up and down Central Avenue or mingling with the riffraff at the bus stops. Then I would go home, edit photos, and spend hours writing up the story. For me, this was part sociological inquiry into the world of society’s leftovers, part desperate search for meaning amid an existence governed increasingly by impersonal, soulless institutions. For the people we met on the bus, it was an opportunity to tell the world about their triumphs and their struggles. For the readers, I will of course never know.

Like all things, my blog project lived for a while and then died. Or at least so I thought.

Two weeks ago, a message from a woman named Clara appeared in my inbox. She wanted to talk to me about one of the subjects I wrote about in my very first blog post, a man who called himself Two Crows.

“Two Crows was my brother, and we lost him on 9-22-15,” she wrote. “PLEASE contact me on my email.”

The news struck me hard. I remembered my encounter with Two Crows very well, yes, as if it were yesterday. Two Crows had the air of a charismatic, a great peacemaker, a prophet, I remembered. He spoke with a wondrous poetic eloquence matched neither by those of the street nor those of the tower. And he had the power, in the hail of his breath, to bring a man’s anger to heel, or to lift the spirit of she in despair. He was only thirty-three years old, and healthy as one could be under such conditions. How could he have perished?

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Two Crows on an chilly spring evening in Albuquerque (2013)

When Clara and I spoke by telephone, she explained that her brother, whose real name was Levon, was killed instantly by a speeding car while trying to cross Coors Road near I-40 here in Albuquerque. She said that by miraculous chance, or something of the sort, my blog article about Two Crows came to her attention just weeks after her brother’s death. She told me how the article deeply touched her. She felt as if her beloved brother were speaking directly to her through its words. For so many years she had sought answers from him, only to meet with reticence and flight. Why did he leave his family? Why did he leave his home? Now she found great comfort in his message, which was a message to her:

“Everything you do in this life is a decision,” Two Crows had said to me. “Happiness is a decision. This [his arms spread wide to embrace the world of the street and all its vicissitudes] is a decision!”

Clara and I cried together over the phone, two complete strangers, connected only by radio waves spanning a great and mysterious horizon. We cried for her brother’s soul, and we cried for our own. And then, like the midday sun interrupting a matinee at its climax, an awkward truth rushed suddenly in, bathing our magic moment with unwanted light.

“The man you refer to as Two Crows in your article is the one who appears with you in the photo, right?” she asked me timidly.

“Umm…uhhh…oooh….well, no,” I replied achingly, taken totally by surprise. “Two Crows is the other guy.”

And so it was, Clara’s brother Levon and the prophetic man called Two Crows were in fact not the same man. We had been crying over two different people, and this sudden realization set me to crimson. The deep intrinsic meaning I had attributed to this strange encounter with Clara threatened to melt quickly away like the year’s first snowfall. And this was largely my own fault, for in the article I had described Two Crow’s overcoat incorrectly. I had described it as the very overcoat that Levon wore in a different photograph, the one in which I appeared beside him.

Blogger and Ron at Central Ave. and Harvard St.

Levon Bates (1963-2015)

“I’m so sorry,” I said. Clara and her sisters had already invited us (me and my fiancé Paula) to come visit them in their home, and so I felt extra bad. “I totally understand if you would rather us not come up next weekend.”

“It’s okay,” she said with some sadness in her voice, but she was no longer crying.

Attempting some consolation, I began to tell Clara what I knew of her real brother, now that we had confirmed his identity. But the truth is that I knew very little about him. Levon, who was fifty years old at the time when I met him, barely spoke at all. I don’t think he was able to speak. He smiled a lot, and he stumbled a lot. He stared stoically into the setting sun alongside me, and he pointed almost hopefully—but perhaps just blindly—at God knows what out across the endless golden skyline. Wordless as our encounter was, however, I could tell that deep down this man was a gentle soul. Perhaps his mind was broken, but he had love in his heart. That is all I could share with Clara, and it felt like so very little.

To my surprise, Clara recovered from the confusion very quickly. She said that it didn’t really matter, and in a way, she believed that the man called Two Crows might have been speaking for her brother, because her brother could no longer speak for himself. Yes, yes, indeed! I thought. A prophet Two Crows might really be, a voice not for himself but for the voiceless, for Levon and for all like him whose minds have been silenced but whose spirits still yearn to speak!

Clara insisted that we still come up to meet her and the rest of Levon’s family that coming weekend, despite that awkward little confusion over her brother’s identity. And of course we accepted her invitation.

“Alice? Grandma Alice?” I said again. Clara had introduced me to her mother only a few minutes earlier, yet we were already getting on dazzlingly. “Would you tell me about the last time you saw your son Levon?”

At eighty-six, Grandma Alice’s pensive calm might at first be confused for dementia, but this would be an entirely false assessment. Her clarity of mind is nothing short of shocking (her mind has far greater clarity than my own, to be sure), and in wit and humor she is sharp as a whip. When I asked her what year she was born in, she said “thirteen fifty-six,” and scolded me for asking a grown woman’s age. When I took her picture, she winked and made me promise not to pass it on to any boys. But I really wanted to know about Levon, and so I asked again. She heard me. Her eyes shut. And finally, her voice almost inaudibly soft, she thus began:

“It was at least a year ago…no, it was more than a year. It was longer than that. It must have been early March, yes, because I remember it was still very cold, and it had been raining a lot. It was Sunday, and I was going to Church in Farmington, and all of a sudden there he was, Levon, my son. He was wearing his overcoat. He was drenched to the bone…”

“Lunch is ready!” Mike, who is Alice’s grandson, yelled from the kitchen. “Have you ever had a Navajo taco?”

“I think so,” I turned my head to reply, unable to stop this interruption for the delicious calling of fresh fry bread, beans, beef, and corn, hot and steamy and ready to eat.

“I bet not,” Mike said. “You’ve had an indian taco, I bet, but not a Navajo taco. It’s almost the same, I suppose, but everything in this taco is from right here on the res. I would know, I made it all myself.”

Mike, who stands well over six feet tall and would aptly be described as a bear of man, was in fact the only man at all in this home of many women. So where were all the men? I thought to myself. Some husbands and sons were surely out at work or relaxing at home, but there was something more to this. A lot of men seemed to simply be missing. But missing where?

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Grandma Alice with some of her many grandchildren.

Despite her arranged marriage, Grandma Alice’s had been a fruitful one, if not entirely pleasant. She bore nine children, five girls and four boys, just as evolutionary science would predict. But science would have difficulty explaining the discrepancy that followed. Like their father before them, all of Alice’s sons took to the bottle early on, and alcohol eventually killed all but one of them. One fell to cirrhosis of the liver, another to drunken bloody murder, and now Levon, hit by a passing car while stumbling across Coors Road. Alice’s sole surviving son probably would have suffered a similar fate, I was told, but some years back he found the strength within him to put down the bottle and take back control over his life. He now leads Alcoholics Anonymous support groups on the reservation and drives a big rig. Meanwhile, despite challenging times, the women were able to stay on their feet, to come together. This was largely thanks to Grandma Alice, who they refer to as the “rock” of the family, the great matriarch.

As tragic as this one family’s story is, it reflects a more generalized tragedy for the Navajo and other American tribes around the country. According to the CDC and the Indian Health Service, twelve percent of all deaths among Native Americans are directly related to the problem of alcohol (more than three times the rate among non-natives), and nearly seventy percent of these deaths are among males. Car accidents and cirrhosis are the number one assailants, while homicide and suicide come in second. What, then, is the more heartbreaking tale: the loss of Grandma Alice’s three sons to the same terrible vice, or the fact that this is nothing extraordinary?

“Why-y-y-y?…” I stuttered through this dumbfounding revelation.  “Why is alcohol such a huge problem here?”

“Poverty,” Mike quickly replied.

“Boredom,” said one of Alice’s daughters.

“No jobs. No money.  No hope,” said another.

There are no simple answers to such a question, of course, for the root causes of any societal pathology almost certainly lie as much in deep historical processes as they do in the decisions of individuals as they navigate the structural barriers and opportunities presented them by life. Levon’s decision to give himself to the streets instead of fathering his two daughters, for example, presents a terrific puzzle. According to his niece, Smeenie, he once spent a whole month in sobriety in hopes of setting his life straight. He lodged at a local church in exchange for custodial work. He seemed so happy, proud, and strong, she recounts. This could have been his chance to turn things around, yet despite it all—or in spite for it all—one morning Smeenie found him packing his rucksack, and she watched as he walked off down the road, never to return to the church or to sobriety. But what was it that pulled him away from life? What pulled him away from the people who loved him so dearly, those whom he also clearly loved? Was it mere boredom, or was it a force much greater, perhaps much older, than himself?

“Grandma Alice,” I said, recalling suddenly that she never finished her story. “What happened the last time you saw your son Levon?”

Our stomachs were now full, our attention redirected. It was now definitively Alice’s turn to speak. And when she spoke, the world around her bowed reverently.

“As I told you, it must have been more than a year ago. It was early spring, I know, because the winds were icy and cold. It had been raining, and when I saw him, my son Levon, he was drenched with that ice cold water from head to toe, through and through. He had his coat on, but it was drenched, too, and I know he must have been terribly cold. And in that state that he was—drunk as always, he was always drunk—he walked right up to me with his arms stretched out wide, and he tried to hug me.

“‘No, no,’ I told him, and I put my hand out like this to stop him from putting his soaking wet arms around me. I told him, ‘you can’t come up to me like this in front of everyone from church, it’s embarrassing!’ I told him, ‘if you can’t come sober, then you have to go.’ That’s what I told him, and I told him just like that. ‘If you can’t come here sober, then I don’t want you around at all.’

“’I know when I’m not wanted,’ he told me. ‘I don’t want you like this!’ I said. ‘I’m going to go away, then,’ he told me. Then I told him to get in the car, even all wet like he was, and I would drive him over to Kirtland and drop him off, right out there, right out on the road there where he wanted to go. And that’s were I took him. He got out of the car and I drove back home. That is the last time I saw my son Levon.”

A long silence followed that no one dared to interrupt.

“After that,” Grandma Alice continued finally. “Word came around that he was telling folks that his mother was dead. He was telling people that he didn’t have a mother at all…that his mother was dead. That’s what he was telling people, they say.”

                                                                * * * * *

An hour later Paula and I were carefully maneuvering our fragile little sedan over deep mudded gullies towards the most massive and most magnificent stone outcropping I have ever laid eyes upon. It is called Shiprock to the outsider, but the Navajo and their ancestors call it Tsé Bit’a’ í, the “rock with wings.” The evening sun blast its west face like a furnace, while the easterly winds seemed to freeze its backside. We parked the car and began prancing about to ward off the chill, but before long a strange and distracting image caught our eyes and brought us to complete stillness. Up above, way up high atop the pinnacles of those immense mirrored wings of stone, fully alight in the setting sun’s rays, there stood two enormous black birds. Suddenly and from afar, a tremendous crack tore through the sky above us, shaking the earth beneath our feet. We looked again towards the massive stone beast before us. One to the East, the other to the West, the two crows took to flight, and in so short a moment that our hearts mightn’t speak, they disappeared forever into those infinite, mysterious horizons.

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Tsé Bit’a’í

 

 

Lynette’s Ride

Rain clouds roll in heavy over the mountains, their underbelly skimmed off by the Sandia Crest and curling over its edge like a sliver of cheese.  It is late July in Albuquerque, and the air is strangely as damp and cool as the coastal Northwest.  Pigeons could be sea gulls, and the hiss of wind down Central Avenue could be the melancholy of a fog soaked tide following an invisible moon.  The skylight is fading unnaturally early.  It feels as if a curfew were being imposed out of respect for a recent tragedy, or in preparation for one certain to come.  As it turns out, a man was busy shooting his wife and himself just down the street, but trees and breeze muffle gunfire and screams, here as anywhere else, so Lauren and I giddily hop a bus from Nob Hill to the International District with hearts almost as soft as the ones we were given, none the wiser, but all the better.

Lynette outing-2887 Born and raised in Santa Fe, Lauren moved to Albuquerque for college, where she studied theatre and became a conduit of comedic cultural expression.  Now she is better known as “Lynette” from the Blackout Theatre’s video series, Lynette’s Albuquerque and Shit Burqueños Say, which have reached a million people for whom our city has in some way or another come to mean something more than a dusty expanse of box homes and strip malls.

What more does it mean?  Although there is little of that ostentatious glory that sprouts loudly from the World’s mega-cities and quaint mountain paradises, we have here a sweet humility more endearing than even the dear end of all things, hidden ‘neath this (typically, but not today) boiling hot son, and which touches the heart of one and all who spend a little time here.  That is the essence of Lynette, and the genius of Lauren.  As New Mexican as a tortilla pan-burned in the image of Jesus Christ, Lauren has the wits, talent, pride, and drive to devote herself to the uncovering of, and the reveling of, a culture quirky, confused, and nigh forgotten to the rest of the world.  In doing so she has become an icon of the city, and a hot steamy bowl of laughyoassoff nostalgia for those who have left it.  Plus, she’s like all fun to hang out with on the bus ;).

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We hop aboard the Eastbound 66 at dusk.  The cabin is near full, and we immediately begin talking to people.  Ortencia and Maria are travelling up from a small city in Chihuahua called Buenaventura, which lies just south of Ciudad Juarez and is enmeshed is the same ascending wave of drug violence.  Ortencia’s two children are with her, hunched under bulging backpacks and squeezing Brats dolls and pillows.  They are on vacation, visiting family in El Norte.  I can see in Maria’s face a distrustful reticence before my camera, before my questions, for perhaps a poor Mexican is bound to feel forever scrutinized in a country that scorns the immigrants that make its mills run.  Ortencia is younger and more susceptible to a geek’s flattery, but only her children really open up with the bright smile of those too innocent to fear betrayal.

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Others are too far gone to fear it.  Three street drunks board the bus at Central and San Mateo, and sit down across from us.  Marta and “Squibals” came in from the Res for a cyclical binge.  “Cornbread” came from New York thirty years ago to escape the nuisance of parole, and found a year-round party on the streets of Albuquerque.  These are the occasional homeless.  They generally have a place to go sleep somewhere if they wish, but during binges feel far more comfortable and free amidst the grit and chaos of the streets.  Despite the rough n’ tumble of it all, Marta still keeps her hair trimmed and shining, and her smiley face enshrined in elegant turquoise jewelry.  “Squibals” had her nickname tattooed on her forearm.  It is a souvenir from Kansas, where she attended school as a child and where no one could pronounce her last name, Esquivel.  “Cornbread” is just “Cornbread,” perhaps because he likes cornbread…which means we might all be “Cornbread.”

Lynette outing-2913 Lauren and I get off the bus at Central and Wyoming.  A gaunt 37-year old man with short-cropped hair and dirty baggy clothes approaches us in front of Griff’s Burgers to very gently explain the dire straits that have compelled him to waver wistfully and forlorn outside a burger joint peddling for change.   He says his name is Chris, and his wife left him to move to Colorado after a fight they had three days ago.  They did not “break up” per se, but since he was laid off recently and the couple were subsequently evicted from their apartment, she fled north for shelter with family, and he stayed on the streets of Albuquerque to try to recoup.  “I just want some food,” he says.  Lauren and I are also starving pretty much to death, so we invite him into Griff’s with us, where I order three number sixes with unsweetened iced tea, courtesy of the tail end of my line of credit loan. And so we sit down inside, and Chris, tender and calm, tells his story.

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The son of a Mexican and a white American, Chris moved within and between two racially separate worlds with ease since childhood, slightly bending his identity from one end of the spectrum to the other according to the exigencies of each social context.  But growing up poor in the household of an extremely abusive father, he found a more welcoming outlet for his destitution and rage in the street-based families of Los Angeles’ Hispanic gangs.  He became a Sureño at thirteen, and spent the next ten years in and out of L.A. County corrections facilities, doing and selling drugs, and participating in acts of violence against rival gang members.  After seeing so many of his childhood friends killed or locked up for life, he opted out of the gang by moving with his mother to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  For years he kept his gang obligation to stay in touch, for to be a thug is to be a thug for life.  But age has a peculiar effect on youth gangs: It removes the youth, and eventually the gang no longer has its adolescent psychological foundations to stand on.  So today what is left of the old guard leaves Chris alone.  He has covered up most of his old gang tattoos with nondescript splotches of dark blue ink and wanders the streets of Albuquerque relatively free from menace, except for that provoked by hunger and cold hard ground.

Chris chews and swallows his food in giant gulps pushed down his sinewy throat like a turkey egg through a snake.  He speaks of his 3-year old son, Xavier, who for practical reasons is currently living with the child’s mother.  In fact, he says, the child is not even his, for he met his girlfriend when she was already six months pregnant.  But his was the first man’s face the child awoke from its uterine slumber to see, and he was the only man who took it in, who cared for it as if it were his own blood son, and that is the very nature of his love for it.  “Children are so innocent and pure,” he says, “I don’t get how so many men out there can just abandon their own kids, or worse, abuse them.”  His primary goal now is to find a new job, an apartment, and bring his girl and his kid back to Albuquerque.  The world is a lonely, hostile, and meaningless quagmire of suffering without family, without love. Lynette outing-2950Lauren listens attentively to Chris’ story, and is drawn completely in.  There is little doubt that he is speaking with the utmost sincerity, albeit little bits and pieces of any narrative are bound to suffer exaggerations or omissions of a perfect truth, for such is the nature of the mind’s interpretation of reality.  And Lauren is touched.  She has been hard up before, too.  She asks politely, almost timidly, if he wouldn’t mind a small cash donation from her pocket to his, if for nothing else to warm up a long cold night with a little goodwill.  Chris replies politely, almost timidly, that he would not reject such a gesture, and Lauren slips him a 20-dollar bill folded to the size of a paperclip.  Our departure is hugs and twilight.  “I’ll never forget you guys,” Chris says.

Night has fallen.  There is another overdose at the Westbound bus stop at Central and Wyoming.  Alcohol.  A middle-aged woman is being lifted into an ambulance with a drunk smile wide across her grease-shiny face.   Nearby a prostitute steps out of a client’s car and huffs in indignation as I stare curiously at her.  Two fat young toothless men ask to borrow a pen to exchange phone numbers.  Drunk cowboys laugh over silly nothings, and stumble over one another and onto the bus stop bench.  Lauren and I are speaking miles per minute, trying to digest too many thoughts in too little time, and perhaps making as little sense as the cowboys bumbling around behind us.  Then the bus comes, and we board for a fast cruise back to Nob Hill.  It is the Rapid Ride, and it speeds through the dark night like a ghost.

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“Change Bro” and Morris

Johnny and MorrisJohnny “Change Bro” Romero and his trusty sidekick Morris are Albuquerque’s most loved and possibly most abused homeless people.  They both belong to the mushy half-rotten, half-flowering core of the city’s morbid and mysterious charm, its true essence. So many generations of young people around the University and surrounding neighborhoods have loved and cared for these two, while many others have assaulted them.  Local business owners have also loved and hated them, as they tend to attract the penniless bleeding hearts and scare away the monied middle classes unaccustomed to the smell of sweat and rot on a man.  The police have arrested them countless times, always for trespassing—that is, wherever they find a nook or cranny in which to sleep—and have on many occasions beaten them.  Other homeless people, particularly those with drug and alcohol addictions or more aggressive manifestations of mental illness, have beaten them and stolen their coins, clothes, and sleeping bags numerous times.  Johnny once had a stack of hand-written journals stolen and trashed while in jail.  He has not written since.  Just recently he qualified to receive $700.00 per month for disability.  ”They say I’m mentally ill,” he smirks somewhat angrily.  ”It’s not true, though.  I’m not mentally ill.”

Unlike Johnny, Morris clearly suffers from mental illness, but it is of the most docile and friendly kind.  Morris is a glowing orbit of love, tormented deeply though he may very well be.

“I’m homeless, of course I have a cell phone!”

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Notorious to students living or parking near the University of New Mexico’s south campus, the bus stop on Yale Blvd near Central Avenue offers a daily ruckus of drunken riffraff for passersby to fear and avoid, stop and gawk at, or in rare cases, share a swig or splif with.  Like many other bus stops, the corner itself is in part just one of few viable congregation points for homeless people who without a “reason” to be there (i.e. “waiting for the bus”) would be quickly and perhaps violently ushered along by the police for being in violation of loitering statutes.  The other utility of the bus stop is, of course, public transportation, without which thousands of laborers, students, struggling parents, wayward teens, ex-convicts and vagabonds would be stranded in this poorly organized urban expanse called Albuquerque.

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“Brother, you can ask any question you like, but let me just ask you something first!,” exclaimed Two-Crow, a 33-year Navajo man from Colorado with dusty auburn hair hanging past his shoulders.

“But of course. Shoot!”

“How in the world did you get such a beautiful woman at your side?!”

Anais, a 19-year old UNM student, had asked to come along on one of my bus stop ventures.   As I expected, the dynamic of encounters was different than when I go alone, but I hadn’t foreseen the great advantage of being accompanied by a young, beautiful, and unassuming female.  Contrary to my previous solo outings, not one person accused me of being an undercover narcotics agent while Anais was with me.  Furthermore, everyone—no matter the degree of their intoxication—treated us with kindness and respect, a sort of street corner chivalry, if you will.  And to top it off, Anais carried herself so naturally, with such sincerity and confidence while asking questions, that she thoroughly won the hearts of all around.

“You’re guess is as good as mine!” I responded.

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Two Crow had come into Albuquerque only three days prior, and will be moving to other places to be homeless a few days from now.  Yet he has made friends quickly, illustrated by the multiple hugs and handshakes that befell him in our presence.  “When you are homeless, making friends and enemies happens really fast.  You get on someone’s good side if you have something that they want.”

A swig of seven-buck vodka or a hit from a joint can break the fragile but dangerous barriers between strangers on the street.  As in all social groups, reciprocity is the foundation of trust, and trust is one’s best guarantee of survival.  Ironically, the vehicle of this reciprocity on the streets—alcohol and drugs—is that which imprisons one to this very fate.  Two Crow is all too aware of this dynamic, and although he admits that systemic racism and oppression has in many ways helped to orient his path of depravation, he also takes full responsibility for the decisions he has made.  “Everything you do in life is a decision, brother.  Happiness is a decision. This,” he spreads his gangly arms wide, his gray overcoat sprawled like a mast, “is all a decision!”

Two Crow grew up in a small town in Colorado, and left his parents’ house for the streets at the age of twelve.  He says he did it out of spite for his mom.   In a fit of anger over his early teen drinking, she once pointed out to a drunken hobo lying in the gutter and screamed at her son, “Is that what you want to do with your life? Is that what you want to become?!”

“Yes, it is!” the little boy Two Crew had screamed back.  Twenty years later, reflecting on it, he says, “I wanted to piss off my Mom.  Turns out she didn’t really care what I became after all.”  A sincere chuckle followed, as if no resentment remained, not even regret, rather only a lighthearted—if fatalistic—acceptance of a fate long decided and sealed.

He went on to explain that when you have lived on the streets for so long, you no longer feel comfortable anywhere else.  Embracing two of his new friends, he expounded, “if you gave us money to sleep in a hotel room tonight, we would sit there awkwardly for while, and then be like, ‘let’s get out of here and go walk around,’ and then we’d be right back here.” The six others at the bus stop nodded in agreement as they took turns munching down a plate of Chinese food given to them by a worker at a nearby restaurant.

At various points in the conversation, Two Crow burst out in song, melodic poems of struggle, liberation, and redemption, or traditional tribal songs the meanings of which I could only intuit.  His eloquence was sweet and soothing.  His charisma embraced the entire world.  When an angry passerby yelled out, “Don’t let him [me] exploit us brown brothers!” Two Crow cooled things down in an instant, hugging the stranger, telling him, “It’s okay, brother, he’s good, he’s with us.”

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Now on the subject of race, which is inescapable when one opens his eyes—particularly when traversing the interstices of human social life—I asked Two Crow if  he identified with being Native American.  His answer was immediate, clear to the point, and profound:

“When I’m drinking, I’m an Indian.  When I’m sober, I’m Native American.” 

He was referring to the stereotypical “drunk indian” who betrays his noble past by surrendering to depravity and vice, and to the “stoic native” who remains in touch with the spirits of the universe, the masters of the earth and heavens.  He is both things, he is yin and he is yang, and that is the life he has chosen.

The darkening sky beckoned our departure, and so we soon said our goodbyes.  Hugs around the table.  Two Crow embraced me like a bear, “Brother, in a few days I will be thinking about you.  I hope you will remember me, too.”  He then offered his cell phone number in case we wanted to get in touch again, even though he was leaving in a few days.  Anais was confused, “you have a cell phone?”

“I’m homeless, of course I have a cell phone!”