I’m eating tofurkey and creamy yams while watching charred and dismembered Iraqis on TV. “We’re a sick country,” I say. “We gorge like pigs while we destroy other people.” Everyone puts down their forks in solidarity. Thirty seconds go by where no one says anything. We feel the Iraqi pain. I put on my jacket. If we’re gonna watch Nacho Libre, then I better get to Hollywood Video before it closes.
I’m walking and a homeless guy comes up to me. I hold my hand out and give him a dollar. There’s a mist, the streetlights are dreamy. It’s a real holiday moment. I get to Hollywood Video and wish the clerk a Happy Thanksgiving. He’s a Dominican homeboy with corn rows. He wishes me the same. I feel good that we can connect. I stroll over to Nacho Libre. It’s rented. My heart sinks. The whole night is ruined. But then my boy holds up the DVD from behind the counter. I can’t help but think it’s karma for giving that homeless guy a dollar.
But was I more upset about almost not getting Nacho Libre than about the homicidal nightmare in Iraq? I stop outside to feel guilty, but then the same homeless guy comes up to me. “Yo, I just gave you a dollar, man.” He slinks away into the darkness.
I get back to the pad. Candles are lit, friends are drinking wine and listening to Tom Waits. Intimate conversation is so rare these days. So much disconnection and lack of real community. I talk about my thing:
“My publisher rejected my new book last week. I dunno, I’ve got to market myself better: resistance culture, new left writing, creative resistance…Oaxaca is sexy right now. I should go there, write something.”
I grab the universal remote, turn down the music, and turn up the TV—it’s the yadda yadda yadda Seinfeld episode. We talk about how Kramer is a racist and how what he said was so outrageous. Still, it’s hard to hate him because he’s so entertaining. We get back to my thing:
“I don’t enjoy hanging out in Manhattan anymore. All people do is namedrop. They are so self-absorbed. They don’t hear a word you say.”
We put on Nacho Libre. I can’t get 100 percent ensconced due to the ten pounds of undigested food in my stomach. I work so hard. I write, I do protests, I go to law school. Today was my one day to relax. I can never get happy. The movie is funny. But why Jack Black and not me? Why does he get to live this amazing life while I’m always out hustling for peanuts? When is Vanity Fair going to ask me to write something? When is the New Yorker going to give me a chance? I’m a subversive, important voice and I can’t get the establishment to recognize me.
The movie ends and the friends start to leave. We hug and kiss. There’s warmth between us, but if I quit writing today no one would notice. I have nothing on the horizon but more struggle. I get my third piece of pumpkin pie with homemade whipped cream. I’m all alone now, sitting on the couch. I change the channel back to CNN. An Iraqi father stands over his dead son in the street. He says that he can’t feel anything. He has no electricity, no food, and his two daughters haven’t gone outside in more than a month because they’re so afraid.
A Gap commercial, a car commercial, same Gap commercial, and then CNN fuels the buzz around Black Friday. The lines around Circuit City go for blocks and blocks. Macy’s is opening at 6 a.m. Sears is opening at 5 a.m. People are camping out on sidewalks to get the new Sony Playstation. A woman has made Black Friday T-shirts and is talking about how tomorrow is “not for the weak.”
We are a disgusting, hypocritical society….but what ever happened to Maria Hinojosa on CNN? She interviewed me once during the RNC. I think she’s on Frontline now. We’re both Latinos, she should help me get a book deal. Or what about David Byrne from the Talking Heads? You know, he actually came to one of my readings and told me that he liked my work.
I get up, go over to the computer, and Google my name.
JASON FLORES-WILLIAMS is a lawyer in New Mexico.
The Disappeared CountryBy Mladen Dolar
JUNE 2022 | Critics Page
On many occasions when I have to fill in a form, I am asked for the date and country of my birth. For the country, I am offered some two hundred options, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, including many I would have a hard time finding on a map. But my country of birth doesnt appear on any of these lists. The country where I was born and where I spent the majority of my life has disappeared, it is conspicuously missing. Its name is still vividly present in the collective memory, but I guess not for long.
Faith Ringgold: American PeopleBy Ann C. Collins
MARCH 2022 | ArtSeen
Organized by The New Museums artistic director Massimiliano Gioni with curator Gary Carrion-Murayari and curatorial assistant Madeline Weisburg, American People is jam-packed with more than forty years of Faith Ringgolds most prominent work.
What Are White People So Afraid Of? Claudia Rankine’s HelpBy Alexis Clements
MARCH 2022 | Theater
Alexis Clements reflects on a trio of works by Claudia Rankinean essay, a book, and a new play starting March 15 at The Sheddissecting how they circle a question that has caught Rankines, and the zeitgeists, attention: why is it so hard for white people to confront their whiteness?
Alice Neel: People Come FirstBy Ann C. Collins
MAY 2021 | ArtSeen
Curators Randall Griffey and Kelly Baum gather more than 100 of the artists paintings, watercolors and drawings in Alice Neel: People Come First, a retrospective of the 60 years Neel spent transposing New York and its citizens into work that bears witness to the struggles of everyday life in the city as much as it dignifies the individual.