Finger Prints

In Oakland,to teach after school classes you need to be finger printed. The law is there to protect kids from sex offenders. From kids who might find themselves alone with such a teacher. Even though fingerprints don’t change, they take prints every year in case your criminal record has changed. Irregardless of my moral behavior, I teach a chaotic class of twenty kids in a public area of the school.

This is expensive at $100. a year. The woman in charge of this is inaptly named Angelica. She emails me and gives me a half hour window on a certain day to come down to an unpleasant neighborhood and put my hands on the screen to be recorded. I email back and tell her that I can not come then and ask if I can (please) have this done at a convenient time at my usual place.

I receive no answer for weeks, after which she emails me again with another half hour slot I can’t make. She signs her email “waiting for your response”. I email back as previously. Again, I recieve no response for weeks. When I call I get a swift short recording in almost broken english.

After a month of teaching I start to feel like I really do have to get this yearly request fulfilled as I am supposedly breaking the law, although I’m feeling that I’d have a case to argue otherwise.

I go to my usual place run by a chinese couple. They also speak broken english. The wife is her usual unfriendly self and the husband is warmer and helpful.

There are three people before me in line for this process. Their IDs are mexican passports and they speak no english at all. I translate for them. The woman in charge of this group is beautiful and young; dressed in dark pinks with thick hair easily flopped atop her head. The young man has on one of the best beaded Guadalupe hats I’ve ever seen. I compliment him on it. Initially, I am unsure whether he is her mate or her son but the way she then brushes his hair (also thick) away from his face, tells me that he is her son. The other one is maybe her cousin.

They clean one of the schools. She is carefully handing over three hundred dollars! in cash. The most important part of what she wants to know, and what I am translating, is about the line with the 6 digit government number which will get her a partial reimbursement for this process. It’s only $25 but she is adamant about getting it.

When it is my turn, the wife, in her slightly sour self,  asks me “So, you’re going to be a teacher?”  I say, “I already am a teacher” in a tired way because I am sick of being in a room without windows. “What do you teach?”, she counters dryly.  When I say “ceramics”  she lights up like a bulb. “Really?!  Can you teach me?  Can I make this?”,  she says as she touches a four inch light green ceramic pot housing a small fake tree. “Yes”, and for a few minutes we talk ceramics and it is the first time I have seen her look alive in all the years I’ve been there.

Then I go with him into the closet like area with the machine. I am amazed (again) at the comfortable and easy way he takes each finger and rolls it around on the screen. I think of how many hands he has held and how he does it with nothing extra and it is somehow actually enjoyable.

When I get home, I scan and send the fingerprints and form to Angelica.

Five minutes later I get three emails from her. The first two are auto-response explanations about how is she out of the office until some unforseen time. The third one is actually from her. She says that under no circumstamnces whatsoever will they accept fingerprints done anywhere else but the Oakland Unified School District office and that she is there from 8 to 5 every day and that I need to come down there, pay again, and have them done again.

She is waiting for my response.

She won’t get one.

What’s gone

I look at the framed photograph on the window sill of my mother with my daughter and all of a sudden my mind jumps to “she’s gone” and for a moment I wonder “who?”

The sure side comes in and says “Mom died”  but somehow my daughter in the picture as a three year old is gone as well. An almost seventeen year old is not a three year old.

Still part of the three year old remains, just as part of my mother remains.

Here and not here. Like most of existence; here and not here. Partly somewhere else but where?

Waking Up

After watching the digital clock for a while, she decides on getting up at four in the morning rather than lying in the darkness any longer. It’s the darkness in her mind keeping her up anyway. Better to turn on the lights.

She almost falls asleep on the train going to her morning class and almost asleep again coming home. So when she gets home, she lies down and goes to sleep.

She wakes up in the dark. This is rain dark, not night dark. Wondering why hunger follows afternoon naps, she opens the frig to find it mostly empty.

After the cashier has rung up the grocery cart with two hundred dollars worth of selected items, she realizes her wallet is on the kitchen table at home. She explains. She goes home. She comes back.

The cashier is kind, and he says, “No worries, You are not alone”, meaning this happens all the time.

Confused at the payment keypad between “CLEAR” and “ACCEPT”, she decides on “ACCEPT” because it’s green and likes that he has told her she is not alone.

Outside, near the entrance to the grocery store, someone has permanently written in once wet cement “The Dali Lama” under an also permanent sentence.

The sentence says, “Find hope in the darkness and focus on the light”.

Tina’s Tarot

Tina is often in unknown whereabouts. She takes her Tarot cards and does what they tell her to do or what she thinks they tell her to do, or not to do. She has a hard time making decisions. No one ever told her how to make a decision. She relies on the cards but sometimes she mistrusts them.


Who knows what he does when he’s not being
being the teacher?

It’s an unknown; a projection at most, at worst: that.
Unknowning mind might be the most powerful mind.

Quiet, receptive and possibly able to leave these boundaries we’ve all so unconsciously and conveniently agreed upon.

Flavors and Colors

My mother liked dark chocolate and mint, my Aunt Martha also. Even though they didn’t like each other, they both liked dark choclate with bright white mint inside. Inside those slim little paper sleeves, with the black and gold or shiny emerald green.  Should be a few lying stylishly on the silver tray in Grandmother’s dining room. I hope the elevator works. Always feel a bit like a caged bird in there, singing as I go higher until it comes to a clangy metal, abrupt stop and I have to fight the cranky gate.

Cherry Vanilla was another favorite of my mother’s. For ice cream. Does that still exist? What about peppermint ice cream, the pink kind. Is it amidst the rocky road and the cookie dough?

Who knew they were going to change the names of what I considered centuries old, unchanging colors? Who knew you were going to be able to buy a watercolor set without Alizarin Crimson?  My grandchildren will probably not paint with Cerulean or Ultramarine Blue. They’ll be called something else.

Old World Blue and Medium Blue Straight Up, or something..


Javier is always thinking. Javier is always day dreaming. Sometimes as he’s walking down the busy sidewalk his eye will randomly land on something, a bruise on a knee, for instance. He will think, “Oh Yeah..” and soften a bit. Where he goes not even his best friend knows.