The Great Brown Hope By Tony Robles

Security guards are a dime a dozen. How many guards are undercover poets? I don’t know. I have run into my share of undercover drunk guards though. Their problem–they’re not good at keeping it undercover. I recall a song by the great R & B singer Wynonie Harris called, “Bloodshot eyes” where he describes the redness of a certain woman’s eyes as looking like, “Two cherries in a glass of buttermilk”.

I was the great brown hope at one time. Loads of talent I had, or so it seemed. I could imitate people, celebrities like Clint Eastwood and Muhammad Ali. I was in college and landed a job as a radio announcer in a small town. The station was located in a cow pasture near a small airport. I worked the overnight shift, spinning records and saying such unforgettable things as “much more music KSHT…now, for your 3 day weather forecast!” When my shift ended I’d have to navigate my way past heaps of steaming cow dung to get to my car. The most memorable thing that happened was when, during a newscast, a moth flew into my mouth. I coughed and gagged over the air. Luckily I had the presence of mind to toss in a commercial for the US Army before running to the bathroom. Be all that you can be!

I went from small town DJ to big city security guard on the graveyard which is where I’ll be until Mr. Obama comes through with the stimulus sandwich on rye (topped with pickle). Getting back to the buttermilk and proverbial cherries, I ran into a security guard friend, Orlando Brooks. He constantly goes to the bathroom to gargle the alcohol from his breath but nothing helps. One of the best guys I know in security (one of the best guys I know, period) but the best guys soon end up in the scrap heap of tin badges because their parts are obsolete. What parts? Answer: Their hearts. I stand guard–writing poems on the graveyard trying not to lose mine.

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I’ve been riding Muni all my life. My grandfather was a muni conductor in the days when operators wore moneychangers on their belts. The fairness/unfairness, justice/injustice of life can be witnessed on the muni bus. There you are, waiting for a seat, standing for what seems like forever when a seat becomes available. You make a move but the seat gets yanked by somebody sneaking in through the back, someone who hasn’t waited, invested, endured. The bus is filled with loads of metaphors, among other things.

What is this thing called the hipster? Call me old-fashioned but my radar goes up whenever I hear a word that contains the word “hip”. When I see the word hip, I immediately assume the opposite to be true. I think I see them in my city walking in packs on Divisadero, or in the Haight or on Valencia complete with bells, whistles, armpits and obligatory tattoos. Some have bad names like Dylan, (or Dillon or DHILLON?) Shiloh or Caleb. They don’t look like real people somehow. They walk in packs of 9 or 10 looking for buildings to occupy, many that house our elders but the elders can’t live forever I suppose–so they get replaced by the hipster(s). I go back to Emilio Castillo and the Funky Doctor of Tower of Power ( who wrote the great song, “What is hip?” :

“What is hip, tell me tell me if you think you know. If you’re really hip, the passing years will show (and sometimes hipness is…what it ain’t”)

Nothing hip about gentrifying neighborhoods and displacing elders. I hereby on this day, take the word “hip” out of my vocabulary. What’s needed is a hip replacement.

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I saw the funniest thing the other day. I was on the #5 Fulton going down McAllister when I looked out the window. A man was walking his dog–one of those large poodles with hair that resembles a bathroom throw rug. Anyway, the dog is sauntering along in doggie ether when I notice what’s on its head–a shiny do rag! A kick-ass ghetto poodle. ‘Sho you right!

My mom is a sweet woman–a native San Franciscan of African-American and Irish heritage. She had a very poignant observation about so-called San Franciscans. She said, “A San Franciscan is someone who knows everything there is to know about the world except his or her own neighbor”.

Well said, mom.

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My aunt’s take on the economic crisis, “At least you got a couple of ducats and a pot to piss in”.

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I asked my cousin in Seattle what I thought was the burning, eternal question: Cousin, do you sometimes think you haven’t truly reached your life’s potential?

His answer: You’re not alone. Bernie Madoff, AIG execs, Al Capone & Ziggy Stardust all have the same problem

That’s all from the graveyard shift.



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