Friday, November 27, 2009

Chavez News

Amanda Rivera is the interim principal at Chavez Elementary. Mr. Correa has left. I don't know what's going on regarding the search for his replacement. The Local School Council is now alternating morning and afternoon meetings--I think the next morning meeting is in January. Maybe I'll be able to make that one and find out how the search for a new principal is going.

Sarah, who was having such a hard time adjusting to Orozco, has returned to Chavez. I saw her walking home from school the other day with her big sister and her nieces. She looked perfectly happy. It's a good reminder that academics aren't everything when it comes to a child's school experience.

Right before the holiday I stopped in at Chavez to let them know I still have school supplies left over from last summer's block party. The gentleman I spoke with took my name and number and said someone from school could come by and pick them up. That would be a big help. That's also how I confirmed what I had heard about the interim principal. Ms. Rivera was the founding principal at Ames Middle School in Logan Square, where she was highly regarded. I'm glad someone with strong middle school experience is at the helm at Chavez, even temporarily. I have heard negative comments from parents about the state of affairs at the upper grade center (grades 5-8). I hope Ms. Rivera can straighten that out a bit.

Dorothy Update

I have seen Dorothy here and there since the baby was born. She was on an ankle bracelet--house arrest--for a while--but I think that's over with now. She is staying down south of 51st, across the street from Junior's family's new house. A couple of weeks ago she left a blue snowsuit for the baby hanging off the knob of our front door. Thanksgiving night (yesterday) around 10 p.m. there was a knock at the door, and I suspect it was Dorothy. It was either her or Tony the car wash guy. Either way, we didn't answer--Papi and I were just finishing our late-night turkey dinner for two after the baby went to bed. The baby and I had gone to a vegetarian Thanksgiving feast earlier while Papi was working. We picked him up after work, came home, put the baby to bed (he'd fallen asleep in the car so we just hauled the car seat up to his room and left him in it), then sat down and had a little turkey and pie. Dorothy's knock came just as we finished the dishes.

"Who on earth is knocking at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving?" I thought. "There is no way I'm answering that door." Sometimes Tony Car Wash knocks late when the lights are still on, so it might have been him, but I'm trying to retrain my late-night pals to quit bothering me at those hours. It's so rare I'm up past 8 p.m. these days, and when I am, I just want to enjoy some peace and quiet.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Day before yesterday I ran into Picasso as he was coming out of Joey's house. I had been out walking the baby for the previous two hours or so since it's one of the few sure-fire ways I can get him to sleep in the daytime at the moment.

Picasso and I stood in the twilight in Joey's front yard near the wrought iron fence and talked for a bit. He says his grades are good except for one or two classes--he didn't say which ones. He likes his American Lit teacher this year much better than he liked his freshman English teacher. The way he smiled when he said school is good made me believe him.

Then I went for it. "Try to stay out of trouble, OK?" I said with a knowing smile.

He smiled back, embarrased. "I'll try."

Just at that moment, a police SUV pulled up and flashed the spotlight on us. The baby stirred in his carrier. "Are you waking up, buddy?" I asked my son, jiggling up and down on my toes. The cops turned the light off and drove away.

"That's trouble," I said to Picasso. "Listen, if you get picked up and you need help, call this number: 1-800-LAW-REP-4."

"Law Rep four," he repeated.

"They give free legal help to teenagers who get picked up by the cops. If you get picked up, make them your first call. And let me know if you ever need anything," I said, and went in the house, thinking about how I wish I could do more and yet being OK that that is all I can do for Picasso at this point. He's not my kid. I hope to God nobody ever has to say stuff like that to my son.

Picasso was a good boy when he was in fifth grade, sixth grade. He still is when he's not screwing around. He knows how to be polite and respectful. He's still the same bright young man, with artistic talent to boot. But he's in deep trouble and I don't know how to help him through and out. Dawn and I were talking last weekend about how we both thought when he and Joey started to hang out that he might help Joey stay out of trouble. Looks like it went the other way. This is the kind of thing that makes me afraid of staying here when my boy is a teenager.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Belated Halloween Update

I really wasn't wanting to post this and have been using the baby as an excuse not to write about what happened on Halloween this year. We didn't get very many trick or treaters--don't know if it was the weather or the economy. We did get a couple of knocks on the door from the Chicago Police Department. They were looking for Joey and Picasso. Apparently the boys had been seen on Joey's front porch with spray cans and then there was "a disturbance" as one of the cops put it.

The first cop knock was a male officer asking if anyone lived in the house next door. No wonder they asked. There's broken glass all over the front yard and graffiti on the front stoop. ("He tagged his own house!" Jay-Z's aunt said to me months ago, utterly shocked.) The living room window is broken and hasn't been repaired in months. It's going to be a cold winter in there--if they are still there. People have been by to serve foreclosure papers.

I told the officer, yes, people do live there and gave their last name and a few other things. I had mixed feelings about this. It was an interesting insight into the culture of "don't snitch"--it's not just the fear that someone will retaliate, but the knowledge that people you know and care about are wanted by the police. Even if you know they are a menace, it's not fun to set the cops on people you know.

Then another officer, female, came to the door thinking it was a two-flat and looking for the other occupants. I explained only one family lives here. She admired the baby. I offered her candy; she laughed and declined.

Later, Picasso's mom came to the door. Some mail for me had come to her house by mistake, plus she wanted me to interpret for her so she would understand what the police were saying. I came back out. The cops, at least one of whom had seen me before, were surprised I came out on her behalf. "And who are you?"

"I'm her neighbor and friend," I said. "I speak some Spanish, so I can help you talk with her."

They told her she needed to watch her son more carefully. I told her they said that and added, "you know." I know she knows. Picasso is 15 years old, and she is working. I don't know how often he sees his dad these days. She does her best to keep a leash on him. She already lost an older son to this kind of madness. The cops were just useless.

She wanted to know what would happen to Picasso. "He'll be out of the car in a minute," one of the officers said. I said it again in Spanish. That was probably the only helpful thing that happened out there.

I called Joey's dad that night and told him if he didn't get his truck off my parking pad I was going to have someone else do it the next day. I had heard that people are out to get Joey. A couple of weeks ago, someone threw a brick at the truck and broke the windshield. More recently, someone broke into it and took out the radio. I had been bugging Joey's dad for months about moving his truck--he hasn't paid rent on the space in over a year--to no avail. Until Halloween, when I said, "The cops were after your son today. People here tell me they think this is his house because your truck is on the pad. I have a little one now and I'm afraid."

The next afternoon Joey, his dad, Dawn and Picasso all came to get the truck. "I still want to know who your teachers are," I said to Picasso.

"OK," he said.

Haven't seen him since.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

You Just Never Know

...where life will take you. Back in 2005 I chose the four digits 2-0-0-9 for something because Dawn was starting high school and was part of the class of 09. Until she wasn't anymore. Soon after that, 2009 became the year my son would be born, which I had no idea would be the case when I picked the four digits. Now I'll keep on using them, but with a totally different meaning behind the numbers.

Dawn and her mother came by a few minutes ago with some big news. Dawn is six months pregnant--due in late January. She's not working right now and has not started back to school. I am just at the point now where I need some help to be able to start working from home again, so I asked her if she would want to get paid to come and help me with the baby for a while before her own baby arrives. I would never leave her alone with my son but I would be delighted to have her around to help out with him and with household stuff for an afternoon or two a week. So we're going to try it out on Thursday.

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