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Fernando Valenzuela

March 11, 2016

Fernando Valenzuela

This is of course the moment in Fernando Valenzuela’s indelible windup when he has first come out of his brief sky-trance. We all should approach our life’s work with this mixture of focus and mysterious surrender.

What is my life’s work? I still don’t know. Not this, surely, this hobby. Collecting. What does it even mean to collect?

When I was a little boy about the same age my oldest son is now, four and a half, I rode in a VW Camper with my brother, mother, and her boyfriend, Tom, down through all the states from New Jersey to Texas and on into Mexico. We were there all summer in Fernando Valenzuela’s country.

It was 1973. Tom had long hair and a big beard, and my brother and I had unruly curls that the women in Mexico all wanted to touch. I didn’t want to be touched.

At some point we picked up two fellow American longhairs who were hitchhiking, a young man and woman who clambered into the back with my brother and me and started making out, their writhing bodies colliding with us in the small space. I didn’t want to be touched. They weren’t with us for that long, a few hours at the most, and yet here it is over forty years later and they’re still riding with me, those groping hippies.

My father had a job, but he got a week or so off and flew down to meet up with us for a while. We were all in it together, sort of, but of course things were more complicated than I could fathom. I stuck to my brother as much as I could. I ate ham sandwiches everywhere we went. Jambon. I think that’s what they were called. It was one piece of the world that was the same.

There were towering ruins everywhere. That’s what I’ll carry with me the longest I guess. This sense of an ancient vanished world. I worry that in my own timid adult existence I won’t ever give to my sons the same sprawling awe I apprehended in childhood by virtue of being raised by people who believed a new era of joy was upon us, just up around the next bend.

I brought back from Mexico a small stone replica of a ruin. I can’t even remember what it was, maybe a miniature version of some god or goddess. What doesn’t erode in our minds? What I remember was the feel of it, how soft the stone was, how it was almost wearing away as I touched it but at the same time seemed to have a solidity that would outlast everything else in my room, all those bright plastic American toys. But I lost it somewhere on the way.

I’m still coming out of the trance of childhood. I’m looking for some target, I guess, though much of the time I’m also still trying to find my way back into the trance.

I don’t know where I got this card. It appeared well after my years of voraciously buying packs. I didn’t seek it out. Collecting to me doesn’t mean pursuing. Some stuff ends up in my possession, most of it disappears, I try to oppose this disappearing sometimes.

3 comments

  1. Great piece…thanks for sharing.


  2. Jamon is ham. Jabon is soap. My brother lived in a boarding house in the Dominican Republic for a few years. A previous boarder had been Francisco Caamona, who had tried to launch a Fidel-style revolution in the DR. According to my mother-in-law, who had grown up with him, the gossip was that he ate mentholaded sandwiches as a kid.


  3. Jambon is ham in French.



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