Winds of Santa Ana

The Santa Ana winds shaped me. Their power snatched the cigarette from my fingers and drove it deep into dry chaparral. The resulting fire was preordained. I could have lived in Hoboken NJ, and the fire still would have been preordained, still my fault. 

The western winds overwhelmed me. They blew my garage open, sucked my tuba out into the pebbly road, dragged it down the street. Sparks flew from its brass. I was trying to teach myself to play it so I could join a Mariachi band with Pollo Murillo and Hector Delgadillo.

My father was a half-Jewish Rumanian, but passed as Mexican. He knew all the love songs, all the songs that started with Mi Amor and ended with Mi Corazon. He never sang them to my mother. I knew he was not singing to her, though she was his wife. She was as beautiful and upright as a statue of a Madonna carved from pinyon wood. When she was around, he shut his lips tight, or twisted them like a bad ventriloquist. 

He sang his songs to someone else, someone in a different country he hadn’t met yet, someone he was preparing for, like preparing for the Second Coming. My mother was a Christian woman, though she didn’t love Jesus. It wasn’t that she didn’t believe in Him. She was merely indifferent.

My cap flew from my head. My grandfather’s fedora blew off his dead head, his head a block of grey clay, awaiting the pinching of my fingers to truncate the seven generations of suffering deemed necessary by the Holy Book to wear down sin. I’d take it down to maybe four.

My grandmother reclined on a tree limb, holding a Russian ukulele and the eternal flame of youth. It glowed orange like the eyes of a tabby cat. The wind blew her out of her tree. The wind blew carom boards down Topanga, out to the ocean. They skimmed across the surface like plywood torn from houses in a hurricane. I didn’t understand the meaning of youth or age. All I understood was the wind. The wind would blow everything away everything of value or lacking value. It would all end up stuck on the branches of some bush.

I didn’t need to go to high school. The wind was my teacher. The wind was the wisest teacher. The wind would get fiercer every year. All human life would disappear. The wind blew like it never did in Patterson New Jersey, like Dr. Poet William Carlos Williams never experienced. But Dr. Williams kept his wooden tongue depressors locked in a glass jar anyway. He never knew what might be coming.

The wind blew out the windows of our stucco shanty, the one Old Man Dengler allowed us to live in. 

The Electrical Engineer had come from New Jersey to remake the San Fernando Valley, Aerospace in the image of the Aztec gods, with hordes of his self-replicating spawn, who enrolled in my school and looked down on me. This engineer sat at his desk and the wind sucked open his drawers, scattered his papers, financial papers, technical papers. He had no idea wind could blow like that. Those papers were his life. 

The wind turned coffee beans into bullets. The Santa Ana winds stripped tomatoes from their vines, the grapes from theirs. Italians and Jews cried together. Tumbleweeds are weapons of mass destruction. In the future recreational marijuana would be legal in Colorado, but in the meantime, I was going to prison, where I could not be touched by the powerful, destructive wind.  I can’t say I wasn’t grateful.