Thursday, January 29, 2015

Santa Fe Ghosts

Cristo Rey Catholic school was a k-8 parochial school in the old barrio, now called the eastside of Santa Fe.  For many decades the school served the Cristo Rey Church parish children.  The old school closed down and the building is rented out by a pre-school.

I started teaching there in the 1990's, and the kids told each other stories from the old days that they had heard from their parents, who also attended Cristo Rey School.

One evening, as my 7th class prepared out exhibition table for the annual fund drive and fair -- held in the cafeteria -- we needed to go upstairs to my classroom for scissors and construction paper.

"No, teacher, we're not going up there at night.  Father Joseph is there."  A girl said.
"Sister Angelina might be in the 5th grade room," from one of the boys.

"Who are they?" I asked.

"Ghosts," the kids replied in unison.  They the children took turns explaining that Father Joseph was the first principal and he still watches over the classrooms at night.  One boy has seen the Father when he was 2nd grade.  Others told stories of their seeing both Father Joseph and Sister Angelina.

"Are they mean ghosts?"  I asked.

"Oh, no," in unison again.  "They watch out for the school."

"Well, then, they won't hurt us."


But, finally, a couple of adventurous 7th grade girls agreed to go with me to my classroom on the 2nd floor.

We entered my classroom uneventfully, and I sent the girls on with the construction paper while I picked up the scissors.  I heard a scream.


I ran out into the hallway.  "Girls, slow down," I shouted.

"Father Joseph!  We saw Father Joseph at head of the stairs."

I smiled.  Of course they did.  The girls were already down the stairs, telling their story to all who would listen.  I was glad I didn't send them with the scissors, since they might have hurt themselves running down the hall.

I put the scissors into a cloth bag, and headed down to the stairs, thinking about Father Joseph and sister Angelina.  Out of curiosity, or perhaps sentimentality, I turned to look into the fifth grade classroom for the second ghost.

At the far end of the room, looking out the window into the dark night, stood a man in a priests robe.  I stepped back, not sure.  And then I saw her, all in white, her head covered, standing at the desk, looking kindly towards the father, her hand on a sheet of ungraded student papers.  They did not look up at me, but, then, I withdrew from the door like a hand from a flame.  I didn't want to see those two, and yet, all these years later, I still think I did see them.  I pass by the school on my daily walks, and I think, even now, the two watch over the preschool at night from the upper floor, ever vigilant.

Or that's how it seems in mysterious New Mexico.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Peak at the Past: Blonde Faith, Walter Mosley

In 1990, Walter Mosley invited us into black Los Angeles in Devil in the Blue Dress.  Sam Spade now had a black counterpart in Watts named Easy Rawlins.  Spade operated in the 1920's and Easy Rawlins occupies a black underworld in the 1940's in L.A.

Blonde Faith, Mosley's 11th Easy Rawlins novel, brings us forward a few years from Devil in a Blue Dress, and Easy's life still ain't easy.  He understands women even less (his latest, Bonnie, marries another man) and his family makes no sense but Easy is still solving crimes for his luckless friends and neighbors..

Here's the down and dirty on the women:  Tourmaline wears form-fitting white.  Pretty Smart wears red and is "short, built to populate the countryside."  Faith wears a shapeless charcoal dress, but there's nothing shapeless about her figure.  Lynne wears a short red silk kimono with nothing underneath.  Anyway, you get the idea.

Easy's dangerous associate, Mouse (aka Raymond Alexander), is in true form.  "'I knew a dude got himself buried in his Caddy,' Mouse said jauntily. 'He weighed six hunnert pounds.  There was five women cryin' at his grave, too.  Some men just lucky, is all.'"

Easy seems a bit tired, a bit old, and just plain fed up with the world.  But it's a good visit to a part of LA this white girl never saw.  Worth the ride...

At least that's what we think in mysterious New Mexico.