It’s been many years since I read Luis J. Rodriguez’ bestselling, award-winning memoir Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A. In anticipation of his keynote address at PCRC’s upcoming fundraiser luncheon on June 14th, I spent a good 30 minutes fruitlessly searching for my personal copy. I finally resigned myself to the idea that it had been filched by one of my cousins, and I headed to my local bookstore to reacquaint myself with the prose of Mr. Rodriguez.
It didn’t take long to remember how beautifully he writes, with what precision and command. The story of his early life is infused with sadness, like in this short paragraph where he becomes entranced by the violence a clica called Thee Mystics deliver to his middle school:
““I froze as the head-stomping came dangerously my way. But I was also intrigued. I wanted this power. I wanted to be able to bring a whole school to its knees and even make teachers squirm. All my school life until then had been poised against me: telling me what to be, what to say, how to say it. I was a broken boy, shy and fearful. I wanted what Thee Mystics had; I wanted the power to hurt somebody.”
Other sections reveal his astounding gift for rhythm and imagery: his poet’s voice.
“Along the spine of the night, through the shrubbery, on the coarse roads, past the peeling shacks, past the walls filled with the stylized writing that proclaimed our existence, past La India’s shed where boys discovered the secret of thighs, in the din of whispers, past Berta’s garden of herbs and midnight incantations, past the Japo’s liquor store, past the empty lots scattered around the barrio we called ‘the fields,’ overlooking Nina’s house, pretty Nina, who lavished our dreams, there you’d find the newest and strongest clique. There you’d find the Animal Tribe.”
The beauty of this language, juxtaposed with the grim reality of the author’s life in East L.A., is only one of the reasons why Always Running is a meaningful experience for readers. The story of Mr. Rodriguez’ early life is a reminder, too, of how little has changed for some of our youth, and how vital PCRC’s work continues to be in our community.
Note: Fundraiser is sold out!Read More