Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Next in Line

Twirling and demonstrating great foot work, a Fancy Shawl Dancer, age 11 I figured, made her way around the arbor. Running up behind her, Clay snatched the shawl from her and slung it onto his shoulders. For a geezer, one nigh onto 64 years seasoned, he danced damned good as I drifted behind a tree embarrassed.

Looking to my watch, I counted off the minutes until security was called and my friend hauled off. My right hand fondled the pocketed magic shotgun shell. I heard it tsk-ing me, its voice muffled by denim. I retorted, “Yah, I know, what good am I out here and you in my pocket?”

Walking by, a kid said, “What?” I motioned him away and my jaw dropped. The small crowd of spectators laughed and clapped while Clay danced his heart out. Smiling sweet and sincere, his or her intention was obviously benevolent.

A woman ran out and placed a blanket on the grass in front of Clay. People came out and tossed money on it. Dancing shawl-less, the girl was undaunted. Her hands were out and holding the corners of an invisible fringed shawl. Was I alone in feeling humiliated on Clay’s behalf?

“OooH Weee folks, look at that elder go. Who knew? Spunky old dude, eh? Come on Nobs, pony up the dough. Might be needed to pay for a ride to the hospital if a heart attack sets in,” said the announcer. “Yah, good way to start the Pow-Wow and boost our medicine.”

The drum played all the harder as the last round came up. Other dancers had moved to the edge of the circle in honor of an elder’s presence. When the song ended the woman came back out and retrieved her blanket. Putting all the money in Clay’s hands, she applauded my buddy when he took it to the young shawl dancer and handed it to her.

Walking effeminately, Clay made his way from the circle and I hurried to him hoping for containment of some sort.

“Jovee, Jovee, how about we take you home young lady,” I said, my voice loaded with anxiety.

“Mister, is age making your memory bad? My name is Aura and who are you to bother me?”

“I’m Migizi, Clay Silver Otter’s friend. You know him?”

Clay, Aura I mean, was heading somewhere fast and I tried to keep up while talking. Attempting to guess her target I saw the campground bathroom. Perish the thought, Clay as Aura, going for the women’s toilet.
Clay paused before entering the restroom, yes, the women’s.

“Sure, I know him, who doesn’t? So here you are Mr. Migizi, in the skin. I heard plenty about you from Clay,” said Aura before going through the door.

I backed off a good 10 yards, no guilt by association for this ole coot. Horror and relief made a fist and punched me in the arm like a friend as I waited to hear screams of females coming from the toilet. A mom and her teen daughter came walking out. They must’ve been getting dressed to dance.

The mom turned back and yelled in, “see ya later Aura, have fun.”

“What the hell?” I asked and the gals acted as though I wasn’t there. I wasn’t addressing them but still, sheesh.

So out comes Clay and says as Aura, “Come on then. I guess we got some talkin’ to do but first, you gotta dance.”

Copyright © 2015 Migizi M. New Song. All Rights Reserved.

Around the Drum and Drain

Chapter 4: Post 1
While working, I noticed no one was speaking to Clay directly. How many others had he miffed, bummed, or pissed off? Most of the crew we helped had no idea who I was and a few had a fuzzy recollection. Living “at-large” didn’t help. It didn’t matter, we were family. Clay concerned me a little. He got quieter and mumbled to himself. When asked, he said he was doing okay.

“Clay, you hungry again? I am, thirsty too brother. Let’s head on over to that other stand that rolled in a while back. I think it said they were doing venison burgers and fries. What ya say?”

“Yah, okay. Listen, after chow I wanna hang around for grand entry okay Ain’t It?”

“Alright then brother. I’m getting drag-assed but maybe some food will revive me.”

Loudspeakers around the Pow Wow circle screamed when the announcer’s mic turned on. The typical test, one involving sequential numbers or blowing, was replaced with a belch. Laughter erupted from little groups of people here and there. The booth man spoke up.

“Okay okay folks. Your chuckles tell me I was heard. Now listen up. I got a request here from a Pow-Wow committee member.”

He hesitated and whispering commenced over the mic, loud enough to hear.

“What’s your name? What ya mean you ain’t telling me. Oh, don’t want nobody retaliating? Yah, good thinkin’. Hey folks, the nameless committee member wants that Nishnob luggage put in the dumpster. Break it down first will ya? Oh, it’s in the walkway behind the frybread wagon.”

He was referring to cardboard boxes when speaking of Nishnob luggage and Auntie Hawk Legs wasn’t happy. She bounced out of her shack on wheels, birded the announcer, and huffed around the back to break down her boxes.

“Love ya too, Auntie. I’m just the messenger ya know,” responded the man at the mic.

The first day of Pow Wow was a short one set aside for tradition. This meant there would be no competition drumming or dancing. Those would happen on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. As Clay and I ate our “timber goat” burgers and fries, the host drum assembled and got their microphone checks done. Oh, I called deer timber goats because they're simply a fast and cool looking wild goat that eats anything.

Casting a searching eye toward Clay, it was obvious his med was wearing off. He looked wiped until the drum took off in a practice tune that announced Grand Entry as being next. He started twirling his pointer finger through his long hair and giggled like a young girl.

“Oh shit,” I said out loud. “Here we go.”

The announcer called for dancers to ready themselves at the circle’s entrance and Clay got antsy. Guessing, I assumed Jovee’s persona took over.

“Is that you Jovee?” I asked, hoping it was.

I got nothing. Clay was standing but ignored me.

“Do you know me?” I asked.

I got a nod.

Over the loud speaker it came, “Grand Entry is now, common people, get your dance on.”

Jovee or whoever it was remained quiet and kept watch on things. Ceremonial aspects of Pow-Wow were fulfilled and the next drum to sing announced. My buddy was eager.

“Open dance, intertribal,” called out the announcer and Clay was gone. He, she, it ran into the sacred circle while my patience danced around the proverbial drain.

Copyright © 2015 Migizi M. New Song. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, March 28, 2015


“Well Ain’t It, ya still got that slick tongue of yours I see.” Clay picked at this taco with a white plastic fork. “Yah, sweet talked old Hawk Legs ya did.”

“Good grief, you going down that road? I said. “I’m being sociable. Try it sometime instead and maybe folks would treat you as friendly rather than strange.”

Clay, giving me some stink eye, shook his head and refused to answer. I crossed the line a little with the remark about being strange. Native people once believed being mentally off or “touched” was sacred. The elders still did but younger generations were less likely to treat the trait with honor.

“Sorry brother, that was a bit mean spirited. How ya liking the taco?”

“Oh, it’s okay, yah, the taco too. Thanks for buying. But…”

Clay went back to probing what remained of his food.

“But what?” I asked.

“Look at this taco. Here’s this deep fried disc of bread with toppin’s on it. We got refried beans, lettuce, seasoned burger, onions, tomato, and grated cheese. To make it fancy, we also add some good hot salsa to it all. Tell me Ain’t It, is the toppin’s the taco or the bread?”

“The combination is the taco Clay. The bread alone is just bread and without the toppings it isn’t a taco.”

Clay shot me a big smile. His chin was shiny from grease and a dab of salsa remained at the corners of his mouth.

“We all got toppin’s Ain’t It, some more than others, even you. The you that was yackin’ at Hawk Legs wasn’t the you that is the bread, follow? But like the taco, it was still you sorta. Just cause it isn’t how you are all the time doesn’t make it any less you.”

“What you trying to say Clay?”

My old buddy finished the last few bites of his taco and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

“Hey, how’s about a cola to wash this bad boy down then, I’ll tell ya.”

 Going back to the gaggin’ wagon, I returned with some off brand cans of pop.

“Them people inside me, well, they are flat out different from me, the bread me. Yours, yours are subtle but they are there for sure but you ain’t takin’ no drugs for it. How come? Never mind. Don’t answer, I know. Just brew on it for yourself. Hey look, some guys need help settin’ up the arbor. Let’s go do that.”

Clay jumped up and started over so I followed, disturbed, but willing. Our help was appreciated and we kept at it until grand entry time. My heart percolated the whole time and the water of my friend’s words washed over my spirit. The beverage it made was on the bitter side.

Copyright © 2015 Migizi M. New Song. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Vintage Fry Bread

Journal: (Fri.) Research begins at Pow Wow

Clay and I walked a mile to the Pow Wow grounds. A large truck loaded with rented portable toilets rolled past as we approached the parking area. It stopped and the tribe’s youth council, all seven teens of it, walked up to help unload and set up. 

Grand entry was slated to happen at five, plus or minus half an hour allowance for “Nob” time. Indian time, or Nob time as I called it, was measured according to approximate. In other words, things happen when they happen “there abouts”. Anyway, this gave me and my bud four hours to do whatever.

Following our whiffers, we made our way to the gaggin’ wagon for frybread tacos. I called all food vending trailers by that name. The smell of old deep fry oil hung heavy in the air no higher than our noses.

“Get yer wrinkled keester up here and let me put some meat on ya,” called out Maddy Hawk Legs, frybread champ of the Rez.

Clay, despite his fondness for her frybread tacos, wasn’t so friendly with Auntie after she ran him off one time for making a joke about her product. You could tease her but not the food. Seeing it was her wagon, he went to a nearby picnic table to wait.

Maddy, short for Madeline got her nickname for having the body shape of a real deal Ojibwe woman, meaning, very traditional as befitting ancestral conditioning to survive the elements. Legs, sinewy but tough, held up her strong and stocky trunk. 

A nice layer of pudge affectionately hugged her belly. At age 50-ish she was feisty and sharp. Hawk summed her up in the ability to spot good customers a long way off.

“Hey there Maddy, been a while!” I yelled from 20 yards out. “The bread done yet, I’m starving?”

“Migizi, that you? By gummie bears it is. Yah, 5 years exactly since you been back to the Rez.”

At the trailer window, I ordered 2 tacos and made small talk as her niece assembled the messy but scrumptious things.

“I hope you are using the vintage grease today, the stuff from maybe the last time I was here. Lends plenty to the flavor of the bread it does.”

“Watch it mister. You pickin’ on my bread or are you serious?”

“I’m serious. I think the older stuff gives depth and body to the taste, yes, in a good way.”

Clay rolled his eyes at me.

“Here’s your tacos, yours is free but not Clay’s. When I get the apology I’m owed I’ll be friendly again. Nice seein’ ya Migizi, how long you back for this time?”

“Ah, well, the calendar is blank. You know, like ancient days when time wasn’t.”

Clay, embarrassed at my effort to sound more traditional, shook his head while motioning for me to bring the food over.

“Good for you. Clock watchin’ is a good way to get the cancer ya know. Enjoy the Pow-Wow,” said Maddy Hawk Legs, her way of saying what we never say, good bye.

Clay and I sat in the shade of a big black ash tree while eating. I couldn’t help but wonder what might happen when his last pill wore off.

Copyright © 2015 Migizi M. New Song. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Gray Matters

For all my yapping and chest puffing, Clay knew better. I wasn’t fond of confrontation and embraced my native guy streak of laziness. Non natives saw it as lazy but we called it pacing. 

“What ya thinkin’ now Ain’t It?” asked Clay. His smug look dared me to answer or challenge his rhetorical question.

“I’m thinking this whole thing’s pretty much out of my control so lead on scout. Give me some idea of what your way of doing things might look like.

Grabbing the pill bottle, Clay shook it rhythmically like a gourd rattle and hummed a faked native tune. He walked to the cabinet above the coffee maker and placed the bottle inside.

“I’m puttin’ these here see. I think, if you truly want my real story, you’re gonna hafta meet the brain trust. They don’t like them pills ya know so I gotta stop taking ‘em. Get it?”

Bummed, I nodded anyway, his way and all that. A disturbing image came to mind. I saw two large glass measuring cups of 1 quart capacity sitting on the table, one for Clay, one for me. A bell rings and as if racing, we take the tops of our heads off and remove our brains. Wringing insanity from them and into our cups we see whose cup has more. I lost.

“Ain’t It, Ain’t It, HEY Ain’t It, ya with me bro?” asked Clay trying to get my attention.

“Huh? Oh, yes, I follow. But…ahem…can I ask a question without you thinking I’m criticizing your plan?”

Clay sat down and drummed his fingers on the table. They looked like little knobby soldiers doing a precision rifle drill. Toby appeared from the insect condos located somewhere under the table. He was no doubt using the one vacated by roach. That would be the native thing to do. Toby did a grass dance this time and honored me.

“Traitor,” says Clay to Toby who took offense and left. “Yah alright Migizi, ask away.”

I smiled and answered.

“His Favorite Gal knows the brain trust better than anyone including you. She’s off taking a break from it all. This tells us both how exhausting it must be to deal with you when you’re off the meds. That’s one thing. The thing I’m concerned about is how violent or harmful this, you, can get. We don’t need you getting kenneled up downtown. Should I be concerned?”

“The pills is right there in the cupboard Ain’t It. Use ‘em on me if need be. Actually, you got the better medicine anyhow. Just shoot me with the shotgun shell, I mean show me, jeez. It always works right? Don’t I always snap outta whatever funk I’m in when ya show me our friendship shell?”

I could argue the strategy but what would it matter? It all came down to doing the right thing or not.

“Alright brother, we’ll deal. Now what? It’s near lunch time already and I’m as hungry as a taped wormed dog.”

Clay leaned and raised his right butt cheek in the chair.

“Yah, me too, I ain’t even gots a fart I’m so empty. Hey dude, I know. The first Pow-Wow of the season starts today, yah, Friday of Memorial Day weekend. The first vendor to set up outside the circle is the Indian Taco stand. What ya say?”

“I’m in. Been forever since I had me a greasy ole frybread taco. Let’s dress and go.”

Copyright © 2015 Migizi M. New Song. All Rights Reserved.