A life time ago, a nerdy, frequently picked on, little caucasian kid, lugging his school books around in a briefcase, his nose always stuck in a book, was a member of his Middle School Orchestra, in 7th, and 8th grades, playing the violin.
A fellow member was a spindly little Hispanic 8th, and 9th grader, named Ruben T. Mesa, who played the Viola.
This was 1972-1974, in Pomona, Ca., and while we never hung out together, that I can recall, we were friendly "Comrades in Bow Strokes and Classical Music" as we entered our turbulent teen years.
We entered Pomona High School together, he as a 10th grader, and I as part of the 1st 9th grade class.
I lost track of him after that as his life took turns typical of many of Pomona's troubled Hispanic, and Black youth of that era.
Recently, on Facebook, former classmates at Pomona High School, from the 70's, 80's, and 90's, and even earlier, have been re-connecting, and having a blast doing so.
Among the women who found me was one who had married Ruben as a teen, and had a child with him, before they divorced.
Funny how things work out in life.
They are are friends on FB, and thru her finding me, Ruben said hello, and we have become re-connected after over 30 years. ;-D
He remembered me from the bookstore I worked at from 1984 to 2001, because he was a frequent customer, but when I saw his current photo, and compared it to the Ruben I remember, I had to laugh because this would explain why I don't remember him from the bookstore days. ;-D
As he wrote me:
I used to frequent the bookstore on Holt often, which is where I'd see you.
I dropped out of Pomona High-actually kicked out after a fight.
I married...and started working...The eighties found me in what seemed to be an an endless party, followed by the 90's where I had to pick up the tab...
Should have stuck to the viola!!!!
I did however get my GED in 1998 in San Diego County Jail!
I've been up here in Northern Ca. for about a year, attend church and stay away from any forms or variations of the previous life!!!!
The world is full of stories about people who, somehow, or another, eventually find the strength of character to finally "Get their Shit Together", and begin the long, difficult, journey toward building a life that is a 2nd chance.
As Ruben says, "It's the tragedies of our past that build character for us to be who we are."
From skinny kids in the Orchestras of Mrs. Buxbaum, and Mr. Pratt, to "Survivors" of all that life has thrown at us so far, we have both come a long way.
I want to share with you some of what Ruben has done, and is doing, as seen on his website.
I want you to meet Mr. Payaso, The Assasin of Mediocrity!
What you will find, when you explore his website, is interesting, thought-provoking, funny, and serious, and will give you as much Food For Thought, as any other site in that list in my sidebar.
The first thing you will notice are links to the websites of newspapers, and magazines, that reflect where he came from, and where he lives today.
The first thing you will notice about Ruben, upon seeing him, are his tattoos, a varied lot that reflect the many roads that his life has travelled, and you can get a close-up look on his "My Tattoos" page.
He has a page devoted to a few samples of photo restoration, special effects, and video that Ihe's done over the last couple of years, called "Samples of my Work":
His parody of a very famous scene in The Godfather is a hoot, and you will never look at Barbie Dolls the same way again. ;-D
His short video showing off some of his labels, and photo restoration work, begins with a quote that will make you think, and his video tribute to a friend named Beatrice is cool.
He links to the pages of several people he knows, or knew, and even links to the tragic, complex, story of an old High School Classmate of ours, Harvey Hawks.
In 2004, a story was published by Peter Camann and Curt Kimbel, called "A BADLANDER'S REDEMPTION
THE LIFE & TIME OF HARVEY HAWKS".
On the Message boards of the Silverfish Longboarding Website, in January 2009, a thread was begun, that shared that story from Concrete Wave Magazine, and asks the simple question: Who is Harvey Hawks...and why should you care?
The article is shared in 5 posts, by the publisher of Concrete Wave, Michael Brooke, followed by Mr. Brooke's latest letter to the Parole Board, that same month.
I have had a few inquiries about Harvey Hawks. He was a former skater who wound up in jail.
Of course, there is AN AWFUL LOT MORE to the story. If you have a few minutes, take the time to read this story.
If don't have a lot of time, skip to the part about the muder, the trial and Harvey's life in jail...and see my letter to the board of parole from Jan 9th, 2009.
Harvey was a more complex kid than many of us even had a clue about, and the crime he committed was one he deserved to serve time for, but how long is too long, when you do all you can to change your life while in prison, so that you can be deserving of parole, and a second chance at life on the outside?
There are no simple answers to this story, and the questions it raises, but there is at least 1 person who is not refusing to stop asking questions, and showing support for someone whom he thinks deserves that support.
I am joining Ruben in posting a link to this story, and the discussion it has sparked.
Growing up, and living, in Pomona, from 1969 to 2001 I was witness to the goings on of all the Black and Hispanic gangs in town, and how the police, and city officials succeeded, and failed, in dealing with this scourge.
It is an ongoing battle, to this day, despite the success against the 12th Street gang that the 2006 Ca. Attorney Generals Office Press Release trumpets, in the link called "It Happened in P-Town".
I grew up knowing many of the Black gangbangers in the neighborhood I grew up in, The Islands, and despite the efforts of Community Activist, former Cop, and former City Councilman, Willie White, change didn't come easy to that part of town, and things were even worse in that area "Controlled' by the historically old, established, 12th Street gang.
On his "No perfect People Allowed " page Ruben shares his Love of Christ, and the video of his baptism, and that of his granddaughter, and his efforts to set up an Online Radio project related to his church, and to spreading The Word of God.
His page devoted to his company, Mr. Payaso Productions introduces you to his efforts in the production of Video/DVD, and Photo Restoration, as well as an online radio effort to "Bring Music to the Masses!" ("Which is hard to do when you only have one listener!").
Fire and Gasoline Internet Radio? It's not as strange as it sounds. ;-D
The best link on his site, though, is found on his "About Me" page, and is to the videos on the YouTube site he's had since 2007.
This stuff is entertaining, sometimes funny, and often thought provoking, and very well made.
Some of it was filmed in the Pomona, and Inland Empire area, where we both grew up, and brough back a few memories.
Video as seen through Klown Eyes. Different kinds of things I trip on and maybe you do too!
His modest, well made, efforts are an inspiration to anyone who wants to try their hand at putting something up on YouTube for all the world to see and comment on.
"Driver's Seat" is the name of the song that is matched with footage of life on the streets of Pomoma, to interesting, moving, effect, bringing back memories of my 30 plus years in the city.
Mr Payaso and Elysiah's (grandaughter) Baptism.
Mystik Sampler / Overnight Sensation.
The extremely short, but amusing "Whatever's Clever Entertainment", and "Tubby".
The touching "Make it With You".
The absolutely adorable, moving tribute called "Dolly's BBB".
The absolutely wonderful, and moving, tribute to a friend, and his "MOM", full of images culled from a lifetime, and set to music.
All I can say about the silly "Ratman" is I hope their kids, and grandkids, won't be too embarrassed when they see this for the 1st time, hee, hee! ;-D
"New sampler 4 08", and "Ladies and Gentlemen", are collections of his creative work.
"Cruisin" is a tribute to that pastime of young people, and car lovers, of just about every generation, combining a cool song, and great work with miniatures.
In addition there is "Cruise Night" at the Grinder Haven, in 4 minutes with the California Car Club, and "Down South Car Club Music Video", another 4 minutes with the Club at the Grinder, and all set to some nice music.
A bit of family fun called "Christines Birthday".
Speaking of life on the street, and the path ones life can take, Ruben includes 2 videos by RLA, that touch on the subject in powerful ways, via the voice of "underground hip hop culture from Oklahoma City", and 1 in particular is outstanding!... "RLA -The Fucked Up Life". (See Update, below, for more about the group.)
Yes, the language is rough at times, but this stunning piece presents a very clear point to ponder.
His more than 40 Favorites are an interesting collection as well.
Check out PtownPayaso's YouTube page, as linked above. ;-D
Also on Rubens website is a link to Dial "B" for Blog, a site that this former comic book lover finds absolutely amazing, and utterly fascinating!
I am honored that Ruben chose me as the 2nd Blog to list on his website, alongside such an unusual, and special, example of what can be found in the Blogosphere. ;-D
Some might think it odd, at first glance, for me to slip a link to Rubens website in amongst the list of websites in my sidebar that I call "Food For Thought", but I don't.
Creativity, and thought-provoking opinion, and observations of the world in which we live, as expressed in the written, spoken, and visual realms come from people of all walks of life, ethnic backrounds, and political persuasions, and sometimes what I find worth sharing will, I hope, shake up some of those assumptions you might have about people who are not like you, and don't believe, think, or vote, like you.
In my 49 years I've known some interesting, and complex, people, from all walks of life, and I am finding that getting re-acquainted with a long, but never completely, forgotten classmate is an interesting, and cool, experience.
Visit Mr. Payaso, you won't regret the experience.
2/27/12 - Mr. Payaso has a new, better, Home Page, even as the old still can be visited
Ruben sends me a note that explains why I thought I saw him in RLA's Videos! ;-D
"Kiril, thanks for the killer review! I've had that site about 5 years, and it's more of a hobby than anything else, but your review really made me feel like sombody!!
I dont know if you knew, but the RLA is my sons rap group.
I can't thank you enough for the review!
We mite not be bad, we mite not be tuff, but we're from the Ptown and thats enuff!!!"
We were tougher than we realized, my friend, to survive the different courses our lives took, and it took me into my 40's, changing careers, moving out of Pomona, going online, meeting new friends, and re-discovering my talent for writing, to begin to realize it.
A Google Search found the MySpace page for RLA (Relentless Lyrical Assasins), a 4 year old group, with talent that can't be denied, whether you like their music, and message, or not.)
About "Ratman" Ruben says it was a tribute to another classmate of ours, who was in 10th grade, at Pomona, the year I graduated:
A good friend I grew up with. He took the excess of the 80's a bit too far, and his liver is shot!
I saw him about a year ago, and almost cried!
He weighd less than 100 lbs., and was given 3 months to live.
That's why I posted that video.
As far as I know he's still alive.
Now that I know the why of this video I hope that his kids, grandkids, and family treasure it, even as they laugh, and may feel embarrassed about it.
As one whose Fathers last 18 years of life were a tragic, complex, part of my growing up, from childhood into my late 20's, I encourage them to cherish the good times, and memories.