Selected by Tucson Poet Laureate TC Tolbert as part of the Hotel Congress 100th Anniversary Poetry Contest!
Standing at a safe distance in the background,
watching the younger generation play metal and tour the world,
and the generation younger than them mimic 90s grunge and 80s gothic new wave with a peppering of surfer frat influence
makes me feel seasoned.
I, myself blending chola hoops, fuchsia pink lip stain, a tight mid-length black skirt with flores that match my lips, Cons older than some of my college students, and a shirt with the severed head of an orange megalomaniac living in a dump of a white house—that was indeed my own political statement.
Beside me is a friend who makes me feel cool.
A friend who has seen me morph back and forth between genres, aesthetics, friends, ideology, place, and has yet to judge or hurt me.
Surrounding me are friends
- little punk brothers
- family who now avoid eye contact
- hipsters relocating from other cities and other sides of town
- students—former and future
- educators—former and future
- Derby grrls and the eyes that ogle them
- bigger buildings, brighter lights, dirt lots turned parking lots,
- parking lots turned nighttime dance floors
- the ghosts of John Dillinger and the thousands before me
who have ended their days with a cheap, stiff drink.
I feel alive tonight.
I feel like my old self.
I feel a happiness I know to be fleeting, but for right now I’m going to relish in it.
I’m going to keep going.
I’m back on a paved path, crutch accessible, hopefully wheelchair accessible too.
My personal is political, and I’m inserting fun and boundaries into my politics because I can.
What immense, unearned power; what an immense, earned mind.
I stand in the back row at a metal show, my grrl at my side and friends on stage.
Between us, the legacy continuing of weird kids, kids trying to be weird,
leftist ideology and its best thrift store finds, the most obscure band shirts, mom jeans, scene politics, Sonoran dogs, Black Sabbath, Ziggy Stardust, Ian Curtis, New Order, Municipal Waste, Slayer, Nirvana, the Beach Boys, Sepultura, Selena, Converge, Cannibal Corpses, Tupac Shakur, Modest Mice, !!!, Castles made of Crystals, Prayers
and all the other music makers and hustlers that saved us all or created space for us to breathe.
El desierto. El centro. La Calle?
Mi vida. Mía.
The poem “HOCO Fest in My Hometown, 2017” is an amalgamation of uncovering hidden stories about Tucson from generations before her and the un-quantifiable time she spent as a youngster in downtown Tucson going to punk rock shows and finding shelter in sub-cultural spaces.
Alisha Vasquez is 5th generation Tucsonense whose family has strolled down Congress St. since immigrating to Tucson in 1880 from Altar, Sonora, Mexico. A trained historian and the first in her family to attend college, she’s filled with historical tidbits that represent decolonial uncoverings about her hometown such as the fact Congress Street was called Calle de la Alegria until 1871 when imposing Americans erased the happy street to be renamed after the Congress Hall Saloon erected in 1868. And before being called Calle de la Alegria, the land was cared for by those indigenous to these lands. She comes from a long lineage of Tucson carriage makers, blacksmiths, adobe house-builders, and chingonas. Her Chicana-krip-queerish bodymind exists intersectionally while inhaling monsoon dirt and creosote year after year after year. Alisha is an educator and credits street kids, community activists, her mama, and those without official titles as her greatest teachers.