All of Texas, and some of Connecticut, too
Last night, one of the kids in the tutoring program was telling me about how he got kicked out of Texas. "All of Texas?" I asked. "The whole thing" he said, pretending to feel some remorse about it. But really, it sounded like he enjoyed himself just fine when he evacuated to Houston after Katrina.
"It was good to do some sight-seeing," he said. "I mean, man, I ain't never left the Sixth Ward before that - I got to Houston and I was, like, on another planet. I was wildin' out."
"Wilding out" apparently consisted of transferring from school to school ("I just told 'em my grandma's cousin's baby daddy died and so I had to go..."), bagging babes along the way. "Had girls taking care of me, buying me clothes and stuff -- it was nice," he said. "I'd put the toe tag on 'em when it wasn't no fun anymore, and move on to the next."
It's a little alarming to hear a 17-year-old use the term "toe-tagging" to mean he dumped a girlfriend - especially a 17-year-old who did 18 months in prison for attempted murder (he was released just two days before Katrina hit).
"You want to be a kept man, you better start treating your girlfriends better," I told him, and I should have anticipated his response: "You married?"
A busload of volunteers arrived, a dozen white college students from the Northeast, mostly. "What's a Connecticut?" my student asked, and even though he was trying to be funny, I honestly don't think he'd ever heard of it. The girls from Connecticut were easily charmed, though, and within minutes of break-time no fewer than four of them were touching the tattoos on his arms and shoulders, offering him compliments on the bandana he wore, Tupac-style. I couldn't help but think that this little cultural exchange wasn't exactly edifying for my student -- the volunteers might learn a thing or two, I suppose, but he definitely wasn't going to learn anything new.
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