Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Saint of Ansul Avenue

Ansul Avenue was the name of the unpaved, dirt road in our Barrio in South Modesto where my uncles, Quirino and Juana Mendoza used to live when I was a kid. After they died, the house remained vacant for some time, and just after I married and asked my cousin Sally if we could rent it and she conceded to let us have it for $50. a month which was cheap even for the 1960's.

It was a simple wooden structure which my uncle had built, with 4 small bedrooms, one bath, a rickety old garage and out buildings where we lived for about two years, memorable ones being that it was our first home which we relished in making our own.

Goodwill and second-hand stores obliged us with many bargains on used tables and furniture, and the rest I myself built from bricks and wood, and my wife's wifely artistic touches for decor.

After a time, I ran into an old high school friend-of-a-friend, Bill Briggs who rented a room from us and shared in the expenses, while my wife cooked for the three of us. It was an idyllic setting, one we cherished for a time to come. Bill learned to love Mexican food, especially the hot salsa my wife made from scratch.

He and I had much in common, our love for books, jazz, philosophy (bullshitting), and cheap red wine. We prided ourselves in finding cheap wine at the local liquor stores, but our major find was when we discovered "Vino Americano", a Burgundy wine, at 99 cents a gallon! Much deep philosophy emanated from this find.

It was during this time, probably well into the depths of that gallon of Vino Americano, and deep into some pseudo religious philosophical debate that he said to me one day, "Richard, you are the Saint of Ansul Avenue."  I was flattered but somewhat embarrassed being compared to a saint. Being the sinner that I was, I had hardly considered myself a saint. A devil maybe, but not a saint!

I had, of course seen the plaster and wooden statues of saints at church and watched people light candles before them and my mother lighting candles and praying to them on her home altar. But me, a saint? Maybe, if I stretched it little, or redefined the word some, I might, on a long shot, qualify. I had always pictured the saints as people who suffered much, denied themselves the pleasures of life, and prayed incessantly, and certainly not ones who indulged on worldly lusts and Vino Americano.

Anyway, I have mostly forgotten that moniker, until my wife's recent illnesses and life in chronic pain when a friend visited us and after sharing our struggles and suffering with her, she said "Ay, Don Ricardo, es usted un santo." (Oh, Richard you are a saint.) "Si", I said jokingly, "un santo con cuernos!" I responded, making the sign of two "horns" on my head. She laughed inconsolably. "No, usted es un santo", she repeated.

Now, that makes two people who have endowed me with the title. How many more votes do I need to be canonized, 10? 12? But I'm kidding, of course, and may the real saints forgive me.

Nonetheless, I will continue in the hope that my good deeds blot out my sins, or at least some of them. Please light a candle for me (not to me), the Saint of Ansul Avenue.


#167 Dad said...

Man Rick, this is great prose. You should put the stories of your life a collection. I'm a big fan.

Rick Rivers said...

As usual thanks for the read and comments. I need a push, I suppose, as I have often contemplated publishing. In fact, I have the title which is one I used when I did a series of public readings recently, "Tales From The Barrio". Keep pushing me, Bill! Let me know when the printed version of your book is out.

#167 Dad said...

Tales from the Barrio is a great title.
How many stories and poems do you have, Rick?

Rick Rivers said...

I have some 15 stories 1-3 pages in length each. Poems lots but I think the stories should go separate? When you get some time can you email me some tips on how you went about publishing your book? Steps/cost etc.?