I was living in Hesperia right up the street from the California Aqueduct which served as my recreation. For the five months I lived there I’d run the paths that ran along side the dark water. I put miles on those paths glancing at the Mariana Mountains—running passed bugs and lizards and the tiny green ripples that were slowly making their way to L.A.

After my run I’d spend time sitting under the Cottonwood Bridge reading or watching the water roll passed me. Sure, it wasn’t the salty view of the Pacific Ocean or feeling the rush of the ice-cold mountain water that made up the Merced River, but it was water nonetheless. Memories flooded my head pulling me through the years as I watched the swirling pools; the ripping desert wind that picked up the water and turned it white; the crows caw, caw, caw towards Rancho Cucamonga.

At the time I was reading Wurtzel’s Prozac Nation. The original owner of the book fell into a quasi-depression halfway into it, had enough whining and bitching, and gave it to me not knowing in the past I had a serious bout of depression that crippled me under the neon lights of Las Vegas. I opened up the book and read the chapters. The prologue read I Hate Myself and Want to Die. One chapter was titled Love Kills. Another read Black Wave. Another read Woke Up This Morning Afraid I Was Gonna Live. Great, I thought, another brooding writer. But I figured my dreary I-hate-myself-and-want-to-die days were so far behind me I’d be safe cracking open the book and reading about someone else’s misery.

I took the book under the bridge and started reading.


When I was a kid my dad would take me down to the L.A. River. This was his recreation along with smoking pot, selling pot, and drinking Budweiser. Him and my equally fucked up uncle and his three smudged kids and me would climb high into the tiny black widow and rat infested sewers and come sliding down into its nasty piss and shit water. They would scream with glee as they slipped to the bottom where they howled in celebration. This was supposed to be fun. I protested telling my stoned father that I didn’t want to go. But he didn’t listen to me—something that would be thematic throughout our decaying relationship. Almost every Friday night after my father and uncle finally peaked on beer and weed we’d make the trek down Monterey Road through Arroyo Seco Park to the river and do it all over again.

Sandra Bernhard

The aqueduct is full of life. Fish. Lizards. Bugs. Snakes. Squirrels. But the main attraction is the birds. Packs of various types of ducks waddle up and down the water. Mallard ducks with their gorgeous green heads scoot over the water, dip their heads in the water for food, crane their necks 180 degrees and pinch at their backs. There are these small crane-like birds that usually sit high on the wires that are draped along and across the aqueduct. Then they glide down into the water and land like an airplane. When they lift off they fly just over the water at a perfectly measured high speed. It’s quite a sight. But my favorite is this brown duck whose head is graced with wild wispy rust-orange feathers that make it the craziest looking bird in the aqueduct. And it’s the loudest. Every time I saw this duck it was making noise. It’s crazy-looking and loud.

A feathered Sandra Bernhard.

And then you have the crows. They come in the hundreds and litter the landscape in black. Always pecking at the dirt. Always hopping around. Always looking off in the distance for some action. Always in the air hovering, swooping, and landing. Always, always, always. Caw, caw, caw. They’re tenacious, they’re beautiful, and the desert is theirs.

Fish and Whiskey

The fishermen showed up early in the morning. They usually drove trucks or SUVs. I’d watch them as they methodically took out their fishing gear, cigarettes burning and dangling from their mouths, sunglasses, vests infested with pockets. They’d come in all sizes, all ages. Skinny ones. Fat ones. Young ones with baseball caps and old ones in tattered bucket hats stabbed with hooks and lures. I saw many of the same ones day after day, week after week. Some of them I saw from the time I moved in to the time I packed up and left for Los Angeles. They usually had a regular spot, parking their gear where they did the day before and the day before that. They’d set up camp just as methodically as they did when they unloaded their gear. Blanket. Poles. Tackle box. Cooler. Some even set up overhead tents sheltering them from the white desert heat.

There was one fisherman that fished right down from where I used to read. After a few friendly hellos I learned his name to be Gene. Gene was somewhere in his sixties and came from Oklahoma. Tall. Big feet. Bony. Nervous rattling hands and deep blue-gray eyes. He was a Vietnam vet—had stickers telling you this fact plastered all over the back of his scuffed Ford Ranger. One day after he refilled his flask he asked me what I was reading. I told him.

“Depressed woman, huh? Well, I’ll tell you what. I’ve been married twice and have been around the world as least six times. They’re all depressed,” he said, looking over the water.

This got a laugh out of me.

“You like that? Well, I have more where that comes from.”

Over the weeks we got to know each other. He usually showed up high on booze and continued to get high with his luckless pole in his hands. Despite the fact that Gene had an abundance of nice shiny gear and brand new fishing clothes he rarely caught anything. He always had a bucket full of water to hold his catches. I’d always peek in the bucket to see what the day brought. After hearing me comment one too many times that he hadn’t caught anything he’d just give me the update as soon as I walked up.

“No need to look in that fuckin’ bucket, Reno. All the fish are in that goddamn water.”

“Bucket’s empty. Like our government.”

One day there were two fish in the bucket. I walked up.

“Well, go on. Take a look,” he slurred, jutting his chin towards the bucket. “Look and weep, buster. It’s dinner time.”

I looked in the bucket and saw two little green fish. They didn’t look like they’d make one taco. But I didn’t want to piss on the party.

“All right, man! Cook those dudes up.”

Around the same time I finished the book Gene was leaving for a couple of months traveling around the country and then heading back home to Oklahoma to visit his family. He had a tumultuous relationship with his family and this visit was going to serve as the last, that he wasn’t ever going to go back, that he was going to try and bury the ghosts that hovered over his folks and his siblings and come back to California clean. It was the last time I would ever see Gene again.

“It’s time,” he said, taking a hit from his flask. “It’s time.”

Mis Hijos

The legend of La Llorona, the Weeping Woman, is a story of a grieving woman who is found lurking around a body of water mourning and wailing the loss of her drowned children. Like many legends there are different versions of La Llorona whose origins can be linked to La Malinche the Indian interpreter and lover to Cortes. In the La Malinche version of La Llorona she drowns her children because Cortes abandons her for a high-bred Spanish woman. In another version she drowns her children so she could pursue another lover. In some versions she dies of old age. In other versions she commits suicide after drowning her children.

Growing up in East Los Angeles the L.A. River served as the stage for La Llorona. It was in the L.A. River where she drowned her kids and where she cried for them walking up and down its concrete banks. The version I was told served as a cautionary tale. I was told that if I misbehaved she was going to come in the middle of the night and take me away. As a kid I was petrified of this ghostly woman, cloaked in a flowing white gown, cold hands, cold eyes, and who wanted nothing better than to take me down to the river and drown me.

Ophelia died in water. So did Narcissus. Either by negligence or by accident, the California Aqueduct has served as a final resting place for some. Workers have died building or maintaining it. People have fallen in the aqueduct only to be swept away by its deceptive speed. Cars have spilled into it. Some have committed suicide in the aqueduct. The body of my high school track coach was found in the aqueduct. Mr. Byers was a good man and when I heard the news of his death I was devastated. He was my coach for two years.

“You know, Romero,” he told me after our last track meet of the season. “You were always my favorite on the relay team. Man, you owned that bend. I loved watching you run.”

Those were the last words he would ever say to me.

I don’t know if Mr. Byers took his life. There were rumors that he did. I don’t know. There were many times I sat under the bridge and wondered what happened to him on that sad day. The water knows. But it’s not saying a word.

I was sitting under the bridge finishing the last few pages of Prozac Nation when a grasshopper landed on the concrete in front of me. It wasn’t the typical beige grasshopper that buzzes over the desert’s hard dirt. This one was fully winged and electric-green. I lowered the book and watched him for a while and then went back to the book figuring that it would soon fly away. But it didn’t. It stayed there stretching out its legs. After a few minutes it climbed on my backpack and sat there for a while. I was reading when I heard it zip off and land in the water. I was confused. Do they do this for a reason? Could it easily take flight when it wanted to? Then I saw it struggling to get out of the water. It twisted in the water. Its back legs kicked feverishly. Then: snap. It was gone.

The aqueduct took another life.

TAGS: , , , , , , , , , , ,

RENO J. ROMERO was born in the badlands of El Sereno, California. A bona fide Las Vegan, he also lived in the dirty South for three miserable years, where he was introduced to depression, grits, humidity, and sweet tea. A graduate of UNLV, the Southern Nevada Writing Project, and seedy bars, he enjoys Chinese food, Tamron Hall, the Trickster, and football. He currently writes poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction from the California desert, living among rattlesnakes, old bones, and biker speed. He's been published in various publications including Falling From the Sky (short story anthology), Celebrity Poets, and Central Speak. He can be reached at [email protected]

41 responses to “Crows, Memory, and the Suicide Water”

  1. New Orleans Lady says:

    Yep, still fun to say.

    I’m so accustomed to reading your football rants or your sarcastic funny stories that I forget how poetic you can be. Descriptive. I love your take on the birds. Beautiful and relaxing.

    “They’re tenacious, they’re beautiful, and the desert is theirs.”
    That line is something I imagine someone would say about you.
    You’re tenacious, you’re beautiful, and the desert is yours.
    Yes. See, it fits.

    “Skinny ones. Fat ones. Young ones with baseball caps and old ones in tattered bucket hats stabbed with hooks and lures.” This reminds me of a speech Al Pacino gave as Lt.Col. Slade in Scent of a Woman.

    I love your Gene story.

    I don’t like the last story, Moose. It was written just fine but it was too sad for me. Too sad for me right now. Too much going on. You need to make me laugh. Now.


    • Reno Romero says:


      hello there, brees. rancho cucamonga! yes, it is funny to say. back in the day that city sucked eggs, but now it’s a pretty city pushed up against the san bernardino mountains. well, brees, thankd for reading. poetic, eh? why thank you. rants and sarcasm? me? nah. you might have the wrong guy, NOL. just maybe.

      the desert is a majestic place. it just is. when i came upon it in ’81 i was immediately smitten. I think it’s the silence that hovers over the ground. the mountains in the distance. the low bushes that hide little critters. and the crows. in the desert folk see them as pigeons. nasty little fuckers always eating the dead scraps of road kill. and, yes, that’s what they do. but they do other things. they haunt the desert. they give it song with their hollow calls. they sit in the trees and WATCH.

      you’d like it here. especially, if you had someone to show you its thin trails, crack you open a delicious cactus cooler in the shadow of an ancient joshua tree. yep.

      thanks for reading, NOL, and thanks for the kind comments. you’re the best. and i like you. so there.

      caw, caw,
      reno romero

      • New Orleans Lady says:

        I want to visit the desert. Visit your desert.
        You’ll have to show me around. Be warned, I may try to capture tiny creatures and keep them as pets until the mighty Mississippi calls me home. I’m just like that. Lizards and injured baby crows in shoe boxes. You’d go bananas but I’d be happy so you would just have to deal.

        Mmmmmmm…cold cactus cooler under the shade of a joshua tree. You read or sing and I’ll play with the critters and sketch the scenes…


        • Reno Romero says:


          i believe that you’d like my land. it’s purdy, stark, parched, and alive. hey, if you want to catch the critters then be my guest. but you have to put them back after you’re done playing with them. when i was a teen i had a few scorpions, lizards, snakes, as pets. i’d always return them. i did keep one scorpion for a year or so. he had an appetite. loved black widows which the desert is full of. if i wanted to feed him (i think i called that one bruce dickinson – iron maiden’s singer) i go out in my garage or look under the edges of the house for his meals. he ate piles of black windows. piles.

          cactus coolers are a desert staple. they are just plain yummy. orange/pineapple drink. damn delicious. i do know how to play guitar and if you give my pet monkey some cashish i’ll play for you. counting crows. cat stevens. white stripes. frank black. i know gobs of jams and i’ll have you howling at the moon in no time. i read for free. my monkey refuses to take cash for such services. you’d have tons of things out there to paint, brees. i’ll send you some pics to get you warmed up. well, again, thanks for reading. bye-bye, brees.

          the hardest button to button,
          reno romero

  2. Jim Lyons says:

    Another gem,R.J. Thank you for getting.me out of.my post-work funk tonight. Now I can rest well.

  3. Reno Romero says:


    hey, you’re welcome my friend. thanks for reading. now, make yourself a deep drink and enjoy the silence. tell them MI boys i said ‘sup. later, gator.

    eff fat ryan,
    reno romero

  4. Zara says:

    This rolls off the page like a hot dry desert wind. I love the images that you share here. Life in all its forms. Life in all its struggles. I, like you, love the cries of the crows. The sound is ancient
    I remember you pointing out the LA river to me with its concrete banks. I can easily imagine your ghost walking there. An urban Ophelia surrounded, not by wildflowers, but with wallflowers and desert flowers and all the faded blooms of the city.
    Lovely piece, D.

  5. Jessica Blau says:

    Oh Reno, this is SO great. You perfectly illuminate this place and the sort mystical quality it has.

    I want MORE stories about your father and your uncle. You gave just a bit, but it’s clear there’s a whole novel in that story. I’d love to read more!

    • Reno Romero says:


      heh. oh, there are many stories of those two maniacs. us going to tijuana and smuggling fireworks. my dad and my uncle having too many beers and throwing blows. it goes on and on. my father was a crazy beer-drinking dude. handsome church going guy that reeked havoc throughout los angeles. he’s still alive out there doing whatever it is that he does. but you bet: more stories. you’re right, jessica. hey, thanks for reading. take care.

      reno romero

  6. Reno Romero says:


    zeeeeeeeeeeeeee! oh, i do remember our walks (do i have to go over our “i’m effin outta here” bit?) and you seeing the smoggy L.A. River. when you land here again we’ll walk arroyo seco park and look for critters and a happening mex restaurant that serves chicken and rice. arroz con pollo! consider it done and done. thanks for reading, z. don’t forget to blow a kiss at those volcanoes when you stroll on by. i wish those guys were hanging out in my back yard. i’d eat lunch on their slopes. we’d be friends. take care, z.

    in black,
    reno romero

  7. Man, I’ve been stuck on dreaming back to South California for at least a week now, thanks to my own latest post, and here you go and send me over the edge. I love all these descriptions, like the smudged kids and the electric-green grasshopper and just about everything about Gene. You make it look easy, which I know it almost never is.

    And I think the original tale had Narcissus drowning in the LA River, right?

    Wonderful, fully alive writing you’ve got here.

    • Reno Romero says:

      mr. missildine:

      good morning from the CA desert. how are you, man? hope all is groovy. read your story about so. cal and your bastard of a boss. what an ass! and now this story which is all right here in your old back yard. i think you would have liked gene. he was a real character and a good guy. heelarious. he had me buckled under the CA sun many times with his observations. never underestimate those aged ones that have been around the block a few times. they have pearls. but i’m sure you know this. thanks for reading, sir. much appreciation.


  8. Alison Aucoin says:

    “But I figured my dreary I-hate-myself-and-want-to-die days were so far behind me I’d be safe cracking open the book and reading about someone else’s misery.” Whoa, dangerous thought…


    • Reno Romero says:

      hi, alison. yeah, you know, you’re right: dangerous thought. looking back i was taking a chance at being “triggered” by her woes you know? i don’t know what the hell i was thinking. it was kinda like one of those kid things. you know the stove is hot but you still have to touch it. just to SEE. what a perfect fool i am! but i made it through. after i read about wurtzel’s suffering, i knew mine wasn’t all that bad. well, maybe. anyhow, enough of my yapping, alison. have a great day (and a glorious playoff weekend) and thank you kindly for reading. cheers.


  9. The Sandra Bernhard duck made me smile because I always find myself picking a favorite in a flock of birds when I see them. I sometimes name them, or decide who is the king and queen of the group. It reminds me of being a kid, when it was so very important to have your favorite everythings decided and ready to recite.

    I could perfectly picture Oklahoma Gene from the way you described him.

    “The water knows. But it’s not saying a word.”

    It’s nice of you to speak for the water this way; with haunting memories, and good writing.

    I really liked reading this one, Reno. Give California a kiss for me.

    • Reno Romero says:


      oh, my god, tawni, you would love this duck. pretty, wild-looking, and loud. they’re nothing short of precious and every time i saw one i wanted to catch it and take it home and give it ham sandwiches and root beer. you know, just to hang out with me! they’re gorgeous and as i write i know of them fuckers is going down the aqueduct squawking up a storm. brilliant. awesome. precious.

      i miss those aqueduct days and need to get my but up there and do it all over again. hey, thanks for reading, tawni. you’re fandamntastic. hope you and the family are doing swell. california: muah!

      playing geeetar,
      reno romero

  10. you had me at: a feathered Sandra Bernhard. wonderful piece…fantastic images.

    • Reno Romero says:

      hey, robin. ha! hey, that’s what those dudes looked like. loud. wild red hair/feathers. wide saucer-like mouth. you know how they say after time we look like our pets? this is true. when i had long hair (and would tuck it behind my ears) i looked like my basset hound. well, this duck and bernhard are twins. heh. really. okie doke, robin, you have a grand day and i’ll to the same. thanks for your time.

      swan diving,
      reno romero

  11. Judy Prince says:

    “The fishermen showed up early in the morning. They usually drove trucks or SUVs. I’d watch them as they methodically took out their fishing gear, cigarettes burning and dangling from their mouths, sunglasses, vests infested with pockets. They’d come in all sizes, all ages. Skinny ones. Fat ones. Young ones with baseball caps and old ones in tattered bucket hats stabbed with hooks and lures.”

    Love that, Reno J!

    And Gene’s the Real Dude, always fishing but getting nada. This was the perfect touch: “No need to look in that fuckin’ bucket, Reno. All the fish are in that goddamn water.”

    You’ve been honing your craft, Reno J, and I definitely like it. More more more! And give us your brand of Trickster…….

    grilled salmon and Reese Cup Ice Cream,


  12. Reno Romero says:


    hey, there you are! awesome! hey, thank you kindly for the compliments. every once in a while i do pull out these more mellow tales that are void of guitars feed-backing, women screaming, people humping, beer-drinking (wait! this one has an older feller who loves his whiskey. anyhow…), etc. anyhow, this was fun to write and i’m glad some of it worked for you.

    those darn fishermen. very interesting folk, indeed. the whole setting up and breaking down. the patience they MUST possess. the wrapped sandwiches and superstition. i watched these guys closely. i think one can write whole books on the doings, techniques, of these people. gene was surly one of them. i miss that man. the luckless pole. the sharp clothes. the two little fish he caught. what a story. i have another one (maybe two) that i wrote about him. perhaps i should put em together and see what happens?

    i think Iktomi is my Trickster. he was a stinker. and a bastard. and a full-blown clown. and what’s life w/o a lil’ clowning around?

    country-fried steak and jell-o,
    reno romero

    • Judy Prince says:

      Yes, stories about Gene—-put ’em together, and let’s see what happens, Reno J!

      And stories about Iktomi, the bastard, the stinker and the full-blown clown, too.

      BTW, I didn’t get an email letting me know about your response, above. Dunno why not.

      Yeah, I know you’re a mighty versatile writer, Reno J. That’s cool, I think. Rodent and I were talking about how in France, apparently for hundreds of years, it’s perfectly normal/acceptable/expected that a writer of philosophy will also write popular novels, but here in the States, it’s not on; it would feel strange to us readers as well as writers to do both philosophical books as well as fiction.

      I’ll keep my eyes open for more of your work!

      Beansprouts, edamame and seaweed salad with lentil-garlic soup, and a chaser of raspberry smoothie,


  13. Richard Cox says:

    I love the Sandra Bernhard thing but this is my favorite line:

    “No need to look in that fuckin’ bucket, Reno. All the fish are in that goddamn water.”

    Haha. I think what fascinates me most about this place is how you evoke the mystical out of what amounts to grungy, man-made bodies of water. It’s poetry about nature and man’s vision superimposed upon it.

    That’s interesting what Gene said about women and their ubiquitous depression. But in any case, Elizabeth Wurtzel is a damned good writer. Or at least she was in that book. Although I never quite finished it because by the end I got so sick of the whining I couldn’t take it anymore. And I have a lot of patience.

    Great piece, man. As always.

    • Reno Romero says:

      mr. cox:

      you would have got a kick out of gene. he was a pure character. i told a few people about him and most of them knew of a “gene” or had a “gene” they were related to. he was kinda universal. anyhow he was a good man and i hope that he’s doing a-ok out there. i also hope his luck in catching fish was bumped up a bit. that man never caught shit. that was funny unto itself.

      the aqueduct is not a place someone would find beauty. i was fortunate to be given the chance to see its finer points. i mean what’s to like about a man-made river? technically, nothing. but the water brought out the animals. and when animals are in the equation it’s usually a good thing. in this case the birds and such made the aqueduct more than a man-made river. they made it a home.

      depressed women? shit. you know what’s out there. i did date a depressed woman. in fact she was my first taste of the blues. i can’t say that gene was right, but i can say that what he said gobs of men (and women) will agree.

      thanks for reading, sir. really appreciate it. championship weekend around the bend. see you on the fifty.


  14. jmblaine says:

    can write about

    I think the hot trend
    in writing will be
    no more whiny
    broody writers.

    The peoples want fun.

    You’re always fun.
    You don’t take yourself too seriously.

    • Reno Romero says:

      hello, 11.

      …the brooding writer. well, in short, i’m not into them. and it’s only because it seems i’ve read all those miserable writers. i don’t need another emo baby bringing me down. i’m not interested in wallowing. not anymore anyway. i’d rather do yard work, eat rice cakes.

      thank you, my good man, for reading my junk. i’m still waiting for us to tackle a post together. perhaps we can write about metal. jesus and metal. i know a little about both of these subjects. and i know you do to. okay, 11, your titans sucked eggs this year, but you didn’t. and for this i’m grateful. take care out there, brother.

      breaking the chains,

      • jmblaine says:

        I always thought Jesus
        was allright with metal
        because I was taught
        while man looks upon the outward
        God looked upon the heart
        & at the heart of metal it was about
        enjoying life and living in the moment
        & you know for the most part it
        was never mean-spirited.
        There’s a part in the Iron Maiden doc
        where Nicko talks about all that
        and it’s really endearing.

        Not my Titans.

        • Reno Romero says:

          hello, again, 11. wow. i think you’re onto something here: metal and god get to the heart of the matter. and they do. you’re right metal never was mean-spirited. and even though i preferred my metal with some punch doused with a touch of evil (dio, maiden, sabbath, armored saint, priest) they were never mean-spirited. i always loved nicko. one hell of a drummer and very hilarious. on the b-said to many of their import CDs/albums there were these “conversations with nicko” type things were he yapped it up about the recording of the songs, what was on his mind, etc. they were hysterical.

          titans not yours? don’t be fibbin’, 11. this is not a good time to start fibbin’ to your brother. remember: he’s always listening…

          2 minutes to midnight,
          reno romero

  15. I live near Woman Hollering Creek (also a Sandra Cisneros story) that was so named, I’ve been told, after the La Llorona story. I’m a little morbidly fixated on both this story and this creek. When I was a kid, my friends and I were convinced an elderly neighbor was really La Llorona. So we’d dare each other to run up to her doorstep and leave peace offerings of wildflowers lest she drag us out of our beds at night and drown us. I love how you work it in here as well as the imagery all around. Good stuff, Reno!

  16. Reno Romero says:


    oh, i love cisneros – saw her read at UNLV. i was starstruck. “house on mango street” was a huge influence on me. the little weaved stories was/is a keeper. so you know of the weeping woman, eh? very cool, cynthia. funny how this tale has spanned time and land. it’s actually quite beautiful when you think about it. i love folklore. love it. love it. love it. i would have put flowers on that woman’s doorstep. hey: you never know, right? she might have been La Llorona. sadly, as adults we lose (not all of us of course) the splendor of magic, being able to make the fictive leap. but these stories remind us of bloody mary in the mirror, the vanishing hitchhiker.

    much appreciation, cynthia. keep writing. and reading.

    reno romero

    • Ah, Sandra’s great, isn’t she? You know, she lives here in San Antonio, and I’ve had the occasion to meet her very briefly twice. Cool lady. One of my literary heroes.

      • Reno Romero says:


        oh, you are in the know. i’ve bought so many copies of “mango” for people. all of them love it. but what’s not to love? those lil’ vignettes are colorful, funny, and organic. again, a huge influence on me in regards to writing with economy. she’s bad. and that’s all that’s to it.

  17. Amanda says:

    My favourite part was the ducks pinching at their backs (because in real life, the little sound ducks make when they do that is also one of my favourite things)…and then I came to the part about the two runty little fishes who wouldn’t make one taco.

    Man, I always forget fish can go inside those things and make a delicious supper.

    • Reno Romero says:


      i love it when those lil’ duckies are passed out with their necks craned and stuffed in their feathers. beauty heaped on beauty. hey, i’m telling you that those little fish wouldn’t have made a single taco! at least not the ones i like to sink my teeth into. fish tacos rule. i love them. so now it’s your duty, amanda: get some folk together, grill some fish, heat up some CORN tortillas, get some fixins’, a batch of margaritas (or Sprite in my case), and conjure the ghost of Pancho Villa! okie doke, have a swell night.

      sweet talk,
      reno romero

  18. Matt says:

    Reno, one of these days we’re going to have to get together and swap stories of our stints in the Inland Empire. Lived there for four years while doing my time at UCR, and I reckon there’s still dust on my boots from Riverside, Rancho Cucamonga, and Moreno Valley.

    The CA aquaduct is a fugly thing, isn’t it? Crude concrete reproduction of what the Colorado river does naturally. Claimed a lot of lives, and yet without living in the lower half of the state would be next to impossible. Such a hefty toll for some water. But I guess that’s the way we’ve always related to our water, isn’t it?

    • Reno Romero says:


      ah, the inland empire! i know that land very well. someday, bro, we’ll sit down and talk all things san berdo county…

      the CA aqueduct is not ugly in these parts. in fact it’s pretty clean. but i know what you’re talking about. combined with a beautiful view of the san berdo and mariana mtns it’s not too bad. but i’ve seen this fucker when it goes down the hill to the city and its gruesome citizens.

      so. cal would be duck soup if it wasn’t for this man-made river. the folk up north hate us because of that aqueduct. can’t say i blame them. oh, well.

      thanks for reading, sir. hope all is well out there for you.

      swimming with sharks,

  19. This is a bit experimental. Reflective. Was expecting the usual Remo football piece or metal on the road craziness. No, this was like T.Z. Hernandez “Breathing, In Dust.” Vignettes for the soul. God, his first chapter of killing a pig in a garage with Uncle Animal. I was right there. And now again, sliding down all that shit, man. I felt it. Yeah.

    • Reno Romero says:


      thank you, sir. i took an page out of my old TNB posts with these little pieces. like anything else sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. i’ll have to check out that writer. like his name. hey, thanks for the morning chuckle on your FB page. too funny. keep your ears peeled for more naughty utterances. bet you didn’t think that sucker was going to turn out the way it did. that’s high art, my man. okay, vato, see you in the barrio.

      tacos and bullets,

      • You called it. I actually said those words to a friend (Megan) in a text message. But I didn’t want everyone to think I was an ass. So I said I overheard it. I do hear weird shiz all the time and say stupid things too. So I post them when they come to me… Really love your writing as always.

  20. Angela Tung says:

    reno, this is terrific. i love how the different vignettes subtly, yet powerfully, connect.

    the Weeping Woman story reminds me of something strange: my cousin would have this dream about seeing a woman standing at the edge of the ocean with two children. the woman tell her calmly that she was going to drown the children and herself. in the dream, my cousin would try to stop her, but she’d be stuck in the sand. creepy.

    and i love the Sandra Bernhard duck. perfect.

  21. Siobhan says:

    Hey Kid, finally got around to reading some of your work. I’ve just begun, but already I’m intrigued. “Mis Hijos” is so far the front runner for me. I knew those stories all too well growing up with my Mexican famila in LA. I particularly love the way you ended it. Very Cohen Brother-esque. I’m sure it doesn’t come as much of a surprise to you that I’m drawn to your dark side.

    I look forward to more. More writing. More you.


  22. Paula Austin says:

    Yep Reno, I’m over here reading your stuff. Deep stuff. Tear jerking stuff. Now what am I to do. You got me laughing, you got me crying, moved me inside out, upside down….and I’m not a depressed woman. You’ve got some serious talent in these connecting skills. I’m right there with you, feeling it all, seeing it all, living it all….

    “I looked in the bucket and saw two little green fish. They didn’t look like they’d make one taco.” The emotion in this one line. I love it, I love it so. Simple but powerful. You got my heart. there. take it.

    Isn’t life brutal Reno, but oh, the beauty, the power, the wonder of it all. And you Re, you have the eyes to see it, the heart to feel it, the soul to connect with it. How you have been blessed with such a gift, and I am in awe of it. Please, please, please continue to let the wonder of your spirit, the words themselves pour out onto these lines. Continue to grace us with your heart Reno. the depth, width, length and height of your heart could only be one with God himself. Such love is this.

    Considering Prozac…

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