A Real Life Rocky: Stories from the worker front

POOR correspondent - Posted on 06 July 2010

Tony Robles/Special to PNN
Tuesday, January 8, 2008

I sit at my desk watching the rain fall against the window. Just a few minutes ago I saw a man wrapped in a suit made of garbage bags. The man even fashioned a stylish looking hat made of those bags. I look out at the scene below the office here at 1095 Market Street while the sirens blare in the distance. A lot of people are hurting; a lot of people are suffering right now. I wonder where some of them slept last night. I wonder if some of them slept at all. In all honesty, I sometimes wonder what good I am doing in this job as employment counselor. I sometimes ask myself, "What the hell am I doing here?" I sometimes feel like a guy whose sleepwalking in some kind of mist, haphazardly looking for something to grab onto.

As I sit I hear a voice.

"Hey Tony...what's happening mane?"

I look and see the smiling face of Roger Rodriguez-Ispuria, tenant at the Hamlin. Roger is one of those guys who are always smiling. He is a graduate of the Maintenance Work Crew Program. He comes in looking sharp as always, silk shirt the color of butterscotch candy, with matching shoes and slacks.

"What's happening Roger?" I ask.

Roger smiles, his eyes radiating through thick glasses.

"You know...the same old thing."

He sits down and asks me to update his resume. He has changed phone numbers about 4 or 5 times within the last 2 months and I gladly update his phone number.

"I need to find a job" he says, "I've been on a lot of interviews."

We sit and talk and I wonder what keeps him smiling.

When Roger joined the maintenance work crew, I had doubts that he would make it. He didn't seem focused and I thought he would quit. Weeks went by and his attendance was good. Rodolfo, the crew leader, was pleased with Roger's work and after 10 weeks, Roger received his certificate of completion. I put together a graduation announcement for Roger, complete with Puerto Rican flag and conga drum, an homage to his Boricua heritage and passion for music.

Roger is a musician--he plays congas and timbales at local clubs. He comes in to the Employment and Training office looking for work on Craigslist. He has been on many interviews for maintenance, driver, and janitorial positions but hasn't been hired.

"Things are not coming through," he says.

I look at him. The one thing that does come through is his smile. It would be great if everybody could have a smile like Roger. I keep looking for it as Roger keeps looking for that job.

Tony Robles who will be a featured contender in POOR Magazine's upcoming Poetry Battle of (ALL) the Sexes on Valentines Day is a contributor to PoorNewsNetwork's on-line magazine and radio broadcast, as well as an employment counselor for Community Housing Partnership, a revolutionary poet and "talk-story-teller", tenant organizer, working class skolah, Pinoy-African-Irish river which runs deeper than the delta and nile combined, good son of James and Flo, dedicated father of Lakas, y papichulo de tiny

The Poetry Battle of (ALL) the Sexes will be a benefit for POOR Magazine held on Valentines Day at the Beat Museum in North Beach. On this day normally equated with cutesy hallmark cards, flowers and candy, challenge your partner (or future partner) to a battle of spoken word, hip hop, poetry and/or flowetry in the ring! For more information or to register please email deeandtiny@poormagazine.org or go to http://www.poormagazine.org/index.cfm?L1=news&story=1903&pg=1


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