Monday, March 19, 2012

Reservation Blues

With this story of a classic nature I will continue my research on the "Alexie Sandwich." The story of Reservation Blues is a continuation of Robert Johnson. Johnson is traveling the road by foot when he comes across a crossroad on the reservation. He is trying to earn his soul back, and loses his cursed guitar in the process. Thomas Builds-the-Fire picks it up and forms an all Indian band to change the world.

In Reservation Blues, I found mostly sad-funny-sad sandwiches, which should come as no surprise, considering the book is titled Reservation BLUES, but i did manage to find one funny-sad-funny story.

The two most powerful sad-funny-sad sandwiches I found made me think very deeply.
The first of which made me depressed because if the story is true, Native Americans are not receiving the medical care they need. When Johnson happens upon the reservation, his hands are badly hurt, and Thomas wants to help him.
"Thomas wanted to take Johnson to the Indian Health Service Clinic, for a checkup and the exact diagnosis of his illness, but he knew that wouldn't work. Indian Health only gave out dental floss and condoms, and Thomas spent his whole life trying to figure out the connection between the two. More than anything, he wanted a story to heal the wounds, but he knew that his stories never healed anything." (6)

The Indian Health Service Clinic is uninvolved in reservation life, which is horrible because that is the only care some Indians have access to. But, Alexie makes a joke about the connection between condoms and dental floss, which adds to his point; why is medical service on the reservation so poor? Then Alexie brings us back down with a sad excerpt about stories not healing wounds, no matter how much you wanted them too. Plus, stories is all Thomas has most days. This was seriously upsetting.
The other sandwich is a jab at religion, and how even though Christianity was forced upon Indians, they still believe in God.
"The sisters walked to the church, which was one of those simple buildings, four walls, a door, a crucifix, and twenty folding chairs. Those folding chairs were multidimensional. Set them up facing the front, and they serve as pews. Circle them around a teacher in the middle, and you have Sunday School. Push them up to card tables, and you feasted on donated food. Fold those chairs, stack them in a corner, and you cleared a dance space. Folding chairs proved the existence of God." (105-106)
Poverty is the bread to this sandwich, and the proof is the church building. The only difference between this building and any other building on the res is the crucifix. Alexie makes jokes about this with the folding chairs. The folding chairs prove the building's many uses and poor funding because the building has to have so many uses. Even through all this, Alexie brings us back to God on a slightly sarcastic note, but I read it as the existence of God must be real, because look how we live; we have survived.

Finally, I came across a funny-sad-funny sandwich. It is about the day's events for Checkers, the youngest flat-head sister. Victor has pissed her off and they got into a fistfight. Shortly after, the band left without her so she could cool off, and she describes what she will do for the day.
"Checkers waved goodbye as the blue van pulled onto the reservation highway. She waved at Chess with most of her hand, saved a little for Thomas, and maybe a bit for Junior. She excluded Victor from her wave.
'What are you going to do this weekend?' Chess had asked her sister before she climbed into the van.
'I think I'll go to church. It's been a while.'
Father Arnold was the priest down there. She had read his name on the greeting board when she walked by the church. Father Arnold. She wondered about Father Arnold's favorite song." (127)
What a way to start off an impossible joke. How ridiculous! You can't exclude someone from a wave! Still, the concept is hilarious because it is so ridiculous. To understand the next serious part, you have to know Checker's character. She is into older Indian men who she feels like can save her, therefore she has fallen in love with many priests throughout her childhood. So, it is good she is going to church because she is a good singer, and singing is like therapy to Checkers, but the ending is mysterious. Checkers is walking into church with the intention of seducing the priest, or at least flirting with him. Thus, the last two sentences are comical. "Father Arnold. She wondered about Father Arnold's favorite song." Checkers uses Father Arnold as his own sentence, pondering him. Then she devises a plan to immediately get on his good side.

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