Week 7—Down These Mean Streets (part ii)

I found myself wide awake at 2:30 this morning after 3 short hours of sleep. They don’t make infomercials like they used to, so I decided to read the final 40 or so pages of DTMS. I had been savouring them, not wanting the story to end.

There are so many things I find significant in this book. So many things that I’ve experienced in my life that parallel what Piri Thomas shares with his readers, yet the life he lived and the one I’ve lived thus far are completely different—or are they? From the Prologue to the final chapter, Thomas spills out his inner most thoughts: his yearning to belong in society; his quest for his identity, a relationship with Poppa; the loss of everything he knew due to a bad decision—the loss of 7 years of his life, the loss of Moms, Brew, Trina and probably countless others who didn’t make the pages of this book.

All of my anticipation of reaching the end of the book came to a head at the bottom of page 314, after he has been released from Comstock State Prison and is back in jail waiting to face his further charges. Thomas recalls, “I studied my new home. It was three parts concrete, one part steel bars—yellow bars, or were they buff? I chuckled. Green, yellow, buff—they were still bars underneath. I looked up and around and I saw that I wasn’t alone.” The notions of home, colours and layers of facades plays such an integral part in his story, in his life…in our lives. Home is such an important idea that he sections portions of the book off according to the geographic area he hung his hat at the time things were happening. Whether he was at home with his familia, couch surfing with strangers or incarcerated, home was where he slept. In fact he titled the book after the streets where he felt at home, and called them mean. I find this really interesting having lived on the streets myself. Sure, they were mean—the people who had homes were mean, but the homeless community of which I was a part was anything but mean. We looked out for each other, just as Thomas’ pals did for him.

Colour was a catalyst for so much of Thomas’ mental anguish. Within his family, it was never an issue. As a young child, living in El Barrio, it was never an issue. It was more important that one had heart, never mind the colour of their skin. And while it never dawned on him that he wasn’t white, Moms always called him ‘negrito’. Granted, I’ve been told by many of my Spanish profs that this is a term of endearment, but still. And in the end, skin colour is just an external layer, much like the layers on the steel bars of his jail cell. Whether they were buff or yellow—is that really the point?

I am sorry to end this book. I want to find out how Thomas went from this to the next phases of his life. I will have to search for his subsequent books and writings.

For my song this week, I’ve chosen one of the most poignant songs of my youth—“Gangster’s Paradise” by Coolio. It was released about a year after I had been on the streets of Toronto, ‘shelter hoping’. The racial diversity was omnipresent in the shelters and I found my closest allies/ friends were Jamaican. Anyway, this song played on their ghetto blasters nonstop at the time. It became almost an anthem for me. The song’s opening words about sum it up for me: “As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death | I take a look at my life and realize there’s not much left”. Just like Piri Thomas, I reflect back on the stuff I’ve seen, the stuff I’ve done…stuff I’m proud of and stuff I’m not so proud of. I am where I am today because of it all. I’ve still got lessons to learn in life. Books like DTMS help me dig deeper at those events, providing me with new lessons and ways to look at things in preparation for the tomorrows.

Down These Mean Streets II

thomas_mean-streets2The second half of Piri Thomas’s Down These Mean Streets is much less preoccupied with questions of identity than the first. It seems as though Thomas has accepted that his primary identity is the one bestowed on him by society, rather than family: he is black, even if he can occasionally “pass” as something else, as when (in Texas) he goes to a brothel with a Mexican friend and, by acting as though he only speaks Spanish, assures the establishment that he is foreign rather than African American. As he leaves, though, he switches to English and watches as the prostitute’s “smile fall[s] off and a look of horror fill[s] the empty space it left–‘I just want you to know,’” he tells her, “’that you got fucked by a nigger, by a black man!’” (189). If he is going to be penalized for his blackness, in other words, by this point he sees that it can also be wielded as a weapon.

Towards the end of the book, in an odd and somewhat underdeveloped passage, Thomas even seems to be taken by Black Nationalism: under the influence of a follower of Elijah Muhammed, he becomes a Muslim and takes on the name “Hussein Afmit Ben Hassen” (296). Neither the religion nor the name stick (for reasons that Thomas does not explain), but it is notable that he has little corresponding interest, even momentarily, in his Puerto Rican heritage or latinidad. Indeed, though he signs on to work on a ship that travels to the West Indies, it is not clear that he visits the island, or even that the thought to do so ever crosses his mind. “Puerto Rican” becomes simply a qualifier, albeit a necessary one, to “black”: when a plainclothes detective grabs him and calls him a “black bastard,” Thomas replies “If you don’t mind, I’m a Puerto Rican black bastard” (235). His blackness is no longer contested.

But the book’s fundamental concern continues to be the self. In some ways, this is unsurprising given the generic conventions of the memoir, whose point is largely to narrate the unfolding or discovery of what makes an individual what he or she is. But Piri is more concerned with “me” than most. Thomas tells us that “one thing still stood out clear; one things still made sense and counted–me. Nothing else but me” (95). And asked for “who do you love?” he seems hardly to hesitate before answering “Me” (259). He has many associates but relatively few friends; relationships become significant only when they are at an end, as with his friend Brew (who disappears), his mother (who dies), or his girlfriend Trina (who marries another man).

Ultimately Piri is not particularly interested in other people. Nor is he all that concerned with a broader notion of community or “people.” Sent to prison for robbery with violence, there is a point, when the inmates rise up against the guards, at which Thomas has to decide on his allegiances and belonging, and ends up split, arguing with his self: “These damn cons are my people . . . What do you mean, your people? Your people are outside the cells, home, in the streets” (281). In the end, though, it is more that he has no people.

Rejected for the most part by mainstream society, with the exception of the anomalous episode of Muslim conversion he is unable or unwilling to find any alternative sense of community. The book’s final scene is emblematic. Returning to Harlem and to the building he once lived in, he meets an old friend, Carlito, who at first does not recognize him. It turns out that Carlito is, like Piri had once been, a junkie. Hearing his mumbled but unconvincing promises that he will get clean, Thomas realizes that all this is simply part of his past, of his numerous yesterdays: “my whole world was yesterday. I ain’t got nothing but today and a whole lot of tomorrows” (330). Ignoring what Carlito is saying, Piri leaves him behind and “walked out into the street, past hurrying people and an unseen jukebox beating out a sad-assed bolero” (331). Any salvation here is going to be individual rather than collective. There is little if any sense of any common political project.

Even when Thomas bumps into a boy who reminds him uncannily of himself, or of his former self–“This kid shot a cop and got shot; I shot a cop and got shot. What’s happened to me is going to happen to him” (315)–he is hardly keen to communicate his own experience and learning, fobbing him off rather with a “Buenas noches” and the unconvincing and unlikely reassurance that “You’ll probably get a break, don’t worry about it” (315). Taken as a whole, however, the book gives the lie to this superficial prognosis. Piri himself catches very few breaks. And if he survives to tell the tale, it is hardly thanks to anyone else but to the fact that he has shown, over and over, that whatever the colour of his skin he has “heart.” And it is heart, a mixture of bravery and persistence, capacity to affect or be affected, that is untethered from any notion of identity or belonging, that is finally what counts. This is what leads to acceptance on the street, where “if you you ain’t got heart, you ain’t got nada” (47). You make your own luck, and you do so as an individual (because heart is what defines the individual), not as part of a group.

Down These Mean Streets (Part 1)

I have really enjoyed this book so far. As I was reading the first part I found myself very attentive in learning more about Piri’s life with every page that passed. Two aspects of the book that stuck out for me were Piri’s sense of wanting to belong and the mother’s longing for Puerto Rico, the place that she is able to identify with the most.

A quote which resonated with me in the book was one where the mother remembers the people in Puerto Rico and her life over there. She says, “I like los Estados Unidos, but it’s sometimes a cold place to live-not because of the winter and the landlord not giving heat but because of the snow in the hearts of the people”. I feel that this is something that many immigrants can understand and often find themselves trying to become accustomed to in their new country and community. For many of these immigrants such as described by Piri’s mother, it is difficult to become used to a society that is cold, individualistic and has not much depth to it whatsoever. In places like Puerto Rico, and I would say the majority of Latin American countries, the feelings of warmth and camaraderie with each other are very much prevalent. Even if you find yourself in an unfavourable economic situation you still are able to find the good in life, that warmth in your heart that brings you joy. Though many live in difficult life circumstances they are still living life joyfully and are satisfied with life itself. Moving from one of these countries to a place like New York where one can probably find more advantages in growing, economic stability and success is a complete cultural and societal change. These Latin American societies have a general idea of maintaining close interpersonal relationships, enjoyment of life and having warm and close relationships with your friends, family and those who live in your community. For people moving away from these kinds of societies such as Piri’s mom it is tough to become used to how the people in their new country live such solitary and individualistic lives.

I look forward in continuing this book and reading about Piri’s life and the difficulty of looking for his belonging and approval within society. I believe that many can relate to this story of a boy trying to find who he is and with this constantly experiencing racism, prejudice and violence.

Down These Means Streets: Identity and belonging

In the first part of this post, I would like to share my impression as a reader. In fact, when I read this book, I had an ambivalent feeling. First of all, the immediacy of the text allows the reader to be totally involved in the story of the young Piri as he grows up in a hostile environment in Harlem. Indeed, the unfiltered and natural writing as well as the events that captivate by their intensity are elements that contribute to the authenticity of this text which is its main strength. On the other hand, even though this story is captivating, I personally found the book sincerely difficult to read because of the urban language that is used throughout the story. As a non-English speaking reader, several times I had to reread entire sections of the chapter because I found it difficult to properly understand the story, a feeling I had not had in previous readings.

It is now time to discuss a theme that I found central, namely the importance of ethnicity and the sense of belonging. Piri Thomas tells us his story from childhood, which is very relevant because it is during this period of primary socialization that identity is forged. For Piri, however, this construction of identity is in fact a quest to define which community he belongs. As a child, Piri rejects the essentialism of categories, as the oppositions white/black, Spanish/English, American/Porto-Rican overlap and intertwine. Thus, belonging is defined both in terms of identification to a national community (American vs. Italian), to an ethnic community (Puerto Rican), a racial conception linked to skin colour. The difficulty for Piri to define his own identity is raised by this short exchange between a young man of Italian origin and Piri in chapter 4 :

Hey, you,” he said. “What nationality are ya?” I looked at him and wondered which nationality to pick. And one of his friends said, “Ah, Rocky, he’s black enuff to be a nigger. Ain’t that what you is, kid?” My voice was almost shy in its anger. “I’m Puerto Rican,” I said. “I was born here.”

Here, Piri struggles to define himself. Technically, he is American because he was born in New York. But at the same time, he affirms his pride in being Puerto Rican in front of people of Italian origin, revealing here how important ethnic and national divisions were and still are in the urban organization of New York City. Another thing that is really interesting in this section is the fact that Piri affirms his belonging to the Puerto Rican community to defend himself against an accusation of “blackness”. Piri insists throughout the first part of the book that he is not African-American by asserting his Puerto Rican blood. Through this acceptance of one identity and the parallel rejection of another, Piri reveals the importance of racial hierarchy in American society.

Down These Mean Streets (Part 1)

As I have mentioned before, I am not a big fan of reading. It still took me quite some time to read the novel but this is by far the easiest one to read out of all the ones that we have to read for the class. This novel hit close to home in so many different levels. I almost started crying as I read the first few pages of the book. I can recall so many experiences, not just mine, but also of people that I have encountered along the way, most especially those that I met when I lived in the Dominican Republic and when I went to El Salvador.

This story reminds me of a friend that I met in El Salvador. He was one of the interpreters that helped us when we were down there. When I was reading about Piri having a hard time at home and not getting along with the other kids, I see in my head what was going on and I can’t imagine myself going through something similar. Then I suddenly thought of Gabriel. He’s the first person that I’ve met who’s all tattooed up looking all macho but he cries so easily when he hears stories and testimonies of people. I remember a particular moment when I joked about him not looking like a Salvadorian but rather a Mexican and he got mad at me for doing so. Later on, he told me about his story. I found out that he was imprisoned in the States and that he was in jail for 20 years, after being released, he was deported back to El Salvador.

Gabriel told me that he hates being mistaken for a Mexican because he was locked up with Mexicans in the States. Even though he is Salvadorian by blood and he can speak Spanish because of his parents, he started sounding like a Mexican because he was surrounded by them. He told me that when he arrived in El Salvador, he couldn’t understand the accent and slang that the people had. He felt like a stranger to that country. He didn’t know where he belonged.

I believe belonging is somewhat a central theme in “Down These Mean Streets”. Piri struggles a lot with what other people think of him. When Piri says “my own is what I want. Nothing more”, he was having a “Gabriel moment.” He would be okay with how he looked if he wasn’t mistreated solely because of it. His appearance is a hindrance to his belonging, even in his own home. He is struggling with his own identity.

Down These Mean Streets I: A life in seek of recognition

This book has been the one I most enjoyed until now. Piri Thomas` memoir is deep and catchy. His live, far from being simple, is interesting and challenging to read. His childhood is full of hard experiences, that he faces with all the happiness and adventurous attitude he could have. Piri is always looking for recognition. For instance, he is continually seeking that through his dad’s approval (he wants his dad to recognize him as a grown man). Moreover, he wants his young fellows in the Spanish Harlem to respect and accept him in the group. He hates all the times he has to move out to another neighborhood because those transitions mean for him a disconnection for the ‘approval’ he has achieved on the Spanish Harlem. The fact of being a new boy on the Italian part of the neighborhood caused him to go to the hospital and almost get blind. However, Italians were not the only one who rejected him; once his family got a better social mobility and moved on to a nicer neighborhood, he also found rejection by white people in the high school he was at.

I think the fact that Piri was so focused on gaining approval by the rest of people was because he was not even sure of who he was. His world was constructed around El Barrio (the Spanish Harlem), and his identity was mixed with English and Spanish; Puerto Rico and New York; El Barrio and the rest of the city, etc. The only comfortable and secure place for Piri was El Barrio, and that’s why he comes back to this place even if he does not have where to live in, or what to eat. Piri’s rejection of staying at the new neighborhood with his mom and siblings is rooted in the issue that he is trying desperately to find his roots, his place of comfort, his home, the place where he can feel he belongs to; and that’s El Barrio for him. El Barrio has granted Piri the recognition and the belonging he needed so much.

Down these mean streets highlights important social issues by looking into the life of a real person, who is letting us know about the difficulty of poverty, race discrimination, dislocation, welfare dependence, homosexuality, love, unequal education, drug dependency, and a lot more in his own life. Yet, the thing I found most interesting and complex is the fact that even though Piri suffered from all these social issues at the Spanish Harlem, when he has the opportunity to leave all these behind; he still chooses to stay. He decides to stay in a place where the majority of people would prefer not to be…. why?

Down These Mean Streets: “Pops… you love us all the same, right?”

In reading the first half of Down These Mean Streets I recognized a major theme that was apparent in every single chapter: belonging. In the beginning chapters, there is a constant reaffirmation that Piri feels like his father does not treat him (or even love him) the same as his siblings. He wants his father’s attention and affection but feels he is deprived of it. Growing out of the prepubescent stage of his life, he proceeds to take the streets and looks for his reputation and cred within groups and gangs. At times, he has a sense of belonging with his amigos but the struggle of racial identity bleeds through the pages, especially in the last couple of chapters. Though there are two major conflicts within the first half of the book, I want to discuss and analyze Piri’s struggle for acceptance from his father as I believe it lays a crucial framework for future chapters and displays the importance of finding where one belongs.

As soon as the book begins, we are confronted with Piri’s father lashing his son with his belt revealing the cold relationship that Piri and his Poppa have. Though the book often drifts to life on the street, whether visualizing junkies lighting up or understanding Piri’s 12-year-old ‘gang’, the divide between Piri and his father is clearly emphasized. When Poppa comes home one day, Piri thinks to himself why they are always “on the outs” with one another and how his dad sounds “harder and meaner” when addressing him. As Piri thinks to himself, “how come when we all get hit for doing something wrong, I feel it the hardest,” this reaffirms the straightforward yet upsetting relationship that Piri and Poppa have. Despite this, the cold relationship with his father doesn’t demotivate Piri but rather invigorates his courage and toughness in the streets. As he scraps with an Italian boy, Tony, Piri forces himself to keep fighting and to keep throwing punches; showing his father that he “ain’t gonna cop out” and that he is “a fighter, too.”

However, this constant need for compassion from his father is not fruitless as Poppa, seeing Piri displaying his breath-holding skills in the bath one day, says to his son, “I bet you could be a great swimmer.” This small, seemingly insignificant detail boosts Piri’s confidence, surely feeding his desire for acceptance, but yet more words of affirmation are given when Piri has gravel thrown in his eyes. When Piri is taken to the hospital, he and his father have a profound conversation, one that both Piri and the reader were longing for. As Poppa promises his son a pair of roller skates when he gets out of the hospital, Piri shows his father how tough he is; enduring the pain of tar in his eyes. The conversation draws to a close when his father leaves the room, but not before saying, “Son… you’re un hombre.” With that line, Piri feels proud that he has earned the respect and admiration of his father, something that he had been malnourished from for all his life. It’s with this scene at the hospital that his father acknowledges Piri’s strength, the two have a meaningful conservation, and both display a sincere appreciation for one another. Though most of the book touches on the conflict of racial identity and inclusion in a societal context, I believe that Piri’s emotional journey of finding acceptance and compassion from his father constructs an unforgettable plight, showing how the ones we value the most can deprive us of the very thing we need to survive; love and a sense of belonging.

-Curtis HR

Down These Mean Streets (Part 1)

I am really enjoying this novel so far!  I am particularly interested in the character of Piri’s mother, and the role that identity/being an hombre plays.  So far, Piri’s mother is the most interesting character in my opinion; she has so much personality, and clearly lots of heart (I believe there are many things that make up having “heart” in this novel, and I am sure we will discuss in class).  The love she has for her children is evident in every interaction she has with them, and as the events unfold in the novel, she is faced with situations that would rip apart any mother apart. She also comforts her children in ways that the father could never, and even keeps secrets from him; for example Piri says: “The bad-o feeling came back.  About Poppa not knowing I’d cut out from home, and Momma worrying cause she knew.” (5). The relationship between Piri and his mother is incredibly important to Piri’s well-being and ability to cope with the day to day battles; without her I think Piri would be completely lost. The subtle comments he makes about his mother just show how much he trusts her, and I would argue, how much he really needs her:  “I joined her and we just laughed and laughed.  I kissed her and went into the back room feeling her full-of-love words floating after me.” (19).  Piri then says: “Caramba, it was great to see Momma happy.  I’d go through the rest of making the funnies if I was sure Momma would be happy.” (19).  It’s almost as if they have this understanding of each other that nobody will ever be able to understand or compete with; their relationship truly is special.  It is a sharp contrast to the relationship Piri has with his father, however.  

Moving onto the idea of being an hombre, something Piri said that interested me is the following: “But there was still the good WPA.  If a man was poor enough, he could dig a ditch for the government. Now Poppa was poor enough again” (8).  Not only does this emphasize the uncertainty and unpredictability of day to day life back then, to me it also suggests something about Poppa.  We learn later that Poppa hates his job with the WPA, and part of me thinks this is because he feels he’s failing to be an hombre; as if he is failing both himself and his family by not holding a steady job, etc. 

As for the topic of identity, one thing that stood out to me was this idea of turning on and off identities, depending on the particular situation.  For example, when Piri meets Rocky on the Italian block, Rocky asks him: “What nationality are ya?” (24). Piri then stares at him and “wondered which nationality to pick” (24).  Piri knows that due to his skin colour, people are going to have preconceived thoughts; and in a way, he knows that if he says he’s Puerto Rican, he’s going to be given a hard time.  However, he still chooses to do so. During this particular encounter, Rocky and Piri start throwing punches, and after the fight Piri ends up lying on the floor dizzy and all, and he says: “I just hoped my face was cool-looking”.  I noticed multiple comments throughout this first half that are related to the one just mentioned; it seems this is one if the ways in which he shows he’s an hombre, by not showing he’s hurt, not showing any signs of defeat, etc.  Clearly Piri is still just figuring everything, and this transitional phase between boy and hombre is a key point in this novel.  

I’m also interested in this connection between having heart and being an hombre; it seems to me that having heart in this novel has to do with the desire to belong, and doing what it takes to do so.  Being an hombre too, however, is also about belonging; but more so belonging to a role/identity that one is expected to take on.    

 

Down These Mean Streets (Part 1)

I’m really enjoying this book so far – so much so that it has been hard for me to put the book down and tackle the other work I have to do. I think one of the more obvious themes is the concept of race and identity. At surface, this may seem as a simple story; a story – or perhaps more appropriately deemed as a memoire – of the life and transformation of a young, Puerto Rican boy trying to find his place in the world. However, I think this book as a whole is unusual and complicated – a “kink”, if you will.

Most memoires about race in the USA are centred around the African American experiences. I, for one, haven’t read, about the experiences of Puerto Ricans (or other races for that matter) during this time, prior to this class. This seems like a kink in and of itself – a dark skinned, Puerto Rican boy telling his story in insane detail of his experience in an American world. Thus far, it has been a constant search for the young boy’s identity – he is stuck in the middle. He has a fair skinned mother, but a dark father. He is told by the many he is black, wants to be white, and yet, he is neither. His sense of insecurity and uncertainty of who he is and how that differs from who he wants to be is demonstrated in how he constantly compares himself to others:

 “I wondered if it was too mean to hate your bothers a little for looking white like Momma. I felt my hair – thick, black and wiry. Mentally I compared my hair with my brothers’ hair. MY face screwed up at the memory of the jillion tons of stickum hair oils splashed down in a vain attempt to make it like theirs. I felt my nose. “Shit, it ain’t so flat,” I said aloud. But mentally I measured it against my brothers’, whose noses were sharp, straight and placed neat-like in the middle of their paddy fair faces. Why did this have to happen to me? Why couldn’t I be born like them?

Although he compares himself with his mother and siblings in this way, his father is different; Piri and his father seem to be considered outsiders to their family, and society in general. Piri even references their “peters”, stating how his two brothers have white peters and the “only ones got black peters is Poppa and me, and Poppa acts like his is white, too”. He goes on to say that “if I’m a Negro, then you and James is one too. And that ain’t leavin’ out Sis and Poppa. Only Momma’s an exception.” This is interesting, because it calls into question of decent, while also hinting at the patriarchy of the world; it’s not the mother who passed down the blackness, it’s the father, and the whiteness of the mother does not negate or “rescue” the blackness of her husband in the family, nor his position in society. It’s interesting to ponder that if his mother were dark-skinned and the husband fair-skinned, if their lives would have been the same or dramatically different during this time in history. To me,  this distinction seems quite deliberate as Piri quite frequently references his Mom’s lighter complexion and his father’s darker skin. The purpose? I’m not 100% sure.

Down These Mean Streets: To be or not to be


I don’t know where to begin. On some levels I feel like I can relate to Piri but on others I can’t. I have so many thoughts on the matter and am deeply impressed by his accounts. The last time I had this sort of “gut reaction” in reading a book was when I read the Kite Runner. I have had a sheltered and happy upbringing compared to what is being portrayed in the book, so I can’t fully understand these struggles completely. Having said this, I wanted to put to paper some of the thoughts I have on the main themes of the book. As a title for this blog post, I refer to Shakespeare's Hamlet. This question "to be or not to be" holds value in all aspects of life, and in the context of this book it ties in with identity, recognition, life, death, nationhood, manhood, and many more. 

After reading the first part I went back to the prologue. I think the entirety of it can be tied into that short prologue “I’m here, and I want recognition, whatever that mudder-fuckin word means” and “I’m a skinny dark-face, curly-haired, intense Porty-Ree can – Unsatisfied, hoping, and always reaching.” I think this first part, up until the point where Piri goes South, presents us with the earlier years in his quest for identity. In experiencing humiliation and trauma, he began to set himself apart from others. First he felt discrimination towards his ‘in-group’ his family and friends. When they moved to the Italian quarter they became ‘Spics’ versus ‘Italians’. When the family moved to long island he faced racial discrimination for the first time, at least as he recalls it, and this was something he experienced alone. This defied his self-confidence, and since he wasn’t in the Barrio, there was no support/pillar to lean on while processing this new ‘discovery’. His own family was ‘white’. Being Puerto Rican made them ‘white’. In chapter 15 Piri says he’s the only one “who(‘s) found out!” and later he tells his mom he has hatred for his family’s “colour kick (…) for trying to show what’s not inside”. He hates his family for living a lie, for having let him live that lie. I think this “kick” is one of the ‘kinks’.

The way race is twisted and mixed into nationality and ethnicity is a kink. Being Puerto Rican meant being white for his family, and for Piri, at a certain point, being black meant that he wasn’t Puerto Rican (leading to his moving South).  Chapter 16 is titled Funeral for a Prodigal Son, in this chapter Piri leaves his family. He chooses to disassociate from them and their conception of life. This title in itself is a kink. The story of the prodigal son is one of return and reintegration in the family where there is a great feast held in the name of a repentant son. However, in this case, Piri comes to terms with his reality and chooses to leave, there is no feast, no repentance. There are no more childhood illusions of living by Central Park, no more dreams of being a millionaire, he needs to go South to find where he truly belongs. Maybe it is a funeral from his family’s perspective. His parents had lost a son and now they were ‘losing’ another one. And being a ‘prodigal son’ in Piri’s eyes might be related to the fact that he was once lost and now has found, what he thinks to be, the truth and his true destiny.