Sunday, October 26, 2014

Purgatory Is No Place for Me

I'm back in Purgatory.

And in the town of Purgatory I'm sitting in coffee shop, sipping on something they dubbed El Chicano. I'm not sure who owns this place, but it's definitely not Chican@s. They also have Mexican and Mayan Mochas and something called a Carmella, which I'm guessing is them being clever with some type of drink that contains caramel, but why not make it sound like a Spanish name.

Not that I mind the El Chicano drink and whatever they dropped in it, to make it Chicano-ish. It tastes like maybe they used some Mexican chocolate de barra, but I can't be too sure. Other than that, their hours are shit, only open from 5am to 5pm. They used to be open longer years ago, but I'm guessing they no longer have enough people walking through the doors, so they felt a need to cutback on their hours. Nice thing about them is that they have a work in training program, so I feel drawn here for that reason alone--to apoyar.

Purgatory used to be nice when I was a young undergrad getting drunk para chingada, popping pills, and smoking weed. At one point I saw myself returning to Purgatory when I went off to the Midwest, But as the years passed, I didn't see myself returning here any longer. I actually did not even want to come back here. Maybe it was because I matured, I don't know. But it was one of those situations where an opportunity presented itself, and I would have been a pendejo not to take it.

I thought I would end up in a different location in California. I would have even been happy in another place in the Midwest, so I could continue seeing the changing seasons, especially the Fall. Well let me rephrase that. I would have been happy anywhere else in the Midwest so long as it didn't snow, if that were even be possible. The snow can still go fuck itself.

The nice thing about Purgatory is that it does have a lot of trees, so when the Fall season kicks in, the leaves begin to turn. Its like a little bit of the Midwest, but in the West. Minus the snow.

Why do I loathe Purgatory so much? Because it feels like I haven't moved forward.

I'm surrounded by too many drunkards that remind me of myself.

Aside from this, I had the Whatever She Was ask if she could come spend time in Purgatory to get away from her miserable life in the city. Well that and a miserable relationship that she had a hand in destroying. "Mi casa es tu casa," was essentially my response. She hadn't stopped self-medicating since the summer, by popping pills. I did offer to note that the place I'm currently living in is unfurnished and that she would find herself sleeping on the floor. Aside from that I wouldn't be much of a good host, because I spent most of my time on campus doing work. This didn't seem appealing to her, because she was in one of those states of mind, where she needed to cry and bare her soul; seriously in need of an ear and caring friend, or someone that she dated and possibly would have fucked if things had gone differently. But I've become selfish over the years, and fucking her although one of my lifelong goals, is no longer a priority. Now my priority as a responsible adult, is work. Well, that and I'm currently seeing someone else, and I doubt she would approve of my Whatever she Was staying at my place, even if it's me trying to be a good friend. I know. I'm a horrible person.

Nonetheless, here my Whatever she Was would have been alone, which would have been counterproductive, since she was already feeling alone in the big city.The only thing keeping her company would have been the mice I hear squeaking and crawling around in one of the boiler rooms in the apartment. That alone probably would have led her to pop enough Ativan to make her comatose, and I would have probably returned to find her near death or dead on my floor. Yay me.

"Well no detective, I have no clue why she's dead on my floor. My fault you say? Oh, because I should have been here listening to her, popping Ativan, getting high & drunk, and possibly fucking her. Well detective, then you should definitely cuff me, because I am a terrible and utterly horrible person for being selfish and not doing any of those things."

I've realized that the one thing that has kept me sane while back in Purgatory, besides talking to myself in the empty apartment, is writing (again).


Friday, October 3, 2014

The State That Birthed The Foul-Mouthed Mexican

I'm back in the state that birthed this foul-mouthed Mexican. I don't really know how to feel about this. It is a bittersweet return for the moment.

It was good to drive through the roads in my hometown and see fields of strawberries and lettuce to the right and left of me. A different kind of green than the bright emerald I saw on the trees and grass in the Midwest. The California green I see now is usually speckled with flecks of red. I can't say that I'm happy to have left the Midwest. There was a serenity in the area I lived in. I would go out for walks around my complex, take in the sunny day, breathe and organize my thoughts during those walks. I also made some good friends in the Midwest. I almost feel out of place back in California, not that I feel like a Midwesterner (I think most Midwesterners would tell me to go fuck myself, because I was like an obese tick that continued increasing its volume by sucking in their clean air and water), never that. But being back on the traffic filled California freeways and highways at first added to my tension. I would think "I didn't have to deal with this shit in the Midwest! Fuck!" Then I'd take a deep breath, and I'd think to myself, "But I'm back in California. My home state. No humidity. Closer to family and friends. Yes in certain areas I'll get that intense heat, but at leasts it's dry and there is no humidity in sight. Fuck yeah!""

I've only been back a few weeks, but it hasn't taken me long to remember the things I missed out here, like Second Street Cafe and it's Mexican Mocha. Or seeing other Mexicans around me. Also the weather in my hometown is usually nice, warm with a breeze, usually in the mid 70's to low 80's. I drove through Gilroy and it's armpit stench which was in reality garlic. I drove into a mountainous region near Oakland where the middle upperclass people and students from Berkley tend to meander safely, at safe distance from Too $hort's hometown. I managed not to gag, and they managed not to stare too long at the goateed Mexican. I wanted to yell out, "I'm one of the safe ones though!" But yelling out my car window probably would have prompted someone to call the cops on me and then I'd end up on the street with my hands up, yelling, "Don't Shoot!!" Then they'd probably shoot me anyway about 6 or 7 times, maybe more, maybe less than more. Not that the cops in the Midwest don't harass you. But I've been harassed there once. Here in California it has been a couple more times. Usually by Latino cops trying to look like good tough cops in front of their Anglo companions. 

Nonetheless, there are things that I appreciated about the Midwest for all the derision I had for the College Town. I enjoyed the seasons there. Let me correct that, fuck the winter and snow in the Midwest. But the Fall, with it's yellow, red, brown and orange leaves brought me tremendous happiness and peace. It was gorgeous. If the Midwest's Fall season were a woman I'd probably pursue her doggedly until she let me sleep with her, and I'd be heartbroken once she went away.

Being back in this state I've been frequenting taco trucks, taco stands, and small Mexican restaurants that only fit about 10 people at a time, and I order, yes, you guessed it, the tacos. De asada, adobada, and carnitas are my usual preference. Of course I prefer paying only a single dollar per taco. But other times I enjoy trying the tacos sold for $1.99. But there's only one place where they warrant that price because the tortilla isn't the midget tortilla, it's the large tortilla you'll find in most Mexican families' homes. And the seasoned protein is stacked on top with a good-sized serving of salsa, cebolla, and cilantro. Not surprisingly this small restaurant is named Aztlán.

There is something be said about a good breakfast burrito, though. If you can find a place that uses homemade flour tortillas, the eggs are seasoned with just the right amount of salt and where the chorizo is nice big chunks, not crumbled.

Other than it is nice to be back in California, the most multicultural state in U.S. Where the multiculturalism is noticed and understood, but never truly really accepted. It's a myth of California.

I'm reminded that I need to shave my facial hair, so that the lady behind the cash register doesn't feel intimidated when I walk in to buy heat lamp taquitos in the morning. She probably has one finger hovering over the red button that alerts the police to come and rescue her when the Chicano element is acting a little too excitable or when they are looking a little too bald or like they have little too much goatee. Walking through a Target in the local town was no different when a young man in his early 20's with down syndrome saw me. He stared at me for some time, grinned, then threw the finger-signed "W" (made famous by the rap group Westside Connection) at me. I smiled, nodded, and said "hi."

Or my personal favorite, is always getting maddogged by other Chicano youth with facial hair who want to stare me down, because of my facial which apparently makes me look like a thug also. Whether they are gang affiliated or not, I have no clue. Maddogging just seems to have become a part of the culture, along with Latinos calling each other the "nigga." It's overwhelming how many Latinos and Latinas I hear saying this to each other. It just seems normal to them. I doubt they would say it around African-American folks. But apparently I don't know anything about Chicano or Latino culture any longer.

Also, has anybody else noticed that rap music, no longer sounds like rap music? It's like this cross between hip-hop and r&b. Very poppish. It's a lot of singing rappers.

I can't believe I'm complaining about music and the vernacular of Chicanos and Latinos. Tonight during a full moon, I'll probably morph into Bill Cosby.

Nonetheless it's good to be back in California, with all the good tacos, maddogging, the cute white girls wearing wearing short-shorts or skirts willing to have a coffee with you, because not only are they not intimidated, but they want to try getting to know a variety of different people, imagine that, chales; and the attendants who give me sideways looks, because I have a goattee and look like I might steal something.

Moments like those, remind me, I am truly back in California.

Fucken California.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Writing Under the Influence

One of my exes (or whatever) told me she writes better when she’s having alcoholic drinks, or while she’s smoking a joint.
            “Parts of my brain that I do not normally use get triggered “creativity,” is induced :)” She texted. Yes, the smiley face is hers.
            There was something about norco pills. Oh yes! She had popped a norco pill, because it was a Friday night, she had ordered a pizza, and was drinking soda, which she hadn’t drank in a looong time, according to her; and she was texting me because she was bored. And like the dumbfuck I was, I was texting back with her between 1am and 2am. Anyhow this whole thing about writing under the influence, she asked me if I’d done it. My response was, “no, if I try to write while drinking, I usually drink until I knockout. If I write while smoking, I just stop writing.” This has been my experience with writing under the influence. In my lit courses I heard about many a now posthumously famous authors who wrote under the influence. Now this girl from a past life was hoping to be among the posthumously famous authors who got high or inebriated as they wrote or before they wrote.
            I remember I had a conversation with a friend in college that went along the same lines. He told me he tried writing a couple of his essays while drinking or after toking, because he bought into the romanticism of more famous and better authors than him who wrote master-fucken-pieces under the influence. But I doubt any profe at a university would take the pinche time to actually read an undergrad student’s essay and find the master-fucken-piece within it. Skimming is the name of the game. Anyhow, said friend, said, that while drinking or smoking the tweeds, he just wants to keep getting fucked up. The same applies to me.
            Anyhow, my I-don’t- know-what (we dated a couple of times, so she wasn’t my girlfriend, so she can’t be my ex. More like a girl I dated, we never fucked, but for some odd reason we keep in touch once or twice a year, even though she’s back with her boyfriend who did about 12 years in prison. If you’re first thought is "you’re a grandiose pendejo," you are correct my friend!) Anyhow, the writing under the influence. I made some wiseass, lame remark about the norco pill she told me she had popped. I should be flogged for it. It was horrible. Anyway, her textual response: “Ooh nooo norco actually blocks neurons in my brain. Marijuana is what helps my creativity and memory.” I don’t know if she actually knows what the fuck she was talking about. But she called me a chickenshit for not writing under the influence like her. This is after I explained how I am a horrible binger and won’t get any writing done.
            So that was last night. Today I helped a friend but together a treadmill. Yes! A fucking treadmill! Then we had dinner. Followed by a couple of drinks at an Irish Pub. I had some kinda vanilla stout, followed by something called a Short’s Cinnabilly. The Vanilla Stout was waaaay better. As my friend drove me back home, I got a bright idea. “You know what, I’m going to prove to My Whatever, you can’t write successfully under the influence!” So I told my friend to pull over at the shitty Midwestern substitute for a 7/11. She asked why? I said because I want to prove to My Whatever that you can’t write under the fucking influence. I believe that by this point, the alcohol was talking.
            Indeed, I’m on my fourth Guiness draught. The bottled stuff. When I pursued this endeavor I was thinking, how hard could it be? I saw Hunter S. Thompson do it in this documentary just recently. I have to admit, like I did to My Whatever, I always had respect for writers/authors who could write under the influence, that was always one of my aspirations as a mocoso. But now I have a newfound respect for writers who can write under the influence. I think my first mistake was trying to write under the influence, even though I took my time drinking my beer, not pounding it like an undergrad student.
            Maybe if I would have smoked a joint this would have been a different experience, but I’m not an avid pot smoker, and thus do not have an avid drug dealer. The pot would probably go well with the Wiz Khalifa I’m about to listen to. Currently listienng to Lets Get Lucky, but those Daft Punk guys. Me? Not getting lucky. I just like the beat. Makes me wonder what My Whatever actually drinks when and if she writes. Probably fruity tasting red wine. Or maybe some expensive brandy. Can’t see her downing shots of tequila unless its in margaritas, which she probably wouldn’t make for herself.  Did I prove her wrong though? I think I did. I’m currently on my 5th Guinness. But I’m also chomping on tortilla chips that I’m dipping in homemade tomatillo and aguacate salsa. Good as fuck.

            I had also told my friend that this evening for me was akin to a phrase like “I don’t give a fuck.” I don’t know why I threw that in there, but I’m pretty sure it’s an allegory for something.

Editor's note: Yes I did take the the time to revise this . . . while under the influence.¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Things Pigs Say: "I'm Not a Pig, I'm Just a Douche."

About a week ago I posted the following on my Feisbuk page:
A friend of mine who happens to be a cop, saw the above image, and posted this in the comments section: "Do you know if violent crime has increased?"

I guess he somehow felt offended by the image. How dare a department require their officers to have cameras on their shirts that can record how they conduct themselves when approaching civilians? Not only that but I didn't see the point of his question. How or why would crime increase if cops restrained themselves from using excessive force? Unless he meant violent crimes committed by cops? I chalked it up to my friend simply being a cop that had seen other truisms about cops on my Feisbuk page. Truth hurts. 

Earlier on my timeline, about a few months ago, I posted a video about a guy that was gunned down after a high speed chase in LA. Once the guy got out of his car, a policeman shot him on site, and the guy wasn't even wielding a weapon. On this video my friend posted something along that lines of, "That peace officer just did a public service, the man they were chasing had ran into a family in the car he hit, and he could have killed him." I snickered at his comment, but I didn't post a response. I knew my friend well enough as an undergrad from college that I knew he liked making inflammatory statements to try to provoke an angry response, at which point he would then laugh, because he felt he had the upper hand, because he'd made the person angry. Don't get me wrong, something had come to mind about "the public service Christopher Dorner," had done during his one man war against policemen, but I refrained, knowing that such a response would give my friend what he wanted. 

I'm not sure how many times a person has to post some type of haterism in order to be considered a troll. But by his comment on the Rialto cops picture, which has his second, I felt he was a troll, and should be dealt with thusly. So again, I ignored his comment and then posted a link about some cops in King City who were busted by the FBI on corruption, for harassing local citizens by impounding their vehicles, and basically feeling that they could do this, because the citizens they fucked with didn't speak Spanish. (King City Cops) I like that Feisbuk allows you to add captions, it's just nifty that way, because I added this with the link: "Pigs to the slaughter . . ." Lo and behold! About 5 to 10 minutes later my friend sent me a direct message through Feisbuk. I had a hard time restraining my laughter. His response was: "I agree with you 100% these men in King City were in the wrong. But for the educated Latino you are you are making ignorant statements. The same ignorant type [of] statement that are made of us Latinos. You have friends and fraternity brothers in law enforcement. You classify all of us under one umbrella that is wrong. Just my thoughts bro."

I couldn't stop laughing. It was funny on many different levels, at least for me. First of all, I posted the pigs comment intentionally because I wanted to get a rise out of him. This was my way of dealing with his trollism. Second his ire was such that he felt a need to send me a direct message. Third he starts his message by stating that he agrees 100% and that the cops were wrong, but it makes me wonder if being part of the brotherhood in blue, he would actually post that publicly in the comments section on my wall. Probably not, because we all know cops cover for each other, and they wouldn't speak out that way, if they want to keep their job and safety. Fourth he tries to provoke me into an argument by calling out for considering myself an "educated Latino" and then uses the word "ignorant," because he feels he knows that I can't stand ignorant people. What better way to provoke someone who disdains ignorant people than by calling him ignorant right? Good bait. This was me -> XD 

My kindly response to him was, "If my posts offend you, you should consider unfriending me. Thanks for your thoughts and perspective." 

Welp! this did not please him, because he probably didn't get the reaction nor response he expected from me. So he wrote the following: "Your absolutely correct, I will unfriend you. Its sad that you will some day influence young people to be disrespectful towards the same people that would risk their lives to help them. Next time you need a cop don't call. Based on your statements, you don't like them, therefore you never ask for their help. If you do that would make you a hypocrite." Again, this was me upon reading his vitriol-> ¡¡XD!!

I replied by saying, "If you want to have a discussion about this we can talk on the phone or in person some day. And I can share my perspective. Not that we'll agree, but who knows we might. We both bring our obvious bias to the topic. When I say "pigs" its for cops who abuse their power. You should take the time to share what you did with me about the King City cops being in the wrong publicly. But if you don't, I understand. And no worries, when I teach I keep my personal opinions about law enforcement to myself. Feel free to continue sharing your opinions and comments. Anyhow if you do unfriend me, I wish you the best. Nice hearing from you." I've learned over the years, you can't argue with stupid, and sometimes you gotta kill stupid with kindness. Alas I don't know if my friend read my comment before he unfriended me. But he was displaying a typical marrano mentality, he was not wrong, he was right, and wanted to get the last word. 

Its funny, because early in his career, my friend did share a couple of incidents where he felt that the person who was his partner was bending the rules a little too much, and/or that he was trying to provoke a person they were in the process of arresting. I wonder if my friend has since assimilated into full-blown marrano status and now simply turns the other cheek when he sees these things. I could have gone onto my friend's page earlier and gone todo troll status on him. For example there was a pic of him having received an award for being an outstanding officer. I could have left a shitty comment on that post, something along the lines of "So how many Hispanic Male Suspects or any other minority for that matter did you shoot in the back to get that award?  But meh. I didn't feel the need to argue with him online, its pointless to try to debate with him online, besides, like I said you can't argue with a pig, they are never wrong. And aside from that as I mentioned I knew my friend well enough, and that's what he wanted. Even his last message was a final attempt to try to goad me into some type of reaction where I would tell him to go fuck himself, but again I wasn't going to give him that, because that's what he wanted.

I could have told him about the incidents involving the cops in my neighborhood, and my mother. Those marranos in my neighborhood need those cameras so that they actually respect citizen rights and don't block their badge numbers when they are asked for them, because even that is an excessive use of force. But my friend probably wouldn't see it that way. I could have pointed to what happened in Anaheim about a year or so ago. I could have even mentioned that I don't need to share my personal opinion about law enforcement with students, because I've had classes where students share their own experiences of unsavory encounters with cops. It doesn't only happen in the barrio, there are marranos in college towns and in nice upper middle class neighborhoods too. There are cops that behave like pigs anywhere you go. Pigs-o-plenty.

When I got my friend's direct message, I could have replied something along the lines of "I posted that on purpose to piss you off, and it worked." And then who knows, we could have had a good laugh about it. But seeing him reply in what seemed to be a genuine perturbed way, was just too much fun to pass up. Maybe he wouldn't have been so offended if I would have posted something along the lines of, "Thank God, the FBI brought these dangerous street terrorists to justice!" Maybe he wouldn't have been so offended if called cops, "Street Terrorists" instead of "pigs." But I think I'll save that one for another incident involving marranos being held accountable for their actions, as rare as that is.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Book Review: LoWriting: Shots, Rides, & Stories from the Chicano Soul

"I have said many times in public and in print that I enjoy publishing books that I would like to read."-Santino J. Rivera in the Editor's Note to LoWriting: Shots, Rides, & Stories from the Chicano Soul.

That's something you have to appreciate about Rivera and his indie publishing house, Broken Sword Publications. When you're publishing things that you would like to read, chances are there are going to be a whole lot of other people who will want to read it as well. I can't think of any book that has combined pictures of lowriders with Chican@ prose. That, in and of itself makes this book unique in a market trying to cater to the masses. You have to appreciate the creative risk taken, but even more so, you have to appreciate Art Meza's photographs and the collection of poetry and short stories in this collection.

The photographs and the flair Meza adds gives the viewer much to appreciate, whether its capturing an image of lowrider from an unexpected angle, to an image of a brightly colored hood ornament. The images are varied, and offer different aspects to be admired, be it in the aesthetics of the vehicle itself, or the aesthetics of Meza's photography skills. One of my personal favorites is "On the Boulevard, San Diego." Its black and white, with the words, "The Boulevard," in neon pink. Other favorites are the "38 Special - '38 Chevy Pickup," "Redrum - '64 Chevy Impala," and "Goddess of Speed - '38 Packard." There are of course too many to name, but I find myself drawn more to the images that capture an aspect of a vehicle, where Meza will take a picture of an old stereo in the lowrider, or the front seat; these images for some reason draw me in, possible due to the prominence of that one specific feature of a lowrider that Meza shows his audience. Meza's photographs are worth the price of the book alone.

Then of course there is also the writing collected within the book. The audience is treated to a great variance of pieces, poetry, short stories, an interview, and essays. There was some feminist ideology in Gloria Morán's piece, "Cruising into the Future." You're treated to some barrio magical realism in "Guero's '49 Chevy Black Bomba and the Hand of God," by Benjamin Quiñones Reyes. Humor in "Chilidogs and Homeboys, To Go Please," by Jim Marquez. The creative writing range was such, that there were plenty of pieces in this collection, that made me to think to myself, "I wish I would have thought of that!" The poetry, of course made me wish I had some skill in writing poetry, and theres plenty of it, like "Chimayó Chevy Pickup, Step Side '69" by Anna C. Martinez; and "The Way I feel" and "Ode to a Cholo," by Tara Evonne Trudell. It could be that I'm just being biased because I have a piece in this book, and as a result I'm giving this book a positive review, but that's not it. The work in this book from the photographs to the prose is quality.

"We all know anyone can buy a lowrider but pride is something you trade your blood, sweat and tears for. I hope what I have done with my camera here conveys that same pride." Art Meza in the Preface: Low and Slow: Keeping the Tradition Alive in LoWriting: Shots, Rides, & Stories from the Chicano Soul.

Yes, it does show, Meza's pride that is. LoWriting is Chican@ voices and Chican@ pride.

I don't think it needs to be said, but just in case, buy the book, and request it at local libraries and universities. Especially those universities that have Chicano/Latino literature sections, their collections won't be complete without this book, or other books by Chican@ indie publishers for that matter.

A Podcast Interview with Art Meza on Echo Park Forums
Art Meza on Twitter
Art Meza on Instagram
Santino J. Rivera on Twitter
Broken Sword Publications Website

Sunday, February 16, 2014

"Thug" is the New "N-word"

There was a whole lot of hoopla surrounding the Seattle Seahawk's Richard Sherman and his excited outburst after his team's win over the 49ers. A friend texted me and asked me what I thought about the outburst that was followed by the media blitz, referring to him as a "thug." I texted back, "It's just a bunch of cracker ass bullshit. White people can't stand to see a successful minority athlete in the spotlight." My friend texted back: "Yeah: Thug is white people's new n-word." Truer words had never been texted. What I found just as humorous were the people who came to Sherman's defense, citing his Stanford education, his GPA, and how well-spoken he actually is. For me, Sherman's education and his proper speaking skills didn't have to be cited, because the way I saw it, the people making the shitty comments should have been attacked, because they committed a wrongful act. Sherman in my point of view didn't do anything wrong. For me defending Sherman based on his education was as if people were seeking to say that he proved himself to be above the stereotype of a thug, because he made it out of Compton. The way I see it the media was going to attack him because he was black, education be damned.

You don't have to look too far in sports & media related incidents to catch the media referring to some athletes as "thugs," based on something very unassuming the athlete did or said. It's as if they were nitpicking the athletes to have something bad to say about them. There as an incident involving AJ McCarron's mom, and something about Jameis Winston and his inability to speak correctly. I understand, she was upset and was being protective as a mother, because her son didn't win the Heisman, nor did his team make it to the College Football Championship game, but she didn't criticize his ability or skills as QB. If she would've said that he's overrated, yes there would have been controversy, but meh, at least it would stay on him as an athlete, instead she poked at him as a black man.

AJ McCarron's Mom Apologizes "We're far from racist" . . . Not far enough.

Similarly, a year ago Colin Kaepernick was attacked because of his tattoos. Because you know, he liked a tattooed thug n'stuff. Needless to say the controversy came and went. But it was one of those moments where I released a grandiose sigh, and shook my head incessantly for about an hour. Years ago, I recall a Saint Louis Rams QB doing a post game interview. As the reporter conducted the interview, a Rams linemen came over yelled something about the team sticking with this guy as their QB. The following day on Sportcenter, the media found the humor in it, and talked about it good heartedly. The white linemen was just excited because his team had won a game amidst a quarterback controversy. But the white lineman, was not labeled a thug. I repeat NOT a thug.

Colin Kaepernick Tattoos

I'm not sure what it is about white people that they have to go straight to an attack on a person's race than criticizing whatever it is about that person that offends them more directly. For example a friend of mine and I were walking through campus one day, we passed a group of white people, one of whom was trying to get people to sign a petition to prevent the city from allowing the local police department from stopping parties that got out of hand. Many students were upset the new ordinance gave the police the power to stop a party at 11pm if they found it "out of hand." Anyhow, as my friend and I walked by, deep in our conversation, the student with the clipboard, waved it at us and said, "Hey, wanna sign our petition for the anti-party ordinance?" Me and my friend kept walking and talking, not paying him much attention, not that we weren't interested in signing it, we were just caught up in our conversation. As the student went back to talking with this friends, he said, "They probably don't speak English." Me and my friend heard that, shook our heads, and basically called him a "pendejo."

Some Chicano students told me something similar happened to them when they were walking by a booth setup by the university's baseball team. The baseball team was trying to sell tickets or something because attendance was low, so when they offered tickets to these students who said, "No, thanks," one of the baseball players, noticing they were Mexican, said, "They probably only like soccer." Its baffling, that white people always need to turn to some sort of stereotype of our ethnicity, that borders on the racially charged. I have to wonder how many students who were white like the student with the clipboard, and the baseball players at the booth, just ignored them and kept walking. And I wonder if the students said anything about their fellow white students, you know like, "That hotdog and apple pie eating motherfucker." Or you know, "They probably didn't want to sign, because they have to go construct racist comments based on the ethnicity of person." Or if the baseball players thought, "They probably only like baseball & golf like us . . . er wait."

If anything, my friend's comment about the word "thug" being the new n-word, shows that the media and white people in general find new ways to code their racist tendencies & language.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Why I Hate Unions

Teen Social Doom
Unions are great. It's hard to believe that I truly believe that based on the title of this post. My father in fact, as far back as I can remember was a union member, first with the Teamsters, which represented him and many of the other employees at a local cannery. Later when the cannery closed down, laid off its employees and moved it's operation down to Mexico, to make better profits off of their product, through the exploitation of cheap labor, my father was able to find a job working in construction. And even then my dad made sure to join a union. He still works, so he is still a dues paying union member. The union makes sure that my father and other workers that are working construction, but are temporarily laid off, are the first ones that get a call from a company that needs laborers. So thanks to the union, my father has been steadily employed, usually only having to deal with a one-month layoff, before he gets a call to report to a new job site.

Unions haven't only been good to my father, they've been good to us, his family. Whenever he is temporarily laid off, the union provides him and the other laid off union members a box of food from their food bank. On a weekly basis my father would return with a cardboard box filled with random food items that me and my siblings looked forward to, because it was a surprise every week. It could be a mixture of cans of chili beans, beef stew, juice packets, oranges, lettuce, onion, a bag of coffee, cookies, and yes, sometimes even candy. It wasn't quality stuff, but at least we did get some fresh produce, along with cookies & candy! The union would even provide for us on Thanksgiving; every union member would get a turkey. So we were never  without a Thanksgiving turkey. In fact at times we had have one too many Thanksgiving turkeys, because my mom would usually purchase one, while one of them sat in the freezer. But it would work out, because then we'd have a turkey for Christmas. In fact, my mother would usually make tamales for Christmas, so as not to let the second turkey go to waste, my parents made tamales filled with picadillo de pavo. It was one of the best batches of tamales I recall having. So again, labor unions have been good to my father and his family, he gets health benefits, but also priority when it comes to employment.

So why is it that even though unions have provided us with holiday turkeys, boxes-o-food, and steady employment for my papá, I still hate unions? Did I catch some different union man in bed with my mother? No, not at all. Did the union in any way ever disrespect my father? No, never, nor has my dad ever complained about anything relating to the union. Were they ever dirtbags to me? Nope. Did I ever hear some union men discussing the true fate of Jimmy Hoffa, leaving me traumatized, and too scared to speak about what I overheard? Nope.

The only offense that the union ever committed against me was a minor one, looking back on it. But as a prepubescent niño it's funny how its the small things that cause a preteen the most angst and woe. Through their health plan, the union covered plenty of things, our teeth were well taken care of, and if ever we got sick, er well never mind, we didn't get taken to the hospital very much, most illnesses in my parents home, like most Mexican families were resolved with home remedies, two liter bottles of 7Up, "vaporu," the rubbing of an egg over your body, and if all else failed the tried, true and almost-guaranteed chinga, would get rid of the illness. But nonetheless thanks to the union if my parents had ever chosen to take us to the hospital we would have been taken care of well enough, and it wouldn't have cost my dad much. But my disdain toward the union still relates, to the union and the benefits package they provided my father through the company. You see, I am a corrective lenses wearing person. I have been since, I'm guessing the day I was born, because one of my earliest memories was me going to the optometrist, to get glasses. Nice old man. My necessity for glasses did not change as I grew. I continued to need them. Even as a preteen, but as preteen I broke them more often cause I'd be running around with my friends having fun, before alcohol became a necessity for us to have fun.
Well, I'm not sure what happened but we stopped going to the optometrist that my mother used to take me to often, a locally owned business. And instead they started taking me to a chain optometry/lens carriers. The corporations had teamed up to make me miserable. I had to get my glasses replaced, so of course my dad takes me. The check up goes well enough, and then it comes time to pick out the frame for my new prespecrition. So of course I walk over to the thin wire rim frames, because that was the "in" style at the time. If I was going to be a four-eyes, I wanted to be a somewhat fashionable & cool four-eyes. Of course I happily picked out a pair of frames that I liked, and handed them to my dad. He looked at the price and put them back. He walked over to the ladies behind the counter and basically showed them the insurance plan agreed upon by the union and the company he worked for.
Double Ugh
They were more than happy to accommodate him, where upon they took out a box from behind the counter, apparently this was where the frames covered by the insurance were kept. Upon opening the box, I was unsurprised to see nothing I liked. All the frames were these thick, atrocious, plastic frames, usually in black, brown, and a clear plastic, with tints of brownish color circulating throughout the frame. I was appalled beyond fucken belief. I couldn't pick out a frame because I hated all of them. The lady with the box was kind enough to pick one out for me, that she thought looked nice, which I took as a compliment, because she looked young herself, possibly in her mid to late twenties, and was fairly attractive, so I took her word for it. Nonetheless in junior high, regardles of the niceness of the plastic clunkers attached to my face, I was still a four-eyes. As it was I was damned from the start, because I was already this chubby, curly-haired, four-eyed thing, and it seemed that the only way to fix this was with a pair of wire rim glasses. I couldn't do anything about the curly hair, and I blame my father's prominent Spanish lineage for this. Now shake my head at the way my teenage mind worked. If the insurance would have covered some wire-rim frames, I felt I would have been at least a decent looking four-eyes. But no, nowhere in the box were any wire rim frames to be found. Each time I had to get a new pair of glasses because it was time to change my prescription or because I had worn out the older pair or because they had broken during an especially rough recess of running around, I would sit in front of the lady with the box, and as she opened the box I would try to think happy thoughts, hoping, eyes closed, wishing and even willing for a pair of wire rim frames to appear in the box. But alas, God hated me even then, and I believed he plotted with my fathers union, and the company my dad worked for; and I went on believing God was at heart, a man who supported corporations. But the majority of my ire was directed at the union for working out this deal with the company, and the chain optometry business. There were times when I didn't have to pick frames from the dreaded black box, I felt triumphant, because I believed, "yes! now my dad has no choice but to pay for a pair that I want." Sadly, this was not the case, because upon seeing the price of the frame, my dad would tell me to ask the salesperson, if they had anything cheaper. At that moment I would have given anything to pick a frame from the union insurance approved box holding the frames, but at the time my dad worked for a company that didn't have union representation, but still gave them a decent benefits package.

In fact, a few years ago I actually applied for a scholarship for the union that my dad was a member of, and I wrote about my displeasure about the glasses I had to wear thanks to them. I think that comes to show I hold onto grudges for far too long, and as some friends, family, and strangers have suggested, I need help. But I wrote about that in the scholarship essay, and I think the selection committee must have found my tale of preteen angst and woe hilarious, because they gave me the scholarship. The scholarship didn't rectify my disdain of the plastic clunkers that felt like they had a symbiotic relationship with my face for far too many years. The irony is that, nowadays, four-eyes, or better yet, plastic clunkers for your face are now cool, or better yet, "geek chic"-they call it! You can even spot (c)hipsters with the thick plastic frames. I accepted my fate as an eye enhancing implement wearing person. I no longer cared that I was a life-long four-eyes. I embraced it. And the current pair of glasses I wear, are in fact black, thick plastic frames or clunkers that surround the bottle cap frames I need to see well. I picked them, probably because I'm no longer a teen, nor care what people think about me, but just as important I chose them, because I liked them and I could afford them. That was something I didn't consider very much back when my dad would have me pick a frame from the dreaded black box that housed the frames of guaranteed teenage social doom. I didn't consider that cost was important, when it reality it was, because my parents had other bills to pay and couldn't afford something more to my taste, but my own selfishness didn't allow me to recognize that at the time.


P.S.-I hope I don't receive any hate mail for the my excessive use of "four eyes," I have since embraced it and am proud to call myself a four eyes, because apparently some women think it makes you look smart, which they in turn find sexy.