Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Young Latinos: It's The Same Old Cancion

The latest Pew Hispanic Center study, based on a survey of 1200 Latinos, aged 16-25, found something new, and something old. Did you know, for example that young Latinos comprise 18% of all young people in the U.S.? And 42% of all youth in Califas? Orale, I mean wow. How will this affect the future culture, economy and politics of Californa and the U.S.? Qien sabe. More salsa maybe?

1/3 of young Latinos are immigrants, but the other 2/3 are born in the U.S. Many are children of parents who immigrated into the country since 1965. In contrast, lots of my amigos are U.S. born of parents who immigrated in the early 1900's, during and after the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920). Some of us still speak Spanish, imagine that.

One quarter of these "mocosos" will have (you guessed it) at least one more "mocosito" by age 19, more than Whites, Asians or Blacks. I just love kids, don't you?

More interesting findings are that 17% of these young Latinos will drop out of school, almost double the the rates of Blacks, while those Pochos born in the U.S will be less likely to drop out of high school. 23% will live in poverty, higher than Whites but lower than Blacks. But in the long run 2nd generation Latinos will gain more education.

I loved school. High school was a blast. My predecessors in the 40's and 50's dropped out of high school to get married or get a job. Some to help support the family. College for us was unheard of. Like Frank Zappa puts it from Ruben & The Jets, "I dropped out of high school to work on my car."

U.S. borns will be less likely to work in construction, food preparation or other low-skilled jobs, more proficient in "speeki di Inglich" and less likely to live in poverty. I always liked my buenas garras, tu sabes. When in America do as the Americans do, buy, buy, buy, and charge it on your Visa. In my day we had "layaway".

These will have less gang ties and less likely to visit the can, the Pinta or prison.

More than 50% will identify first with their family's native country, "puro Mexicano y que?" In contrast, 33 % of those born in the U.S. believe they are "Americans first"; ride on Joe, Sara, Sean and Briana! 41% will identify themselves by their parents' native land.

So, what does all of this mean? Don't ask me. All I know is that the Browning of America is at hand, and we'd better brush up on our manners, Spanish, and stock up on Chipotle and Guacamole, and "cheeps."

Water Rights: The New Salt Wars?

For as long as anybody remembers, indians and Mexicans near the town of San Elizario, Texas had been openly sharing the salt from local mines. It was considered "communal property", sort of.

However, when the Anglos (and Capitalists) arrived in Texas in the early 1800's, they saw the real value of these mines.

Indians had never been really keen on fences, and in their minds, no one could own a rock, or a chunk of land, or a mountain for that matter. For these things belonged to all. The idea of a fence amazed them.

However, when the Anglos began to take "ownership" establish claims, fence off areas, and charge fees for the salt, the Mexicans and Indians revolted, and so began The San Elizario Salt War, The Salinero Revolt, or the El Paso Salt War, in 1866 which lasted for about 12 years.

The armed struggle between local politicians who were supported by none other than the Texas Rangers, and a few hundred Mexicans, climaxed in 1877 when the mines were seized, and 20 Texas Rangers surrendered.

But the victory for the Mexicans and Indians was short-lived. The arrival of the 9th U.S. Cavalry, and a Sheriff's posse from New Mexico reclaimed the mines, and Mexicans fled to Mexico, some never to return. About 20-30 men died in the conflict, numerous others were wounded, and the episode caused some $31,050 in property damage, big bucks in those days!

I read in Stockton's The Record the other day, another article concerning the dire water shortages in the San Joaquin Valley, the prolonged drought we are in, and the ever growing conflict between water conservationists and farmers whose crops rely on it.

I think most of us sympathize with the farmers' need for water and their oppositions to increasing water rationing by the powers that be. After all, farmers grow our food! I have done my small part by recyling dish and waste water for my plants, flushing less (no fun), and my lawn looks like crap from frequent watering.

You can imagine the shock I felt when I first visited my wife's home in Mexico City to discover that daily by 2-3 PM, they had no water in their faucets! Most houses and apartments had a Tinaco on the roof, a large tub of 100 gallons or so, which held the day's allotment.

Thus, the family rationed their water use, filling a extra buckets, especially for the toilet. You could hear the next day's ration trickling into the tinacos late at night in bed.

One local rancher, according to a recent article in The Record, angered by the whole idea of water rationing, claimed that the water from wells or aquifers directly underneath his acreage ought to belong solely to him to use when and how he wanted!

But wouldn't this be like me owning all the air and space directly above my property, straight up, all the way to the moon, to use when and as I see fit? Maybe I could shoot down all the birds that cross my space or even charge airplanes to fly through it?

We can imagine our underground wells and aquifers as deep, gigantic caverns extending for miles in all directions, brimming with water that took eons to fill. Yet, repeated warnings and recent scientific data shows we are depleting these aquifers at an alarming rate and irreplaceable rate.

According to The Record measurements taken from outer space show that the San Joaquin and Sacramento River basins up to six years ago "could almost fill the nation's largest reservoir, Lake Mead."

The most recent data, says the article, collected from 2003 to March 2009, shows this water has been nearly all sucked dry. By all of us.

But the earth is not warming either is it? Hope it rains. Hard.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Yin and Yang: World of Opposites

Yin & YangImage via Wikipedia

A much maligned and misunderstood symbol is that of the Yin and Yang. You see it on posters, buttons, T-shirts and dangling from the necks of obscure, long-haired youth.

Before I ever understood it, I saw it from an artist's perspective. a beautiful and powerful design, stunning in its simplicity.

To learn that it symbolizes two fish, one white and one black and that each form defined the other was eye-opening.

That it represented a view that life is created of opposites, night and day, up and down, love and hate, right and wrong, good and evil, Satan and God, justice and injustice, negative and the positive and that one could not exist without the other was dumbfounding.

The Western view of life is that we must suppress the negative forces in favor of the positive ones, that they are mistakes and have no place in our lives. How can we re-learn that to completely know love, we must also embrace hatred, that these opposing forces are inextricably bound to one another, each with equal value?

Dualism is embraced by many cultures in the world. There is no place for the Third Eye, I would suppose.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Greater Love Hath No Man: Martyr or Coward?

'Image via Wikipedia

The word Martyr conjures in me images of fear, ecstasy, faith and terror. The Christian stories of the martyred saints, Peter, Paul, Stephen, and Joan of Arc are both inspiring and chilling.

Especially the supreme sacrifice of Jesus.

I have never really had the courage to stand for anything I believe in and the thought of dying for a principle frightens me to death (no pun).

However, it seems to me that the crux of Martyrdom is the giving of one's life for one's belief.

Perhaps the most ominous example is that of the early Christians who chose to face Lions rather than denounce their faith in Christ.

In all religions, faiths, cultures there are probably stories of people who have died for causes. They have killed and been killed "In the name of God."

Legions have given their lives for causes worthy and unworthy, just and unjust.

Witness the recent debate over whether Jihadists who strap bombs on themselves killing dozens of infidels, including women and children, for the sake of their Deity, presumably assuring themselves a special place in heaven, are martyr or terrorist.

But we have a new ingredient in the mix. The martyr is supposed to die!! What if he screws up and lives after killing others in the name of God? Shouldn't he ask for a tighter noose, a sharper axe or sword, a second bullet, a hungrier lion and submit to dying?

Or will he say "Ooopps, God, I'm sorry I really didn't mean it!? Epecially, after he has taken the lives of a dozen poor souls?

Point in question: the recent massacre at Fort Hood, Texas. While no one knows for sure, the media talk is that the act for Nidal Malik Hasan was one of Jihad. If it was, he should have died, yet he lived. He should therefore request immediate death, and not accept another breath of life.

Yet today on CNN, his lawyer is saying Hasan is considering a plea of not guilty for reason on insanity!

Doesn't that automatically negate the act as one of Martyrdom? You can't have it both ways! Unless, of course, he means that Jihad is insanity.

I wonder where failed Martyrs go, Heaven or Hell? Or Limbo? Or whether they even go at all?

747: Join Your Local Campus Atheist Club

Thomas AquinasImage via Wikipedia

Just read about a girl in a campus Atheist club who said "very few people know we exist."

Funny, that's exactly what God says.

I wonder what they do at their meetings? Convince one another of their non beliefs?

If they fund raise, what do they do with "In God We Trust" engraved on bills?

I hope they give them back.

I wonder if they proselytize? Pass out flyers on corners? Baptize? Preach? Take up collections at their meetings.

Have they ever read Camus, Sartre?

There's still the old argument that the chances that life is just one big accident are as good as tossing a boxful of nuts and bolts into the air and having them fall to the ground as a 747.

I Read a billboard once that read: "I'd rather believe in Hell and be wrong than not believe in Hell and be wrong."

We really don't have much to lose if we lived our life believing in a God that doesn't exist. We just might have lived better lives, who knows?

But we would have missed a lot of parties....

I've always wondered if there is any difference is in asking "Do you believe in God?" or "Do you believe in a God?"

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Winds of Change Are Blowing: Adios, Senior Dobbs

Lou Dobbs TonightImage via Wikipedia

The announcement of Lou Dobbs' retirement from CNN comes really as no big surprise. For some, it was long overdue.

His reasons for leaving are indeed noble: "to seek a more activist role" because "the strong winds of change have been buffeting our country", which must be engaged with "constructive problem solving". I like the "buffeting" part. Whew, the Vato waxes almost poetic here.

Dobbs is well known to Latinos and Hispanics for his tirades against the menace "immigrants" and illegal aliens pose to the American middle class ideal. His mockery of Mexico's government would be downright insulting if one were to ignore our own government and its shenanigans as the supposed role model.

If he would have had his way he would round up the whole bunch (12 million), and ship them back to their own country. Trouble is we tried this in the 30's and "Operation Wetback" became an embarrassment to the U.S. exacerbating racial profiling, as "legal" Mexicans were deported right along with the illegals! Oops. Rousting of bars and restaurants was common, harassing dozens of "legals" to net only one "illegal". It wasn't wise to eat at a Mexican restaurant.

The U.S. even paid Mexicans, legal or not, to go back "to where they came from". Problem was some of them came from "here", and their lineages could be traced back to before the arrival of the Mayflower!! Another problem was once illegals were deposited on the other side, they just swam back. The U.S. then tried dumping them off way down around Mexico City. This just made it a little harder for them to come back.

I suspect this is the probably "independent" "constructive problem solving" he refers to. Yeah, but we've heard it all before.

He tried to demonstrate his wit and rhetorical skills in a televised "debate" with Univision's "Noticiero" anchor woman Maria Elena Salinas. At worst, it was like a bully picking on a neighborhood pest. At best it was a draw.

His "no holds barred... acerbic... tough... relentless... independent" style sounded pretty much like just another right winged Republican to me. But it did catch the ire and attention of Latinos and Hispanics. So much so that groups across the country have recently united in calling for Sr. Lou's resignation (or firing) from CNN.

Of course, his retirement was not in the least, prompted by these protests. When one feels "the winds of change", he must of course, change. But isn't this a darned coincidence?

Bob Dylan said it best in the 60's: "The Times They Are A'Changin".... Si, they are changin'.

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Friday, November 6, 2009

It's The Same Old Cancion Jose, I Mean Joe!

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 13:  Elaine Porko, ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Ruben Naverette, columnist recently wrote about a hotel owner in New Mexico who recently fired some of employees for speaking Spanish on the job. Hijole.

The employer also demanded that those employees with Hispanic names anglicize them, the old "Jose" to "Joe", and "Maria" to "Mary" pedo.

He said of course, that this move was "not at all racist" and that he was thinking only for the well being of his customers. Don't some of his customers speak spanish? Maybe not, after all this is New Mexico; why should they?

"Nececito mas Bacon!", rings out from one of the many Hispanic servers to the kitchen area at Hometown Buffet. I am offended! Dang it, how could they run out of Bacon!

I am doing my part. I speak spanish only in bathrooms and in bed with my wife. They say Spanish is a Romance Language. It came from Rome with deep roots in Latin, hence "Latino". I've always wondered why English is not very romantic.

Cesar Chavez used to say that that Spanish is the "language of Love", and English the tongue "you do business with."

When I was a kid, my mom refused to speak English. Mostly she was embarrased by her limited control. So I was the translator. I hated it. When I translated her requests to the teller at Bank of America, I felt ashamed. We were made to. People in line behind us fidgeted, and tossed stares of indignation at the walls and cielings. You could just feel it.

An old employer once asked me not to speak spanish on the job to another employee because his wife and he felt like we might be "talking about them." Sometimes we were!! However, it's interesting how when a Mexican customer entered the store, I was "asked" to go out and wait on him. Hmmm. Somehow, the Spanish was not a bother then.

I also did my part by changing my name "Ricardo" to "Ricky", and "Rios" to "Rivers". I even accepted "Dick" which I hated! I mean what more did they want from me, Blood?

I used to have to hide the bean tacos and chorizo can huevo burritos my mother made me for lunch in elementary schools until one day one of my Gringo pals asked to trade his white bread and "baloney" sandwiches for a taco. We both loved it. When the word spread and the trading was on, I never ate bean tacos again for lunch. But thanks to Taco Bell, I can now eat them shamelessly and openly in public, and not have to make that tedious "run for the border."

But if it's a cleansing of Spanish you really want, you'd better think it over a lot more. Let's see where to we start? Change tge names of States? Colorado, New Mexico, Florida, Nevada, Montana, California? Names of cities? Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, El Paso?

Names of cars, Bronco, Cadillac El Dorado. Names of restaurants, El Torito, Taco Bell?

But don't you think we've had enough of this nonsense? Basta. Hasta la vista with this stuff?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Small World, Small War

July 25, 2006 Soldiers in a UH-60 Black Hawk h...Image via Wikipedia

Several weeks ago a U.S. Chopper went down in Iraq.

There was nothing on the six o'clock news on NBC, nothing on ABC, nothing on CBS, nothing on CNN.

Later that day my wife received a phone call from a dear friend in Arizona telling her to pray for her son-in-law in Iraq.

Her daughter had just received a call from the Department of Defense telling her that a U.S. military chopper had been shot down in Iraq and of the four soldiers on board, three died and one had been mortally wounded, clinging to life.

They could only tell her that her husband was one of the soldiers on board.

My wife's friend asked for prayers. I prayed for the men who died and their families, especially for our friend's son-in-law, "Thy will be done."

A couple of days later, my wife's friend called to confirm that the one surviving soldier was her son-in-law, and that he had been moved to a trauma center.

Last week, my oldest son who is a truck driver, called to tell us that one of his fellow drivers had just attended the funeral of a local family whose son had died in Iraq. He had been one of the three men on board a downed helicopter who died and that a fourth one had survived. "The only thing the family knows", his friend said, "is that the surviving soldier's family lives somewhere in Arizona".

About a week ago my wife's friend called again saying that her son-in-law has been improving so quickly that the military will soon be sending him to the front. "Please continue to pray for him", she pleaded in tears.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

"Son, This Is Going To Hurt Me More Than It Does You."

A Scary Vintage PostcardImage by HA! Designs - Artbyheather via Flickr

According to CNN, a recent study has found that children who were spanked scored 5 percentage points lower on IQ tests, than those who were not!! Give me a break.

What I want to know is how they know for sure that those who scored lower weren't already 5 points dumber in IQ before they were even spanked?

Maybe that's why they were spanked in the first place: because they weren't smart enough to figure out how to lie their way out of it?

Spare me the sobs. "Time outs" didn't work with us and neither did "Go to your room!" We were so poor we had no room to go to!

In my day, some of our parents believed they were entitled to beat the hell out us with belts, ironing cords or switches! And none of us were the worse for it.

Today, they would have been arrested for child abuse.

But now that I think about it, I have always wondered why I have such a low IQ.... hmmmmmmm.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Keeping America Safe: Happiness Is A Warm Gun

Democrats, Run for your lives!!!

Guns E.P.Image via Wikipedia

Just read where the sale of ammuntion has skyrocketed this year, from 7 billion rounds last year to 9 billion bullets this year.

One dealer was cited as saying spikes in ammunition sales is not unusual during times when Democrats are in power, but that this is amazing.

America is literally "biting the bullet." Bullets for breakfast lunch, and dinner.

Does anyone remember the Beatles' song: Happiness is a Warm Gun"? That made me feel warm all over, like a nocturnal emmision of sorts.

"When I feel you, in my arms I know nobody can do me no harm"
(Beatles) Bullets for handloading - Sierra brand in .

Maybe I'll become a Republican.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Late Summer Night's Dream: A Cricket Symphony

Jiminy CricketImage by azrainman via Flickr

Give a little whistle...Image by L-T-L via Flickr

I realized this summer just how many crickets we have in our backyard. As a child, through open screen doors and windows, it just wasn't summer unless the multitude of crickets was chirping in the darkness.

What a lovely chorus. One lives inside a potted plant sitting on a step of the deck, leading to our backyard.

He madly serenades his Senorita until he hears us approach, then abruptly cuts short the sonata in mid phrase! He will not begin again until he is absolutely certain it is safe.

We will miss our musical friends now that Fall approaches. I wonder where they spend the Winter?

Summer nights and crickets belong together, a perfect marriage, like the stars and the black abyss of night.

God couldn't have planned it better.

Excuse me, while I sing my own Senorita, a love song on my guitar.

Jiminy Cricket, man.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Centesimal Entry: 100 and Going Strong

H23 BB00934850 * ...my $100 'star note'Image by TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ via Flickr

This is my 100th entry, wow a mercurial feat for me! I had dreamed of spending time writing after my retirement but I never dreamed so much of it would take this form.

I always pictured it as real writing, like for a book or something, you know.

I admit there is some fat and grease here and there, but you must admit, there are also some morsels of carne asada, if you invest so time to taste, that I am hoping someone out there has digested.

But that's the odd part. Why do I continue? Why bother? What difference does it make? Is it vanity? Insanity? Who is it that stumbles by my posts? Old? Young? Male? Female? Cyber surfers looking for a wave or a fix?

The other day I actually received a comment from a young man in Taiwan who comlimented my blog. Whoa, a long way from Stockton, I believe.

The old "I write for myself" mantra isn't really working. I need some real food. I am starving.

I see other blogs with dozens of comments and responses, sometimes on inane entries worse than mine! But at least I can always count on my old buddy Dad #167, who celebrated his 100th entry not long ago, to add a thoughtful snippet to most of my entries. Thanks dad.

So, for you virtual readers in the great cyber void out there, feel free to felicitate me on this 100th entry if you are so inclined. If not, I shall assume you were just "too busy."

(P.S. Don't try to copy the 100 dollar bill above and print a few hundred for yourself to spend or you might be arrested. The FBI regualarly reads these Blogs I heard). I have always offered sound advice on my blog, but with a grain of salt and a little pepper. (chile pepper).

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ancient Maya Prophecy: Doomsday December 21, 2012?

Maya calendarImage via Wikipedia

Watched an engaging documentary last nite on the History Channel concerning the Maya fascination with time and how they possessed precise calendars far before those of any other culture anywhere on earth (including Europe) and more accurate.

Apparently, theirs was a fascination with noting that time moved in small, medium, and giant cycles in keeping with the movements of the sun and planets, with political and social events repeating themselves.

The program however, centered around a chunk of time that began in 1993 and ends on December 21, 2012, marking the winter solstice, and when our sun every 26,000 years aligns itself with the center of our Milky Way.

Whether the date will be catastrophic or spiritually tranformative seems to be a matter of interpretation, but many believe life as we know it will come to an end.

Not much time remains though to see which is true and we can still squeeze in a couple more Martini's, Margaritas and enchiladas de chile verde. Maybe send me my Christmas present early that year?

Seriously, we ought to pay attention just in case. Maybe find ourself a good vantage point that day, and check out the heavens, and prepare to check out, too.

Say, isn't this the projected date that our Social Security runs outa' money??! E-gads!!!

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Arlo Guthrie Revisited

Cover of "Alice's Restaurant"Cover of Alice's Restaurant

Just finished listening to Arlo Guthrie's (Woody Guthrie's son) "Alice's Restaurant" and wow what a takeback the 60's, from a hodgepodge playist of favorties I've compiled.

It is a masterpiece protest song against the Viet Nam War, and popped up unexpectedly.

If you can, track it down and give it a listen and get ready to crack up at vintage sarcasm, satire and absurdity of an insane time period in America's history.

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On Building a Good Sponge Head

SpongeBob SquarePants: Original Theme Highligh...Image via Wikipedia

I sent my kid home from school yesterday cuz I didn't want him hearin' no Socialistic speech from President Obama.

Sometimes, I have him removed from the classroom when they're studying that science stuff or history. We gotta protect our young minds.

I also, didn't want him spoutin' off no pledge of allegiance stuff to no specific country or praying to no special God, or stuff.

He came home and watched Sponge Bob. I want him to grow up to be a good little sponge head, like the rest of us good Americans.

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Labor Day: Love Made Visible

Just occurred to me that all I love has been a product of my labor, a 43 year marriage, raising two hard-headed sons, teaching my students for 33 years, learning my art, learning to play the guitar and sing, learning to write.

In Kahil Gibran's The Prophet, he writes "Work is love made visible. But if you cannot work without distaste, it would be better to sit at the temple gates and take alms from those who work with love."

Would that we all loved our labors.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Elect Jose Hernandez For President!!

Wait a minute!! On second thought I take it back!! Being President would only cause more problems.
For starters, birthers would begin to say Jose "was not born in the U.S."

Then, ultra conservative talk show hosts would suggest that any attempt at immigration reform would benefit only his fellow Mexican constituents and those illegally in the country, that he would tear down the fences, replace immigration officers with travel agents, and offer a free Corona to all his compatriots, crossing the border.

Opponents of any type of Government Health Care Reform would quickly point out that since Hispanics are at bottom of economic ladder etc. they would be the ones who would most benefit from it and that President Hernandez' intent would be nothing less than a thinly masked retribution for perceived injustices against Mexicans in the "Mexican War" (1846-1848)", and for the U.S. "annexation" of half of Mexico's territory, including California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
I mean, enough is enough. Us Americans are already the scapegoat for a host of perceived injustices against others!

Any mention of affirmative action would be a clear attempt to give under qualified Latinos an unfair advantage for jobs and promotions over us hard-working, patriotic white guys. Oh, you didn't know the Mexicans are "white?"

Oh yes, by the way, there is no "Mexican Race", as many people, including some Mexicans and prone to believe. We are officially classified as Caucasian. I feel better already.

Nah, maybe we can elect Jose, for Mayor, or something less threatening to others, but President? Forget it. Besides, us white guys are always color blind and you can always count on us!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pilgrimage: Left Our Heart In San Francisco

Yesterday, we dared a trip to our beloved San Francisco. Actually, it was more of a pilgrimage, since the my wife's miraculous recovery from chronic pain. As she lay in bed in agony these past years, she spoke often of taking a trip to the coast, or just to walk the streets of her beloved San Francisco, Chinatown, once again.

It begins with breakfast on the Embarcadero at one of our favorite haunts, "Red's Java Joe's", directly beneath the Bay Bridge. The view is stunning. We eat outside on their deck. The bridge, especially the span West of Treasure Island is so underrated, fogged (literally) by its dazzling brother, the Golden Gate Bridge.

A blimp hovers overhead. After, we drive the length of the Embarcadero, with its incredible cosmopolitan mix of tourists and colorful locals. Sightseers, cyclists, joggers, skateboarders, farmer's markets, and street people. Lines of tourists, dragging baggage, line up at piers to board Monsters of The Seas, off to who-know-where, Mexican Riviera or Alaskan cruises.

Past Pier 39, street musicians and performers galore, buses, trolleys, street cars, past the smells of sea food wafting from Fisherman's Wharf, Ghiradelli Square, the impossible contrast of the old and new buildings, Coit Tower, its head vanishing into the fog.

All the while, I click photos from my camera like a mad tourista! Odd, I have never done this before in the many years I have visited "Pantico", as my son Fernando used to call it, trying to pronounce "Francisco."

Am I getting old? Do I sense this may be the last time I get to see all this?

Continuing, we follow the train of cars snaking their way down the world famous Lombard Street, something I never tire of. All I can think of is "Do people really live here? I mean how can they dangle their lives on this impossible street with this impossible view? Do they work for a living? Do they ever get bored?

From there we drive along Columbus St. with its barrio of Little Italy Restaurants, some only a few feet wide, sidewalk cafes, past the infamous North Beach, it's stripjoints, and Vesuvio's Cafe, home of Jack Kerouac!

We park beneath Washington Park, brimming with Chinese old timers, Asian Comadres, shooting the breeze on benches, bundles of card players, seriously obsessed, men in groups, women apart, and huddled crowds of onlookers chirping in Chinese, as the games looms on.

I watch the joy on my wife's face, scouring it for a grimace of pain, a frown, a sigh, but she only smiles and repeats, "I feel good, me siento bien." I break from the group to shoot these impossible composititons of facades, people, signage and storefronts. Click, click, click. Oh, the insane concoction of shapes and color.

Old St. Mary's Church, a dinosaur shrouded by towering white skyscrapers in a modern mode. We gawk at the trashy tourist trinkets, the incredible treasures of art, bronze and wood carvings worthy of temples, priced from $1.95 to $95,000. for a pair of hand carved ivory tusks, on sale yet.
Languages of the world encircle us. We speak in Spanish, just to fit in.

From there, time fleeting, we head for Golden Gate Park, to a favorite spot, the lawns in front of the exquisite Conservatory of Flowers, to nibble of fresh fruit, beer and wine, and sandwiches of San Francisco style bread and cheese, in the midst of tall pink and lavender, Larkspur, and artistic flowerbeds, of yellow, white, purple, white and red flowers.

The euphoric moment is acutely interrupted by the visage of a shadowy man, dark, heavy, mechanically pushing a shopping cart, stuffed black garbage bags tied to the sides and front, hair matted, bearded, dirty faced, wearing a heavy soiled nylon jack and filthy jogging pants, looking like he has just surfaced from the depths of the ocean. The almost sweet Rhine wine I sip on turns tart.

He makes his way to the nearby dumpter, opens it, dives headfirst, halfways in, deftly sifting the glass bottles from the aluminum cans. He is working today. As he drifts into the distance, I feel guilty. I feel useless. I feel almost ashamed. He pauses to toss something into a bed of flowers.

I sense it is a gift of bread crumbs for the insects and birds.

It's getting late. We reluctantly pack and head for the pickup and load up for the trip back to the hot valley. As we pull out of the park I tell my son "Turn right. Let's take a trip down Haight Street. "This was the hippie capital back in the middle of the 1960's", I tell Stephanie who probably has no idea what a Hippy is! Yup , the streets still brim with street bums, left-overs, 2009 wannabes.

"Dad, where's Pacific Street?" My son asks. "It's a few blocks that way", I point left as we continue down Haight St. "Wanna take a drive before we leave?" "Yeah, let's go". We turn left on Pacific Street. And there we are in Pacific Heights, and there they are, the army of Victorian homes, huddled one against the other, competing for attention, these Ginger Bread masterpieces, ornate and and painted in brilliant almost gawdy combinations, highlighted in gold leaf.

We reach the top of the hill and turn right onto Broadway St. and slowly descend, and there, there perched atop a magificent cliff, are magificent homes, with a magnificent views, one with a tennis court in the backyard. Far below them are the roofs of houses and apartments extending to the bay, and in the distance shrouded in fog is Alcatraz Island, and far beyond that the shores of the East Bay, UC Berkeley and the Berkeley Hills. I could easily wake to this each day.

Who are these people who live here? I would die to know someone who knew someone who lived in one of these, and who invites me to dinner! How is it possible to have acquired these homes? Fate? Destiny? Luck? The great Mandela? How is it one man winds up diving into trash bins in Golden Gate Park and others wind up living here?

As we descend into the hot valley, it is about 10 PM. and we are exhausted but renewed. My wife thanks us all and we know in our hearts that today was special, a gift, and we are grateful.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Summer Salad: Savory Bliss

Summer in the San Joaquin Valley, for my my wife and I, means savory tossed salads. It is local tomato and produce time, and we love to toss in every veggie we can think of. Prices are great this time of year too, in the stores and Farmer's Markets.
To boot, there is fresh lettuce, Romaine and Iceberg, spinach, tomatoes, regular and cherry [had a bunch of "volunteer plants" from last year's crop sprout up by themselves!], purple cabbage (for color) red onions, some basil, and a spice we recently discovered in our yard [which I thought was a weed] and Mexicans love, "Ipazote", which has an incredible aroma and taste, and maybe a dash of cilantro.
Sometimes, we use radishes, mushrooms, and always some celery. We love experiment, on occasion cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and bell peppers. The new red and orange ones have incredible flavor, an excellent way to clean out your "refridge"!
We experiment. Tossed some white grapes in one time and wow, a delight. Staple dressings are olive oil and vinegar and then to each his own! For lunch, we will open a can of Tuna and mix in some Ranch and stir it around. A nice touch is to shred some boiled egg over the top.
I suppose a big part of this feast is simply the textures and colors, Being an artist, the salad above was really a work of art, and I rushed to photograph it before it was spoiled by a fork.

Blessed be God, for this abundance and Daily Bread!

Thought I'd toss this out, for what it's worth. Double click the image for full effect.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Orale, Chicanos In High Places!

Jose Hernández (astronaut)Image via Wikipedia

Who woud'a thought it. First a Latina U.S. Supreme Court Justice, then a Chicano Astronaut! Dios mio!!

Jose Hernandez of Stockton (son of a migrant farmworker) will see the world not from the top of a ladder, but the window of the International Space Station.

Jose, who attended local Franklin High School, and University of The Pacific, will blast off on Friday, August 28 (?) for a 13-day sojourn into the heavens. UPDATE: Keep getting scrubs!! Will they ever get the thing up?

He will be Flight Deck Engineer, a job rarely given to first timers into space, and doing robotics both on the shuttle arm and the space station arm and helping "suit-up" fellow astronauts for three scheduled spacewalks.

Feels good to see Brown faces in High Places (no pun intended). He will be passing over Stockton every 90 minutes waving at the many Brown faces of his home town looking up.

Anybody, join me in a shot of tequila toast for Jose? Vaya con Dios.

BAIKONUR, KAZAKHSTAN - OCTOBER 12: In this han...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

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University of the PacificImage via Wikipedia

Friday, August 14, 2009

Vaya Con Dios, Les

Les Paul died yesterday at 94. As a kid I loved hearing his songs with his wife Mary Ford, Les' exquisite guitar, and their incredible harmonies. I was a big fan of hits like "Mockin' Bird Hill", "Tennessee Waltz", "Lady of Spain" and "Hummingbird".

But my favorite had to be "Vaya Con Dios" (Go with God). The story goes that in the Spring of 1953, Capitol Records had just cut a half-million singles of "I'm A Fool To Care", when Les called demanding "Stop the presses! I've got a killer song I want to release instead!"

Luckily, Capitol owned the rights to the song "But it's a dog", they warned. "It was a dog" answered Les, "I've changed the lyrics". Instead of "May God be with you, my darling", which didn't sound right to him, Les had changed it to Spanish "Vaya con Dios". The people would figure it out in time, he assured, or "put it in fine print and let the disc jockey tell them."

It would in time become a #1 hit, and Les was absolutely right, "we did figure it out." Sometimes, things do sound better in Spanish. Cesar Chavez was fond of saying "English is the langauge we do business with, Spanish is the language of poetry." (Something like that)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

For Better Or For Worse: A BIG 43!!

Today marks our 43rd Anniversary. Who woulda' thunk it? The kid who at 25 vowed he would be a perpetual bachelor!
That all changed in 1965 when I met my beautiful wife Chela in Mexico City when my mom and I had gone there to pay a "Manda" (vow) to visit the Basilica of the Virgen of Guadalupe which she had made while I was off in Europe in the U.S. Army.
She had made the promise that the two of us would make a pilgrimage there in thanksgiving for my safe return from Europe. I fought her all the way because I really didn't believe in all that stuff, and I had much more important things to do like partying, carousing, and catching up on a 3-year absence from the Real World. However, once there I decided to visit an old college buddy of mine.
Ironically, Pepe had married and had moved to San Miguel de Allende but the family graciously received me, along with Pepe's five sisters. One stood out. Our eyes met, and the rest is history. Needless to say I asked my Mom to extend our stay, and three days later I asked Chela to marry me. We married a year later in a small but beautiful cathedral not far from her home.

My mom, of course, attributed all of this to the Virgen: "Gracias, Virgen de Guadalupe por este milagro!! For years she had prayed to God and all the saints to find "a good Mexican woman" for me, her last and Prodigal son. "Mexican women know how to take care of their men", she said. And she was absolutely right.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The New Red Scare: Here We Go Again!

Enjoy CapitalismImage by Jacob Bøtter via Flickr

One would hope that the Red Scare (note the color red here) was history, past, gone away but it seems conservatives are at it again as the the "S" word is being pasted onto Obama, The Bailout and increased government involvement in our lives, now Health Care Reform.

I used to tell my students to tell me whether Democracy or Communism is good or bad. And naturally, they mechanically trumpeted: Communism is evil and Democracy good. Of course.

Then I would ask "What if corrupt people run a Democracy, and good people run a Communist system?

Vladimir Ilyich LeninImage via Wikipedia

Is the system good or bad, or do those who run it make it good or bad?" Kind of a rhetorical question.

I believe the much ado about the glories of Capitalism should have been settled once and for all with the debacle over Wall St., the banks and the collapse of the housing market. Bernie Madoff?

So who's afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? Maybe a little Socialism would be good for us? Can't be much worse than the brand of Capitalism we've seen lately, que no? The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Unsung Heroes: Nordine, Feiffer & Rose

One day when I told my Mom I wanted to be an artist when I grew up she said "Why? Artists only get famous after they're dead!"

This past weekend while rifling through my record collection (Yes, I still own records and from time to time play them on my "stereo system!") I came across an old album by Ken Nordine and played it.

I was flooded with memories of sipping wine at my pad in the late 50's and listening to this master of "Word Jazz" And then it struck me. Too many artists never receive the acclaim they deserve. Mom was wrong!

It simply is not fair that the Michael Jackson's of this world are lauded with halos, wreathes and adulation when others like Ken Nordine (How Are Things In Your Town?" 1957-60) slide by relatively unnoticed! I mean a bunch of "monsters" or "zombies" suggestively gyrating to Thriller doesn't thrill me much! (sorry I do like Michael honest but give me a break!). But Nordine is a prophet, a trail blazer and the incredible pathos, dark humor, satire and tragedy in his poetry encapsulates the transition from a pre-1950's conformist mentality to one of real free thought. His poems, come to life backed up by Jazz riffs, solid bass runs and masterful sound effects. How could he have escaped America sans superstar power? (Just saw his records for sale on E-Bay!) Of course, you will need a "turntable" to play them! What is a turntable you ask?

Another is cartoonist Jules Feiffer (See his book Sick, Sick, Sick 1957-60). Not only is he a master cartoonist, but the themes and messages of each delves deeply into the "hung-up" American Psyche, of a generation before the Sexual Revolution of the 60's; it is a satirical exploration of America's preoccupation with fitting in and the phobia over daring to be "different". Relatively speaking, he too has prematurely died by the wayside!

A third prophet is perhaps the least known, Biff Rose (See his record A Thorn in Mrs. Roses Side 1968). His song "Gentle People" is just that, sweet and gentle and poetic. He has a helluva voice too, one you won't soon forget.

The point of this I suppose is that for each Superstar, there are nine others who are just as good, and maybe even better that fall into the thorny bushes of obscurity. Thus is the world of the Muse. Maybe you too could name three unknowns who should'a been knowns. Let the world know and maybe together we can resurecct them from the dead?

All these three artistically capture that bitter, sweet, frightening transition from an innocent and conformist society before the 50's and 60's into one of social revolution and self knowledge, in a way we can almost laugh at, like a Sick Joke, sort of. It just hit me: this was the era of Mad Magazine!! What, Me Worry?

Friday, August 7, 2009

I Have Been Awarded The Manly Guy Blogger Award!

Schwarzenegger: Most muscularImage by d_vdm via Flickr

I humbly accept this award from my manly Blogger buddy, Dad #167, (Please read his Blog) though I have worked so hard to keep my manliness in check. But sometimes it is not so easy to hide. It has been a bit like Clark Kent in the phone booth leaping out when least expected.

But my machismo, manhood and masulinity is so obvious in my posts and I feel I am truly deserving of this bestowal (I am not humble) Please read Dad #167's entry to view the demanding qualifications for this award. I mean nowhere on my blog will you find songs like "Somehwere My Love" instead you'll hear "Warm Beer and Cold Women" by Tom Waits or "El Rey" (The King) by Vicente Fernandez! "I my haven't a throne or a queen, but I am still The King!" He boasts.

My further qualifications are "urinary hesitancy" and "flatulence" and I learned the Mexican mantra fully: "Los Hombres No LLoran" [Men do not cry] (says nothing about whimpering).

Again, my profound thanks to Dad #167 for this prestigious bestowal and DavidC, the founder of the award! and I send them and all the other Manly Bloggers out there "Un Abrazo" (a hug) but watchout - don't squeeze too hard!!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Arriba Sonia!!!

Wow, Sonia Sotomayor was finally confirmed as Supreme Court Justice! Now, that's real Justice. Not more than 150 years ago Mexicans in California were not even permitted to serve on a jury! You've come a long way, baby.
Of, course this was after promising she would not nationalize all illegal aliens, vote against abortion, or use Spanish in the courtroom, (or the bathroom) and refrain from any more comments about a "wise Latina". She promised.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

O Ye of Little Faith: Anatomy of a Miracle

Some time back I posted an entry titled "BMW: In Sickness and in Health" (please see), where I bemoaned the health of my wife who for several years has been in chronic back pain and debilitating depression. She often spoke of ending her life.
"Pray, have faith, ask God for a miracle", we were constantly told by friends and well-wishers. "You are in our prayers." Yet not prayer, not numerous and painful spinal injections, not a recent spinal surgery, nor drugs could relieve her pain. "Things happen for a reason" rang hollow to us. "God has a plan." We could not see it, much less believe it.
Close friends beseeched us to go to local Healing Masses, but we were always quick to find excuses not to go, not withstanding 2 or 3 hour masses with her sitting on hard wooden pews. We knew that these services were conducted by "Charismatics", who we had tended to shy away from in the past.
Well, Saturday last we finally went to a Healing Mass at a local parish. I already had another commitment at exactly the same time, performing at our local library, but I figured I could attend the mass, after I finished. Secretly, I had hoped the ceremony would be over when I arrived but a text message from my son assured me "Dad, the healing rites have just started".
When I arrived, they were about third from the front of the line, and I joined them. At our turn, we asked for the healer, Bob, who had been highly recommeded to us. He asked my wife what ailed her and she began her litany of complaints, back, neck, leg pain, deep hopeless and depression. He layed hands on her and began praying invoking God, Jesus and the Saints to renew this broken body and restore her faith, often speaking "in tongues". I don't think I have ever prayed so hard.
Bob then asked my son and I to ease my wife to the hardwood gymnasium floor on her back and we did so. He continued to pray over her and we held her arms tight, but he told us to release her. He then told her to stand and to leave her cane (which she always used to walk with), raise both hands over her head, and to walk around the hall! I started to go with her, fearing she might stumble, waver or fall, but Bob signaled me to let her do it alone. She walked with a gait I have not seen in years. When she returned he told her to walk around again, this time lifting each knee into the air as she walked and she did it perfectly. Tears of joy flooded my cheeks.
As we sat on a wooden bleacher my wife said: "I feel so good. I feel so light. I feel as if a giant weight has been lifted off my back." On the way across the parking lot, me walking our usual slow gait, she actually tugged, urging me to walk faster.
It has been a week now, and she is about 95% pain free. Her beautiful smile has returned. Her depression is completely gone and we still have not tired of telling our family, friends and anyone who will listen that there is a God and the He cares. That miracles are real. That there is power in prayer, power in faith. Maybe God just got tired of hearing our ceaseless prayers?

"O ye of little faith! If you had the faith of a mustard seed, you could say to that mountain 'move' and the mountain would move."

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Anybody Hungry?

Just spent a week in mid-June in our trailer at Bodega Bay on the coast. On one weekend, Fernando our youngest son, brought ingredients for shish-ka-bob which we barbecued for dinner.
The colors of the speared food glowed and needless to say everyone, even the kids totally enjoyed the meal. We lived sinfully well that week, not like the old days when we used to "rough it" in tents.
In the days we sipped beer or wine, maybe a Bloody Mary or two and watched movies at night. Especially enjoyed watching pelicans dive for fish all around us.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Poor Man's Food: Cactus, Cacti Salad

How Mexcians figured out how to harvest and eat cactus you got me but it shines as a testament to their ingenuity over the centuries. Not only do cactus give water to quench one's thirst in the desert, but they are edible and part of the Mexican/Indigenous cuisine. In summer, the Tunas (cactus pears will be ripening and if you have never tasted one you are missing out on one of life's delicacies. How to peel the skin and avoid the disastrous spines, and get to the sweet pulply fruit inside, is another of life's mysteries and a credit to Mexicans. (I can tell you how on another espisode or if you simply ask).
The Aztecs would carefully peel back the thin layer of the cactus shoots, dry it and use it as paper to draw and paint on. The needles were carefully removed one at a time so that a long strand of skin would remain attached. Then they could sew with it.
Finally, they discovered that by drying the fibrous cores (skeleton of the plants) they would burn long and hot for fires. Strong ropes and cords were also woven from the tough fibers.

Ferocactus pilosus (Mexican Lime Cactus) growi...Image via Wikipedia

If you want to blow people away at your next party with something "ethnic" try making some Cactus Salad (Nopales). If you just happen to have a cactus plant in your back yard, cut slice off 4-6 new shoots, usually in spring, when they are bright green and tender. My mom insisted they must be cut before 10 AM or they will not keep that nice tart flavor.
Otherwise, you can buy the shoots whole or diced at many local super markets. If they are whole, you have to slice off the spines with a sharp knife. Danger: be careful not to stab yourself! Make sure the knife is sharp and that you get all of them! You can trim about 1/4 inch all the way around to get the ones on the edges. When done, cut into 1/2 inch strips, or dice into 1/2 inch squares. (Of course, you can cheat and buy some cactus in a can already cooked! Then skip the cooking part.)
Heat some water in a medium pan and toss in the diced cactus, with some garlic cloves, onions, and a dash of salt and boil (15 minutes?) until tender. Remove the cooked cactus and place them in a strainer and wash thoroughly with cold water until all the "slime" is removed. Then place in a large bowl to cool, while you dice fresh cilantro, avocado and tomatoes. When done, stir in and mix with the cactus. You can also squirt a little lime juice into the mix. Mmmmm. Chokes me up just thinking about it!
Serve as a side dish with any food and wait for "what's this?" reactions and some unexpected compliments. Some never acquire a taste for cactus but that is to be expected. There are still deadheads around that don't like onions, garlic, spinach, artichokes or even mustard! Imagine that.

Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday To Me....

Celebrated my 70th Birthday yesterday rather uneventfully, though there was an unofficial celebration for me on Sunday.

My wife would not hear of just letting the day pass without food, family, friends and cake. My two sons were here, the grand kids, some dear friends and a couple of our neighbors.
We feasted on barbecue ribs, beans, rice, and green salad. Most, even took doggie bags home after the party.

In the afternoon, my son Miguel and I had gone shopping for the cake and other odds 'n ends for the party. As we unloaded the shopping cart at the counter, I happened to look down at the two candles my son was purchasing for the cake. and seeing the numbers "7" and "0" there gave me a chill. It was a snap to blow them out. After the traditional birthday song, my compadre and good friend Julian led the old timers in a verse of "Happy Trails", most appropriate, I thought.

"Ya, look good, you look good (for 70)" several of my friends repeated. "No wonder I feel tired", I replied. I wonder what I am going to be when I grow up? What have I accomplished? Wasted? I have composed my epitaph: "He coulda' been better, but he coulda' been worse." I think about these things more and more these days.