Wednesday, June 30, 2010

If A Tree Falls In The Forest....?

I remember this mind bender from a philosophy course I took in college and how I spent days, even years contemplating the question: "If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it still make a sound?

And now at 70+, I am ready to pronounce the answer. Are you ready? Yes! It sure the hell does! This week my son Miguel took my wife and I to Silver Lake, an old haunt nestled at about 8500 feet elevation in the heart of California's Sierra Nevada mountains.

Across the lake, stubborn snow patches still dotted the granite monoliths, the last of this year's snowfall.  The one's at the top melted into temporary channels, which then poured into their brothers beneath them, which melted into more rivulets running down to those at the bottom which finally melted into large streams emptying into the lake.

Varieties of ants rushed aimlessly (or purposely) about, some black ones almost an inch in length! But they didn't really bother us. Clouds of mosquitoes hovered over us, agreeing among themselves, not to bite. Or was it the insect repellent? Two lizards did combat over a prime location on a bare rock in the sun. Why, when there were plenty of other rocks all over the place? Is there a story here?

As I lay on a rock looking up at the cotton tufts of cumulus clouds drifting by overhead, it occurred to me that all things do everything they're supposed to do whether we see, feel or hear them. The trees in a forest, if they wanted to could just fake growing and dying and no one would ever notice. Most could be replaced by photographic props, backdrops, and cheap visual tricks and most of us could care less.

Yet, each living thing goes through its prescribed ritual when it could take shortcuts, condense, delete or add things. Why? Every passing cloud formed, connected with larger clumps, devoured its neighbors, and deformed exactly as it was supposed to do without cheating. Every wisp, and shadow was perfectly in place. Cause and effect.

So I too went through the prescribed ritual of my species of drinking beer, lighting up my pipe, and eating salami and cheese sandwiches. What choice did I have? I didn't want to make a fool of myself.

Thus, the question really ought to be "if a man opens a can of beer in the forest, does it still make a sound?" Don't ask me, ask the squirrels!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

'Escuse' Me But Some Of My Best Friends Are Illegals!

In my tiny barrio in Southside Modesto, I grew up surrounded by what were then commonly called "Mojados", referring to the crude namesake "Wetbacks."

They seemed normal enough to me. Young kids, old men whose only dream was to work the summer seasons in the fields, send money to families in Mexico, and return for the winter.

I worked alongside them in the fields, fruit picking machines, their skillful hands devouring fruits from sets of four trees and rushing off into the darkness before day break, till the infernal 105 degree heat of the mid-afternoons, lugging metal buckets and 14-foot ladders, to a new one.

In contrast, I was lazy and worked only enough to be able to buy my Buenas Garras, fancy new clothes for school. "No seas burro", my mom would tell me. "Estudia, para que no tengas que trabajar el los fieles como animal." 

I remember the dreaded call "Ahi, viene La Migra!!" And them scattering like cucarachas across rows of fruit trees, over fences, into irrigation ditches. Those caught were deported, and most in a matter of days or weeks, just waded back across the Rio Grande to pick again. Over and over.

In the popular imagination, Americans today picture hordes of Mexicans, rushing the borders into the U.S. to commit crimes and take away people's jobs. Many of our own Gente embrace the myth.

Ironically, immigration to the U.S. is something the great masses of Mexicans never even think about. They go about their lives, working, toiling, surviving with absolutely no intention of ever leaving Mexico, except to ocassionally fantacize about visiting Disneylandia or Las Vegas.

My relatives, who live in Mexico City are perfectly satisfied to remain there. After all, the U.S. comes to them, Walmart, Costco, Burger King, MacDonalds. They do so depite the povery surrounding them, the crime, and the corruption they all complain about in the police, local officials and the government.

Yet illegal immigrants in the U.S. are embedded in our way of life, and to remove them is like cutting off an arm or a leg to save yourself. Some of them have lived here illegally for generations, undetected, having raised their grandkids among us.

They are our brothers, fathers, wives, sisters and neighbors. We go to school with them. We work with them. We break bread with them.

As far as I can see, most still pick our fruits and vegetables, serve our food, wash our dirty dishes, roof our houses, and fix our cars, cheaply too. I don't know about you, but the ones I know are not drug-trafficers, not criminals, but maybe you and I don't run in the same circles, quien sabe,

In fact, some of my best friends are illegals.