Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Como se dice ¨passiva aggressiva¨

I would be a total dick to say the trip was a waste. Honestly I cant say it per say as the keyboard I am writing forom is missing most of the keys to string together a cohesive sentance, and it was not a waste. There are all the makings of a slap stick comedy about two gringas who get dumped in the dessert in a village of poor farmworkers with nothing to do but breed, eat and make babies. Consequently I dont understand the baby making part as most everyone shares a bed and or a room with the children they have already made. Twin beds - catholic birth control. Who in this century that wasnt in mexico to convert the indians to one religion or another can say they spent 12 days in mexico having imbibed but 3 beers. Total, and not at the same time? I can say as much, and whoever says it ´s the booze not the food that rumbles your tummy, well, we should talk, over beers.
Now that we are gone, I can see beauty and humor in the situation, but smack dab in the 100 degree dust cloud that was our daily life it was not so picturesque.

Passive aggression is a dance I am left footed at at best. It might very well might be the national dance of mexican mothers. It starts out slow and lovely, a backward compliment a little tug for attention- You like to eat don´t you? Oh you dont like the food, my food must be bad, you think you are sick from my food. You shuffle along because the beat is familiar and you want to keep up. you have no desire to dissapoint so early in the game. - you finish your plate you ask for more you lie and say it is the best ground beef with large chunks of cartilage jalapenos and raw onion enchiladas you have ever had. You offer to cook as well so that she might have a break and you are not insulted when she laughs and says you probably cant cook mexican food because you are from america and their poor little village wouldnt have the ingredients you require to cook like a Chef.
With each question and bassackward remark about your clothes or your lack of makeup or why you have chosen not to make yourself beautiful for the men by putting on the pretty shoes for walking you stumble a little more, as one might stumble on the pocked dusty road and the thatched pavement is said pretty shoes for the ´men´ . The dance quickens you fumble your waord and suddenly you wake to an empty house, with food from hours ago sitting on the counter that you must now eat or be guilty of wasting your breakfast. YOu try to do the dishes to pull your weight only to see her rewashing them and commenting on how the sink might be clogged with food now because someone was messing with the dishes.
Soon you are floundering, breathless, sweating and totally off beat. The ground beneath you is moving at a quick pace and it is all you can do to keep a smile on your face. YOu overhear her on th ephone talking about how much you hate it here and how much you hate the food, how tatoos are ugly and sinful and when she sees you out of the corner of her eye she whispers into the phone and turns so you can´t hear. Only after she has nearly melted the plastic casing talking up a bluestreak of ridiculousness you hear her from across the house like nails on a chalkboard ¨Camila give me a cigarette eh? Are you hungry? What are you doing are you bored?´ And you give her a cigarette and talk about the weather because you hope that you are wrong and it is just that mom way, of doubting for the sake of someone else objecting and reassuring and continuing that dance that you have surely failed to keep pace with.
By the time the music winds down, you have spent days having done nothing, having little communication besides huge plates of food and even the idea of leaving a couple days early has ended in a flattened accusation of your dislike for your accomodations you are broken.
And at the end of the week the final act of attrition you put on the fancy dress and the high heeled shoes you make up your face and feel horrible overdressed for the frogs and the pigs just out side the door. And she parrades oyu through town and sits you at the biggest table at someone elses party and smiles as the men gawk and the little ladies turn thier heads and the young ladies pierce you with daggers. For they have squeezed a life time of tortillas into the wrong size jeans and smashed their feet into platform shoes displaying their toes like shrimp cocktail hanging from the glass. They sacraficed an evening of telenovelas in favor of using a curling iron and a half gallon of hair spray and they were not gonna let a couple of gringas spoil the one night a year they could get their husbands drunk enough to dance with them.
Oh and they danced. Sweaty and slippery skinned they pull each other around the dance floor to the overly prnounced beat of a tuba and accordian, tugging at each others back pockets. The men mount their ladies over one knee and bounce them around so much that the ladies cease to touch the ground.
Our little dance is not so suggestive, she watches us watch them. My companion cannot dance with any one as she is taken and he is por el norte. So are most of the women at the dance, as you scann the perimieter of the dance floor the women with husbands far from home look longingly into the drowd and imaginge they are being bounced on one knee with their cowboy in matching boots and fake gucci belt. That they are smelling the tacate on their breath and going home to make love faster than a ranchera ballad on a twin sized bed. But they are here growing old and picking up wired money at the farmacia surviving on little more than memories and convicing themselves that their husbands are faithful in the states when they have most likely taken up with some gringo whore like the one sitting at the table front and center and it is not even her party.
It has been made poerfectly clear that I am available to dance with any soltero I fancy. I should find myself a good man here in bufalo, as it is I am old and single and tragically with out a sixpack of niños clipping my heels. It has all but bee implied that my ovaries might dry up this very evening if I do not find myself a vacero and learn to make tortillas. But the affor mentioned daggers keep me glued to my seat. And while I actually enjoy dancing Ill be dambed if I fuel either fire by playing the make the gringa dance ranchera game. My feet though are reging an all out rebellion, tapping aeay like morse code begging to be pulled out on the dancefloor. I must all but sit on my hansd and fein complete musical dyslexia. I am a traitor to soul and my soles.
In the end it was the uncle of our keeper that caught me off gaurd in the plaza, family was supposed to be safe ground. He stolled up rosy from cerveza, and I wa simmediatly jelous of his enebraited state. To add insult to injury, women were not encouraged to partake in the drinking of such refreshing beverages as beer. Not even a Zima and I would have drank it if offered. In the minute it took me to realize he was not asking my if I liked the party but was asking if I liked him, I saw no escape, stumbbling over himself and his english the words ¨I like and beautiful´ slipped back and forth across the border of english and spanish like a well fed coyote and a hole in the 2000 mile fence. My dissapointment and frustration lay cloaked under a patient smile and my seach for an exit stragedy, and the cold cool realization that while our keeper was spinning tales about our dislike of pretty much everything her brother was trying to convince me that his wife was not at his house if I wanted to come have a beer. Not even a beer in harsh climate could make me want anything less.
The next morning the dance picked up where it left off but with days to go we stopped trying to keep up. We dissapointed her tremendoulsy by not repeating our little game of dress up and diplay the gringas at the school graduation.
But, by now we had started our own dance, the we have had such a great time and we will miss this place forever as it has carved a place in our hearts dance. Our last evening in town we made our rounds to every ferril child and every house we had sat on it´s stoop and took pictures of families larger than their pocketbooks can afford. And in the plaze tienda where throughout the day the owner calls oever a loud speaker ¨señora gonzolez you have a phone call you son is trying to call and you phone is unplugged!¨ or ¨maria lupita is here with her rico tamales for 2 pesos!¨ upon our request before we strolled the plaza for the last time an anouncement went out ¨to everyone in Bufalo the two gringos thank you for your hospitality and wish everyone a pleasant life Thank you again!!!¨ And with an empty smile our matroly host played along, we passed along gifts for the kids and pictures for her. Packed up presents headed north toward families not seen in ages, and while I might argue that we all simultatiously had dust in our eyes as we parted ways at the omnibus station, we passed out kleenex and boarded the bus slightly heavy hearted and wondered how different things would be the next time we passed through.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

You are never alone in the middle of nowhere....

´Where are you going?´what do you want to eat?´do you hate it here and want to go home?´do you like spicy?´can i use your ipod?´´tell her to give me her cellphone´tell them to go away´can I have the soccer ball?´why aren´t you married?´why dont you have kids´is there something wrong with you?´´what is she saying?´tel her bla bla bla´come here´eat more´what do they want?´where are we?´what are we doing?´´does she want to live here when her and Adrain get married´how many kids do you want?.... `
My job as cultural laison is far from the delightful challenge of translating a few words back and forth between a girlfriend and a boyfriends mother. I am the apex of all communication of feelings, needs, wants, and desires at any given time between up to and often exceeding 10 or more people. It is 100 degrees and I am not accustomed to so many eyes on me looking for answers. I am simply a mouthpiece. I do not make decisions, I do not serve much more purpose than to tranfer information from one person to another and try to do it with my limited vocabulary and with the most cooth I can muster. But sometimes I want to scream.... ´Yes I am fucking bored! and No, you are are right there is nothing to do here!!. ... it´s 10 am of course she is asking if you want breakfast... and no I do not want to play freaking futbol for the 30th time today! its fucking hot and I want to sit here in the shade and read my fucking book with 20 people staring at me and ten teenage boys making googy eyes at me and twenty old ladies looking at me from afar but not speaking to me lest the devil come tearing through my chest wearing in an american flag, shitting money and pissing fresh water.
I digress....
Yesterday, in the boiling afternoon sun I slipped away unnoticed as the kids were distracted by broken glass and rusty nails and mothers dozed on the bed watching telenovelas and my travel partner was showering. Just a walk in the hot desert sun, some precious moments alone. To clear my head and to stop the exasperated shrillness piercing my better sence. I found a dirt road past the cows grazing openly past the goat pen a little farther past the spots of earth people decided would be the final resting place of say a toilet or a weeks worth of trash, past the spot where a cow decided to die a long time ago.... just me and the open dessert, from such a distance it began to share some similar traits with what I might call pretty. Desert flowers had burst after yesterdays downpour, the road turned to two dusty lines of tire track with brush flowers growing down the middle. The afternoon sun pounded my fresh showered head and I disroabed down to tank top and hiked my skirt up past my knees and walk with purpose, with strength, with speed. Far past the little pueblo called bufalo I found myself unwinding, listening to only my thoughts, singing a song I only knew a few words of but delighted by the sound of my voice.
I cam a cross a revine dried up by the summer sun but still green. In the heat I imagined a hidden river of crystal clear water to soak my hot skin in. I can see how people might imagine sand is water in heat like this. The sky above me burst with huge white fluffy clouds that seemed to extend just out of reach and settle on the tops of forboding cactus and spiny bushes that spread out across such hostil ground.
With each step birds shot out from low bushes and the farther I got from my return destination the wilder my imagination got. I had seen a tarantula the size of my fist the day before crossing the road and would like nothing more than to never see another. And though I had been assured there were no snakes I was not so sure of my translation skills thus far.
But at least I was alone, away from the questions the stares the helplessness, the one airconditioned room that has become a polyester bedspread prison. Just me... or not.
at one point I turn back to check my distance, and there I saw a pair of jeans scurry into the trees, disspointment burnt through me harder than the sun, just one minute alone for god sake. I walked a little bit further and turned around again, there they were a bit behind me but definatly on my trail.
Defeated and dampened by the thought that someone was sent to watch after me or that one of the ferril children that had come to attach themselves to us had followed me this far into the dessert was numbing. I turned back toward the dusty legs hidding just inside a row of trees and once they noticed my coming in a new direction they scampered up the hill and out of sight.
As I walked back I steamed from the heat of the sun and the exasperation of nary a minute to myself. Only then did I realize that I was in the middle of the desert far from the small thatching of civilazation and I was still unsure who was tracking me.
Now I had to drumm up some anger, some ´come get me motherfucker I will stroll into town with your balls as a trophy, it only takes seven pounds of pressure to break a knee and a little dust and my thumb in your eye will put you out of work for a while...´ Now I am mad! Some stranger in the dessert has forced me to bring out my inner roitgrrl. But this is a land of macho men and here in this place I am a white alien and must not forget that I am not seen as an equal or even as a person but some milky fleshed boobies and a big ol baby making booty.
With my fists clenched I round another corner and there is my stalker sitting in the shade of a pecan tree. ´buenas dias´buenas dias´what are you doing out here? just walking no mas? and you? just walking too¨ OK then have a nice day´. And I was off agian relived but sure I could have taken him... .
On the way back I checked my hemline and relaxed. I snuck back into the house where ther was a plate of food waiting for me on the table, my roomate reading in the frigid bedroom, having no idea what anyone had said to her in the last hour and ten little kids were outside aguing weatherto play futbol, volleyball, kickball, but equally content to fight about what of the three to play and never play any of them.
I tuck my selfish need for me time back into the folds of my mind and remember this is not my trip, it matters not what I think, what matters is that the people I am here to connect understand each other and that we both apply enough sunscreen.

Monday, June 22, 2009

One road into bufalo.

There is one road into bufalo. Off higway 34 and straight on till morning. No turns no side roads, the term `big sky`comes to mind as huge clouds sop up the sky and the mointains in the distance are dwarfed by the hilless dessert between here and there. The road ends in bufalo. Four blocks wide and all points radiating from a plaza hosting a bird stained gazebo a few whitewashed benches and couple of tetter totters that teeter more than they totter. The pavement ends and the curves of the road follow the puddles of horse trodden mud that form there tire tracks have carved away a street. Believe it or not there is a good side of town and a bad side of town and the only thing that separates them is a trodden down shack called Bufalo Bills Bar, that rarely sees a patron but we are prohibited to go near it as there may be some idea that either of us have some virtue to protect.
Houses are piled next to each other and painted vibrant colors you might find at a home depot fire sale. As if an electric shade of teal might give their cement and rebar matchbox a touch of the same vitality of it´s owners. Unfinished, faded or abandoned by the son´s ´por el norte´ what is left is a sleepy little town inhabited mostly by mothers, young women, chilrden and their grandparents.
Dogs you can´t pet and children you can kick up dirt in droves ont he dusty streets, the most comon short cut from one house point to another is to pass through someones living room and out the back door, grabbing a soda or a snack on the way.
We are the first and only gringos that have ventured down the road, for there would be no other reason than ours and no one really understands why we are there including ourselves. At every corner little old ladies sit and chirp like hens and grow silent when we pass by, little kids follow us like the pied piper, and the boys just stare from a distance wondering how to get their little brother or sister to bring us over.
There is one stor in the middle of town that we believe houses of of only a few phones in town, at any hour you can hear the shopkeep over a loudspeaker ^Señora Juanita tienes una llamada de su hijo ine chicago´ ´Mrs Juanita your son is calling from Chicago´at other times she might announce that Maria has brought down some of her rico tamales and you can bring them home for only a peso.
Every minute here is a surreal adventure in patience, wonder, and staying awake. But and adventure non the less.

Stay tuned for our visit to the glass filled swimming pool, a fight on the mound at the bufalo vs. jimenez baseball game and how we discovered the only way to sleep through the vermin howels and donkey brays.

Ps sorry bout spelling... no check and very spotty computer so I had to make it fast.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Keeping up with the Times...

This is a good sustainable food blog that was sent to me recently. There are a lot of useful links to other sites.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Looking back and forward at the same time

It has been months, my idea of documenting the recreation of a kitchen has gone sour. The stories lost in the battle are bittersweet. My sheer lack of disipline and my natural penchant for getting in the life weeds has sent them to the 86 list and made room for new stories.
My time at 'the Bistro' was short lived and was my first taste of being on the business and of a sour deal. I can say the bitterness has been washed away, and I tried my damnedest to be the best I could be. I took freaking French lessons for god sake.. and I made a few solid misfit friends in the wash but alas, it was all bigger than me.
NO regrets -- but, I am thankful the the doors I left slightly ajar behind me didn't closed. The simple truth is not "no thanks I can do better but, thank you but I am not doing the best I can do for you"
Unemployment was a painful, wonderful and in the end a re-envigorating journey. The first week was spent in bed turning 34 and reading the entire 'twighlight' sereis. Cliche as it is, vampires and love stories were the perfect escape. After years of being big shit in the best fucking restaurant in America, there I was jobless, knifeless and feeling a little trodden by the 'man'. When your life is your job, you live behind the fire all day and you drink through the night just to feel normal.
With one hand on my ego and the other on my boot straps, I got out of bed. In a whirlwind of creative desire and an unhealthy pocketbook, I became a gardener, a sewer of things. I glued my fingers shut with little projects here and there and decided that never again will I let my job define me, will I let the hours and the heat and the burns be the only life I know.
Don't get me wrong I love to cook I love the fire and the ass grabbing and all the dirty little secrets that come along with being a kitchen hand, but when letters go unanswered and my mother doesn't know my current address and my friends see become orbital beings I only see through facebook updates, here is where I get myself in trouble.
There were hundreds of resumes sent into what seemed to be a black hole of recession stink. Were all the years I spent building this resume for not? When I left Frontera , I thought, I can go anywhere, but when Chefs are cutting staff to twenty hours, and they can get lifer line cook for a song, why hire a transplant from a fancy restaurant that might move on when she got a better offer or try to take over. I get it.
The months of uncertainty were the recharge I needed to make steps toward what I want to to with my life. Be and stay happy, to protect the time away from the kitchen from being trampled on by my love for the kitchen, find some love that is reciprocated and les fleeting, and nurture the knowlage I've amassed beyond knife skills and use it creatively ( with a few less hours on my feet). I think I am finding that great white hope....
My garden is growing, I've quit biting my nails, and my room is still am mess.
But I am happy.