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18 June 2013

The Final Expedition of Troop 571

Rudolfo Carrillo

by Rudolfo Carrillo

Two fucking weeks into summer vacation and we're still hanging out with the same people. We don't even go to goddamn high school with them anymore and you're still waiting around for a phone call that might save your life, said Alexander to Freeman as the latter dished out a can of Ken L Ration brand dog food while both stood in the middle of an Avocado colored kitchen.

Come here, Arcoiris, come and get your motherfucking dinner said Freeman as he placed the dogfood bowl upon the custom Mexican tile floor and the old schnauzer waddled up to the trough. I am sure they'll call anytime now.

Three and a quarter seconds later the phone rang and sure as hell it was one of the gals from sixth period. Even though there wasn't a sixth period in their universe anymore and likely wouldn't be again, Alexander and Freeman still referred to their new friends collectively and semi-anonymously because the previous year they would not even have risked all the black beauties in town to be seen with that lot.

They sure could party, though and that's what got Alexander and Freeman interested at first. So what if they liked to do plays and whatnot, thought Freeman as he wiped up and brought a dog food spoon to bear upon Alexander. He pointed the meat by-product scooping device right at the dude and reminded him that some of the ladies from that drama class were stone foxes.

When the sun got low in the sky and it the two scouts had mostly come down from eating seven datura flowers the previous June night, Alexander and Freeman walked down Menaul Boulevard to Juan Tabo. They stopped at the house of a fellow named James Joyce. Joyce was a scout too, though he had recently been suspended for blowing marijuana smoke at a wild bear who tried to enter his tent over at Philmont. Now he mostly drove around town in his old man's gold-colored Pontiac Catalina, looking for game rooms where he might get lost among all the vector-rendered adventures.

You wanna go to a party, huh, Freeman intoned gravely when Joyce came to the door, bearing a bong that was craftily disguised as a shaving bowl. I dunno said James, let's phone up the twins and see what they are about. For some reason, of which he was only vaguely aware, the twins found a comic element to Joyce's name.

At least they'd always laugh and snort when someone said the name James Joyce. Plus which, they always had decent weed, he told Freeman and Alexander as he let his fingers do the walking on the princess phone in his parent's living room.

It turned out Abelardo was already gone for the night. He was busy playing his guitar and drinking the Champagne of Beers with some folks that did covers of songs by the Monkees, said the other twin, Refugio, into the harvest colored headset on the other end of things.

Approximately twenty-three minutes later, the three scouts picked up Refugio and all four of them drove down Montgomery Boulevard at high speed to the party of the summer. Everyone excellent was there, including the crazy communist kids with their green felt berets and Dead Kennedys albums. Someone had even scored a couple of cases of Mexican beer.

When it was totally dark, the stars came out and you could see the tram dangling on its trip up the mountain at the edge of the Heights. Alexander came up with an idea which was for all four of them to pile into the Catalina and drive up there by the tram, to Sandia Heights where Refugio's dealer lived.

Freeman immediately bowed out as he was making time with a gal that wanted to know all about fishing and duck hunting and he could not bear to part with what he felt was an act of god, meeting someone like that out of the blue who also got a hankering for an Allsup's burrito while stringing flies.

Besides if I stay, you are more likely to come back, Freeman said to Alexander, James and Refugio as they walked to the edge of the pool area of the apartment complex. As the other three left, Freeman pulled a hunting license out of his front pocket to show the woman named Caroline.

Tramway Boulevard was only two lanes wide and still had not been paved in some places, so it was pretty rough at night with no police patrols and plenty of opportunities for dangerous encounters, from cows crossing the road to acid-soaked hippies taking a shortcut home to Placitas. One day this place is gonna be a super-highway with mansions on both sides, Refugio whispered from the back seat of the Pontiac as he reclined in the back seat and pulled on a frajo.

Alexander started fiddling with the radio, trying to get a lock on X-Rock 80 when they came up on a Volkswagen microbus chugging along at sixty-five miles per hour. Watch this, James said as he roared up on the left to pass. He didn't see how the left turn signal on the VW was blinking away, how it began to turn as he came even with it.

There was a loud crash and Alexander said son of a bitch as the microbus kept on coming and coming, forcing the Catalina off the road where it soared along for a couple of seconds before flipping onto its roof. Refugio's glasses went flying, James was crying because he shit his pants and Alexander kept on cussing and laughing.

They crawled out and the radio was still blaring and the headlights were cutting sharp patterns through the dusty air. For a minute Refugio thought about walking home; he sure as hell didn't want to be around when the cops showed, but when he realized they never came up to Sandia Heights, he dug around in his pocket for a joint, found his glasses, and walked out to the microbus.

There were three people riding in that van. One of them was a Hawaiian exchange student named Felicia. The other two were jocks. Two of them were busy pouring a case of Heineken onto the pavement while the other was running the empties over to a huge datura plant that was back a ways from the road. How ironic Alexander thought as he picked gravel from his hair.

Come on, James Joyce said, help me turn this fucking car back over on its wheels. The three riders did just that and when no cops had shown up after forty-five shit-eating minutes, both parties drove off in separate directions without hardly a word being said.

James wanted to go back to the party, and hoped the other two did not mind if they stopped at his house to get a crowbar, so that he could fix the dent on the right quarter panel. Alexander said, just drop me off at my house, I am tired of this bullshit, I am tired of all these people.

They agreed and Refugio asked Alexander what he should tell when they got back. Tell about the car crash, but tell them I am dead or at least in the hospital with severe fucking bleeding to the brain, and don't say anymore after that. Just let them wonder. I am headed to State next week and I don't plan on answering the phone anywho.

09 June 2013

Speaking with Tongues

Rudolfo Carrillo

by Rudolfo Carrillo

Listen folks, I will tell you in the stilted but ultimately American phrasing used by the online identity I assume for situations just like these, that New Mexico is a weird place and misunderstood, too.

We are still on the fringe of things. Even amidst a diverse collection of Latin American cultures all around (less so the farther en el norte one ventures, I hear tell). I sometimes feel that we all have more in common with Mars, than with Mexico, Califas, Tejas or the aforementioned mysteriously mountainous and cold world that begins above Raton.

Certainly New Mexican culture is not easily accounted for or well understood outside the boundaries of our state. As an example of the poor vagaries that predominate media coverage of New Mexico, I offer the following.

The Californio who produces Ask a Mexican, Gustavo Arellano, wrote this past week that New Mexican food is unique because "it dates back to the days of the Spanish Conquistadors" and specifically that, "... You're not going to find much chile and yellow cheese in New Mexico ..."

So either that comida I've been counting on for so long is really old or I am totally missing something. Wasn't all Latino food in the US ultimately influenced by "the days of the Spanish Conquistadors"?

Gustavo, dude, I see your point when I think about quilites or torta de huevo, but when I stared down my enchilada plate tonight, I am damn sure it said something about Mexico, something about corn tortillas; the tamales were muttering something too, and I think it was in the ceremonial version of Nahuatl.

I'm not even going to get into the chile and cheese component of Arellano's memorable proclamations. Let's just say that the elusive substance called New Mexican food is really a combination of several diverse regional and historical food preparation processes, not some unchanged (and by implication, rare and exotic) past form. But I digress.

Anyway, the fact that I am writing to you tonight in English is one mighty proof of the oddity of New Mexico. That I have learnt to work magic by that same process is more an anomaly than part of a pattern, but it does reflect a vast and ultimately icky cultural tendency that was acted out by my parents' generation and is occasionally invoked by some Gen Xers.

My family is from here. My father's first language was Spanish, though he was proficient in English by age 6. My mother's family spoke Spanish too, but some of them spoke German. Both of them were college educated and came from families where education, books and the arts were important expressions of culture and self.

There was a rich tapestry of other languages and cultures at our disposal. To complicate matters, my father took a job on the Navajo Reservation in the late 1960s and had to learn the rudiments of the language in order to do his job. My mother drove us into town, to the library, frequently. We borrowed every sort of book, but my favorites were the dictionaries, the books that had diagrams of different human alphabets contained as a matter of course.

But my parents were overly concerned with fitting in, with assuming the mantle of the bourgeois, with being recognized as Americans. And so they were good at hiding things. They spoke English in public and in most social situations. And mostly they passed. When they did not, people at meetings and parties would end up asking my mother and father where they were from, because the way they talked made it seem like they could be from anywhere at all.

My mother often joked about that. She told folks who asked after their fluctuating identity that the Carrillo family was from Siberia. At home, my mother and father spoke to each other in an exasperating mix of the languages mentioned above, but mostly in a passionate and idiosyncratic form of Spanglish that was both comical and poignant to the ear.

They made no overt efforts to teach us any other language than English and they demanded that we excel in its use. They never said that we should not learn or use the languages of our ancestors and advised us to respect those who did. I believe they had faith that multilingualism would come to us after they passed, as a reward for embracing America.

So, I gotta tell you I think all of this stuff about Whole Foods Market is rubbish, by my accounting. A fear of other languages or cultures that results from some corporate vision of American exceptionalism is no less loathsome than the self-denial foisted off on my parents' generation as a necessity of assimilation.

Such policies come from a place that does not value New Mexican culture and probably has no intention of valuing it in the future. Much like the folks who wanted to sell Native American-themed underwear or who write to tell America of our arcane and Oriental linkage to Spanish Conquistadors, they just don't get it. 

I didn't learn to speak and write Spanish until after college, when I traveled to South America. My Spanish will always be mediocre. My knowledge of German, much like my knowledge of my mother's cultural identity, remains inchoate. Sometimes I stay up late at night and listen to the Navajo Nation radio station through the interwebz and sort of understand every third sentence.

But, I'm trying Ringo, I'm trying real hard ...

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