Friday, April 29, 2011

The Crazy Black People Exhibit at the Zoo (aka Washington D.C.)

       There are many places in the world where Black people look crazy; the movie theatre is my personal favorite. However, there is not a single American community that can compare to the amount of sightings one could possibly experience of flamboyant and bold African-Americans than the place that I am currently in. I am speaking of a very special land, home of thousands of crazy Black people, called The District of Columbia. I am here on business, but the pleasure I have experienced from the sights I have seen have made me question why I am here in the first place.

           I must make mention that there are two people in my company whom are from the land of the East. One is Green Bean, who is taller than I am sarcastic. He has incredibly large hands, very long arms, and could very easily knock someone over. He is VERY perceptive and will openly laugh at any one whom makes a fool of themselves which always causes me to get the church giggles (when you laugh uncontrollably at an INCREDIBLY inappropriate time). The other is Buckwheat, whom is adorably muscular and occasionally walks on his tippy toes for no particular reason. Buckwheat is an ambassador for McDonald's. He has the special ability of speaking at lightning speed and has a bevvy of tennis shoes. He is sweet natured with pinchable cheeks both in the front and the back.

                  As I take time to analyze the character of Green Bean and Buckwheat, I have come to realize that there are many similarities which I have to assume are linked to their both being from the District of Columbia. Green Bean and Buckwheat both wear glasses. There is an epidemic of vision impairment in D.C.. They are both particularly LOUD individuals, not all the time, but when they choose to, their volume is at a level that is not accessible on an IPod. They both LOVE food, especially Buckwheat! They particularly enjoy this one condiment called Mumbo sauce. I had no idea what this concoction was. I had to have Buckwheat explain it to me. He said that Mumbo sauce is a combination of ketchup, hot sauce, and other unidentifiable ingredients. It's available at take-out Chinese restaurants with the purpose of being shared with chicken wings. And it's only available in D.C.. Mumbo sauce is the Blackest thing since Chicken 'n Waffles. One time, Buckwheat tried explain chicken fried chicken to me. My head was spinning by the end of that conversation.

           I think it's important to clear up some rumors about the District of Columbia. I always thought it was a state. I didn't think you could hold a separate primary election in D.C. if it weren't a state. I was wrong. The District of Columbia, I have come to find out, is in fact a Federal District uniquely created by Congress in 1790 and thus has no Senators or Congresspersons. I was glad I could easily clear this up online. Thank you Wikipedia! My other question is, is DC the South? Any place that takes only a few hour train ride to New York City seems baffling to be considered so. However, I have been debunked again because my research shows that in fact both DC and Maryland are both located below the Maxon-Dixon line thus being considered "The South". And all this time I thought the criteria for being a Southern state was whether or not your family still had slaves in the backyard.

           I, along with the rest of my company, landed on Tuesday morning in D.C., EARLY! My weakened mental state caused by my lack of sleep and the horrific experience of flying seated next to the Black Michelin Man inhibited my wherewithal. I was not in the appropriate state of mind to take in the visual overload that was about to bestow my eyes. As I walked into the terminal, there they were, thousands of Black people. This was of course no problem for me. I've been to Philadelphia, Dallas, and many places alike before. However, this was a different experience for me not because of their Blackness but because of their "freshly released from prison" demeanor. Many of the men seemed to be suffering from a severe "difference of leg length" syndrome which causes the African American to limp profusely. Normally I find this to be quite adorable but when repeated a thousand times over becomes slightly overwhelming. I must admit that there was a lovely variation in that some were in business suits, others in tracksuits (like my boss) yet all seemed to be capable of busting a cap. "People on the East coast are friendly", I kept telling myself.

          We arrived at our hotel with the exception of one of my co-workers Shoniqua. She wasn't able to make the plane because her name was spelled incorrectly on her ticket. Although my feelings went out to my friend whom had to catch a flight several hours later, I couldn't help but chuckle at the fact that the only person who's name was spelled wrong was the White one. Black people are infamous for purposely spelling their names wrong to mess with the White establishment. I just find the contradiction amusing. Our hotel is technically located in Maryland which in someways is interchangeable with D.C. because of their proximity and similar cultural. There's an East coast coalition among Black people, I believe it also includes Virginia. I also found out that it is incorrect in the Black community to pronounce the name "Maryland" phonetically. Among the coloreds, this Old Line State is to be pronounced "Merrrrrrrrrrrrrrlund" with a very distinct accent on the "errrrrrrrrrrrrrrr". I think it's very important to embrace the traditions and customs of the place you are visiting in order to fully understand and appreciate the full cultural experience. Thus I have been referring to this area as "Merrrrrrrrrrrrrrlund" all week.

            After unpacking, we quickly got into our family van and made our way one of the most famous places among Black people, the Food Court/Shopping Centre/Plaza. We had some tough decisions to make once we exited the van. I was debating between which restaurant would give me the full Black experience of the East Coast. My choices were: Irie Cafe (Jamaican restaurant), QDoba (Mexican), or Panda Express (Chinese). Without any obvious choices such as Popeye's or Waffle House (which only exists in the deep South apparently, I had to take a few moments to select the most appropriate Black decision. I went to each restaurant and looked at the menu and judged the amount of Blackness. Once I found out that the Chinese place had wings, I was sold. Panda Express it is! I don't know about other Black people but I LOVE PANDAS (almost as much as fried chicken). Pilar went in with me. I was surprised that even though she's Mexican that she ultimately made the Blackest choice as possible. I suppose it really is all about who  you are on the inside. And in Pilar's case, it's 100% chocolate.

          We all gathered inside Irie Cafe and ate our lunch. As we sat down, I noticed something very peculiar walking outside. It was a lovely chocolate woman of the 200 - 300 pound variety. I place no judgement, I think it's important to be pushing the barriers of belt sizes. I live in Texas, so there is nothing surprising to me about the sight of a full figured lady. What was of particular disturbance to me and my co-workers were her breasts which were bigger than Expo '86. They appeared to be floating in the air wavering only slightly in the wind like two chocolate hot tubs wading though the air. Her breasts were suspended in a bra that must've been made out of plexi glass. How this woman was able to walk was beyond my imagination. I watched in complete amazement. Her hair was purple and slicked back like Sonic the Hedgehog. She had wedge heels on. I felt sorry for the wedges.

          After eating, I followed my ritual when I travel. There are certain things and priorities that are important to all of us. And I was actually surprised at myself, that I put food ahead of this priority. In any case, I knew that I was well overdue for finding a liquor store. Upon entering the alcoholic's establishment I noticed that there were many suspicious looking people in that store of many ethnicities who were supposedly "working' (let's use this term loosely). I, again, began to get this "I learned to cut hair in jail" feeling from them. I paid them no mind on account of my being on a mission. That mission was Svedka. I hadn't seen my girlfriend Svedka in a long time and was glad to be re-united. After picking her up along with some 7Up I was on my way back to the hotel where I was hoping to run into one of the cleaning ladies who would obviously wind up being one of Pilar's distant relatives.

         Two evenings later, I found my girlfriend Svedka looking a little dry. On the back of the Room Service Menu it had indicated that on Thursday evenings they have $5 martinis all night in the hotel bar. I "Hussein Bolt"ed my way to the elevator. Although, it would be arguable to any one whom knows me that I most likely wound up in the bar wearing a tracksuit on account of my being such an alcoholic that I had no interest in wasting valuable drinking time on outfit selection, this was not the case. To the contrary, I decisively chose the tracksuit as my ensemble of choice to further embrace my Brotherhood. I felt that if my boss could do it, so could I! I must say, it was a very liberating experience. It was like getting an instant tan. I had a lovely time, sitting with my boss and my boss's boss sipping away on flavored martinis and munching on mozzarella sticks! We were later joined by Pilar, Shoniqua, Green Bean, Buckwheat, a guy from Belize (whom I haven't given a nickname yet), and Applebum. It began a small intimate affair but grew as the night got later. I tell you, if you give Black people an unlimited time for $5 martinis, that is a recipe for an African-American gumbo. I had never seen so many Black people (especially men), squished into such a tiny place. In Texas, this would never happen of course, because Black people come in a much larger size down South. But one of the similarities that shocked me was Black Line Dancing making a cameo appearance on the East coast! I thought Black Line Dancing, among with being the size of the sun, was exclusively a Deep Southern tradition. I was wrong. The DJ played "Wobble" and the "Cupid Shuffle". I was thrilled! I, apparently, am fluent in these dance traditions and ended up on the dance floor with Shoniqua and Applebum cutting a rug and adding some new additional choreography to these traditional dances. There was a tiny White girl there with her Mother who looked slightly afraid but eventually joined in. I love that Black Line Dancing truly reaches across the color barrier.

         Ultimately, I am thrilled to become further educated on my Blackness. And what better place to do it than in a community where Mumbo sauce is more popular than the Slave Trade. I have always been thoroughly entertained by the brashness, colorfulness, and boldness of African-American culture. It has taught me how important it is to stand up and be yourself unapologetically, even if you're in a movie theatre. I am slowly beginning to embrace the culture and except my own Blackness. Since landing in D.C., I have worn a tracksuit everyday. When in Rome....



Sunday, April 24, 2011

101 Naked Koreans - My Trip to the Spa

        The only Korean person I know is Teri Hatcher who actually isn't Korean, but her Botox says otherwise. This, however, was all about to change last week when my friend Shoniqua thought it would be a good idea to further acquaint myself with other members of the tiny Asian community at the 24 hour Korean Spa. She had a groupon! I was firmly against this adventure from the beginning. First of all, any establishment that's open at 3 o'clock in the morning in Texas is very suspicious! NOTHING is open that late here, especially on a weekday. Second of all, there is nothing relaxing about being surrounded by naked Koreans. That's the definition of stress! I'm not sure how Shoniqua ultimately dragged me into this situation but somehow I landed at King Spa, where Asian people go to slumber.

         Please be patient as I take you through my experience as there are many details to go over. Firstly, King Spa is located in Dallas's Asian Ghetto (Every major city has one, collect 'em all!). Shoniqua and I were driving in the middle of nowhere in this completely obsolete area of town and all of a sudden there is a gigantic archway with giraffes on top. Yes, giraffes! I'm not exactly sure how giraffes are Korean but apparently this was the driving entrance for parking for said spa. I hadn't even made it to the parking lot and I was already overwhelmed and confused! After we parked, we walked our way toward the entrance. I stopped dead in my tracks. The entrance was a gigantic medieval black doorway bookended by two of the largest lion statues I had ever seen. What the Hell is this? I'm I in the Wizard of Oz? Is a green man going to open the door for us? This was already too much for me. We made our way through the door where things were ultimately only going to get worse. In the lobby, to my left was a metal statue of a life-size horse, to my right was a mural that covered the entire wall with brightly colored flowers and leaves looking like a lost set piece from "Sound of Music" the broadway version. Directly in front of us, were the first of many Koreans we would encounter that evening. They were standing in front of a desk, a notably short desk in order to accommodate the Koreans' "vertical situation". Shoniqua gave the dark-haired midgets the coupons and they immediately branded us with blue and pink wristbands with keys attached. The immediate "concentration camp" nostalgia I was experiencing was unknowingly going to be repeated once I entered the establishment. Shoniqua was directed to a basket next to the doorway to fetch her "uniform". We were both instructed to remove our shoes then head on in. I was curious as to where my uniform was. When I asked the Justin Bieber-sized woman at the desk, she told me that the men's uniforms would be located in the locker room. At this point Shoniqua and I parted ways and made our way to our separate changing and showering stations.

         It's very rare that the thought "I'm gonna kill this bitch" runs through my mind. However, I came to experience this phrase repeating itself inside my head once I set my foot inside the locker room. I couldn't believe Shoniqua put me up to this shit! You see, I knew it wasn't going to be pretty. I knew that old Koreans would be in attendance. However, what I did not realize was that there would be one hundred and one naked elderly Korean men shuffling along tiled floors in lighting harsher than on "Ru Paul's Drag Race"! "Oh my God!" I said under my breath. I stopped dead in my tracks. My eyes were burning. So many Asian wrinkles! EVERYWHERE! In order to prevent hyperventilation, I looked at the floor to gain composure. I could handle this. I could make it through. If I can write a blog about diarrhea and get away with it, this was just a simple punishment from Jesus, I've had it coming this whole time. I looked down at my key and found my locker. I put my shoes, wallet, and phone inside then proceeded to find myself a uniform and most importantly a towel, which for some reason NO ONE was wearing. I noticed a Korean sitting in the corner in a chair at a desk with a name tag. I went over and asked him "Where are the towels Jackie Chan?". He pointed me toward a basket seated on the floor next to the basket of uniforms. I went over and picked one up. I held in my hand a towel the size of a dinner napkin. I'm not kidding. Even Korean people need larger coverage than this bullshit. I came to find out that in the men's area, you don't wear a towel! You simply prance around with all of Jesus's blessing hanging out between sauna, steam room, hot tub, and shower! You simply dry  yourself with these disposable dinner napkins at the entrance to the locker and then don your uniform for the unisex area. What a nightmare! I swallowed my pride (I think my dignity made it down the esophagus as well), quickly stripped and gingerly tiptoed my way to the shower and then quickly into the hot tub where my situation would at least be blurred by the jets. My first instinct was to run but I realized quickly that would probably not be the best look for me when not wearing any clothes. With the security of the bubbles speeding rapidly over the surface of the hot tub I felt confident and relaxed enough to actually begin to enjoy the experience. This place was HUGE! There are 4 hot tubs of different temperatures, a cold wading pool complete with overhead waterfall, a sauna, and a steam room larger than a Volkswagen. They also had a private massage area where they attempt to get extra money out of you. Shoniqua paid $85 for a massage (on the women's side of course) and she said she got a free motorboat out of it (I''m using "motorboat" as a verb in this context, google it later)! Supposedly the Korean masseuse was wearing see through lingerie during both the body scrub and the rub down. As my thoughts lingered towards the idea of that massage and as I looked around the room, I quickly realized the Korea really sucks the "sexy" out of any possibly sexual situation. This was probably a good thing at the time considering the last situation you want to show any measure of excitement is when you are publicly naked in harsh lighting. At least at the nude beach you have the option of rolling over. With all of those naked people running around completely oblivious to the fact that they have some of the most horrific bodies ever made by Jesus, this made me realize the importance of self acceptance. It's amazing as a young relatively fit person I felt bashful and uncomfortable, while elderly Korean men with a body frame of the Michelin man could happily strut their unfortunate stuff at any angle with total confidence. You have to wonder where this confidence comes from. What makes a person become so comfortable to be completely naked under overhead lighting? This answer came to me in the form of the dynamic duo who entered the chamber of naked Asians next. It was a man with his son. "Oh no!" was my first thought. "Don't bring him in here! He'll be scarred for life!" But then I realized that that's how the Korean's get acclimated with the comfort of one's body. As a kid, you don't question things like that. You think it's normal because that's the way you were raised. Perhaps, had my Mother taken me to the nude beach in Vancouver, I would have a similar perspective. I don't think it would've been the best idea since I already looked like the family slave; looking like the naked family slave probably would not have helped the situation. I felt myself boiling like an egg, or perhaps asparagus in the scorching water of the hot tub. Just as I was about to remove myself from the crock pot I  noticed something that just tickled my sense of humor to no end. There was a sign at the other end of the hot tub that said "Stay away from the toad!". Above the sign, there it stood, a larger than life ceramic toad with a grin on its face. It was interesting to me that the ridiculous decor that was scattered all over the lobby did not have a continuing theme in the spa itself. The men's room was very classic looking, everything ceramic and a grey in color. But there it stood, the toad, in all of its glory. I pulled my wrinkly self up and made my way back to the locker room. It amazes me that only 15 minutes in the hot tub, I turn into a complete raisin. It took about 5 dinner napkins to dry myself off. I donned my uniform which I still can't decide whether it resembles something of a hospital gown or prison gear. I left to meet Shoniqua in the communal unisex area. There's only so many wrinkly Asians one can take.

           As I say, the ridiculous decor on the outside of the establishment and in the lobby certainly did not match what was actually inside (beside the toad). It was a very relaxing neutral space with nothing that was artistically distracting or appalling. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for the communal area of the spa. In this area called the "lounge" both men and women roam around together in their uniforms. The men in grey with blue wristbands and the women in pink with red wrist bands (keep waiting for the concentration camp reference in a later paragraph). The decoration in this area is similar to that of Cher's Farewell Tour. This is the point when I started blocking things out of my memory. As you can probably tell, I have a good eye for detail but this was WAY too much visual overload, even for me. I will begin with what I can remember. There were several knights in shining armor situated in rows against one wall. There were two enormous golden sphinxes, two more lion statues on top of globes, a series of aquatic and garden-themed wallpaper, endless murals, slightly orange-tinted lighting, and huge medieval columns in every direction. It looked like the United Nations was holding a garage sale. There were several rows of gigantic Victorian red velvet couches. This is where the Koreans sit and watch the overhead small television screens which show riveting Korean soap operas. Next to that are several black leather reclining loungers facing one gigantic television screen showcasing an even more thrilling captivating marathon of Korean soap operas. There's also a movie theatre and karaoke room. As much as I wanted to venture into the land of Korean karaoke, even I have my comedic limits. I found Shoniqua passed out on one of the hideous couches that my Grandmother would most likely refer to as a "chesterfield". I asked her to show me around some of the special communal rooms, which there are several! Allow me to break down some of my favorites.

Salt Room
         Being Canadian, I immediately felt comfortable by this room as it is shaped like an igloo. Throughout all of the rooms it feels like Alice in Wonderland in the fact that you must burrow your way through the tiny Korean sized doors. Of course, if you're actually Korean you can walk straight through without ducking. This room has somewhat of a brick pattern on the floor with what I'm assuming is a "salt crystal" pattern on the dome shaped wall. "Konichiwa!" I said as I entered the Korean infested hut. I know that's Japanese for "Hello" but I figured it's all the same continent anyhow. I noticed most people were laying down so I followed suit. Just as I was beginning to enjoy my warm salty igloo, my relaxation was brutally interrupted by a horrific sight. Above my head there were 9 bags hanging from rope! I suppose this is supposed to be bags of salt, but as a partially Black man I was horribly offended!

Pyramid Room
          This room is shockingly shaped like a pyramid; a golden pyramid. I'm not exactly sure what this room is supposed "to do for you" but I was game to sit in another crowded Korean clown car. The inside of the room was painstakingly bright, even more golden than the exterior which even retrospectively I still can't believe is possible. Most of the rooms like the Pyramid Room are quite warm! Once beads of perspiration began accumulating on my big toe, I took this a sign that I may want to take a break from the sweaty Koreans.

Ice Room
            It was slightly baffling to me as to why a person (Korean or not) would voluntarily enter a refrigerator, but I decided to keep an open mind. The Ice Room is set up similarly to a dry sauna, in that there are benches on the outskirts to sit unlike all the other rooms where you lie down on a mat. I put my skepticism aside for a moment so I could thoroughly appreciate the theme of ridiculous wallpaper. In the Ice Room, the walls are decorated with mural sized images of snowy hills and ice covered pine trees. "Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree! How lovely are thy branches?". It's amazing what comes to mind when you're not wearing underwear. After 5 minutes in this completely ridiculous room I felt unconvinced. If I had the sudden urge to be inside of a refrigerator, I could do it for free by going back to the Subway I used work at and ask to spend some quality time inside the walk-in cooler in a grey prison jump suit.

Air Room
            If you think the Ice Room sounds like bullshit, I can do you one better! The Air Room. Really? Apparently each of these rooms carries a different property that's healthy, nourishing, and replenishing for the body. But air? Is there an oxygen deficiency that I have not been made aware of? I felt even less assured once I got over the title and actually entered the room. Here's the deal. I get that at a spa you should feel relaxed and comfortable, but when I walked in, everyone was passed out! It looked like a Lindsay Lohan after party in there; about 7 or 8 Koreans asleep on their yoga mat. I didn't want to spend too long in this room, I was afraid I would fall asleep and wake up Korean. This room is quite popular which is perplexing to me. It's the least elaborate room. It has wood floors and wood walls with an air conditioner in the corner. Really? Maybe there's marijuana laced in the air conditioner somehow. The Koreans can do anything! I noticed there was a sign above the air conditioner, "Don't touch". Just like the toad!

Bul Ga Ma
           I still wasn't completely sold on the idea of the healing power of these different rooms but I was more interested in being entertained by ridiculous elaboration. Bul Ga Ma delivers! It's one of the larger rooms with beautiful wooden decoration all around. In the center of the room are piles of wood encased by a wooden railing. On one wall, there are crystals that go from bottom to top. There are wooden barrels, headrests, and mats for your enjoyment. I quickly was absorbing this visual stimulation as I peered in, but I was quickly brought back to reality when I placed my first big toe into the room on the floor. It burned! Apparently "Bul Ga Ma" stands for "Burn the Negro!". At first, I tried to act normal in front of the dozing Koreans but both Shoniqua and I quickly found it impossible to remain calm. Our brisk walk briefly evolved into the "Elmer Fudd" hopping from foot to foot from one side of the room to the other where the mats were located. I, being slightly more sensitive to heat than Shoniqua escalated my "Elmer Fudd" hop to a full on "Usain Bolt" Jamaican track runner stride to the mat! My toes were burning like I was on hot coals! But alas, I found my mat. I failed to mention that everything is written in Korean outside each room. So it's difficult to decipher what it is you're supposed to do with the props. The Koreans next to me were placing their calves on the barrels and resting their heads on wooden shelves so Shoniqua and I followed suit. This room, although very hot, was quite enjoyable. However, I figured once my nipples were making a cameo appearance through my now see through uniform, this was probably a good time to make an exit.

          Okay, so I can't remember exactly what this room  is really called but "BulTanPanZoor" is the closest I can remember, which is Korean for "concentration camp". The exterior of this room is black. It's igloo shaped like many of the others. As I looked at the door, I felt like I was seeing things. I wondered if I had been slightly blinded by the golden pyramid room. I know that Koreans are small but even a tiny Korean could not fit through this door. Was this the lawn gnome entrance? I waltzed around to the other side looking for the normal door which ended up not being there. How is this even possible? My curiosity took over and I decided to make an attempt at entering this claustrophobic nightmare. As I made my way back around to the entrance I noticed there was a very tiny Korean man sitting in a Fischer Price sized chair next to the tiny door. He was holding a stick. I came to find out that this particular room is the hottest in the entire establishment, even hotter than the Elmer Fudd room! The door is so hot that they hire a tiny Korean who's entire job is to open the door with a stick to avoid people burning their little Korean hands. I promise I had not consumed not even one alcoholic beverage but somehow I came to the decision making that only a crackhead would come up with and decided to enter. I nodded to the Korean male version of Thumbellina to signal him to open the door of death. I army crawled my way into the room. This was the first time in my life I felt like a fatass. Even with half my body not inside the igloo I felt the overwhelming burning waft of the scorching air. I was entering a furnace. I felt like Hansel being shoved into the oven by the Witch (speaking of fatasses). The only thing worse than feeling like I was slowly being lit on fire was the atrocious site I was bestowed with upon entrance. As I VERY quickly grabbed a mat to sit, I gazed up at the walls and "decoration". In the center, were black coals which matched what appeared to be black wire entwined at the top of the dome shaped room which matched the black/grey bricks encasing me. This was truly a concentration camp moment! As if my perspiration wasn't bad enough already with the volcanic temperature; my sweat only worsened with the thought that people might know I once considered being Jewish!

The Food Court
          Shoniqua had told me that the last time she went to King Spa, she was there for 6 hours! Can you believe it? I couldn't until I actually went and realized that with the endless amount of rooms and inevitable sleeping from the marijuana-laced air filters, you really need to set aside an entire day to fully appreciate all of the Korean festivities the Spa has to offer. So it is of no wonder why such an establishment needs a fully staffed restaurant inside! Similar to the movie theatre, you will be charged 4 dollars for a Vitamin water, so beware! However, after 4  hours of relaxation and torture, I really  needed to eat something. In keeping with the theme of King Spa, the entire menu was written in Korean. This is where pictures come in handy! I ordered Porbingsoo which is Korean for "a party in my mouth"! This was probably the strangest most delightful things I've ever experienced. Potbingsoo is a dessert served over crushed ice. Atop, is sweet bean, fresh kiwi, strawberry puree, and tiny squishy mulit-colored Korean gummies on top all covered in sweetened milk. The texture was questionable only because there was A LOT going on in that little bowl. But overall I was thoroughly entertained.

Don't Cry for me Korea! 
      I had mixed feelings as I said goodbye to Korea. I had experienced a complete overload emotionally, physically, and visually! I had seen more penises in a one hour span than I would perhaps care to. I sweat more profusely than Nicki Minaj at Christian bingo on "Virgin Night". I had experienced so much in that Asian Wonderland. I didn't know quite what to think of the experience. As we left the parking lot and looked back, I began to wonder if Koreans had some sort of cultural identity problem as I caught one last glance of the giraffes in the rear view mirror.

Monday, April 18, 2011

My Mexican Roadtrip

          I can't say I've always been the fondest of the Mexicans. Don't get me wrong. I LOVE salsa, I really do! But I underwent a series of bad experiences in New York City working at a sandwich/pizza place that was overrun with Mexicans. It's like the time I found a mouse in my apartment. The first one was cute but after that it gets overwhelming. So I was very surprised to find myself recently boxed inside of a car with three of them headed on a 40 hour journey from Dallas to New York City for Spring Break (To be clear, I mean 3 Mexicans not 3 blind mice). Here's how the shit went down.

       For Spring Break, I decided to venture to my favorite place on Earth, The Big Apple which is ironically overrun with both mice and Hispanics. Only a few days before I was ready to book my bus ticket, my friend Pilar, whom is also my co-worker, told me that she was planning on driving with her friend Henrietta all the way to New York. This was perfect! I wanted to save money anyhow. Of course I did not for a moment ponder about the repercussions that would result in being trapped inside of a vehicle for 2 days with the cast of the George Lopez show. I immediately was on board. The last day of the work week came, I was so excited! Pilar and I ventured to her home where we would meet Henrietta and we would leave at 6pm. I had never met Pilar's family before nor had I ever been inside of a Mexican home. Most of the one's I knew lived in the back of the semi-truck they illegally travelled to the States in. I was pleasantly surprised that as soon as I walked through the doors that Pilar's family was not of the "meals on wheels" variety. The home was orderly, everything in its place, with a festive Latino color combination. This was fantastic! This Mexican house was just like any other house except with an orange kitchen. Just when I thought we had surpassed the Hispanic stereotypes, I was quickly reeled back into the land of piñatas. Pilar began introducing me to her family. I met her Father Consuelos, her Brother also named Consuelos, her Sister Lucia, and her Mother Carmina. What an adorable little cluster of dark-haired Mexicans. This little family was so cute! A little difficult to tell them apart, but absolutely adorable! But it didn't stop there! Then there were the cousins: Eduardo, Felicia, Juanita, Enrique, Esmerelda, Ricardo, Fidelia, Carlos, Laurencia, Salvador, Emilio, Guadalupe, Solidad, Javier, Pablo, Maria, Gustavo, Tobias, Natividad, Rodrigo, Kasandra, Felipe, Dolores, Pedro, Larunda, Mario, Luigi, and Placenta. "Is there some sort of family reunion happening?" was my first thought. I came to find out that they ALL lived in that one house! I thought the Indians were good at consolidating. Apparently los Mexicanos have a one up in the economy department! All of a sudden it was a like a Mexican circus, with little Hispanic midgets just popping out from everywhere. It was like a clown car! Mexicans were appearing out from under the couch, through the windows, from behind the refrigerator! I was completely overwhelmed! It was Ricky Martin overload! I grabbed Pilar and we ran out of the house. I didn't even hesitate long enough to steal an avocado.

          We waited for some time for Henrietta to arrive. I was not aware of the fact that like Black people, the Hispanics also operate on colored people time which is often referred to as "CPT". I came to learn that it did NOT stand for "celestial pigeon tutorial" the hard way. We were set to leave at 6, but we did not leave until merely 2 hours later! Clearly these people operate on sundial just like their African-American counterparts. We packed up the trunk and got into the car. Henrietta decided to drive the 1st leg of the trip, Pilar sat in the passenger side. I opened up the back door on the passenger's side and found a lovely little surprise; a pinata sized Mexican! Yes, that's right. There was a CHILD in the car. This supposedly was Henrietta's son. Pilar DID tell me about this but I suppose I had blocked it out of my memory like the time I went down the waterslides and I stopped at the bottom but my bathing suit kept on going. There he was, the cutest little pinata asleep in the backseat. As adorable as he was, I wasn't quite sure how to handle a 6 year old taquito as my neighbour for 40 hours but I decided at that moment to be as positive as possible. More importantly I felt that as long as I remained very still that I would not wake up little Hispanola. I gingerly sashayed my tukkus into the car in order not to awake Piñata. I continued to notice another piece of strangeness keeping in theme of the trip thus far. This car was pimped out! From the outside it looked like my Grandmother's living room on wheels. Curiously it also smelled like my Grandmother's living room once I was seated inside. However, it was very odd that there were 6 televisions propped up in every nook and cranny possible inside the vehicle. I'm not sure what would possess someone to feel the need to watch "Homeward Bound" six times over but clearly this is in the "ethnic overload" category right between golden teeth and 600 dollar tennis shoes. I remember one time, this man of the African-American variety came up to me when I was in New York at a subway station. As he asked me for a few dollars I couldn't help but notice that out of his mouth contained a full set of beaming golden teeth that almost blinded me had I looked directly at them. You can't ask someone for money when you have golden teeth! That's craziness! You can't afford a subway ticket but you can go to the dentist and get him to glue the entire Elizabeth Taylor collection in your own mouth! Really? I digress. Henrietta started the car, and off we were, on our way to New York!

          Henrietta and Pilar had really outdone themselves in the music department. Between the two of them, they had a plethora of cd's! Yes I said cds. I still don't understand this whole IPod, YourPod, IPad, MaxiPad bullshit and apparently the Mexicans are just as far behind as I am, they're using cd's still too! As Pilar slid the first cd in, I immediately prepared myself for some lovely miniature Mexican banjos to fill the entire vehicle in solitude. Once again, my stereotypical ignorance was contradicted. Rather than a series of compilation discs entitled "The Best of Mariachi", I was greeted with music, again of the African American variety, the ghetto African American variety to be more specific. I cannot stress enough how incredibly horrific, inappropriate, and wildly delightful this music was. For the ENTIRE duration of the trip my ears were filled with the likes of Mystikal, TuPac, P. Diddy, Lil' Kim and other "urban" whores and pimps alike! I was completely appalled yet slightly thrilled I did not have to endure to the anguishing pain of Mariachi. You have to pick your battles. However, in my state of shock and horror at the sheer lyrics I was hearing, I was blithely unaware of the fact that my chiqito Mexican partner in crime next to me was asleep! He wasn't just dozed off. Piñata was out cold! Did I mention that the hip hop music was being played at a decimal that would deafen anyone within earshot. In fact, I'm pretty sure deaf people within a 5 mile radius could repeat back most of the lyrics. I didn't complain about it because of the fact that I wasn't the one driving, I figured, to each his own.... But what really concerned my was Piñata! This little Mexican would be scarred for life! But there he was, paying no notice to the fact the car was actually vibrating from the bass accelerator! I wish I were that heavy of a sleeper. I suppose that's what Grey Goose is for....

         Although tardy, I must applaud Henrietta and Pilar for their diligent planning of our road trip. They didn't just stick GPS in and follow it. They had a plan! Our first destination was Oklahoma, home of the Okies! There, we visited one of Pilar's good friends, we'll call him Chihuahua. Chihuahua lives on campus at Oklahoma University. What's more interesting about him, besides being alive, is that he is half "Taco" and half "Always late for the movies". Apparently those whom are Black and Hispanic are often referred to as Blatino. This thrills me to no end on account of my recent obsession with hybrid words. We four crusaders entered his apartment, Piñata still asleep in Henrietta's arms we sat down. Once inside of Blatino's house, I discovered that this was prime opportunity to bust out my bevy of wine coolers. Obviously, I wanted to refrain from inside the car to avoid incarceration. More importantly it would have clearly come across much more classy of me to be pouring my 2 dollar wine cooler into someone else's expensive glassware. As I drank my green mystery liquid, we sat and watched a lovely film entitled "The Town". This is a movie where people who rob banks where nun costumes. Add that on the checklist on things to permanently scar a 6 year old Mexican. I just kept praying that little Piñata would not wake up. Lord Jesus (the "J" is silent in Mexican by the way) answered my prepares, the little Mexican nugget stayed in his coma for the entire duration of the movie. As we headed back into the car I started to wonder if Henrietta had perhaps slipped her son a little Rufi earlier. I had my suspicions but the mystery green liquid wine cooler situation had me feeling like I was about to be date raped. So I followed suit of the tiny Mexican, and went to sleep myself.

           The next morning I woke up in Hell, otherwise referred to as Nashville, Tennessee. Henrietta was driving again and was quite excited! The reason why she was so thrilled is because she really wanted to have an authentic experience in this southern state. She was desperate to have barbecue! Really? Barbecue? I'm not sure if she was aware of the fact that it was 10:30 in the morning but I was too afraid to ask. I was surprised that Mexicans even liked that kind of food on account of the equipment one would need to use to cook barbecue. I just didn't think that Mexicans would enjoy operating machinery larger than them.  I guess you really do learn something new each day. Thank you Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and Shakira that we were out of the luck in the finding of such a hideous establishment. We ended up going to Subway instead. This would mark probably the 74th time I have been yet again disappointed by the fact that I did not Jared! As we made our way through the state we had to make a sudden stop. The "car" (I use this term loosely) was making some strange noise. Henrietta pulled over and took a look at the car intestines (that's the official terminology) and discovered some square shaped thingy-ma-bobber was frozen. "Maybe it's supposed to be frozen", I said. Apparently I was mistaken. Henrietta immediately gave a call to her uncle, Jean Carlo Jose Solidad Avocado Ramirez. At this point I was yet to have the privelage of hearing Henrietta venture into the land of the Mexican language. I was in for quite a treat! Again, I'm not sure what she had secretly slipped into her son's milk (who at this point was STILL sleeping might I add) but I had a feeling from listening to her speak in Hispanic that she must have taken the antithesis of whatever she had slipped him. Antithesis, by the way is a word I once heard homosexual-advocate Sean Hannity use, it means opposite! The point is, Henrietta was speaking at a tempo that could only be followed accurately by a crack addict. My head was spinning after heaves dropping into that conversation. For the record, at that point my dizziness was not to be blamed on the green wine coolers I had the night before because at that point my drunkenness had definitely worn off and more importantly, there's no bigger buzz kill than the talk of Nashville barbecue. Although, it would have been impossible for me to follow Henrietta's conversation, I was re-assured at some point that everything would be fine so we were on our way. I made a second prayer to Jesus in this moment. I figured I might need her for my safety! Maybe I should've prayed to Shakira too....

           We continued bouncing along state by state, city by city, visiting one douchebag of a town after the next. It's amazing to me that one, so much of America looks like the product of Mormom-induced incest, and two, there are people in this world that are perfectly fine with having only one tooth. It really makes you realize that so many of us are ungrateful bastards walking around with a number of teeth in to the two digit category completely unappreciative of the fact that we have been divinely favored. In one redneck city, I would assume this was in Virginia, we came across one of what felt like thousands of gas stations we attended to re-fuel the Grandma-mobile and drain out our bladders. Once leaving the poop receptical, I came across a very special item in my browsing of the "food aisle" (again, I use this term loosely). This magical little discovery is called "Pickle-in-a-Pouch!". I am disappointed to say that I did not come up with this title. Yet, I'm also delighted to tell you that this title is what they actually call it! It says it right on the package. And of course this item is just as it sounds, a pickle in a pouch. Normally, when I come across a manifestation of crazy, a very descriptive commentary enters my brain. However, in this instance, rather than an analysis bestowing my brain cavity, a series of questions began to plague me. "Why is that pickle in a pouch?", "How did it get there?", "What would possess a redneck to purchase much less consume such a clearly insanitary and hideous product?" and finally "Did I forget to wipe?". I was beyond perplexed! Did I mention that there is a picture of a little pickle mascot on the pouch! It's a dancing pickle wearing a hat! It's beyond fantastic. I refrained from purchasing it even as a souvenir to avoid the possibility of me actually eating it in a desperate moment. A non-stop playlist of Negro music inside of a Grandma car trapped with three Mexicans is enough to make someone do God knows what!

          I have to give credit to Henrietta and Pilar. Those two little Mexicans really stocked up those 5 hour energy's. Between taking shots of those handy little pick-me-ups and being awoken while driving by the blaring music with likes of Silkk The Shocker, they eventually lost their Hispanic Energizer Bunner stamina. After 2 days on the road,, non-stop, they HAD to take a break. Even the Mexicans have a sleep requirement. We stopped in D.C. which stands for the District of Columbia and not Destiny's Child. Pilar's cousin, Selena, lives there and we were to sleep on some couches for a few hours there. Selena is a very nice woman, or so I thought! A little into our conversation, she told me that she didn't like Canadian accents! I had to really hold the diarrhea in at that point. I couldn't believe my ears! I was so conflicted because as my hatred was building I had to be cordial for the fact that she was giving me, my Mexican chauffeurs, and little Piñata a place to sleep. The only solution was to break out bottle number two in my series of wine coolers; this one was red! I almost had a heart attack when Pilar woke me up the next morning. I'm a pretty light sleeper and I'm definitely a morning person. So it wasn't the early awakening that shocked me, it was the fact that both Henrietta and Pilar were on time! I was speechless. I immediately had to run to the bathroom. After a quick flush, I grabbed my empty wine cooler and was one my way to New York City!

          In the few remaining hours, little Piñata finally awoke from his coma. I was relieved that whatever his Mother had slipped him had worn off. My excitement lasted about 5 seconds which I came to find out that is also the amount of time I can handle a Mexican toddler coloring. This little Hispanic monkey for nearly 6 hours straight kept asking me about my opinion on his drawings. I felt impartial on criticism because of the fact that at his age I couldn't tell you which end of the crayon was up; even now, it still takes me a minute. The experience of going through outline after outline of famous cartoon characters, watching him color them and repeatedly ask me "What do think?" made me realize that whoever invented coloring books is the Devil....or Donald Trump. Just at the point when I was fully prepared to strangle myself with my empty wine cooler bottle, there it was; the cityscape of New York! It was so beautiful, not because I love the city, but because it represented my escape from Mexico.

            As wonderful of a trip I ultimately ended up having in New York City, nothing will be more memorable than the trip that I took to get there. Over a period of 40 hours, I became step-father for a 6  year old Mexican in a coma, I discovered non-refrigerated pickles saturated in green food coloring and I drank more wine coolers than Drew Barrymore at her 12 year old birthday party! It's the times of struggle that really show both you and others (and most importantly Jesus and Shakira) who you truly are. You will also never learn as much about your friends that you will when being stuck inside of a Grandma-car for 3 days. I learned that Mexicans are just Black people except in a smaller size minus the gold teeth. Ultimately, I grew from this experience. Although, it was difficult at times, I realize that it was one of the m ost significant times of my life to learn about myself as a person. As Jesus once said, "Importance lies not the destination but rather in the Mexican journey it takes to get your bi-racial ass there!