I can think of some politicians who might have learned a few things from the meal I shared with friends this past Thanksgiving Thursday. It was a celebration across race, nationality and language, religious affiliation, gender preference and probably a lot of other mixed labels that no one thought to ask.
And it’s why, more than ever, it’s important to give thanks for what we do have because it reminds us of what we need to fight for. It’s quite possible that I’m going to become an activist at this stage of my life and I’m OK with that. A gratitude activist maybe.
If you believe the back windows of the taxis they drive, the taxistas of Oaxaca are a very moral group. For several months now, selected yellow taxis in the city (not the orange, blue or pink, mind you) have been sporting painted one-word virtues. Like the highball glasses my dad used to have. Though who wants to down a drink while thinking of Chastity or Prudence? And it’s not just taxis: José’s VW bug now sports Copiloto: La Reyna de Dallas (copilot: queen of Dallas) on the passenger side. Yeah, it’s misspelled: it should be reina.
Copilot: Queen of Dallas
Pilot: Head of stone (hardhead)
Eleven-year-old Aurora was part of the package deal when her father Silvestre, machete in hand, knocked on the garden gate Saturday morning looking for a tree-trimming job for the day. After the landlady and I agreed that we’d split the cost, Silvestre shinnied up the tree and Aurora sat down on the terrace with her skinny shoulders up against the wall and pulled out a composition book and pencil.
. . . in the suburb of Santa Rosa on the hill above Oaxaca near José’s brother’s house, where we were taking a walk and suddenly ran into the whole gang on the wall behind a restaurant.
I can still sing the song: The indisputable leader of the gang,
He’s the boss, he’s the pip, he’s the championship —
He’s the most tip top
Top Cat! (Now that I think about it, he was really a mafioso boss, wasn’t he? Or at the very least, a wise guy with his own gang of not-so-smart hoodlums like Benny the Ball). It only ran for one season in the 60’s when I was a kid, yet here’s Top Cat in Oaxaca: poetic justice since a cat in Mexico only has seven lives, not nine like in El Norte.
The problem about asking directions in Mexico: people want to please you so much that they’ll say almost anything to avoid saying no, they don’t know. In fact, you pretty much just don’t say no here.
Heads or tails, eagle or sun
We norteamericanos see answering yes to save face and not to actual intent as a teeny stretch of the truth, just short of an out-and-out lie. The other side of the coin (which is not heads or tails but eagle or sun) is that when we – honestly, we think – give a straight-up no, it’s considered incredibly rude and brusque.
Just yesterday, after nearly five years of speaking – or trying to speak – Spanish, I meant to say to my tour group that the restaurant owner was saving up to buy a big screen TV, a pantalla (also the word used to describe a lamp shade). Instead, I said she was saving up to buy arch supports, plantillas.
No cause for alarm, but possibly one doesn’t know the extent of one’s Spanish language ability until it’s put to the test at 2 a.m. in a Mexican emergency room.
So on my first day back in Oaxcaca yesterday, I’m in a Volkswagen bug covered with Playboy bunny decals with no front seatbelt, tooling out of town with a Mexican dude who doesn’t exactly have an official driver’s license. He’s told me that we’re invited to the wedding anniversary party of a childhood friend in a little village about 30 miles out of town, so I’ve dressed up a little and am wearing a blue jean skirt, dangly earrings and new sandals.