Saturday, March 27, 2010

Adventures in Dining...

An interesting afternoon yesterday.

It all began innocently enough; I was walking through my neighborhood, taking care of my personal business, when it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn't had lunch. No problem, I was on a major street and there are a number of restaurants, pizzerias and delicatessens, so finding something tasty shouldn't have been much of a problem.

Except that I couldn't resist that smell.

You see, in recent years there has been an influx of immigrants (most of them are for certain illegal, you can tell by their behavior) into the neighborhood, mostly from Central America. A lot Mexicans and Nicaraguans, but not of the sort you'd think. I believe they used to be called Mestizos -- the dark-skinned, broad-faced Central Americans who are the descendants of mixed-race Indians. These are, for the most part, the largest group you see flooding across the American border, because they are usually the lowest strata of Central and South American society, and therefore, the most desperate. Well, there's a million of them (it seems) here in my old nabe.

So, there I was passing THAT DOOR. THAT DOOR used to belong to a diner which I used to eat in quite frequently in my youth. Best Grilled-cheese-with-bacon-and-tomato -- and a large plate of steak fries -- you ever had. But the owner died or something, and for many years I forgot all about it, and I'm not even certain it was open for all of that time. In the meantime, the "Mexicans took it over". Someone bought or rented the place, and opened a Cantina. I see the "Mexicans" going in and out of there all the time; they stop in for beer and the pool table, they gather outside to smoke, or bullshit. There's always the music. Horns. Lots of horns. And guitars.
There's never any trouble there that I hear of, and the place always seems to have a good crowd in it. And it always smells good when you pass by. Someone is always cooking up a storm in there.

So, here I was, hungry, and in front of THAT DOOR, my mouth watering in anticipation. After all, I love Mexican food, the hotter the better. So, I decided I was going to go for it.

No sooner did the door open than a dozen heads turned in unison. I doubt many Gringos come in here, and the stares weren't just those of idle curiosity -- they were almost hostile. I had just invaded someone's territory -- although I should like to point out they'd invaded mine first when they crossed the fucking border. But this was not the time for this discussion. I was starving and something smelled delicious, and not even the thought of being knifed in a dark, Mexican cantina was going to keep me from it. I even caught a few racial epithets being muttered, and at least one homosexual joke directed at me.

The Girl Behind the Counter was plump, but pleasant-looking. I have to say this about most of the "Mexican" girls around here; they are invariably all lumpy and plump, and many are truly, hideously ugly. This girl was better than the average and wore less make-up than most (they often wear it in the same way you might Spackle a hole in the wall). Anyways, she was shy (I'm guessing she doesn't speak much English), and didn't have much to say until I broke out my halfway-decent Spanish and asked if they were serving lunch. And everyone in the place seemed dumbstruck.

They hadn't realized that I spoke Spanish (I actually understand it better than I speak it).

I guess they don't find many Gringos Who Speak Spanish in their Dark Cantina, either. Espcially not ones who know they've been insulted behind their backs. There were two slight problems, though; these people don't speak "standard" (Castillian) Spanish, but rather dialect which makes them difficult to understand (for me), and what I took to be a "Mexican" restaurant instead turned out to be a Salvadoran restaurant. Which was be a bit of an unpleasant surprise; I used to work with a Salvadoran woman (she was legal!) who used to bring food from home to the office. Salvadorans have a talent for using every part of the animal (including hooves, skin and snouts), and an even greater talent for making it look appetizing. However, despite their best efforts not much of it actually is appetizing. No matter how many spices you use, or how creative you are in disguising a cow's rectum --it's still a friggin' cow's rectum and tastes like ass. That's if you can manage to chew it and keep it down.

So, I scanned the menu -- not because I was expecting to find anything edible, but because having come this far I had to at least make a brave show of it all. Finally, I came to something I recognized and asked if it was being made with the pig's butt and balls, or if it were real pork (only politely) -- and that got a chuckle from the wiseguy homophobes. You have to do that when ordering Salvadoran food, because there's like 10 different words for pork, and if you get the wrong one you're eating gonads. It turns out it was real pork, the honest-to-goodness good cuts; it's more readily available here in America than in El Salvador, and at that moment I was thanking the Farmers of America for being so productive so as to make pork so relatively cheap and easy to obtain that even Salvadorans could dispense with using ears and toenails in what passes for their cuisine.

I ordered Pupusas, which is tortilla filled with pork, cheese and beans, all fried up and served with tomato sauce. I gave the Certido (pickled cabbage) that came with it a very big miss. I surrendered to habit and ordered a Coke with it, although I was willing to try one of those Salvadoran sodas they had in the display case. It was all reasonably-priced. I paid my bill, took my food and walked home -- with a dozen sets of eyes on my back all the way from the counter to the Cantina door. I had an especially tasty meal, I must say -- and an even better colon cleansing. It wasn't quite food poisoning -- just that all the hot pepper had a rather more... cathartic... effect than I would have thought. Half a bottle of Pepto later-- and two rolls of Charmin -- and all was well.

I will say this much about the entire experience; I will certainly NOT do it again anytime soon, at least not in that restaurant (I can't help it; I love trying new foods and can't say no to spicy foods). But even more than that, I think what I'll take away from this experience was the thought of being considered a stranger in my own goddamned country. The circumstances in which I was regarded as unwelcome by people who probably shouldn't even be here was enough to remind me that these folks aren't here for the purposes of becoming Americans. Not in the sense that my great-grandparents did, at least; they don't wish to learn English, they don't even want to share their restaurants and cuisine with The Gringos, they simply want money to send home and welfare and hospitals, and food stamps and schools, free-of-charge, whenever they can get it.

I then recalled something that I had read not too long ago: the New York City Public School System has a Major Problem (in addition to all the other ones it has, this one seems the biggest): it has a shortage of bi-lingual teachers. You would think this would be easy enough to fix, but here's the issue -- there are something close to a quarter-million students in the schools here who's first language is as likely to be Russian, Mandarin, Portuguese, Creole, Arabic, Hindu, and the even-more-remote non-Spanish dialects of the most distant parts of rural Mexico and El Salvador.

Can you imagine the chaos and expense of having to provide a service like this? Especially when there's a Public Union and a government involved? Nevermind what these people are going to do to the Healthcare system when they can abuse it with impunity, thanks to ObamaCare, and God forbid, the coming Amnesty.

Better than 60% of the Hispanic students in the NYC Schools drop out, the majority before they finish high school. They then melt back into their "communities", live at the edges of society, and refuse to assimilate, and eventually, end up as wards of the state, either in a prison, a hospital or the welfare office. When they're not out landscaping or hanging out at Home Depot, it seems, they're hanging out in darkened cantinas making their hateful opinions of the Gringos unmistakably clear to any who can understand them.

Why is it that we're struggling to provide services to people who came here in violation of the law, treat us as if we're invaders in our own land, don't wish to associate with us, and are encouraged not to so that they can be manipulated for political purposes, only to have them regard US as the Enemy when we walk into a restaurant?

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