Proud Laborers of the Barrio


From time to time I hear politicians, as well as certain people in the media, stirring the “class warfare” pot. They all remind us we better stock up on our provisions.  Gather up your pitchforks and torches.  And, for God’s sake, don’t forget to pile up all the junk you can find to safely barricade your “domain”.  Class warfare? Seriously? I don’t know about you, but this gringa and all her neighbors in the barrio do not have time for such nonsense.  We’ve got mouths to feed and the only way to do it is to work, work, work.  If the gringa is not pounding away at the keyboard working (or playing Spider Solitaire), scrubbing a toilet, laundering yet another load of stinky socks and unmentionables,  then she’s having adventures with the Latin man of her dreams or basking in the glory of the presence of the kids and grandkids. And, as far as I can tell, all the people in the barrio are doing the same. So, why all the paranoia and fear-mongering from the politicians and media?

Recently the gringa and her caveman escaped the barrio for “uptown” (which means we went a few blocks west).  We had lunch at a local restaurant. The lady in the booth behind us was talking on her phone to a family member. She was giving this person directions to the neighborhood pool from her home. Overhearing her directions (yes, I am a notorious eavesdropper), I was able to determine that I was familiar with the neighborhood she lived in.  It is an exclusive, gated housing development.  All the homes back up to a golf course. Many of these million dollar plus properties are of the most modern designs incorporating the latest technology. Sometimes they are marketed as “smart homes”.  I easily drew the conclusion that this was probably a wealthy woman.  As she explained the details of purchasing a seasonal pool pass for the neighborhood pools she concluded by expressing her dismay that because these were “public” pools even people that did not reside in her “village” could get these passes, they just had to pay more.  It seemed disturbing to her to find herself sunning next to a table where one of these poor families had set up camp so she explained if she had to go she preferred to go early and on a weekday.

My husband and I have taken our kids and grandchildren to these pools numerous times over the years.  What I would like to know is how can a rich person know another person is poor when you are all basically wearing underwear that passes as outerwear simply because the fabric is lined? Does the working class gringa and her familia have a glowing, poor person aura?  Do we exude a distinct barrio fragrance? Do the wealthy have a poor person detector implanted discreetly in their body? Perhaps it is my banged up, duct taped ice chest that has seen many seasons of use at the pool, the beach and the campground that gives me away. Maybe it’s the twenty dollar haircuts we all sport from Great Clips. She might be able to detect the presence of an eight-dollar-a-bottle Clairol redhead (before I went blonde). However, most likely it is the Wal-Mart brand drinks and snacks that always litter the table. Yes, that’s probably it. I shop generic. Ya know, the “more bang for your buck” method of shopping? Perhaps we are seen pulling through the parking lot in our old, beat up mini-van with the one broken door that has the lock duct-taped down so no one makes the mistake of unlocking and opening it because we’ll never get it closed again if they do! But, don’t hate the van, it was paid for! I do know, however, that our manners are not the dead give-away. We may be working class and can’t afford Gucci, but, by golly, being polite and considerate is a freebie to all!

Please, have no fear, rich folk, if you find yourself side by side with the poor folk. We are all out for the same thing, just a little fun in the sun.  Heck, just think about it. That beautiful park you are enjoying is manicured regularly by some working class Joes. Speaking of manicure, your lovely toes and fingers are sporting a mani/pedi compliments of some working class gal (or guy). That bottle of sparkling water you’re enjoying with your organic what-not tidbit was trucked to your favorite store by a person just like my husband. Chances are many of the things that make your life easier and more pleasureable are made possible by the working class. And it is highly likely many of these working class laborers are immigrants who are here to build a better life, not take yours.

As you pass another taco truck or landscape crew salute the courage of these men who, like my husband, left behind all that they knew to enter a foreign country, often all alone, not even knowing the language. And yet, they are making it on their own. As you pick up your clothes at the dry cleaner or enjoy an immaculately clean home thanks to a wonderful house cleaning service, take a moment to admire these women.  These are women who have often survived a life of extreme disadvantage and possibly risked a dangerous journey to immigrate. The hope for a better life was worth the risk to them. Rather than consider working class immigrants suspiciously, consider them heroes. One day their children and grandchildren will owe all of the opportunity and privilege they enjoy to these brave men and women. Our country is enriched by people like this. They are landscapers, cooks, crop harvesters, nannies, seamstresses, truckers, handymen, busboys, hair stylists, etc. They are not just immigrants, they are immigrants who have come to embody all that is American. They are America.

So, please, all you wealthy folk out there who are concerned that us working class folk are biding our time until just the right moment to shriek, “BURN THE WITCH!” and come after your Bentleys and Birkenstocks, it just ain’t so.  There is no need for you to clean out your local Wholefoods Market of Perrier and organic bon- bons.  There’s no reason to have KBR on your home security networks’ speed-dial.  You see, first of all, we working class folk simply don’t have the time to engage in revolt. I stated some of the whys and wherefores of that in the opening paragraph.  But, we also don’t have the extra moolah to fund such an effort. I mean, have you seen how much a pitchfork costs these days? Extras like that are simply not in a barrio budget.  The familia of the barrio spends all of their money on their family and a better life. They will not waste a nickel on something that is going to just cause trouble for another. Most barrio families came here to leave that kind of trouble behind. The simple truth of the matter is, working class people are just not the type of people to bang on your door, poke their hand out and demand a piece of your pie.  Working class people are proud.  Working class people are humble.  Working class people are independent.  We do not want what is yours.  We are satisfied with what is ours.

The barrio is a beautiful place.  The gringa doesn’t want to live anywhere else in the world. You can keep your golf course real estate and your mansion that talks to you. I am happy with my patio garden and an apartment I can clean from top to bottom in about forty-eight minutes flat leaving the rest of the day for my own pleasure. When we moved here the Caveman and I joked we were gonna “slum it” until all the kids were finished with college.  You see, wealthy people don’t sweat tuition. The truly poor get financial aid. Working class people pay every single dime.  We don’t make enough for us not to sweat it and we make too much for the government to think our kids need help. But, we don’t complain. We are proud that our oldest has finished, two are still at it, and the youngest, showing much promise, will soon be on his way.  So, even though it may have started as a temporary move to the barrio, now I want to stay for life. We may not have much but we always have enough, and, of love and laughter and good times, we have plenty. So, what in the world is there to fight for? All of our dreams that really matter have already come true.

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Beards And Boogers


I find this current trend of male facial hair very interesting.  This gringa personally does not like male facial hair.  I am too distracted with the fear that boogers or food debris may be lurking within.  It would be an anxiety-filled experience if my husband wanted to kiss me in full beard.  I can see it now.  “Come over here and give me a kiss,” he would say.  Tentatively I pass him a tiny comb (you know, the ones they make to remove fleas or head lice).  I cautiously reach toward him as if I were handing a ravenous, wild gorilla a peanut.  I would observe his efforts to make certain no gross tidbits remain that could inadvertently fall into my sexy, parted lips and be unknowingly ingested.  Oh, the horror of just imagining it!  My stomach is rolling!  I’m breaking out in a cold sweat just thinking about it!  When he satisfactorily completes the comb out, I can see me pursing my lips, poking them out as far as I possibly can.  He embraces me and, I helplessly fall into a mass of giggles because I am outrageously ticklish and all that fur is oh, so stimulating.  Yes, a beard would absolutely ruin any hope for intimacy and romance.  It would most certainly cause a divorce.  There would be a domestic rumble in the barrio.

Despite my inordinate phobia of facial hair on men, I am sure there are plenty of women who find it incredibly attractive and do not mind taking the risk of eating a booger, or two, or getting food tidbits second hand.  These must be the women who love the bad boy.  They swoon for the rugged, manly man.  Or, perhaps they prefer a soul patch as they fantasize about cuddling up with a cool, hip, millennial Beatnik.  There are all sorts of women with all sorts of desires.  Hairy men need love too.

My curiosity is not so much about how women can overlook the booger and food tidbit issue.  What I really wonder about is why a man would want that stuff on his face in the first place.  Just consider the comfort factor.  Hair is hot!  I watch professional athletes with these super bushy monstrosities hanging from their faces.  I see the sweat pouring down their faces.  I think, “Ewww.  That beard is going to be really stinky with all that sweat coating those follicles.”  Later, as I see them on the sidelines attempting to wipe down their face with a towel, I decide, “Yep, the beard really gets in the way.  No amount of towel blotting is gonna help that mess. It was probably not such a smart move to grow that during your sport season.”  As they cease the normal re-hydration process and stop drinking the water in order to pour the water on their face, I then say to myself, “Look at the big silly.  He’s willing to risk a heat stroke for the sake of that ol’ booger trap on his face.”  It just doesn’t make any sense to me.

This insulation factor of a beard could be beneficial to, say, a polar bear hunter.  Yes, I can see that logic.  But, you still have the booger and food tidbits to deal with.  Most of the polar bear hunter types I have known throughout my life are not the kind of men to let a few boogers or food scraps bother them.  But what about all that itchiness?!  I mean, when you’re out in the woods hunting, you must be very still.  I don’t know about you but I go bananas if I can’t scratch an itch.  I may not have ever had a beard (although I do have one long, soft, curly white whisker I pluck from my chin regularly), but I do know hair is itchy.  I have conducted a few hippie experiments of my own.  Thinking I could go all natural and no longer have to shave my armpits and legs was a big fail on my part.  This was entirely due to the fact that hairy body parts are itchy body parts.  I worried that if I went out in public people would think I had scabies because I was always clawing at my stubbly legs or scratching away like a monkey at my pits.  So how do those grizzly faced hunters do it?  It must be some sort of Zen thing they get going all alone out in the wilderness.  Fascinating.

So that brings me to the urban millennial hipsters.  These fellas don’t have to worry about heat stroke from hairy facial insulation.  Overheating on the basketball court from having a stinky, sweat coated wad of shag is not in the hipster playbook.  They also don’t need a fur barrier to protect them from the cold when they’re out in the back forty. What, then, is their reason to want something on their face that requires lots of extra time and effort to maintain?  I think they’re willing to make such a sacrifice because of good ol’ masculine rebellion against years of oppression by militant feminism.  And I don’t blame ‘em.  It’s as if they are saying, “Hey, feminist, I’m a man and I am proud.  Here’s mud in your eye! Here’s something I can do that you can never equal!”  Yeah, how’s that for uterus envy.  That’s what we women get for proudly gloating, “You men may be big and tough and get better pay, but, hey, you can’t have a baby!”

However, I will count my blessings.  This gringa is fortunate enough to have a caveman that, although a caveman, is at least a smooth, clean shaven caveman.  He can kiss me and cuddle me and I can stroke his face without fear.  I get such a warm, fuzzy feeling when I lay my cheek against his, and the warmth and fuzziness have nothing to do with beards and boogers.  I must never take this hygienic smoothness for granted.  I will not become a militant feminist.  I will try to be a good and gentle gringa because I don’t want him to start getting any ideas of how he might need to assert his manhood.

Dancing With Lightning


I met my husband at a dance club on New Year’s Eve many years ago (out of kindness to myself I won’t recount how many years ago).  I was there to have a beer and enjoy the music.  He was there to dance.  He doesn’t just love to dance.  He is a dance addict.  It is like a drug to him.  How do I know this?  I have seen him become another person due to the effects of this “drug”.  If I have really made him mad, where kindness, beer or chicken fail, dance will always save my bacon.  He’s always willing to make up by dance night.  I have also seen him make out of character decisions because of this “drug”.  Such as taking me again and again to a club I have made it very clear I HATE because the floor is so crowded and I get run over.  I even got my foot broken by some fool who smashed into me (not even an apology!).  But, caught up in the power of his addiction, and the lure of an absolutely awesome musical group he adores, he forgets my terror fueled hatred and pulls into that parking lot time after time.  In his frenzy to get his fix, his eyes glaze over so that, unable to focus, he is oblivious to the “you’re gonna pay for this” look on my face as he helps me out of the car.  Yes, he is an addict.  So, if I was gonna be his gringa, I had to learn to dance.  Which, in my case, is much easier than it sounds.

I grew up in a conservative little town that was firmly in the grip of the Southern Baptists.  At our school, it was against the rules for boys and girls to have any physical contact.  If brushing a pinkie against some sweetie’s elbow was a crime, you can be darned sure there were no school dances.  I take that back.  I remember one.  Yes, just one.  If you wanted to get your groove on you had to be old enough to drive to the next town.  You also had to be popular enough to be in on the location and time of the current party.  If you were lucky enough to get to one of these shin-digs, it was all Two-Step with maybe a splash of Rock-n-Roll once or twice.  So, when I met the caveman of my dreams, I knew nothing about Salsa, Merengue, or Cumbia.  But, hey, I was in love.  I was ready to learn.

Not only was I hindered by my lack of personal dance experience, I also had a medical condition that could make certain things about dancing very tricky.  Strobe lights were definitely out.  They put me in la-la land in about three minutes flat.  My poor little brain also gets a little freaky when expected to process visual information in any type of hurried fashion.

Take my college ballet fiasco for example.  My instructor was very serious about his art.  The whole eye/hand/feet coordination effort of mirroring his movements had my epilepsy zapping my brain like crazy.  It was like dancing with lightning.  During rehearsals one day, I finally gave up and improvised my own silly dance.  If you watched a lot of ‘I Love Lucy’ episodes, you can imagine, then, my style.  When my instructor noticed me in the mirror he stopped the class.  He slowly and deliberately walks over to me and stands silently before me, near enough that I can feel his breath blowing my 1980’s big-bangs.  Finally, after mulling over what to say in order to shame me in front of the whole class, he says, “You need to take a more serious approach to your performance.  That would include your facial expressions.”  I politely ask, “You’ve seen me dance, right?”  He takes a breath to speak, then clamps his lips together, twitches his head, cocking it to the side, and replies, “I think maybe you’re not a dancer.”  I laughed and said, “You would be right.  But I need a P.E. grade.”  Reaching his limit and raising his voice just a wee bit he tells me, “You should try the water aerobics.”  So, you see, my Twinkle-Toe Delight for a new lover had no idea what he was getting himself into when he met me that night so long ago.

The first few weeks of dating were quite interesting.  Several nights during the week I would go over to his house and he would teach me my steps.  Now, one thing I did learn from that college class was how to count steps.  I picked up the eight count of salsa rather quickly.  However, my new instructor did not count HIS steps.  He would be holding me close, guiding me through each movement, then, all of a sudden, he would release me and bust a move.  He was fantastic.  However, when he wanted to resume dancing together, I had been steadily doing my one, and a two, and a three, and a, “Hey, what the heck!  What am I supposed to do now?!  I don’t know where you’re at!  Don’t you count your steps?”  Juan would smile and say, “No. I just feel the music.”  Oh great.  He’s one of THOSE people.  So, now I’ve learned to be a psychic dancer.  We are great dancers, together.  I can’t dance with anyone else.  I’ve tried.  It’s a disaster.  So, it’s just us, Gringa and the Caveman, dancing with lightning for life.