Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
On The Road


Thursday, August 17, 2017

The South Ain't Gonna

I grew up in the 1950's in the state of Washington. We lived all over the state, mostly in rural and small town settings. My father worked in lumber mills, on dairy farms, and wheat ranches. We never stayed in one place very long because he was an alcoholic, who just could not keep a job. I did not see a black person until I was about 13 years old. I knew very little about the rest of the world, other than what was taught in the various schools that I attended. I was aware that there had been a Civil War in the U. S., and that the primary issue there had to do with slavery, and that the pro-slave folks (if you will) had lost that war. I was also aware that we had very recently fought and defeated Nazis and evil little yellow men all over the world, and it was thanks to people like John Wayne that we had wrested most of the U. S. A. away from Native Americans.
The thing is, I knew as a child that the south had lost, Nazis were bad, and there was nothing inherently wrong with anyone whose skin differed from mine, including those little yellow men. I was even ignorant of any Biblical mention of slavery because we did not attend any church.
I was not aware of all the homage paid to "the fine traditions of the Old South," or the "Glory" of that Old South. I do remember reading about Stonewall Jackson and various Southern Generals and leaders. But, I also recall reading about Lincoln and Grant and Sherman. We did not have Confederate monuments, or any monuments dedicated to that Civil War, because our state wasn't much settled at the time of those events. We were very much more aware of The Spanish American War, and Teddy Roosevelt, and WWI, and of course, WWII.
Big days in our calendar were - believe it or not - May Day (as in, the rites of Spring and flowers; nothing to do with labor), Memorial Day, Arbor Day, and of course the 4th of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I still remember my mother referring to Armistice Day, and seeing my father always buy a poppy for that occasion. Of course, that turned into Veterans Day during the 50's, because frankly, the farther in time we got from that First World War, the fewer people still lived who were even alive during that time. My point in mentioning these days is that none of them included Confederate Hero's Day, or Jeff Davis' birthday, or any such celebration of either the Civil War or the Confederacy.
I do recall that there was obviously an effort to glorify those events all across the country, though, because of movies and television. The very term, 'rebel,' was used as a euphemism for hero, in many movies, up to and including the short lived "The Rebel," starring Nick Adams, in 1959. Rebels were seen most often as lone good guys going up against many bad guys. The good guy theme was common in movies and TV dramas that portrayed rebels as those who came west in the years following the Civil War (because their beautiful homes had been destroyed by evil northerners), and it was they (former Confederate soldiers) who were often the ones who famously settled the American West.
So, I suppose I was aware of attempts to glorify certain aspects of the old south, but only in that limited area dramatized by Hollywood.
I guess what I want to say here is that I have never quite grasped this entire "The South Will Rise Again" philosophy, or seen the need to try to bring to life a world that never really existed. The idiots who want to parade the flags of that lost cause have some kind of wildly distorted idea of what that old South really was. They somehow believe that a restoration of the miserable Confederacy would guarantee them a better life. It's like somehow they would miraculously be moved out of their falling down trailers, and into mansions, each and every one. Of course, the reality is that, as long as they feel that they can look down on someone else, anyone else, they feel better about themselves. And, let's face it. If you live in a trailer, surrounded by falling down appliances and vehicles, and overgrown weeds, a slave's life has to look worse than your own.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Viva Mexico?

Saturday evening, as guests of some long time friends who live in Cd. Juarez, we ventured out from our home, and across the border, to Cd. Juarez.  This was our first time to go across the border for strictly social reasons since our return to El Paso in 2012.  For what it is worth, that is something we used to do two or three times a month, but for many reasons just don't do anymore.
               We went to a place called "Viva Mexico," Viva México Restaurant, a restaurant that is located very close to the Free Bridge, also known as the Cordoba Bridge, in what used to be a small shopping center.  They feature a pageant of sorts, much like El Paso's "Viva El Paso."  They offer a full menu and following adequate time to eat, they put on a spectacular show that features folklorico dancing, singing, charros on horseback, some very talented lasso work, and even a Juan Gabriel wannabe.
               They advertise that the show on a Saturday begins at 9:30 PM, and they recommend that you allow two hours before the show to give you time to eat.  We were a bit late for our reservation, so we did not get good seating.  We were stuck up on a tiny second floor balcony, overlooking the entire restaurant and stage, along with a large group of about eight people, and two different groupings of four (the groupings of four consisted of two separate parties, as one ate and left part way through the show).
This was a view of the floor and stage.  The raised area is the stage, and the flat area surrounding it is sand, for the horses.  This was taken from our table up on the second floor balcony.

             Unfortunately, although the building is in good repair, their idea of air conditioning is totally inadequate, especially up on that second floor.  This location is actually old, as we remember there being a super market and other businesses here way back in the late 60's, early 70's.  At any rate, at some point in time this part of the original structure was completely remodeled to accommodate the restaurant, and the interior is very picturesque, with the feel of a village somewhere in Mexico.
               The menu is varied, and the food was good.  We had the carne asada a la tampiqueña, and what we got was what I know as fajita, or skirt steak.  The meat was tender and cooked just right, although it did lack seasoning, believe it or not.  On the plate was a delicious cheezy chile sauce, to go with the meat, some refried beans, with grated cheese, one rolled tortilla with a delicious molé sauce, and another that was like an enchilada.  The pricing for the food was reasonable, by the way.
                About an hour before the show was to begin, some Mariachis came out and worked the floor.  Unfortunately, either my hearing aids were just not working well, or the acoustics were very poor.  Because all I could hear was occasional trumpet blasts, and the murmur of singing voices.  I could recognize some of their songs, but it always took some time.  When it was time for the show, there was no mistake, as the lights all went out, and a voice began booming out to let us know what was happening.
                Again, I left my hearing aids in place, and tried different settings, but ultimately gave up, and took them out, as it seemed to make no difference what I did, the audio was just too loud, and that all by itself was distracting.  There was a young man who sang some Mariachi songs (in costume) and a young lady as well.  But, the show began with a very heavy, very loud drum beat, and primitive dances, evidently to represent the Aztecs and some other indigenous folk dances.  The music continued at too high a volume, for my comfort, unfortunately.
              There were a number of dances of different folklorico styles, with music from different parts of Mexico.  there were at least six young ladies, and as many young men, and they did look to be very professional.  Unfortunately, for me, there were too many obscure dances, and it quickly became boring for me.  Interspersed with the dancing a Charro would come out riding a beautiful horse.  The horses danced to the music, and there were at least four of them at one time or another.
              The best part of the show, towards the end, was when some three or four young men began to do Charro rope tricks, with lassos of different colors, including some that glowed in the black light that was then applied.  Some appeared singly, then pairs, then one on horseback, who even stood on his horse, while jumping in and out of the loops he was making.  When they all performed together, it was very well choreographed, and well rehearsed.  These guys alone were worth the show.  And, the most beautiful horse of the evening came out during their performance.  You can see this magnificent black beauty in the video on their web site.
              I do have some serious advice for the singers, for the announcer, and for whoever does their sound engineering.  The volume is too high!  Singers, including the lame Juan Gabriel wannabe:  look at what a consummate professional, like Juan Gabriel, does with the microphone!  Real Mariachi singers usually do not need a microphone at all to be heard over the instruments, and a professional will tend to move the microphone farther away from their mouth when hitting those high or those extra loud notes.  Unfortunately, these people all appeared to be hungry to the point that they wanted to 'eat' their microphone!  Coupled with an already too loud system, and we heard (OK, I heard) way too much sound distortion.  Not good.
              As for the singers' abilities, let me say this.  The male was not bad, except for his tendency to hold his microphone too close.  The female may be good, but she threw in some notes that did not fit her songs, and went into almost operatic riffs that were - in my opinion - totally inappropriate.  And, of course, she also tried to eat her microphone.
              That leaves us with the Juan Gabriel imitator.  This guy kind of had the slightly corpulent look of Juan Gabriel in his forties, and wore a decent suit.  He may have a good voice, but mostly what he did was shout and screech.  He seemed to throw out bits and pieces of vaguely recognizable Juan Gabriel songs, but I don't think he sang a single one, from start to finish.  Worse, he tended to play up the gayness of the famous singer, instead of showing the tremendous talents of Juan Gabriel for composing and singing and performing.
              We saw the original, real deal, more than once, and I, for one, was a big fan and I was always impressed with the show put on by him.  Yes, he did, as he aged, bring out his own gayness, but he didn't really flaunt it, or turn it into something low class. This impersonator, however, seemed to think that was the important part of the legacy that is Juan Gabriel's.  He even went so far as to seek out an obvious gringo young man to come up on stage with him, so he could not only ridicule the young man, but push the gay Juan Gabriel all the way.
              Ultimately, I would recommend a visit to this place for the food, with the proviso that you not put your expectations too high as to the show.  As I said, this is a very professional production that is spoiled by a poorly regulated sound system and entertainers who lack knowledge of how to use a microphone.