Monday, May 5, 2008

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Wall of Voodoo--"Mexican Radio" (mp3)
Los Lobos--"Peace" (mp3)

I seem to add more holidays every year. This year, it's Cinco de Mayo.

Why? The reasons are really pretty simple. Because I power-washed my deck. Because I planted some dying pansies. Because there is leftover wood in my rusty outdoor fireplace. Cinco de Mayo now becomes a reason to rub some chipotle powder on some country-style pork ribs, to mix up some guacamole, to roast some tomatillos, garlic, and jalapenos, to soften up some tortillas, to fancy up some black beans, to chill some Mexican beer. In other words, to celebrate the season and the weather and a Monday with some food and fire under the pretext of broader celebration.

It is pretty silly for there to be a holiday and not to celebrate it, isn't it?

Holidays are special days, and to dismiss them with an "I'm too busy" or "I'm not into ______" or, silliest of all, "I'm not even Irish" borders on lunacy. I'll tell you what--stumbling through a packed Bourbon Street in between parade floats with a beer in one hand, a rubber duck dressed like an Irishman in the other, and two pounds of various green and white beads around my neck, I felt pretty damn Irish!

Even this morning, a guy was sitting in my office questioning why we even celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Let me put this directly: what kind of a people are we becoming if we are questioning the reasons for holidays? Or, does Cinco de Mayo somehow fall in the same category as MLK's birthday, where some of us give it tacit acceptance, but don't see what the big deal is?

Admittedly, I didn't know much about Cinco de Mayo before this year. I knew it was a kind of an "independence day" for Mexico, but the history is a little more complicated than that. But so what? Add it to my ever-growing list of holidays.

My own history with Mexico is brief. About 15 years ago, while at a conference in San Diego, we decided to take a brief trip into Tijuana. We had a convertible from the rental car company and a "guide" in John L., who assured us that the best way to visit was to park and walk over. But, he didn't see the turn and so all of a sudden, three ignorant-of-the-language, scared shitless gringos were cruising the street of Tijuana in a Chrysler LeBaron convertible. We immediately turned around and got back into the customs line to reenter the United States. But, it's quick coming in and slow going out. So we sat and sat and sat in a long line of cars while "entrepreneurs" of all kinds approached our vehicle, trying to sell anything you can think of, from flowers and trinkets to cases of that Mexican gum you see at Amigo's.

Holidays are on my mind for another reason. This year, for the first time, I'll be out of the country for the 4th of July. I'll be teaching in Korea, and on that day, I'll be walking the streets of a city of around 12 million people. Very few of them will give that day a second thought. But I will, and I'll do it through music: I'll have my Aimee Mann's "Fourth of July" and Dave Alvin's "4th of July" and Lucinda Williams' "Firecracker" and Bruce Springsteen's "Sandy (Asbury Park 4th of July)" and Neil Young's "Hawks and Doves" and "Rockin' In The Free World" and Paul Simon's "America" and a host of other songs. Perhaps I'll be able to locate a Budweiser or two, put on my Old Navy shirt with the American flag, and maybe, we'll have a little holiday over there after all.

Happy Cinco. Eat a jalapeno. Get crazy.

Wall of Voodoo's "Mexican Radio" comes from my brief foray into the original Napster. Los Lobos, which is the only Hispanic-flavored band I listen to with any regularity, seems to have peaked, but once put out a terrific series of cd's in the '80's and '90's. This version of "Peace" comes from a radio station's compilation, Rare on Air, Vol. 1, and is a live, in-studio performance.


Anonymous said...

I'm celebrating Cinco by repotting some ferns in the hanging baskets on my front porch. Yeah, I know. I really do have no life.

Daytimerush said...

I welcome more holidays! They are reason to expand my culinary repertoire and an excuse to entertain with friends. Your menu for Cinco de Mayo sounded fantastic. Is that what you had for dinner?

Bob said...

That is what I had. The roasted tomatillo salsa, really easy to make, goes very will with grilled, smoked, or roasted meat.

But the highlight was sitting with just my wife around the fire pit talking and listening to Los Lobos.

I am sad to report, however, that Trader Joe's new Mexican beer knock-off is not as crisp and smooth as Corona.