Archive for ‘car cultura’

July 7, 2011


by la rebelde

My jalopy is dead.  It died last week, where the 215 meets the 10.  I was in a pretty good mood because I was on my way home from a reunion lunch with old friends.   And then…the AC suddenly stopped working.  I drove back to Alhambra in 100+ degree weather facing the afternoon sun.  I was drenched when I got home.  Yick!  My mechanic says the AC is connected to more important stuff like…you know, transmission, power steering, etc. The repairs are not worth the value of the car, so he didn’t want to charge me anything.  Thank goodness!

My first car — the one I had at the end of college, that got me through my tejas years — was my all time favorite.  I know…I say “all time” even though I’ve only ever had two cars.  Its name was “Gadget.”  It was a beige 1989 Mercury Tracer hatchback.  I loved that car.  I drove it all over Austin, and to and from ‘Burque a few times.  It was small and zippy, and it could hold tons of stuff.

This one, I’m not so attached to.  It was my dad’s old car — a Ford Taurus boat of a car.  And I’m a small-size person, so it makes the car even more gigantic.  This car got me through three winters in small-midwestern-college-town and five years in LA.  Five years!  It has been good to me, but I will not be sorry to see this car go.  It’s time to drive a car in which I can actually see over the dash!

But, car-shopping is a big ole pain in the booty!  This is the first time I’ve shopped for one as a real adult.  Cars are freakin expensive, y’all!   Wish me luck.

March 23, 2008

good friday.

by la rebelde

Yesterday. Good Friday. A perfect spring day. Better in northern Nuevo Mexico than anywhere else. Manito and I drove up to Taos to pick up my grandparents so we’d all be in Burque when Sobrino arrived.

The going was slow because so many people were making the annual “pilgrimage” to the Santuario de Chimayó. Families, couples, individuals, all walking along the side of the highway to pay their respects to the dark brown Cristo and the Santo Niño. Since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to do the holy week walk. Maybe one of these years, I will. You know, once I get past my nine years of Catholic School trauma and remember to plan ahead for Lent and stuff.

The going was also slow because it was a nice Friday afternoon. And nice Friday afternoons are perfect for cruising in Española. The Santuario and lowriders seem to go together–like in this photo from the Smithsonian exhibit. It seemed like everyone who had a hot lowrider was out—and everyone who didn’t too. It took at least 30 minutes to get from one end of town to the other because even if you didn’t mean to cruise, there’s only one main drag through town so everyone has to cruise. Espa has been called the “lowrider capital of the world.”* (For all you non-believers, see here and here.) My favorite this trip was a glittery light blue ’63 Impala convertible with shiny, shiny rims. I’m no car whiz, but it was amazing!

We weren’t sure if my grandparents heard our car as we crossed over Rio Lucero at the entrance to their driveway. My grampa built that bridge with steel beams and railroad ties, just like all the rio crossings in their barrio. It makes a lot of noise when you drive across. But my grandparents are hard of hearing these days.

I hugged them hello. My grampa even tried to stand to greet me, with his big smile that spreads his wisdom lines across his face. His eyes were twinkling, the way they did when I was a child. He used to swoop me up in his arms and walk over to the entryway so I could ring the bells he liked to hang there. Recently, my Spanish instructor mentioned that she thinks I look a lot like him because our eyes sparkle in the same way when we smile. No one ever said I look like him before. When I told my gramma what my instructor had said, she replied that she agreed and I should be happy because my grampa was “very good looking when he was young—very good looking. You better believe it!” Yea—Gramma’s still reveling after all these years because she got a catch. He did too, she just doesn’t realize it.

We drove back to Burque that evening to meet my papa for torta de huevo (aka the “Lenten special” that I always thought was called “tart” de huevo). Not sandwiches, more like panqueques de huevo…with red chile of course. As I exited at Paseo del Norte going toward the mesa, the sun shone so brightly I was practically blinded. I struggled to shade my eyes, while driving directly into it during Friday evening traffic. Finally at a stop light, I looked over at my grampa who sat pensively in the passenger seat, occasionally trying to adjust the shade on the car ceiling, despite his bad arm (WWII injury). “How are you Grampa? Is the sun bothering you a lot?” “No,” he said. “I just can’t keep the sun out of your eyes.”

The truth is, he has always been and will forever be keeping the sun out my eyes.

Lowrider photo credit: Smithsononian Institution, Photo by Jeff Tinsley, Negative #: 95-3340

* I made a mistake in my original post, which stated that “Espa is the birthplace of the lowrider” and the links did not actually say this. It seems that the birthplace of the lowrider is up for debate. See here. I need to do more research, but the historia I grew up with credits Española for the lowrider. That’s my historia and I’m sticking to it! Muchas gracias to the anonymous commenter who pointed out my mistake.

May 6, 2007

porque now you live in l.a.

by la rebelde

At 8:30 this morning I was jolted awake by the ear-piercing ring of my cell phone. My dad was calling to check on my flat-tire situation, which transpired yesterday. “You need to have all four of your tires replaced,” he said definitively. “Porque now you live in LA.” I love how my dad thinks in such dramatic terms about my living in LA now. It’s like all precautions one would take in Burque are to be taken to the extreme in Los Angeles. After all, my dad should know—he lived here in 1969, a point he likes to remind me of quite often.

Yesterday I had morning coffee and a bagel with my good friend, Miss J, at a cute little coffee shop I recently learned of. When I parked the car, she pointed out that one of my tires needed some air. After she left, I headed to the gas station, where I found another tire was even lower than the one my friend pointed out. I filled them all before embarking on the hour-long drive to the library, where I would spend the afternoon listening to testimonios–oral history interviews conducted in the 1970s. Old tapes on old tape players. Let’s just say I wasn’t looking forward to it. (More on los archivos some other day. I’m admittedly avoiding writing about them because I’m in denial about lots of things dissertation-related.)

When I got back to my car, the tire—not the one J pointed out, the other one—was completely flat. Visions of shredded rubber, black streaks on grey pavement, and cars spinning out of control on the freeway flashed through my mind. I had to wait almost 2 hours for the tow guy to drive through heavy Friday afternoon traffic so he could come put the spare on for me. I watched him work. It seemed so simple, I was kicking myself! Why didn’t I pay more attention when my dad showed me how to do this a few years ago? Wait, do I even have the upper-body strength to turn the wrench? And why did I decide to drive 25 miles from my apartment on a questionable tire? Oh yeah…the lure of the pinche dissertation. Anyway, I took the streets to get home because I was afraid of driving on the freeway with a shady tire that makes my car look like it has a skeleton leg. Thank goodness my girl warned me about the tires, otherwise I could have been stranded on the 10!

So my dad called to get the car update. It’s what he does to show that he loves me. He talks about my car and helps me with the costs of repair work until I get a “real” job. He asks about school, expecting a short, yes-or-no type of answer. It’s his way of being a part of my adult life. Which leads me back to why I was on the west side in the first place and why I’m even in LA—to write my dissertation.

So at 8:30 PST this morning–which I think is early on a Saturday–my dad was just sitting down to breakfast at IHOP in burque with mi manito and my grandparents. As I answered the phone “Hi Papá,” I heard his voice some 900 miles away, “Scrambled. Sausage links. And whole grain pancakes, if you don’t mind.” “What?” I croaked through my sleep. “Heeeey! How’s your car?!” he said all jolly and awake-like. He must have been in a really good mood. I love when my dad is jolly. After talking about the car for a while, he did our familia ritual, passing the cell phone around the table so I could say hello to the folks.

“Hi grandma. How are you?” I said. “Comiendo, as usual. I’m having the Belgian waffle. Come join us!” she said…as usual. Then my grandpa took the phone. “I hear you have a flat tire!” he said. “Yes,” I smiled. “Which side is it flat on?” he asked. I was confused. “What do you mean?” “Well, it’s only flat on the bottom side, right?” he laughed. My grandparents are so cute.

I wish I could join them for breakfast. I’m due for a trip home soon, for reals. I really miss mi familia today…porque now I live in LA.

March 14, 2007

crossing state borders.

by la rebelde

You know those welcome signs that they post over freeways when you drive across state lines? Like, “Welcome to Wild, Wonderful West Virginia!” (Okay, so that’s not the WV state slogan anymore because it was derogatory, but you get what I’m talking about.) I had a friend in college who used to take pictures of all of those. So whenever we drove to the conferences of the East Coast Chicana/o Student Forum, he’d bust out his camara and snap as our car sped under the sign. I never did that, but there are many moments when state-border-crossing was quite memorable.

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Last August, as mi manito and I drove along I-40 from Burque to Los Angeles, we passed a sign indicating that we’d have to stop at a check point in about 5 miles at the California border. We, of course, thought it was a border patrol check point. Even though I was born in the states, the border patrol just freaks me out. As papá used to say when I was a kid, “They can deport you just for the color of your skin, or your last name.” Well if that’s not enough to strike fear in a child’s heart, I don’t know what is. So we turned down the music, stopped singing along with the playlist at the top of our lungs, and mentally prepared for the stop, both of us more serious than before. In the passenger seat, I put on my chanclas, which I had taken off over the course of the drive. We pulled up to the stop and this blonde white lady came to our window and cheerfully said with a slight twang, “Hi there! Are you traveling with any animals or plants, fruits or vegetables?” Say what? Manito was stunned. “No,” we said solemnly.

Manito said it took him a moment to realize she was speaking in English because all the other times he’s been stopped, the border patrol dude (and it had always been a dude, not a chick) was Mexican and only spoke to him in Spanish in order to get him (my brother) to respond only in Spanish. Well that’s just a dirty rotten trick, I tell you! But I digress… After driving on for about a mile, we both burst into uncontrollable laughter, manito poking fun of me about putting on my chanclas. (Actually, manito says “champlas” instead of “chanclas,” but I have no idea where the heck he got that from.) “What were you going to do if it HAD been the border patrol? Run away in your champlas?” he teased. Pues, of course! My first instinct is to run, and running in chanclas through the desert seemed better than running barefoot. (And hopefully they wouldn’t shoot me down with their guns.) Just another day in the militarized borderlandias…except this was just the California-Arizona border, not the U.S.-Mexico border.

Anyway, that was a really long way of saying that I got this map thing from Kisha, and I think it’s kinda fun!

It reminds me of those silly get-to-know-each-other games I make my students play at the start of the new semester. They’re annoying, but if they’re done right, they can be really useful introductions to the course. I always begin with the game, “2 truths and a lie,” which I make into an exercise about the interpretation of primary documents and so-called “objectivity.” I always go last and list the same 3 points. One of my “truths” is always that I’ve lived in 6 states and it’s the one that my students always think is my “lie.” (Truth be told, I never give a “lie.” If I ever teach enough in the same school, they might figure it out. But the mechanics of the exercise and its pedagogical uses is an entirely different post all together.)

Now that I moved to El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles, I’ve lived in 7 states! So with all that moving around, I’ve visited a lot of places in the U.S. And no, I did not count the states that I only drove through–just the ones I actually visited.

February 16, 2007

v-day in the life of a single grad student.

by la rebelde

I’m not really a fan of v-day, especially not the last several years. I’m not saying I will always feel that way. I could be convinced that I’ve been overlooking something amazing about that day. But for the moment, I have to say, v-day experiences always seem to be a series of mishaps that leave me at the end of the day thinking, what the heck just happened?

My best memory of v-day is when, during my first year in grad school, ex-boyfriend sent me bell hooks’ All About Love because he said I was badass like bell. I don’t know about all that, but it was a sweet gesture and meant a lot to me at the time. That was in 2000—when the book just came out. (That’s how long I’ve been in grad school—sshhhh! Don’t say it outloud.) And I’m embarassed to say this, but I never read it. (Hey, I was in my first year of course work hell!)

Last year, the grad student boy I was dating had a great idea for a v-day outing—grabbing some sandwiches from Jimmy John’s and going to the indoor botanical gardens (had to be indoor because it was freakin’ cold in small-midwestern-college-town) for a little picnic. But he had class during the garden’s visitor hours, so we postponed until later that week. Since he had no backup plan, I called him that night and invited him out for ice cream, which I thought was harmless since we had only been dating for about three weeks. We both had a crap-load of work to do and it would be a short-and-sweet get-together and I really liked him, so… We walked through the cold toward the ice cream parlor, a couple of Chican@s far away from home, shivering in the biting upper-Midwestern wind. He gave me a heart-shaped chocolate chip cookie with “Happy Valentines Day” written on it in red and white frosting. I could tell it was a last-minute gift he picked up in the student union on the way to meet me. Of course, I was all excited that I got a valentine gift at all. (I’m easily pleased.) We had barely sat down when he busted out with the relationship talk. I wasn’t really ready for the talk yet, but there it was. I thought it went okay in the moment. But in retrospect, it was the beginning of the end of that relationship. We never made it to the botanical gardens, even though we dated for over a month more. And to think, I just wanted to have ice cream on v-day with the very cute boy I was dating. Sheeesh!

So this year was spent busily, even stressfully, but there was nothing exciting about it. My girl, the super-historian grad student, is in town to do archival visits, so I went with her to UCLA to do some research. She likes the archives much more than I do, so I’m hoping her enthusiasm will rub off on me. I just want to tell the story, without braving the dust. But that’s another post altogether.

  • Got stuck in the entrance to the parking structure because I didn’t know you needed to buy a visitor pass first. Some jackass wouldn’t give me room to back out. What’s up with the drivers on the west side? They cut you off. They don’t let you merge or switch lanes. They’re generally rude. I think it must be a weird manifest destiny space entitlement issue and all that beachiness over there.
  • Found a great oral history collection that will surely take me weeks, possibly months, to get through. Ah, the bittersweet treasure hunt for archives to bring the story to life!
  • Sat in the sunshine, ate a salad, and read the dissertation that someone else wrote five years ago about the same people and time that I’m writing about. Luckily, it’s not the same dissertation. At least I’m pretty sure its not. Or else it won’t be. Had a little bit of an existential crisis about it the other day, when I found out about said-dissertation by accident.
  • On the ride home, I missed the freeway entrance and ended up in Santa Monica. Spent 2 ½ hours in the car trying to get back home. (It wasn’t terrible, but if I had to do that kind of commute everyday in rush-hour traffic, I’d want to scream…or kick someone’s car really hard!)
  • Got my car an oil change because I have driven more in the last few months in LA than I did the entire three years I lived in small-midwestern-college-town.
  • Came home and searched archives online, with little luck, because they’re never organized the way you think they will be.

So this year’s v-day was just another day in the life of a dissertator. At least the parking attendant guy at the campus smiled and wished me a happy v-day! Hope your v-day was better than mine. ;) And here’s to hoping that next year will be full of all that fun love stuff that people talk about.

January 20, 2007

car cultura.

by la rebelde

There are several obvious signs that I am not from Los Angeles, but the most obvious is my car, which is

1) from Nuevo Mexico—I have plates that scream “the land of enchantment” and when I’ve used valet parking (which is not often because I’m a struggling student, but more often in LA because there’s so many damn cars!), the guys often look at the plate, shake their heads and say something like, “Ooooh! New Mexico!” as if it’s ridiculously far off and unknown territory akin to outer space. And then, of course, they give me the look over as if they’re recording to their memory what nuevomexicanas look like. Actually, it’s a look my ex-boyfriend’s best friend used to give when he was checking out some chick—the look at the ass, the shake of the head, the wacko comment “daaaaamn!”—except in this case, its my car that is being objectified. Or maybe it’s me. Or maybe it’s both.
I have to admit that I take some pride in my homeland (not gonna say “state” here since we all know those boundaries are constructs of the nation state). And I do love the bright yellow background with red numbers, and the little green yucca in the corner. I’ve also come to like that is explicitly says “New Mexico, USA”—a testament to all the dumb-asses (believe me, they’re out there) who don’t know that NM is an “incorporated” state, complete with politicians and constitutions and the other stuff that makes a state a state. But on the flip side, it’s also a reminder of the long struggle of Nuevo Mexico to achieve statehood—some 60 years! (can’t remember the exact number, though.) The U.S. Congress did not allow New Mexico to join the union until 1912, when the territory’s population could be considered “American” enough (read guero-enough). It also shows that we (actual nuevomexicanos, not the transplants) are still maintaining some kind of specific regional identity—and hopefully at times, it would be an oppositional one.

2) a Ford. My car is an enormous family-sized sedan and a Ford—my papá’s favorite kind of car (it used to be his). I’m a small-size person and the car is clearly not a good match. It was only a few weeks ago that I found out from my friends that other people can see the top of the hood of their cars! I had no idea! Anyway, no one drives American-made cars in Los Angeles. Perhaps because they kinda suck. But also, I’m thinking, because they’re not so cute. Those Toyotas and Hondas are super cute! My first purchase after I get a job? Definitely a cute Asian-brand car with good gas milage—one with adjustable pedals and seats, and one whose hood I can see a little bit of.

3) filthy as hell. Over the holidays I left my car in my assigned spot for a couple weeks. With all the windy days, there accrued a thick layer of dust and what can only be smog. I’ve never seen dirt STICK like that! In fact, my car has never been this dirty—and I didn’t wash it for 3 years while living in the upper-Midwest! Everyone has shiny clean cars here. So I spent a few days fretting over the embarrassment that I would surely undergo at the neighborhood car wash. It’s one of those places where you pay a pretty penny and they wash and hand dry and all that. When I finally got up the courage to take my dirty-ass car to the joint, there was a ridiculously long line, a million signs, and no clear direction on where to pull up or park. I was so confused that, instead, I drove four miles away to wash my car in the drive-through carwash at the gas station in Pasedena, only to wait in line for 28 minutes. My car still has a film of grime and I paid extra for “prime” washing! Los Angeles, I tell you!

So when I’m in my car, it is obvious that I am not an Angeleno. I still find it funny when friends off-handedly say “You still have New Mexico plates!” because until I’m done with this degree and get a couple real paychecks, this is the car that I’ll be sportin’. That’s quite a while off yet. And even though I’m not a fan of being in the car, I’m begrudgingly coming to terms with the L.A. car culture. It’s not as bad as I thought…once you get used to it. But if we hang out and you offer to be the driver, I won’t turn you down!