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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Blood Pot

"I never buy Mexican 'blood pot'. I only buy pot that I know has been grown here in the states."

When my friend first used the term 'blood pot' it stunned me, weighing me down like a beast sitting on my chest, forcing me to see an uncomfortable truth.

I was grateful someone finally said what I'd been circling around and side-stepping for years: when we buy pot from Mexican traffickers we each of us are accomplices in Mexican murders, kidnappings, extortion and the silencing of justice.

'Blood pot' buys the death squads, the hangings, the prison-break-outs, the black trucks and fire-arms, the short fuses on the lives of young Mexicans whose horizons shorten with each passing decade, the boarded up schools and church of my grandmother's village. 

'Blood pot' buys the black hats worn by bad guys everywhere, left and right of borders, on college campuses, on airport tarmacs, in warehouses in deserts and deep in city cement jungles.

'Blood pot' pays off police chiefs and judges, governors and municipal presidents and businesses from banks to restaurants on both sides of the border.

'Blood pot' needs to be screamed so loud that it echoes from San Antonio to Sinaloa, so no one can pretend anymore that they haven't been purchased, paid off and delivered, cheaper than dirt.

I'm grateful to learn a new term, a term that says in few words exactly who pays for the twisted, over-grown and profitable black market that is our drug economy. 

I'm grateful too, for legalization efforts in Colorado and other states. Every ounce sold by legal sellers is one less sold by narco-traficantes at a human cost too high to calculate. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Food, drink, memory

Food, drink, memory

We stopped in for a quick dinner before our long drive back into the Hill Country. 

The waitress was young and friendly and we liked being back where we had enjoyed many lunches and dinners in the past, when the place had another owner and name. The new menu was ambitious, less regional. As we ate our dinner, we were grateful for such good food and service.

As I lurched toward the ladies' room (the building slants several discernible degrees as it has done for the past 70 plus years) past the bar where a few couples sat eating, I suddenly realized I was older than any of the customers or waitstaff, and had known the building before anyone else in the whole restaurant had been born. My memories of the place stretched back to the trio of fellows who moved here from California to open the restaurant in the early 1980's and who set the bar (no pun intended) so high for the present owner. 

I marveled that I had been a witness to a history of a sort, and that so many memories of the place still lingered and meant so much. I thought of the San Antonio celebrities I had run across there in years past: Susie and my brother Israel and I had had the interesting aural surprise one warm Sunday afternoon to hear the voice of the actor Tommy Lee Jones booming from behind us while entertaining his friends over lunch.  I had watched the El Paso writer Dagoberto Gilb duck paying his dinner tab late on a Saturday night while there with writers from Macondo Workshop with Sandra Cisneros. The last time I had walked past the bar there was three years ago when I spotted a handsome and gifted photographer looking much older catching me staring and and probably thinking the same thing about me.

What is great about a place to eat and drink and be with friends is the odd and out-of-focus movie that whirls like a Fellini film. There is a drunkenness that comes from the alcoholic spirits, but also from the people's spirits rising in conversation, storytelling and laughter.  The door opens to new arrivals and waiters in white shirts escort them to tables, all new players on the tilting floorboards of the restaurant turned into impromptu theater. Friends amble by, stop and say hello, and the rooms are charged with smoke and sounds, aromas and energy-- gossip and news, discussion and persuasion. Squeeze past two overcrowded tables, chortles, hey waiter, can I have a slice of Virginia Green's chocolate cake, please?

I sat in the glow of the neon rimmed window where I had sat for many dinners over the decades and remembered the times when for a few minutes the old orb we lived and loved and labored on was transformed to a planet friendlier than before, and even how it traversed the sky changed from straight across to samba shuffle.  I could almost hear the little slanted restaurant's chatter, chairs shuffling and riffs of laughter. Good luck to Minnie's Tavern. You have big shoes to fill at the old Liberty Bar.