June 20, 2008

First Person:

Kitchen Table Folks

By Al Carlos Hernandez

The economy is getting out of control, working folks can barely fill up the car with gas, and now food prices are getting higher, but it seems to be the middle class people that are the ones losing their marbles. Like some of you I grew up broke, as long as we had a pot of beans a pan of rice, Chicken, tortillas and good friends in the same boat, we would survive.

I remember that our poverty was communal because most of our relatives and friends were paycheck to paycheck too, but we all used to pool resources and often make up for each other’s lack. It occurred to me that most people don’t really visit anybody anymore without a special occasion and or a RSVP. If you are Latino and expect an RSVP, you need to ask somebody because you ain’t going to get one from Familia, or the folks who knew you “when”.

Don’t know when it happened but I stopped visiting people too, I’ve been told I stopped visiting because I stopped being invited, but being invited and or not being invited somewhere for me never deterred or encouraged me from going anywhere and it still doesn’t.

Back in the day our folks would pick up some food and drinks we would visit a friend or a relative, laugh and comeriserate, this somehow made the hard times more bearable. We would share food, resources, fix what needed to be fixed, talked about the idotadas in life, and encouraged each others to keep on keeping on.

Many of us grew up in a communal society, but now I find myself isolated by middle class convention, in a world where you need to Blackberry a play date for your pooch, and if you roll up acquaintances unannounced, they think you are a stalker with bonding issues.

Los Homies used to drive around on weekends and or Friday nights and just drop in on friends and family members just to say Hi, the door was always open, and quite often an impromptu party would ensue, not for a particular purpose but just for the joy of fellowship secure in the feeling that you matter and people you know accept you for who you are without a scheduled pretense of protocol.

I really miss being able just to drive over to someone’s house catch them working on their car in the garage or working on the lawn and just hang out.

Nowadays you can’t work on a car because they are all computerized, and many of our peers have a lawn service, well, Sabes Que I am still my lawn service.

Tough times require that people pull together as Family and help each other out, many of the huge life crisis in my life have been worked out at a kitchen table with Mom’s, Bro’s Homies, Homettes putting in their 2 cents and Vijitios who gave life altering Consejos, (Life parables).

Whether you know it or not, the financial deck is stacked against working folks who are trying to raise a family in these tough times, it cost me almost 20 bucks to fill up my motorcycle this afternoon, a few years back 5 bucks would have topped it off. For working class bikers out there you know when times get really hard the bike is the first thing to go.

We meet now at Starbucks for a 7 dollar latte, or a restaurant for a bite to eat, I think the real reason we do this is a control issue. If we meet and greet on neutral turf, you can call the get together a wrap, fake an important phone call, if the conversation gets too heated and personal, it is also a failsafe precaution making sure random visitors won’t stay at your house for another 2 meals.

I think we are reluctant to let people into our lives, behind the curtain, to the place where we sometimes cry and occasionally fear because society has become less intimate more electronic more clinical less familial. We live in a world that encourages one to be fake 24-7.

It has been said that tough times don’t last but tough people do, times are going to get tougher we live in a Global economy that player hates our home the USA. This is the time for us to come together as a family and help each other to ride out the storm.

I get by with a little help from my Friends.

Al Carlos Hernandez writes from Hollywood.

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