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A letter from Mexicanus Chicanicus to SF Weekly

The following letter is a response to a great piece on SF Weekly talking about gentrification in the Mission District, a place I called home until rents got so ridiculous my family and I could no longer afford to live there.  This was years ago, at the ass-end of the first dot-com bubble.  Since then, a second dot-com bubble has made the situation noticeably worse for Latinos in the Mission and it shows no signs of slowing down.  Whether you benefit from this displacement or you’re a Latino family who’s had to pick up and settle into the almost uninhabitable dead zone outside of the Bay Area, you have three generations of San Francisco mayors to thank.  Willie Brown, Gavin Newsom, and now Ed Lee have worked tirelessly to turn SF into the yuppie paradise it now is.  And it’s not just the Mission: Bay View Hunter’s Point is feeling the pain, too.  Gentrification threatens to displace the African-American community that has made that area home for decades. (Muni constructed a new T line metro rail that runs all the way down Third Street; I guarantee you it’s wasn’t built for the black community.)  Pretty soon all of SF will be a playground for the affluent.  By then, who the hell is gonna want to live here?

And now, without further ado, the letter:

http://www.sfweekly.com/2013-03-06/news/the-continuing-evolution-of-24th-street/

Great article on gentrification in the Mission District.You say “evolution of 24th Street”, I say socio-economic Darwinism.As a Latino and exile of my once-beloved neighborhood, I generally sense in my people a great deal of defeatism towards gentrification that would have been unimaginable just 40 years ago at the height of the Chicano Power movement.Whatever the hell happened to us since then is beyond me, but if it’s anybody’s fault that Latinos are being shoved into the armpits of California (no offense, Stockton) it’s probably us.

But before us Latinos all stock up on Speed Stick, allow me to leave a few words of wisdom to the new (read: mostly white) residents of the Mission:

Dear hipsters and yuppies: (Is there a difference, really?  I’m not being sarcastic; we really don’t know.  We just call you yupsters for the sake of clarity.)

  • Every time you walk down our streets at night, point and snap photos in our store windows while we’re working late, and go “oooh”, and “aaaah”, and “hahaha, isn’t that funny”, it’s actually fucking obnoxious.  The Mission is not a zoo and Latinos actually resent being treated like exhibits in our own neighborhood.  (“See the endangered Chicano in its native habitat before it’s extinct!)  When the class-cleansing that started with Willie Brown has finally finished its work in San Francisco and there’s not a single one of us left, then you can open the exhibit.  Maybe breed a few of us in captivity.  Turn the place into a wax museum.  Preserve the traces we left behind so that future generations can discover who we were.  (“Look, they left paintings on the walls!”)
  • You might think we don’t understand when you make fun of us, but chances are we do.  (BTW, they’re called quinceañera dresses, they’re supposed to be big and colorful, and they’re designed for 15 year old Latinas, not a gaggle of snickering, siddidy, 30-something white girls already way past their prime.  Sorry ladies, you couldn’t rock those dresses if you tried.  If you find them overly ornate and ostentatious, why don’t you slip into something more your style, like a tasteful Scandinavian-inspired evening gown, or a bedsheet with straps?)
  • As much as we all love organic patchouli burgers, not all of us can afford to eat at upscale “foodie” joints.  Latinos for the most part find it counterproductive to impress first dates with conspicuous displays of wealth – we save that for the wedding.  Nor do we feel the need to wow her with our extensive knowledge of the esoteric world of kelp-based Sri Lankan cuisine.  You’d be surprised what we can do with pupusas and a sexy Spanish accent.  Don’t you yupsters have your fill of pretentiousness in the art scene?  Now you gotta be bougie about food?  How about just thanking God for something to eat in a city where hundreds of homeless go hungry every day?  But I’ll tell you what: you stop judging us for walking around with a Popeye’s drink, and we won’t make fun of your knit sweaters and corny old-timey mustaches.  Anymore.
  • Some things are just better left to the pros.  There’s something not quite right when November creeps upon us and the only people not actually marching at Day of the Dead are Mexicans.  It’s because we now know how black people felt when Elvis came along.  Day of the Dead is a sacred Mexican tradition, not a Halloween after-party.  Those of us who observe Day of the Dead have a connection rooted in hundreds of years of Aztec and Mexican culture that gives us the right to honor our ancestors in this way.  The only connection yupsters have to Day of the Dead is a pasty, almost skeletal complexion.
  • You can have Cinco de Mayo, though.  It’s BEEN played out for a minute now and really, it’s all about the booze anyway.

Truth is, whatever armpit we Latinos end up shoved into, we’ll always bring the Mission with us.  By the time we’ve all made the move to the unholy perimeter around the Bay Area, we will have brought with us drink, tacos, music, dance, murals, horchata, bachata, chancletas, women, men, rolling r’s, poetry, culture, and cholos.  In short, we will infuse LIFE into those barren wastelands of 100 degree summers and meth.  We turn armpits into cleavage!  Pretty soon the Mission will be the new armpit of San Francisco and yupsters will once again be on the prowl for a new trendy area to gentrify.  But as much as you yupsters won’t be able to resist telling all your friends about the scene in Watsonville and decide you want to “slum it up” for the weekend, please, this time do us all favor and stay home.  Don’t come running to our new hood when you’ve turned yours into Whitebreadistan and it’s no longer cool anymore.  Latinos know all about what happens to our neighborhoods when they become “hip”, and we hate packing.

– Ed  (Mexicanus Chicanicus)

Guardián: Angel. Coming soon…I hope.

This Saturday I’ll be attending the Latino Comics Expo to spread that little teaser around.  It’s official: it’s gonna get done.

Over 10 years ago, I created an Aztec-themed villain in search of a hero.  That hero would use a ring to power up his suit of armor, giving him agility not unlike that of a certain spidery fellow, and he would be the first Mexican superhero ever.  Clearly, I hadn’t done my homework on the Mexican part, but it didn’t matter.  I still wanted to add my guy to the relatively new pantheon of Mexican characters who didn’t wear ponchos or sombreros.

OK, at some point my character does wear a sombrero.  A very big sombrero.  It gets hot in the desert, what can I say?

It’s been a LONG time since high school.  Since then the character that would have been a villain continued to evolve, and soon he turned into a hero in search of a villain.  But the one thing I came to realize was that more than anything, was that my hero needed a purpose.  A drive.  Something for him to fight for.  In short, a story.  I wish I’d learned this stuff sooner, but hey, even Albert Einstein once thought the universe was Euclidean.  And how old was he before he did that thing with the relativity and the E=MC squares and what not?

God, I hope I can finish this book before I’m THAT old.  At any rate, if you’re reading this, you are among the very first to hear news about this project.  I’ve kept it under wraps for over a decade, after several reincarnations and numerous false starts.  Now it’s official – I’m getting it done.  It’s coming soon.  If this all sounds vague, it’s intentional.  This is only a teaser.  Xochitl isn’t even the main character, but she’s certainly the sexiest.  Some of you have even seen the hero on my main page, but rest assured, he has also been a victim of my revisionary nightmare.  Expect a new look for him.

So stay on the look out, follow me on Twitter, Facebook me, and if you’ve got a copy of the stickers I’m handing out, hold on to them.  Collector’s item.

The State of Arizona catches another L.

Time to bash illegal immigrants again – and just in time to distract the teeming masses from the crackdown on Wall Street!  I’m sure that’s just a coincidence, by the way…

But never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that lawmakers in this country would literally pass a law so blatantly fascist.  SB1070, the new law signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer, is a 1940s Germany throwback, a law that actually makes it legal for a cop to ask you for papers if you “look” like an illegal immigrant.  Never did I imagine that many people would support such a law.  But in a country whose people approved the use of waterboarding and torture, it really should not have surprised me.  But it did.  Now I know for a fact that despite our Constitution and reputation as a freedom-loving nation, as long as we have half a population that can find the gall to defend the indefensible, then it is entirely possible for us to fall into the grips of blank-faced fascism – if we haven’t already.  I thought it was that people were just ignorant and misinformed.  But perhaps once something like this happens, they simply accept it and find a way to live with it, make excuses for it, or defend it entirely.  If you’re a conservative in America (my apologies to William Buckley, who would have been appalled by such a vicious law), you and your kind defend this law, despite the fact that it clearly violates the 14th amendment of the Constitution.  After all, you defended the Patriot Act.

Why is it always the same old Gran Torino ass lames that constantly ride our nuts?  They love to talk about how illegal immigrants are “breaking our laws”.  Notice the lack of a MORAL argument. That’s because there is no morality in deporting hard workers whose only crime it was to ignore some stupid rules so that they could FEED their fucking families. The laws being broken here amount to JAYWALKING when compared to the laws being broken by Wall Street – where’s your righteous anger now, dipshits?  All this talk about “breaking our laws” is little more than a euphemistic veil to hide their racism.

Need more proof?  Rachel Maddow unveils the roots of this immigration law.

Yeah…no racism there.  And Tea-Baggers aren’t racist either.  Right.

I mentioned somewhere in the title of this post that Arizona caught an “L”.  In modern lingo, that means they’ve earned “Loser” status.   If Governor Jan Brewer does not repeal this law, they can expect to catch more losses than they bargained for.  I support a full scale boycott on goods made in Arizona until this law is overturned.  Let’s boycott the shit out of them.

Here’s a partial list of companies that reside in Arizona:

2011 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, Location: Chase Field, Phoenix, AZ

Apollo Group (University of Phoenix), Headquarters: Phoenix, Arizona

Arizona Diamondbacks, Location: Phoenix, Arizona

Best Western International, Inc., Headquarters: Phoenix, Arizona

Cold Stone Creamery, Headquarters: Scottsdale, Arizona

CSK Auto (Checker Auto Parts, Schucks Auto Supply, Kragen Auto Parts, Murray’s Discount Auto Stores), Headquarters: Phoenix, Arizona

Dial Corporation, Headquarters: Scottsdale, Arizona

Discount Tire Company (America’s Tire Company), Headquarters: Scottsdale, Arizona

Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, Headquarters: Scottsdale, Arizona

Go Daddy, Headquarters: Scottsdale, Arizona

Grand Canyon

Mesa Air Group (Mesa Airlines, Go!, Freedom Airlines), Headquarters: Phoenix, Arizona

P. F. Chang’s China Bistro, Headquarters: Phoenix, Arizona

PetSmart, Headquarters: Phoenix, Arizona

Sky Mall, Headquarters: Phoenix, Arizona

Taser International, Headquarters: Scottsdale, Arizona

U-Haul, Headquarters: Phoenix, Arizona

US Airways, Headquarters: Tempe, Arizona

Texas: We should have let Mexico keep it.

Ultra-conservative wing-nuts on the Texas Board of Education have decided to rewrite the nation’s textbooks.  I hate to be a doomsayer, but we are so utterly fucked.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/13/education/13texas.html

These are some of the actual changes to be made to the books:

  • Creationism will be included alongside evolution as a legitimate scientific theory.  This one alone is enough to make me weep for the future.  But wait…there’s more.
  • Thomas Jefferson will be a footnote in our history, his punishment for having coined the phrase “separation of church and state”.  The man who will take his place?  John Calvin.  I shit you not.
  • All instances of the word “capitalism” will actually be erased because it has “negative connotations” in its place will be the word “free enterprise”.  I’m guessing this wasn’t the idea of anybody on the Texas school board; it’s too sophisticated for them.  I bet $100 that this was the idea of some douche-bag at the Heritage Foundation or the AEI.

They’ve finally gone and done what I had most feared they would.  I always feared that this was our weak spot, that by going in and rewriting the history of the world, we have finally destroyed any chance of getting this nation back on track. Everyone knows you can’t fool an educated populace.  So what do these shitbags do?  They set out to make ALL of America’s children as ignorant as they are in Texas.  I only wonder what force of nature kept them from having done it sooner.   Mark my words, people – that Texas vote marks a new low in American history.  You probably won’t read about it in the future, so better memorize that shit.

People, if you have kids, now is the time to seriously consider home-schooling. In fact, it would probably be better for our nation if our kids skipped school entirely from now on; they’d be smarter for it.

Thanks a lot, assholes.

Diesel Ad Campaign: “Smart listens to the head. Stupid listens to the heart – Be stupid.”

Uh huh.

The reason we’re mired in debt up to our ass, our kids are intellectually lagging behind China and India’s kids, and we’re more concerned about keeping up with the big booty bitches, is because hardly anybody listens to their head anymore.  In fact for most people the head is on life support right now, atrophied by years of neglect.  We’d all much rather talk about the douche-bags on Jersey Shore than keep an eye on what Congress is doing to fuck up the health care bill.  But then again, isn’t Diesel one of those douche-bag brands anyway?  Almost as bad as that Ed Hardy shit.w

And I’m going to be honest – Obama got some of you by the heart.  That’s the God-honest truth, and it’s a fucking shame.  Those who considered him the Messiah now realize that he can’t fix everything that is wrong with our country.  His administration is in dire need of a swift collective kick to the nuts.   For those of us who voted with our head, we saw it coming.  We just didn’t think he’d be THIS ineffective.

Listening to Glenn Beck saying that social justice is a bad thing, is to listen to the heart and give in to its worst instincts.  Check this out:

God I hate that man.  I hate him because he knows just what to do to turn people into the worst they can possibly be.  Hell, I don’t even have to agree with him to be a worse person just for listening to him; see the reaction he’s getting out of me?

So you have it, that values that were once universally applauded (such as social justice) and those that have been rightfully scorned ( stupidity) are now switching places.   All it takes is somebody with enough gall, someone with virtually no conscience to speak of, to stand up and say something like “social justice is bad”.  The obvious implication is that all you need is somebody equally vile to start speaking in favor of INjustice.

Enter Ayn Rand.

There is Ayn Rand’s way of looking at the world: cold, uncaring, and real.  Ostensibly, Ayn Rand’s entire philosophy of objectivism is about thinking with the head, and not the heart.  I too, believe in trying to look at things objectively (believe it or not.  I think that we’re so far to the right in this country that we NEED a bit of populist socialism just to move it to the true center).   Ultimately, I believe her books are nothing more than apologetics for egotism and selfishness.  I don’t see how looking at the world through clear lenses equates to being a dick.

OK, so perhaps it does come down to a happy medium between smarts and stupid.  I’m just saying though…let’s step the smarts game up, people.

“Health” “Care” “Reform”

When that corporate shill Joe Lieberman had the public option gutted from the health reform, this bill went down in flames.  Now the only thing it does is guarantee new customers for the health insurance industry.  Now, if you don’t purchase insurance from Blue Cross or Aetna, you commit a crime.  Now, there is no reason to support this bill, and every reason to oppose it.

Well, you can start slapping the cuffs on me now if that bill passes.   I draw the line here.  Fuck Aetna, fuck Joe Lieberman, fuck Max Baucus, and fuck everybody from the political whores in Washington to the free-market ideologues, down to the brainwashed birthers/deathers/sister-fucking sheep in middle America who worked so hard to destroy health care reform.  Fuck you all.

The 50th Law: a Book Review

Today it’s 6:30 in the morning, west coast time, and I’ve been back from the hospital for a little over 1 hour.  My father had his rosary and was reciting Hail Marys; my inconsolable mother waited anxiously for good news from the doctors; my 36 year old uncle sat shell-shocked, no doubt wondering if this was the day he would lose his father, so soon after having lost his mother, too.  I had a copy of The 50th Law in my pocket when I went into the waiting room and I sat there reading it for hours on end.  I’ve already read this book cover to cover twice; I think it will take a while before I can internalize the very valuable lessons in this book.  I could certainly use them now; particularly chapter 10…

In high school, I made an appointment to see a counselor.  Sensing a profound lack of self-esteem in me, she forced me to write down a list of 5 positive things about myself.  I struggled for 5 minutes thinking of a single answer.  It’s not that I was being modest, or even that I didn’t know.  I knew I had one positive trait, but it’s one that I didn’t want to admit.  I didn’t want to admit that the only good thing I had going for me was my intelligence.  I didn’t want to be a nerd, and all that it implied.

Fear has been my biggest obstacle ever since I can remember.  For me it was the fear of failure.  Not the everyday “I might fall on my face and look like a fool” fear.  I’m talking complete and utter failure as a human being.  Because of an inability to relate to kids my own age, I never developed the kind of social awareness that even the least popular kids seemed to possess.  On the home front I was pressured into getting good grades and not even think about socializing – school was for learning, not for friends.  Because of my lack of social skills growing up I just knew – as a kid – that I would somehow end up homeless and alone.  I just KNEW it.  As a KID.  From that I developed an intense fear of growing up that only stunted my social progress further and made me suffer the lasting consequences to this day.  I scored excellent grades in elementary school but by the time high school came around I hovered in the mid 2.0s.  Suddenly I didn’t even consider myself smart – I was a socially awkward nerd, only without the perks of being smart enough to fund a high-tech start-up that would at least make me insanely rich.

Sure enough, I developed a pattern of fatalistic thinking that still plagues me to this day.  The thing about fearful and negative thinking is the way in which it reinforces itself; little did I know then that I had the power to shape my own reality all along and that I had instead been using that power to sabotage my own success.  The 50th Law confronts the fear that hold us back. It is applied psychology for the fearful mind, disguised as self-help, only it never condescends or treats you with kid gloves.  It has profoundly affected the way I look at my own life.  I was surprised to learn the many ways in which fear manifests itself – I didn’t know I could fear being bored!  But when Robert Greene breaks it down, it makes perfect sense. I now know that the yellow lens of fear is and has always been the most paralyzing force in my life and sadly, in the lives of countless others. This is the book I wish I got for my high school graduation.  Maybe earlier.

Don’t let the fact that 50 Cent gets top billing on the cover fool you into believing that this book was written by some illiterate hoodlum with shiny teeth.  You would be grossly underestimating 50 Cent, a mistake that countless others have made in the past, to their own detriment – just ask Ja Rule.  If you don’t know who Ja Rule is, that’s exactly the point.  The book uses the story of 50 Cent – née Curtis Jackson – to illustrate the lessons in each chapter of the book.  They are lessons that Fiddy had to learn the hard way as a hustler on the street, the tools and tactics he used to make it out alive and rise to the top of the music industry and beyond.  Just like fear manifests itself in many ways, so too does fearlessness.  It manifests itself in 50’s business savvy, his leadership qualities, and even his ability to stage beefs.  In many ways 50 Cent is the idea of “Makaveli” taken to its logical philosophical conclusion – not the passion-driven, at times hedonistic, thug poet embodied by Tupac Shakur, but rather the shrewd, cold and calculating mastermind like the man who inspired him – Niccolo Machiavelli.  If he hadn’t been murdered, Tupac might have become 50 Cent.  Or maybe he always was.

But this isn’t really 50’s book.  This is a Robert Greene book all the way, from the anecdotal stories of historical figures and power players past and present such as 50 Cent, to the neat authoritative analysis of the lessons derived from each story.  With the 50th Law, Greene has identified the key human characteristic on which his other books depend on for their success – the 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction, and The 33 Strategies of War – and that element is fearlessness.  The 50th Law is not a companion to these books; it is the spinal cord, the very essence of all his works to date.  For without fearlessness, you can never really apply the laws of power, seduce the fair maiden, or confront your enemies.

This book may challenge deeply held views for many.  For me it was Chapter 5, which raises questions about morality and “reaping the wages of humility”. Jesus’ idea of humility on Earth in exchange for inheriting the kingdom of Heaven always felt right to me, a righteous fulfillment of karma.  I’m not even a religious church-goer, but I always gave Jesus credit for his un-worldly wisdom; Robert Greene’s books, on the other hand, are decidedly “worldly” (Ironic how even the book is designed to look like a Bible, from the leathery cover down to the last gold-trimmed page). I’ve tried to mesh the two world views into a new paradigm that I could feel comfortable with, but I just can’t do it.  Greene’s books at times promote the use of “badness” for our own ends is the antithesis of everything Jesus talked about.  Greene argues that all of us – especially the moralizers – have flexible morals anyway.  Jesus never said we were going to be perfect, but weren’t we at least supposed to TRY?  After 8 years of Bush/Cheney in the White House, certainly the last thing I want to do is embrace the kind of selfish ideals that led to the suffering of others halfway around the world.  I read language like, “push people out of position to get our way” and I think, “what ever happened to ‘turn the other cheek?” I read words like “taking on those who stand against your interests” and remember Condi Rice talking about “protecting our interests in Iraq”; I always knew that was code for “slaughtering civilians for oil and military contracts”.  But Greene preempts my bleeding heart liberal response by making examples of FDR and Abraham Lincoln; one lifted the US out of the Great Depression by crushing his political foes and the other ended slavery and maintained the Union by baiting the Southerners into a fight.  I was even surprised to learn that Machiavelli, raised a Christian, went through the exact same thing!  So maybe the ends can justify the means.  Sometimes.

Perhaps my beliefs are based on a lack of self-esteem, but I’d hate to believe that humility and peace are nothing more than a reflection of fear.  And yet, I can’t deny that much of what has held me back in life has been fear.  I know because I’ve been able to see the same qualities it in so many others ever since reading this book.  I see it in my grandfather, who just suffered a heart attack brought on by years of alcohol abuse.  My grandfather lived with the spectre of fear for most of his life.  A deeply sensitive man raised on the streets of Mexico in dire poverty, he turned to many vices to drown the pain, not the least of which was alcohol, which have brought him no shortage of self-pity, regret, and poor health in his old age.  He could have used this book more than anybody I know.  Well, almost anybody; his son, my uncle, suffers from a potent lack of self-worth, no doubt caused by not having had a positive father figure he could look up to.  I only wish they had learned to conquer their fears when they were coming of age. I hope I can still conquer mine.