Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Jesus is a popular Spanish name

Another rainy day, apparently it is the season now.  I'm told that paradise will start to smell like cow shit soon. It is the way of things.  It is needed to keep the land fertile.  We drove by a field a few days ago that was freshly manured.  It was not the most inviting smell.  

Other changes are coming also.  We got a brief description of the yearly changes last week. Mustard turns the ground green, the ground that is now golden.  The leaves of the grape vines change also.  I have been here once before for that.  It is really something.   The rolling fields of yellows and reds, organized in row after row, change as if on fire.

In trying to describe the differences between Sonoma and Marin county something simple occurred to me the other day that might help elucidate those differences.  There is a seating area inside a store that I go to each day and sit to eat my lunch, where I can read in relative peace most days.  It looks out over a parking lot but what one notices mostly is the sky, lots of it.  Near the window is an area where the shopping carts are corralled.    So each day I sit and read after I've eaten.  I'm reading Dostoevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov" now, each day I am transported back to nineteenth century Russia, where perhaps I belong. 

When I've said before that I simply don't understand what these people are so angry about I hope this example sheds some light.

It is the individual's responsibility to put back their shopping carts after use, as in most places.  There is a guy there who also sweeps the parking lot for carts that were abandoned, which are many sometimes.  I watch him navigate the long line of carts through the parking lot and then back up into their pen.  Never before in my life have I seen others throw carts into the pen with such ferocity.  I'm often not even paying attention. I'm looking down reading.  But then I'm subtly shocked with a crashing sound. That of somebody pushing a cart with so much misguided force that it makes an impact noise that startles me, even through the thick glass. 

I ponder what it is that could be making these people so angry. How could shopping carts be generating such benign hostility.  When I look at the people who are the most noticeable offenders I see a pattern.  They are all wealthy, mostly men. The second part makes some sense, but the first... I couldn't seem to put my finger on what it was that was so surprising about it.  Just to say that these people are filled with a sense of "entitlement" does not explore the possible reasons for it.  

Perhaps they feel that they are accomplished enough that somebody should be bringing their purchases to their car for them, that transporting their own groceries is beneath them.  Perhaps it is just a childish reaction to the sound of metal upon metal impact.  Perhaps the carts actually have a much better wheeling system than they realize, or they are just unaware of precisely how manly they are, even the women. Perhaps they just came from the gym and are truly pumped up.  Perhaps they are peeved that they are responsible, in any way, for the organization of the carts and they harken back to a supposedly better time when negroes would have fulfilled this simple task for them and were grateful to do so.  

These are all just speculations.  

The one thing that I really notice on the faces, in the body language, on the lips, and out of the mouths of most of these people is dissatisfaction.  They seem to be caught between opposing states of discontent.  On one hand they walk through life treating everyone as an inferior, speaking down to them, approaching all interactions as unnecessary, and assuming the inherent inferiority of the employee: paid to be there, ripe for abuse, unable to escape.  On the other hand they must know that many of them achieved nothing of their own to qualify their wealth, that it was handed to them in one way or another.  If it was not handed to them directly then they are aware at how much their lives might have been, at how much they have been favored along the way.  The housewives are possibly pissy because they are housewives, the men are perhaps angry because they are not their fathers. The children feed on this discontent daily and are indoctrinated into the pattern from both sides, in both ways. 

This explains only partially.  I've known many that haven't struggled for their money and they do not act like these people.  It is as much cultural as situational or anecdotal.  

These are people that are very aware that they are living on somebody else's land.  California was Mexico not long ago. There are Mexicans everywhere here and they are nearly always in the position of being subservient.  The Mexicans here interact with each other in a very different way than with "whitey," understandably. 

But the white people here seem insistent on dominating the situation.  

There are two cities in particular between where I live and where I work that have Spanish names.  One is San Rafael and the other is San Pedro.  Anybody that can speak even a small amount of Spanish can look at those two words and know how they are pronounced.  The white people here pronounce the first San Rah-Fell, not San Rah-Fay-Ell. The second is pronounced San Peedro, not San Pay-Dro.  I have been instructed to pronounce the cities the white way twice already, though the word "white" was not used, nor was the word "right," though that what was being implied.  I was told that I was pronouncing it "wrong."  But I'm certain that I was pronouncing the cities correctly and will continue to do so, they are Spanish names for the places and easily pronounced. Ignore anything I might have said earlier about grammar or pronunciation, this is different.

So, it is this combination of factors that is beginning to give me insight into this place.  I will try to explore this more as I have time and things occur to me.   For today my wife is excited and eager for me to do things other than pronouncing California a hotbed of old-fashioned racism and intolerance.....

Remind me to tell you about a documentary I began to watch about the wine industry, Mondovino.  I have a few observations about their assessment of the place that might also help me to define the parameters of the new struggle.