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I have always depended on the goodwill of strangers

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In the late ‘90s, many years after working as a farmworker, dishwasher, and ice cream peddler, I finally developed the kind of work experience and self-esteem that pushed me to apply for my dream job: Assistant Manager at the local Goodwill. “It’s the perfect job,” I used to think, since the store could easily provide a never ending supply of records, films, clothes, bad art, and a little bit of money — basically all of the essential goods a restless, anxious teenager needs in order to survive the boredom of American suburbs.

Cristina, a good friend of mine, actually held the position I was applying for. She was getting ready to move away for college, but homegirl put in a good word for me before she left. After lighting quite a few veladoras (Catholic Mexican candles) to La Santa Virgen de las Tres Marias de Thalia Sodi (a saint to many, but a horrible fictional character to most), I got the gig. I still remember the first day I stood in front of the Goodwill with keys to the store in my pocket. It was like standing in front of the gates of heaven, except my Saint Peter was not a bearded apostle in a luxurious silk robe, but mildly drunk homeless man who wanted to purchase “a cheap sweater” and needed me to “hurry the fuck up and open the store.”

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Taking selfie by shooting a ceiling panel with a DLR camera I found in a donation box. Surprisingly, the camera still had working film.

Gutter punks, theater geeks, older hippies, and low-income families made up most of our clientele. The average shopper was polite, but the occasional eccentric, such as one middle-aged woman whose dark, runny, evil urges led her to take dump in the dressing room floor before wiping her ass with an old Garth Brooks shirt — the latter being totally understandable — kept us on our toes (or knees, scrubbing).

Even more delightful than our clientele was our own staff: a volatile concoction of backgrounds, age groups, and creeds. I met a lot of characters while working there, but the most intriguing was Jeff, our sixty-something-year-old garbage man. All my coworkers hated dealing with Jeff because he was incredibly mean, angry, and foul-mouthed. I, however, never took offense to his disposition because he used to come up with hilarious insults. Once, as I opened the rear door of the building so he could access our trash, Jeff gawked at my outfit from head to toe and quipped: “Oh, God — does a color-blind, mentally-challenged clown stock your wardrobe!?”

Oh, Jeff. You did a great job at getting rid of our garbage, but you really should have been a drag queen.

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Angry Jeff taking out the trash. Photo by Yourstruly.

 

Although working at that particular Goodwill was great, it was still located in Dixon, a humble, mundane cowtown (or lambtown) in northern California. By then, I used to regularly hang around the Bay Area — I loved getting my counterculture fix straight from the source — but eventually moved to midtown Sacramento. Dixon is close enough to Sacramento, but commuting back to the Goodwill for work became a nightmare, so I quit.

I moved to Manhattan in 2006 and still live in New York, but I go back to Dixon every other year, give or take, to visit friends and family. Stopping by the Goodwill whenever I go back was always a must, until the store was shut down around three years ago. I hardly knew the staff by then, but last time I shopped in my beloved store I bought a pair of shoes, which I paid with my credit card. Even though the shoes cost less than five dollars, the cashier, an older woman, asked for my identification card (California employees always card).

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The view from the office window. Photo: Yourstruly

“New York! Well, aren’t you a long way from home, young man,” exclaimed the well-mannered lady after she suspiciously examined my ID. I smiled but didn’t mention that I was home right that second. No biggie; I’m assuming she figured it out after I inquired about an old pal: “Does Jeff still work here?” While she was bagging my shoes, the slightly flabbergasted employee replied: “Jeff… the garbage man? Well, uh, yes.”

I asked the woman for a favor before walking out of the Goodwill: “Please tell that bitter asshole that a color-blind, mentally-challenged clown misses him dearly.”

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Culture

Oh, right. Old-school Mexicans humiliate their children by pretending they don’t exist.

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I’ve been visiting my mother, and all of our immediate family, for the last week. They’re old-school, rural Mexicans. The kind who always offer food, even if they hate you.

I’m in my mid 30s now, and have been living on my own since I was 18, so at our gatherings I get a proper adult seat at the table. They listen to what I have to say, but it wasn’t always like that.

It’s not like that for my younger relatives, either. At family reunions, I see them out of the periphery of my eye. They’re trying to get a word in, but those older Mexicans won’t allow it. Why would they? What have those mocosos (snot-nosed kids) done to deserve anybody’s respect? Did they pay for their food? For the roof over their head? For their car, gas, clothes? No? Then they don’t exist.

Yes, they’re physically there, but unless they can prove their worth through monetary independence, they’re no one. If they try to make their voices heard, they’ll be silenced by a death stare, or an abrupt change in conversation.

If they persist, other humiliations will be flung at them, such as being asked to do something entirely meaningless, just like their opinion. “Vete a ver si ya puso la marrana” (go see if one of the pigs laid an egg) is a classic. My grandma had one of the most bizarre just-get-the-fuck-out-of-here phrases, which I’ve never heard elsewhere: “Vete a descular hormigas” (go chop the asses off ants).

I know these Mexicans sound like assholes, but they’re like that because they believe in resilience, not fragility. Giving encouragement to a mentally and physically healthy person seems redundant to them. Those people already have all they need to succeed, they’ll think.

To gain their respect, at the very least a person will need to become self-sufficient. That’s how you earn the right to sit with them. Either you’re with that, or you’re not there at all.

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Culture

“Trump Dating” site doesn’t want the gays, but allows the “happily married” to join

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You can even be mad at Trump Dating, a new website for lonely — or not so lonely, but just promiscuous — maganogamous people. It’s a perfect representation of their cherished administration, since it’s also homophobic — it only allows “straight” women or men to sign up — and, just like Trump, it’s all about adulterous relationships:

“When you kick off the process of starting a profile, you get two options for labeling yourself — ‘straight man’ or ‘straight woman.’

Yet according to Trump Dating’s rather strange drop-down menus, married people are welcome. For a relationship status, the site offers options like ‘have a significant other,’ ‘happily married,’ and ‘unhappily married.'”

And since no self-respecting republican-specific dating site should exist unless it takes an issue with race, Trump Dating allows their users to be super specific about their genealogy:

“The ethnicity options also seemed oddly specific. In addition to the typical categories, the site includes choices like ‘Scandinavian,’ ‘Polynesian,’ ‘Eastern European,’ ‘Western European,’ ‘Mediterranean,’ and ‘Eskimo,’ a term used to label the indigenous people of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland that is considered offensive and inaccurate.”

OMG, you guys. There better be a second menu where users can identify which of the five Aryan subtype races — Nordic, Mediterranean, Dinaric, Alpine, and East Baltic — they belong to. Otherwise the server room of this Trump Dating is gonna get tiki torched.

Anyway, where you at, Chispa, the “Tinder for Latinos”? You gonna let Trump Dating walk all over you? You need to re-brand to DACA Dong, Canelo Kennedy Courting, or something.

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