a break from politics for a little jaunt in my neighborhood

May 25, 2006

I had big plans for my evening. I had planned to head straight down to a new Alterra Coffee I heard had opened in the trendy fifth ward, to park myself with my laptop and work on my Journal Sentinel submissions. But when I left work in southwestern Waukesha I didn’t feel like driving all the way back yet, and it was such a nice afternoon.

I have said this before, but I adore the sky. Clouds are my favorite thing to behold in all creation. Forgive me sounding lofty and near-religious here, but sometimes when I look at the sky I want to cry. I was reading the blog of a new friend of mine who I was oddly connected to through the web, and she had mentioned in her standard "100 things about me" piece that when she drives on bridges over large bodies of water, she cries. I was struck by the fact that I have also had this experience. Last fall when I was driving on the east coast I crossed some gorgeous river scenery via large, stately bridges, and I teared up. There was something magical about those few moments, suspended over all that water, above and between beautiful things, between nature, technology, and engineering. I have that same sort of religious experience when I see a great sky, blue and pink and yellow and gray, many interesting clouds filling the view. I don’t care what the names of the cloud are, I just love that they are beautiful.

Tonight a rainbow formed in front of dark storm clouds which half-blocked the view of a sunlit, cloud-laced spring sky. It rained on and off, and I couldn't decide what to do, so I drove around. I took a longer way home and then toured around my newest Milwaukee fascination, the Village of Greendale, which I now consider my dream quasi-suburb. More on Greendale later, but when I headed home, I consdering Alterra again, then changed into work-out attire, then decided it was too humid in the house to work out for another hour, and then found the perfect spot outside in the adirondack chair, laptop picking up the wireless signal from inside, typing and enjoying the last few hours of tonight's beautiful sky. 


national language

May 23, 2006

So, Matt posed the question to me about the idea of a national language the other day. He later posted a few thoughts on his blog that I have stolen without permission to copy here. I liked the way he put this and couldn’t agree more, but have also been trying to understand the argument on the other side. Here are Matt’s thoughts:

“Some say that we need a national language in order to promote national unity. I say in response that any unity, national or otherwise, that depends on exclusion is false. If for the sake of unity everyone has to be like me, in this case adopt the US language and culture, there is no real unity but only conformity. Unity can only come when both parties learn to understand each other and benefit from each other. Excluding non-English speakers shows the insecurity of our dominant culture.”

My dad has been, as usual, sending me columns that he likes, and since immigration is a big topic, a lot of them have recently been about such items. Next is a long quote from a column by David Limbaugh, obviously a conservative columnist. My dad gets most of his opinion material from Town Hall, I’m not sure what paper or site Limbaugh writes for.

“But because of the outstanding work of people like Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, and the clarion calls of Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.,in publicizing his work and other aspects of the problem, we are now seeing that one of the Senate’s proposed immigration reform bills could greatly exacerbate the problems. Even if Rector’s projections about the inflow of new immigrants over the next 20 years are substantially overstated, there is no question that way too many immigrants will come in during that period.

And there is no question that this nation, given the current state of it’s laws and its refusal to encourage assimilation and promote a national identity, simply cannot absorb them.

With all due respect to the casual elite, we are talking about nothing less than the destruction of America as we know it
“,0] ); //–>. This will come about not so much by “foreigners,” but through our own complicity in devaluing the rule of law by neglecting immigration enforcement and the disgraceful abandonment of our national identity. This will prevent us from promoting the English language, our own sovereignty, our unique constitutional system and our traditional values.

Though we are the greatest nation in the history of the world, we often project anything but pride about that. We act as though we are ashamed of the American culture and Western civilization and must promote a destructive, euphemized multiculturalism, instead of an American blend of multiethnicity. We must celebrate our multiple ethnicities, but promote our common cultural identity. To do otherwise is national suicide. Not only will we become a hopelessly balkanized nation if trends continue, but we’ll bankrupt ourselves in the process.”

I guess that sort of speaks for itself. Perhaps younger generations don’t feel that multi-culturalism is the start of the end of America. Perhaps it’s just me. I understand the need for us to enforce our laws and promote our sovereignity and legal system, which is why we need a conprehensive bill that both strengthens border security in a real way and make provisions for people who are already here. But I think it’s outlandish to suggest that like Matt said, unity is only real if it means conformity. Why can’t we have a mroe diverse nation? Did my great-grandparents really come to America because it was the land of the free, home of the brave, or did they come here for economic reasons? Did they come here because they knew they would get better jobs and more opportunities for their children? Sounds a lot like the reasons most Mexicans come here. My grandparents are all children of immigrants, of course they speak English and perhaps remember some of their parents’ languages. But did my great-grandparents really get off the boat and start speaking English fluently, did they really believe that holding on to their mother tongue was some grand scheme to end America as it was known?

Journal Sentinel Community Colunmists

May 21, 2006

I just found out about this from my dad this morning (he beat me to actually reading it myself). It's a program the Milwaukee daily paper does to get a more diverse range of opinion material for their paper. Apparently they are going to solicit more than 20 writers this year, and I am hoping to be one of them. I have to write two submission columns in the meantime, 700 words each, which is pretty standard, and send them in by June 5th, not so far away. So, if I am a little quiet for a while, you'll know why.

I am definitely going to write one of those columns on immigration, perhaps adapting something that I have already posted here previously, and then I need another topic. If anyone thinks they have a good topic for me, let me know. These are opinion columns, so they have to be about things you can make a point and persuade about. This is right up my alley as I did this in college instead of writing news like all the real journalism students are supposed to do. Wish me luck!

Sad but true…

May 15, 2006

This is a link to a story about a recent Fox commentator's urging that his audience (obviously he is talking to white people) "make more babies" because the statistics show that in 25 years the U.S. will not be majority white. I've been watching The Daily Show and The Colbert Report recently, and I got this piece of information from a piece of satire on there, but it's actually a real thing this crazy said. I'm amazed that modern, educated people have the gall to say things like this, especially on tv. I shouldn't be so surprised I guess.

Did anyone watch Bush's speech on immigration? I have to admit immigration is probably the only thing I pretty much agree with Bush about. He's got reasonable ideas, compromise and a balance between security and the reality of the economic and humanitarian situation. I don't think learning English should be a requirement. I think most immigrants realize you have to learn English here to be successful, but I don't think we should mandate it. I think that's another logistical nightmare when it comes to actual execution. How are we going to make some specifications of what level of English a person needs to become a legal resident?

I wish a plan like this would pass and actually be put into action, but I also don't understand how we are going to afford more border security and some sort of (likely-to-be) insane bureaucracy that is somehow going to "match workers with employers" (seems impossible as a former employer) and run background checks on people from foreign countries. Why does it take so long for immigrants "in line" for family and work visas to actually get processed? Because it takes a long freaking time to do that stuff.

Anyway, on a happier note, the season finale of Grey's Anatomy was fantastic. I love that show.

Yelp me!

May 12, 2006

All, I know some of you have already been invited to join Yelp! several times, but now my future as an elite Yelper depends on it. Yelp is one of my favorite web sites and I really think it can be valuable to a whole host of people for finding services, restaurants, stores etc. Anyway, I am trying to become an elite Yelper but partly because there is so little action in the Milwaukee area, it's a little difficult. Anyway, I would love to see all my (10?) readers reviewing on Yelp. It's really addictive. Ask Mary. But first, join!

official excitement

May 10, 2006

So, I was thinking generally about whether I was going to post about my new job, which will eventually cease being new and just become rather mundane and normal. No one at Qdoba knew about my secret blogging life until I left, which was good, because it sure was a good place for me to sound off about my frustrations sans ramifications.

One of the delights of my new job is having my own computer–nobody uses it but me. During breaks, I can check my e-mail, write a blog, read something on Yelp, the New York Times, whatever. This is normal for many people I realize, but it’s beauty after sharing a tiny office crowded with tools, menus, a safe, files, clipboards, other people’s stuff and assorted clutter for the past few years. Not to mention the fact that we were not allowed to use the internet for personal use ever. I obviously broke that rule here and there, totally confident that I wasn’t going to end up infecting the computer with some crazy virus, but there was always a chance that someone would pop in through PC Anywhere and see me on ((gasp!!)) google or the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel website.

Back to my original topic though, I don’t know what there is or will be to write about my job, and if I were to allow my new co-workers into my blog-world, I obviously would forever be very careful about what I write. I’m relentlessly observant, so even as I have been studying vaccines the last few days, I can’t help eavesdropping on the other girl’s customer calls and conversations, and it just seems that people get along well, do a good job and generally enjoy their jobs. It just doesn’t seem like an environment rife with blog-worthy action.

Wait, I mean, oh my God, the accounts payable lady has a row of singing stuffed animals lined up on file cabinet and she turned them all on to sing and dance this afternoon! I also learned we have casual Fridays today. Those were basically the exciting pieces of the day. Nonetheless, I am starting to adust to sitting and taking real breaks and working in a quiet, laid-back atmosphere.

If work doesn’t end up being a major source of fodder for my blogs, I will be forced to spend more time creating content from what’s inside of me, not what’s around me from 8-5. It’s really late. It’s the first week and I am already breaking my new early bedtime by 1.5 hours. Guess what though, it’s probably because I worked at Qdoba tonight, not my old Qdoba, but a different one where I am helping out two times per week. It was very relaxing in a way, to know exactly what I was doing and also not have the responsibility of the store on my shoulders, at least not beyond the shift.

Time for bed. Tomorrow me and my partner in newness and crime get to work in the warehouse with the guy who ships all the vaccines. Apparently it’s a nightmare between keeping some things at room temp, some frozen and others cooled. It’ll be crazy!

bowling shoes and goodbyes

May 6, 2006

It's midnight thirty and I am still sitting in my chair in my (but almost not) office at Qdoba. It's the very end of my last shift, way later than it should be, but there's so much information I feel I need to pass on to the new GM, I had to write a manifesto about the staff and the store before I could leave. The muzak is playing a five-year-old Dave Matthews song which I have heard a million times yet I can't seem to shut it off. I've got to take my final walk through, make sure the equipment is off, gather up my bartender's license, photos, leave my key in the safe, and say goodbye. And I'm crying.

This crazy job has almost made me insane a few times, but I've never felt more responsible and satisfied in my life as I have in the past year. It's that feeling that literally the show cannot go on without you some days. You come in, direct a rag-tag group of barely high-school graduates, hormonal teenage girls and a moody Mexican cook and walk away feeling like the day was busy and tiring, but customers were happy, and your employees left work in a better mood than when they came in.

 I got flowers, cards and a t-shirt from Christina, one of my favorite and best line severs, that has an iron-on patch with swords behind the company logo. It reads "Captain Klutz of Team Qdoba." There's an inside joke here about everyone needing a superhero alter-ego that began when my old assistant manager commented that people call him "white lightening" (hilarious in context). I asked Christina what mine might be and she said that I was sort of klutzy, so maybe something with that. True true, I do not have the grace of a dancer.

That someone would make me a t-shirt is just amazing to me. I've always been a good employee, but it's not until that last year that I've actually been solely in charge of something and been able to at least attempt to engender a feeling of community among my staff. All restaurants have drama and conflict, but I think there has also been community here, and I'm proud of that.

Last night I went bowling for a the first time in years with Fermin, his brother Antonio and Antonio's friend/girlfriend, who is a college student from Wisconsin who also works at the restaurant they all work at. For some reason I loved putting on the bowling shoes. They were red, white and blue and goofy-looking, but they made me smile. Where else do you go where you get a level playing field by means of ridiculous footwear? Last night we went out with friends and had fun, laughing and goofing around. We always have fun me and him together, but our cultural backgrounds often make social situations awkward. He's somewhat uncomfortable with the norms of American small talk, and I'm somewhat clueless sometimes when a bunch of Mexicans start talking in Spanish about anything. But restaurants are the exact place where a pair like us fit in. The servers learning Spanish swear words and the cooks and dishwashers trying to figure out how to say "Can I get a raise?" Fermin and I are like the king and queen of that world. He an experienced Mexican-in-America, me a functionally bilingual inhabitant of both worlds. We met in a restaurant almost four years ago. So much a part of who I am right now today and the way my life looks is entwined with things that have happened in restaurants.

Whatever restaurant I have been in for the past few years has been like a micro-community for me to be part of. As a manager I have always been a leader and shaper in these groups, if I chose to be. I have interacted with so many different people, fed endless curiosities about Mexican culture and the American working class. 

The last few days everyone asked me if I will miss it. I honestly don't know. The hours, responsibility and stress? Probably not. The community, most definitely. Life changes, everyone is happy for me, but I know this is the end of an era for me. Like Brittany my shift supervisor wrote to me, we all move on to other things, hoping they will be bigger and better.

12:57 am on Sunday morning. Time to say goodbye.