Archive for food

Rules of Engagement

Posted in Political Commentary, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 01/30/2017 by Angel D. Vargas

-Friday, January 27th, 2017

“President” Donald Trump signs an executive order re: immigration at 4:42 pm Eastern Standard time. This order “indefinitely barrs” Syrian immigrants from entering our borders. The order also suspends all refugee admission for 120 days, and blocks citizens from seven Majority Muslim countries from entering the US for approximately three months.

The order takes effect. Almost immediately, chaos ensues. At airports around the country, hundreds are detained and questioned. Thousands more are left wondering about friends and family, stranded or turned away before they could reunite with loved ones who were simply traveling abroad. Across the world, millions are outraged.

I am outraged. Aside from the Anti-Muslim bigotry inherent in such a ridiculous order, there is more to be concerned about here. This is in direct violation of the US Constitution’s first amendment. For those who’ve forgotten it, here it is in bold print.

Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Federal judge Anne M. Donnelly, who used to serve in New York as a Manhattan Supreme Court Judge, challenges Trump’s executive order, granting a temporary stay for refugees and others. In her words “irreparable harm” would be caused by sending the travelers home.

Irreparable harm. Those are tough words. But we are living in tough times. As such, I’ve had to look at those two words and wonder if Judge Donnelly’s countermand was too late not to have caused irreparable harm to the way American citizens must now view their own country. Trust issues, anyone?

If I want proof about how bad things have gotten within Trump’s first ten days in public office, I only need to remember how recent conversations with friends, coworkers, and strangers have gone. Walking down the streets of Harlem these days, it seems that the tension is thick enough to cut with a chainsaw. People don’t look me in the eye here, which isn’t surprising given that it’s New York City, but many of the ones who do look wary or fearful. Many more appear angry.

Words are also a problem. Now it seems, everyone must be careful what they say. The media is being slowly silenced by a man so hell-bent in preserving his fragile little ego, that nothing bad can be said about him without consequence. Kellyannne Conway promises that journalists who say anything pejorative regarding Trump “will be fired.” Trump continues to malign CNN and other networks that express concern over his heavy handedness or his apparent inability to comprehend the consequences of his own actions.

And now, it seems, citizens don’t know how to talk to one another. I know I’m having trouble. I square my shoulders now when I engage in political discussions at work, for there is a good chance that emotions will erupt like Mount Etna. My home life has been invaded by tense discussions regarding Trump’s latest gaff or executive order. My personal life has ceased to be about the pursuit of happiness. Once again, I am pressed into making the choice between taking in the news of the day, or ignoring it for the sake of my sanity.

As a Hispanic American, I know it won’t be long before I am asked to produce “proof of citizenship.” I won’t deny the temptation to smash the face of the person who will inevitably do so, but there is no doubt that person will be an officer of the law. My father was one of those. I will never besmirch the honor of his service. Yet despite my father’s exemplary career, he has already come under scrutiny for being “the other” since Trump’s election. Now, it seems, the closet bigot is free to come out and play among us all, like a demonic bully child on a playground primed to be “great again” as it gets whitewashed with hatred and ignorance.

I cannot allow that.

But there is something else I cannot permit. I will not permit the others who oppose Trump to judge me for the confidence (or lack thereof) with which I pursue resistance. I’m still unsure what form this sort of resistance is supposed to take in the face of such tyranny. I say tyranny because I am sure that this is the monster with which we are faced. An emboldened idiot has taken office, blindly signing away the liberty and happiness of American citizens and immigrants, appointing self-serving bigots with seemingly corrupt agendas to surround him and shower him with inane praise. “Good job, Putin Puppet. Now, let’s release the hounds on these peasants.”

But what will happen when Trump goes so far that there is no turning back? Has he already gone that far? It’s not even been two weeks, and I am already terrified at the prospect of what’s to come. Will there be a KKK rally here in my home city? How many more hate crimes will be committed around the world that mimic senseless Mosque attack in Quebec?

When will I have to consider obtaining a conceal and carry permit?

That’s right. I’m considering it. Some of you same idiots that fight tooth and nail to defend the second amendment while threatening to shoot yourself some beaners are forgetting one simple truth. Not all liberals and Trump opponents are pacifists.

Think on that.

I’m not into marching or rallies. I never was. But mark my words. The true patriots of America have often been the dissenters. Without dissent, people will not have reason to rethink their potential ignorance of gravely important matters.

I wonder if those who voted for Trump are starting to understand how bad this might get. When will they scream to the stars in penance for what they’ve done? I’d invite these fools to wait for the inevitable “I told you so,”but that would be my own hypocrisy shining through. I am deeply sorrowful for the sharp decline of our Nation’s values. International friends and acquaintances are asking me “what happened?” to my own country. I can’t even give an honest answer. The truth is more horrible than any horror fiction I can concoct. Yet I know I mustn’t give into the sorrow. And neither must anyone else. The moment we the people give up our desire to do the right thing, I’ll know to look for the mushroom cloud on the horizon..


Living in the Surreal ..

Posted in The Flow and Rhythm of Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 04/14/2013 by Angel D. Vargas

Life is surreal.

“Surreal” isn’t a term I really like. When I use it, I feel like I’m dumbing down a process through which some major epiphany has granted me the power to move on with my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad life with a fresh, “up with people” perspective.

But if you had been in the neighborhood of 125th and Lenox in upper Manhattan at about a quarter to six this morning, life would have seemed pretty surreal to you too.

I was sleeping next to my girlfriend. She awoke in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. Everything seemed normal. She crawled back into bed next to me and we remembered that it was Sunday and that we really like snuggling together and talking under the covers during a lazy weekend. It helps us remember what matters, even if it’s just a moment in time.

Not five minutes after she came back to bed, a horrible sound of crunching metal and plastic erupted just outside the apartment. It seemed to rattle the bedroom window.  I didn’t know what the sound was. I wasn’t awake enough to make sense of it until a horrible screeching noise followed. Rubber scraped against asphalt, and the squeal seemed to echo into eternity.

“Jesus Christ!”

I think I might have said that twice. I said it once before we both sprang from the bed and ran to the bedroom window to see what had happened. Even now, the fucked up visual doesn’t make any sense without context. I said it again after I told my girlfriend that I had to go take a major piss.

Why I decided to go relieve myself at that moment is still a bit beyond me. All I remember is that I was nauseated, and I still didn’t understand what had happened.

I also recall my knees shaking like the leaves of a quaking aspen in the wind. I sat down on that toilet seat and put my head between my sweating hands. I might have stayed like that for minutes or hours. I didn’t really know or care.

Eventually, I stood up and washed my hands. Like some character out of the show Supernatural, I thought I smelled a Reaper in the air.

I was sure that death lingered close by, waiting to claim the lost soul of the victim of a freak accident.

“Jesus H. Christ!”

I got back to the bedroom and stood next to my girlfriend. She seemed more than willing to give me a blow by blow of what was going on out there.

“Nobody’s gotten out of either car yet.”


In all honesty, I don’t recall saying that last word. I don’t remember much of what was said after that. But as the haze and the shock of the accident seemed to lift from around us both, things started to fall into place. Out the window, on our side of the street, we only saw two cars. The first one was a silver Charger with its back turned to us like a wounded dog hiding its face.  The second car was sort of sitting to the right of the first. It was a green SUV that didn’t appear to have been even been scratched, at least not from our vantage point. The only thing that seemed to have happened, in fact, was that the SUV was nudged a few feet out of its parking spot.

It made no sense. Such a horrible crash followed by a rubber screech that lasted for at least three seconds just didn’t do … what we saw.

But time ticked by. Some of the neighbors from across the street turned on their bedroom lights and peeked outside like we were doing. Thanks to them, I felt a little better about being some sort of voyeur. The cops were on the scene immediately. The fire department came minutes later. EMT’s never showed. That struck us as odd until we came to the most important conclusion.

Nobody died.

I thought for sure someone was going to buy it. For about a nanosecond I was disappointed. I can’t lie. I’m a horror writer.

Then the stomach ache began.

About an hour later, all sorts of things had happened. The driver of the silver Charger, wearing a black shirt with green writing on it, angrily shouted into his cell phone that the car for which he was responsible was a “fucking wreck.”

“What de’ hell I’m ‘a do wid ‘dis shit?”

His friend, a shorter man with a grey tee shirt on, seemed to be the voice of reason.

“Look, dude, least you’re alive.”

And that was what mattered. When other details fell into place, we learned that nobody, in fact, was dead. A third car was apparently involved in the accident. That unknown driver may or may not have been at fault for the entire catastrophe. We never really got to figure that much out.  A tow truck driver couldn’t even tow the silver wreck out of the way in one try. His truck’s hook lost its grip on the wreckage twice.

I grinned. And call me sadistic, but I was thankful I wasn’t going to have to figure out how to pay for THAT repair bill. The driver and his friend drank two cups of coffee purchased at the deli just below our window.

My girlfriend and I  went back to bed. We didn’t fall asleep right away, of course. We talked about the accident. We talked about how our weekend was going before the crash, and how it might go afterwards. Things like money and job woes don’t matter as much when you’re thankful just to be in one piece. That lesson sinks in deeper when you’re with loved ones.  The problems might not go away, but their importance in the grand scheme of the universe dwindles.

I just got through sending out something like 6 job aps. I took a break to watch a show. I thought about my latest submission of a short story to a magazine for consideration. My girlfriend’s out teaching a dance class. We still have lives to live and things to do to survive in this city. She still has to talk to her dad about her insurance costs, and I still want to start writing the latest chapter for my online serial. At least I know she’ll come home in one piece, and we’ll have an easier time figuring out how to scrounge up enough money for dinner together tonight.

There’s a cat purring in my lap too.

Surreal or serene? Take your pick.

Archetypes and Jealous Hearts

Posted in The Flow and Rhythm of Life, The Writing Process (How do I Come up These Beats?) with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 05/21/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

If we want to talk about the ultimate in people watching in New York City, we can just turn to the annual Ninth Avenue food festival as a prime example. The good part about this festival is that it takes place one block from where I live.  It sort of begins on 57th street and ninth avenue and extends itself down to about 42nd street.


It used to be a bigger deal.  When I was younger, I saw more mom and pop food stands.  I spied more local merchants selling unique wears.  I was more aware of local talent.  I could find either music or dance performances, or some other unusual venue for the self expression of neighbors I otherwise would never have met.


But those kinds of things just don’t happen anymore.  There is a neighborhood association that has assumed more prominence in recent years, but they have steadily lost ground with the city.  The festival used to go all the way down to 34th street and ninth avenue.  The neighborhood lost 12 city blocks worth of food, of stage space, of opportunity.  The merchants who do show their wares now are nothing but extensions of the local bars and restaurants that yuppies already frequent on a nightly basis.  The gentrification of my neighborhood is now reflected in the festival that used to be a symbol of neighborhood pride.


It’s hard to know what to think of it all.  This has only been my second festival after my ten year absence from the city.  I’m not sure there will be a third.  Aside from the fact that I have had the hardest time gaining employment of any kind out here,  the fact remains that I just don’t feel the same way about my neighborhood that I used to.  I love it still, but it doesn’t have the same spirit.  The festival proved that much.


To go to the Ninth Avenue Food Festival these days, there has to be a new motivator.  Luckily for me, it’s people watching.


Yet it was while I was watching people that I decided that there are times when humanity fights against itself.


The human beings that I have come into contact with on my short time on this earth all seem to crave something called individual self expression.  We all want to believe that we are different, that we are special in some way that nobody else can touch.  Science reminds us that even with the theory that we evolved from common ancestors that may or may not be African in origin, human DNA is so deliciously complex that individuality cannot help but manifest from the billions of its iterations.


I have to wonder what the probability is, therefore, that I will meet someone on the streets of New York City who appears to be an archetype; a person who so resembles a cluster of individuals with which I have been acquainted in my lifetime that they can in fact serve as a representation of that cluster.


I didn’t think such a thing was even possible until my foray into the Festival two days ago.  A gay man sashayed to his partner across the street from me under the bright sun, and I could not help but note that he strongly resembled two other men (neither of whom are homosexuals) that I used to know in Oregon.  One of those men used to be a neighbor of mine, and we spoke quite often.  Though I’d accidentally found his doppelganger in Oregon, he claimed not to have a brother, let alone a twin.  It was quite eerie.  To find a third man who so resembled those two living in New York City, I was forced to ask myself if there are physical archetypes for the human race.


And now we come to the controversial part of my blog.  Or do we?


To some extent, “race” can manifest as these physical human archetypes.  I might as well confess now, there are times when people of Asian or Hispanic descent DO so strongly resemble one another that I have to look very hard for subtle differences in facial structure or body language, etc.  Do Asians feel the same about the rest of humanity?  Do Chinese people look their “round eyed” white neighbors in this country and wonder why our eyes don’t have the same folds as theirs?  Do they think “Guai lo” all look and sound ridiculously surprised all the time? I would not be taken aback to discover that there is some truth to that.


But anyone who has lived in New York City knows better than to say “you know you all look alike,” and that isn’t just because you’re likely to get into it with a pissed off city slicker.


At a certain point, race doesn’t really factor into what I’m talking about.  I can’t tell you how many times I have found men who so resemble my brother or my father throughout  my wanderings in this country, or my forays into the land of cinema.  I’ve seen Chinese copies of my brother in at least two different movies.  I’ve met Japanese doppelgangers of my father in martial arts classes.  I even met a German guy that so looked like me that we had to ask each other “what if?,” even knowing that it was a physical impossibility that our parents had ever even met face to face.


And I’m not the only one who has gone through this.  In high school, I met one young woman and a young man who were a year apart in age.  Both so strongly resembled one another that I was sure that they were brother and sister.  They discovered one another before I could make formal introductions.  I can only tell you that they both got the creeps, especially when they both explored their family trees and discovered that it was impossible for their parents to be related.


But long lost brothers and sisters are not an unheard of phenomenon either.  I’ve read too many stories and heard too many crazy human interest stories on the news regarding such meetings.


I’m forced to wonder if the globalization of our economy, for example, may be just a subconscious effort on our part to reunite with our dopplegangers.


It’s food for thought.  It certainly beats then ten dollar sweet sausage hero with stale bread that I almost bought two days ago at the Food Festival.  In a country where the individual spirit is supposed to shine so brightly, in a world where more and more people are concerned with finding what it is about themselves that is truly “unique,” do we all want to do the math that suggests that we all have to have at LEAST one unknown twin in this world?  Out of more than 5 billion people, is it possible that I might stumble into my exact replica once in my lifetime if I travel the world?   And what would I find when I discovered this individual?  Would he be rich?  Would he be a playboy?  Could he be a gay, married man who took his partner to France?  Who knows!


What do you all think?  Do any of you wonder from time to time if you have a twin on this planet who may be living their lives differently or even better than you are?  Does the possibility cross your mind briefly at insane moments when you’re just trying to go about your business?  What if your doppleganger got to meet the love of your life instead of you? What if you ended up with the writing career that your unknown counterpart had been trying to attain for 2 decades?


Perhaps there are reasons that movies about time travel and other paradoxes make my eyes cross from time to time.  But I have to admit, I’m curious about this particular issue.  Maybe this is what happens when you watch people as carefully as I do and then decide to write about it.




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