Finding purchase

family watching TV
The caption on this photo said, “A typical 1950s American family watching TV together.”

Around the time MTV was not a new thing anymore and critics could look back at its effect on culture, my brother told me that he’d heard one person remark how it used to be that we’d hear a song on the radio and say to a friend next to us, “Remember where we were when we first heard that?!” A story would ensue about the beach, or a school dance, or making out in someone’s bedroom. A memory rehearsed. With MTV, the memory — sometimes voiced and sometimes not — was more along the lines of, “I remember that music video.” And that would be the end of that. “I” rather than “we.” An entree designed for focused consumption rather than a cocktail adding to the mood between two or more people.

I entered Mary’s Tacos on Broadway the other day and heard Juanes’s Mala Gente on the radio. (Of course, I didn’t know the song at first, but I surreptitiously Shazam’ed it while waiting for my order.) Of note, when one Googles “Juanes,” whose real name is Juan Esteban Aristizábal Vásquez (therefore, first name JUAN + first syllable of ESteban), one learns that this Columbian singer lived through the Medellín Cartel killing family members and friends. I can respect music coming from that human experience. Not surprisingly, the video, shown here, affords the frontman an off-camera tryst with a fuchsia-haired vixen. And a crowd at his performance clapping in unison. And these images are what are remembered.

But what I remembered the other day was that half of Mary’s Tacos was cordoned off to the right while the floor was being swept and wet-mopped; that the cashier took my order almost immediately because it was 10:30am and only one customer was ahead of me; that my order came quickly and I took the beige-yellow bag and said “gracias.” I remembered that the staff had been working since the small single digits of that morning and would be closing at 1:30pm. I remembered that we have three main breakfast taco places in Kerrville — Rita’s, Mary’s and Alex Tacos — but that my favorites are Mary’s “Sean” taco and Rita’s “Rita” taco con nopalitos.

And so I’ve played Mala Gente multiple times while driving Carter’s truck — the vehicle without A/C, with the windows rolled down — and felt my feet finding purchase on the Texas dirt.

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