The Pozole and I moved to Arlington, Texas from Austin at the beginning of August 2016. After eighteen years in Austin, we’d more or less become experts in the Mexican food and taquerías of that town. But de’d only been to three Mexican restaurants in Arlington—once back in April, when we came for a visit, and the second and third time shortly after we moved here.
So far, I haven’t been thrilled. I honestly can’t remember much about the first one, since we were getting a quick breakfast on the run before driving back to Austin. The only thing I remember was getting a plastic engagement ring out of a plastic bubble from the red toy-vending machine. (Was the universe trying to tell us something?)
I grew up in Southern California, famous for its Hollywood movie stars, tangled network of freeways, and earthquakes. Somehow, I’d escaped earthquakes for the first ten years of my life, even though the San Andreas Fault line runs a stretch of over 800 miles.
It begins in Mendocino north of Sacramento, through the Santa Cruz Mountains and the San Francisco Peninsula, along the base of the San Gabriel Valley Mountains near my hometown of South El Monte, and all the way down south to the Salton Sea in the Imperial Valley desert.
About ten years ago, I discovered 1920s and 1930s traditional jazz. The mix of cornet, trombone, and clarinet with the piano, string bass, and guitar (or tenor banjo) was exhilarating. I was already familiar with the clarinet from listening to Benny Goodman and his big band swing of the 1940s, but when I heard the New Orleans hot jazz sounds of Sidney Bechet, I thought, wow, this instrument doesn’t just make music…it sings right through your soul. It’s that feeling that makes the hair stand up on your arms and a tickle run down your spine.
My parents, being from Mexico, unconventionally spelled my name “Alexandra” instead of “Alejandra.” My mother would make the point that Mexico, in Spanish, was pronounced “meh-hee-coh”—meaning, the “x” had a “j” sound (the “j” sound in Spanish is equivalent to the “h” sound in English). Although, to be fair, the “x” in every other Spanish word has the “ks” sound (conexión, xilófono, etc.).
Why is the world in love again?
Why are we marching hand in hand?
Why are the ocean levels rising up?
I learned the answers to these questions when I was in the 9th grade. It was 1990, and They Might Be Giants had just released a new album called Flood. Up until this point, my musical taste was quite stunted.