Tag Archives: Pacific Northwest

Sum Of The Parts

“I guess you’re right,” I said when she suggested I sell it to a scrap place. That’s not really why I spend hours scouring places for treasures. Something about each piece I buy is because something about it captivated me. With this piece, it was the warm luster I first caught just out of the corner of my eye. The pictures don’t come close to conveying the simple beauty of this vessel.

I was curious about what was behind the lettering, DAMASCUS. I live in the Pacific Northwest and was sure this beautiful copper milk can had traveled across an ocean. I was wrong– it has roots in Oregon state, the Damascus Creamery in Portland was once home to this lovely find. No, scrapping it for the money never crossed my mind. It’s value exceeds the sum of it’s parts, for sure ❤

bellarealvintage on eBay


My Uncle Spock

By Estela (Probably Part Vulcan) Caballero

Even though the show always said Spock was Vulcan, I was sure he had some Mexican in him.  Side by side pictures of Spock and my dad beg the question, “Might they even be brothers?”  Don’t go nuts Trekkies, I know his mom was human and his dad was Vulcan.  Spock was a weekly visitor into our home.  Sure, it was just a show but we only had three channels, maybe four if we made my little brothers take turns holding the square shaped antennae just right.  The good shows were something we looked forward to.  It’s hard to explain to someone who can’t remember a time when you couldn’t pull up your shows, anything really, at any time.3665471071_0f59d3e248_b

Before I could tell time, I used tv shows as a reference. An old broken watch rested among my most treasured belongings in the corner of the closet.  As my mom would hurry out the door after making us food to eat while she was at work, she would ask me to recite the schedule of what she needed to make sure I did while she was at work.  I would quickly retrieve my watch from the closet and tell my mom not to worry, I knew what time everything needed to happen and show her I had my watch. If the potato processing plant she was working at needed extra people to cover the next shift, they would give employees little or no notice, often waiting until the last hour to tell them it was their turn for mandatory overtime.  There were no cell phones to call and check up on us during her breaks.  We didn’t always have a working land line.  “When________ ends, make sure you check you’re brother to see if he needs to be changed” or “Make sure you brothers and sister go to bed after ________.”  The only time I saw my mom sit still was when she was driving–  that didn’t seem to count since she was driving.  Aside from that, she was on the move always preparing and readying.  She rarely spoke of her own childhood and would quickly change the subject when I asked her how she learned to tell time or what her favorite shows were when she was my age.  I came to understand that I should stop asking.

Star Trek was a marker and it’s possible the reason those old shows occupy a special place in my memories was because they were sometimes the only constant in rough waters.  Spock helped my dad learn English and he inspired me to think in a new way.  He gave my mother comfort. She knew his visit to our home would ensure her youngest got a fresh diaper if her oldest forgot.  I was the keeper of time and in charge during those hours but I was still a child, a relentless day dreamer and my mother knew that better than anyone else.  Spock helped a little Mexican girl watch over her brothers and sister.  A mental map would activate at the first sound of the theme music reminding us all of our pre show duties.  One brother would go grab a bottle for Buddy, the baby.  My sister would drag a large heavy blanket from the room and we’d all climb on after it was stretched close to the rickety table holding the tv.  Certain shows warranted a temporary peace between us and this was one of them.  In order for peace to be real, all of us had to like the show.

The baby  was named Buddy by my father.  Just before my mother went into labor, we were watching a Jerry Lewis movie with a suave character named Buddy Love.   Buddy was number five and by then both my mom and dad had several chances to draw a line in the sand over who would chose the name.  They already had two boys and two girls and Buddy didn’t sound too bad.  She worked all the way up to the day Buddy was born and her maternity leave would last little more than most people took off over the holidays.  She was tired and had only enough energy to firmly convey Buddy was fine but my dad was pushing his luck if he told the nurse Buddy’s middle name was Love one more time.  I was happy his name was Buddy.  When people asked why we called my chubby littlest brother Buddy or “Booodgie” as my dad’s family pronounced it, the story would bring laughter even if they had heard the story many times before.  My mother and father would laugh.  As things went from bad to worse, as they too often do, I would try to retell the story and break the harshness permeating everything from the air to their looks at each other.  Even the silence sought refuge from the heartbreak of a family breaking apart for good.

I learned to tell time that year.  Spock and I grew apart for a time.  The possibilities learned in those days as the keeper of time never left me, even as I eventually joined the masses at the factory myself. I found little comfort in the cell phone tucked in my lunch bag. It was night and my tiny daughter should be sleeping.  At lunch time, I didn’t eat.  I was certain I could work 20 years and still not feel right eating my lunch at 2 am.  Instead I sat there and remembered sitting in front of the small screen, a tattered blanket became a magical carpet.  I got to travel through space and go where no man has gone before.  A rapt audience sat quietly on the floor in front of the tv and couldn’t wait to see what strange new worlds were waiting.  Anything was possible, that’s for sure.

As you can see, Spock is probably at least half Mexican and/or my dad is half Vulcan.  Don’t go all Mendel’s cross pollination on me.  The way it happened or percentages don’t matter–  look at those eyebrows.  I couldn’t photoshop it that close even if I wanted to. Live long and prosper–  and dream.  Dream big, then do it.

Spock Nacho and Spock Buddy



Another brother– Jaime Spock with my dad.




The Taco Syndrome

Many Mexican husbands and wives know this is an unsaid rule.  If the rule is broken, the woman will forget the unsaid part and make it clear.  You don’t feed another woman’s man.  You just don’t.afields

For those who have not experienced life outside the city, fields that go on for miles growing this or that destined to land on a dinner plate is as foreign to them as men wearing skinny jeans is to me.  The dusty concrete trench at the edge of this field will soon be filled with irrigation water.  My father would insert curved aluminum tubes in to the ditch.  The shape of the tube and quick back and forth get the water flowing from the ditch into the rows of the thirsty earth.

field and irrigation ditchAside from their primary duty, the ditches served as a wonderland to me.  I would walk barefoot in the ditch searching for polliwogs. With a giant empty pickle jar in one hand, I would think about where I could hide the soon to be frogs so my
mom wouldn’t make me dump them out.  No matter how hard I
tried, I could not convince her that the polliwogs were harmless.  She was anti-polliwogs.  This new batch of tadpoles had nothing to do with my little brother trying to drink the last group of swimmers.  He never
got warts so I never understood why the grudge lasted so long.  It’s possible that he now had an acquired taste being as he had previously eaten one before.  What happened to forgive and forget?

My dad spent long days in the fields doing whatever needed to be done.  Even though he was going to work in the field, my mother would always make sure he had ironed clothes to wear.  We had all heard ladies comment on men with wrinkled clothes, “It looks like he doesn’t have a wife” they’d whisper, sometimes loudly.  They had even more to say if a man showed up with a sandwich.  What kind of wife would make her husband just a sandwich?  My dad had a wife alright.  Pity on the woman who dared comment on his status or criticize the ironing skills of my mother, indirectly or not.  We didn’t buy sandwich bread so no chance of my father ever running the risk of passing through that awful shame.

There is a fierceness in all women, this is especially true in Mexicans.  You don’t throw indirectas out and not expect a fight.  I once worked with a young man who wasn’t privy to the ailments that Mexican women must learn to live with.  The most common, the Taco Syndrome.  This young man, who we will call Tom, was a supervisor in a plant that employed mostly Mexicans, me included.  He enjoyed the wonderful cooking of the group known as the ladies.  The ladies cooked as wonderfully as they worked.  Tom would fill his plate and contemplate what life might be like if he had his own lady.  One day at the weekly feast, Tom sat next to the gentleman we will call Tomas.  He and Tomas talked and enjoyed the delicious food of the ladies.

After, Tomas stood up and went to the rack where employees stored their lunch bags.  It was near the end of the shift.  Tomas walked over to the trash and emptied the contents of his lunch bag save some cookies neatly wrapped in a napkin. His wife put them in there because she knew how much he loved them. Tom was surprised at the waste of a good lunch–Tom knew firsthand it was good, Tomas had often shared some of his lunch with the wifeless young man.  When Tomas came back to the bench, Tom told him, “Dude, I would have taken those tacos off your hands.  I could have eaten them for dinner.  You could have just taken them home and eaten them for dinner”  Tomas said, “Are you crazy?  I can’t go home with a full lunch box.  My wife checks my lonchera every night when I get home.”  “So?” replied Tom, still not understanding the problem.  “So, guey, I want to sleep tonight.  If I go home and my wife sees I didn’t eat any of my lunch she will go on all night.”  “Oh”, said Tom, “she puts alot of work into making your lunch and you don’t want to hurt her feelings.  Just tell her you forgot we were having a potluck.”


Maria jumped in the conversation, she had witnessed the whole thing.  She knew Tomas’ wife and told them both he was lucky he threw the lunch away.  “You don’t feed another woman’s man tacos.  You might as well be sleeping with him.  It starts with the lunch and then the desgraciadas use that to move in little by little,” said Maria.  The other ladies nodded in agreement.  They understood and even though they knew the potluck was neutral territory, they didn’t want to torture Tomas with the hours of unrelenting questions that would start, “who’s tacos are you eating?”  “The only thing worse,” the ladies said, “is some cualquiera tirando indirectas sobre la ropa arrugado de tu viejo”— which roughly translates to “..one of those ladies making indirect comments about your husband wearing wrinkled clothes.”

Tom thought they were joking.  As he got up to return back to work, he saw Joaquin and Jr. tossing their wonderful lunches.  Joaquin even went as far as putting some of the beans on his spoon to make it look legit before putting the empty dishes back into the insulated sacred box of amor– his lunch pail.

The Taco Syndrome and all other content found at 4utu.wordpress.com and material accessed by links to original work, is copyrighted.  Original writing, photography, and artwork by Estela Caballero unless otherwise stated.  Featuring several pieces of artwork by Vanessa Caballero, Michael Caballero and Gustavo Caballero.