Thursday, April 17, 2008

Adios, amigos



"But I was just there! I was just there!"

That is Howard, wailing like a figure out of the Old Testament because his favorite Mexican restaurant was closed because, authorities say, it was owned and operated by illegal aliens. We never learned the name of the restaurant for all the times we went there but now we see it is -- was -- El Caporal.

"I think it was Tuesday, the day before they were raided. I think I was there Tuesday," Howard agonizes, retracing his steps. "I had to go sign my tax returns... Tuesday was the 15th... I think that was why I was in the car. And I think on the way home I thought I'd stop at Harbor Freight, and I was getting pretty hungry by then, I hadn't had my lunch, and I stopped in for a burrito ... I probably have the receipt somewhere." Howard begins to scour his desk. He comes up with a receipt not from Tuesday but from November, which is impressive considering that his desk is like an archeological dig, the stuff in recognizable layers.


A few times I accompanied Howard to El Caporal, which was on Union Road in Cheektowaga. They had this flamboyant gay-acting host who wore '70s blazers and shirts and would go prancing around asking you about your food and service. We loved that guy. We also loved the big mural showing what was probably supposed to be a typical Mexican family at home. The man was wearing a huge sombrero and there was a woman scrubbing the floor, falling out of her dress. I remember I told my brother George about that mural, told him he should go to El Caporal because it seemed like a genuine mom-and-pop Mexican joint, the kind we don't get very much in Buffalo, with family members hanging out outside the doorway smoking.

This situation shows us the illegal-alien question from a new viewpoint. This must be what people go through in North Carolina or California. At this Mexican restaurant, we got used to these people around, and we got to know them, and we liked them as well as their (boo hoo) burritos. It was horrible to see images of the host, in his '70s clothes, being hauled away in handcuffs. But the law is the law. We all have to make personal sacrifices to maintain our border security. So we put that burrito on the altar and set it aflame. As my mom is always telling me, "Offer it up."

It's not fair if Mexican Restaurant A is following the rules and Mexican Restaurant B is not. I did not take Macroeconomics at UB for nothing. Perhaps the greatest good is being served, even if we, alas, no longer are.

I wonder who's getting that mural? Maybe we can get it for Big Blue.

2 comments:

Chris Stucchio said...

"It was horrible to see images of the host, in his '70s clothes, being hauled away in handcuffs."

"It's not fair if Mexican Restaurant A is following the rules and Mexican Restaurant B is not. I did not take Macroeconomics at UB for nothing."

You are very witty.

Buffalo Gal said...

Your pal Chuck (only Howard and Mary get to call him Chuck) prosecuted the first alien smuggler case in the US using post Civil War peonage laws. He was seen the reality side of this and it's really ugly. The problem is not just hiring illegals - the thing that set this apart and required prosecution is the fact that they smuggled folks in with a wonderful set of promises then had them working indefinately to pay off their "loan" - indentured servitude, basically slavery. Without any support network or way to turn back , these people are often stuck for life. Trading in people is more profitable to the traders than trading in drugs. The conditions these folks are often forced to live in are like nothing you would expect outside of a third world country. From that perspective, I think the handcuffs compliment the outfit perfectly... and I hope they look even better with a really long sentence.