Cheap Aftershave and Coffee

It’s raining out here in Sacramento, California, and it sucks for me because of two things:  Arthritis and bidness.

I have arthritis. I’ve had it since my early 20s, the result of years of sadistic martial arts training at the hands of my martial arts teachers–all of whom were old men and didn’t know much about sports science. So, everytime it rains, my joints swell and ache, and I have to warm up in order to warm up in order to work out. LOL

On the other hand, I am also self-employed and my business depends on me being able to get out and pass out fliers to bring more traffic through the door. Now, don’t get me wrong. Mustafa Akamo is a soldier. A lil rain doesn’t scare me, and I will get my hindpots out there and work just as hard as if it were a nice sunny day; I’ve got discipline if nothing else. But because of the sore joints, the cold air, and the wet clothes, it makes my job very unpleasant. At the same time, it is a labor of love and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In the words of the baby Dave Chappell met selling drugs in the ghetto, “Bitch, I got kids to feed!” Oh, damn.

So this morning, I bounce out of bed at 5:15 a.m. rather than lounge around reading silly posts on Facebook, and jokes on the Zeta Phi Beta and Phi Beta Sigma message board. I jumped in the shower, paid my bodily rent to the creator of the Heavens and Earth (i.e., Fajr prayer), drank my coffee (Hawaiian coffee that is–gracias, señorita Especial o kapatid ko (can’t remember who bought it for me)–and headed down to the local AM/PM to fuel up the Mustafa-mobile.

Something about the AM/PM… any morning you get there, during the week, you will find about 20-30 Hispanic males, all who seem to be loitering in the parking lot. In this group, there are illegal immigrants on a gamble and a prayer, out of work men who are too proud to beg (brothers take note!), fathers, husbands, and sons. These men are out here at the crack of dawn, daily. Rain or shine, 50 degrees (which is hecka cold for California) or 100 degrees, these brothers come here like this is their job. Often, they find work. Sometimes, they go home empty handed. Never one to be discouraged by a few hurdles and setbacks, the Mexican man has been to hell and back. He has been spat upon by every race he has ever come in contact with. And to make things worse, he more often than not has no idea of the kings and warriors he once was. He happens to think that the Aztec and the Mayan are an extinct culture. Many are Cherokee and Iriquois blood. They were kings who ruled this continent when Europeans thought the Earth was flat. He ran a society so advanced and science so exact, he had a calendar, two years in advance, that predicted what dates it would rain. When Columbus arrived in the New World, he noted in his journal that these naked heathens he found had no criminals or prisons. Their language had no word for “steal” and “murder” and “rape”. He traded with African sailors when Europeans were discovering that there was people on the other end of the Mediterranean Sea. When Van Humbolt arrived in Mexico, he found African artwork and–get this–Africans. Then his land is taken from him, and he forgets that he was once the big boss around here. His enslavement lasted about 400 years, before he was granted the freedom to be his own person and have his own country.

Does this story sound familiar?

One of the most important things the Mexican has is his sense of self. So, yes, maybe he did forget that he is really an Aztech who speaks Spanish. But in his freedom he has established a new culture–the Mexican culture–and he is fiercely commited to preserving his identity, even when he takes a white woman for a wife, his children are always reminded that they are Mexican.

Which explains what happened when I went inside to pay for gas.

I go in after pondering all that I ponder (lol), and I am observing men. Brothers from ages 18 to 60, gathering around the register to pay for their coffee and bagels, none of them really knowing whether they will get their money back by the end of the day, but making the trip (often on foot) to the local gas station hoping for a day’s wages to feed their families anyway. As I take in all of this, I am listening to the conversation, and smelling the smell of cheap aftershave and coffee… Ah! The smell of

Daddies.

That’s right. If it’s one thing I know about my Spanish-speaking brothers, it’s that these men take a shitload of pride in being a father, and that role takes precedence over everything they aspired to be before they become a father. When that baby arrived, the brother is most likely married to the mother by then, he has worked and already thrown a party, and his mission in life is to provide for that child. Even if it means he will take work that most of us would turn our noses up to. Even if it meant he would spend every morning as part of some barely-noticed landscape by middle-class Americans filling their gas-guzzlers, afraid of being robbed or asked for a handout. Even if it meant they will bust their asses for less than minimum wage while the guy who’s paying him will go to the polls and try to vote him out of the country because he really resents his presence. He swallows his pride, because pride don’t put food on the table or clothe little ones or make wives happy. Even if it meant he would wear thrift store clothing, shave with Dollar Store razors, and slap on cheap aftershave in order to have enough money to send his wife to Walmart to buy new clothes for the children. This is what men do; they do whatever it takes to do their job as men, as fathers, as husbands.

I went to get cheap gas, and I got a dose of what manhood is all about. And for every brother out there who claims that we can’t work because the white man is preventing us (or the world is evil and racist), I wanna slap the shit out of you, and then embrace you and treat you to coffee while we hang with our Brown brothers. There is work out here. The white man can’t stop you. And even though there are white cats out here who swear these Mexican brothers are taking jobs away from “real” Americans–not only do I want to slap the shit out of you guys, but I want to kick you in the balls too. Let me tell you something:  A lot of the work these brothers do won’t get done if they don’t do it. People come down here because they can’t afford to hire a company or certified ‘anything’! Dummy, it’s a recession out here! Get a life!

And for the rest of us, I remember when I use to ride past The Cadillac Liquor Store in Northeast DC as a child and see the same scenery, but with Black men instead. We worked under the radar for whatever reason, and took whatever work we could, because we needed money. What happened to that? Are we too proud now? This is a very basic thing for our people. Yet for some reason, we have forgotten that there is always work–you just have to go out and find it. And sometimes, if you stand in the right place, it will come to you.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

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