Saturday, December 26, 2015

CRAIG EDWARD KELSO Teacher Interview Halloween 2011

This Christmastide, I am cleaning out a bunch of old interviews in the hope they provide perspective. This is an old interview with a former student during late 2011, a full four years from its present publication. I was formally done with the first of three years on a grueling parole, and it was nice to reflect on my life from time to time. I was working at Sammy's Woodfired Pizza in La Jolla as a dishwasher, prep cook, and pasta cook. As you'll read, the conversation is terribly honest, and she transcribed every single utterance between us (a lot of work). After the new year, we'll be back to our regularly scheduled publishing of every Saturday. 


Q: You’ve been out for almost a year now, how are things?
A: Great. Going really well.

What are you going to be for Halloween?
Ha. Fuck you!

You’re not going to dress up?
Very funny.

Oh since you’re all serious now, you can’t have fun?
Ha. You’re really going to push this, aren’t you! Ha. Well, my boss is this total Mexican illegal immigrant dude who looks like something out of an old Novella. He’s got those sad eyes, and he listens to all the Narco Corridos stuff, Banda stuff. He thinks he’s a cartel gangster. Ha. He wears incredibly tight pants with a belt buckle the size of a baby’s head, and he sports a thick, Saddam Hussein mustache. If you flipped to the dictionary definition of a racist stereotype for Mexicans, his picture would be there. Ha. I thought about dressing up like him when I went into work.

I am so glad I asked!
Shut up.

How is your job?
Cool, cool. I’ve been steadily employed going on half a year. It’s crazy hard work, hardly no pay, and I am officially at the bottom of the human barrel. I don’t think I’ve ever worked this hard physically. I can feel it at the end of the day, that’s for sure. Stinky. Sweaty. Etcetera.

Do you like it?
I love the people I work with. It’s a mix between college-aged adults, recent university grads, and illegals. It’s strange and wonderful chemistry. I fit right in in my own way, I guess. Recently, a coworker commented on my lowly status within the company, and she said I should be promoted because, and I quote, I am the shit, capital T and capital S. Ha. I told her I wanted that tattooed on me. Ha.

Doesn’t she know how huge your ego is?
Ha. After talking with you, I need the boost.

You’re mean!
No, baby, you’re mean.

Don’t be sensitive. Ha. So you get along with everyone there?
Yeah. I’ve never really had problems in the workplace with coworkers …

Oh my god you lie!
Well, politically, of course, I tend to buck the system, but I am always there to help, and I am always there to work hard and do a good job.

So you don’t talk politics at your job, obviously?
Very little. Every now and then I let something slip, especially when economic issues come up. But they just see me as a kook, a silly eccentric of no consequence.

Poor guy.

Do you plan to stay there?
For as long as possible or until something better comes along. My options are limited for obvious reasons. I am moving up, somewhat. I just plug away at the various tasks. I’ve had chances to show my skills, like with organizing. I am doing some of the more managerial-type assignments, and that has been cool. I’ve been told I am very responsible. Ha.

Do they know how ambitious you are?
They’re getting a sense, for sure. I make it known when I want to improve upon some aspect of what we do. But I am very new to this environment, its internal politics, and my place in the scheme of things. I have to be careful. Today, for example, I helped my manager with a computerized training module. It was entirely in Spanish, but I helped him clarify the questions, and I sharpened his test-taking skills. But I do have to careful, like I said.  

Well, as I said I work with a lot of people from the Third World, mainly Mexico. They’re here because of economic opportunities, and they’re some of the best workers I’ve ever been around. Fast. Super intelligent. Generous. Inspiring. But they also come with a different set of values.

Like what?
Private property isn’t that big of a deal to them, for example. So stealing is kind of a way of life when it comes to the workplace. Taking things from the company is viewed as a fringe benefit of working there, whereas I won’t so much as touch something that isn’t mine. And they’re used to striking little deals with different departments for a kind of graft exchange. Vendors, who are also illegals, barter stolen shit with my guys, and there is this whole underground economy that thrives beneath the surface. I avoid messing with it like the fucking plague. This sort of behavior runs against every fiber in my being. I won’t steal, period.

Does that cause problems?
At first they tried peer pressure. Mexican culture, especially peasant culture, is all about status and bullying. They seize on what they believe are your touchy emotional areas, like a big nose or something, and they’ll just ride you and ride you about it all day. It’s obnoxious. So with stealing, they would just kind of assume I’d go along, and when I didn’t they’d pull me to the side and explain this is how it’s done. I’d stand my ground, and over time they’ve come to respect me on that level. And what’s funny is when any one of them needs someone trustworthy for a task, they each think of me first. That’s hilarious. So I am adjusting.

I thought you said you like the people you work with.
I do, I do. I am just pointing out quirks, cultural quirks. That’s all. They make up for the stupid shit in amazing ways. They’re so loving, funny, and full of life. Another aspect of peasant Mexican culture is its insistence on positivity. Sometimes it’s annoying, I admit, but then I get around Americans, those people who’ve completely assimilated, and they are too cynical and jaded. They almost seem depressed by way of comparison. And I love the Mexican work ethic. I fit it well. We don’t ever stop. We go, go, go. The quality can suffer, but the pace is exhilarating, and it makes the day go quickly.

Are you making friends?
Sure, sure. We work together, so naturally we become close. For whatever reason, I am always closer to females …

That’s because you’re gay, dude!

Sorry, go ahead.       
The women are so much fun. We fuck around all day while working very hard. And since the majority of them speak next to no English, it’s an interesting challenge to communicate. My Spanish has improved significantly, though I still suck. But they love that I try. They’re so gossipy, and even though a few are married they still shamelessly flirt with the male coworkers. They also trade on their femininity.

What do you mean they trade on it?
Oh, shit, it was so goddamn funny. The other day a woman was walking and carrying something heavy, and a white guy flies in front of her and allows the door to close without offering to hold it open. The Mexican lady cursed him under her breath. She expects to be treated differently because she is female. Men oblige if they’re Mexican. If the Mexican men see her carrying something heavy, they’ll drop everything they’re doing and go to her and offer to help. The white guys won’t even notice. So it’s symbiotic. It’s lovely, if you ask me. I think women should be treated differently.

So no guy friends?
Oh, yeah. But I can only take so much. They talk about pussy all day long. The Mexican women are used to it, and at times they even join in the banter. But the white girls, the American women, don’t really get it, and they flip out at the libidinous displays. No woman can walk by our group without getting a serious sizing up, good or bad, at the prospects for her being bedded. It makes me uneasy because, while I am every bit a man, I can carry a conversation about other aspects of life. But I also love how the men can switch between the grossest fucking sex talk and go straight into religious subjects. I catch myself laughing out loud. But, yeah, the men are super cool. They find me very strange within their little cadre. I have a few nicknames.

Like what?
I’ll never say. Ha.

Come on!
I constantly tell them I am guapo y macho. And so they’ve developed funny permutations on that expression. That’s all I’ll say.

Okay. What were you listening to when I called?
Oh, funny story. At work this little Mexican dude plays his Ipod with speakers blaring. I wear my Ipod for the first half of the day. One morning, he was curious what I was listening to. I pointed to his speakers. His eyes lit up, and he insisted I plug my Ipod in. I did. I played Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir, and for 8 minutes and 28 seconds all my coworkers were totally head-bobbing and rocking out. Me gusta! God it was funny to watch.

Right. But when I called, what was playing?
I don’ know. I have it on shuffle. Maybe Queens of the Stone Age? Yeah, that’s what it was. Gimme some more, gimme some more.

Oh. It sounded weird. How do you afford all this music?
I go to the library. I borrow the CDs, and I bring them home and rip them. Boom. I can also request disks from other libraries in the county, and so my collection is growing by leaps and bounds each week. It keeps me sane.

Do you ever check the blog?

Don’t you want to see what’s on there?
I know what’s on there because I write it.

There’s other stuff we put up.
I know. People tell me. They comment on the colors and the scheme. Sometimes they like it, sometimes they don’t.

But don’t you want people to read it?
Sure, but I am not looking for it to expand or anything. It’s just for friends who are wondering what’s up, that’s all. It’s also a way for me to journal about all that’s going on. Nothing more.

Why don’t you allow us to link it to Facebook and Twitter?
If people want to read it, they’ll read it. I like it better when people try to find me rather than me being everywhere. I like this little spot you guys have created. It’s tucked away just so the right people can find it. So far everyone seems to like it.

But if you allowed us to link it, people would like it on their profiles …

Why don’t you let me take more pictures at least?
I hate pictures of myself. You know that. There are enough pictures floating around. That’s good enough. Maybe later. We’ll see. I have thought about making videos though.

Yeah, like when I walk. I see and encounter a lot of cool stuff. I’d like to document it.

Like the Occupy San Diego.
Jesus. I guess. It would have been funny to debate a few of those fools, huh?

Uh huh. So what are your plans for the coming year?
To keep doing what I am doing, I guess. I have a lot of personal goals. For now it’s enough to survive, to exist. I bask in it. I adore my life. Every day spent not in prison is a blessing, a real treasure. I try not to forget where I came from. It isn’t always easy. Sometimes I do forget, and I catch myself. I quickly snap back and put everything into perspective. In the years to come, I hope to rekindle some old relationships, reconnect with good people, continue to meet new people, and to push myself to survive this strange new world. Actually, I hope to do more than just survive, but for now that’s a lot.



No comments:

Post a Comment