Luckily I was only about a couple of blocks from the local llantera (tire shop in Spanish). I drove the few hundred yards into the lowrider wonderland of glistening rims, fantastic folk art signs, catchy narcocorrido tunes, well placed graffiti and someone's Tia or Mother hawking tamales along with Big Red and Mexican Coca Cola. My tire was completely destroyed, my awaiting appointment was not going to happen and in spite of everything, I was truthfully happy to be in this Chicano wonderland -- I have harbored a fantasy for years about a sitcom that I would write about a llantera and a cast of wacky llanteros and other interesting characters -- picture Chico and the Man/Sanford and Sons in Texas in 2016. How about Cannery Row with tires in East Austin?
To my dismay and great disappointment the fellow that came out to help me was a skinny white kid with dirty blond dreadlocks and red Chuck Taylor high tops with the toes cut out -- his actual toes were filthy and one was bleeding. This dude was not in any of my daydreams of moving to Hollywood. He was wearing a University of Texas t-shirt with the sleeves cut out. I asked him if was going to UT. He responded that he was but now was playing guitar in a "really righteous band." Oh yeah, I remember how that goes. I told him that I had attended UT also but dropped out to bar tend and become an artist. He thought that was cool. I started to tell him that it really wasn't but instead told him that I played guitar too. He thought that was cool too. The woman that was selling the tamales, that I had fantasized was someone's Tia or Mother, turned out to actually be his girlfriend. She was pregnant. She wasn't anyone's mother quite yet.
This scene was starting to take on an X Files kinda vibe, it was way too early in the morning and week to start dealing with anxiety and self-doubt. Fortunately another fellow about my age was also waiting to have a tire mounted so that he too could start his week. He came over and sparked up a very pleasant conversation about baseball, a good place to eat breakfast and the weather.
We talked about the crazy hail storm that had bombarded Central Texas a couple of days before. He said that he was lucky because he had had a business trip cancelled that would have placed him right in the middle of it. I told him about a video I had seen of hail blowing out the windows of a house and blasting pumpkin sized holes in a roof. He shook his head. I commented that weather sure was starting to get unusual. He then visibly tensed up and turned away from me. He turned back with a very unpleasant look on his face, eyeing my ponytail. It was on the back of my head when we started our conversation -- however, he just then seemed to notice it.
"It's all just Mother Nature's doin'," he said.
"Huh?" I said
"The weather's been changing since the beginning," he said.
"Well..," I said
"Oh you don't believe that s**t do ya?" he said.
I paused and began to answer when he snorted, shaking his head, walking away.
I watched him go, wanting to shout something after him, I didn't. I just stood there feeling ever more uncomfortable. The tire changing musician whistled at me, giving me the thumbs up. A middle aged hispanic guy then walked over with the bill. This made me feel somewhat better.
As I drove away I was playing the movie in my head of all the similar encounters I have had recently -- encounters with individuals that upon hearing my point of view walked away in disgust or twisted off all out of proportion to the tenor of the conversation. There are a significant amount. What has happened to this place? How did things become so dysfunctional, antagonistic? I have always been different and enjoyed folks disagreeing with me. I have been very respectful of the opinions of others -- in public anyway.
In my opinion it started when Conservatism became sanctified by the melding of fundamentalist religion with politics. Politics became religion and vice versa. The Devil could reside next door or at a llantera. The devotional politics of fear has made many, many Americans feel unsafe in their own country, neighborhood. Fox News updates the new catechism daily.
The climate change issue is becoming like something out of the history of religion. Republicans/Conservatives are choosing to make it a matter of "faith" that man has nothing to do with it. The more evidence that is brought forward the more they double down. Mr. Trump is not a "believer" in climate change. He claims it's a Chinese conspiracy. His followers are willing to take up the proverbial sword and go on a crusade against us that respect science. It's the same old story, umpteenth verse. I guess I should have kept my casual remark about the weather to myself. You know what they say about talking about politics and religion -- especially when they are one in the same.