Sunday, August 24, 2008
Brief Postcards From The Early Days
Arrived in Palo Alto five days ago already, and we're still staying in a hotel. We've stayed in three different hotels in the Silicon Valley area in five days --from the Sheraton to a s*%t hole called the County Inn--... Not funny at all. My kids and my wife and myself want our real-life lives back. It's not like we're not enjoying moving to a new place --the people we've already met in Palo Alto are all fantastic and the surroundings are beautiful-- it's just that we were not ready to having to literally disinfect the house we're moving into. Since we received the news of the fellowship last April, everything had rolled so smoothly, we were actually expecting some backlash at any time. We didn't know it was coming along with a big bottle of Clorox attached to it.
Last night we were just walking around campus --at Stanford University, that is-- and we found out it's a favorite spot for newly weds and quinceanheras (sorry, no enhe in this borrowed) teclado) to get their professional-and-corny official pictures taken. It was fascinating to see a quinceanhera walking through the Main Quad with her chambelanes and everything else...
Mexicanos here are everywhere. But, here as opposed to keep-it-weird Austin, everywhere only means low-paid jobs. West Palo Alto is so Lomas de Chapultepec. Beautiful, ubber expensive villas. So chic, so organic, so tofu and pilates. So Mexicans working, not living, there. You cross highway 101 and get to East Palo Alto, and you're right in Chimalhuacan. So third-worldy, so a bunch of families living in one tiny apartment so they can pay the are-they-out-of-their-minds? rent. Not in Texas anymore, I guess. Here, there's not 'para espanhol, oprima el dos', even if it comes with a funny accent.
One of the (Mexican) guys that are cleaning the house we're moving into is my namesake. He was born in Michoacan but raised in Sonora. He arrived in Palo Alto two years ago. He told me one of his friends --a paisano I guess-- who was living in Texas and arrived in PA a couple of weeks ago asked him to stay at his place while he gets back on his feet. I wanted to ask Antonio whether he likes here or not, but we ran out of time. I had to come to the Knight Fellowship office at Stanford to turn in some documents, and he had to keep cleaning the sink in the house I will rent for 11 months.
Strangely enough, Antonio is not (yet) a common name in the Palo Alto area. I guess Los Angeles, where the mayor's name is Antonio Villaragoisa, is still too far from here --not to mention San Antonio, Texas. So, so far, at Starbucks my latte cups have been tagged 'Tonino' and 'Tonio'. You tell them your name and they hear whatever it comes to mind. So, now, Valentina and I are engaged in a new and fascinating game: we pick a new name every time we go to Starbucks, and see what they write on the cup. This morning, Valentina was Tania. "With an 'i' or a 'y' "? the barista asked. Next time, I will be Jose Jose. I will let you know how it turned out in my next post.