Las Palmas – Goin’ South

528 Gordon St, Corpus Christi, TX 78404 • 361-334-3936
Bottomless Coffee – $1.20 • Chorizo & Egg – $1.40 • Carne Guisada – $1.60

I’m reading a book right now in preparation for next week’s meeting of Corpus Christi’s Books & Beverages, the book group my wife started about six months ago. The book is The Help, and a movie adaptation is forthcoming. In this book group we’ve read some real stinkers (LA Outlaws), and some books that are great but creepy and perhaps a bit supercilious (Lolita) as is the use of the word supercilious. The discussion of the book will be accompanied by a gen-you-wine Southern potluck, and I’d expect some mint juleps. As I read the Help I wrestle with something I’ve fought with my whole life.

I’m a product of the South, though not quite the Antebellum South. I was raised in Texas and Arkansas – both states were Confederate – but Texas was always too independent to be truly Confederate, and Arkansas was just too poor to ever put on the airs of Southern society. Before I go any further, let me leave no ambiguity about my feelings about the Civil War and the legacy of slavery in the US: Racists are evil and stupid, and can go fuck themselves. Take your rebel flag (which isn’t even the official flag of the CSA you ignorant bastards) and shove it. Go ahead and try to secede, see how far you get, otherwise take that thing off your car and put it in the basement of the museum where it belongs. Contrary to the opinion of many Southerners, the Civil War was about slavery – but for slavery it wouldn’t have happened. These are things I don’t think there can be any other rational interpretation of. Beyond that it gets a little muddy.

As a young kid I ran around shoeless in the Ozarks, pissing in the woods. I lived in a few houses that had outhouses. I lived in one that didn’t. I’ve used a hand-pump out of necessity. I’ve lived among some of the most racist people you can imagine, from White Aryan Resistance bikers to the Ku Klux Klan. As a child, realizing the ugliness of racism, I worked to distance myself from Southern Culture assuming it was inextricable from racism. I tried to speak like they talked on the news, to lose any hint of an accent. I got rid of my beloved cowboy hat and boots, and started wearing chucks. By the time I was in Junior High I was one of few white people being bussed to a number of schools in Austin in which whites were the minority. It was assumed I was the enemy even though I had abandoned my culture in order to not be, but I never doubted my conviction that ‘All People Are Created Equal.’ Some stupider than others, but that cuts across any distinction of race.

This is what Thomas Jefferson had to say about Southern culture, which I learned going through the great Open Yale Course on Civil War and Reconstruction which is available for free.

“they are fiery, voluptuous, indolent, unsteady, independent, zealous of their own liberties” — he changed jealous to zealous there. If we’re doing close readings we might go into that for twenty minutes, but we’re not. He’s not over: “zealous of their own liberties but trampling on those of others, generous, candid and without attachment or pretensions to any religion but that of their own heart.”

As I got older I started to tease apart the threads of Southern Culture, Racism, and the history of the South, and came to a few conclusions. The South is great and terrible. It is the source of ugliness and of the greatest beauty the world has produced. The blues, jazz, rock and roll – all would not exist if not for the fertile garden of pride and tragedy that is the South. And while the Civil War first and foremost was a war for slavery, it was also about sovereignty, and honor, and one of my least favorite words – ‘heritage,’ a filmy gauze that is used to mask the worst human intentions and that stinks of death. In spite of the victory of the Union, it only won in spite of it’s best efforts. The Confederacy fought much more brilliantly, and defied the long odds against it – giving everything – until their cause was abandoned by General Lee and Jefferson Davis, one honorably, one shamefully. There were great offenses committed by both sides. I’m also not convinced that preservation of the Union, the ostensible cause for the war between the states, was a worthwhile endeavor. I’m also not convinced that the Union was the victor for more than five days, with the South assassinating the Union’s leader and infiltrating politics in a way that has made the former Confederate states the most important block of voters in any federal election since. The party of emancipation became the party of the white and the rich, and has switched its focus from the Dixie line to the border of Mexico – which we moved in the prologue to the Civil War, the Mexican War, which was fought by the real victor of the Civil war Ulysses Grant, who had this to say about it:

 “For myself, I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day regard the war [with Mexico] which resulted as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation.  It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory.”

All of this said, I can’t escape who I am, and I realized you can’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. My grandfather’s name was Levi. My niece is named Scarlet. My grandparents would cook us grits, and sowbelly, and we were forced to eat turnip greens which we hated. I love’em now, and I love the South – if I didn’t I’d have stayed gone when I tried to leave it 20 years ago.

Of course if you keep going South you end up in the wheelhouse of this blog, Mexico, and we’re pretty damned close to it here in Corpus – on the map and in the kitchen. I landed this morning at Las Palmas, on the back-end of a run-down shopping center next to the HEB on Alameda and Glazebrook. It’s dark, and the fresh tile mosaics are laid over an uneven foundation. The chorizo and egg was average, maybe a little below. The carne guisada was pretty good, definitely not from a food service supplier, with a lot of chili in the sauce. The one sauce on the table was a ranchero, and was quite good. The coffee was hot, tasty, and frequently refilled.

I walked out into the sun and headed back to work, wrapped up in my thoughts of the past that could only be put away by writing about them.

This weeks taco award winner is:

Dallas Bryce Howard

Her father, the great Ron Howard, is as quintessentially Southern as cornbread – having played Opie on the Andy Griffith show. She plays Miss Hilly in the upcoming relase of the Help, where she will get to flex her well developed acting muscles on a character that is just so damned mean. You might remember her from The Village, or Terminator Salvation – even if the movies themselves were somewhat forgettable. I hear she’s also in those abominable Twilight movies, but in spite of this I have always thought she was a real, and realized actor and a transfixing beauty – each tiny ginger freckle dancing on her milk-white flesh. It’s enough to make you have to stand in front of the AC unit with a big ol’ glass of Texas Tea.

Offer includes 2 tacos, an audience with the ‘tacoteurs,’ and a free tacotopia t-shirt. Please redeem this offer at Whetstone Graphics on a Friday morning of your choice. Offer subject to cancellation by order of the wives of the tacoteurs. Enter to win by emailing your name on the back of a Kate Spade Cobble Hill Medium Serena Handbag for my beautiful wife to