Thursday, July 24, 2008

'stache #54 - the pork taco moustache

Lots of folks back East, they say, is leavin' home every day,
Beatin' the hot old dusty way to the California line.
'Cross the desert sands they roll, gettin' out of that old dust bowl,
They think they're goin' to a sugar bowl, but here's what they find:
Pork, wrapped in tortilla with chopped cabbage.
Under the nose, Mexicans carry their biota baggage.

-Woody Guthrie, Do Re Mi, 1937

The Pork Taco Moustache, now very popular, has a cruel, ne'er-before-told history.

While the 1848 Treaty of Hidalgo Guadalupe gave Mexican-Americans the right to wear a moustache publicly and freely, it gave them no means to practice this right. Though Anglo Americans deftly rested pork products of all kinds on their lips –- bacon, pork loin, pork rinds, ham, ham hock, pulled pork -– without discrimination, the Mexican-American could hardly place a bit of herb below the nose without facing ridicule. But in the Latino social clubs south of Loredo, the pig of Texas BBQ fame crossed the so-called Tortilla Curtain, and the pork taco moustache was born in secret. In the late 19th century the Confederacion de Bigotes Independientes, Grandes e Ordinarios de Tejanos Extrajaneros (C-BIGOTE) was formed in Texas to lobby for equal moustaching rights, but, obviously, none were awarded, and the pork taco moustache remained sub-rosa. This ironic twist in moustache history does not go unnoted, since many moustaches were used originally as the clandestine mask itself.

But back to the story. Many moustached Mexicans fled to California looking for a Chicano safety far from the Tejano hate. Here, the pork taco was 'stached freely and openly, even in the presence of gringos from the 1930s on. In Pastures of Heaven, John Steinbeck's fictional character Tom Breman visits the makeshift restaurant of Maria and Rosa whose father, Old Guiermo -– a wearer of thickly packed pork taco moustaches –- has recently passed. After the popularity of Travels with Charley, Americans started to pay attention to the strange and often angry ramblings of Steinbeck, and soon Anglo-Americans realized that Chicanos had 'stached in peace in California for decades. This was a huge shock to the 1960s East-coaster who had had never paid any mind to the silly West coast before.

The pork taco moustache can be worn in warm months and should never been worn in secret again.

'stache #53 - the cilantro moustache

Once considered a low-brow garnish 'stache of the 1980s, the cilantro 'stache is now considered pure high-brow, er, high-lip-stache. In the early 1980s Mexican/American tensions were high and cheap meal improvements popular, and the cilantro 'stache fell from the already low standing among the parsley moustache to an even lower, racism-driven standing of immigrant moustaches.

The Americans, long known for foolishness and unreasonable racism, were, not surprisingly, wrong. (Though arguably all racism is unreasonable, the American anti-immigrant racism is especially unreasonable considering the deracinated pasts of its citizens.) After a twenty-five year post-modern, meta-identity battle among the Mexican-Americans, Americans, Mexicans, and sometimes Chicanos, the jury is in: Mexicans aren't just cool, they're haute cool. And so the cilantro 'stache climbed its way up the social ladder out from under the fluorescent lights of the supermarket, southern shopping malls where smoking is still allowed indoors, and used car lots into West Village caf├ęs.... like this one, 'stached at Alexandra on Hudson street.

The tony cilantro moustache can be worn in spring and summer.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

'stache #52 - the octopus moustache

During the long, unseasonably hot summer of 1824, New York City’s theretofore underground gang culture burst into the nation’s consciousness via a series of unusually bloody and unusually public skirmishes between rival cliques. While the Octo-boys and their sworn enemy squidstachers had previously seemed content to live-and-let stache, as various crews had previosuly coexisted with little problem, a perceived slight one night outside a West Village haberdashery sparked full blown gang warfare, events later made into a major motion picture by Martin Scorsese. (Not "Gangs of New York." A different one.) Regardless, the rival squid and octopus stachers fought all summer long, leaving a trail of firebombed buildings, orphaned children and countless singed tophats in their wakes.

Of course, the octopus 'stachers being limited to eight men per unit, the squidboys eventually prevailed, controlling New York City’s gritty underbelly for generations, eventually folding upon the advent of a particularly vicious group of pork belly stachers ("the gritty underbellies," they were called) came on the scene in the mid-1950s.

Although the octo-boys have not roamed the streets for 150 years or more, the octopus 'stache is still technically a gang symbol, and one should wear with caution.