Sunday, November 20, 2011

Just For Home

I go to restaurants all the time here. Sometimes it’s even my job to go to them and sometimes I go because I’m too tired to cook or I want something I can’t cook. I love being in restaurants.
I feel jealous of people who own restaurants, especially those who are not even from this state and country. It must have been easy for them, with their money and loans and easy access to buildings and land here.
I want to build a restaurant so bad. I need to win the lottery.
Not in Las Cruces, in Crownpoint, N.M. which is on the Navajo reservation and where I’m from. The ideal place would be right in the middle of town; near the big intersection, between those two gas stations, across from the elementary school and down the street from the flea market. Or on top of the town were that one gas station closed down, where that one auto repair place closed down, near the high school and across from the police station.
It's likely that I would run into problems with land; technicalities over government, tribal or personal land. This is the reason why there is nothing in Crownpoint. BIA and the Navajo tribe make it incredibly difficult for anyone to build anything. It would be easier to get direct permission from the President of the United States than to go through the tribal land department, chapters and BIA office assistants. The second reason why there is nothing in Crownpoint is because no one has the money for it– that’s why I need the lottery.
(Here is a very informative article about why reservations have nothing on them including businesses and wealth. It explains what I said in the previous paragraph. Wow.)
There are two tribal colleges, one grocery store, a hospital, two elementary schools and one high school. Crownpoint is also a major hub for dozens of tribal offices and assistance programs. Crownpoint is also globally known for their monthly Navajo rug auctions where every month dozens or hundreds of tourists go there for the rugs or Chaco Canyon, a national park nearby. The 3,000, or so, residents and the hundreds of tourists don’t have one single restaurant to eat at or a hotel room to stay in within 60 miles. There’s no entertainment there either. That is why my restaurant is going to work.
·                     I will employ all local people, of course, especially those who come from the tribal colleges – they have a killer culinary arts program but they all end up working at Applebee’s 60 miles away.
·                     My menu will be diverse; American faire; a few Mexican plates because I love Mexican food; and some traditional items.
·                     My menu will be somewhat healthier. No frybread and no greasy mutton -- only on weekends. I want it this way because I don’t want to compete with those who sell these favorites everyday and make a living that way; and because I don’t want to contribute to our tribe’s obesity problem. There will be wheat buns, sweet potato fries and about a dozen different sandwiches for lunch. There will be no white bread, but there will be a salad bar and smoothies. I would also like to have a diabetic menu available too; a coupling of healthier, low-carb choices that will still fill you up.
·                     For dinner the steaks will come out with the Mexican foods, barbecue chicken, pizza, pork chops, soup and stir fry. I will most likely start out with a small menu and introduce new items through special events such as:
·                     Special date night. CheĆ© and Shima (grandma and grandpa) and the young couples can come and have a three course meal: fried squash, raw veggies or chips and salsa for starters, Navajo tacos or a mutton platter for the main course, and a pie, cake or sweet Navajo tea/cake for dessert. Everything will be homemade and catered to our tastes. Or for date night we can also have Asian food, Italian food or sea food. The lights will be low, the kids will have to be tamed and the music will be soft.
·                     I will have an extra ballroom of sorts. It will be big enough to host my dad’s country band and a few dozen dancing Navajos. There are ‘rez bands’ all over and I will give them a place to play every Friday and Saturday. This room could also be used during weekdays for step classes, aerobics, bingo and movie nights or rented out for special occasions like graduation and wedding receptions.
·                     I will take it cooperate – not in that greedy sort of way. I want to then open a few locations just on the reservation: Window Rock, Ganado, Shiprock and Chinle.
Sometimes the visions in my head are so real I can smell the beans for the Navajo tacos and feel the warm air when I come in through the wooden door. I can see my teary eyes on the front page of the Navajo Times when they write a story about our grand opening.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Sack of Clothes

It’s about that time of the year when all the good little Native boys and girls on the reservations are getting gifts. Not from Santa, from the BIA.
 Plastic bags full of clothes; a puffy jacket for the coming blizzards, a pair of jeans with hideous sparkles sewed on the leg, a few socks – or two and half pairs, a shirt or two,  some underwear that are most likely too small and some shoes to match the sparkly jeans that don’t match anything else you have.
I remember getting a bag of clothes like that when I was in elementary school. When I was younger it was awesome. All the shoes lit up when you stepped in them and the jackets were filled with goose feathers and were very warm. It was like Christmas!
When I was older: for the most part it was embarrassing because it made us all feel poor, cheap, as we were the age when free clothes was for poor kids and none of us were poor.
I don’t know much about this tribal clothing program but I’m only guessing that it’s another effort to assimilate Natives and give us urban clothes or to provide many of us poor kids with new clothes because our parents can’t. My bet is on the latter estimate. I know so many of my peers, and Native kids now, don’t have the resources for such necessities. I guess this is my thanks to the BIA for free clothes, even if they were sort of ugly and weren’t all the right sizes.
Do all low income, poverty and homeless kids get clothes? Probably not. They should get tribal clothes too.
Non-Native kids are always in need of clothes, for winter especially. I recently wrote a few stories for My Las Cruces about how these local shelters and aid foundations are stepping up their charity game this fall and winter to collect jackets and clothes for kids and adults who cannot afford these.
I don’t know where this blog is going but I think I have some extra cash to purchase a small, fashionable, jacket for a needy kid.