I went to a Mexican restaurant the other night. Did not see Kirstjen Nielsen or Stephen Miller, and if I am edging too close to the frankly political here, hey, it’s about the tacos, which were quite good.
It happened to be the first anniversary of this spot on 9th Street, with a DJ and dancing, free chili-powder-festooned margaritas and at least one folklorico-costumed child. We just missed the mariachis.
It’s up the street from where Joey Vento, he of the non-English-speaking-Italian-immigrant grandparents, posted his famous sign: This Is America: When Ordering Please “Speak English.”
A hundred years ago, 9th Street was — not “infested,” let’s say “bustling,” shall we? — with Italian immigrants. Later, for a while there, it looked like it was becoming Vietnamese. Then it was Mexicans. All very good news for people who like to eat. Why is it such a nightmare for some folks? Is it because they DON’T like to eat, or because they just don’t get it?
Tacos, Vietnamese hoagies, even what my father used to call “EYE-talian spaghetti” — they’re all gateway foods. Next thing you know, you’re trying mole poblano and chicken lemongrass and bucatini all’amatricia.
Maybe some of us are genetically susceptible to the addiction of diversity, easily moving on to the understanding that the people who make this delicious stuff are just like us.
Joey Vento is gone. The Mexicans are still here, and so is Geno’s. The sign didn’t come down until 2016, but reportedly no one was ever actually refused service for not speaking English. In other words, their money was good enough. Hypocritical? Maybe. But it’s also kind of the way it should work in America — where all people who pay for their cheesesteaks and tip their bartenders and don’t act like knuckleheads ought to be able to get along, and ahead.
As the signs say: I can’t believe I’m still marching about this. But I guess we better not stop now.