Friday, May 05, 2006

Cinco de Mayo

Who uses it: Residents of the Mexican state of Puebla, and Mexicans living in the United States
What it means: A holiday that commemorates the defeat of the French invaders by General Ignacio Zaragoza, in 1862. Unfortunately, it didn't last, and Napoleon III's army took Puebla and marched to Mexico City the following spring.
How you can use it: Explain what you're doing with that margarita.

Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day, which is September 16 and commemorates the 1810 rebellion of native-born Mexicans against the Spanish oppressors. Interestingly, Mexican-Americans make a much bigger deal of Cinco de Mayo than most Mexicans do -- in that way, it's become like St. Patrick's Day, a declaration of ethnic pride among exiles.

Woke up this morning and didn't know where I was, for a moment. Why does this always happen when you're finally home again? I looked at the clock radio and thought, "Oh, that looks just like mine;" I saw the framed Italian poster for The Man Who Knew Too Much (L'Uomo Che Sapeva Troppo) on the opposite wall and thought, "Gee, I have that." Dizzy seems a little confused, too.

What I Read This Week

Christopher Moore, A Dirty Job. Beta male Charlie Asher loses his wife immediately after the birth of his baby daughter -- but that is only the beginning of his intimate acquaintance with the mechanics of death. He winds up becoming a Death Merchant, someone who collects souls and makes sure they get passed along to the next owner. A Dirty Job is both hilarious and sad, Moore's best work since Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. It was good reading this week, when Mom has been so much in my mind -- it's Moore's genius that this story of death harpies, hellhounds, and suspected serial killers is deeply comforting.

Peter Abrahams, End of Story. Aspiring writer Ivy Seidel takes a job as a writing instructor at a men's prison in upstate New York. Her new student is startlingly talented -- so talented that Ivy can't believe he committed the robbery and murder he was convicted of. As she becomes more involved in the prisoner's case, she loses any ability she had to be objective, or to look after her own best interests. End of Story zooms along, and Abrahams' plot ticks like a well-designed machine -- but Ivy's dangerous naivete needs more explanation than we get here.

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