Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cranky Me

Tonight I'm cranky as hell.

First, let me explain where I live. It is a Mexican family compound with an entry off the street. In front, opening onto the sidewalk is the family "tienda de abarrotes" or corner store. Think 7-11 with a limited line of merchandise. In fact, we used to have these in most major U.S. cities up until the 1960s. I know Chicago did.

I digress. There is an extended family living here. A rock solid, hard-assed matriarchy. Grandma lives in the front apartment....just a room and bath, really. She has 6 daughters, known as the "tias" (aunties). The eldest lives in the nice apartment behind the store. The other aunties live in varying units scattered around the courtyard. There are no men. Let me repeat that....THERE ARE NO MEN. Clearly, there HAVE BEEN men given the presence of children (that's how it works as I recall). But they ain't none now. Drove 'em off, in my opinion. Each Sunday afternoon, they all get together for a big family supper.

My problem is with Paulina, the teenaged daughter of one of the aunties. I would guess she's around 14...a difficult age. She has 2 tones of voice: screeching and whining. I'm so sick of hearing, "Mommmmmmmyyyyyyyyy!!!!" Do you still call your mother "Mommy" at 14? When she says (whines) it, the word lasts about 3 minutes. When she has some of her little girlfriends over, it's as though you took a chicken house full of hens and SHOOK IT....hard. Screech. Giggle. Scream. Screech. And a couple of annoying long whines, for good measure.

Now I realize that I am a cranky old man (or at least well on my way to that esteemed categorization). Noise bothers me (the first sign of aging....badly). Key note to consider here: Mexico is a very noisy place. Unlike anything you might be accustomed to in the U.S. Kids, dogs, and fireworks almost every day (and an occasional brass band marching down your street). And I also appreciate the Mexican culture in which little girls are all PRINCESSES. They lavish money and material goods on the little darlings in a ceremony that all young ladies go through called "Quiceañera" or "Sweet 15." There are fancy gowns, even tiaras, etc. You get the idea. So our sweet little Paulina is fast approaching Quiceañera age. And she's spoiled. By everyone, mom and aunties alike.

The very last straw is that today she came home with a new toy....a musical recorder (like a plastic clarinet). And she has played it from 2 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. For those of you how don't know, that encompasses my NAP TIME. All of us in the courtyard have been entertained with the tune "New York, New York" over and over and over and over and over and over again. About 200 times by my reckoning. Squeak, squeak, squeak. Complete with lots of WRONG NOTES. I left for my drawing class (1.5 hours). Came home. Guess what? Darling Paulina is still playing the damned recorder in the courtyard.

I've become homicidal. I'm fantasizing about what a recorder would look like shoved down her throat and out the other end.... Hmmmm, that's an unusual mental picture, isn't it? But in self defense I think I'll go buy myself a cheap little recorder tomorrow and every time we are treated to a little concert by Paulina, I'll walk out onto my front step and BLOW my damned instrument for all its worth.....Every sour note I can muster.

Perhaps that will send a message? I doubt it. Mexican kids can do no wrong. Best I can do is talk with my landlady (another auntie). I'll politely put it like this: "your choice....daily concerts by Paulina or 5,000 pesos hard cash every month from me. You pick."