Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award


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Taco trucks: the shocking truth

Back when I was a kid growing up in Cicero, at that time almost equally (at least in my immediate neighborhood) made up of Eastern European and Mexican families, there were ways of expanding your ethnic identity. Ok…expanding is the wrong word. You could become an “honorary” Mexican or Lithuanian by going through initiations.

To be baptized an honorary Lithuanian, you had to eat a jar of herring or a huge chunk of homemade headcheese. My friend Juozas and I came up with this initiation, an ironic one, at least in my friend’s case, as he had never eaten either herring or headcheese in his life. The child of displaced persons,  he still qualifies, despite his culinary tastes, for Lithuanian dual citizenship. The Mexican boys who gagged over pig nose jelly will never be able to claim this.

Becoming an honorary Mexican was much easier.  You had to lie down and let your Mexican (and honorary Mexican) friends kick your ass for three minutes. The only rule was no punching in the face or balls. In truth, the three minutes often stretched to four or five.

We did not do this because we valued multiculturalism or envied each other’s identities. We were just boys finding ways to fuck with each other in the packs we joined for protection and friendship.

These initiations, like other rites and customs of the street, depended on unspoken but clear codes. Everybody understood that if your friend had gone through the trouble of taking a three (or five) minute beating,  or if he had slurped down a quivering cube of pig ass—which, mind you, often resulted in real tears—you had to defend him in the event that bullshit came his way.

So, as an honorary Mexican who oversaw the baptisms of a few dozen honorary Lithuanians, let me say a few things about the prospect of taco trucks on every corner.

To America, this would represent a culinary revolution of a magnitude not seen since the invention of the Weber grill. If there were a taco truck on even one corner in most any random town of less than 50,000 people between Youngstown, Ohio and Limon, Colorado, the quality of the local cuisine would improve by a factor so large that I cannot find any tool to help me calculate it. If there were taco trucks at both ends of my block, I’d have hardly any need to go to a grocery store.

A taco truck is superior, both as a food delivery system and a purveyor of quality, than any McDick’s, Burger Thing, Undies, Taco Hell, Beef’n’Cream, Pulverz, Shitway, Jimmy Shlong’s or any other such dump. A taco truck is a civilized place to eat and sells a food item with a rich and fascinating history, linked to lifestyle changes among the working class, specifically to men mining silver. Its development is not unlike the arrival and evolution of the pasty in Michigan’s iron mines or the Vienna Beef dog on Chicago’s South Side, the latter during the Depression. So the taco has more in common with the story of class struggle than does any pumpkin latte or chocolate stout.

So, bring it on. A taco truck beside every school, across the street from every workplace, down the road from your town hall, public library, place of worship and watering hole. Especially the watering hole. Because the only thing better than a taco following a night of raucous frolic is the tamale guy.

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Teen pregnancy epidemic

Today’s True Community article deals with teen pregnancy, an issue that’s very important to me, and not merely as an educator. I’m using an extreme word, epidemic, in the title of this blog post perhaps unfairly; efforts to bring down the teen pregnancy rate have been working, and currently we’re at historic lows for all US ethnic and racial groups.

Still, in my environment I see it all the time, and it causes problems we’re all familiar with. I really think we need a shift in the consciousness surrounding our concept of sex education. We have to get over our puritanical point of view and give people information that can keep them from making poor decisions.

This week I profile a pair of students that I had some time ago. Their stories are sad but important. I hope you’ll check it out.

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Photo by Mike Baird


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It has finally come to this

The FOP (fraternal order of police) called looking for donations.

I told them I’d be very willing to contribute to their important cause by donating a few shares of stock. “I own some Frumpin Frunkin stock,” I told the gentle officer, “and I’d be willing to have my broker send that stock over to the FOP in exchange for a receipt I could provide my accountant. Your address, please?”

What is Frumpin Frunkin? It’s similar to McDicks or Burger Ass. These are names I’ve come up with for places that teach us to advertise them simply by talking about them. It’s bullshit and drives me mad. Frumpin Frunkin is a famous purveyor of High Fructose Corn Syrup pastries. They claim America runs on them, thus equating their food to something like petrol—figuratively, they want us to believe we’re eating chemicals when we’re LITERALLY eating chemicals if we consume their “food”. In my neighborhood, 3-6 cops can be found in a Frumpin Frunkin at any time. It’s cliche but it barely bothers them.

I also received a phone call from someone who wondered if I’d like to share my opinion about their product. Here’s my opinion about your product: it sounds a lot like Frumpin Frunkin stock. I lied to the cops about owning that, so I’m going to lie to you about owning yours, whatever it is.

Would you wear Farm and Grammar All Natural Deoderant?

Sir, I must inform you. You smell so bad of bullshit that my mobile phone has begun to reek of summertime barns.