The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, December 07, 1992, Page 5, Image 5

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    Ponch quiets taco disturbances
At the commune I live in, the
remote control’s mute button
. is well-worn and battle weary.
Taco Bell is to blame.
The actual motives are shrouded in
mystery, but for some reason about 86
Taco Bell commercials play during
each episode of Star Trek on the Fox
channel. If it wasn’t for the mute
button, I believe my communemates
and I probably would go slowly in
They always start out
with a tolling of the taco
bell. “Dong!” it mocks
me. My thumb darts to
“Hold fast, brave
thumb,” I say. “Draw
upon all your strength,
valiant digit: Don’t fail
me now!”
I don’t know who thinks up the
Taco Bell ads, but that slap-happy
individual needs to be slapped. At
least, that is what I used to think. But
then, the Taco Bell commercial of the
gods arrived.
It’s true. Erik Estrada has a job
again, as the lovable-yet-forceful cop
on the newcstTaco Bell fantasy-com
It’s a great role for the former star
of “CHiPs.” A woman named
“Naomi,” who has been in many Taco
Bell spots, bites into a taco, and the
crunch of the tasty hard shell “woke
up the neighborhood.” Estrada pulls
up,although he’sdrivingacar and not
the motorcycle we’re used to seeing
him ride, and asks, “Excuse me,
ma’am, do you have a license for that
At the same time, he nudges down
his sunglasses a bit. Of course, it
appears lobe nighttime, so he doesn’t
really need the glasses anyway. Life
is full of paradoxes, I suppose.
Wc never find out if the woman
had a license for the crispy treat or, if
she didn’t, what the punishment was.
It kind of dismays me to be left hang
ing like that. On “CHiPs,” the
storylines were always resolved, and
most of the lime everyone was happy.
And Estrada, as “Ponch,” always con
vinced the White Guy, as “John,” to
come to the basketball game or some
where with the friend of some new
girl Estrada was dating.
But in the commercial, there is no
White Guy, there’s no In-Charge
Graying-Hair Guy, no Chubby Guy,
no Woman Cop, nothing. Just Estrada.
And instead of stopping drunk drivers
or helping runaway teens, he’s wor
ried about hard-shell tacos. I bet Sarge
would call him into the office about
this little escapade.
Icallcd bothofLincoln’stwoTaco
Bells to find out if a person really
needs a license for a taco. The woman
who answered at the first one said, “I
don’t know”and then hung up. Maybe
they were really busy, or maybe the
Lincoln Police just stopped by for a
surprise inspection of their taco li
censes. If that was the case, I can well
understand her haste.
“Quick, hide the unlicensed tacos!”
I thought I heard someone whisper in
the background.
At the other Taco Bell, “Nichole”
told me I didn’t necessarily have to
have a license. 1 asked her that if I
wanted to gel one, just to be safe,
could I apply there at Taco Bell, or
City Building? She wasn’t sure, and
emphasized that I didn’t need one
But regardless of whether a person
technically needs a license to cal a
taco on the road, the fact is, Estrada
has donned the badge again, and we
can all go to bed at night feeling a little
I just wonder where all the other
CHiPs arc. Whal happened to the
White Guy? Is he still cruising the
Santa Barbara freeway with that great
posture those motorcycle cops always
had? Is he upset Ponch is wasting time
catching taco crunchers?
The University operator wasn’t
sure. She put me on hold to think
about it, but to no avail. John White
Guy isn’t listed in the University Di
rectory, and the operator hasn’t seen
him around campus.
I can picture John just like Clint
Eastwood at the end of the first “Dirty
Harry” movie: disgustedly throwing
his badge away, disillusioned with
police life.
“CHiPs is canceled, and Ponch has
a job at Taco Bell,” he said, tossing his
old existence into a pond. “What’s
there for a While Guy to do but be a
hired mercenary?”
Then John shipped off to the jungles
of Latin America to work for drug
bosses — or whoever had the most
Ponch seems to be the only CHiPs
guy around here anymore, and all he
does is look into taco disturbances.
The C H iPs crew has real ly gone down -
hill. I remember a day when Southern
California freeways were safe for ev
eryone. Nevermore, quoth the Ponch,
But at least those commercials arc
finally worth watching with a celeb
rity co-star. Johnny Cash was in one a
while back, I believe, but he just
doesn’t have the punch of Ponch. He
makes me crazy for tacos.
And these days, the mute button
gets to rest. It is a well-earned vaca
tion, a deserved break.
“Look sharp!” I tell my thumb.
“Ponch has returned!”
Phelps is a junior news-editorial major,
the Daily Nebraskan w ire editor and a colum
Misfits will never fit social slot i
Now that the winter wind blows
sharp I no longer see the Native
American couple walking
about campus in their soiled clothes.
I met them one day in the Centen
nial Mall while studying. He walked
up to me. I smelled his sour presence
before I saw him.
- “Hcy.brothcr.Mindif
I sit here?”
I did mind, but said I
didn’t. I had to study
and I really didn’t want
to be bothered. But there
I was in a public place
under the cosm ic canopy
of the sky and trees. Who
-'was I to tell him he
couldn’t sit there?
We small-talked for a bit and then
a woman walked up and sal next to
him. Her thin, yellow jacket was tat
tered and dirty. Her shoes lacclcss.
“My wilp,” the man said.
Everything about this couple sang
the antithesis of America’s image of
itself.Thcsccitizensdidn’lwork. They
didn’town a home; they lived all over
the city in a tent. They had no money.
They drank too much. They invaded
peoples’ personal space.
“1 tried to find a job,” he said. “But
no one will hire me. They won’t hire
my wife either.”
As we sat there on a bench, people
walked by and looked over at us —
full of disgust that we three even exist
to spoil the splendor of their day.
The couple’s life was one big prob
lem . Like a dark, dank well. They had
no means of ever climbing out.
As I listened to their despair, my
perspective on my life as a black man
in the United Stales changed slightly.
Maybe I don’t have it so bad I thought,
for about two seconds.
We talked about playing guitar. He
said he knew how, and I believed him
because he knew the lingo. I left. But
before I did, they both asked me fora
dollar each. I gave them what I had,
just a dollar, and told them I’d come
back the next day to the same place so
he could teach me a few chords on my
“OK!,” he said. “We’ll be here.
We’ll sec if you come.” I wondered
the same thing about them. Toting my
guitar over my shoulder, the next day
I headed to the same bench. They
were there. They were just as sur
prised to see me. We shook hands.
Their skin fell like tiny pieces of
gravel; rough like their lives.
He pulled out a white guitar pick,
grabbed my guitar and started playing
cowboy songs.
“Here, you play it.”
I didn’t know how. So I just sal
there watching him play most of the
afternoon. His wife sang.
After I left this time, I didn’t see
them for a few weeks until school
On my way to lunch one day I
passed a picnic table on the southeast
side of Love Library. A couple sat
there in the shade, thcirclolhcs soiled,
their hair natty.
It was the same couple I met in the
mall. The woman had a huge bruise
and scratches around her left eye.
“What happened?” I asked. “Some
one beat me up pretty bad,” she said.
We talked for a bit that day. I saw
them about four times after that. I
haven’t seen them since.
National Native American Heri
tage Month was last month. It passed
for most of us without notice. This
shallow salute made me think about
the couple. Yet, the strange thing
about my thoughts is that I don’t feel
sorry for them now that I know them
and the history of who they’ve be
When I think about the man, I
consider the 14 .OOOChcrokcc of Geor
gia who, in the 1 X30s, were forced to
leave their land, herded into concen
tration camps and forced to march to
“Indian Territory” in Oklahoma; 4,000
Cherokee died cn route.
When I think about the woman, I
think of a band of 320 Cheyenne who,
in 1878, got fed up with the intoler
able living conditions they were ex
iled to in “Indian Territory” and sim
ply decided to return to their home
lands in Montana.
About 600 miles into their jour
ney, they were captured and impris
oned, but they still refused to go back
to Oklahoma. With no warmth or food
for five days that winter, many in the
band tried to escape to their homeland
again. They were surrounded by fed
eral soldiers and shot dead.
“Hey brother,” the man called me
when we met. What he meant by that,
I don’t know. I personalized it any
way to mean we share a similar his
tory he and I. He, a domesticated
refugee in his own land. Me.adcsccn
danlof an enslaved race whose shack
led legacy still hangs loose around my
own neck.
1 wonder if winter will be cold and
biller for the man and woman. Re
gardless, they will endure. It seems
they always have. Maybe that’s why
I don’t feel sorry for them or myself in
spite of our common history. Instead,
I respect them because they walk on
their ancestral land. They know their
Lakola language and songs and recite
the peaceful stories thcircldcrs taught
them as children.
These two people, beneath their
dirty clothes and desolate lives, arc
genuine. Unfortunately, fate cast them
as victims. Few seem to realize why
many Native Americans still resist
folding into the American fabric. Why
arc they so stubborn; so intent to exist
like ragged dogs in alleys and on
reservations in the shadow of Ameri
can ideals?
Maybe it’s because despite their
lot, this couple — the seemingly low
est of dow ntrodden—is acutely aware
of who they arc as a people and as a
culture. So they hold on to that.
Thai’s the irony, I guess. Maybe
we arc the misfits trying to find com
fort in our designated social slots.
Anchored by their awareness, how
ever, most Native Americans just don’t
fit into the neat slots reserved for them
in this conformist society. They prob
ably never will.
Moss is a graduate student studying an
thropology and a Daily Nebraskan colum
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