Chiquita banana sticker

Everyone is a walking advertisement. Corporate America has managed to increase its visibility even in our most intimate settings. Now even bananas are advertising Wii. Imagine my surprise when I saw Wii advertised on a banana. Sure everyone associates bananas with healthy eating. And sure, Wii Fit is great form of exercise. But will advertising Wii on bananas sell more Wii systems?

Chiquita banana with Chiquita banana sticker

Nowadays, every advertises some product on a t-shirt or a hat. When I was a boy, corporations would give away free things with their name on them. We never bought anything that was made expressly to advertise a product. Sure some products came with a label such as Levi’s, Louisville Slugger, Converse Chuck Taylor, but no one sold a product that was principally an advertisement. If I wore someone’s trademark, I got it for free. I still remember going to the Chicago White Sox Games for those promotional games when they gave aways baseball bats, hats, or helmets. I proudly wore my White Sox helmet for years. And I didn’t even have to buy it!

Our t-shirts were white and blank (sans trademark or logo) and were designed to be worn under a dress shirt. But some time in the 1960s, people started writing messages, such as political opinions, on them and selling them. Soon after that, t-shirts became concert souvenirs. People pay big bucks today to buy clothing that advertises someone else’s product.

O, the genius of corporate America who turned the advertising tables! Instead of giving away t-shirts or other goodies with their company logo, they market them as designer clothing or must-have items while making a huge profit. People will pay outrageous prices to buy items with the company logo of their favorite products. I once even saw a woman driving a Nissan Murano with a vanity license plate that read MURANO! She paid extra money for this license plate stating the make of her car, probably to express her loyalty to this corporation, even though the make of the car was posted next to the plate in chrome letters. Go figure!

And this exploitation of consumers will continue until there is no more profit to be made.  Or consumers wise up.


UIC student t-shirt

T-shirts with messages always attract my attention, especially if they have an intriguing message. So how does a clothing item that was originally an undergarment come to demand so much attention? Well, I’ll tell you. No one seems to know. If you wear a t-shirt with text, I will read it. If the message is partially obscured by a sweater or jacket, I will ask you to let me read it. If for some reason your message truly intrigues me, I will ask you to let me take a picture of your t-shirt. I hate it when I ask the wearer of a particularly mysterious message to explain the significance of the message and they don’t know. How can they not know? Well, usually the t-shirt was a gift. Well, I wouldn’t wear a t-shirt to disseminate a message that I didn’t understand. Yet, many people do. I just don’t get it!

No manches

Ford City Mall, Chicago, Illinois

If you ever start to offend a Mexican, they will reply with a remark like, “¡No manches!” In other words, don’t smear my good name.

Well, I was at the Ford City Mall the other day with my sons when I saw this t-shirt stand right there in the middle where you can’t miss it. I immediately saw the t-shirt with the map of Mexico. Underneath the map it read, “United States of Mexico.”

The girl working the stand immediately approached me and handed me a card saying that they had a website. I responded half in English, half in Spanish without really thinking. I assumed that she wasn’t even Mexican because Mexicans, or any Spanish speaker in Chicagolandia, are always happy to meet someone else who speaks Spanish. So, I gathered that she wasn’t a Spanish speaker, or perhaps not even Hispanic. And here she was selling these Mexican-themed t-shirts to–well, actually, no one!

The whole time we were in the mall, I was the only one to approach the stand and actually read the t-shirts. I didn’t even bother to ask the price of the t-shirts. As I read these t-shirts, I was offended. I like to think of myself as very open-minded and I have a high tolerance for political incorrectness and profanity, but I wondered what kind of Mexican would buy a t-shirt that read, “got mica?” and “as seen on immigration”? Maybe I’m missing something here! They seemed more offensive than funny.

If they’re going to be that politically incorrect, they might as well should have named their business, “¡No manches, güey!” Why did they stop short? Don’t get me wrong. I’m not overly sensitive. In fact, I always smile when I see someone wearing the t-shirt that says, “I’m not late. I’m running on Mexican time!”

My favorite Mexican t-shirt.

Look closely at the t-shirt above. I was looking to buy t-shirts as souvenirs from Mexico, but they mostly sold stuff from the U.S.A. Talk about American cultural imperialism! It’s such a good parody of the actual Corona shirt that my cousin and I almost didn’t notice it. I suppose this t-shirt will only be funny for people who know Spanish and Mexicans.

Bumper stickers

Please use bumper stickers responsibly!

I enjoy reading so much, I’m glad someone invented bumper stickers! Now I can also read while I drive. The other day, I saw this bumper sticker as I drove: “Bumper to Bumper / Butt to Butt / Get Off My Ass / You Crazy Nut.” Well, that was a very lame bumper sticker as far as bumper stickers go. I thought back to the glory days, the actual Renaissance of bumper stickers. I remember reading some excellent bumper stickers long ago, in the Golden Age of public expression.

Yes, like many American cultural icons, bumper stickers were born about the same time as t-shirts with messages, way back in the 1960s when everyone seemed to have something important to say. Once, long ago, t-shirts were essentially underwear, something that men wore under their dress shirts with a collar. And there were no bumper stickers then; bumpers were still bare and naked. Their sole purpose was to protect the car and its occupants in case of a collision. In the 1950s, juvenile delinquents, JDs, began wearing white t-shirts as outerwear and car bumpers got bigger and brighter chrome, but alas, neither took advantage of all the possible attention that be showered upon them in the 1960s. Then, someone viewed the white t-shirt as a blank canvas intended for artistic expression. And, Voila! The message t-shirt was born, and riding on its shirttails, was the bumper sticker.

Some of the messages were exclusive to their medium, but most messages expressed themselves equally as well on a t-shirt or a bumper sticker: “If I told you that you had a beautiful body / would you hold it against me?” However, I prefer bumper stickers. T-shirts have long ago reached their saturation point and we’re now seeing the reemergence of plain white t-shirts. I mainly prefer the bumper stickers because I love to read and they allow me to read while I drive. I wax nostalgic as I recall some of my favorite bumper stickers! I can still see them, like my family and friends gathered round the holiday dinner table! Let me recall a few for you.

I remember there were political messages: “No Nukes,” “Save the Whales.” And there was a religious message: “Jesus Saves.” And then some genius, in a stroke of absolute brilliance, penned this magnificent treasure: “Nuke the Whales for Jesus”! I was amazed that this author didn’t win the Nobel Prize for literature.

When the Born Again Christians bragged, “I Found It,” National Lampoon offered the rebuttal: “I Lost It!” For a while many station wagons and minivans boasted, “My child is an honor student at …” Suddenly, there were some bumper stickers that read, “Your Kid’s An Honor Student / But You’re A Moron” and “My Kid Beat Up Your Honor Student.” To “If You Can Read This / You’re Too Close,” someone replied, “If You Can Read This / Thank a Teacher.”

Then there those bumper stickers that expressed a variety of feelings: “Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beer Holder.” “Insanity Is Hereditary / You Get It From Your Kids.” “Ex-Husband In Trunk.” “Don’t Hit Me / My Lawyer’s In Jail.” “How’s My Driving? / 1-800- EAT SHIT.” “Gas, Grass, Or Ass / No One Rides For Free.” “If This Van’s A Rocking / Don’t Come A Knocking.” I saw an old clunker sporting this bumper sticker: “My Other Car Is A Rolls Royce.” Then I once saw a Roll Royce with this one: “My Other Car Is A Lear Jet.”

As much as I love reading bumper stickers, I have only ever had one bumper sticker on all of my cars: “USMC.”

How's My Writing? 1-800-BLOG DDR

Rocio and me

One of the many classrooms in which I taught.

Over the years, I’ve had some interesting students in my Spanish classes. The one I remember most vividly was a Mexicana named Rocío. I met her when I taught Spanish at Daley College. She dyed her hair this obviously fake black color, even though you could tell her hair was naturally black. She wore black lipstick and painted her fingernails black. She had multiple piercings on her ears, lips, nose, and who knows where else. She always wore black clothing except for her t-shirt. I gathered that t-shirts were very important to her. Perhaps even sacred. You see, she always wore a Marilyn Manson t-shirt. Did I say “a,” as in only one, t-shirt? The semester was fifteen weeks long and we met twice a week. We met for class thirty times that semester and she never wore the same Marilyn Manson t-shirt twice! I always try to keep an open mind when I meet new people, but when I saw her in class, I had the feeling she would be at least a little rebellious. Whenever I called on her, she always gave the correct answer and she usually scored the highest exam grades in the class. And this may sound strange, but we had a mutual respect for each other. For the oral presentation, she prepared the best presentation of class. She also taught me a few things that I didn’t know about Frida Kahlo. And about being open-minded toward everyone regardless of our initial perception of them.

I need another Marylin Manson T-shirt!

I’m Mexican!

¡I'm Mexican! ¡Soy mexicano!

The other day I was walking around the Arizona Mills shopping mall in Phoenix and noticed that a teenager with black hair, brown eyes, and a perpetual tan was wearing a T-shirt that said, “I’m Mexican,” on the front. On the back the shirt said, “I’m Mexican / I’m not Latino / I’m not Hispanic.” I wasn’t surprised to see such a message since I have always felt the same way. I mean what am I supposed to call myself? As a teenager, I was even more confused. In grade school, I told everyone that I was Mexican. Then in high school, another Mexican told me about that I was a Chicano. Back then, all the older Mexicans like my parents, aunts, and uncles all thought that Chicanos all belonged to gangs. So I stuck to being Mexican. But now that I’m more mature, I still don’t know what or who I am. No matter what I call myself, someone within earshot will disagree. Lately, I’ve been telling everyone that I’m Mexican. And I’ll keep telling everyone that I’m Mexican until I figure out my identity–whatever it is!

I'm Mexican!