October 12, 2008

Navajo Tacos and a Show

Nathaniel Curley is a writer, student, and 'zine editor from Tuba City, Arizona. In the following essay Nathaniel remembers a time when a little team effort and a batch of Navajo Tacos earned him some much-needed cash (and beer). Check out Nathaniel's previous submission to the Moody Kitchen here.

It was the summer after I graduated from high school (which only took me five years to complete instead of the typical four). That was the summer I stayed with my brother’s family in Phoenix, Arizona. During the summer of ‘98,’ I hadn’t a clue what the “real world” was supposed to be like. I was only interested in the important things: girls, beer, pot, girls, and beer, and did I mention beer? I wasn’t 21 yet, so I drank what was offered then, which mostly consisted of a tall, fat, frosty 40 ounce of Mickey’s, or Old English, or maybe a Crooked Eye. I was na├»ve to the fact that money was needed to live in the urban setting that was Phoenix.

I was like most young men back then who graduated from high school with a GPA of 1.7-something. I looked for any type of suitable work. I remember dreading the idea of work because I wanted to live like the songs of the band Primitive Tribes and emulate their ideals of realizing that we are nothing but “Wage Slaves” feeding the rich capitalistic overseers who truly run the world. I was an angry young man with ideas of changing the world by not wanting to do anything except party and complain about stuff. Punk rock was my life then, and punk girls preoccupied my mind because punk girls didn’t care if you had a job or drove a cool car.

The problem was that one of ways to meet these ideal, super-cool girls was to go to a punk show, and that had its own problems. I needed cash to go these shows, even when some were free, the beer usually wasn’t. I think a 40 was roughly about two bucks back then. I can picture it now, me saying to a group of young whipper snappers, “I remember when a 40 ounce of Mickey’s only cost two dollars.” Eventually, though, there was no other way around it; I needed to get a job, which I eventually found as a day laborer at minimum wage.

On one particular weekend, my brother’s wife expressed with a sense of concern that we needed to find a way to pay for the utility bill, which, if I remember correctly, was $119. I don’t know how I remember that number, but I do. Not one of us who lived in that small one-and-a-half bedroom apartment had that kind of money, and even if we pulled together our monetary sum, we would have fallen well short of what was needed. There were seven of us--my brother and his wife and their daughter, his wife’s younger sister and her boyfriend, his wife’s younger brother, and then me.

Finally, one of the others thought up the idea that we should sell Navajo Tacos in order to pay for the utility bill. I am not sure if we would have still called it a “Navajo Taco” if we were some other tribe, but most people from Arizona know what a Navajo Taco is, so as a marketing scheme we made flyers with, “NAVAJO TACO Sale! 5 Dollars Today Only!” printed on them.

My brother’s brother-in-law, Dub, and I had been charged with the responsibility of hanging the flyers around the apartment complex. Armed with clear tape, thumb tacks, and a stapler, we roamed to all corners of the complex, but as we did so, we also had a hopeful plan of seeing the Nobody’s and The Queers play at Boston’s Bar and Grill in Tempe, AZ that night. Paying for the utility was, of course, the primary reason for this sale, but we hoped that maybe--just maybe--we could sell enough to pay for the show (and, of course, some beers). This was our added incentive to run around in the 100-degree heat. It was also a given bonus that if you sold Navajo Tacos, it was very likely that you would get to eat one.

There are three basic main ingredients to a well made Navajo Taco: Frybread, chili beans, and grated cheese. However, the toppings may vary depending on the taste of the individual. I like mine with tomatoes, lettuce, onions, and hot salsa. I have been taught the process of blending flour, baking powder, salt, milk, and lukewarm water to make the dough for frybread. Unfortunately, I have not perfected it yet because my dough usually comes out as a clump of plaster clay. When done right, the dough should be soft and airy and stretchy. There’s nothing like the crackling sound of hot grease sizzling in bubbling fashion around the soft texture of well crafted dough. When the dough is gently placed in the hot oil, the sound is like a scattering glass precisely hit with a sharp tipped instrument. The resonations of the flopping flop sounds of dancing sizzles are enough to bring an eager willingness to bite into the soft, hot and often crunchy frybread. I have to admit that my sensory memory is being overwhelmed as I write this.

I remember the excited facial expressions of the others as the phone rang; it was enough to say, “Alright, our first costumers!” As the day wore on, Dub and I operated as the delivery guys and we got to see where all the Navajos lived in the complex. We were greeted with gratitude because some were away from home and a Navajo Taco was welcoming sight. We felt like we weren’t only providing food to people, but a connection back to the Motherland of the Navajo Nation. At one apartment that we delivered to, a group of Navajos were enjoying themselves on a Saturday afternoon, drinking beer and watching TV, when we rung their doorbell. We were greeted with a loud, “Hey the food is here!” when one of them blurrily asked, “What did you order, pizza?” And one of the ladies of the apartment answered, “Pizza! You can get pizza anytime, these are Navajo Tacos! Pizza?” Then, to us, she said, “Hey, you two want a beer?” That last question was tempting, but we were on the job and we had a goal in mind. It seemed like every time we returned from a delivery, we had to head right back out taking with us our hot product. It was madness for about a couple of hours before it was announced that the monetary goal of $119 was met! We cheered and, most importantly, we got to sit down and eat.

I don’t recall when, but I do remember my older brother asking, “Do you guys want to go to the show?”

1 comment:

Hadley Gets Crafty said...

Oh goodness, do I miss Navajo Tacos. Especially the ones at Charlies with an egg on top. And the super greasy cheesy ones you get at the dances.