Go Ahead, Try Some Tamales
(Originally published in the San Diego Reader July 18, 2012.)
At the corner of 30th Street and Polk Avenue, 200 yards from a café where graphic designers and graduate students sip coffee and pound away on their laptops, José Gonzáles sells tamales from a cart.
“¿Tamales?” he asks as people walk past, his voice quiet or raised, depending on the volume of street noise. City buses are the loudest of the noisemakers, but there’s also the thump-thump of the occasional car radio, the sound of skateboards scraping the sidewalk. Although 30th is a thoroughfare, midafternoon traffic varies on this stretch north of Lincoln, south of El Cajon. During a particularly quiet lull, Gonzáles might raise his voice to beckon passersby on the opposite side of the street. Sometimes they ignore him. Sometimes they wave.
“¿Tamales?” he asks a blonde woman in a pink sweater and wearing pink lipstick.
“No, gracias,” she says with a smile and a gringa accent. She keeps walking.
Gonzáles tells her to stop by on her return from wherever she’s going. The woman looks back over her shoulder. “Okay, maybe,” she says. Then she stops and walks back toward him.
Come to think of it, she’ll take one for her husband, too.