What are we to do with these Mariachi?Posted: September 2, 2009
I hear Mariachi static on my radio And the tubes they glow in the dark – Warren Zevon, Carmelita.
Long, long ago, when my wife and I were dating, we stumbled upon a question we still have no answer for. The question is: What are we to do with these mariachi?
On the night this eternal question came into being, we had gone out for dinner at a Mexican restaurant. I know few of my regular readers would have seen that coming.
With all the talk of my extravagant lifestyle that is out there on the net, I’m sure you thought that I am constantly serenaded by mariachi bands where ever I go. That isn’t really so. As a result, this story starts in a Mexican restaurant, where I encounter mariachi.
You know, just a quick thought here. If any of my wild business schemes ever hit it big, I am getting my own mariachi band. Sure, its ostentatious, but so am I. But I digress…
As we sat down in the restaurant, a mariachi band started playing at a table at the other end of the dining room. I soon noticed they’d play two songs, then move on to the next table. Since neither of us had our own mariachi, questions of mariachi and mariachi etiquette arose between us.
First, a major question. The Big Guitar. Why? Where do big guitars come
from? Where do mariachi learn to play Big Guitar? To this day, we’ve never seen an ad for Big Guitar lessons or a book called Big Guitar for Dummies. Why does no one play Big Guitar outside of mariachi bands? This discussion went on as the mariachi moved inexorably closer and closer to us.
In short order, the discussion grew decidedly more urgent. We both realized that we did not know what was expected of us when the mariachi arrived at our table.
Now, I’m a worldly guy. I’ve been places. I know that if I bought tickets to a mariachi concert I’d jump to my feet when they started playing. I’d probably stand on my chair at some point, probably during the encore. That didn’t seem appropriate under these circumstances.
The questions grew in number and complexity of the etiquette involved.
When they got to our table, should we stop talking and eating to watch them play? Since we were talking about them, it was an easy decision to stop talking. But should we smile and watch? Clap along? We watched others for guidance. There was no consensus; we saw a little of every option we discussed.
Then we wondered if we were supposed to tip, and if tipping would make them stay longer at the table, which we didn’t want. If we did tip, who would we give it to? The singer? Our favorite musician? Again, no consensus. We saw some tipping, some not tipping.
I saw the Big Guitar player pocket a bill. Perhaps that’s why there is a Big Guitar, to indicate the band treasurer.
The mariachi got closer. We were not getting closer to resolving any of the rapidly unfolding questions of mariachi etiquette. We resolved to just eat as
fast as possible and leave. Chiles Poblano shrapnel and fajita bits flew. I asked for the check when the band was four tables away.
The mariachi were now one table away. No check. Miraculously, they finished their second song and took a break. We were off the hook. We paid and left.
Years later, we’re still on the hook in another way. Looking for the answer to that eternal question “What are we to do with these Mariachi?”