Author Archives: Courtney Berck

Red or Green

When you go into a restaurant, usually a New Mexican restaurant, but they do it at McDonalds too now. They ask “red or green?” which means red or green chilis.  You can also say Christmas which means both of them, and they add it to your meal.

The informant learned this from her uncle when she was about to move to Albuquerque.  He warned her saying, “They are going to ask you… It’s that big of a deal.”  The informant is a green chili person, and she says that it’s a huge battle.  “Are you a red person or a green person?  It’s like are you a Democrat or a Republican?”  The custom of adding chilis to food is very widespread in her area because of the influence of Mexican cuisine, though New Mexican cuisine is not quite the same.  The custom is also a way of weeding out the visitors from the natives, and learning it from her uncle essentially initiated her into the culture of New Mexico.

 

Mysterious Green Slime

“This has to do with KFC and umm for a long time, I never knew why my parents never went to KFC cause my family likes fried chicken, and I remember that I asked my mom one day.

She told me a story about when she was kid. Her and her sister would be walking to school.  On the side of the road, there would always be this green slime.  They didn’t know where it came from.  It was weird. They never knew where it came from. They were from New York, but still it was just weird.

One day they were walking home from school, and her sister had a ball she was playing with and it rolled into the alley next to KFC.  They went over to get it.  While they were back there, a guy came out of the back of the KFC, and he had this big bucket.  He dumped the stuff in the bucket out and it was the green slime.  They didn’t know what chicken or process it came from, but they knew it was from KFC.”

The informant’s family has never gone to KFC.  The informant says that she believes the story is true, but when she introduced the story, she said it was something that she wasn’t sure about.  This could be since the legend came from the close source of her mother.  Legends like this one about fast food restaurants with tainted food and mysterious chemicals have been very popular on the internet in particular, not necessarily because they are true but because they address the fear of what people are really eating and putting into their bodies.  As people started to move away from cooking their own food, they no longer have the ability of watching their food be prepared, and especially at fast food restaurants where they get their food in such a short time, people start to become suspicious and worried.  The informant, however, goes to other fast food restaurant, but she will never break her rule about KFC.

 

Ride that Pony

You stand in a circle with 3 to probably 6 people in the middle.  Everyone sings:

“Ride, ride, ride that pony. Get up and ride that big fat pony. Ride, ride, ride that pony. This is what she told me.”

As they sing this verse, the people in the center dance around like cowboys riding horses.  Then the people going around in the middle go up to a person standing in the circle and sing:

“Front to front to front, my baby.  Back to back to back, my baby. Side to side to side, my baby.  This is what she told me.”

As they sing this, they face their partner in the direction that they sing (front, back, side), and when they finish, the people who were standing the circle switch with their partner who had been in the middle and they repeat the song.  At the end, after a few rounds, you say “everyone in,” and everyone goes around and does it.

The informant learned the song and dance from the seniors in the theatre department at her school when she was in 7th grade.  Before every performance, the director leads a warm up, but then the students do a more fun warm up of their own called the “actor warm-up,” which includes the song above.  The informant explained that they did it as a cast as preparation for the show to raise energy and get excited.  On the closing night of the show, the seniors start in the middle because it is the last time that they will ever get to do the pre-show ritual.  The song and dance is a way for them to bring the cast together regardless of age or experience.

I knew the song also from my own high school where we used it in the same way as a warm-up in what we called cast-bonding.  Instead of having a number of people in the center though, we go one at a time while the rest of the circle claps and cheers.  The ritual helped us to get the younger cast members to break out of their comfort zone and become part of the high school theatre community as a whole.

Zozobra

“Build a giant man essentially, out of flammable material and write fears or things you want to expunge from your life for the new year.  It’s usually done around harvest time.  You write down the fears on pieces of paper and put them in the statue and burn it.  It’s supposed to get rid of your fears and the bad spirits.”

The informant believes that the ritual has Spanish, Mexican and Native American roots.  She learned it when she first moved to New Mexico by seeing it done at a Native American pueblo.  The informant says that her school also does it every year with the 7th graders as part of a harvest fest, and there is a giant one in Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico.  The informant compared the burning of the zozobra (the statue) to the making of resolutions for the New Year.  The practice allows people to start new each year and banish any of their own personal demons in a time of abundance with the harvest.

 

 

Ring the Chapel Bell

“Uhh…I guess we all know the..to…you ring the chapel bell after…Like after, um, a team wins or just like after something good happens to you like if you get an “A” on a test or something. Ummm.  Like after football games, if we win, there’s like an hour wait to go ring the bell. Ummm.” (I asked if she had rung the bell.) “Yes.  Well it’s a tradition for my like sorority family to go do it on big little reveal night, and we also do it on bid night.  And ummm. I have never done it after a football game just cause it’s too long.”

The informant attends the University of Georgia, and she loves football like most of her school, which is probably why the line is so long at the bell after a team win.  The bell allows everyone to take part in the joy of winning the football game.  The informant told me that the university talked about the ritual on the tours for prospective students, but it is also just something that everyone knows.  Ringing the chapel bell and knowing what that means is an initiation into the university community, and as she said, it has been adopted by her sorority as an initiation ritual for new members.  In addition to celebrating what good thing has happened to you, no matter how small, ringing the bell becomes common knowledge that helps the new members of a sorority or freshman at the university make the shift from being outsiders to insiders.