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If you Can't on Mission Street


if no one asks you for money

the time, a "date"

if no one asks you to buy a

late night, late night fast pass passport


if the savvy entrepreneur doesn't stop you

when you pass the paperback books

of his crack mart spread on a tarp

between falafel place and roxie theater


cholitas with cleopatra eyes

don't maddog you

homies parked on 19th or 24th

don't ask what you claim?


the tamale lady doesn't nod to her cooler

when you rise from the bart cave

the flores lady doesn't wave a bouquet

when you're ordering at la taqueria


if a little boy on a swing at mission playground

doesn't ask you to push him higher! higher! than the palm trees

a little girl on the merry-go-round at dolores park

doesn't ask you to spin it! spin it! til she screams stop! stop!


if the cristianos don't alleluia you

invite you to their storefront for salvation

hand you a free Watchtower

or awake magazine


the viejo selling yerbas para los hombres

doesn't nod'n'wink at you

the hombres huddled round the old hunt's on 20th

dont's say, oye mija


the palatero doesn't ring his bell

when he passes you

the fruit lady doesn't offer elote, mango

when you pass her


if the cd sellers don't let you look through their cases

and blast a sample on their boom boxes

the dvd vendros don't sell yesterday's new release

at today's special price


if senora doesn't accept your offer of help

with her bolsas of food

or the lady with a baby

doesn't take your seat on the 14


the young multilingual latina

doesn't stop folding clothes

the asian or palestinian store owners

don't watch you when you walk in


the man with the red painted face

doesn't smile at you

the woman with baby powdered eyelashes

doesn't blink at you


the filipino man who smokes invisible cigarettes

doesn't salute you

as he marches up an down

the coolest street in town


if somebody passes by and doesn't speak to you in english

mexican puerto rican cuban or south american spanish

spanglish calo a dialect of mayan quiche quechua

tagalo vietnamese cantonese mandarin samoan


it's over pack it up

throw in the towel

what's the point?

why are you here?


get yourself to 16th or 24th

take the steps two at a time

feed the machine a couple bucks

punch yourself a one-way ticket


and don't ever think

of coming back

be gone



but if one of these things has happened to you

the next time you're on mission street

don't be so stuck up

say hi


-by cathy arellano

taken from El tecolote vol 40 no 15


Mission - San Francisco - California


astia 100f

The sidewalks were crowed with palateros

Change the System.

Change History.


plus, bonus reflection of your humble photographer.


Clinton and Randolph


[republished at the Chicago Reader: ]

A palatero in front of the De Young Museum is a beautiful thing indeed.