by Laura E. Alvarez
As a kid my parents called them “mandados”. Essentially, the word translates as errands. Every word has connotations. I imagine a paige in a castle running errands. I see someone going to pick up dry cleaning and super glue. “Errand” originates in the Old English word, ærende, meaning “message, mission.” Yet it doesn’t matter who does the errand. It could be anyone. On the other hand, “mandados”… Is it just me, or does it carry more importance? “Mandar” means to command. It’s almost like what the “mandados” are comes from some higher source. It’s like God commanded you to go to the bank to deposit checks or God told you to go send that package to Mexico. My parents always said “mandados” with this seriousness. You don’t mess with “mandados”. You go respectfully, helping to put all positive energy into this command from God. The whole family would go. My dad would drive, my mom would have important documents and packages in hand, and my brother and I would go along when we were too little to stay home.
Once there, we would observe everything. There were people and there were things and there were things to mess with sometimes. There were things and scenes that might end up in drawings later… or a drawing right there if I remembered to bring a sketchbook.
Some people think learning to experience things completely – be it listening, touching, sensing, looking – is half of being any kind of artist. I remember going for walks with my brother and mom all the time and talking about the gardens. Touching plants, smelling flowers, stealing a strawberry or a cutting to plant later. In the fabric store we touched everything, talked about the colors, textures, weights. “Going for a drive”, my dad would point out trees, rain clouds coming, or what used to be where when he was a kid. Always looking, touching, listening. “Did you hear the waves last night?” The ocean was a mile away but in the middle of the night when all was quiet you could hear them sometimes.
We had a “mandado a” McCabe’s Guitar Shop the other day. There was a broken ukulele string in our midst and a higher source was clearing saying that not another day could go by without that ukulele being played. I mean, we had recently discussed with friends at a kind of ukulele-ish bbq that the playing of these instruments might be part of mankind’s fight against whatever evil is obviously forcing us to do bad things to our planet. Obviously.
A mandado to McCabe’s was a real gem as far as mandados go, and as far as full sensory experiences go. It was a high point of our day. The younger son’s friend was all over the old cash register as soon as we walked in. It felt like we had walked into a workshop, a club, an arts center, a school, and a store. There seemed to be teenage boys everywhere with guitar faces (You know, that face they make when they are playing guitar and you are trying to talk to them?) Were there ukuleles, you ask? There was a ukulele hallway of happiness where the young men in our party descended and stayed for the entirety of the visit. The woman who helped us made us feel like we were the first people to ever walk in and ask for a ukulele string. She generously replaced it herself on the guitar altar, behind which the guitar masters sat full of purpose. The masters clearly knew who they were. They were grounded in fretboards, and necks, and bridges. I tried to play it cool, but it was all too exciting. This was a super mandado. I look forward to the next time we are mandado to go there.