CHiPs was pretty incredible for a couple of reasons, most noteably it was the only daytime re-run TV show that I religiously watched where for the life of me I can't vivdly remember the plot for any single episode. In fact the only episode that I can always think about is the one where Ponch (Eric Estrada, pictured to the right) was in some roller skating fundraiser or something. God knows why. Believe me, I've seen my fair share of CHiPs, and the fact that TBS (back when it was stil called "SuperStation TBS!") would play it everyday at from like 3rd grade through high school is a testimony to my love for the show.
The other weird fact is that even though Ponch & John were California Highway Patrolman, they seemed to handle most crimes in the entire state, highway or not....and hang out with cool chicks, like all cops do. Can you imagine how much the state would've saved on law enforcement if they were real cops. All you'd have to pay for would be two cops, gas for the motorcycles, and a part-time job for the Sargent. His primary job was to tell the boys to stop goofing around. I never
After the show ended it's glorious 6-year run Estrada never really did make it big in the way that Macauley Culkin or Bronson Pinchot did... Well he eventually did surface in a Spanish soap opera several years later ("Dos Mujeres un Camino," or translated, "Two Women, One Street") The funny thing is that it was revealed that he doesn't even know how to speak Spanish. I kid you not. Even I can't make this stuf up. Can you believe this? He's a guy of Mexican heritage and he can't even speak his mother tongue properly! This guy is really something else. What a bozo!
But then, one day I got home early from class in college and flipped on CHiPs, and it hit me (ide repente!). I am Eric Estrada. I know this is a bit shocking, so let's say it again. All together now, I am Eric Estrada. Just like Ponch, I can't speak my mother tongue fluently either. It's something that's bothered me tremendously and I've tried to rectify it, but it never struck me as being hugely bizarro that I just speak English well. (meanwhile on a sidenote, there is a subtle underlining message that is borderline racist, which is the assumption that all Mexicans know perfect Spanish)
Now it would be a stretch to say that Ponch helped me come to an interesting crossroads with my own Indian identity. He was a cop after all. He drove past all types of crossroads. But I digress. He at least helped put somethings in perspective. I think as a somewhat culturally aware desi person you sorta think that you're the only one who goes through any identity crisis. As much as you feel like you are always fighting an uphill battle to figure things out, there's a side of you which is thankful that at least you have a struggle. You almost assume that no one else goes through the same pains. But the reality is that more often than not, you have a lot more in common with other ethnic groups than you realize. Why else do so many kids identify with books like "The Namesake" ?
So in conclusion, a careful examination of Eric Estrada can be more revealing about the ethnic mindset than intra-state California law enforcement policies, procedures, and practices.