Tag Archives: dalyn

Soap Box: but just a small one.

As I observe the world it sometimes feels as if there is me, and then everyone else. So let me just say this:

Dear world,

 

Without having to take a stance on any sort of “should” related value statement, please remember, or learn, that outside of the situation where one is a victim of rape, NOT having sex is always an option. Always.IMG_7732

 

Human genius is not a recent occurrence. Smart people have existed as long as humans have existed. (I do realize that many who espouse a belief in continuing human evolution may think this a dumb statement. I accept this with the rebuttal that there is within such theories a debate as to when what I am calling “humans” began their existence. Consider my statement applying to that point in time/evolution). Just note that you, all of you, are not by nature smarter than everyone who came before you, no matter how long before you it is that they came. Also, please know that there are smart, and even good, humans who disagree with you.

note- this also means stupidity is not excusable simply because it was in the past.

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Violence is always bad. Before you respond with some “defense of family and the innocent”, keep in mind that such defense would be unnecessary if there wasn’t some other initial violence. Stop glorifying violence. Strive to end the initial violence. There are occasions where it is excusable or forgivable, which forgiveness or excusing is only needed because it is bad.

 

Justice and mercy are not mutually exclusive nor should they be just plain exclusive.

 

There are surely such things as bad ideas but ideas themselves are not bad. We should only be afraid of the idea of having ideas when there is only one idea to choose from or if all ideas are coming from a singular source. Many bad ideas are easier to identify when they are placed in line with other ideas, no matter the quality of those accompanying ideas. This also means that good ideas, even if there is for some reason only one source for all the good ideas, are best identified and most appreciated, when standing in contrast to bad, or just plain less good, ideas.waterbuffalo

 

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Commissary: food and table tennis

Dining inside a greenhouse situated next to a pool on the balcony of a hotel is one of the most L.A. things I have ever done. Add to that the fact that we ordered a shrimp po’ boy and a curry for brunch and the L.A. meter just explodes.commissary

the Commissary is a Roy Choi project located on the pool deck of the Line hotel in Los Angeles’s Koreatown. It fancies itself as a bridge between different socio-economic strata. I fancy it as delicious.foodatcommissary

I would say the po’ boy was run of the mill. The green curry with lemongrass was worth the drive.kayatCommissaryThe company was unmatched, but unless you call me I cannot vouch for your ability to replicate my standards. And by “match my standard” I mean a woman who insists you use the ping pong table on the balcony and when the ball goes flying over the edge she just sets down the paddle and walks away without a word.IMG_3404

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Football 101: the Ivy League

When you contemplate the upcoming college football season, because I know you do, what schools are on your mind? Perhaps it is the notoriously ferocious athletes at Princeton? Maybe ‘tis the physically imposing young men of Yale? Ah, or by chance you appreciate the absolute dominance of the University of Chicago?

Right. Of course not.1200x-1

I find this amusing. Ironic, in the Alanis Morissette usage of the word.

You probably think of places like Auburn, USC, or maybe “the” Ohio State. You are wondering, or rooting for, who will win the Florida vs. Florida State game, or Texas vs. Oklahoma. You think of the SEC or Big 10. The PAC 12 or ACC. Do you ever consider the Ivy League? No? Let us consider it now.Ivy-League

Once upon a time America was a relatively new political institution consisting of mostly English expatriates and the ones with money wanted their kids to go hang out with other children of rich English expats. So they sent them to colleges. Places like Princeton, Harvard, Yale and Brown. There these young boys had parties, rioted over bad cafeteria food, memorized Latin, and had rituals where they beat each other up en masse. Now there were some exceptions. Some young men went to college because they were both rich and also nerds. These are the ones who read philosophy and were named Franklin Roosevelt. But make no mistake, FDR was the exception, most of them were more like Teddy. This was way before US News and World Report rankings or even before the BCS. Back then college rankings looked more like a pedigree chart and banking network. Back then college kids wore ties. On purpose.IMG_2580

But most schools, at least once a year, took off those ties, usually their shirts too, and had giant shoving matches or competitions. They varied from place to place but it was usually something like Juniors versus Sophomores trying to move a gigantic leather ball from one end of a courtyard to the other.  Or a tug of war. Or wrestling. It was a competition to win a bowl, or a jug, or bragging rights. Important stuff.penn

Over across the pond, where these boy’s granddaddies came from, school boys were doing similar sorts of things. Lots of kicking balls and roughhousing and being rich. At one school, called the Rugby School, they started picking up the ball rather than kicking it. The game started to catch on. This was about the year 1827. Back in 1827, England, or rather the fathers of rich English school boys, had pretty much colonized most of the globe. This colonization did include America at one time, but there was revolution and all that mess, so by 1827 when restless rich English kids graduated University, or when they needed to gain some legitimacy, they joined the Royal army and went and played their roughhousing games in places like Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. The boys at Harvard and Yale were watching their cousins but were soon distracted when some clowns attacked Fort Sumter.  That distraction lasted till 1865.resolver (17)

Once the American Civil War was over the young rich kids from up north had to go back to school. The rich kids from the south weren’t rich anymore and the poor northern kids stayed in the army. Funny thing is that once boys have been to war, or even if they were too young to fight while a war was going on, they get extra restless if then sent to sit in a classroom. Having good memories these young students recalled those games their English cousins were playing and decided to follow suit. This was pretty normal for them, after all the whole college thing itself was a bit of an imitation game. Harvard is built in a place they called Cambridge and Princeton had always been trying to be Oxford.IMG_2026

Anywhose, on November 6th 1869, Princeton visited the campus of their divorced sibling Rutgers and played a game of football. They did indeed call the game football, it was mostly kicking, and Rutgers won 6-4. Seven days later Rutgers sauntered on over to Princeton for a re-match. Playing on their own turf meant they got to propose their own rules, one of which allowed for a player to catch a kicked ball mid-air. Princeton won 8-0. Crafty buggers.

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Not too far away Harvard, like any rich kid who notices what the Joneses are doing, wanted in on the action. In May of 1874 they invited McGill to come down to Cambridge for a two game series. On the first day they played football with a round ball like they did in New Jersey. Harvard won 3-0. The next day McGill, being good Canadians who never poured any tea in a harbor, insisted that day’s game be played more like the updated version the English rugby boys were playing. It had an oblong ball and running. The game ended in a tie but the Boston boys were hooked. Later that very same year, 1874, 2,000 people showed up to watch Harvard win the rematch 3 tries to 0.

These rich college kids were on to something.wollen_last_cent

At this time all of America was getting “on to something”. Industrialization was becoming a thing, Manifest Destiny was all the rage, and more rich white people were sending their boys off to college to be with other rich white boys than ever before. Problem was back then telephones weren’t all that big and no one had televisions, so it was difficult for rich parents to keep in touch with their school boys and it was even tougher to make sure everyone else knew your kids were rich and important. Luckily one of the great ways to get rich back then was to own a newspaper. The internet hadn’t started the French Revolution yet and so the Bourgeoisie New York Times was free to cover the activities of rich college kids like the internet would a Kardashian.3707358200_0d296eab18_o

The sports page had things like rowing, fencing, and equestrian events. Pretty soon, thanks to all our practice at Gettysburg, Andrew Carnegie, and the White Fleet, there were even more rich people than there used to be and the sports page was covering football games at places like the University of Chicago, Notre Dame, and Stanford. This football thing was getting big. So big in fact that by 1903 both Harvard and Yale broke ground on permanent stadiums just for this game of football. Harvard’s could seat 30,000 people, Yale’s could seat 70,000. Neither school even had 10,000 students. But people were paying attention to the few students there were at those places, and as is always the case with Kardashians, there were a lot of imitators or spin offs. Soon you had people tackling each other and taking duck lip selfies in places like Pittsburgh and Green Bay. Not necessarily at the schools in those places- just in those places. I mean, these people weren’t even in college let alone rich. Just common Etsy users. The nerve!Yale_Bowl

With the spreading popularity of the game and the historically consistent need of rich people to win, the line between student and athlete was quickly blurred. Schools that wanted to make money by filling stadiums-er- wanted their students to learn valuable life lessons through winning intercollegiate sporting events, started dabbling here and there in paying certain individuals with certain skills to come be a student for their school for a few games here and there. This ruffled feathers. Up until this point college was first and foremost, a place for sons of rich people to commune amongst themselves, with the occasional exception for an extra serious student. This whole football thing was trying to shift those exceptions from smart nerds, whom no one cared about, to poorer (not rich) athletic kids, whom the public loved. Something had to be done.IMG_0542

Luckily America was blessed at this time with a president who was also a Harvard alum, so he understood the importance of the situation. He was able to concoct some national crisis or concern about how many people died playing football in 1905 (19). Hadn’t the civil war taught us anything about the value of life? Doesn’t America know we need these kids alive as we ramp up for the first world war? I mean college is where the children of Vanderbilts and Kennedys hang out. Premature violent death is for poor people and immigrants, not Vanderbilts, unless of course they are an officer in a glorious world conflict in places like Cuba, so stay tuned, but for now, football must be regulated! The following year 62 colleges signed on as charter members of the NCAA, a loose organization organized to make sure poor people weren’t being paid to play rich people games, and that the game would be safer. Teddy was great at this sort of thing.IMG_2563

So the NCAA got to work protecting integrity and human life. Most of the schools, Like the University of Pennsylvania, wanted to make the game safer by making the playing field wider. The idea is that if there is more room to run away from someone you are less likely to get ran over by them. Makes sense. Other schools, named Harvard and Yale, wanted to make the game safer by making this new trick called the forward pass legal. The idea is that if you are allowed to throw the ball away when you are about to get trampled, you are less likely to get trampled.Makes sense. This passing the ball idea made even more sense to Harvard and Yale since they had just built their new huge stadiums out of concrete and all those seats might be easier to fill if there was a new trick to watch… and it was physically impossible to widen the field since they hadn’t left any spare room when they built the 50,000 seat concrete facility for student recreation. Fortunately for the Doug Fluties of the world the forward pass won the day. But let me get back to the wide field advocates at places like Penn.out_of_the_game

While Harvard and Yale were the traditional homes of traditional rich people memorizing Latin and rioting over bad food, Penn was the traditional home of more practical press apprenticing Ben Franklin and P&L statement memorizing Joseph Wharton. Add in all the Keynesian economists over in Chicago and just plain nerds at that newfangled Cornell, and you have some relatively influential schools that were highly “invested” in winning football games. The NCAA, which more or less started as a meeting at the White House, settled on being mostly a club where schools could agree on rules like forward passes and flying wedges, and sort of skirted about the whole paying players and filling stadiums stuff so the grand settlement was that Pasadena California should build a big stadium not on any campus and host a “bowl game” every January. This may have been everyone’s undoing as no sooner did they start hosting this big game and writing about it in the Times, than schools like Washington State and Oregon were beating schools like Brown and Penn. It was just like Vogue putting Kim Kardashian on the cover; this was not in the original playbook. USC, Alabama, and Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech? There is a “tech” in the name of the school for heaven’s sake. This desire to fill stadiums and win games got so carried away that in 1916, a full 54 years before USC’s famous game against all white Bama, Brown fielded a brown player named Fritz Pollard. Imagine how popular you would be as a black man with a German name in 1916 (just as an FYI the whole world was in a war against Germany in 1916). Meh, who cares when it comes to football right? Elihu Yale must have been rolling over in his grave. But not everyone was ready to just roll over. Some folks were serious about school and integrity, and rich white boys- I mean education.77

So along comes this guy Robert Hutchins. He was one of those poor white nerds that Yale decided to be nice to back in the day. Huge mistake. First Yale let him in, then he becomes the Dean of the law school, and next thing ya know, bam, he’s the president of the University of Chicago. Ya see, when you let a non-rich nerd take over the show, they turn it into a nerd show. Poor Chicago. In 1935 a Chicago halfback won this fancy trophy they were giving to the best football player in the whole country called the “Heisman” (named after a guy who played football at both Brown and Penn). Four years later, this guy Hutchins CANCELS FOOTBALL! Ends it. Done. No more team. Nerd. Evil nerd. But what else was there to do? This game meant to keep roughhousing rich white boys busy had experienced some serious mission drift and was becoming-uh hum- common. The originally not rich nerd chose to cancel the fun so the school could stay nerdy, but the original club of rich white boys had another plan. They decided to take their ball and go home. In 1936 Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Dartmouth, Columbia, and Penn, along with that new kid Cornell, unofficially banded together in what they were calling “an ivy league” and for the most part decided to just compete against each other and no longer mess with the rabble. This unofficial league had a gentleman’s agreement that they wouldn’t give any athletic scholarships and would only consider one’s actual scholarship (or pedigree) in deciding college admissions. This was a grand return to their educational roots and original scholastic ideals, though those ideals never really existed in the first place. Isn’t it ironic? Yeah, I really do think.8b04d512846bc903_large

Perhaps some of you do not like Alanis Morrisette, or are not of my generation so you have no idea who that is (the Drake of the 90’s), and consequentially you think I am being unfair in my historical descriptions of the non-scholastic motives of these birthplaces of God’s great game. This might be the case. I was once an offensive lineman so I am not above playing dirty. But consider if you will the idea that before the 1920’s there were no real admissions requirements other than graduating high school, for one to be admitted to college. I mean, way back when colleges started there wasn’t even such thing as a high school. There was only money. But in the 20’s a lot more people started enrolling in colleges and not just more people, but different kinds of people. Some of these people were burly non book reading types who were being paid to play football at Penn, but those guys were asked (paid) to come, and after all, there are only so many players on a football team. No one really cared. But there were also these non–rich only semi-white guys who enrolled in huge numbers called Jews. They hadn’t exactly been invited. Colleges saw this as a problem and thankfully for them they had almost 200 years of previous practice as a coalition of rich white guys and the occasional nerd to devise such things as “geographical balance” and “extracurricular considerations.” These were more or less quotas. In many cases, they were actual quotas.In the 1920’s places like Columbia (in this case Columbia specifically) upon realizing they had become 40% Jewish enacted these extra admissions considerations and successfully got that Jewish percentage down to 20% within two years. Now mind you this is the same Columbia that beat Stanford for the national title in the 1933 Rose Bowl. Go Lions!cops_gordon

New York was not the only place struggling with an influx of non-rich semi-white students. Consider this official statement from Harvard in 1922: “The great increase which has recently taken place in the number of students at Harvard College, as at the other colleges, has brought up forcibly the problem of the limitation of enrollment.

We have not at present sufficient classrooms or dormitories, to take care of any further large increase. This problem is really a group of problems, all difficult, and most of them needing for their settlement more facts than we now have. Before a general policy can be formulated on this great question it must engage the attention of the Governing Board and the Faculties and it is likely to be discussed by alumni and undergraduates.

It is natural that with a widespread discussion of this sort going on there should be talk about the proportion of Jews at the college. At present the whole problem of limitation of enrollment is in the stage of general discussion and it may remain in that stage for a considerable time.”0d1248ee26f2d6cbf70ee83156f27329

It was almost like the game was getting dangerous and Harvard found themselves unable to widen the field and instead chose to pass. They, and the other bastions of college football, were in danger of being trampled and unfortunately US News & World Report wouldn’t start publishing college rankings till 1983 so they were still dependent on pedigrees and bank accounts to decide which schools were best. In fact, these were such dangerous times that it was beginning to be hard to know what exactly was meant by best and how it should be measured. So Chicago quit, the Ivies formed a league, and Southern Methodist University eventually got the death penalty.exit the stadium

This all matters because I recently purchased this special eye black that comes in the colors of the university that employs me. I care about the intellectual development of my children and as a responsible parent I intend to decorate them in collegiate regalia when we go to the games starting this fall. It matters because we have recently learned that football teams in Illinois outrank the college president and that in North Carolina football players can get grades in a whole course of classes while the professor is away on sabbatical. These are great schools. I know this because both the BCS and a magazine tell me so. I have been to a great school and consequentially, and I write this with no irony, I can proudly pronounce the name Chris Fuamatu Ma’afala, with no help and ignore the red Microsoft squiggly lines with confidence. I am confident in my education.jefferson football

I was recently reading Walter Camp’s suggestions on how to train a top notch defensive end. His instructions included rowing and eating toast. Walter should not be ignored because he is who created Knute Rockne, Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden, and Bill Belichick. I may even give old Walter Camp credit for Joe Montana, Joe Brown, Joe Paterno, and Joe Theismann. Yup, all of them. As I peek at ESPN.com while at my desk, listen to Jim Rome during my commute, or watch Sports Center while doing whatever verb describes what you do on an elliptical (ellipticate?) I think of Walter Camp.

And Walter went to Yale.yalecoaches

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Venice Beach: exactly what you expect

There are in fact canals through the neighborhoods of Venice California, just like in that other place in Italy, but I’m pretty sure that is where the similarities end. I’ve never been to Italy so I could be wrong, but I’m going to guess the other Venice doesn’t feature a nearly nude bearded man on roller skates selling what he ensures everyone is a “medicinal” plant.freak showI didn’t take a picture of captain roller hair, I did not want that image captured, but that doesn’t mean I don’t advocate for the venue. Quite the opposite. You really should go there.

Just know what to expect.Every city has its place where the odd-balls go to commune. Portland makes the argument that they are that place for the whole United States, but Venice Beach is a little bit more. you see, there are places where “weird people” go to be with each other, and then there is Venice where people go to BE weird in hopes of being seen.IMG_5384

I mean, this is LA. Everyone is trying to get discovered, why would society’s outskirts be different?

drum circleSo, as you head to the promenade be ready for:
Your general knick-knack vendors, medical marijuana card vendors, crowds, people who are crazy, people who are high, people pretending to be high or crazy, drum circles, people riding beach cruisers, good street music, muscly folks working out at Muscle Beach, almost homeless artists selling art, homeless people selling almost art, pick-up basketball games on the outdoor courts ala “He Got Game”, street performers break dancing, street performers snake charming, street performers being a human statue, teenagers acting like this is Vegas, trash in the sand at the beach, a great skate park, beautiful sunsets, funnel cakes, hot dogs, beach houses too expensive to afford, signs advertising the world’s smallest front yard, a sign advertising the world’s laziest dog, cops looking uninterested, cops looking interested, and sometimes, you will see me.mewalkinvenice

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BLM, Police, and Kids These Days

When I was 14 my friend Matt and I were supposed to be sleeping over at Eric’s house, but we all snuck out the window. We didn’t have anywhere to go, or even anyone to meet, but it was summer, we were bored, and we were going to manufacture some adventure in any way we could. In my pocket I had a brick of firecrackers my dad had brought back from Wyoming where they were legal. We headed off for the gully where it was rumored devil worshipers held strange ceremonies involving kidnapped children. Where else would adventure seeking suburbanites go? When we got there we did not find the pagans, but we did find a lone cop, sitting in his squad car with the windows rolled down.usguys1

Eric told me to wait in the bushes and he would be back in a minute. I dumbly complied. About two minutes later a string of firecrackers lit up the inside of the cop car. I could hear the officer shouting in shock even louder than the pop-pop-pop of the Black Cats. Eric came hurdling over the bushes and ran down the street not waiting to see if I was following. I was.IMG_0496

That was more than 20 years ago and I have told that story a million times to thousands of people. Eric is a responsible well employed adult now- no harm no foul. Funny thing is this story gets different reactions depending on who hears it. Most of my white friends laugh in wonder at the foibles of youth. Most black people with whom I tell are at best, annoyed. Some are quite upset.1923755_1165089124994_2895697_n

You see, most of my white friends, more than you might think, counter with their own stories. Thanks to them I have quite the collection of stories about idle vandalism and general teenaged delinquency; enough to re write American Graffiti ten times over. But this would be a very white movie. None of the black people I know have the same sorts of stories. No, that isn’t quite true. They do have those stories but the endings are very different. The black stories I hear trend towards much less actual destruction and much more police involvement. It is possible that the black people I know are just lames. Maybe they were blerds. I of course have not met all black people, nor do I represent all white folks, I am just a middle aged collection of anecdotes. But with that being said, we, my black friends and I, are all Americans but we did not grow up in the same world.

This reality was made even more clear to me, and more alarming, last night.IMG_2749

I attended a local public forum on race and policing. Up on the stage were a row of chiefs. There was the local police, the county sheriff, even the school district pd. The mayor, a black woman, sat there too, joined by another row of pastors and local clergy. Out in the auditorium the public lined up behind two microphones to ask their questions, make their comments, and the chiefs gave their answers. It was a mostly cordial event. I support having more of them. Yet there was a theme coming from that stage that troubles me.

More than one officer, and a couple pastors, even one black officer from the crowd, talked about how the youth are different today. They talked about how the youth of today don’t respect the police. One officer suggested kids are responding to things they see about cops in the media and two pastors said this is all a result of the lack of Bibles in school. There was a common thread that the police wanted to understand, more so to be understood, and that they are constantly frustrated by the public’s lack of cooperation.IMG_0503

The challenge of policing in a violent racialized society is definitely complex and difficult. I get that.

But I also get that American Graffiti was released in 1973. I also know that I knew all the words to that Officer Krumpke song from West Side Story when I was ten.  That movie was released in 1961. I know that all through my youth the cops were the ones who got mad at you for throwing water balloons or eggs, chased you when you hopped the neighbor’s fence, and cops were the ones who stopped your car when they got calls of possible gun shots coming from a black Tercel. The car was blue, not black, and the sound wasn’t gun shots, it was the noise made when a bat hits a mailbox.

We were never respectful, we were too annoyed that our spirits were being oppressed.IMG_2750

But maybe I haven’t spoken to enough young black kids today. Maybe they are the ones who have changed. Maybe it is the black people of my generation who would never have dared to throw a lit firecracker into a cop car or who got arrested for being out too late. Maybe the black kids today would hit the mailbox or would throw the egg.

Does this mean things have gotten worse?meandpetedisco

Maybe bad guys and cops have both been pulling triggers for generations and the only thing different now is cameras. Maybe the black folks who never threw eggs back then are more afraid of bullets and are now willing to throw bricks. I know that plenty of the guys I grew up with, the ones who did the same things as me, have grown up to be cops. These are great guys. I love them.choirhazing2

But did we forget? Where is the empathy? Why has the phrase “kids will be kids” been replaced by the word thug? Is it because these kids today, these thugs, are worse than we were? We, the Dazed and Confused kids were just messing around but these thugs are a real danger? Really?highschoolgroup

I struggle with this. I struggle because in 9th grade I watched my classmates smoke weed and shoplift. In 10th grade I watched a bunch of kids hop out of a car at a strip mall and beat up a stranger for no reason. I saw one kid beat another with a bat behind the movie theater over a girl. Jed got stabbed at school. My good friends did meth, dropped acid, sold coke. Stole a car, drove drunk, walked away. I saw all of that. But we are all older now and we have learned our lessons. We have matured now and we teach our children better. We were kids.highschoolgroup2

Really, the biggest difference I can see between us back then and the kids today, is that for the most part, we were all white.

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Just Because You Don’t See it Doesn’t Mean it Isn’t There: racism

Growing up I thought racism was dead and gone. I’m not sure anyone taught me that directly, but the civil rights movement was in my history book and things only get in there if they are passed. It was clear in that book that MLK won the fight. Back then Michael Jordan was hands down the biggest star on the Earth , followed closely by Bill Cosby. It wasn’t hard to see that things were great.onthewall

But Since those days I have seen some things I was blind to before. I saw most of them by happenstance or by stumbling down a road less traveled, rather than by having gained some superior third eye. No, I’m still the same guy I was then, no smarter or better, I just learned some stuff I wouldn’t have otherwise. Many, I might guess most, of those I grew up with haven’t been down those roads and could easily still see things the same way I did when I was one of them. For the most part, when I write, I have them, and me, in mind.IMG_1542 (8)

Racism still exists and has existed all throughout that gap between MLK and now. It has existed and continues to exist all this time in large part because so many white people can’t see it. There are those who won’t see it, but I think it mostly persists not because of those willfully ignorant, but more due to the innocently ignorant. White people, like myself and the ones I grew up with, normally can’t see it because so many of us are white people living around so many other white people. Almost every black person I know can, and has, seen it.

Why the discrepancy?

It is not unusual for my family and I to find ourselves in the car for long periods of time. We live outside of LA and out here any time you get in a car you will likely be in it for a long period of time. Any time you are in a car for a long time it is likely that your children in the back seat will get thirsty and probably throw a tantrum. This is normal, nay, inevitable, for us and we have learned to always have water bottles in the car. On one occasion as kid number two started to melt down in the backseat, my responsible wife responded appropriately by grabbing the water bottle from her cup holder and passing it to the child in the back. Good job.quan

What my wife did not realize was that when she was passing the metal bottle to the back she unintentionally smacked me in the side of the head. It hurt. I wasn’t injured, but it hurt enough to be really unpleasant and it affected my mood. This has happened more than once. It isn’t always a water bottle, sometimes I am hit in the face with snacks, I have gotten crayon stripes across my shoulder, chocolate on my lapels, all sorts of collateral damage of front seat trying to pacify back seat. None of these small injuries are independently consequential and almost none of them are intentional. In fact most of them would be completely unnoticed by my wife if I didn’t point them out. Better yet, none of these small injuries even happen when I am not in the car.

But that is me and my family in a car. That isn’t really American race relations.

I rarely hear anyone say the N-word or anything negative about us when my wife and I are together in public. I have however heard several people use the n word when my black wife isn’t around. Those who choose to apologize don’t apologize for using the word but rather offer that they would never have said that “if they had known”. As if I should only be offended because of my relationship rather than the idea being inherently offensive.familystoop

I have never had the n word spray painted on my door. It doesn’t usually work that way these days. No, it works more like the white lady out trick-or-treating with her little girl who refused to take candy from my wife. She took candy from the door right before us, and candy from the door right after us, but while looking right at my wife she steered her child away. My little daughter was confused by the slight and wanted us to explain. My parents never found themselves in such a situation.

There was that other time when my wife had to stop her car in the middle of the road because some guy was just standing there. It was a four lane throughway and this guy was just standing there looking the other way not going anywhere. After waiting for more than a reasonable amount of time she honked the horn. The guy turned around and yelled “Get outta the car N—er!” He walked over to the passenger door and started kicking it yelling over and over “Get out of the car N—er!” He was obviously angry, probably crazy, potentially drunk. But crazy mad drunk people can use a lot of angry words, yet in this instance, when faced with my wife, he used that word. That is the one he chose. My wife got home angry and crying with dents in the side of the car demanding I do something. She hadn’t waited to ask his name, she didn’t sit there idle waiting for him to get the door open, she got away. And once danger wasn’t immediate she was hurt, scared, and angry and demanded action. We got in the car and went to the location together. She tried to describe what he looked like and where he was and back there in that place we realized there were a lot of people here matching that description and none of them were going to point out the perpetrator or even admit that he existed. There wasn’t anything we could do. Nothing at all. But there were still very real dents in the passenger side door and very real impressions on my wife.ridin bike

There was that one really hot day where we sat on our stoop eating a box of popsicles.  A neighborhood boy was pedaling his bike back and forth and upon seeing us hand a popsicle to some other kid, he stopped and asked for one too. My wife gave him one. He stood straddling his bike eating the popsicle and we talked. My wife said it was hot and he agreed. My wife commented something about it being too hot to be out running around and that perhaps swimming would be a good option. He agreed and said he goes swimming all the time. There was at this time a public pool no more than 100 yards from our home, same as this boy’s home, and my wife asked if this was where he swam. He replied with surprising comfort that his mother wouldn’t let him swim there, because there were too many black people. My wife calmly asked the boy what he thought of this prohibition. He shrugged his shoulders and said he didn’t agree with it, then pedaled on down the street eating the black woman’s popsicle.IMG_8005

None of these things are a burning cross or even all that big in the grand scheme of things, but they happened and none of my white peers from youth ever see such things in their day to day lives. They do not see or experience such things and consequentially find it hard to believe that there is a racial component when I also tell of how a police officer pulled over my wife due to a burned out taillight. It was in fact burned out, but when I uncrumpled the ticket that the officer had scrunched up and tossed in the window, I saw we had been cited for two broken taillights not one. A police officer has never thrown a ticket at me. They doubt the racial component of me getting pulled over in the black part of town after picking up my black friend. The cop said I hadn’t stopped at a stop sign (not true) and then launched quickly into a list of questions about me, my destination, my intentions, and my legitimacy. Many of my peers from youth do not see why I would be bothered by this since I wasn’t given a ticket. They think I won.IMG_5721

So many of my white peers, people I love, go about their lives watching the news, interpreting politics, listening to commentators, and form opinions. So many of these people, and sometimes myself, go about forming allegiances, joining parties, and venting frustrations, without realizing that they are hitting people in the head with water bottles. Or more often, they are passing water bottles safely to the back seat not appreciating that they are doing so because the passenger seat is empty. All the while my wife, my children, and so many people like them, are getting smacked in the head every day.

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Keeping Portland Weird: just eating doughnuts

I’ve only watched a couple episodes of Portlandia. I saw some bit about putting a bird on everything, a mayor kayaking to work, and farm to table lunacy.  I didn’t see any of that in person, but after having been to Portland, it wouldn’t have surprised me.KeepPortlandWeird

Let me state my reservations right up front. Any place that markets itself as weird makes me worry that they are going to be trying a little too hard. Weirdness seems to me something that you are or are not in any given situation. If you find yourself trying, it is an act. Hollywood is where one goes to act weird.voodooinside

So with this healthy skepticism we got in line at Voodoo Doughnuts. The line was long and I am willing to bet that no one standing in it was a local. Add extra skepticism. We eventually got to the intentionally gaudy and kitschy interior and ordered an apple fritter, some other thing that looked to be mostly chocolate, and another that was mostly chocolate plus Nutella. You cannot go wrong adding Nutella to anything so judging by that doughnut would be unfair, but my wife ate the fritter. My wife, who spends approximately 95% of her mind share thinking about dessert, said the fritter was the best she ever had. Keep in mind this is the same woman who just last week sent an egg back to the cook because the yolk wasn’t runny enough on her sunny-side-up order.

Voodoo for the win.alleyway

The street market downtown is long and crowded, as a street market should be, and we stopped by a florist that sold a large custom bouquets out of unadorned plastic five gallon buckets  for around $10. As it should be. There were booths and booths of nick knacks, snacks, and hand made whatevers that made me feel like my laptop had opened up and spilled Etsy out all over the street.diaperNow while Etsy is not in and of itself my thing, un-pretensious flower vendor, plus live Etsy… plus harp lady, equals my endorsement.

harpOne good thing about being hosted in a new location as opposed to independent exploration, is that you may catch things you would have otherwise skipped. Like what looks like a big-box bookstore.

Powell’s is more than a big box. (props to Dr. Chadwick)bigbook

In addition to rows and rows of new and used books, upstairs they have a rare books collection. Now while going in to a glass encased rare books selection lacks the adventure of a dusty corner shop in Providence, or the prestige of a Boston library, but what it does have is a giant book of Annie Liebowitz’s life work with David Byrne on the cover.

oldbooks

To top that off they had a first edition of one of my all time favorite books, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, right next to a second printing of Twelve Years a Slave.

Forget you Boston.usreading

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