Inspired by a True Story – Part 1

The glass doors slide open and head outside, dragging my blue Samsonite suitcase behind me. Fuel fumes, burning oil and freshly laid mulch, flood the air and I nearly gag. I grasp the door handle to reveal well-worn tan seats. The cabbie’s head jerks to see if I need assistance with my bags. I smile and nod nonverbally indicating that ‘I’ve got it.’ Neither heavy nor light, the suitcase is unwieldy as I drag it into the car. As I slide across the leather seat, I tell the driver where I need to go. We pull away from the terminal and I see the sun cascading across the rim of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains. The sky is brilliant, white cotton balls abound surrounded by a translucent blue sea. Denver International Airport is the largest airport in the world, located on a parcel of land twice the size of Manhattan. The road to and from the airport gives the impression that we are miles from a city or suburb with the treeless plains laid out in front of us. I love this airport, especially the trains that take you to and from your terminal, and the beautiful mountains that preside over your arrival or departure.

The driver begins navigating the familiar path and I settle into my seat with these images dancing in head. A quick flash to the front window and the center mirror quickly destroys any thought I might have of making the trip in quiet. The driver is dressed in a simple cotton shirt, with dark olive khakis. His skin is the color of dark red clay and his hair is silky black, but so short I can see his scalp. With his left arm folded long the open window and his right draped across the steering wheel, he asks me whether I am visiting. I nod.

“Have you been here before?” he says as his face gazes into the mirror.

“Yes, I use to live here?”

“Where are you from?”

“Washington, D.C.” At this he turns his head to make eye contact with me and then quickly returns his attention to the road. Still trying to ascertain what my looks refuse to divulge. “Is that where you were born?” his tone is more perplexed and he is not quite confident in his query.

“No, in Ohio.”

“O.” I have never played chess, but the pauses that come between this question and the next always give me the impression of strategic planning for the next move. “Where are your parents from?”

A chuckle almost leaps from my throat and a broad smile creases my face. Fortunately, I keep my composure. It is always fascinating to see the various ways the questions are introduced, the desire, need to know ‘What the HELL are you?’ I have been asked so many times that I feel like hanging a shingle around my neck, it has to be easier? “They are from the Midwest too.“

And before I have a moment to pause he asks, “So, what is your background? Ethnically?” The questions linger on the interrogator’s lips. It has taken many years for me to come to accept this brutish intrusion. I would never think to ask someone “what they are?’ upon first introductions, let alone in even less formal settings. But I am use to it now, and at my most creative I work my magic, I invent.

(For more background read: The Impostor post.)

Rude People

I have a cold starting and so I head over to CVS. As I am waiting in line a queue of 4 people forms behind me. Only 1 lane is open. The cashier runs out of cash and calls to the back for the manager to come up. The male specimen at the end of the line shouts, “DAMN, they only got 1 register open. These people sure aren’t overworking themselves.” I get to the counter and he has the NERVE to come up and reaches down to get some candy from in front of the counter. But he is entering my 18 meters and I’m about to introduce him to my knee. I start getting twitchy like that when you get too close to my neither regions.  I give him the look of death he steps back to the end of the line.

Here is what I didn’t say to you because I am polite but “DUMB A**, say excuse me and I will be happy to move! Or just wait your damn turn until they get to you. I know that it would have been nice to have more people at the register but come’on you too old to not have the simple manners down.”

I have become one of those people that if I hold the door for you and you don’t say thank you…I will let you know.

Impostor

I recently read a very good blog post over at The After Party about perceptions surrounding race. Particularly how we can jump to conclusions about situations and how it isn’t always the people you expect to be making those assumptions. I could relate to much of what was written, I’ve had similar experiences. The post did get me to start thinking though about how sometimes I seem to feel as though I am an impostor. I have always struggled with fitting in and what that means and how that impacts my life. I am going to say something and I hope you the internet folks don’t hate me…sometimes I feel a fool for not having more of a black experience growing up.

Now before you start pouncing, let me try and explain. My mom the eldest of 9, grew up in the midwest. Her family was on and off welfare (a fact I didn’t know until I was in my 20’s), she attended catholic school from 1st-12th grade and went into the military when she turned 18. She is a stern, non-nonsense black woman. She doesn’t believe in ghetto slang (her words) doesn’t even understand where it came from because it wasn’t there when she grew up. (I’m sure the priests and nuns were keeping it real.) And my mom is not real talkative about her childhood I am left only with the impression that it was bad. Although, I spent a lot of time with my aunts, uncles and cousins I was very sheltered I believe from family drama. My mom had a falling out with her family when I was 8 so I was pretty much cut off from her side. My dad’s side was very involved in my pre-teen years and my grandmother was a constant support until her passing in my late 20’s. My schools (public) were in an upper middle class neighborhood that was predominantly all white. I didn’t really have a black friend until I was in junior high.

This was right around the time we moved to D.C. I was swiftly put into catholic school (my first private/religious school). The school was predominantly all black. This was a huge culture shock to me. The kids constantly asked me why I talked white, and it was the first time I felt racism I am embarrassed to admit. Constant taunts about my skin, speech and hair. I excelled academically and this certainly was cause for more conflict in a small 8th grade class. High school included a small D.C. private school and then boarding school. I had 1 or 2 black friends but they were in the minority. This continued until college…my best friend was a black gal from Newark. She and I stayed close for some years but drifted apart after I left school early to come home and work and go to school at night.

I get along with all sorts of folks, I am not a HATER but the few close friends I have are predominantly white. Just how it has worked out.

So what am I trying to say? I don’t always get the in jokes of things or the negative jokes either (I was accused being a racist because I laughed at an email joke involving rabbits, how the hell was I suppose to know that was code for black people?), I am not up on the latest music, this is genre irrelevant…I just don’t have the time and usually if the library don’t have it…well that means I am outta luck. It also means I feel a bit of an impostor trying to impose my comments on issues I haven’t experienced…don’t get me wrong, I generally have an opinion but I keep them to myself (being told you trying to be white and denying your black self has gotten so old for me).

I have a few posts I wrote a while back in an attempt to release some of my own frustrations and explain in a writing workshop my own personal experiences to some folks who were trying to pass judgments. I hope these give more insights into my personal experience as they relate to race and how it has played into shaping who I am. I will post them over the next few days. My experience isn’t the same as yours but that doesn’t mean I can’t understand and listen, frankly I don’t think there is just 1 experience anyway. After living across the U.S. and traveling internationally, I realized how unique we are our own microcosm of experiences and God I love that. And I hope you do too.

Green Computers, somebody is studying this?

When I glanced at this report I was disappointed that Apple fell towards the bottom. I love Apple products.
Some of my Apple goodies
I started contemplating how information like this may or may not influence my shopping decisions. For the most part, I would say they haven’t had much impact. I try to develop my own opinions about a retailer. I make decisions based on my own needs. My criteria usually depends on if I like what I am getting, they have good quality products, and are reasonably priced.

So, if I am not an easily influenced consumer, what does this say about me? All the other “good environmental” things I do, are they still valuable or worth it? Gosh I hope so. I will still do them. But asking me to apply pressure by choosing to opt-out of patronizing certain businesses…I am not sure I am yet that committed to the cause. These types of issues just don’t seem as black and white and clear cut as that.

Holiday Gift Idea #2

We drink a lot of tea in our house (especially when the in-laws are here to visit). I like variety and the dark English Tetley or Typhoo brands can get a little generic. I like flavored teas and my favorite is jasmine. I saw these flowering tea buds and just couldn’t resist. Just the thing for someone who loves flavored teas on cold winter days.

Holiday Gift Idea #2 - 2007

At a Loss: Braids Cause Hair Loss

http://www.gadling.com/2007/11/05/too-tight-holiday-braids-can-make-your-hair-fall-out/

I just don’t have words, feel terrible for the little girl but I think the writer makes some sweeping statements, which I disagree with. Never have had braids, so I can’t comment specifically.

I still consider myself a hair virgin. I haven’t ever dyed it or done anything to dramatic until recently. My hair is reminiscent of 70’s Diana Ross. It was always very long, naturally curly and very thick (could sit on it until I was 11, when mom cut off 18″ it still hung around my shoulders). I recall begging my mom to get beads when she had them done. She laughed and said we don’t have that kind of time. I didn’t cut it again until my late 20’s. I had it relaxed for the first time ever in January. I think with any style you apply to your hair even ponytails have the potential to do damage to your locks.