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Archive for February, 2009

Celebrity Sighting One.

So you’re in someone’s clean, warm apartment full of people.  You’re into your third beer and handful of pretzels.  You’re standing in a small circle with people who dress themselves in skinny jeans and Cosby sweaters.  You all have taken in the ironic wall hangings and antique postcards that decorate the handmade steampunk coffee table.  The small group lingers in a lull with nothing to talk about.  Suddenly someone perks up, “I saw Natalie Portman last Tuesday.  You know she designs vegan shoes?”

Suddenly everyone’s in a rush to tell you who they’ve seen in NY and under what circumstances.  “Did you say anything?”  “What was he wearing?”  “Really?  She bumped into you?!”

When I was in LA in 2005 I saw Taryn Manning eating outside a chic looking place with some friends.  I had just seen a sneak preview of Hustle and Flow with Andy the day before.  I couldn’t help myself and walked right up to their table to tell her she was fantastic in it.  She was gracious enough, but obviously just wanted to be left to her friends and her dinner.  For the rest of my time in LA I replayed the exchange in my head a million times.  Did I even notice who she was sitting with?  What if Mams Taylor was sitting with her and I completely ignored making a positive remark to him?  Of course now, I could give less of a shit.

Finally today I had my first New York City sighting!  I was in line at Cup a’ Joe’s in Grand Central Station, standing directly behind Spike Lee.  I didn’t realize it was him until a man accidentally stepped on his foot trying to get to the little milk and sugar table.  I stood there starstruck, wanting to come up with something true yet not bothersome to…well…bother him with, but nothing came.  He put a cardboard sleeve on his latte and left.  The baristas behind the counter had a lot to say after he was gone.

Mr. Button, my sophomore year English teacher showed us, Do the Right Thing and fast forwarded through the ice cube sex scene.  In study hall after class my friend Jessyca asked who of us had “ever had” an African American friend.  She had all sorts of questions.  Ahh.. rural New England and it’s lack of exposure, education and understanding.

“Let me tell you the story of “Right Hand, Left Hand.” It’s a tale of good and evil. Hate: It was with this hand that Cane iced his brother. Love: These five fingers, they go straight to the soul of man. The right hand: the hand of love. The story of life is this: Static. One hand is always fighting the other hand; and the left hand is kicking much ass. I mean, it looks like the right hand, Love, is finished. But, hold on, stop the presses, the right hand is coming back. Yeah, he got the left hand on the ropes, now, that’s right. Ooh, it’s the devastating right and Hate is hurt, he’s down. Left-Hand Hate K.O.ed by Love.”

Radio Raheem, Do the Right Thing

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I’ve voted for president 3 times in my life.  The first two times were a disappointment to say the least.  I used to rail on folks who hung on President Bush’s every word, or saw the good in his administration’s many failures.  So what do I and other President Obama supporters do now that our guy’s in office?  We hang posters of him on the walls, wear his T-shirts, try desperately to see all the good in his stimulus plan, and thank Allah that he’s reversing so many of W.’s misled doctrines.  After 8 years, I think my ability to be skeptical should be well-rounded and experienced enough that adoration would only come after proof of effectiveness.  Maybe I’m just tired.  I want to stop being ashamed of the people leading my country.  I want to be able to sit back, let him fix it all and trust that he will.  I can’t think of any other  relationship with a leader in which I react with the same unquestioning support.  It’s dangerous.  However, I do think the Obama administration is looking for people to take this as an opportunity to keep fighting for change, to do even MORE now that he’s elected.  At least, that’s the inspiration I choose to take from their rhetoric.  Don’t forget we still have a responsibility to make our voices heard.  Viva la resistance!

You want to see crowds capable of destruction, carrying-on without leaders?  Get on any NYC subway during morning rush hour.  I have yet to see anything crazy happen, and perhaps thanks is due to the occasional voice of reason.  This morning on the 7 train, a stop before Grand Central Station (Vernon and Jackson Ave), the crowd at the entrance to our car was becoming ridiculously thick.  People like to grab a pole or handrail and stick to it if there are no seats available.   It takes the ones with forethought to move into the middle of the car to give newcomers room to get in.  Even then, it’s easy to ignore the noobs and stubbornly remain in the spot where you know there’s something to hold onto.  So this morning,  new additions to the front car family piled in, squeezing bags, backpacks and briefcases between their shivering legs.  Finally a gentleman who had been in the middle of the car for three stops already, sounding frustrated said, “Please move into the car so that other people can come in!”  His tone dripped with fatherly exasperation.  My immediate reaction was  to think, “Yeah?  Who the hell are YOU to tell other people what to do?”  But wouldn’t you know it, everyone who had stood their ground in a selfish need to claim space, looked down at their slushy boots in “yes Dad” shame and shuffled around to make room.  Even with my ear-buds in (playing Otis Redding softly) I felt the tense silence of a group reprimanded.  Everyone knew he was right but no one thanked him.

Last month I was waiting for my train and I looked down too far at a rat that was scurrying among the rails.  Unlike a lot of my friends, I like seeing them.  It’s just another sign of life here.  They’re trying to live (“thrive and survive!”), and if that means rummaging through what we don’t finish and throw carelessly around, by all means Mr. Rat!  Tom O’Bedlam’s analysis of pigeons on the streets of London sounds this tune, as well as having grown up surrounded by wildlife.  My glasses slipped off my nose, bounced once on the yellow “danger- you’re near the edge” line and fell into the tracks.   A few things ran through my head: 1.  The G train is only reliable in that it is unreliable and takes a long time to show up.  2.  Those glasses are all you have until you find a job that provides health insurance.  3. Your lack of health insurance will make an injury resulting in being hit by a train more costly than a new pair of glasses.  I really need my glasses, more so now than when I was in college, so I hopped in.  Pencil skirt and all.  The reactions of others waiting on the track were what made it an exciting experience.  Two older women speaking only Spanish screamed and tried to coax me back onto the platform, two teenage boys looked on wide-eyed and laughing, and one gentleman thought to himself, “NOW.  NOW I’m needed.”  He rolled up his sleeves, grabbed a couple strangers standing near him and said, “You take her arms, I’ll grab her by the jacket.”  He had a booming voice and an air of authority that everyone obeyed.  I was planning on pulling myself out of there like a beached whale, but was glad to see I could avoid dragging my body onto the greasy and grimy platform.  When I was finally out of the way of an oncoming train the three men left, just as quickly as they had arrived.  The two older women, still fussing at me in Spanish, dusted off my coat and gave me disapproving looks.  The teenage boys had already become uninterested and were using a Sharpie on a movie poster.

Speaking of teenagers.  My friend works for the Center for Family Life in Brooklyn.  She works as an art(s) teacher.  When she talks about work I find it amazing what little I know about what it’s like to be a teenager in 2009.  It has all the angsty awkwardness that I remember, but  involves a different social environment.  Technological progress since I was 15 notwithstanding, teenagers in the city enjoy a level of diversity that I didn’t access until after college.  She runs a theater workshop for students between the ages of 13 and 17.   There’s a young man (“Sam”) whom she describes as “very feminine”, she doesn’t know how well he is accepted in school, but in her workshop Sam is the most popular student, even among the “jocks”.  There is one very masculine, jock-type guy (“Bobby”) who doesn’t seem to get along with him, so Sam uses his popularity to gang up on Bobby.  My teacher friend, who grew up in Ohio among extremely homophobic teenagers and groups of ostracized creative young people, is frustrated by this behavior.  Yes sure, they’re teenagers.  However, haven’t we seen over and over again leaders of who, after years of persecution,  find themselves in positions of power only to be just as if not more destructive than the original oppressors?

Who leads you?

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