Category Archives: Friends

And….Cut! Take 2

I made a commitment to get more involved in racial injustice, and I realized I needed to educate myself. Ain’t nobody need a white woman to show up with her guilt and then have to help her figure out her racial junk. That’s on me to learn about my own biases and what I do consciously or unconsciously that keeps systemic racism alive. Many years ago, I took a more straight forward route and read a number of books about the civil rights movement. I never learned that in school — we were lucky to make it to WWII, which we sped through in the final weeks of the school year. Germans invade Europe! We Americans swoop into rescue them! England kinda helps! Russians bad! We beat Hitler, yay, we’re out for the summer!

But getting back to an actual education, the civil rights movement was good for me to understand, but this time I wanted to learn more about what’s going on now in the lives and struggles of people of color. How can I be helpful now? So I have been trying to educate myself, admittedly a little randomly, with the idea that the things I need to learn will find their way to me.

That sounds soooo white hippy dippy doesn’t it? See how much work I have to do? As I learned from one of the books I read, the Black folks are giving me “shade” and “side eye.”

I have written 5 or 6 posts on the topic, and the last few kind of bothered me, and not in the good way like, “Wow, I feel defensive, I must be poking myself in the right places!” (Ain’t No Mountain High Enough and “Get Out”: A Spoonful of Sugar.)

They definitely feel too preachy, as in, “white people, let me tell you a thing or two.” My bad writing spidey sense was tingling, but I couldn’t make out why. So please forgive me for pushing the publish button anyway. The show must go on! Or at least the Monday morning post. I grant you it’s obnoxious, but far worse, it’s bad writing, which I will not tolerate…I’m fired! Wait, no, I’ll just try to do better.

I wasn’t able to put my finger on the problem until I started talking about it with my friends Becky and Susan, whose questions help clarify the issue. They are gay and have witnessed how I have been an ally for gay folks for many years now. What’s different about trying to be a Black ally?

And that is a good question. It feels different, more complicated. I told them when I first started showing up at the Gay Pride Parade and listening to my friends coming out stories, I was welcomed and appreciated for my efforts. Also, the movement was so new (compared to, say, Black history), that it didn’t take long to catch up. Hiding, hiding, hiding, Stonewall! We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it! I didn’t even have to learn about the AIDS. I witnessed it. How convenient is that? Also, there is a lot of dancing and fabulousness, and turning pain into joy. That also happens to be my main coping mechanism.

Being an ally to gay folks seemed to be a bit like going to France. Although the gay people I know are way nicer than the French. France, if you try to speak a little French, they will put you ahead of the obnoxious American tourist who makes no effort to communicate, except to speak English louder, as if that will help. Gay folks were like, hey, you listen, you want to learn, come on in!

My uncomfortable realization is that I like being praised for my efforts. I want to get the gold star, the A+ for participation. And I got that from gay people who are happy to have me and want to tell me their stores.

On the other hand, Black people seem very tired of explaining themselves, and who the heck can blame them? I’m not sure how to show my interest without, well, being white about it. Black people have turned their pain into joy too, and I like gospel music, but the church part kinda gives me the willies. Although, I have discovered we have in common our dislike/distrust of the Catholic Church, so, you know, that’s a start.

For other types of music, I don’t think you can be white and show up at a Kiss-n-Grind, which is all about dancing to soul, house, and other kinds of music and hanging out — I learned about it from the HBO show Insecure. (It’s a really good show, and I’ll write more about it, but go watch it!) Well, OK, I just Googled the real thing and there are pictures of a few white people in the crowd. But I can’t go because I’m probably too old, not cool enough, and it seems like it’s just an LA thing. And I get pretty East Coast provincial about LA, but maybe I can work on that.

More talk with Becky and Susan helped me see that this is my journey of discovery, the good, the bad, the awkward, and the difficult. I have no right to say how other white or Black people are feeling or should feel, but I can write truthfully about all the missteps and embarrassing things I’m doing while I’m finding my way. That also just so happens to make better blog material, so it’s win-win.

Bear with me as I am halfway through several books that crossed my somewhat confused path, (I’m Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi, Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era by Ashley Farmer). Books waiting to be read like The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae (actress, writer, and producer of the aforementioned “Insecure”). There are a couple of movies on order, such as “Sorry to Bother You” and Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman.”  Actually, Spike Lee grabbed me in the 80s with “She’s Gotta Have It,” and I need to keep pace with him, which I should get extra points for — he’s prolific!

Ah. OK. I’m doing not for the A+, but to be a better person. Right. But you know, if any Black folks out there want to think I’m hip for loving “Insecure” and following Luvvie Ajayi, that’s cool, even if I’m more like Frieda, the awkward, overly earnest white chick in the show,  I ain’t no hollaback girl. Or maybe I am. Can you wait a minute while I go look that up?

 

Random Photo Round Up

As I go about my life, I often come upon random things that make me pause or laugh or think it would make a good blog. And then weeks later when I’m looking for the alleged good blog idea, I realize it’s a one-second gag that even my superior BS skills can’t spin into something more substantial. But that’s OK — these are short and to the point. No sustained attention needed! And let’s face it, this week the bubble got pummeled more than usual. Enjoy!

  1. We fished this out of a small stream on our canoe camping trip on the Delaware River. We were walking and saw something clearly man-made. My friend said “I see boobs!” And I saw a high-heeled shoe. This could be interesting, I thought. He had to wade into the river to free her from the rock she had been pinned under, and then we were like…whoa. I flashed back to curse Tiki statue from the Brady Bunch and every other bad TV show about weird cursed objects that lay in wait for some poor saps to fish them out and then they wreak havoc on them. This one also had a high school tassel from 2014 attached to it, so now I was adding a bad teen horror movie to the mix. Or, maybe she was just a wise old woman with eclectic fashion taste. Sure, we laughed, but nether of us wanted to take her with us, so we told her we liberated her from the water and gave her a better view from a tree. Please don’t come get us.

scarywitch

2. The second entry in the “Yikes, what the hell?!?” category is this guy or gal. I was writing at my computer, which looks out a second story window. As I was staring out the window, you know working very hard thinking about what I wanted to write (you can’t prove I wasn’t), I happened to notice a beautiful spider’s web. I congratulated myself on being present to the world’s beauty and thinking about the miracle of life, and how amazing spiders are, until she/he suddenly scuttled into view, and I screamed. That sucker is 2 inches long, front leg to back leg. Gaaahhhhh! Why does the miracle of life have to be so creepy and scary??

giantspider

3.  And now for something completely petty. I’ve done this round up before, and I almost always have a fashion photo. Or what shouldn’t be fashion. My only defense is that I’m pretty clueless about fashion, so if I notice what you’re wearing seems off, you are either too cutting edge to live in Boston, or it’s really, truly bad.  However, this little number took me in a whole philosophical direction while waiting at the crosswalk. Exhibit A:

My first thought was, I see fishnets, did you forget those when you were changing out of your dominatrix outfit this morning? Or has the stereotypical sexy fishnet costume, like much fashion these days, de-evolved into too much casual comfort? Or does she have black lace and leather under that frumpy outfit? And because the walk sign still hadn’t come on at this point, I thought, or am I the weirdo for thinking you can only wear fishnets as an accessory to a sexy scenario. Who am I to say that fishnet stockings don’t go with sensible work attire. I mean, you know, the zebra flats are kinda working. Maybe this is her way of saying who she is from the safety of being tucked under her desk. Who am I to judge? Well, I really tried to give her the benefit of the doubt, but as the walk sign came on, I had to accept I’m just too old-fashioned; fishnets should always be in the presence of a whip, high heels, and an outfit containing no more than a cup of fabric.

4 & 5. To make up for my shallow, one-track mind, here are photos from a cool outdoors exhibit called Fog x FLO, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy. It’s by a well-known Japanese artist, Fujiko Nakaya. There 6 spread out along the Emerald Necklace Parks in Boston. I’ve seen 2 so far. They are really cool. Nozzles on scaffolding spray fog into a natural area. These two are from Jamaica Pond. Light gray version of the Smoke Monster in Lost, anyone?

smokemonster

Then it envelopes you…

fog

I saw the second one last week at Franklin Park. It’s set up in the Overlook Shelter Ruins, and the fog moving over the stone is very ethereal and peaceful, even though there were two ladies chatting away the whole time. The fog in this one appears more frequently than the one on the pond, so I saw it multiple times in about 20 minutes. The pond one only goes off on the hour and half hour, just for a few minutes. And sorry for the video. I can’t really say what I did towards the end, um, fancy camera work? But you get the general idea.

And here is more info about the ruins: “Sitting lonely and overgrown in Boston’s historic Franklin Park, these puddingstone ruins were once one of the only buildings ever designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of landscape architecture, whose egalitarian ideals set the standard for public parks as a place equally accessible to anyone and protected from private interests.”

6. And because my stats always go through the roof when I post pictures of animals (and really it seems like any animal — you people are indiscriminate on this topic!) Here is something to humble anyone who does yoga and who may be getting to attached to comparing themselves favorably against others in the class. So, you can do badass down dog pose? Can you do down squirrel pose, upside down, on the side of a tree? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Namaste!

downsquirrel

 

“Get Out”: A Spoonful of Sugar

Apologies for the title. I’m sure there is a special place in hell for white writers who use white people references when talking about Black culture, but I’m pretty sure I’m going there anyway, so what the heck. I’m still very much a newbie in my quest to be an agent of social justice and learn about Black culture , so I’ll use what I know until I can use Black culture references appropriately.

Are ya still with me? Mary Poppins! Mary Poppins! OK, that’s better.

I had seen the ads for the movie “Get Out,” but I am a big weenie when it comes to horror movies. Between the violent bloody parts and the unbearable tension created by slasher music and white teenagers always going into the creepy house to have sex or drink, I find the whole thing disturbing and annoying. That is until the crazy person/spirit/monster comes out of nowhere with an ax, and then I’m cowering in my seat,  yelling, “Is it over?”

I’m kidding, I’ve never actually sat through a horror movie; I can scare myself in the dark for free in a fraction of the time. But I made an exception when my friend Sonia said I had to see “Get Out.” The movie is the directorial debut of Jordan Peele, who, if you don’t live under a media rock like I do, you may know him from his acting work: 5 seasons as a cast member on Mad TV, starring with Keegan-Michael Key in the Comedy Central ketch series Key & Peele, and a recurring role in the first season of the FX anthology series Fargo. 

Halfway through the making of “Get Out.” Jordan Peele realized the story he wanted to tell: A horror-thriller for Black audiences that delivered a searing satirical critique of systemic racism. It is definitely a cleverly written social commentary on being black in America, and he tucks in some humor along the way while he plays with the genre. If you’re white and love horror movies, and even if you aren’t really looking for any deep meaning in your movies, I’d still encourage you to see it. It’s a quality addition to the genre; you will be entertained and surprised and terrified.

But it’s even better if you take a few minutes to see it from a Black perspective.

I put it on my viewing list, but I rarely stay awake long enough to watch movies, so I didn’t actually get to watch it until I visited Sonia a few months ago. It was 100 times better than me watching it by myself for several reasons:

  1. I would’ve missed most, if not all of the social commentary and symbolism that is embedded in the movie.
  2. I would’ve have had anyone to tell me when it was OK to unplug my ears and untuck my head from the pillow to deal with the bloody horror junk at the end.

If you’re sensitive like I am, invite a horror movie loving buddy to watch it with you, preferably one who doesn’t think it’s funny to say, “It’s safe to watch now!” just when the ax is in mid-swing.

The premise of the movie is that the main character Chris is a Black man meeting his white girlfriend’s family for the first time, of course at their house, which in typical horror movie fashion is in the middle of nowhere. He soon realizes there is something strange and creepy about their obsession with Blackness; their maid and gardener are Black, and at a party later, there is young Black man who is married to an older white woman. He tried to connect with the Black people, but they are all placid and vacant, but showing brief moments of desperation that he doesn’t understand.

This is a condensed version from “We Need to Talk About All of the Symbolism in Get Out” from VH1 News.

  1. On the way to the girlfriend’s parents’ house the couples’ car hits a deer. When the cop arrives, the scene re-enacts what happens commonly across country. The cop demands Chris’s ID, even though he wasn’t the one driving. Indignant, the girlfriend argues with the cop about why that is necessary, while Chris tries to calm her down and comply. The scene emphasizes that white privilege gets to argue with a cop without serious consequences. Chris can’t take that chance.
  2. Once at the parents’ house, Chris’s girlfriend’s mother offers to hypnotize him to help cure him of his nicotine addiction him. Of course nastier things are afoot. She actually taps into a traumatic experience from his past to put him into a psychological “Sunken Place” where he’s falling in a hole and can’t move. From the VH-1 website: “This out-of-body experience represents the greater narrative of Black America. It’s a theme we’ve seen play out again and again in American history – from slavery to the Tuskegee experiments all the way to mass incarceration…the idea that terrifying and denigrating things come from white ownership of Black bodies.”
  3. The mother uses the clinking of a silver spoon against a teacup to control when Chris goes to the sunken place. In addition to the symbolism of the being born with a “silver spoon” equating with wealth, is also calls to mind Black servants serving tea to wealthy white people.
  4. The movie is not without its funny moments. Chris’s friend Rod had misgivings for Chris’s girlfriend from the start. When Chris’s calls from the parents’ house get stranger and more worrisome, and then finally stop, he takes action. He’s a goofy TSA agent and plays his seriousness about his job and his melodramatic take on what’s happened to Chris for laughs — his theory is that some white people are kidnapping Black people and making them slaves. Which all the people in authority that he tells laugh at, so he uses his TSA training to max to launch a rescue.
  5. Chris finds himself tied to a comfy chair in the basement. The sound of the tinkling spoon puts him in and out of the sunken place, and there is seemingly no escape. However, in his anxiety, he starts picking at the arm of the chair, freeing, what else, tufts of cotton. He uses it to plug his ears so he can’t hear the hypnosis signal, and is able to free himself when they bring him food thinking he is incapacitated. As the VH-1 website perfectly said, “This might be the only time where a Black man picking cotton has been a lifesaving task.”

There are more references, so check them out. Think of it like Schoolhouse Rock — you get to be entertained and learn something at the same time. If you can’t deal with the horror, I get it. I’m working on finding other options. Stay tuned and meanwhile hum, “Conjunction, junction, what’s your function?

 

Reentry

I’m still on vacation, but that ends tomorrow, so you can stop being jealous. After the amazing sunset beach wedding last week, I headed to the Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area on the PA/NJ border for a canoe camping trip. It was really peaceful and relaxing and the river current is just enough to keep you moving, but not so much that you have to white knuckle your way through the white water, reviewing for the 50th time in your head what you should do if the canoe flips. We just did one night of camping and so had about 30 hours of the quiet, slow lane.

And then we got to the end and called the canoe rental folks to come get us.

Within minutes a large group of canoes landed after us. A different van was waiting for them. They were laughing and loud and lively music suddenly started playing. Then a dressed up Jewish couple asked us to take their picture by the river — he in a suit and she in a nice skirt and blouse. All I could think of was this is reason #528 why religion isn’t for me. No way am I wearing Sunday best on a Thursday at a river in 90-degree heat and humidity. God can say what he will — he’s not the one sweating in pantyhose.

Then our van came and the driver reminded me of the pizza delivery kid in “Toy Story.” Remember that scene? The radio is blasting and he drives like a maniac back to Pizza Planet while Woody and Buzz get tossed around back. Yeah, that was us. While Foreigner was blasting on the radio, he was probably going twice the speed limit on the twisting and hilly 2-lane road.

Did I mention I can get motion car sick just watching the roller coaster scene in “Polar Express”?

While the young driver belted out the song on the radio — I was impressed he knew the words to a song from the 80s — I just looked at my friend and we both started to laugh. Welcome back to the world — zero to 100 at racing speed.

At least it will make going back to work seem manageable.

Photo credit: The Delaware Nature Society. I didn’t have enough battery power to take my own pics!

 

 

Beach Wedding!

Hey there! I was at a fabulous lesbian sunset wedding at the beach, so all you get this week is a picture of said beach. It was absolutely perfect, and because these woman have some hard-won wisdom, I believe this union can go the distance. So I’m here to report, despite everything, there is still love, joy, peace, and sunset beach weddings in the world.

It’s a Loo* Thing

*British slang for bathroom (at least it was in the 80s).

I have an odd hobby. Well, truth be told I have several, but I’m only willing to expose them one at a time. In today’s episode, I offer my interest in comparing restaurant bathrooms in Boston. A number of years ago, my friend Lora and I were going out frequently, and we found ourselves being able to remember the bathrooms from the previous night out to compare and contrast. Some bathrooms try really hard to be high-class with that little antique wooden stand holding real flowers clearly flown in from wherever shi-shi flowers are flown in from out of season. And big, thick paper hand towels that actually dry your hands and not leave them half wet as you head out the door, having to choose between flapping them like a dork or patting/wiping them discretely on your outfit and risk hand prints. Oh, and the fixtures that take you a minute to figure out how to work them because they look more like an art exhibit at the ICA or from page 57 of the Italian fine fixtures catalog, Bene Infissi. And it’s not just high-end places that have fancy bathrooms, let me tell you. Sometimes it’s decent enough, yet average restaurants that have these bathrooms. As if they are reaching for the water closet stars.

Mostly though, the average independent casual restaurant has the utilitarian bathroom: white sink, wall dispenser of brown towels, and 50% of the time, a bottle of hand soap from CVS. Alternately there is the ear-splitting hand drier that self-importantly claims to have saved a 1,000 trees and untold numbers of forests. Perhaps, but what about my hearing loss from the high-pitched screaming of the driers in very small space? At least the newer fast flow ones actually do dry your hands. The slower driers do the exact same job as the cheap brown paper towels.

Of course, then there are the dive bars and their matching bathrooms — cramped little affairs that have names, advice, insults, and phone numbers carved into the walls, aging them to the point of putting the pyramids to shame. They also have questionable cleanliness that actually encourages you to get more drunk, so you don’t really notice of the state of the bathroom.

I was in one of my favorite watering holes recently, an Irish bar, and noticed something different: the bathroom doors were standing ajar, with the open door pointing away from the stall at a 45 degree angle. I wrestled with it for several seconds, but it wouldn’t open any wider. I tried another door. Same deal. I finally moved to a door that was flush, and realized the doors push in.

So, if you’re a woman with a bathroom hobby, that begs the question: What the heck happens in a Irish bar filled with millennials who work in the financial skyscraper next door that creates bent doors? Is there some sort of trivia night or karaoke dark underbelly that leads to bathroom rumbles? Or was it some kind of X-File, and next time I’m there, I’ll find Scully and Mulder examining the hinges and having an argument about supernatural forces vs. vexed trivia night women?

See, bathrooms are fascinating.

Anyway, I went with friends recently to see Motown the Musical at the Boston Opera House. It deserves and will get its own blog, and I’ll write about that soon. I encourage you to see it if you can. It’s been going on for a while, and is only playing in London right now. So seriously, you’d better get a move on about that.

At intermission we headed for the bathroom. At the time my bathroom curiosity radar was off because during a show or event, a woman needs to focus. There could be 3 bathrooms or 30, but either way, you have to be at the front or you find yourself at the end of a long-ass line and miss the start of the second act. I was just hoping for more than 3 bathrooms, and when I got inside I saw about 14. Excellent. Suddenly, from above me, I heard numbers being called out. “Number 14 is open. Number 8 is open. Number 3 is open. Number 11 is open.”

Now I’m confused — women are entering and exiting the stalls at a rapid pace, and while the activity seems to be connected to the numbers being called out, I cannot figure out where the sound is coming from. First, I thought it was an automated thing, like announcing the floors on elevators, but the voice coming from on high had too many human inflections. Then I thought someone was looking in at us via a camera and that was just too creepy. The calling continued: “Number 4 is open. Number 7. Number 10 is open.” Amid the confusion of the doors opening and closing, suddenly it was my turn. I refocused on getting in an out in time for the second act. I was still puzzling over the thing on my way back to my seat, when my friend Lora caught up to me.

“So, what did you think about bathroom bingo?”

I burst out laughing, “Yes! That’s exactly what it was! Where was that voice coming from?”

“Didn’t you see the woman standing against the wall at the very back of the bathroom? She had a microphone.”

Clearly, I did not.

So, now, apparently, jobs at the theater include ushers, ticket and merchandise cashiers, and … bathroom bingo callers.