Assorted anecdotes

This is the start of a new category I’ve been meaning to put into my blog. As the description says, it is an assortment of unconnected anecdotes that occur to me but not something I want to fill out at the time. I will go back and use these anecdotes as they become relevant to what I am writing.

Let me first defend my elevation of anecdotes to the lever of at least a clincher if not proof by offering an anecdote: I was in conversation with a very conservative colleague at the height of the controversies back in the 90s over Hillary Clinton. Knowing he was a strong Baptist, I relayed to him the news that the Baptists had declared their support for Clinton. His eyes got big and so I refined it to The National Baptist Convention. He still was almost in a state of alarm and so I casually dropped on him that that is the organization of Black Baptists. “Oh,” was his response, as if to say, “not really Baptists, then. I didn’t think so.” That anecdote reveals the ability of Whites, and this guy is White, to dismiss anything Blacks do as unworthy of attention. No inquiry as to how a Baptist, a Christian, could condone what Hillary “had done;” no interest in what motivated the second largest Baptist organization in the world to examine Clinton and give her its blessing. Similar to putting ‘negro’ in parentheses in a newspaper article on traffic fatalities, as if to say, “Nothing to worry about here folks.”

First anecdote: I have two tea cups I’ve saved from the old Wing’s Chinese Restaurant on 16th Street and McDowell (?) in Phoenix. Back in the early 60s, it was one of the few restaurants that would serve Blacks. As we walked in we saw a trio of Black musicians playing lounge music – desultory is the word I like to use.

But when they saw us, they tightened the music up, giving it a pulse and energy that made my wife and me laugh and wave in recognition of their acknowledgement.

Just a couple of days ago, my wife was standing at a counter at the post office wearing her anti-virus face mask and there was an African man sending some packages. He did not react at all to my wife. Just then a Black employee came by intent on a task but he immediately acknowledged my wife. His speech revealed him to be an African-American. My wife and I have noticed a drop-off in African-Americans acknowledging each other; it was an “I’ve got your back” gesture. Perhaps some African-Americans think things have changed so much, they don’t need anyone to have their back. Perhaps Trump’s legions have changed that attitude.

I’ll never forget the night Rachel Maddow was giving her spiel when “breaking news” crossed her desk in the form of a release just torn “off the ticker tape”. As she dutifully and a bit perfunctorily read it, her face crumbled as she gasped out the words of the infants and toddlers on the border being removed from their parents and placed in cages. To me, that represented the difference between liberals or whatever you want to call us (snowflakes, social justice warriors, cucks) and conservatives. We care. They don’t. If Trump told them to hang their own mother on a meat hook, they’d do it.

July 2020 I had no idea I’d put so little in this category. Well, here’s another one:

My Uncle Wayne worked as a young man in a plant, in the 30s. He operated a press. One day the press came down and cut off four fingers of his hand. The plant personnel wrapped his hand in a bandage and told him to report to work the next day. He did. No OSHA = minimum time lost.

I was trying to get my group of job-seekers to understand that racial discrimination was no longer legal (this was in 1970). The Blacks and Hispanics weren’t buying it and the Whites denied it existed. During a lunch break, an older Black man, an ex-con, told me a few stories of things that had happened to him. I exclaimed, “Those are just the things those Whites need to hear!” and he scornfully responded, “Ain’t nobody paying me to educate White folk.” I has assumed he would do my job for me. Dumb.

My wife was looking for work after retirement and went to a school district HR office dressed professionally. The clerk handed her an application for cafeteria worker without asking.

Beth’s friend Tara told by the car dealership she worked for that if she wore a mask she would be fired. She got the virus and is suffering symptoms like shingles. How to hold the management of the dealership accountable?

When Frederick Remington painted those dynamic scenes of the U.S. Cavalry fighting the Indians, he made a change from his original sketches he had done in the field, actually watching the soldiers. In the original sketches, the soldiers were Black, Buffalo Soldiers; but for the potential buyers back East, he painted them White because he knew Black soldiers would not sell. But the image of White soldiers is embedded in the brains of people who do not want to see their precious tropes destroyed.

July 30, 2020 Some people develop almost mystical skills at reading other people. Some psychotherapists are like that. Once I read that in Austrian patisseries the waiters do not take your order, they make up your order for you without consulting you. They chat you up a bit and then bring you what they think fits you. That did not surprise me. Once we wanted to buy a room-full of furniture: living room, dining room. We contacted a high end furniture store and they sent someone out to our house. OK. Sure. He or she has to see what we have, the setting, etc. So he arrived, the epitome of the decorator, suave, very well-dressed, of moderated speech. He engaged us in very pleasant conversation and did not really talk about furniture much. In fact, he never talked about furniture because at about the point I was to get down to business about what we wanted, he gave us his card – his name was Kermit – and an appointment time. “I’ll have some things to show you,” he said. Really? When we arrived we realized he had read us both to a tee: my wife the sophisticated one with excellent taste (she’d cleaned wealthy people’s homes for a living) and me with a purely functional approach to furniture. He had it all. That was about 45 years ago and we are only now about to replace the furniture. It felt good to be read, to be recognized.

August 2, 2020 When I was in ROTC in 1956, I had to study the Army manual on military etiquette, things like saluting, how to wear the uniform, etc. One thing that struck me then was the rule that when in uniform, a soldier could not carry a grocery bag nor push a baby carriage. Presumably, women soldiers were not to have babies nor eat. Boy, THOSE were the good old days.

Oct. 8, 2020 The value of anecdotes is most powerful when they are personal, “this happened to me.” In listening to Andrew McCabe of the FBI declare right-wing groups like militias, the recently notorious Proud Boys, the Klan, a dangerous threat alongside cyber attacks, it put me in mind of what happened at my high school. This was back in the late 80s or early 90s; the local law enforcement came to give the faculty information on gangs that we could use, the signs of gang membership, the tokens of gang activity, etc. Teachers were eager to hear this because they were convinced our school had a gang problem (my school had been labeled the inner-city, gang school of the 5 or 6 district high schools at the time). It did, as it turned out. The most dangerous gang at our school was the White Power gang, not the little cholo wannabes and the hip-hop clothed “OGs” but the surly White kids, who vastly outnumbered minority kids. If Trump had taken an interest in our school, he would have directed law enforcement to ignore the nooses hanging from trees on the west side of the campus and direct attention to the boom-boxes and Spanish-speakers that so troubled our White faculty.

To add: can’t have drinks in class when teacher can = racist

Sopran0s actor casually tells Terry Gross he commits crime to get by = in Brooklyn everybody does it.

Students amazed that anyone would drink but not get drunk – that is the goal of drinking, is it not? -cultural

When I was a teenage, about 14 and libidinous, I had dental work done fairly often and the drilling was done without the benefit of novacaine. So the dentist would stop for a bit while you recuperated. He had a dental assistant, an attractive young woman who stood by the side of the chair. From time to time, I could feel her breast pressing into my arm. She was perhaps looking at the dentist’s work or seeing if I needed something, and I gave me quite a jolt. In fact, it was so overwhelming that I forgot about the drilling and just focused on that soft, yielding young breast. However, after a few visits, I did notice that she pressed her breast into my arm when the drilling was getting intense. Well, it worked. Early novacaine.

12/11/21 Japanese organist telling me of her experience playing for a Lutheran church and one Sunday staying and listening to the sermon. “I had no idea I was so Buddhist and Shintoist until I heard that sermon.”

Reading the NTY piece on The Search for Black Santa reminded my wife of when the department store Gemco told her around 1978 that the reason the Black dolls cost more was because the brown paint cost more

It was around 1972 or so and we’d hired a babysitter who was 16 years old. When we got home she was watching the news and Viet Nam fighting was prominent. I said to her, “I’ll bet you’ll be glad when this war is over.” She replied, “What do you mean, “over?” Orwell came to mind – the never-ending wars.

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