Archive for July, 2006

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Road Notes

This is the end of the second day on the road.  God Im glad I did this.  My mood has improved I feel fucking fantastic, tons better than when I was in town.  Tons, I tell you!  My throat is a little sore from all the Very Loud Singing that Ive been doing, all those songs that Im a little embarressed to own and that none of my friends likes.  Folk music mostly,  plus a little light opera, the soundtrack to Rocky Horror, Everclear, and 80s cartoon theme songs (Duck Tales, Fraggle Rock, Captain Planet, Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers, etc).  Im glad I thought to get away for a while before this thing with James.  So!  Some thoughts.

– “Drop In on Linn – Mount St Helens Did!” = best welcome sign ever.  Kudos, Linn County! Thanks for taking the whole assload of ash dumping so friendly-like with some sign based humor.

– As of this afternoon, the dead deer on the side of the road count is up to 3.  Ive never seen that before.  One of them was staring at me.

– Live deer count?  One!  Yay.

– How does Idaho have both mountain ranges and swamps in the same quarter mile?
– The hills in Wyoming are gorgeous, they need to be watched with opera.  I could feel my chest open up a bit every time Id go over a hill and get a chance to see for I dont know how many miles, all golden straw underneath a perfectly complemented sky.  My goodness.  I started crying a little bit at one point – the colors, people, the colors!  No paint or watercolor or hell photograph can ever duplicate something that vivified with yellow.  You need life and sun, and they dont have that kind of paint yet.

– Driving twelve hours a day isnt as bad as I thought it would be.  My mind has ways of making the time go by faster… no not faster, more interesting.  I used to think of it as a sort of autistic mindset, now I think its more like meditation.  My mind just… goes blank.  And I feel good.  Thoughts and emotions kinda float by, some I play around with, but mostly Im just… there.  I catch myself smiling a lot.
– I have met a man with a fancy cowboy hat who lives in a tent down by the river, shared a Taco Bell combo meal with a homeless lady who is impressed with Spokane’s shelters (“They even make you shower before they feed ya!  That’s clean!”), and a woman who is hitchhiking with her dad from LA to Bozeman, which I think is in Montana.  I don’t know, Montana is later on in my trip – probably tomorrow or the day after.   Anyhoo.  It was the hitchhiking lady’s birthday today, and she’s enjoying it: her dad’s carrying all the bags.

– “With All the Organic Choices Out There, Why Choose METH?” is a handmade sign that sends a powerful message.  Im not exactly sure what the message is, but the painted bananas and howling wolf profile were lovely.

–  Ive been looking for wacky local radio, but the closest Ive come to it is a kid friendly program based out of Gillette, Wyoming.  Theyre encouraging families to participate in a month long “TV fast,” so no television for the entire month of August.  Seems like an interesting idea.  The dj suggested you buy a tivo and record all the stuff you want to watch in August then “overdose” in September. Hm.

– There’s something remarkably freeing about knowing your cell phone doesnt have a signal.

I’ll be back later – Im heading up through South Dakota and Montana tomorrow, hopefully get back into Washington two days from now.  Thats my plan, anyway.  Of course, my motel here has a casino… if you dont hear from me in a week assume Ive struck it rich on the lounge singer circuit.

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Freedom! Sweet Freedom!

Today marks my first day in a week of absolutely no work. No school, neither. I believe some might call this a “vacation.”

Its hard to believe, but yesterday just might be the very last day of retail I will ever work. I’m not holding my breath, but I’m not working this next year and then after that I’ll have a purportedly employable degree so my chances are fairly good I won’t be returning. Maybe I’ll get back into it after I graduate and before I find a job… wow that thought sent shivers down my spine. I’m getting ahead of myself.

The day went well. I played with a bouncy ball in the kid’s department, I got through the book I brought with me (review forthcoming on my little page up there), and generally bullshitted around until 5pm. The store manager came to talk to me, ask me about my plans, shook my hand and said “go home early.” I piled up my now empty plate of ginger snaps (so tasty!) and spent about 45 minutes wandering around the store saying bye to everybody. We’re going out drinking tonight.

After I made it to my car I realized this was my last day to get an employee discount. I skittered back into the store and bought $75 worth of stuff – on my credit card so it doesn’t count towards my budget ha ha… eh – which, to further rationalize it, would have cost over a hundred dollars if I waited until today. It was all the stuff you linger over as you’re straightening, promising yourself you’ll get it eventually, and so I did. Woo delayed gratification!

The sun was still shining after work, another anomaly, so I took a walk down to a park near my house to watch the dogs in the “unleashed area.” I am amazed with how friendly they are all together. In the two hours I spent watching only one dog yelped and “he’s just faking it, he likes the attention,” his owner told me conspiratorially. Dogs are great. One of them had a habit of running full out towards another dog (the other dog would do the same in several cases), not slowing down, head butting them in the chest, jumping over the fallen body and demonstrating wonderful follow-through – he’d just keep running for another 100 feet before loping back around to check on his friend. I was delighted. The owners were shocked – “he’s never done that before! Did you see that?!” I got to talk to some people, friendly dog people, which was refreshing after spending all of my time with classmates or customers. It was good to get outside.

Today I’m off to a rummage sale. Then, laundry. Then, drinking. I am going to wear shorts and a t-shirt, and not worry about how my hair looks. I am going to wear flip-flops, dammit! My dress code this week will be completely retail inappropriate.

I feel better than I have in months. Happy Sunday, everybody.

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Late Night Baking

Its not really like Im that drunk. Just a little. Okay fine I had one beer. What? Im a cheap date. I think Im more exhausted than anything. Also – I am full of cookies. The overall effect is a remarkable feeling of inebriation.

One of my friends gave me an incredibly good recipe for “Dark Herb” cookies. My first batch was too big – I made them chocolate chip sized, but after some experimenting I realized that theyre much better in snap form. Ya know, tiny and crunchy. I thought I’d give ya’ll the recipe, if ya wanna try. If you have a stocked up spice rack you don’t have to buy anything new, either.


(I put crystallized ginger chips on top, for the festivity of it all.)
Here ya go –

Combine:
1/2 cup normal sugar (or splenda)
1/2 cup shortening
1 egg
1/2 cup molasses (I used organic, which is a lot lighter and less strong than the normal stuff)
2 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
2 Tbsp anise seed (unshelled, not the star kind)
2 tsp coriander seed
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup strong hot coffee
2 1/4 cup flour
2 cup confectioner’s sugar (powdered)
1 tsp vanilla
3 Tbsp milk (I used heavy cream)

Mix it together in a big mixing bowl, spoon out onto a baking sheet (tiny! Use a small spoon, these suckers expand like you wouldn’t believe), and bake at 350 F until, well, until they look done. Remember, the crunchier the better. Plus, it makes your kitchen smell good!

My last batch is baking now. I need to wrap this up soon, my last day of work is tomorrow (yay!) and I need to be there at 9am. Considering thats in seven hours and I need eight hours sleep to properly function, I should vamoose.

Goodnight, everybody.

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Tildy : Racist as Rant : ?

Damn it!  I had a four page post goin’ there, all solid gold (SOLID GOLD) and its gone!  Damn you, Flock!  I hate you and hope you get run over by a bus!

Let’s see if I can recreate it here.  Damn it.  I had clever transitions and everything!

Ahem.  I read a lot of blogs.  My blogroll over there makes up maybe half of my daily reading, and by “daily reading” I mean the list I check three or four times a day.  Yeah, I’m on vacation and got a little time on my hands, like you don’t do it too – yes you do don’t lie to me I know your mom!  I might.  I’ve noticed my blog taste is more about writing style and intelligence rather than the author’s point of view or living situation.  Granny Gets a Vibrator, the Pirate King, and Mistress Matisse are three of my favorite blogs and they couldn’t be any more different.  Liz from GGAV is a 52 year old white bodybuilder living in Louisiana, the Pirate King is a soldier poet with a knack for self sabotage, and Mistress Matisse is a professional dominatrix.  The only thing they have in common in a basic mammalian structure, and maybe a love for the gym. 

It’s a great group over there, tell you what.

Gah.  There was such a good segue here before Flock crashed.  I went off for so long about race issues after reading Liz’s Black Immersion Month series, and now all the fight is out of me.  Dammit.  I’ll make it short this time.

There is a disturbing trend in sociology about racism that generalizes the majority into an ignorant, defensive group that’s inherently prone towards bigotry.  One of the more egregious examples of this trend was a book I read last year (Why are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Tatum), which has inspired hours upon hours of enraged venting from yours truly.  She just annoyed me, and it was mainly for academic reasons – bad research design is one of my biggest pet peeves when you’re trying to prove a point.  Seriously, for the love of all things holy find sociological studies with more than six people in the test group.  A sociologist sitting down with four white women in college and asking how they got there is not enough to be taken seriously as a study on white advantage.  You’re a PhD, Dr. Tatum, why use so many weak studies?  I’m sure there are better ones out there. 

I’m getting off topic.

I am white.  I am female.  I have a set of parents that has an above average income, and I was taught from an early age how to get along well with authority figures.  I definitely have advantages over other women my age, white black or any other color – not to mention socioeconomic status (which is a whole other post that I’m not going to get into right now).  I consider myself to be damn lucky.  According to Dr. Tatum, this makes me racist.  If you look at racism from a systemic perspective, I am.  I am not my race, however.  She doesn’t know me.  She has no right to label me.  Nobody has a right to label anybody, whatever race they are – its just rude.

The term that made me pause on Liz’s site was “aversive racism,” and I feel like its often used as another generalization for a wide range of human reactions that can’t be summed up in one neat political phrase.  According to the Intercultural Development Research Center, an aversive racist “is characterized by the following five traits:

1. In contrast to the traditional racist, the aversive racist endorses fair and just treatment of all groups, at least in principle.

2. The aversive racist harbors negative feelings of discomfort toward other races and therefore avoids interracial interaction whenever possible.

3. When interracial contact is unavoidable, the aversive racist tries to disengage from interaction as quickly as possible.

4. When interracial contact cannot be avoided, the aversive racist adheres strictly to established rules and codes in these situations so as not to appear prejudiced.

5. When the aversive racist expresses negative feelings (thoughts, attitudes) about other races, he or she does so in ways that can be rationalized.”

Does anyone else find that loaded? 

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that I am not racist.  Maybe I am.  Hell if I know at this point.  As an anti-racist, I (1) endorse fair and just treatment of all groups.  I live in a part of the country where I have (2) very little contact with black people (I do, actually, and I miss it.  Most of my friends from college were black, and it feels so… bleached up here sometimes – but of course for the purposes of this example you don’t know that).  A few weeks ago, I saw a very drunk, very big black man, yelling obscenities at cars, approach me at a bus stop.  I was alone, and it was late at night.  I was frightened, and (3) relieved when my bus arrived a few seconds later.  Due to the location of my store, I see a lot more black people when I am working. I use the (4) same customer service script on all customers; I have to say the same thing hundreds of times a day, if you don’t have a script you’re gonna forget something.  If I am upset with a customer, its usually (5) because they treated me rudely.  If a black woman treats me like crap when I’m trying to cashier, I will complain to my co-workers about it. 

Does this make me an aversive racist?  If you look at where I live, my behavior at the bus stop and at work, and my political stance then yes, I am.  If you look even just a little bit closer, you would see something different.  Let’s change the colors of the people in my little scenario here.  If I saw a very drunk, very big white man yelling at cars, you’d better believe Id get the hell out of there.  If a prissy white woman doesn’t make direct eye contact and answers her cell phone while I’m cashiering, of course I’m going to complain.  That’s what I do.

Let’s look at a more complicated scenario.  A customer comes up to me, slams her hands down on the counter and announces that she has some items on hold.  I don’t jump; I turn around slowly and ask her for her last name.  “Why do you need to know that?” she snarls.  I explain that that’s how we have the hold items organized; she interrupts me to say “I never gave my last name, I know what you do with that you sell that information to calling companies.  Its under ____.”  I look, and I don’t see anything under that name.  As I’m rooting around, she thunders in “is it not there?!  I knew I couldn’t trust you people!  Where’s my stuff?  I want to see my stuff!”  I turn around, straighten up, smile a terse but polite smile and say “We put things back on the floor after three days.  When did you put this on hold?”  Her cheeks puff out.  “NO ONE EVER TOLD ME YOU ONLY HOLD THINGS THREE DAYS.  They lied to me!”  I smiled again.  She continues to rant, how “they need to train their people better if they’re gonna answer my phone calls” and “I don’t know why I even come here anymore,” getting slightly louder with each pronouncement.  I continue smiling.  After a nice crescendo punctuated by more hand slamming on the counter (I don’t jump, and give her a slightly bemused look), she runs out of steam and pants for a bit as she stares me in the eye for a good thirty seconds.  I keep smiling.  We both know I’ve won.  She shoots me a rueful smile and says “well maybe you did tell me that.  I put it on hold about two weeks ago.  Can you help me find them?”  I say yes, and we go on our way.

Now.  What color do you think this person was?  Do you think my understated, perhaps patronizing response had to do with her obnoxiousness, or the fact that I was expecting this kind of thing from someone of her race?  Do you think that if a white customer were this upset, I would have jumped right to the phone to get a manager?  If you thought she was white, did you think I would be too frightened or nervous to pull something like this on a black woman?

This situation happens more than you’d think, actually.  This particular scenario has been repeated about seven times since I’ve started working retail oh so many years ago.  My first was a white man, he was memorable – after that I can’t tell you specifics but I know I’ve tried this technique on black people, white people, Hispanic people, and both genders.  They just want to yell. It’s worked almost every single time I’ve tried it.  It’s one of my best tricks.

My point is, I believe that “aversive racism” exists.  I just want to urge anybody who uses that phrase to use it carefully.  Just because you see something that might look like racism to you doesn’t mean it is.  You don’t know the context, and you can’t label me any more than I can label you.  Mutual respect and an understanding that every single person (even us privileged white people) are individuals, are very important if we’re going to get through this with any kind of dignity and empathy.

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