Ramblings and Musings
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2001-04-06 - 6:00 p.m.
On the internal soundtrack: A hideous tune we sang in 5th grade chorus, set to the words inscribed on a plaque somewhere on or near the Statue of Liberty.
In it, immigrants are referred to "the wretched refuse of your teeming shore." That's not very nice. Wretched refuse, indeed. Well, ha ha, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, god bless 'em, helped build the only remaining superpower.
So, I finally got a good night's sleep for the first time all week and I am ecstatic. I feel much, much better.
Apropos of nothing:
One of my clearest memories of childhood was the day I came home from school on my eighth birthday, and my mother said,
"I have to go do my hair, and when I'm done, I'll take you to your piano lesson."
She said this as though it were an everyday occurrence, when in fact it was not. It was my first piano lesson, and she hadn't even told me that I was going to be having a piano lesson. It was one of the biggest, most wonderful surprises of my life.
Not long before this, someone had given us a ratty old piano. I don't remember how we got it. I had been fooling around with it for a while and probably begging for lessons, and my mother never let on until I came home from school on my birthday.
Funny how that memory stands out. I took lessons all the way through my senior year in high school. Eventually we did get a really nice Yamaha upright, which is sitting in my living room today, and gave the piano to one of my second cousins. She learned to play on it, too, and then passed the piano on to someone else. It's a nice little story.
Yesterday I took everyone (MIL, SIL, nieces) downtown to see the cherry blossoms.
Ordinarily we would have taken Metro, but I had my doubts as to whether a four-year-old (very tall for her age and too big for a stroller) could deal with all that walking just to GET to the blossoms. Never mind walking around looking at them. It is one of the great mysteries of my life why a four-year-old can run around the house and yard all day long, but cannot walk half a mile in a straight line. Boredom has a lot to do with it, I'd imagine.
Anyway. I dropped them off at the Tidal Basin, went over and parked just north of Constitution, put on my skates and met them where I dropped them off. It took a while, maybe half an hour, to find the space and then stand around at traffic lights while making my way back to the drop-off spot.
We walked for 10 minutes, and by then the kids had had enough. Let's face it: Cherry blossoms aren't exciting to a young'un. Cherry blossoms are a nice backdrop, but little kids don't appreciate backdrop.
We arranged to meet near the head of the parking lot alongside the Basin. It's a one-way lot, so I had to figure out how to drive to the top. I did. To my disgust, after again spending half the duration of my trip back to the car at traffic lights and then the other half sitting in traffic at the Kutz Bridge, I got to the top of the lot to discover it was barricaded. I had to sit in traffic around the Tidal Basin again and hope they would be at the top by then.
Third time around, I said fuck it and went in the wrong way, pissing off a number of drivers. One guy about my age in a BMW said in a bossy tone, "Wrong way."
His tone of voice and choice of words (why don't people say nicely, "Did you know this is a one-way lot?") infuriated me and I just yelled "I KNOW!!" In retrospect I wish I had explained the whole story (more on things-not-always-being-what-they-seem in the next section) instead of rising to the bait.
I was wondering how he got in. Apparently there were police officers, who were spending the day leaning against a railing. And, oh, occasionally opening the barricades to a few cars before closing them again. Unfortunately this wasn't happening when I was passing by, and the barricades were flush against the street so that I couldn't pull up and explain my situation to the officers. I can't tell you how tempted I was to mow those barricades right the fuck down, to borrow Poindexter's latest expression.
So, as I was saying, I went in the wrong way and put my skates on again and finally met up with MIL et al. By then (over an hour after I had left them) they had figured out the barricade problem.
MIL told the police officers about the (literally) dozens of empty spaces in the lot, and their bland reply was that "that's because we're barricading it."
FUCKING LAZY ASSHOLES! MIL pointed out to me later that what they should have done was had one person at the top of the lot and another at the bottom, talking on radios and deciding when to barricade or not. Or they could have just left the lot the fuck alone and let people deal with the traffic. As it was, befuddled geezers from the 'burbs, deterred from the lot, were blocking the whole area ahead, by the Jefferson Memorial, trying to parallel park in the bus zones and managing to block two lanes of traffic while they were at it.
The evening ended well, at any rate. Nice quiet evening at home.
Just after dinner, the girls played in the pocket park across the street with a newfound friend, a three-year-old boy named John. Poindexter and MIL and I sat and chatted with his mom, Keisha, for a good half hour. She was fun. She lives down the street, but as she pointed out, it's hard to meet our neighbors because everyone enters and exits via their garage. That, plus the winter was horrible.
Keisha also told us about a fabulous Thai restaurant down in Springfield. She goes there nearly every Friday, so the owners know her, and once when she had no cash on her, they said, "Don't worry, you can pay us next time." Amazing. So we're very excited about trying it out.
She, like us, has not been able to find a good Chinese restaurant. What a pain. Especially since I was completely spoiled by the good Chinese food out on in California. Coming back here is a major disappointment.
Keisha has a wonderful voice. One of those deep, throaty, clear voices. I could have listened to her all night.
One of the men who works at MIL's library has the male version of a voice like that. MIL calls him "The Voice" and loves it when he calls her to tell her that the book she placed on hold is in. It really is the kind of voice that makes your toes curl.
The warm weather, much to my delight, has brought people out of the woodwork. There are actually non-dog-walking people walking around outside these days. And everyone seems to be rather friendly, too.
Those garages, while preventing parking problems, are rather detrimental to neighborhood socialization. We have no yards, either, so people don't hang out outdoors. Some people hang out on their stoops, but not often enough. If it weren't for children, dogs, and crazy walking freaks like me, we'd hardly ever see anyone, really.
I am really hoping that once the retail stores open up -- I'm hearing noises about a beauty salon, a coffee shop, and a corner market -- that they will become a sort of gathering place where you'll run into people and socialize. We'll find out. They should be opening pretty soon.
Ok, now, the things-not-always-being-what-they-seem thing.
I am sure that the man in the BMW just thought I was too stupid to figure out that it was a one-way parking lot. Or that I was too rude to care.
But the thing is, I had a real reason for doing what I did, and it wasn't stupidity or rudeness.
Sometimes I'll find myself in a situation where a person's behavior -- seemingly rude or stupid -- will infuriate me. And I'm tempted to say something about it, and then I remember that I don't know all the details. There could be a very legitimate reason for what's happening; I just don't know what it is.
One instance that seems to happen fairly often involves handicapped parking spaces. People get all het up about other people parking in those spaces without a permit. I've heard stories of able-bodied people getting yelled at by self-appointed handicapped-parking enforcers as they exit a building and return to their car. What the yeller doesn't know is that the able-bodied person just deposited their dear crippled car-less mother in the building and is about to move the car to a non-handicapped spot until the doctor visit or whatever is over.
Ugh. So, nine times out of ten, the person parking in the space without a permit could be a scofflaw. But what if it's the tenth time? Then I'll irritate and humiliate the other person if I say something.
The handicapped parking thing doesn't affect me directly, but I've been in situations where the infuriating happenstance did affect me. So my dilemma is, should I keep my mouth shut and suffer silently, or should I say something and risk that I might be wrong in my perception of the situation?
One more thing to complicate the mix is that I believe in societal enforcement of societal rules. If my kid is up to no good on someone else's property (stealing pansies, for example) I'd expect our neighbors to tell him what's what. Or at the very least, tell me what he's been up to. Even if I disagree with the neighbor's viewpoint, I can handle that later, privately with the kid. It's a good life lesson to know that not everybody sees things the same way that you do. But for people to be afraid to say something to kids who are, say, destroying other people's property, makes me insane.
I suppose that, rather than yelling or sounding bossy, I could ask some questions. Find out what's really going on. "Are you lost? Did you know this is a one-way lot?" It's not the guy telling me I'm going the wrong way that irritates me, it was his condescending tone of voice. You can enforce societal rules without sounding high-and-mighty.
F'rinstance, in my neighborhood you're supposed to clean up after your dog. About 95% of the people do this. They carry around their little plastic bags and pick up, god bless 'em. The other 5%, though, lets their dog poop right where I will step in it on my way to the POS.
The instinct, of course, is to yell, "HEY! You're supposed to clean that up!!" But this is antagonistic and encourages the person to give you the finger and walk away. Seems that another way to get the job done, which I am just WAITING for the opportunity to do, is politely, kindly, offer them a plastic bag. "Do you have a plastic bag? I have extras if you need one."
Well, crap. I'm teething again.
I'm 29 years old and my 17-year molars, otherwise known as wisdom teeth, I believe, are gradually making a lopsided appearance. One of them actually grew in sideways and seems to have just stopped, peeking through. It seems to think it's done. It's not putting pressure on any other teeth. One is just making a bump in the gum. A third doesn't seem interested in appearing at all.
And the fourth just broke the gum -- right side up, it seems -- and is making it sore.
As long as they don't cause headaches or move my other teeth around, I'll just leave 'em there. My dentist is okay with that idea. I'm not having surgery unless it's going to endanger my health.
Ooo, a little political/social issues stuff today. I don't have web access today, so I begged Poindexter to e-mail me the text of my Townhall articles and Jonah Goldberg's NRO column, the links to which arrive via the still-working e-mail. He is so nice to me. He's an enabler, too, but we won't talk about that.
So anyway, Jonah Goldberg wrote an interesting column today in which he tries to defend himself for some comments he made about the Chinese.
The thing that irritated me about the original article was that he was confusing Chinese people with Americans or legal immigrants of Chinese descent. He does apologize for that.
However, the rest of it ... we're getting into some interesting territory. It's quite true that he wasn't being racist. In fact, we probably need a new term for what he was doing. "Xenophobia" is too strong and implies hatred. This is a lot milder. I'd call it being "culturist". He wasn't making fun of the Chinese their genetics, and he doesn't hate or think less of Chinese people, he was just making fun of a few aspects of their CULTURE.
I mean, unless you're a Perfect Person, don't tell me you've never sat around and made fun of traditions in other countries. Let's face it, to many folks raised in our culture, the French custom of not bathing as often as we do is just icky. I bet the Japanese don't like it either. If you're black, you never made fun of white people's lack of rhythm? If you're white and not a redneck, you've never made fun of rednecks because you think their stereotypical favorite pastimes (auto racing, anyone?) are neither fun nor worthwhile, even though some of your best friends are rednecks? Or how 'bout making fun of country bumpkins, or soccer moms? Remember that entry where I fussed about the Popeye's ad sponsoring a Black History Month television program? It's all "culturism".
Whether or not "culturism" is BAD is up for debate. Certainly it would be infuriating for an American of Chinese descent (AOCD for short) to be presumed to run a Chinese restaurant and eat dog meat regularly when he is, in fact, a software engineer and a vegetarian. But that doesn't necessarily mean that the person who presumed it is being racist. It could mean they haven't met very many AOCDs in their lifetime, or they're just plain stupid and inobservant. Not necessarily someone you want to be friends with, but not evil incarnate, either.
So in short, Jonah was being unimaginative, insulting and juvenile, and he's misapplying stereotypes, but I don't think he was being racist. The stupid things he said do not automatically mean that he would treat them unfairly.
As for me, I don't mind all the menus piling up at my door; I just wish one of them was for a GOOD Chinese restaurant. We're still looking for a good local pizza place, too.