Thursday, April 28, 2005

Am I a Racist? Part II

Busing. Or is it Bussing. Either way, I mean the kind where you get put on a bus and sent far from your neighborhood school to another school in the holy name of diversity. I, thankfully, was never bused.

However, one of my older sisters was. She was in fifth grade and got bused to Glen Oak Elementary. To this day I have no idea where in our town that school is. She was quick to make friends and I'm really glad she got exposed to what the kids at Glen Oak were listening to music-wise. She brought home some 45's that opened my ears to stuff I'd never heard before. Sly and the Family Stone's "Family Affair", Diana Ross' "Stoned Love" and "Touch Me In the Morning", The Stylistics "Betcha By Golly Wow", and some others.

SOUL music? In our house?

My mother listened only to Classical/Opera/Sacred (did I mention this was a Southern Baptist household?), my dad didn't listen to anything but I later found out he was a fan of the big band era. We heard the top 40 station, but it was heavy on Carpenters, Donny Osmond, Cher, and other white-bread drivel. Yeah, you heard Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five and an occasional R&B tune like "Lean On Me" by Bill Withers, but 'really black stuff' didn't cross over too much. My sisters, up until this time, were listening to the Partridge Family (and I remember my oldest sister getting really excited about getting the soundrack to "Oliver!" one Christmas). We also had a copy of "Snoopy and the Royal Guardsmen". So we weren't exactly schooled in soul.

That was the good part. The music, and I suppose some new girlfriends I never met.

The bad part was when my sister and her best friend Sandy were sitting in an outside area after school giggling about whatever it is little girls giggle about, and a young man (in sixth grade but old enough to be in high school) decided that they were giggling about him. He proceeded to beat them both up pretty badly. No hospital, but lots of bruises and a busted lip.

Again, at the time, I didn't think anything about it in racial terms (I was horrified that someone had beaten up my sister) and my folks didn't ever say anything other than express some vehement concern over the safety of their daughter at school. Understand, this was before the days where you sued everyone in sight for the slightest offense, real or imagined. So this experience, retold to by my sister a few times after I was older, was filed away with the others.

And there were others...

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Am I a Racist? Part 1

Let’s see, I started school in about 1969. Didn’t go to kindergarten, because my parents really hated anything with a German name. OK, I’m kidding about that, I didn’t go to kindergarten because my mother, an English teacher, taught me how to read at age 4, and I was pretty darn good with the finger paints, if I do say so myself (and naps, well I had them nailed). Anyway, due to a very-late-in-the-year birthday, I started first grade at age 5. Integration was in full swing in my home town of St. Petersburg, Florida, so I had plenty of black kids in my class. School was probably the first time I had much interaction with blacks (if you’re waiting for me to use the term “African-American”, you’re going to be disappointed. The only person I know who was born in Africa and moved to the US is my cousin Jim, who is white). I had no preconceived notions, so black kids were just kids in my class. Now, at the time, there weren’t any blacks on my block (which was my world at the time) so I never thought about where they might live, and they didn't come over to play (and 'play dates' were some years in the future - and for someone else's kids). My friends beyond school hours were mostly church friends, and there weren’t any kids my age in the surrounding houses (well, not when I was five).
One day at school (I think this was second grade, sorry for the fuzzy chronology – do you remember what you were doing at age five?), we were coming in from recess and everyone was taking turns at the water fountain (no, there weren’t any separate facilities, not even holdovers from the dark ages). We had a stupid thing we’d do where someone would sneak up behind the person drinking and push their face into the stream of water. Ha-ha, water up the nose. Well, I did that to a little girl in front of me, and she giggled about it and I meandered into the classroom. A couple of minutes later, I found myself yanked out of my seat by my teacher and thrust into the hall, where this little girl is crying her eyes out and holding her bleeding mouth. The teacher asks “Did he do this?” and she pointed and nodded through her tears. I tried to plead my case, that I’d barely touched her and she had even laughed about it (I actually really liked this girl) to no avail. Turns out that another kid in my class named Malcolm (he’s the only one who’s name I remember in this story) had seen what I did, came up after I walked off and had SMASHED her face into the fountain apparatus. I don’t know if she just didn’t realize it was someone else, or if he threatened her, or what, but here was a little black girl protecting a little black boy at a expense of the little white boy. I never thought about this in racial terms until very recently when it just popped into my head one day. Was this the germ of an attitude? I was surely upset that I got the blame for something I didn’t do (a pattern that continued throughout my scholastic career), but I never consciously thought she was doing it on purpose, or that there was any sinister motive behind it.

…to be continued

Friday, April 22, 2005

Bad Ideas for the Baptist Book Store

  • "Brimstone" brand Charcoal Briquets
  • Collection Plate cigar ashtrays
  • 30-pc. Silver Service
  • Crucifix bottle opener
  • "Hellfire" cigarette lighter
  • "Lazarus" Air Freshener

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Why won't people sing?

Had a random thought today:
People often will refuse to sing, even a casual setting with plenty of people around also singing (picture for instance the cliche of the campfire). They'll be self-depricating, saying "Oh, I can't sing"... "Can't carry a tune in a bucket"... "Don't want to peel the paint off the wall", whatever. Well, I'd have to say that most people can't speak like James Earl Jones, John Houseman, or Maya Angelou either -- but it doesn't stop them from flapping their gums all day.

Based on what I've seen of American Idol, however, some people probably should be kept from singing outside of said campfire scenarios.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

That first entry...

Naturally, I start this when I really should be in bed.

There are a million people or more trying to see the body of the Pope. Fingernails scraping along the edge of the cliff, hanging on to that last shred of decency, if you ask me.

If the ACLU, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Michael Moore, Al Franken and their pals are on the correct path, the next Pope should definitely be:
  • Gay if not 'trans-gendered'
  • an enviromentalist activist
  • anti-American
  • an atheist
  • Well, maybe not atheist but definitely anti-Christian. After all, Christians are an intolerant bunch of bigots.

And those people ARE right, aren't they?

Rob Thomas has a new single out, can't remember the name of it. All I know is that this guy who just wooed the women of the world with his vocal on Santana's "Smooth" has gone Backstreet Boy on us. If I hadn't seen the video first, I would have thought New Kids On The Block had made a comeback record. What the? Wasn't Rob supposed to be a rocker?

Ever been up really late at night and seen the infomercial for "Esteban" and his amazing guitar/amp combo? That's some great TV. I always wondered just how great that guitar really is... well, I saw one in a pawn shop the other day. You know how makeup and lights make haggard movie stars look gorgeous? Well, darned if it doesn't work for guitars, too! That's the crappiest excuse for a musical instrument I've ever seen. That guy should be in jail. Going on and on about the quality craftsmanship (can a robot in Taiwan have 'craftsmanship'?).

Those George Foreman grills are pretty cool. My folks got me the little one a couple of years ago for Christmas and I use it all the time. The newer ones even have removeable grill plates to make it easier to clean. Get one. Really.