Thursday, August 17, 2006

Badphairy's Here for the Argument

It’s easy to believe sometimes, that we live in a world hostile to us at every turn, outside of our close associates, and sometimes inside of them, too.

I have the dubious advantage of living/working in Oakland/Berkeley, each of which has its own, completely differing, reputation.

Berkeley is allegedly a haven for hippies, counter-culturists (WTF is that, nowadays, someone who does believe in global warming?) and general oddballs. Never mind that it’s basically a conservative college town with a median home price of $1,000,000 or so. That’s for a three-bdrm, one bath Victorian that needs a new foundation. Not very many beatniks, hippies, or panhandlers can afford that.

Oakland is an awful place, murder capital of the nation every couple of years, and just chock-full of black people, heaven forfend. White people have to be out by sundown (according to one dumbass Texan I had the misfortune to meet recently). This of course, is hogwash, since the black population of Oakland is at best, 40%. The other 60% is not made up solely of Asians and Hispanics, kids. Lots of white people live comfortably in Oakland. We have the first man-made wildlife refuge in the nation (Lake Merritt). We even have parks, and a world-class ice skating center. (I was there today, it was very nice. They need a new zamboni, though.)

The cities are right next to each other, share a county, and are likely more similar than different. Living in one or the other gives the resident its reputation. The other day I was attempting to make the point that there are many other social angles to the link between poverty/obesity than “poor people are lazy assholes”. Using pubtrans to get to the grocery store takes about eight times as long as driving, you can only carry so much, and when you get home you have to cook, and store leftovers. Or one could just go to McDonalds. Really basic sociological stuff like that.

I got a couple people talking to me about the joys and money saving of canning. In the city. Right. So, you take pubtrans ($3.50 round trip plus a three block walk each way), buy fresh vegetables at many times the cost of prepared foods (1 pound of asparagus $1.45, 1 pkg crappy hotdogs $1.29…which feeds you longer, hello) buy glass jars (can’t imagine where. There’s no Kmart, WalMart, anything within a five mile radius), pans to sterilize in, spend many hours a day (what job?) in a hot kitchen in the hottest part of the summer…heating things…

You know, my mother used to can our garden produce and I had to help. It had to be one of the crappiest jobs to have in late summer EVER. It’s hot as hell and humid as Florida, and you’re trapped in the kitchen boiling and steaming things (and yourself)! I’d rather shovel shit. At least I’d be outside.

However, I have reason to know that. The idiots offering “tips” assumed that since I said I lived in Oakland, I was some dumb ghetto whore who didn’t know a radish from a rutabaga. Never mind that I moved here three years ago, have a background in animal husbandry, and don’t routinely kill plants if I can help it. The sad part is, they didn’t bother to ask whether I knew anything, they were comfortable in applying their asinine generalities as if they were the actual fact. Thus does where one lives, and with whom one associates, rub off on other people as a predictor of one’s status. Books, covers, judgments by… Look it up, people.

Thus it is easy to believe one lives in a world hostile to at least one of the adjectives forming one’s putative “identity”.

Sometimes, rarely, there is that shining moment where one realizes that there are truly allies out there. Not just people who pay lip service to “we feel your pain”, but people who live by what they say.

In this particular case, a person with a good sense of humor, too.

So, to make a long story short (too late!) I’m arguing with yet a different set of people about gay marriage, (toward which my dubiousness has previously been registered) and someone else in the thread offered this gem about his not-upcoming wedding.

“We have quite a few gay friends, and we both sort of feel like inviting them to a wedding would be like inviting your black friends in the 60s to watch you eat your lunch at a restaurant. ”1

I nearly inhaled an entire mouthful of beer. I got enough to realize that the feeling of CO2 bubbles in your sinuses is not so jolly as one might surmise. I began to sing “What a Friend We Have in BunkoSquad” then realized I’d been an agnostic long enough to forget the actual words.

That one remark cheered me up for hours. We do live in a hostile world, but keep your eyes peeled for allies. You find them in unlikely places.

Speaking of hostile worlds, I’ll be in Oregon next week, where we currently plan to staff a booth at the Celtic Festival, go kayaking, and ride horses up a volcano. Umm, that last one seem odd to anyone else? I’ll write a dispatch from the road, if I live that long. 2

1. Quote authored by, alias Michael, last name, Johnson-Smith-Chen (not really)
2. I’ve been reading a lot of Bill Bryson’s belly laughter-inducing travel writing. I highly recommend him...


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