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did you know no one ever blogs anymore? and here’s a book round-up for you… On the Nightstand

October 6th, 2014

that’s right. Blogging is so four years ago, with the exception of those of us who still keep our online journals: Zoot, Y from the Internet, who I’ve known for so long I call her that, Amalah, Doocie, and me.

The big five, baby, that’s where we’re at. Not the big 5-0, the big 5. Kidding.

I will persevere.

I mainly blog nowadays because I need the archives — especially for updates on my kids (my daughter is driving now, btw) (uh, it’s true. This little girl…), a cookbook (you can always buy a hard copy), school work, and whatever else I need. Quotes of the day, funny jokes. Ha. Funny to me jokes.

So you know that your Facebook archives aren’t really archives, right? And that your photos might or might not disappear eventually, if that’s where you’re storing them? Just saying.

So here’s what I’m working on reading this school year. And first things being, as always, first: the potboilers.

I read Theodore Dreiser’s “Sister Carrie” when I was an 18-year-old college freshman and knew everything. I would like to talk with that girl and have her answer a few of my several hundred questions, now that I know nothing. Dear Lord, what a difference between 18 and 50.

“You should see her ass in that dress.” — my friend Nicole, to my then-lover, talking about me and my brand-new little black dress, circa many years ago. We were at a bar downtown. It may have been the Virginia Cafe. Or Hamburger Mary’s, or the Veritable Quandary, or that place where they served the delicious little Cornish game hens? The Vat & Tonsure. Then (to me): “You hit 27 and your ass just falls. I don’t know what it is.”

My main concerns then:
1) how am i going to get these bills paid?
2) where are the parties this weekend?
3) what about this “27 changes everything” thing? (defer)
4) why does she (neighbor/friend/family member/co-worker) put up w/ that shit? (from spouse/children/grown children/neighbors/co-workers)

I have to go water the yard now, and write more when I get back. No more bars, just chores, out here on the farm. I could really use another load of manure for the east 40.

Back! So. “Sister Carrie,” which I always throw together with “Portrait of a Lady,” “Anna Karenina,” “Madame Bovary” and “The Awakening”… Well, it’s its own animal. I just love the book.

Finished it up, and on to “An American Tragedy” (also Dreiser), which I’ve been meaning to read ever since I saw the Elizabeth Taylor/Montgomery Clift classic, “A Place in the Sun.” God, it’s brilliant, too. So I’m happy, with lots to read. And I have a good excuse (for the moment) to put off reading all of these for work (ps check out this week’s issue of The Nation. On the cover: “Saving Public Schools: A Growing Movement Confronts the Failure of ‘Reform'”:

Being Bad: My Baby Brother and the School-To-Prison Pipeline: Being Bad (Teaching for Social Justice)
by Crystal T. Laura

Bon appetit!

— wm

show some respect for the Man

September 14th, 2009

re: Wilson screaming, You lie! at our esteemed President… I’m thinking…

“Black is the new president, bitch.” — Tracy Morgan

Ha. That’s what my late grandma would say. Ha! Yes, she voted for Obama. My Arkansas grandma voted for Obama. I have never been so proud.

I’m reading “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” right now and I’m thinking — okay, it was written in 1976 (won the Newbery Medal in 1977), is set in 1933, skillfully deals with racism, KKK, lynchings, night riders — and this book is (UNFORTUNATELY) so relevant today. Go read it. Stay educated. Speak up!

New Seasons on Chavez Blvd. and Grandpa Interstate Ave.

October 5th, 2007

Don’t you hate it when you leave a comment on a blog and it never shows up, for hours and hours, and you’re thinking, WTH? (I’d never have this problem on Rockstar Mommy’s blog because girl knows how to moderate.) Then you remember, I have my own blog! I’ll post it there. (more…)

Community Rally in Portland, Ore., 1 p.m. Saturday Oct. 6, 2007

October 5th, 2007

(from an e-mail I just received. WM)

N.A.A.C.P. Portland Branch 1120 Responds to Racist Concert Organized by Hammerskin Nation

PORTLAND, OR – October 5, 2007 – Since opening our doors in 1914, the Portland NAACP Branch 1120 has steadfastly fought to win and protect the civil rights of African Americans and people of color. (more…)

“Rosa Parks was a law-breaker”… and I would have to say “Si” to Cesar Chavez Blvd. in lieu of Intercourse Ave.

October 1st, 2007

“Persons appear to us according to the light we throw upon them from our own minds.” -Laura Ingalls Wilder, author (1867-1957)

Do you live in Portland? Would you like to sign a petition in favor of renaming Interstate Ave. “Chavez Boulevard”? If so, sign here. (more…)

Take the Skinheads Bowling, Take Them Bowling

September 25th, 2007

Hmm. Why would they choose Portland, of all places? From an e-mail I just received (check bottom of post for community events taking place in response to the gathering):

Portland, Oregon – The Hammerskin Nation, a neo-Nazi skinhead organization, aims to attract hundreds of hardcore racists to the group’s twentieth-anniversary celebration, to be held October 5 – 7 of this year in the greater Portland area. The Hammerskins, then known as the Confederate Hammerskins, began life in 1997 as a Dallas, TX gang specializing in violence against Jewish people and people of color, sexual minorities, as well as activists. The Hammerskin Nation-a masthead for Hammerskin racist skinhead crews-has since gone national, and later international, with their bigoted agenda. (more…)

life is just a cocktail party on the street

September 24th, 2007

“Do I look like a motherfucking role model?”
— “Gangsta Gangsta,” NWA

It has been brought to my attention that my husband and I are now pillars of the community. The press has been calling. Sometimes several times a day. One of us may have given testimony at a school board meeting while the other was home tending to a sick kid and his overly-rambunctious sister.

And it has been further brought to my attention that I offended someone (eh, probably more than one person, but just one bothered to e-mail) last week with this post. My usage of the word “fuck” and “the reference to watermelons,” specifically.

Watermelon seems like an innocent enough word but really, it is not. I am aware of this and thought I made my point rather succinctly. I was merely describing the first time I figured out that white people think they are “bonding” with African-Americans when they talk loudly and state, “I, too, adore watermelon, much like your people do!”

This is not cool. You do not want to get that started.

“It ain’t that kind of party.”
Leon Dudley, former principal of Jefferson High School, North Portland, Ore.

So. You were offended. I don’t know what to tell you. “Stop reading this blog” comes to mind, but that seems so… final, to send a reader away like that. I like readers! They pay the bills! Oh, wait, no they don’t, the advertisers do. Go click on my Google ads, readers. Anyway, words are tricky. Ask Cynthia Harris about that one.

Nonetheless, I would like to stand by my reference to watermelon. And I’d like to stand by quoting the girl from my grade school who told one of the other students: Boy, you are fucking with my nerves. I cannot rewrite my own history, people, as much as I would like to sometimes. I did play mumblety peg and pitch pennies in grade school. I was excellent at both sports and won a fair amount of money.

I did begin drinking at age 10 and smoking cigarettes at age 11. And after hearing the girl say that to the guy — and he listened to her — this, too, was new in my world — a guy listening to a girl… wow. Well, at that point yes, I did learn that “sometimes black girls can be mean, but they totally fucking rock. Fuck yeah.” (To quote myself.) (Because, why not?)

I suggest that you crib from this list and substitute the following words whenever I start cussing and you get nervous:

1) Oh my heck! for Oh my GAWD!

2) Owie! for Goddammit shit motherfucker (my daughter: “Mom, you teach Sunday school now. You hafta stop cussing like that!” Me, crossing my fingers behind my back: “I’ll try.”)

3) Cheese and rice for Jesus Christ

4) Jeebus for Jesus

5) Well, you can just forget about that, buster! for screw that


6) Dagnabit! for Why don’t you stick it in my eye and then I’ll be able to see that you’re fucking me? (No, I did not make that up, I swear to you — that’s how the moms talk in my neighborhood. Could I possibly invent that expression? No, I am not that creative. Dagnabit, I wish I was.)

Jena 6 Vigil in Portland, Ore.

September 20th, 2007

FYI if you are in Portland — just received this press release. It’s late notice, I know, but if you’d like to help in any other ways, there is a website address and phone number below.

Peace, always.



As thousands of men and women descend on Jena, Louisiana on Thursday to press for justice on behalf of six high school boys, we can make a difference here in Portland. The Prospective Gents Club, a local youth program, is challenging you to not only talk about it, they want you to BE about it and join them for Portland’s

Thursday, September 20, 2007 at 7 – 8:30 p.m.
Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church – 5828 NE 8th Avenue

Please wear all black and bring a candle (or tiki torch). Donations will be accepted for the Defense Fund.


Thursday Thirteen #111: Thirteen Ways I Learned About Racism

September 19th, 2007

Hullo, hullo, 13ers and Usual Suspects,

For my Thursday Thirteen, I am talking about skin. Its color, specifically. It all feels the same, skin, doesn’t it? When you touch it? Stroke it? Caress it? Burn it? Jab it and make it bleed? It bleeds the same. It hurts the same. We all have skin. It’s just that mine is white. Maybe yours is, maybe it isn’t. It doesn’t matter. But some people think it does.

How did I learn about racism? Oh, lots of ways. I’ll work backwards, from this week, as things come to mind:

1) From Cynthia Harris, the principal (African-American) of our neighborhood high school, Jefferson High School, here in beautiful, open-minded Portland, Oregon, USA. (Here are four links, because no one can agree on what one thing Jefferson should be). Harris told a group of parents and community members that “Black kids are different” and “Almost one in four black students at my school is in special education. Something is wrong there.” So they’re “different” and “really different,” apparently.

Harris refused to answer questions posed by a woman (white) who, like me, is an advocate for kids and a community activist. Why wouldn’t she answer her questions? Harris told the woman “(I) don’t understand why people who aren’t African-American think they should have any say in what happens at Jefferson.”

I say: Ms. Harris, be inclusive. If you can’t be, then you need to not work with students or any communities. I’m a community member, and I want to help make things better. Don’t say no to anyone who is trying to help — say yes. Your word should be yes. Yes, yes, yes. Yes, let’s talk. You don’t have to agree to everything everyone wants, that wouldn’t work. But I am asking that you listen to what people have to say, have a conversation, answer the questions that you are able to answer. Communication. Yes.

(This subject is also being discussed by Terry Olson, Hockey God, Willamette Week and KGW-8, Portland’s NBC affiliate. (And over at The Mercury, they’re talking about race as it relates to drug- and prostitution-free zones.) If you see discussions elsewhere, please e me.)

2) I was being a smart-aleck when I said “beautiful, open-minded Portland.” Because, while the scenery is quite beautiful in Portland, the people can be quite ugly. We have a long, hideous history of racism in Portland. I just lit a candle for Mulugeta Seraw and another one for the Coon Chicken Inn and another one for Tony Stephenson and another one for Jose Meija Poot and another one for everyone. And I lit one, too, for the Portland Police officers who thought they should “decorate” the doorstep of a business (black-owned) with dead possums. Maybe I ought to light two for them.

This isn’t all of it — these are just a few “situations” that came to mind.

I am not proud of my city’s heritage, you should be aware of this.

3) I learned about racism when my friends had their house firebombed, windows broken, furniture on their front porch burned, in the early ’90s, by the Skins who lived the next street over. They are an interracial couple — a woman (African-American), her husband (white), and their female roommate (African-American). They chose to leave Portland.

4) When I was in third grade, my girlfriend Teri and I sat down with a table of kids (African-American), at lunch. She proceeded to talk at length about the following: watermelon, and her love of it; her grandparents, and their house in North Portland; did she mention she really loved watermelon?; and how she was always at her grandparents’ house, in North Portland.

I felt really weird, but didn’t know why. I didn’t say anything.

The kids all took their trays and moved to another table. When I asked my mom why, later, she said, “Jesus H. Christ, I cannot believe what an idiot that kid is” and swore for awhile before she explained.

5) In fourth grade, after my dad died, I spent most lunch hours alone on the playground, hoping no one would notice me, and trying not to cry. A pair of twins (African-American) found me. They were a year older than I was, and well-known for their fistfights, which they always won.

“Did your daddy kill hisself?” they asked me.

That’s when I started thinking that black people were mean, and would beat me up if they saw any weaknesses.

6) Then there was fifth grade, when I heard one of the older girls, an eighth-grader (African-American), tell another eight-grader, boy (African-American), “Boy, you are fucking with my nerves.” We did not talk like that at my house and that’s when I learned, sometimes black girls can be mean, but they totally fucking rock. Fuck yeah.

7) Then there was sixth grade, when Paula (African-American) beat me up. I deserved it, I was being a jerk to Dina (bi-racial — African-American and white) and really, I totally deserved it. But they were both friends with me, after that. Dina used to come into the pharmacy where I worked, and the restaurant where I waited tables, just to say hi. Her mom did, too. She’d say, “Dina says hi.”

I ran into Paula a few years ago — it was so good to see her. I told her I had heard that Dina was killed in a car accident, when we were all in our early 20s. It was her husband, I heard. He wanted her dead, there was domestic violence. (I didn’t tell Paula that part; her daughters were there.) Paula told her daughters, “We were all friends.” And I told them, “You just never know how things are going to turn out, so we need to all be good to each other.”

I should light a candle for Dina, too, don’t you think?

9) We had race riots at my school — “Black versus white! Black versus white!” a few kids would scream. They’d all spill out to the park. Some guys (African-American) would break out cake-cutters. They were metal and sharp. Some guys (white) would threaten to have knives, but they only occasionally did. I would watch from the playground next to the park, then I would walk home. Then my mom would ask, “Why are you home early?” and I would say, “Fight.” Where were the grown-ups? I have no idea. Smoking in the teachers’ lounge, I imagine, and complaining about us.

10) I found out that some kids (white) from my neighborhood were being bussed to schools (black), far, far away, in North Portland. (I went to school in Northeast, ten minutes from North). And some kids (black) were being bussed from schools (black) in their neighborhood (North) to my school. Everyone getting on and off the busses seemed to be in a bad mood. There were a lot of fights on that end of the building. I learned to keep my distance. I learned that a lot of times when people got sick of talking they used their fists.

11) Then there was my maternal grandma (white) from Dakota (North) who called Brazil nuts “nigger toes.” Then there were my mom’s relatives (white) from the south who said, “You want some good barbecue, you go get some of that nigger barbecue.”

12) I learned about racism when I fell in love with a man (black) and another man (brown). I learned about racism when I was on jury duty and they asked us, one by one, if we’d ever been involved in an interracial relationship. If you had been, you were disqualified.

“Did you notice that people stared at you when you walked down the street?” the lawyer asked.
“Yes,” I said, “But I just thought it was because we were so good looking.”

13) I learned about racism while we were planning our 20th high school reunion in 2002 and the former cheerleaders (white) insisted on having the reunion and picnic in ritzy areas of town (white) where I told them that a lot of my old friends (African-American and Asian) wouldn’t “feel comfortable” going.

Is that the most stupid expression ever? “Feel comfortable”? “It makes me uncomfortable”? But I didn’t know how to put it. I suggested Peninsula Park, in North Portland. I had talked with Paula, who had talked with some of the other alums. They had asked for Peninsula Park. Cheerleader frowns all around. “It’s too dangerous there.”

It made them “uncomfortable.”

How many guests of color at my reunion? Three (Asian, African-American, African-American.) There were close to 400 kids in my graduating class, which was maybe 60 percent white, 20-25 percent Asian, maybe 15-20 percent African-American and a few Hispanic kids.

Three people.

On Becoming Educated

January 19th, 2007

My kids have attended school eight out of the last 31 days. Eight. No wonder I can’t get their lazy little behinds out of bed.

The missed days have been because of snow, threat of snow, holiday break, various teacher planning days and MLK’s birthday. The only education that has occurred here at all was around the MLK holiday, aka The Day I Spend Crying, because I start thinking about Dr. King, which makes me think of Malcolm, and they were both the most rockingest guys… and now what do I tell my kids? “Stand up for what you believe in and you might be killed”? Yes, that is what I tell them. I tell them it’s worth the risk, even if it means you leave your little children behind. I tell them that Malcolm and Dr. King both were awesome fathers, and they wanted a much, much better world for their little babies. I tell them that is what all parents need to do. Make the world safe and fair and better. And then fix dinner. Amen.

I tell them, “You can die on your feet or live on your knees” when they ask me, “How come they got shot, if they were right?” and “Are you crying again?” The sermon on Sunday at church was about Dr. King’s thoughts on almost giving up — I’ll try to track down the text, it was incredible. Have you ever heard it? He’d had a rough day, was just climbing into bed with his wife, who was already asleep, when the phone rang, and someone was on the other end, threatening him and his family. Again.

So he made a pot of coffee and sat awake, in the middle of the night, worrying, protecting his family. And trying to come up with some reasons to go on fighting for civil rights. For human rights. He finally decided, I have to — if I falter, my followers will falter. He did not falter.

We do need to keep fighting, even if we’re struggling with the words, and the emotions, along the way.

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