Saturday, September 24, 2016

Family Stories


My grandson Miro is going to come to visit.  He just graduated from college in California.  The last time we talked he said he wanted to know more about the family.

My grandmother was a seamstress who wore a housedress to work at the B.R. Baker Men's Clothing store in Toledo.  They would let her come out from the back room to say hello to us when we visited from Detroit.

Then, we would go over to the tire store owned by my two uncles.  I remember the smells.  From the big cigars they smoked or held unlit between their teeth. ("Ugh!" when they tried to kiss me.)  And, of course, from the tires.  They let us go into the back room where the tires were stacked in enormous black piles.

Sometimes we would visit my Aunt Rose.  She baked cakes at a deli.  This time the back room was the kitchen where we would find her dusted with flour while stirring chocolate batter with a wooden spoon in a huge bowl.

The very cool thing about Aunt Rose is that many years later her children encouraged her to write a cookbook and she was on the Johnny Carson show!

The cookbook has disappeared  -- but I still have the stories.  I still have them, Miro,  if you are interested.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Out of Jail



Our attitudes about race and class determine our decisions in so many ways.  I've overlooked or forgotten so many times I was insensitive -- and I'm nowhere near the front lines.  Last night I watched a group of sincere people on TV having one of those "conversations about race" that we think will help.  Everyone agreed that jobs were crucial to any progress.

The moderator seemed happy to announce that the Mayor was going to find a way to hire more police.  "Oh, so 500 more cops are going to be out there shooting at us?", a young man replied.  I didn't see that one coming.

I was married to a man who owned a business with a warehouse.  He was approached by an organization that finds jobs for ex-offenders.  The representative pleaded:  "He's been trained for warehouse work.  We watch our people closely." Apparently there was a law that prevented finding out if the ex-offender had been in for marijuana or murder.  We considered it, but eventually decided "no."  We used the excuse that the other workers may not feel safe.

Much later it turned out that the woman in charge of keeping the books and paying the bills had embezzled thousands of dollars from the company over the years.  She came highly recommended. No one thought twice about hiring her.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Night I Met John Carlos











Maybe someday the statue of John Carlos, Tommie Smith and Peter Norman will be regarded with the same reverence as the Raising of the Flag at Iwo Jima.  Not yet. Far from yet. But the arc of justice is bending.  And, as Donald Trump and his followers gasp and flail,  it bends a little more.

I was thinking about this as I noticed Dave Zirin's post that a statue of the "great salute" of the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City was being installed in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Dave Zirin is a sportswriter (Nation magazine, Edge of Sports), humanitarian, activist and all round great guy.  He covers the place where sports and social justice intersect.  He's having more company  now, wouldn't you say?

I met Dave at a book signing several years ago and we have stayed occasional email friends.  I met him again with John Carlos by accident in a coffee shop in Evanston.  They were speaking at Northwestern on their book tour for The John Carlos Story -- The Sports Moment that Changed the World.

I got to chat with both those champs that night.  Very special indeed.

By the way, if your wondering about Peter Norman, he was the Aussie silver medalist who stood in solidarity with John Carlos and Tommie Smith.  Dave says it was John Carlos who insisted Norman be included in the statue because "that's just the kind of guy John is."


Friday, September 9, 2016

Trapped



I've been trapped and "rescued" twice.  Once, I was stuck in an elevator between floors.  Firemen got it going again but it was a long, hot wait.  The other time was worse.  On the 20th floor of my high rise apartment building, black smoke was clogging the hallway ( I remembered those wet towels under the door).  Firemen down on the street used their bullhorns to warn us to stay put.  This, when the smoke was now filling up the place.  Both times, it took awhile before I was able to calm down.
That's why I am hesitating to see the movie "Sully" and why I avoided "United 93" even though Bill worked on that one.

Sometimes, it takes even longer to calm down.  I was listening today to an airline employee who happily checked the highjackers onto one of the 9/11 planes.  It's taken him until now to be able to talk about it.  Another story popping up in early September.  It seems to happen every year.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A Date to Remember?



I think today is the date of my father's death.  I know it was 1941.  I was eight years old.  I remember waking up wondering why no one got me up to go to school.  When I went to my mother's bedroom, she was with my Aunt Doris.  "Your father has died," they said.

I wore my good white dress to the funeral.  My mother leaned over the casket and cried: "Someday we will be together again.  Someday."

When she died, I asked Jo if she was going to be buried in Toledo next to our dad.  He said: "No, she's going to be here."

The eight year old inside me was confused.  I thought they would be together again.  The way she said and the way it's supposed to be.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

It's Promising



Bill is off to the Toronto Film Festival this weekend where his film, The Promise, will have its premiere.  Bill described it to me as an epic tale set again the tragedy of the Armenian genocide.  The stars, Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac, are sure to attract a lot of buzz.

The film was financed by the Armenian American billionaire Kirk Kekorian as a tribute to his ancestry.  Unfortunately he didn't live to see it completed.

If you think the Kardashians are the only famous Armenian Americans, here are some others:  Cher, William Saroyan and (my favorite) Andre Agassi.

The premiere is Sunday, September 11.  How poignant that it is scheduled on the anniversary date of our own mass killing.  The last line of one of Pete Seeger's ballads pops into my head:  "When will it ever end, oh when will it ever end."


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Better Editor



I am in the midst of reading Jonathan Franzen's latest novel Purity.  My friend Phyllis selected it for me when I told her I was looking for a good plot.  I admire these writers who give us big stories full of characters living contemporary lives.

So yes, there's a lot to dive into here.  Especially because Franzen let's us know what everyone is thinking while the characters struggle to be understood.  So then, I was wondering:  why do I feel engrossed and tired at the same time?   Does Franzen need a better editor?

Or is it simply that omniscience is exhausting.  And that's why nature provides us with our own
sanity-saving inner editor.  "Real life" doesn't allow us the same rights of invasion that we look to the novelist to provide.