Within the past few days I’ve had a lot on my mind. During the solitary drives to work and home again, I’ve wondered about the evolution of my family, especially on my dad’s side of the family.
My Grandpa Joe was a good man. He was jovial, kind, and loved irritating my mother. However, he wasn’t politically correct in the least. I never heard him call a black man, or African-American, by either of those names. He called them niggers. While the term “nigger” is seen as demeaning and derisive, my grandfather didn’t use it derisively and by that I mean he didn’t use it with malice. There was nothing, in his mind, wrong with saying, “Me ‘n’ Dave and that nigger Jim, we went…” and he would tell his story.
I figured out this wasn’t something nice to say by the way my mother’s back would straighten and her lips would purse and the porch swing would move a little faster. My father, more often than not, would continue to rock in the frayed lawn chair and stare out over the river.
I can only assume that at some point I heard my mother’s opinion of her father-in-law’s choice of words, probably as I lay prostrate outside the bathroom, eavesdropping through the crack at the bottom of the door. (This was one of my favorite eavesdropping spots as all important parental meetings took place in the bathroom, supposedly away from “little people with big ears.”)
Because our parents are our first and most important role models, I began wondering why my father did not adopt his father’s “choice of words.” Was it because his family was one of the few in his tiny community that had a television? Was it because during his high school years of 1956-1960 that the Civil Rights Movement had to have been on that television very prominently?
Was it because there were black families in our community who had children who attended high school with him without all of the racial tensions of the deep South? (His high school had two black school bus drivers and a black teacher.)
Was it because he served in the military with them? Was it because he went to college with them? Was it because he worked with them? Or was there some other incident or even person in his life that made him eschew his father’s “choice of words?”
I most certainly plan on asking him the next time I see him.
One of my other favorite eavesdropping spots was my bedroom window, which overlooked the neighbor’s driveway. If that wasn’t good enough, I could always drop down to my parents’ bedroom window, which was directly under mine, not only to get a better view, but a better earshot of what was going on. At some point my neighbors took in either his niece or her niece. Her name was Brandy and I’ll never forget her.
There were only two black families in our community at the time and everyone knew them. The boys of the “S” family were the sons of the same black teacher that had taught my father and mother at the high school and grandsons of one of the aforementioned bus drivers. I recognized one of them next door at my neighbors’ house. At that time, their back door opened into the driveway, right in eyeview and earshot. I heard my neighbor yelling at Brandy and the “S” man and telling them to get out. And, I heard the word, “nigger.”
I believe that was the first time I had ever heard the word used that way – with anger, disgust, and hate.
I went to the paragon of all things in my life at the time, which would mean my mother. It seems as though by standing in the kitchen washing dishes she was able to absorb via osmosis the fracas next door and was somewhat prepared to answer my questions. I knew the “S” men. One of the them, the younger, was a student teacher at my grade school. Why was my neighbor being so hateful? My mother tried to explain that our neighbor didn’t think that black and whites should date each other.
I would have felt sorry for my mother at this point. There isn’t an answer she could have given me that would have satisfied me. Perhaps it called into sharp focus her own prejudices, that while she may not have agreed with my neighbor’s methods, she did agree with her ideology. I found that out when Troy and I started seeing one another, probably about 20 years later. Now, 30 years later, my mother at least, is more open to inter-racial relationships and figures, hell, anything goes. My father, not so much so, or, do I even really know?
And what the hell did any of us know of “race relations” anyway? The “S” family had been in our community for two or three generations. The “F” family moved away and the “D” family, the father was a teacher at our high school, his wife and their seven children, moved there in the early 80’s. We found their seven children more intriquing than their color. The only other minorities in our community were the “B” family . Their mother was Vietnamese. Yet again, we found it more intriquing that they had five boys in the family and that they were Jehovah’s Witnesses than the fact their mother was from Vietnam.
Other families that had been in the community for a long time had Lebanese and Greek roots, but no one thought much about it other than it made a good story at the Lion’s Club meeting.
Not to say there weren’t racial remarks made in passing, but they were met with stony silence, disapproving looks, and most often a, “Shut the fuck up, asshole.”
Our tiny rural community was hardly a microcosm of America. Still today it isn’t a bustling hub of immigrants and minorities. But, in the turbulent late 50’s and early 60’s, it was progressive for its time and place in America. The principal did not stand on the steps of the high school and block the black children from attending. There were no riots or police dogs or firehoses. The Klan did not ride through the night and burn crosses.
While there are many things I could say about the rural town of my upbringing, the best I can say is that they taught their children to be racially tolerant. Whether it was because we had such a small number of minorities and they were well respected or just because we know what it felt like to be judged harshly and unfairly, not for the color of our skin, but for the location of our birth.
My neighbor was the exception rather than the rule and her son, who was the same age as myself, didn’t share her viewpoint of the world, just as my father did not share his father’s choice of words.
To be continued…
Last week, Jon Stewart of The Daily Show had a piece about how to tell whether or not you’re a Real American. I thought it would be great fun to determine whether or not I was a real American.
First, you take the population of your town (11,028) and multiply it by the cost of an average cup of coffee ($1.29), you then add the number of art house movie theaters (0) and then multiply by the number of streets named after Martin Luther King, Jr. (0). This is the numerator (or the number on the top), which for me was 13,895.28.
Then you take the number of IDs you need to purchase a bottle of Sudafed (2) and multiple that by the number of people who wear trucker hats (3661) minus the number of actual truckers (407)* and then multiple that by one over the number of houses of worship (10) minus the number of bars (7). This is the denominator ( or the number on the bottom), which for me was 2438.226.
The resulting number, if less than 10, means you’re a real American. I’m happy to report that I am, indeed, a real American. My number was 5.69.
I’m going to show you how a real American spends their weekend at a haunted lunatic asylum and making beef stew. From what I could tell from my photos, I was unable to capture any apparitions or odd occurrences. Compared to Moundsville State Penitentiary, Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (TALA), formerly Weston State Hospital, was relatively peaceful. I did have one encounter in part of the infirmary. I got quite spooked. I took a picture but again, nothing showed up. Some of the photos had “orb” (or dust) activity but that is to be expected from a facility which has become increasingly run down since its closure 14 years ago.
TALA is a National Historic Landmark and the largest hand cut stone masonry building in North America, second only to the Kremlin in the world. It stretches almost 1/4 of a mile and was built using the Kirkbride plan, in which there was plenty of fresh air and sunshine. The hospital was constructed from 1858 to 1881 and began receiving patients in 1864. It was operational until 1994.
But, real Americans also visit other historic places while waiting to tour asylums. We headed over to Jackon’s Mill, the boyhood home of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. We met some geese there.
So, after all the traveling, ghost chasing, and being true Americans, Sunday was spent tidying up a bit and making beef stew.
And corn grown on my parents’ farm. Since my father is a veteran I’ll stretch to make the connection that it was patriotic corn and potatoes. We also had cornbread which has no connection to my parents’ farm but I did flavor the stew with California Merlot, which I finished off with dinner. (It was a quarter bottle, just looks much bigger here.)
And, while on the phone with my mother today, my brother, in his Blackhawk, buzzed their farm while on a training mission for the National Guard. What a patriotic, American love fest! I really am a TRUE AMERICAN!
TRUE AMERICANS FOR OBAMA/BIDEN! Anyone who says any different can kiss my red, white, and blue ass.
* I arrived at the trucker number by taking the population of males in my town (5,085) and multiplied that by the number that were truckers (approx. 8% or 407). I then took the number of males and multiplied that by 80% or 4068, which is being generous as to the number of men who wear trucker hats (it could be as high as 90%). Then I minused the 407 from the 4068. All information, other than the guestimation of the percentage of men who wear trucker hats, was derived from city-data.com.
One more time. I signed up to work in Voter Protection for the Obama/Biden campaign a while back. They had a call for lawyers and paralegals to help with voter protection in swing states, three of which WV borders. I received an e-mail today asking that I work in the Youngstown area of OH, which is about 4 1/2 hours away, depending on how I roll up the Appalachians.
I actually believe I’ve been assigned to the Gallipolis area, which is only about an hour away, but hell, I’ll still go to Youngstown if that’s where I’m needed. The way the early voting is going in WV, perhaps I should stick around here and do voter protection!
I did e-mail the Gov’na and The Secretary of State about the voting issue and received a response from the Election’s Division of the Secretary of State stating that anyone who had contacted them about the problem was able to have their vote cast as they intended and they are working closely with county clerks and the makers of the voting machines to ensure everything is fair and clean with our election.
At least my voice was heard.
My father was always very adamant about his children receiving college degrees. My brother decided to work for his guard unit for a while and then secured a job with a helicopter manufacturer before obtaining his degree in some long-winded something about helicopter mechanics/design/engineering. I obtained both my Associates and Bachelors degrees in Criminal Justice in the Spring and Fall of 1994, respectively.
The best teacher I had at the college was a local lawyer who taught the 2 hour 45 minute Political Science class. I guarantee had Sarah Palin had Professor Woods for Poly Sci, she would have no doubt as to what the position of Vice-President entails. She would know a shit-ton about the Constitution, important Supreme Court cases, and the judicial process.
Professor Woods was also the kind of educator that made you think. He expected participation, he expected you to have an opinion, and he expected you to think critically. Not only were we expected to know the important points of Supreme Court cases like Roe v. Wade and Brown v. Board of Education, he expected you to be able to discuss, dissect, and debate said cases. Rote memorization? Hardly. His 15 page, three hour tests? Infamous.
Even though it has been 14 years, Professor Woods has stuck with me. He opened the door of critical thinking, to look past the surface, to look past sensationalized headlines, and dig deeper and deeper. He taught me to take the source into consideration, the political climate, and my own prejudices and biases.
I find it rather ironic that the person who pushed for my education is the one who shakes his head when we butt heads over politics. I know my father has already voted early for McCain/Palin. I know I’ll vote early for Obama/Biden. My poor mother is still sitting on the fence.
When I left the legal realm after 12 years, my father was displeased. I told him, “You got your money’s worth.” He got his money’s worth from Professor Woods alone, even if he doesn’t like it when I counter his political arguments with ones of my own.
Nothing new here, just a bunch of old school politics that just can’t seem to be routed from the WV political scene.
The Charleston Gazette lead with the story about voters in two counties casting early ballots on voting machines having those votes cast to “McCain” when they touched “Obama” on the screen. More early voters have come forward to attest to this problem. Naturally, our good WV government says, “Everything’s okay, my little lemmings, just follow the others over the cliff.” (The evening paper – The Daily Mail – stuffed the story to page 5.) * More voting problems reported in Martinsburg! IF THE MACHINE YOU USE PICKS THE WRONG CANDIDATE, ASK FOR ASSISTANCE. DON’T GIVE UP UNTIL YOUR VOTE IS CAST CORRECTLY!
Of course, the biggest brouhaha is because the two counties this has happened in are Republican counties and the ones in charge of the election are Republican. However, it shouldn’t matter what county it is, who is in charge, or what political party they are affliated with, everyone should be outraged. What if it were the other way around? Would you McCain supporters want your vote switched to Obama? Certainly not.
But, to say I’m shocked, I just can’t bring myself to say yes. West Virginia has been and perhaps always will be associated with some of the most corrupt politicians this side of New Jersey. For $20 and a pint of whiskey, votes can be bought. Hell, in this economy, $20 would probably do it. Our former governor, Arch Moore (father of current Congressional Representative Shelley Moore Capito), was found guilty of accepting graft and sent off to the Federal Pen for a sojourn. (He was a Republican, by the way.)
An associate of my old boss was also investigated, indicted, and plead guilty to a whole rash of vote tampering, corruption mongering charges and is currently doing time on Uncle Sam’s dime. (He was a Democrat, by the way.)
One would think that our government would attempt to bolster the image of our vastly underrated Appalachian state. Attempt in some way to erase the negative stereotype of toothless, ignorant hillbillies with one leg shorter than the other married to their cousin, spitting out babies, living on welfare in a trailer park in squalor, accepting a 20 and a pint to vote one way or the other.
West Virginia, per capita, has given more of her sons and daughters in the pursuit of freedom and the protection of the American way, than any other state in the union, yet allow those very freedoms to be trampled upon. For once, West Virginia, STAND UP FOR YOURSELVES AND STAND UP FOR YOUR FREEDOMS! HOLD YOUR GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABLE THAT EVERY VOTE IS CAST CORRECTLY AND EVERY VOTE IS COUNTED AS IT WERE CAST!
It doesn’t matter whether you’re blue, red, black, or white, STAND UP WEST VIRGINIA!
Something over the weekend made me think of spooning. I’m not certain what it was, but I thought to myself, “Oh, it hasn’t been that long ago that I woke up in a man’s arms. It was… last week.” But then I realized that was very far from the truth. I had dreamt it and that dream was so real that I actually thought it had happened. I’m not actually sure where the dream ended and reality began.
From what I remember, my alarm went off and I rolled out of bed, out of his arms, and looking back at the bed, I saw him still sleeping there and smiled. I remember a pervasive feeling of peace, which hung on the entire day. I found myself smiling as I remembered that feeling – the feeling of his arms around me, his warmth, the skin of his arm under my cheek, the brush of his hand on my hip as I left our cocoon, and his fading image that gave way to just an empty bed.
If you had asked me I would have told you I woke up with him. I would have told you how peacefully I slept. I would have told you I thanked him. I would have told you I smiled. I would have told you I tucked that moment away in the memories I never want to forget; when everything was right in the world in the darkness of that morning.
Some people believe the soul leaves the body during sleep and some our dreams are actually our midnight travels. If so, I would certainly say this was no dream, but a sojourn through the nocturnal hours in search of a peace I long for and which he willingly gave.
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)
I hope you always know that.
Over my four years here at Anything Goes, I’ve written a lot about my former nabes and their son, who is two years older than Nate. The majority of what I’ve written wasn’t always becoming to my former neighbors and a lot of times they really pissed me off.
I could say that they’ve raised a great kid, but actually, that great kid raised himself.
I never agreed with Cam walking home from school to an empty house before he was out of grade school. The excuse was that his mom would be home within 15 minutes, but a lot of times she wasn’t. Sometimes his dad didn’t get home until 6 and his mom didn’t come home until 9. And there was Cam, all 9 years old of him, sitting home, alone.
At the age of 11 or 12, Cam was left home alone at night while his parents went out to party. They would call to let me know they would be gone, just in case Cam needed something. I spent many a night at this computer, writing, until the wee hours of the morning, with the window cracked, the blind half drawn, so I could watch over this child. Often it was 1 or 2 o’clock before I would hear their dogs barking and the scrape and slam of their front door, allowing me the peace of mind to go to sleep.
By the time they lost their house a few years back, I had pretty much had enough. I knew something was going on over there, but not quite sure what it was. I’ve heard rumors but nothing concrete and it seems as though losing their house smacked some sense back into them. They’ve moved a few times since then but have finally settled in the Capitol City, in a not so great part of town, two doors down from where Troy used to live, and two doors down from one of the guys that used to work at the Shop (who AZ very recently had arrested for embezzlement.) Its a small world.
Cam, much more so than either parent, appears to be determined to overcome and achieve. In grade school, he failed a grade and was making straight F’s at one point. This all changed during middle school. He’s received two awards in school and regularly makes the honor roll. Again, head and shoulders above both parents in his will to better himself.
I pick him up every Friday night on the weekends that I have Nate, if possible. He went rockhounding with us and we went to the Black Walnut Festival together. He thinks going to Golden Corral is the shizznet. I had to work late one night, past 11 on a Saturday and Nate had said he would just stay at Cam’s for the night. No doing. Nate called and said, “Um, Cam wants to come to our house. Can you pick us up after you get off?” Of course. When can I turn down my kids?
For the most part, Cam is a quiet child. Although he and Nate can get going with the sword play and video games, he’s rather quiet around me, although I’ve known him over half his life. I think he likes hanging with Nate because Nate is old enough to be cool, but young enough that Cam gets to reclaim some of his own lost childhood. Cam has a quiet maturity that juxtaposes Nate’s still immature exuberance.
I still haven’t figured out what the difference is though in Nate staying there and Cam wanting instead to be here. Its always HERE. He wants to hang out with Nate, but HERE. Perhaps its because he used to live next door, and although things weren’t perfect, perhaps they were better.
This past weekend, he said he was ready to go home and Nate didn’t feel like riding, so I took Cam home by myself. I took a hold of that opportunity with both hands. I told him how proud I was of how he was doing in school and hoped he understood how important a good education is. He said he did and after a bit told me he wanted to go to technical school to learn about computers and how to build them. He’s talked before about being a video game developer.
I told him to look into going to vo-tech while he was still in high school and getting a leg up. I also mentioned he might want to look into WV Tech and getting a degree in some type of computer program they have there.
I asked him about Christmas and what he was wanting. He said, “Not much. I asked my parents for a 10 speed bike and (something I can’t remember! Damnit!). My bike is pretty bad off.” I have no doubt that he’s looking ahead two years until he turns 16 in August of 2010 to get a job and is thnking ahead for transportation.
I didn’t want to pry too hard into his head, like I said, he’s pretty quiet. However, I let him know that I would do anything I could to help him. He’s such a fine young man and he’s really been a great friend to Nate. He’s definitely not afraid to call Nate to the mat for being brattish.
I just wish I had the money for 10 speed bike.
I watched the debate last night with my friend Jimmy. Part of the problem with watching with Jimmy is we start discussing what the candidates are discussing and we had to catch up on what the candidates were saying. There were only two times that I yelled at the television. One was over energy and drilling and the other was over the negative campaigning.
I belatedly yelled after an interjection by Nate during the high point of the abortion debate. I rabidly dislike being called Pro-Abortion because I’m Pro-Choice. I don’t really have time to get into that.
I wanted to talk about Nate’s friend and the discussion we had the other day but again, don’t have time. Hope you all watched the debate and found out more about the policies of each candidate. Its important, even if you reject a candidate, to know where this country is headed after the elections.
Have a good one.