Under the Table (a Tale of S. W. B.)

I don’t like screaming the r word, I really don’t. I like giving people the benefit of the doubt, I swear! I don’t want to be seen as the Cassandra that is cursed so that no one listens to her warnings.  I understand that people get tired of talking about it…but that’s complacency you know. It is just an excuse for complacency.

Anyway, I was downtown last afternoon, more specifically in the Pearl District (see: Gentrification Vs. Development) waiting for an interview at an art college when I decided to kill some time while I waited by going into Sur La Table. This place is a hoity-toity kitchenware store right across from Powell’s books, catering mostly to upper-echelon foodies and culinary hobbyists. They even have cooking classes.  There only other location in the area is in Lake Oswego.  Should have been my first warning, right? Mistake No.1.
Whatever. I’m dumb like that.

I walked in and was immediately but passively accosted by the phenomenon I (not so) fondly refer to as “Shopping While Black”, or SWB. This is related to the phenomenon known as Driving While Black. Basically, when one walks into a “finer” shopping establishment and does not fit the nice-rich-White- lady/gentleman stereotype, one is subject to this phenomenon. It can manifest as employees following you around the store, being overeager to direct you to a particular section of the store (clearance, for instance), positioning themselves between you and the exit or even telling you that they don’t carry “those kinds of items here.” Yeah, I’ve heard that before too. 

So at Sur La Table, the second I walk in, a blonde NWL comes right up to me to ask if I can be helped with anything. Normally I just say no, but this time I asked about frying pans (Mistake No. 2) and she directed me to said section, and explicitly pointed out the two-for-one deal. As if. She hovers a bit, till finally I kindly and passively let her know that I’m just browsing and she can fuck of somewhere else. I’ve already been subjected to two examples of SWB, but then I notice immediately that she wanders away to the end of the display case-created “hall” where she positions herself in the way of main exit, pretending not to be watching me. Right. Like I don’t know what she’s doing. Loss prevention my ass.

At this point I am pissed off and definitely not going to buy their overpriced Scandinavian cookware. I walk around from the pans, wipe my hands on a few baking trays out of spite and then continue around to the main exit so as to not walk by this NWL. She, of course, pops out from her completely obvious station as Guarder Against the Poor in Our Store (did that make you chuckle?) and wishes me a nice day.

I didn’t even look at her. Bitch.

Normally I get over occurrences of SWB after a few hours and a few cigarettes. I woke up however, a day later, still pissed off. I ranted on the phone to my mother about it, who has resigned herself already to the fact that this isn’t ever going to change. She suggested dressing up super nice and just trying to interact with the same employee to teach her a lesson. I, in turn, wanted to call up rant at the manager, lie and say that I was a relative of Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa) because, 1) being half-Jewish I decided that we were related and 2) that she would never support Sur La Table again after I related this experience to her. 

In the end, this being untrue and probably unhelpful to my blood pressure and karmic state, I decided to just give them a nasty YELP review and write this blog.
The End.


Dear Francis

Today is smells like Japan. I remembered that smell as it struck me all a sudden on my walk to the train station. I wanted to go back to Japan. Maybe it smells like Japan because I was in that place when Grandma Emmy died. I had walked for hours and hours around the old part of Tokyo, pausing at the myriad of Shinto shrines that were sprinkled amongst the tiny streets. I was remembering her, and saying my goodbyes. Maybe today it smells like Japan because you’re dead now too. 

It was so beautiful and yet so sad. It was like a sound of dusk when you look out over the world with the sun disappearing and you feel so alone. I know that you’re not alone.  I have to hope that you’re not alone.

Earlier today I was at my desk just doing some menial paperwork before the office opened when that truth hit me. It was ridiculous. I haven’t cried in ages, and I thought that after that one year there would be no more tears left to cry.  I bawled and wailed a little bit. Embarrassed by my emotions and fearful someone in the office would find me this way. I was choked with emotion and it was frightening. I guess I needed to say goodbye.

So here it is, in my own way.
Good-bye Francis.
May G-d keep you.



Gentrification vs. "Development"

There is nothing that makes my blood boil more than gentrification.
Today on my lunch break, I was listening to a conversation my coworkers were having about the Alberta neighborhood. One of the managers lives near there. He called it the 'hood. Now, Alberta has been gentrified out of the ass since the late 90s with upper-middle class (over)educated, 30-something White couples moving in, buying houses and displacing what has been a historically Black neighborhood since the Vanport flooding in the 40s. Now I am all for everyone living together...I mean we're supposed to be a pluralistic society, no?

HOWEVER. This isn't integration. This is just pushing people out of their neighborhoods into crappier areas with less resources and infrastructure. This is especially problematic if you consider how segregated Portland is already. According to census information in Multnomah county, people of color (and working class Whites) are clustered in communities past 82nd Ave where there is a much lower economic level and many families living in bad conditions. The neighborhoods out there suck, basically. It's more dangerous too.

At one point during the conversation, another coworker said rather blithely "I went to that [Alberta] area as a child a few times and its just so developed now." She was implying that all the new White-owned businesses and new condos were improving the neighborhood, that it was more "fun". (Sidebar: Now I like this particular coworker, but she is naive. The worst part is she's a POC like me, but the Whitest one I ever met.)

Anyway...back to the issue. You call it development, I call it gentrification.
Just Say NO!



eyes mist over in plastic ways 
and meanings what does this mean 
you are mean-spirited 
weak of spirt 
mine screaming inside 
while you smile 
false mouth 
false eyes 
plastic idols 
je ne comprendre pas. 
je te déteste! 
c'est vraiment, 
you are not and so 
this is why 
the fascists must die. 


No seré yo.

A veces vivo en el precipicio, a punto de morir. Siento que estoy moriéndome, lentamente. Desahogándome. O sea que quiero suicidarme. No es que quiero suicidarme, es que...el sentido es asi. No tengo suficiente palabras para decirte eso. Entonces yo vivo en secreto, trabajando como nada me joda. Mis colegas no saben y tu tampoco. Que voy a hacer? Que seré yo? No seré yo. O quizás voy a ser algo diferente.