Ignorance is Bliss

Colson Whitehead, Author Underground Railroad

 

Being born in the semi-south (northern Virginia) and raised during the 50ties, I had a brush with segregation. I use the term brush because when compared to my more southern counterparts, my life was a piece of cake. I recall that I could not try on hats at the local Woodrow and Lothrop department store. I could not go to the movie theater one block from my house, and could not eat in local restaurants. Nor could I attend local swimming pools, skating rinks, and schools and neighborhoods were segregated. These were just a few of the many things that were part of my life in the semi-south. It was easy to view these things as “the way life is”. Then 40 years later my education about the system of slavery began.

My mis-education about the system of segregation and slavery was based upon the minute information disclosed during elementary school history class which was buttressed by the sanitized movies about the wonderful lives of slaves (aka Gone with the Wind). Even Bill O’Reilly said slaves at the white house were “well fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government.” Whitehead’s book, Underground Railroad, turned my thinking about the institution of slavery upside down and inside out.

I read Whiteheads’s book during an intersection of events. First, was a couples vacation to Charleston, South Carolina, which I learned was ground zero for the slave industry. The second event was the receipt of a Smithsonian magazine titled Black in America prompted by the opening of the  African American Museum. The third occurred because I was desperately looking for a good book to read, which led me to the New York Times book review where The Underground Railroad was listed. Finally, I joined a book club and naturally the book being read this month is The Underground Railroad.

I probably would have overlooked any one of these events and filed it away under miscellaneous knowledge soon to be forgotten. It was the convergence of the four events that has thrown me into a tailspin.

While visiting Charleston, I was able to view the history of the major center of the slave slave-posterindustry from a purely business perspective. How well organized it was with great record keeping systems.. At one point, there were 40 different auction businesses housing brokers with jail cells for the “enslaved Africans.” It was in Charleston that I learned the term “enslaved Africans” as the correct new terminology that acknowledges the humanity of people considered property. The auction houses were the terminus for a network of slave catchers, slave thieves, and brokers ranging across the southern states. When someone needed money they would simply sell some of their “property” through this network. Viewing this from a business perspective allowed me to ignore the emotional impact of selling children away from their parents and wives from their husbands.

When I returned home from Charleston, the Smithsonian magazine was there to continue my education. It was filled with stories from the new African American museum which addressed the contributions of Enslaved Africans to the development of the United States. It described the migration of enslaved Americans after the 13th Amendment was passed (12/6/1865) and the effects of that migration. Then when I picked up the Underground Railroad all the emotions began to flow as I read of the degradation, beatings, hangings, maiming, rape, and psychological damage inflicted upon my ancestors. His book is based upon “slave” oral histories captured by the Library of Congress wrapped in incredible creative writing skills.  The “business perspective” barrier that I had erected came crashing down around my ankles.

Now I am faced with book club where I will be the only brown skinned person in the room. This should be interesting.

Soweto Gospel Choir: A Preconceived View

Expectations and preconceptions skewed my view of the Soweto Gospel Choir. I had read about their Grammy awards and as an African-American woman, I looked forward to their performance with great anticipation . When they walked out on stage, I joined with the rest of the audience to applaud their presence here in the US at George Mason University, but the first thing I noticed was the women’s hair and second was the costumes.

I know it is unfair to prejudge, but it is only human to have expectations, and I expected the African women to wear African hairstyles and/or hair wraps. So, I was taken aback that all but one  of the women had African American hairstyles, which means braids and weaves. One of them even had strawberry blond hair.

Additionally, all members of the troupe word nylon or polyester costumes. Somehow that didn’t seem like native attire, which was my expectation. So, as unfair as it is, this skewed my view because I was looking for authenticity.

On the other hand…. the music and dance was outstanding. The male dancers greatly outshined the women with their high kicks up to their heads. The only other disconnect was a tap dance routine performed by the men. Again, it may be my preconceived notions about African dance, but tap dancing does not fit into my  idea of African Dance. The end of their program had the audience on their feed which was appropriate because their music made you feel like dancing, and their rendition of Oh Happy Days was rousing. At the end of the day, it was time well spent, extremely enjoyable, and everyone walked away with a smile on their faces and a song in their heart.

 

 

I Am Starring in the Truman Show

As I power-walk down the street, I observe perfection. Perfectly manicured yards. Perfectly clean streets. Perfect weather. Perfectly behaved children. No two houses the same and many of them architectural jewels. Life moves at a slow pace and what they call traffic is laughable.  The people are southern-friendly. Everyone owns a bike and uses it regularly.  As Garrison Keillor would say it’s a town where  “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average”. Naturally, it was just proclaimed as having one of the top best school systems in the US.

Everything is so sweet and simple that it is jarring. There is so little crime that all the police have to do is give out parking tickets and chastise residents for going without bike helmets. Housing is in such high demand that rentals are gone within 2 hours of being published in the local paper. Kids roam freely throughout the community and like Cheers…. everyone knows your name. It feels fantastical. I keep waiting for someone to pull back the curtain and show some man pulling strings like the Wizard of Oz.

Waiting to wake up from this dream. In the meantime… I will enjoy life in Coronado, California.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comic-Con: A Parallel Universe

Comicon - Meatwad and FrylockYou cannot escape the world of Comic-Con in San Diego. The geeks/nerds are everywhere. (I can call them that because hubby and I are one of them.) You cannot help but run into them as they are highly recognizable by the costumes they wear.

Before I continue, let me explain that Comic-Con is a four-day event held every summer at the San Diego Convention Center. According to Forbes, the convention is the “largest convention of its kind in the world.” This year, 2015, it filled the Convention Center to capacity with more than 130,000 attendees.

The Convention Center is right out our backdoor, so we had to go! Plus we had to get our geek/nerd membership card updated. Even though we’ve gotten into cosplay a few times this year, we were not prepared with a costume, but the first event we attended had face painters. We got to choose between several well-known characters as shown in picture below.Comicon - Meatwad and Frylock heads (2)

Granted, these characters are only “well-known” to geeks/nerds who stay up late at night watching shows like Aquateen Hunger Force. (Full Disclosure: I had never heard of Aquateen prior toComic-Con, but Hubby knew all about them. Not sure, but I think it’s better that he watch these wierdly funny shows late at night instead of XXX programming, but it’s a close call.)

I selected the character, 2nd from the left called “Meat Wad”. He is described as “having low intelligence, naivety and trusting nature which causes him to be abused and manipulated by others…” Had I known more about his character, I probably would not have selected him (not sure why Hubby didn’t redirect me). On the other hand, he chose Frylock (3rd from the left) who is described as “by far the most logically thinking member of the Aqua Teens.” In hindsight, I think hubby set me up.

After we got our faces painted, we were officially “in costume.” We felt like celebrities because people kept stopping us to ask to take our picture.

A good time was had by all….

Stay tuned….

Make Your Life Story A Best Seller

NextBestSeller

After four months of de-stressing from a “complicated” work life, I finally awoke renewed. My formula for de-stressing was lots of walking, hiking, dancing, museums, costuming, travel, and jazz. In other words, I filled my calendar with activity. On occasion, I still feel my blood pressure rise when thoughts of my last job intervene. But, last Monday I knew I was ready to find my groove and begin anew.

The feeling reminded me of a blog I wrote two years ago that is worth repeating….

After reviewing a conversation with a 20-something, I realized what I should have said. She has a 6-month internship and is enjoying life after college doing all the things you would expect… happy hours, drinking, followed by happy hours followed by nightclubs and more drinking… repeat.

I should have asked her how she wants her life-book to read at the end of 6 months. Does she want it to say she spent countless nights at happy hours and nightclubs or does she want it to say she explored all possibilities until she was exhausted? That she biked, jogged, took a walk through the history of our country by visiting all the museums, swung through the trees on ropes, volunteered, visited all the jazz/orchestral/rap concerts in town. That she drank fully from the cornucopia of things that Washington DC has to offer.

For that is the way we should consider our lives…. that we are writing our story. Every day we write another page. Imagine that you are reading your story from yesterday or last week. Would it be interesting? Would it be filled with life or ordinariness (if that is a word)? Was it the same old, same old? But, more importantly, is that how you want your book to read?

Then after “reading” your story from last week, you get to decide how you want today’s chapter to read. Because, remember…. this is your life and you get to write it.

I’m going to follow my own advice.

Stay tuned.

My Life as a Best Seller

Awoke last Monday feeling ready to restart my life after four months of de-stressing from a “complicated” work life. My formula for destressing was lots of walking, hiking, dancing, museums, costuming, travel, and jazz. In other words, I filled my calendar with activity. On occasion, I still feel my blood pressure rise when thoughts of my last job intervene. But, last Monday I awoke feeling rested, cleansed, and ready to find my groove, and begin anew.

The feeling reminded me of a blog I wrote two years ago that is worth repeating….

After reviewing a conversation with a 20-something, I realized what I should have said. She has a 6-month internship and is enjoying life after college doing all the things you would expect… happy hours, drinking, followed by happy hours followed by nightclubs and more drinking… repeat.

I should have asked her how she wants her life-book to read at the end of 6 months. Does she want it to say she spent countless nights at happy hours and nightclubs or does she want it to say she explored all possibilities until she was exhausted. That she biked, jogged, took a walk through the history of our country by visiting all the museums, swung through the trees on ropes, volunteered, visited all the jazz/orchestral/rap concerts in town. That she drank fully from the cornucopia of things that Washington DC has to offer.

For that is the way we should consider our lives…. that we are writing our story. Every day we write another page. Imagine that you are reading your story from yesterday or last week. Would it be interesting? Would it be filled with life or ordinariness (if that is a word)? Was it the same old, same old? But, more importantly, is that how you want your book to read?

Then after “reading” your story from last week, you get to decide how you want today’s chapter to read. Because, remember…. this is your life and you get to write it.

I’m going to follow my own advice, and write my book, because I want my lifestory to be a bestseller.

Stay tuned.

Endless Vacation: Working and Living in Coronado

infinity poolImagine life as half vacation…. half work.  I know that’s hard to imagine. Does that mean you work a week and then vacation a week or work a month and then vacation a month? No… in this scenario every day is half vacation and half work. What… how could that be? Well, let me attempt to explain the unexplainable by an example.

Wake up at 6am and walk 2 miles starting along the San Diego Bay. Followed by a vanilla latte at a bayside kiosk. Back to the apartment where we read the Wall Street Journal, and I then head off to work. Leave work at 4:45 and bike, walk, or drive to yoga class in a studio that could only be found in California (very serene). Head home and stop along the way at any number of restaurants. Then pour a glass of wine to take down to a hot tub by the pool. Next day…. begin again.

If the vacation never stops then is it still a vacation? Can you take a vacation from a vacation? The answer to both is ….No. To vacation is to vacate from something or somewhere so by definition… you cannot take a vacation from a vacation. I have inadvertently fallen down the rabbit hole, and get to experience vacation just about every day. It is impossible to capture in words.