Trayvon.

Perhaps history does not repeat itself exactly, but it is certainly prone to extended paraphrases. Long before the jury announced its decision, many people had seen what the outcome would be, had known that it would be a strange echo of the words Zimmerman uttered that rainy night in central Florida: they always get away.

I hate to say I told you so (actually, that is not entirely true… but at the very least as I get older it generally makes me feel more sad than vindicated) but I really did tell you so about this one. As the Zimmerman trial got underway and no one took issue with the defense attorney cracking jokes, the freakishly homogeneous jury, and the abased treatment of victim Trayvon Martin’s friends and family, it seemed pretty clear to me what was going to go down.

Of course it could also be that I am a historian and I feel that the history I have studied and lived prepared me for what would be the eventual verdict that came out as I was sitting at a lovely dinner at dear friends’ wedding in Mendocino County.

The familiarity dulled the sharp edges of the tragedy. The decision the six jurors reached on Saturday evening will inspire anger, frustration, and despair, but little surprise, and this is the most deeply saddening aspect of the entire affair. From the outset— throughout the forty-four days it took for there to be an arrest, and then in the sixteen months it took to for the case to come to trial—there was a nagging suspicion that it would culminate in disappointment. Call this historical profiling.

This doesn’t make me any less saddened by the fact that a young man was killed for no other reason than he was a black teenager. The truth is teenagers make those not used to dealing with them very twitchy, and I know this from a plethora of experience – I always watch how people react here in the “liberal” Bay Area when I get on Bart with my Berkeley High (hardly threatening, although very diverse) students… and the reactions of the commuters on the train are always the same, ranging from discomfort to disgust to real concern. And the fact that he was black does matter.

Racial bias is real. Racial profiling is real. Racial inequity is real. Racial injustice is real. Don’t take my word for it read the science on racial “profiling.” Read the science around the study of “unconscious bias” at Harvard University.

Maybe we could look at some white kids who tend to wear hoodies… skaters and surfers – no less likely to be punk kids by the way – but I cannot remember the last time I heard of one of them being shot and killed for basically being in the wrong place at the wrong time (which skaters and surfers frequently are…) And as I watch the often swift hand of justice in America I have to play the mental game of wondering how things would have played out had Martin been white and Zimmerman black. Save for pro athletes (which is a rant for another time) I feel pretty confident in saying a black male shooter would have been immediately arrested (no weird 46-day delay) and incarcerated. And I seriously doubt Mark O’Mara and Don West would ever take a case of the everyday criminal of color. In fairness, I don’t know for sure, but it is a feeling I have. Just like the feeling I had when I said these things:

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It’s Florida Vince. No justice there. And in times of uncertainty like we are living in (economically, politically, ideologically, environmentally) people are desperate to have something tangible to be afraid of… and so they make a young black kid seem *that* scary. It is easier to be afraid of something concrete and tangible than to face the daunting reality that our collective survival is going to require a huge effort to come together and work shit out. As you know, very few people really want to do work in any context. Everyone just wants solutions and results. Sad. [FB, 10 July 2013]

Now we are faced with the aftermath. People are angry. and I don’t think it will be long-lived or effective. People have short attention spans and the media at the very least is banking on that. Frustration will incarnate as destruction and there will be greater alienation and divides. And the reality that Trayvon Martin did absolutely nothing that warranted the sort of outcome that Zimmerman had in store for him will be lost among the fall out, resentment, and intentional effort to justify the outcome of our modern justice system. Continue reading

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We got 99 problems and Paula Deen shouldn’t be one of them.

This whole firestorm surrounding Paula Deen smells of something stinky. And it is not simply racism. Now, before you have a cow (butter basted, deep fried, or otherwise) hear me out. I am not saying that Paula Deen is not racist. She probably is. But I do find it curious that she has become the single person to punish for racism. Here is why.

Paula Deen was called out for using the “N-word.” It is worth noting that this word is treated far more fearfully in just about every form of media when people are fine using the word bitch to describe women, faggot to describe gay men, and a whole variety of slurs to describe Latinos and Asians that no one feels the need to abbreviate… and as a woman who is generally called a bitch when I stand up for myself, I take issue with the allowances given that term – I am talking to you Kanye West and Jay Sean Carter Z…

We all know, collectively, that the “N-word” is not an okay word to use – unless, according to some, you are a black person, though being pretty white, I don’t really feel like I can talk about that, unless we all agree that insider status gives you the privilege to reclaim the power of a word – like I do not mind when my girlfriends use the term bitch/bitches in describing our group of friends… though I am filled with furious rage when women who do not know each other use the term against another, so… hypocrite? I dunno.

So, what did The Queen of All Things Butter say? In response to question in a videotaped court proceeding about whether or not she had ever used the “N-word”, she said, “Yes, of course,” further explaining that it’s “just not a word that we use as time has gone on.” And people lost their minds.

Okay, fair enough. Here is a southern white woman who has done some ridiculous shit ranging from not acknowledging her privilege as a white southerner (possibly forgivable) to organizing a “Plantation” themed wedding reception with all black servers dressed in plantation appropriate attire – so dressing as slaves (clearly less forgivable.) She also (born in 1947) came up through a hugely transitional time in our nation’s history , and who knows how much time she spent outside of Georgia, but I am guessing she was fairly insulated from the real drama of the civil rights movement, perhaps along the lines of how some people in places outside of San Francisco are unaware of the real struggle for equal rights that the LGBT community has been fighting – for years. Further, she clearly acknowledged that it was a common term that she knows should not used anymore.

She fucked up, this is clear. But the public vilification of her, and the absolute demolition of her livelihood has been bothering me. It reminds me of how Martha Stewart – who did do something dumb, (and illegal) – was made an example of when there were thousands of Wall Street men who committed far more significant and egregious crimes of the exact same nature that never even got their wrists slapped.

Huh.

Thanks to my girl Co who is from Texas (and sends me amazing things like this), I recently found out that the governor of Texas, one Rick Perry (who is on so many of my shitlists I don’t even know where to start with him) owns a property called Niggerhead Ranch. Now, I would like to ask why this man is not being removed from his position of power (which would benefit far more people – women are more than 50% of the population and I cannot imagine there are that many Paula Deen cuisine fans) and being crucified in the press. Beyond being insulated from any scandal this might have to offer, there are articles like this which suggest that owning a property with the “N-word” in it is totally acceptable because of the, say it with me: HISTORY. Whether or not this is an acceptable explanation, according to the aforementioned article:

…hinges on whether the ranch’s title means that Perry is – drumroll, please – a racist. However, Perry did not name the place himself – by the time he was using it, the name was an ancient custom, and not associated explicitly with insulting black people. Here, we must listen to the locals who tell us that the name was simply an utterance to them. “That’s just what people call it,” one told The Post.

So, because it is historical vernacular it is okay. For Rick Perry. But because Paula Deen admitted that she used the word, was basically honest (admittedly under legal pressure) about her familiarity with the term, she is a racist, historical vernacular aside. And while the article quoted above is shockingly ignorant for myriad reasons, I would just like to know where this guy’s defense of Paula Deen is.

There is something about this that seems strange…. but I just can’t quite put my finger on it… hmmmm…. I wonder…. what do these examples have in common….

GUILTY!

GUILTY!

Huh. I wonder…

NOT GUILTY!

NOT GUILTY!

GUILTY!

GUILTY!

I feel like there is something there, but I am just not… wait, I think I see a pattern.

The thing is this: Paula Deen may very well be racist, in fact I am fairly sure she is, but the number of people taking this opportunity to congratulate themselves for not being racist because they are “not like Paula Deen” is ridiculous (the absolute best response I have seen to Paula Deen is this amazing letter: read it here.) The “at-least-I’m-not-Paula” excuse is allowing the perpetuation of what John Fugelsang termed the ignoracist (which Paula herself is). These are people who avoid public acknowledgement of their racist tendencies by saying things like “no offense” after an offensive statement, or “I’m not racist, I have black friends,” or my current favorite, “hey, I’m not racist, I voted for Obama!” All the while these same ignoracists allow a white male attorney to establish that because a young black woman used the “N-word” with her best friend, one Trayvon Martin, the woman is racist, (even though these people already said it is okay for black people to use the term among themselves) and somehow this racism mitigates the cold-blooded killing of Trayvon (by extension, also racist) by George Zimmerman. That is racist. And inconsistent. And god dammed sexist too, which is apparently completely acceptable in fighting for the greater good, whatever the hell that is. (Take note Mr. Perry, this shit is not cool.) I bet a lot of ignoracsists (or ignorsexists) and “at-least-I’m-not-Paula” types also buy Kanye’s and Jay Z’s records, which are littered with the N-word and the B-word (I think they have had to step away from the F-word, but I can’t say for sure.)

It is a wonder any of us can get through the day anymore without doing serious bodily harm to ourselves (or others.) It is hideous. But let’s try to keep the focus on what is real, and try to maintain if not a modicum of decency, then at least some consistency.

Being racist is not okay, and not knowing you are a racist is even worse. In the same vein, being sexist is not okay, and it should be treated with the same outrage we rightfully reserve for racism. When people, or even Rick Perry, say things in a public speech like, “And just remember: the louder the opposition screams, the more we know we’re doing something right,” it becomes clear how those in power perpetuate these gross ills in society, from racism to rape culture.

Hey Rick (and all y’all), when people scream their opposition to something, like Trayvon did, and like the women of Texas did, they mean NO you fucker.

How the Grammercy Tavern redeemed NYC: Springtime in New York City, pt. 2.

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I have been thinking a lot about my New York minutes since I have returned home to the place that I call The City, with no other descriptors required. Part of this is because visiting NYC has made me see SF in a different (even more flattering, truth be told) light and also because my hostess, R, will be heading west to do her own comparison in less than a week. I keep looking for a nicer way to say that i think NYC is completely overrated, because that seems so generic and uninspired as criticism goes. But on the other hand, I doubt any New Yorker would give two shits about how their criticisms appear to anyone else, so, so be it.

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If I were to attempt to synthesize my NYC experiences, I would have categories like food, interpersonal interactions, reflections… rather standard travel blog stuff. In a week I did do a lot, and ate a lot. And the whole time I was there I felt like I was looking. Looking for something, someone… I am not sure. Lots of folks had told me how I would see a lot of similarities to The City while I was in NYC. I did not. Brooklyn is so NOT like the Mission. I had been told that Williamsburg is so hip-hip-hipster. I just though it was odd. (More on that to come…) Frankly, I thought the East Village was more like the Mish than anywhere else I visited, and it was like my neighborhood in the way that makes me want to go to another neighborhood. Brooklyn Heights was nice – very Noe Valley. But cold. The parts of NYC that I like the best were the ones that seemed unlike any other place – quintessentially “New York” as people might say. And I suppose that is the point of going to New York City. I mean, the human habit of comparison, while helpful for building context certainly seems to do very little to enhance experience.

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I loved the Upper East Side. Why? Mostly because the people I interacted with there were the nicest ones I ran into anywhere. But on telling New Yorkers this they seemed shocked so I guess I just got lucky. I thought Columbia was beautiful and it is totally unsurprising that I would find the academic acropolis inspiring and comfortable. I found Central Park to be depressing, but that could be seasonal – I know no other completely deciduous park and so things were very sparse and brown. The daffodils were coming up though and I related to their longing for nicer weather on a visceral level. I loved the mythology of New York that I could conjure up in my mind… but then things would happen that would bring me right back down to reality, and I would find myself saying, “Are you fucking kidding me?”

Fortunately I was staying with a Brit, and like New Yorkers, the British have no problem being clear about how things should be done: all things, all the time. Unlike New Yorkers, the Brits can be rude in such a posh way, people seem to not realize what is happening until it is all over and there is nothing to be done about it. THat definitely helped in dealing with some outrageously hideous service in a city that is supposed to be so… I don’t know, serviceable I guess. Or maybe it is not. I am not sure. Either way, the examples that come to mind are R’s battle over the misto and the ridiculousness at Buvette. I will start with the story of the coffee, as is leads into nicely to trying to have a coffee at the aforementioned restaurant.

R likes her coffee strong. And ridiculously hot. As such, she feels that regular coffee (drip or french press I assume) is too weak, and so her chosen drink is an Americano. [Do not get her started on the notion of iced coffee, because she cannot even begin to conceive of why such a thing would ever exist. Of course she thinks the same of iced tea, “That is just cold tea. Why would anyone want cold tea?”] However, R does require a milk infusion in her Americano but, as previously mentioned, she likes her drinks to be scalding hot, so using cold milk in her Americano is not okay. Therefore, R orders her coffee as follows: “Could I please have an Americano with steamed milk?” This seems simple.

It is not.

“So you want a misto?”
“I want an Americano with steamed milk.”
“A misto.”
“Fine, a misto.”
“That is $4.00.”
“What?!”
“Four. Dollars.”
“An Americano is $2.50.”
“But you want a misto.”
“No. I want an Americano with steamed milk.”
“That is a misto
“That is a made up word.”
“No, it is an Americano with steamed milk.”
“Where does it say this on the menu?”
“It doesn’t.”

You see how this will go. On principle, R is annoyed to be paying extra simply because she does not want cold milk in her coffee. And on principle the baristas are confused by this because apparently it is cool to pay more for coffee. R finally did get someone to admit that misto was a made up word. And in another instance she got an explanation that it was the amount of steamed milk that changed the name and therefor the price of the drink. Also, it turns out if you just tell people you want hot milk, this does not cost extra. Though there was much concern among the barista population surrounding the burning of said milk. I think we had coffee at maybe five different places in an effort to expose the fraud of the misto. We did find a place that steamed the milk and did not charge extra, nor did they ask a lot of strangely redundant clarifying questions. [We did enjoy some $4.00 cookies… though R had also initially taken issue with the price of the cookies, until she ate one – and I must concur: epic and worth way more than $4.] All the while I just drank my regular old coffee with cold half and half – after I let it cool a bit.

I think we won in the end.

On our sojourn through the West Village, we took a timeout at Buvette. Make no mistake, this place is completely cute and had we not had big plans for dinner, we might have had a more substantial stopover here, but we both wanted coffee and this place seemed perfect. In hindsight, it may have been a bit too French. Anyhow, we came in and sat down at the counter, but then realized that there was a better seat in the window. So we moved so that we were both sort of facing the front window, though, not sitting directly adjacent to each other. The waiter, who was clearly French, and looked exactly like this, walked over and got a really pained look on his face.

“Oh you are sitting there?”
“Yes, is that okay?”
“It is just so complicated.”
“This is a seat, right”
“Yes, but,”
“So we can sit here right?”

At which point the waiter who is decidedly not Christopher Abbott, let out an audible sigh and walked away. Are you fucking kidding me? Wile he went over and pimped the most expensive wines to a table across from us another server took our order. A third server brought the coffee. And one of those final two brough the bill while the other collected it. French Not Charlie never came back. I guess it was just really too complicated. And don’t even get me started about the guy with the headband hat at the main bar.

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We spent Easter Sunday in Harlem. There had been some discussion around attending a gospel church – for the music, but that ended up not panning out and on walking by the church wherein we saw many tourists coming and going from the church we felt glad to not be partaking. Unsure of where we might eat we considered this place, but there was a substantial wait and there was a decidedly theme park vibe with an entirely black staff in prohibition-era garb and an entirely white clientele. So we stepped outside to contemplate our options. While we stood there a young black man wearing headphones came bouncing up the sidewalk. He appeared to be rapping, like maybe along with whatever he was listening to. I looked at him while R continued checking out restaurant options in the area. The next thing I know, this young man is in front of us and I get the feeling that he is going to try to get us to take a flyer or a CD or something because he is approaching in that manner. But he never breaks stride with his diatribe – the initiation and context of which we had no idea – and the next thing I know he is fanning out a handful of twenty-dollar bills in his hands and getting in my face saying, “Yeah, I got my hundred dolla’ bills. You’re not used to seeing a black man who is not financially indisposed are you? Are you? Yeah, that’s what I thought, you ugly white bitch.” [Say it with me: Are you fucking kidding me?] As he moved on, I looked at R and we mentally recapped what had just happened, unsure if we had both simultaneously misconstrued the event. Nope. It happened. And, ugly? Brother, please. You do not know ugly.

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Moving on, we decided to try Melba’s and it was an excellent choice in every way… except for the route we took to get there. In a nutshell, I would just say avoid 114th Street east of Frederick Douglass Street. You won’t be sad you did. We were seated at the bar, had excellent food, excellent service, and top shelf Bloody Mary’s – one round for free for an oversight on our order. It was good enough to put us in a dangerous food coma for much of the rest of the day. Somehow it seemed appropriate for a grey Easter Sunday in NYC and we did some churchin’ – we checked out the Cathedral of St. John: The Great Divine, disputably the largest cathedral and Anglican church, and fourth largest Christian church in the world. Plus we passed a beauty parlor/mortuary which seemed really apropos for anyone preparing for a resurrection.

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We survived the day, the vodka, and the unending stream of R’s people who seem to have completely infiltrated and assimilated to NYC down to the iced coffee. [We ended up walking behind a pair who both reminded me of Colin Frissel, and surely came to America because they saw Love Actually, and were extolling the wonders of iced coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts. “It is amazing, like the aftertaste is so much smoother.” I feel fortunate that we were able to recover R’s eyeballs from the great heights to which they rolled.]

We did go to Brooklyn, twice. Once was to check out Roberta’s on A’s advice (bearing in mind A is mildly obsessed with Girls and so, Brooklyn.) The thing about Roberta’s is that it is in a completely dodgy neighborhood (Bushwick is supposed to be up and coming. I’ll defer to “coming”) and after getting a great deal of press for the food as well as some haters and a naked waitress. We were also warned that even going at 8 pm on a Monday night, we could expect no less than an hour wait. For pizza. [Yes, you know it is coming: Are you fucking kidding me?] Everything about Roberta’s turned out to be true. The neighborhood is shite. The building is a hovel – though clearly intentionally so: “You realize we are essentially in a shack?” was R’s observation as we embarked upon our wait time. And the food was really, really good.

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Our wait ended up being only 30 minutes, the service was great, the super-hipster servers were just all pretty happy to be there, or at least they could pretend to be happy way better than that tosser at Buvette. And if I did not say it already, the food was great. If you go, do not miss the olives or the brussels sprout salad.

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And then we left Brooklyn. Which was a relief, because you know you’re out of place when after never EVER blending in Manhattan, I suddenly looked like I belonged in Manhattan.

Things were definitely looking better in my eyes, though granted, no New Yorker would ever give a crap about that.

The pièce de résistance though, save for seeing R and F.B. had to be the Gramercy Tavern. This was sort of a perfect day. We had gone to R’s new gym – the ever bougey Equinox, complete with Khiel’s products in the locker room – for spin class. This was new to me and seemed like a really NYC thing to do. And anyone who says yoga is cult-like, I will raise that claim with a spin class: Holy Rollers up in there. Then we met F.B. and saw his amazing new place. This reminded me that ALL city experiences are greatly enhanced by having shit loads of money. I had been generally feeling like the commensurate quality of life in NYC was way lower than in SF. Then I saw F.B.’s place and died. His doorman is called Igor and is for sure a Pre-Soviet Russian. It was lovely, and would inspire in me dreams of the possibilities for real estate, if I wanted real estate. We got to hang out all day and catch up and R and F.B. finally got to meet after having missed several opportunities in the UK and that was a stellar connection, which is always pleasing. We talked about the differences between the East Coast and the West Coast… and the only thing we could all agree on was that there were many. [“People in NY wear black because of fashion, in SF they wear black to match their moods.” F.B. “People in NY think they are so important because everyone wants to move here: Are you fucking kidding me? And by the way, black is slimming.” Me.]

And then for dinner, there was the Gramercy. We walked in and got the last table in the tavern, and things only got better form there. The food and service made us never want to leave. Even the couple – likely on a Match.com date who were practically mating two tables away, didn’t mess things up. I did not photograph the food, because, you know, look like you’ve been there and all that. But here is what I ate, along with a lovely cocktail and a bottle of wine:

Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Goat Cheese, Pecans and Pickled Onions
Celery Root Chowder, Clams, Mussels and Ham

Then was dessert. I let R choose. So the Chocolate Pudding, with Salted Caramel and Toffee Popcorn was a delicious surprise. However, not to be outdone by any Meg Ryan character, R wanted to try the Roasted Peanut Ice Cream. If you look at the menu you will see that her choice was not included in the Selection of Ice Creams (Vanilla Bean, Coffee and Butter Pecan). Nevermind. There was also conversation about the cheese plate. But upon hearing there was no appropriate fruit, R was aghast, the waiter improvised. He brought the pudding, the ice cream selection with roasted peanut added, AND the cheese plate (Chef’s Selection of Farmstead Cheeses: Kunik – goat and cow, Warrensburg, New York Landaff – raw cow, Landaff, New Hampshire Bayley Hazen – raw cow blue, Greensboro, Vermont).

It was ridiculously indulgent. So of course we had champagne as well. And never an eye was batted at a single request. It was the kind of night that could make a person fall in love with New York.

Of course, I mean only a person who did not live in San Francisco….

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