Vices we love: Random thoughts roundup

Monday, August 15, 2005

Random thoughts roundup

So tomorrow I'm headed back to the salt mines playing a fun game of "will she come to class or won't she?" The job is starting to go down the tubes (again) because my boss is being very casual about pay. I would quit but I really, really, really want to stick it out at least until the end of the contract. Really. Really. So instead, I'll just write a bunch of random stuff to calm me down while taking phone calls from other charlatans who want to rip me off with ludicrous job offers. Sound good? Allright then.

A few years ago, I visited Israel with a group of well-fed American Jews who would from that day on be deluged with endless emails and phone calls to "support" Israel. And by "support", of course I mean "give money to". Most Israelis look at Americans as well-to-do overfed buffoons who can be called upon to cough up the needed shekels. This is not a bad arrangement. Give heaps of cash to the Holy Land and be forever absolved from any residual guilt about not keeping kosher, not going to temple, not making aliyah, etc. And if you cough it up, you'll be forever able to gloat self-righteously that you support Israel. Anyhoo, one of my fellow Heebs is a lad named Dave Maas, the last Jew in Arizona after the passing of Goldwater. Take a look at his site and ask him the question on everyone's mind: Watcha Ghana do? He is an all around decent guy and I have a tentative invite to his sister's wedding. I say tentative because the invite came with strings attached. Well, one string. "No being a perv tho" he had cautioned me. I think this is very restrictive but on the other hand it gives me an opportunity to LEARN HOW TO BE SOCIABLE.
I used to live in Harlem. Right up on 129th and Lenox Avenue to be exact. I won't go into all the bad things about it because there were plenty of good ones and because it is not my place to tell Black Americans what is wrong with (some of) them. But two things really bugged me: A palpable lack of ambition and self control, especially (mostly) among the men. I had a neighbor named Edward. Edward had a college degree and fancied himself an actor. What this really meant was that he tacked a black and white headshot of himself on his wall as he bobbed along from one temp job to another and spent most of his downtime scheming to collect government dough while sitting on the stoop of our (landlord's) brownstone. There were tons of guys like Edward. Intelligent, well-dressed, amiable guys who never got beyond talking. After a point, the talk would go from big schemes to reasons why those schemes would fail. Of course, all those reasons were beyond their control. One guy, Santiago, gave a long lecture on how the International Monetary Fund ruined Brazil's economy and therefore, he, Santiago of central Harlem, could not rub two nickels together. It was so damned depressing I retreated to the 82nd street Barnes and Noble and only came home when I had to.
Of course there was a second reason why I stayed downtown as much as possible: While Harlem was busy gentrifying (a term which refers to the process of lower middle-class people moving into a lousy neighborhood because they can't afford to live elsewhere), there were still sufficient reminders of the crack-ridden 80s. Prostitutes. Dealers. Gang members wearing shiny bright do-rags and sporting intricately carved gold teeth. Tempers ran short, especially in the summer. I would overhear the sort of dialogue I would expect from a 70's action movie shot in Harlem. "He dissed me. Mothafucka be dissin' me. He be disrespecting me....." I usually managed to get inside my apartment before I could witness these things going much further but I remembered thinking: "This is stupid." I tend to read the sites of the guys who post here and reading Malcolm's blog got me thinking. Here is a reasonably intelligent (from what I can tell) well-spoken guy who is pretty much fucked. Which is just plain sad. I'm not stupid. I know that there are winners and losers in the lottery of life. I know there are many things which are beyond your control, especially when you were a kid. But take it from a guy who nearly died because the hospital "ran out of incubators" (I couldn't make this shit up if I tried), as you get older, more and more of your life is in your hands. It would be a shame to throw it away.


Blogger Adalmin said...

Oh, um, you've been to America before...

(The fact that this thought completely eluded me gives this Padawan much shame.)

Can you tell me anything about how they treat Asians there? I'm emigrating there later in the year, and I'm just curious.

11:31 AM  
Blogger asiatown77 said...

I dunno. I lived in Flushing (Koreatown) and generally their reputation was of a bunch of hard nosed, anti social workaholics who kept to themselves. General perceptions? Hmmm....well I do recall from my government class at Memphis State that Ronnie Reagan called Asians "the model minority" which is a lot for you to live up to. I guess he meant that you are supposed to shut up, keep your nose to the grindstone and blend in. And no porn next to your uncle's Buddha statue. That's just a no-no.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Adalmin said...


And is there really a town called Flushing or are you just flushing with me?

8:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Flushing is a neiborhood in Queens.

9:02 AM  
Blogger Lucecilla said...

I think your feeling about the apathy of the inhabitants of harlem is one which we in Scotland feel about a group of people called Neds, or Sengas if they are women) but the division has nothing to do with race ... its more a lack of imagination or cultural poverty, which, in my book is the root of all evil.

You should have studied in the UK - they give you all kinds of help if you have an aquired brain injury or learning disability, including, if you need it, someone to read your exam questions out to you and someone to write down your answers. You also get a computer. Did your school not give you this stuff?

Ronald Ragans image of the model minorty is roughly translated as
"Sit down, shut up, and pay your taxes". Much like Tony Blair, may a thousand ants invade his underware drawer.

7:48 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

I agree that it's hard to understand why people have no motivation and perpetuate their own misery. There is a big problem in the American Black community and it's lack of desire and this rampant adoration and emulation of criminality.

I am a little fucked you are right, but I'm trying to pull my head out of my ass and move forward with life. I do have to do at least 14 months in prison but so many people have been through so much worse, no sense in me whining.

What was the damage from the lack of incubator?

5:49 PM  
Blogger asiatown77 said...

I have what they call a nonverbal learning disability, meaning I am disorganized as hell and can't remember a damned thing. Not ideal when exams consist of "Name all intentional torts defined by all federal and state courts between 1789 and 1999. Cite exact case law."

12:25 PM  

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