Archive for October, 2008

Dreams From My Father

October 28, 2008

I told myself I wouldn’t read it until after Nov 4th, but I was waiting on some books from the library so I had nothing to read, and I saw it on sale at the bookstore during my lunch break last week and I couldn’t resist: Obama’s memoir, Dreams From My Father.  I didn’t want to read it because I knew it would make me like Obama even more, and if he lost on Nov 4th I would feel really bummed.  Oh well.  I’m almost finished with the book, and it is really really good.  So good in fact, that yesterday I missed my stop on the train coming home and didn’t realize it until the train had pulled into the last station and the conductor made the announcement for everyone to get off the train.  Lucky for me, my stop is the second to last stop anyway, so it wasn’t that serious. 

This book was published in 1995, before Obama became a national political superstar, so it is quite honest and doesn’t hold back on descriptions of Obama’s college party days, experiments with drugs, his feelings on black power, black nationalism, racism, social justice, and his struggles of finding his identity as a black man in America.  In the preface to the 2004 edition, Obama wrote that part of him regrets some of the details he put into this book that have been used against him when he started his political career.  It’s kind of surprising to read such intimate details about a popular public figure. 

I think its pretty great that we could have a president with such a unique story and world view.  A man of mixed race who obviously understands the nuances of race relations in this country.  He spent his childhood in Indonesia with his mother, his adolescence in Hawaii with his grandparents, his college years in LA and NYC, then spent 3 years organizing black churches and community leaders in Chicago, then went to Kenya to meet his African family for the first time.  I think these experiences are what make Obama such an effective politician, they allow him to understand problems and solve problems with a different perspective that most other politicians.  I don’t mean to be gushing about Obama, I’m not naive enough to think that if he’s elected then all of our problems will be solved.  I’m just saying that he is a very cool, very smart guy who gets it.  And I do really hope he gets elected.

One part in the book really struck me.  Obama was describing to his Kenyan sister about a relationship he had with a white woman.  When Obama and his girlfriend were alone, their relationship was great.  But then, the woman took Obama to her grandparent’s country house, and Obama realized that if their relationship continued, he would have to live in her world, since he already knew how to be part of the white person’s world and culture; he had been doing all his life.  But she could not live in his.  He took her to a play by a black playwright that involved a lot of anger and what he calls “typical black American humor” and his white girlfriend was not impressed.  She thought anger wasn’t a productive way of dealing with past problems, that anger was a dead end.  Her and Obama had a fight, she told him she couldn’t be black, no matter how much he wanted her to be.  They broke up.

I had put the book down as soon as I read this.  Obama wrote about something that Manny tells me all the time.  Manny even uses the same words, about living in different worlds.  Manny has learned to be part of the white American world, the mainstream culture.  But as a white woman, I’ve never learned to live in his world, a Mexican world, an immigrant world.  As a white woman, I never had the need to do this.  Manny and I have talked about this a lot, we’ve come to terms with it we’ve compromised about it.  But when I read stuff like this I still get insecure, I mean, even Obama couldn’t have an inter-racial relationship!  What hope is there for the rest of us?  Dramatics aside, I need to stop these comparisons.  Manny is not Obama.  He has never made me feel like I should Mexican, and never made it seem like he wished I was.  I have never passed judgement on Mexican culture nor would say that their way of dealing with their past is a dead end. 

Its strange to write about such personal things, I’m actually a private person in real life.  Feels good to get those thoughts out there.  Last night, in my moment of insecurity, I asked Manny if he felt like he always had to be part of my world in order for us to be together.  “No,” he said. “We both live in Brooklyn now.”

Oh Brooklyn, the great equalizer.  Here is an example of Obama-inspired racial harmony that Manny and I thought was so appropriate, him being Latino, me being Irish.  We had to stop in front of this stranger’s house to take a picture:

A few things

October 16, 2008

I’ve had so many thoughts swirling around in my head about this presidential race.  I need to get them out!  But first, I finished Sweetwater by Roxana Robinson, another author I heard on the Leonard Lopate show on WNYC.  I would find the link for the interview to post here if I wasn’t feeling so lazy.  This novel was delicious.  Need to track down her latest novel, Cost, at the library soon.   So here we go.

  • Politics.  I’ve always been a cynic when it comes to politicians.  I’m not impressed with any of them.  All talk and no action.  I’m not registered with a political party but I always vote Democrat on the “lesser of two evils” line of reasoning.  But I have to say that Obama has impressed me more than any other politician.  I’ve been following the election closely, reading and watching a lot of things from both sides and damn.  I’m impressed and surprised by Obama.  Never before has a politician spoken out so strongly on issues that I agree with.  Let’s hope, if elected, Obama is more than just all talk and no action.

 

  • I’m a person who understands the other side of an argument.  It makes sense to me that some people are conservative.  Sure I think they’re wrong and I don’t agree with them, but I can understand it.  I like to think people are more than their political views, and that their political views reflect a diversity of influences – where a person grew up, their family, their cultural background, religious background, their educational experiences.  A person’s political views are nuanced and complex.  I saw this intense documentary on McCain’s life on PBS the other day.  They showed videos of him as a POW, lying in a cot in Vietnam, all beat up and broken, tears streaming down his face, telling his wife that he loved her and he’d be home soon (didn’t they get divorced soon after he came home?)  Clearly, the man has been to hell and back and learned something from it.  Most of all, I am impressed with his efforts to reform immigration, something that went against the views of his own political party.  Sure his plan had some flaws, but at least he was trying to do something about it that didn’t involve rounding up 12 million human beings like cattle and kicking them out of the country.  But then he ran for president, changed his views on a lot of things, tried to woo christian conservatives and sucked up to Bush.  THEN!  picked Palin as his running mate.  What a giant step backwards.  I think everything that has to be said about Palin has already been said by others.  It’s just, well, the thought of Palin as president, or even VP makes me seriously, very afraid.  Another thing that makes me afraid is that Palin has done NOTHING to address the racist and xenophobic accusations people make about Obama at her rallies.  McCain has.  Palin hasn’t.  By ignoring it, she is giving people reasons to be afraid of Obama because he’s black and has an Arab-sounding name.  She’s stroking the fire and causing irrational fear and hatred. 

 

  • The Debate.  As much I respect McCain for his experiences and some of his political record, the man tried to make himself look like a victim when no crime had been done against him.  He was flustered and angry, he tried in vain to get people to pity him because some congressman Obama had nothing to do with made an association between McCain and a segregationist.  McCain’s feelings were hurt and he whined about how he never received an outright apology from Obama.  McCain was a POW.  Surely, this is not actually the worst thing that’s ever happened to him.  And I don’t think you can make the argument that this accusation against McCain is worse or as bad as McCain’s supporters calling Obama a terrorist, a traitor, and yelling “kill him” at his VP’S rally while Palin did nothing about it.  Obama could have milked that argument so much more.  Obama could have played victim so much better.  But he didn’t.  Again and again he rose above McCain’s exaggerated accusations and refused the bait to bicker back and forth. 

 

  • The debate was nothing more than an outline about the differences between the GOP and the Dems.  The GOP doesn’t want higher taxes because they don’t want big government programs UNLESS they are government programs like social security and medicare that help those upstanding middle-class Americans that pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps and achieved the American dream by doing everything the right way.  Dems believe in taxes because they believe the government should have programs that help people and government should regulate certain aspect of life to make sure everyone is getting a piece of the American Dream pie.  And in order to have money to do this, there needs to be taxes on everyone.  Ideally, less taxes on the poor, more taxes for rich.  Do you want government programs to help you out even if that means paying into them?  Dem.  Do you not want any help from government programs, you want to keep the money you make even if that means others go without, and believe people get what they deserve?  GOP.  Yes, that’s a really simplistic way of looking at it, but that’s what I got from the debate last night.

OK that’s all I got.  Back to books for next time.

Bridge of Sighs

October 1, 2008

I’ve been immersed in Richard Russo’s Bridge of Sighs.  It is my favorite kind of book, the kind of book you can get lost in, when you read it you completely forget where you are or what you’re supposed to be doing.  Luckily I often come to my senses just as the subway pulls into my stop.  I snap back into reality, get off the train and walk up the stairs into the morning daylight and head to work.  I look forward to my commute, when I can finally escape the stress and anxiety that is my job right now, find myself a nice seat on the train (the only good thing about the local train is you always get a seat)  and read alone in peace for 50 minutes.  Ah, it is heaven.  I’m nearing the end of the novel and I’m trying to read it slowly, not wanting the story to come to its conclusion, which I fear, won’t be a happy one. 

This book kept me company during some lonely times these past few weeks.  I had to find a home for Oliver, which was harder than I thought.  Seems like lots of people talk about wanting a cat, but when it comes down to actually taking one home, they change their minds.  Finally, I convinced my co-worker, our resident cat lady, to take him because obviously 4 cats is not enough for her and surely she’d like one more.  Once she saw the picture of him, she was a goner.  She tells me that he’s adjusting well, is making friends with her other cats, is being spoiled by her kids, and gets himself into trouble, including falling into a tray of white paint and knocking over a 2 liter bottle of soda.  The first few days after he left were hard, I missed him more than I expected.  I’ve had pets since the 2nd grade so its hard to be without one now.  But I had Bridge of Sighs to distract me and keep me company.  Once Oliver left, I had to wash everything I own to destroy the cat dander so that Manny could come over without experiencing another life threatening asthma attack.  Bridge of Sighs kept me company at the laundry mat, where I must have spent 20 dollars in quarters in 3 nights, washing everything that had potentially come in contact with the cat. 

I also, I’m not going to lie, the fact that my favorite TV show of all time is on DVD helped too.

I love The Nanny and Fran Drescher.  I am not ashamed. 

 

Then I went to the 3rd to last Yankee game at Yankee Stadium.  Here’s where it offically changed from 3 to 2 games remaining. 

 

 Best seat in the house?  The bleachers, of course.

 

 

So I’m slowly finishing Bridge of Sighs and slowly coming out of my lonely funk and back to reality.  This weekend, my entire family makes our yearly pilgrimage to the World’s Largest Garage Sale, which we refer to lovingly  as the Crap Fair.  I haven’t been there since high schoool, because I went away to college.  The last time I went to the Crap Fair, I found a Tori Amos bootleg from a 1996 concert and felt so cool.  Oh let’s face it, if I found another Tori bootleg this year, I would still feel cool.