Don’t Eat The Yogurt

Don’t Eat The Yogurt – October 1st, 2003

We were on our way back from a Pirates game at Three Rivers Stadium. Riding the bus back towards Harrisburg proper, my uncle and I sat in silence while the city slid past the filmy windows on either side of us. Sports wasn’t really my bag as an eight-year old child; a fact that was lost on my baseball-loving uncle. He was acting more as a baby-sitter than anything else since my mother had to attend to family business regarding a recent death in the family. I don’t remember who. In my first ten years of life, people were dropping like flies all the time on my mother’s side.

My uncle was one of those hoary old black men with the porkpie hat, horn-rimmed glasses and voices that rattled and clanged in pitched annoyance at things like sloppy second basemen and bad drivers. We hadn’t talked much during the journey towards the stadium and nothing had changed that precedent upon our imminent return to 420 Haverhill, where there were other kids my age waiting.

The bus shifted and angled towards the curb, wheezing to a stop in front of the sign. A couple of people got on. One of them was a kid about my age. As the bus lurched forward, the adult who got on before him took a seat, but the boy, a blonde lad, continued towards the rear of the bus. With an open glance in my direction, he sat across the way from the double-seat that I shared with my uncle, leaning back and kicking one foot against the seat in front of him. He sat up and looked out the window before looking back over at me and giving a half-smile. Uncle was staring out at the city, mumbling under his breath and pinching the fingers of his hands together in little pecking motions, like he was attempting to pluck something out of thin air. Busy. He wouldn’t mind me hanging across the aisle. He didn’t mind when I strayed a bit at the ball park, where could I possibly be off to on a moving bus? The kid seemed as eager to identify with another peer as I did. I shifted over to the vacant seat and slumped back. We talked as kids do.

Presently, I felt a hand close upon my right arm, pulling me steadily out of the seat next to the other kid. As I was reeled into the aisle, my uncle stood up and then shoved me towards the window seat in which he had been previously daydreaming. With what I can only imagine would’ve been a hateful glare towards the boy (I could only see the back of his head, short salt and pepper afro peeking from behind the threadbare brown hat) he then sat down next to me and looked me right in the peepers with his big, brown, rheumy eyes.

“Don’t you ever be talkin’ to whitey, h’yeah?” he hissed at me. “Ever!

He looked at me for a moment too long, eyes nearly exploding from their sockets. Then, the lids lowered to half-mast; the cool returned. He turned forward in his seat and resumed mumbling under his breath, turning his head just a tad to the left. I dared not look to see what the kid was doing. Probably hoping to God that his stop was before ours.

When we got back to the family house, the same one that my Uncle Ricky would snort away many years later, I neglected to tell my mother about the incident. She would’ve given me what-for, talking about my uncle like that, at least I thought that would be the case. The kid was just that to me – a kid. Living in Hollywood in the 1970’s, the Land of Fruits, Nuts and Flakes, hadn’t passed on to me the not-so-gentle legacy of racism in America. I woke up in a cereal bowl every morning. Still, the incident stuck in my head like no other memory. It seemed inherently wrong what my uncle was suggesting; this much my eight-year old mind knew. About four years later, the L.A. Unified School District decided to be one of the first educational systems to de-segregate their students after years of civil rights discord.

In hindsight, it does not surprise me that no-one was quite ready for that in the late seventies. Here, today, in central Florida circa 2003 — the same kind of bigoted mentality that my uncle had fostered and attempted to foist upon me still exists in huge, great wallowing pockets of ignorance and general lowness. But I’m getting far, far ahead of the unreeling at this point.

The LAUSD’s great “solution” to the problem of segregation was to take some of the rich white kids and bus them to the inner city while busing some of the poorer black kids out to the San Fernando valley, as in “valley girl.” What ended up happening was full-on, premeditated chaos as two distinctly different social classes met and hung out with one another for the very first, ticklish time. As adolescents, an unstable lot at any going rate. It was absolutely farcical, yet fascinating to look back upon. Instead of going to the middle school around the corner from my house, I was stuck on an early bus to a school in Tarzana, some 45 miles from home. Through L.A. morning traffic (Commuting 101), a full school day, back through L.A. afternoon traffic. No wonder a full-scale race riot erupted one sweet autumn day after a week of murmurs in the hallways and classrooms. No shitting you, it was “Do The Right Thing” in the hot San Fernando Valley, a simple “fed-up” from all involved for one reason or another. It was to be the blacks and latinos against the whites. No one knew the reason. No one seemed to care. The buzz rubbed against you as you walked places on campus that week. Wednesday. Be aware. Watch the fences. I found myself sitting with a Chicano guy at lunch, someone I didn’t even know, as he whipped out a switchblade and twisted it around in the air. My mouth said, “I’m glad we’re on your side.” I sounded like a fuck. Wasn’t fighting. Wasn’t going to be near fighting. But if I was, it would be with an ally. An armed ally.

Something going down on the other side of the athletic field. A maroon 240Z pulls up behind the chain-link fence and something comes flying out of the window landing on the grass. Three brown-ish looking boys scramble over the fence and land thuddingly upon the grass, coming up with wooden baseball bats. As they head for the fence, hundreds of kids are rushing the spot and one of the boys lobs a handful of bats over into the yard. At this point, an audible buzz has begun to escalate into a kind of rushing roar, then finally, screams. Fights were breaking out everywhere and Blade Boy had hopped off of the table in the direction of the melee saying, “let’s go man!” My eyes widened. Let’s go? What, out there? Jesus, the guy wants to go running into battle like a fucking Canuck. I’m thinking “shelter.” I don’t remember seeing him again because the brown blur in the Ocean Pacific t-shirt was the fastest Futch in the world and by the time I got inside my fifth period class, the cops had arrived, or so I heard.

Thirteen years later

The bottle came down upon my head with a sickening thwak that reverberated inside of my head like a metal gong. He had caught me off-guard, off-balance and drunk on Icehouse, there was just no time to duck that swing. There was time, however, for me to see that it was a half-full bottle of Miller Genuine Draft. Funny that I saw the bottle as half-full even before he raised it in a wicked arc and brought it down upon the side of my face. I tumbled into the ditch, conveniently filled with the recent rains of a Kissimmee Saturday night, wallowing about in the mud, senses reeling, unable to see if he was right behind me with the second, fatal blow to the back of my skull. Fuck! the car’s behind me, he’s between me and the car, fuck!, how bad am I hurt? fuck! fuck! I’m going to die at the hands of a fucking redneck! The thoughts sliced through my haze and kept me moving, up the slope and onto solid ground. I crouched low and turned, grunting, eyes flashing, hands twisted into claws as I scoped out the scene. He was still on the other side of the ditch, swaying in the light of the street lamp that I had parked next to. Only then did I realize he was sort of half-shouting at me in a slurred twang.

“…uckin’ nigger….what the f-f-fuck you think…” he brayed, starting to walk towards the makeshift driveway that led towards the street. The street that I was standing on.

Hey, fuck you, piece of shit!” I screamed at him. The body drugs had kicked in and I was ready to take a trip over into the land of I Can’t Believe I’m Doing This to rip this motherfucker’s head clean off. I had seen Roots long ago and still had stored some of that righteous indignation burning inside to go fully and completely medieval on his ass. And somewhere in there, inside of me, a constant source of Reason allowed for providence to select the appropriate moment in which I could circle around, hop into my little Geo and speed madly down the street, middle finger raised in ballistic defiance. I knew then that dating in Kissimmee would be difficult, to say the least. Welcome to Florida.

Colored People Today

Got to thinking about these incidents after reading some of the dialogue taking place on the music message boards over at The Orlando Weekly. I won’t bore you with the details, so simply suffice it to say that it involves seemingly rival bands, some kind of turf discord and allegations of White Power Radicalism. For the most part, those active in posting on these discussion groups have demonstrated their cool reception to such antics and a definitive intolerance for bigoted behavior in any form or fashion. What’s terrifying to consider are the sheer number of truly racist folks that regularly display their asses for all to see in this still-small-minded region. They represent a much larger number of the populace who, for this particular matter of record, just don’t get it yet.

There are very few purebloods left amongst us – a love of sex made that possible, and perhaps someday, against the strong urges and protestations of segregationists everywhere, we’ll all fuck ourselves into one big muddle of genetics and return to that utopian time when we were One. Dream on, hippie-guy, not yet anyway.

But we’re not far away, just look at the infinite number of mutts that amble about these swollen arteries of life and commerce. Lots of mixing going on out there, which sort of complicates the question of racial discrimination. “Colored” people today could be any one of a number of racial mixtures because we tend to hang together in most situations. Safety in numbers in case shit gets out of hand. European dominance, of which America is a by-product, resulted in a majority of white faces and the idea that people of color were an anomaly. Prior to 1619, many caucasian people had never seen anything darker than a sun-kissed Spaniard. Slavery would change all of that in a New Amsterdam minute.

Massa George

Though the Emancipation Proclamation ushered slavery officially out of the picture in 1865, there has always been slavery in this world and it still roars on today as strong as it ever did throughout history. Slavery, right here in America! And the strangest quirk about the whole thing is that most people agree to it without even knowing. We’re all born workers in the company that is this country. The one with the red, white and blue label. We are Americans by birth and we are raised to be efficient maintainers of The American Dream. We’ll be aided by government programs, if neccessary, to make sure that we grow up healthy and able. We’re given free schooling to educate us in the ways of the Machine. We’re given time to prove our worth with vocational aptitude, social function, responsibility, before we reach a certain culpable age. Then – the safety net goes away for the most part and every man and woman is called to stand and deliver. Either you’re going to join the team, find a niche and fill it, or your future will be chosen for you and enforced for life. Welcome my son, welcome to the Machine. We’ve prepared you for this, now get to it! You are an apprenticed member of the world’s largest corporation and it’s time to earn your stars and stripes! By browsing this governmental brochure, you may find any number of interesting and pleasing jobs that you can grow to love and find satisfaction and comfort in, not to mention a healthy pension so that you can finally enjoy the life that you’ve earned. The CEO of this big money-making adventure, currently George W. Bush, is mainly responsible for getting as much return on the investment as possible. Keep the corporation fiscally fit. Oversee the cash crops and keep the mill in production. It’s all about land, resources, trade routes, money, which translates into power. There’s one big world out there, and like a virus, many spread across its surface in order to control most, if not all, of it. Would those that control America love to see the World be claimed in its name? Who doesn’t want to own all the property in a game of Monopoly? I’m betting dollars to doughnuts that Dubya wouldn’t mind, to steal a quote from James Cameron, being “King Of The World.” Old Georgie is a monarchist at heart and an overseer with a quick whip, disguised as a cowboy’s lariat. America started supposedly over the disgust at a King George and wouldn’t that just beat all if it were to go up in smoke because of another King George?

America began as an extension of a land-grab, a spill-over of European greed and conquest. When the British hit the shores and began the colonialization that would eventually give birth to American capitalism, they often brought indentured servants with them. In the early phase of things, landowners were given a “headright”, an allotment of 50 acres of land for each person that was brought over on a ship with paid passage. A smart landowner would make the servants work off the fare, thereby gaining access to free land. Not only British citizens served as indentured servants; German and Dutch people who were tired of their plights back home and willing to throw caution to the wind in a brand new land also were owned by the first wealthy landowners. Always has been a case of the “haves” and “have-nots.” From the very beginning. People were willing to accept the lesser of two evils in order to have a shot at their dreams of freedom. After 200 years of history, many of us are realizing that it’s been a shill from the beginning.

And what do we do today? In most cases – we work jobs that we hate to hold onto the things that we feel we need. Rushing from check to check and from house to vocation, in tight circles of life, the middle ground perhaps. Always hoping for something better while most of the time not realizing that the game is rigged. That’s why our economy sucks right now – someone’s been playing games with our hard-earned dough!

Blessed is the one who loves his vocation, or can find good reason in the labor that keeps us indentured to a lifestyle that blinds us to the true purpose of life. Working in America, lost on a treadmill, tracked by the number given to us at birth, like some kind of fleshy Fed Ex package. License to drive, license to drink and buy smokes. Means of identifying you; may I see your credentials please? Be sure to register with the Department of Motor Vehicles within ten days of moving. And with every passing year, with every passing legislation (some of it railroaded through congress disguised as “helpful” amendments), the illusion of freedom gives way a bit more. The man behind the curtain is now at center-stage and he’s lip-synching.

I do enjoy a good conspiracy theory every now and again because I think it’s important to keep your mind open to see the giant picture. Consider all, process the information, store it where it’s easily referenced. Life is like a huge game of concentration. You really need to make an effort to remember where shit is.

The machinery is oiled with the blood of the workers. I think I heard that on an episode of The Simpsons.

Iraq ‘N’ Roll

So Georgie is going after $87 billion of office funds and finally, those dopes in congress who sat by and let him single-administratively bomb the hell out of Iraq are giving him the finger. Good for them. Good for us. Let’s get this fool out of office before he creates any more policy. He’s a dangerous puppet and people are starting to call him and his group of wardogs on some of their hijinks. Thank God Al Gore invented the internet – it made cross-referencing information so much easier. The bait-and-switch routine perpetuated by both the government and the media has become easy to spot if you can get away from the brainwashing propaganda that sprays forth through radio, newspaper and television each day. Where money and government meet in the media, you’ll find a Short Attention Span Theater of sorts, aimed at feeding you just what you need to know, when you need to know it, and then subliminally urging you to forget it in order to accept the next bit of programming. And your average, lemming-like citizens, lulled into a psuedo-peaceful sense of security, curled up on the couch watching that free t.v., they get sinister doses of mind-altering, mood numbing babble from store-bought talking heads who are carefully trained to deliver the “news” as objectively as possible. The one thing that the people in charge didn’t count on was that as cities and states grew, as populations soared, as more and more dissenting views made their way across the information highways, people would share all that had been sworn to secrecy; people would vent their really useful info, people would leak what they knew.

The information age brought with it the Truth about how things had been run. And with every de-classified bit of governmental hoo-doo, it becomes clear to employees of the American company that their bosses have been none too honest with them about all those State Of The Union addresses that serve as annual reports for us, the stockholders of a very publicly owned company.

It becomes pretty clear just by analyzing their collective histories that Dubya and Da Boys have got their sights set on annexing the so-called “Cradle Of Civilization.” Call it a wacky hunch, but since Donald Rumsfeld first showed up, sneaking around behind President Carter and making himself known to certain recently deposed dictators, there have been a small group of sneaky petes currently in power that have been sniffing around Saudi land and oil reserves since before Castro started waggling his ass over the water at Key West. Typically throughout history, if the United States has wanted land, it has either outright taken it (in the case of the Hawaiian islands) or agreed to buy it and then years later, simply took the land and offered a paltry sum in exchange (in the case of Mary and Carrie Dann – the two Western Shoshone women currently fighting the U.S. Government over the Treaty of Ruby Valley, which was signed in 1863.) This is a company that is still trying to greenmail its allies.

And while we’re at it – let’s annex Israel and Palestine too, after we get them to kiss and make up. Buy stock in the little town of Jerusalem, get more than a 51% ownership and start putting people on the board that you know will vote this way or that. It’s the American Way. Do it honest and get screwed, do it sneaky and get ahead. Not always, but in business – look at who gets by and think about it. You could be on the cover of Forbes and know that there are twenty more like you who are jousting to knock you off.

Or don’t think about it. You can get too lost in this reality. So many never awake from the sleepwalking. The grind pulls them in, hypnotizes them into believing that this is what you’re simply meant to do. Plug in and start the machine, follow the routine, be there for your shift on time, don’t deviate from the schedule. The American Concept needs you. The Military needs you. The CEO President needs you. You need to be productive, pay your taxes, make lots of babies that will grow up and be taxed and fuel the fire in the belly of the big beast that never, ever shuts down and never, ever grows tired of eating, eating, eating.

Who Are You?

When you’re born of a machine, of a company of a process, it simply takes your breath away to figure out what it all means. When they talk about “origin of the species”, you assume they mean ‘human’ alright. But the origin of a race is a completely different thing. For the most part, besides the first real Native Americans who may or may not have crossed the land bridge from Siberia many moons ago, most Americans all came, ironically enough, from somewhere else. For years, we had the biggest open door policy of any company in the come-fuck-me universe. The gates were opened to the tired, the poor, the huddled and anyone who had a few bucks in their pocket. They were all revenue generators. New employees fresh off the boat who didn’t know any better that this is what they could be asking for, living for.

And still don’t. Kissimmee/St. Cloud, Florida, once sort of a redneck haven, is beginning to fill up with people of color, who typically serve in the hospitality industry. Thousands and thousands of hotel rooms, bathrooms, lawns and displays emerging as part of the increasing resort landscape and to maintain them, mainly positions that unskilled minorities are comfortable working. Like a sea change of faces, the racial architecture of central Florida continues to morph as it continues to grow. Segregation, in its many forms around these parts, is beginning to become integration. And the culture clash has produced more than its share of ugly reminders that we’re still so far away from the world view that true American dreamers believe we’ll find some day.

Generally, within Orlando city limits, there is an unspoken tolerance that comes mainly from the influx of tourists from every part of the globe. You don’t alienate the very carriers of greenbacks that keep your city at the top of the “most visited destinations” list. But the further you get from the epicenter of equality, the greater the depths of intolerance and ignorance. Having lived in central Florida for ten years now, I’ve experienced more than my fair share of first-hand bigotry, yet remain hopeful that bridges can be built between people based on love and trust. My uncle back in Pennsylvania was a man taught to hate white people by his generation, by the times in which he was raised. With increasing awareness that we’re all part of one big race – the human race – today’s children are successfully escaping the backwards teachings of generations and making their own discoveries about life and love in the 21st century. Though civil situations are far from perfect in this big grand company, they’ve certainly improved a mite since they were turning hoses on black protesters back in the mid-60’s. The components of this red, white and blue Machine are now experiencing the second wave of an Awakening that begun when the prefab notions of the 1950’s Nuclear Family became wisps of smoke and the blinding flash of well-placed mirrors. Our media reflected nothing of the actual life and times back then. Only in retrospect (ironically, often through some form of media) do we realize how much manipulation was going on. Apply that to modern times and imagine the bone-chilling concept that everything you know is wrong. Everything reported is false. Every militant videotape is “produced”. Every campaign promise is just a meathook upon which hopes and dreams are hung come every election year. Where to go then when your constitution has been shattered and the life that you’ve slaved to accomplish falls like a house of Iraq’s 52 most wanted?

To truly find out who we are, we have to look backwards through time, through our family trees, to get a sense of where we’ve been. Only then can we move forward with sure footing. How easy it is to become lost in the homogenized backdrop of this modern America. Where so many cultures and opinions, products and sales pitches zing throughout this land that it all sort of blurs together into one all-purpose goop that can be molded into the model of a machine part and stuck somewhere under the hood of this torquing, smoke-belching world power. It seems to me that the U.S.A. got off on the wrong foot on those eastern shores just over 200 years ago. It was a nation founded on flawed politics and backwards reasoning and it set in motion the very crazy lives that we all share today. Though many of the ideals it espoused through its literature seemed originally noble – it was still created by and large for those who had created it. And thus, in a twisted sort of way, it remains so. We’re the only global “superpower”, which simply implies “bigger than you.” Great speechmakers may echo that “might makes right”, but a gun in the hands of an infant can do no good. Okay, I’m done Bush-bashing for the moment, if only to stop thinking about the fact that he’s got an entire arsenal at his disposal, far more than Saddam or Osama ever had wet dreams about. Don’t put much stock in American news, especially the stuff on the major broadcast channels; it’s government-approved. Think on it. I’ve known people who have worked in network news and have told me of the editing that takes place in the studio, damning evidential footage that was removed to sway a story one way or the other.

Embedded?

Read several different newspapers and try to weed out the common denominators – seeking the source of information instead of relying upon others to feed you the Truth. I’m with Sen. Ted Kennedy in the estimation that the war in Iraq was a fraud. This episode didn’t have to happen, this was a smoke-screen, this is money that we didn’t have to spend. This is a very expensive game of chess between some of the biggest boys in the world. If they’re going to spend the money that comes out of taxpayers’ pockets, we should at least be able to change the channel and select a different kind of show.

Hey, where’s this going anyway?

I don’t know; I’m tired. I’m ranting. It’s three in the morning, there’s tons of crazy shit on my mind, the moon’s in Sagittarius and I’m vibrating all over like a hummingbird wing. It could be the spirit. Might be a message. More than likely, it’s the sugar buzz kicking in from this Ben and Jerry’s chocolate fudge brownie and chocolate chip cookie dough yogurt that I’m snorting.

Somewhere back in the archives of this column, I pointed out that George W. Bush would be the man “most likely to destroy Disney World” besides Michael Eisner, who is already more than likely being targeted for a hit by the stockholders. Disney is like a little version of America. Started nobly, even self-reverentially, grew to a stupid size and began beating up on those around it. With its stunning catalog and worldwide properties, it certainly looked as if the Mouse was bent on global conquest, but Mickey was halted by a greedy CEO who tinkered with the gears so much that the company began to hiccough and fail. Now, the company struggles for ballast. Personally, I think they should dump Eisner and bring back Roy Disney, Walt’s nephew and one-time head of the animation division. Roy’s no “idiot” as he has frequently been personified by those not-in-the-know and knows a thing or two about business. But age and a general discontentment with the company (he dumped all of his stock before leaving the board) may keep him from having a go in the leadership chair, which is a pity. A real Disney back at the head of the table could do wonders for public relations, maybe even bring pride back to the organization.

Now that is wishful thinking. And on that note. Love somebody that you don’t know today, pass it on.

Pa gjensyn,

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