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Ordinary Canary Posts

One Cat in Search of Warmer Weather

That would be me, by the way.

Jamaica is one heavenly place. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen somewhere so incredibly beautiful.

We had a good time. However, we were not blind to what the effects of our economy are on Jamaica – the hotel that we stayed at was very empty. The streets in Montego Bay were also empty, outside of the morning and evening rush hours. The beach we frequented had plenty of space to choose from, despite being a pretty small public beach.

The aluminum and bauxite trades, the news told us, have nearly come to a standstill, because it is so dependent on American purchasers and my country is just not buying. We saw lots of construction that looked like it had been abandoned, hotels half built, the support beams rusting in the sun. The Jamaican diaspora is a severe cultural problem in the best of economies – now it appears that we’ve entered an economy that might possibly be the worst.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I would dearly love to see a world where resources were fairly distributed, where the entire world doesn’t fall just because our economy takes a downturn. What would the world look like if colonization and imperialism hadn’t been such a dominant force for the last 300 years? Would we all eat more and play more? And how do we get there from where we are?

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Zadie Smith and Multiracial Identity

A very worthwhile article by Zadie Smith on multiracial identities, Barack Obama, William Shakespeare and My Fair Lady.

An excerpt:
A few minutes later, I was in a taxi and heading uptown with my Northern Irish husband and our half-Indian, half-English friend, but that initial hesitation was ominous; the first step on a typical British journey. A hesitation in the face of difference, which leads to caution before difference and ends in fear of it. Before long, the only voice you recognize, the only life you can empathize with, is your own.

Zadie Smith is the author of the truly excellent White Teeth, which I recommend reading. Much like Shakespeare, you can never tell exactly whose side Smith is on, which makes her a fascinating novelist. I think, perhaps, she is on everybody’s.

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Happy VDay, Mon

My Big Irishman and myself are off to Jamaica for a long weekend.  I admit that my brain is already there, waiting for my body to catch up.  The weather has been fairly warm, by New York mid-winter standards, but I’ve still had to wear a coat.  My feet are aching for warm air and sandals.

My Big Irishman bought us snorkeling gear as an anniversary present.  It’s perfect.  Absolutely perfect.  (And answering, “what size mens shoe do you wear?” was pretty high on the entertainment scale.)

In preparation, I’ve been reading everything I can about Jamaica, which will no doubt go to waste, since we’ll be close to the beach and the waters.  And I have some snorkeling to do.  And lizard impersonation.

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Oopsie and over

I have had the flu.  But since I am such an amazing overachiever, yesterday I actually fainted as a result of it.  Not only did I faint, I managed to faint into my bathtub, knocking my shower curtain right off the wall and on top of me.

Fortunately, fainting being what fainting is, I have no memory of this or of getting out of the tub.  I do remember waking up and thinking, “ahhh, finally, I’m the right temperature!” because the wet shower curtain was cooling my fevered skin down.  The next thought was something like, “hunh, I’m fully dressed and in my bathtub.  That’s odd.”

I have quite a lot of bruises now.  Some of them are large and impressive, while others (like the one on my head and my elbow) are just annoying.  I wish I had managed to bruise just one side of my body, but alas, the only possible position to lie down in without triggering pain from one of them is on my back.  This would be less of a problem if it weren’t for my cat, who feels that this is an invitation for colonization, which cuts off my breathing, which isn’t so great right now (see: flu).

So while I am still very impressed at the overachieveryness of my fainting, it is becoming progressively less cool as time passes and my bruises become more painful.

All the same, my fever is finally broken and I am on the mend, which is a huge relief.  I am not a good patient.

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Tai Lam

A very sad thing happened on Saturday. Tai Lam, a 14 year old boy and a student of the school for the gifted in math and sciences Montgomery Blair, was shot down by a gunman who appears to have just been looking for a fight.

This story affected me pretty profoundly – I actually burst into tears when I read it. I didn’t know Tai Lam, but he lived and died right around the corner from where I grew up. The neighborhood I grew up in was a rough one. It was mainly populated by Central and South American immigrants and African-Americans. Being one of the few white-skinned kids wasn’t always easy. But the thing that united us all was our poverty and the problems it caused. And one of the first things that happens in the face of systemic poverty is violence. We had gangs. We had drugs. We had parents that were never home because they had to work long hours (mine included).

I was lucky because I was white-skinned. I didn’t fit in anywhere, except in the world outside of our neighborhood. I remember the year when my friends became color conscious (it happens around ages 11 or 12). Skin color was the defining factor, the definition of my neighborhood. You could only live on one side of the street if you were African-American. If you were Latino, you could only live on the other. Violence was frequent because posturing was everything. When you have nothing, all that’s left is your honor and reputation.

I had hoped that it had changed. It obviously has not. I think that’s why I found myself crying for Tai Lam and his family tonight.

Dear Tai Lam, I am so so sorry that you didn’t get a chance to escape the cycle. You were a Blair student – you probably would have had a bright future in front of you. It is the saddest of worlds in which poverty is created and allowed to oppress people in this way. You will undoubtedly be in my thoughts for a long time to come.

Edited To Add: Reading the comments on this post about Tai Lam also make me sad, since half of them are blaming “the Mexicans”, while complaining that “Mexicans” think that all Asians are the same. This is the damage of bigotry, folks. When does the cycle end?

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Six Months Ago

My mother died six months and two days ago. She’s been on my mind a lot, obviously, because round numbers are the sort of thing that stick out.

Whenever the 9th rolls around, I find myself thinking back to those awful days in the hospital. Watching her breathe through the respirator, the colonoscopy bag, her swollen limbs blistering and changing color as I listened to the awful suck-in/suck-out of the machines that were keeping her alive. Almost fainting when I spoke to the first doctor, when I realized that I would not be going home in a day or two, because she was sicker than anyone I’d ever known before. Feeling the responsibility settle in because I was the only one around to make decisions.

The room had a smell to it, half Lysol and half sweetness from her illness, the kind of smell that lingers in your nostrils long after you’ve left the room. I remember staring at the toilet in the room when I first got there and sat on the chair waiting for the nurse. “Your awesome daughter is here,” I wrote on the white board in a red Dry Erase marker, “and I love you.”

Not that I spent a lot of time in the room, because seeing her bloated form was very difficult. She didn’t look at all like my mom, who was a vivacious and often frustratingly silly woman. My mom was petite and curvy. The sick body on the bed was all of the opposite. Her body in the coffin looked nothing like her at all, because her body was so beat up by the illness. I never got to talk to her, never got to find out how she felt about what was happening to her. I didn’t hold her hand when she died, because I was scared to touch her, but I was there. I witnessed it, although I didn’t think that I could. I watched her turn blue, the thin lips that I’ve inherited changing color in a matter of seconds.

I really don’t know how I would have gotten through those days without the kindness of the people around me. Old family friends, her church, my “family” of friend in Virginia all flocked around me and provided support when I needed it. It was an awful time, but also an incredible time, and I have walked away knowing that I’m very loved, which is something that I’m not sure I really understood before she got sick.

I am such a different person now from who I was then – so much in my life has changed. I find myself longing for her, even though we were never as close as I wanted to be, and as time passes, her death just becomes more unreal. I know she’s dead, it’s deep in my consciousness, yet sometimes I nearly pick up my phone to call her. We had gotten into the habit of it in the months before she died, because I finally got over the grudge I had against her for never keeping my contact information. She was so organized in some ways and I had resented her for not loving me enough to keep my phone number around.

But as one gets older, the small hurts just go away – what matters is grabbing the people you care about and loving them unconditionally. No one is perfect, but one of the things that unites us all is that our time together is very short.

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