it tastes just like cherry cola.

my mom dragged me to another family gathering this evening. i didn't want to go, and i even told her i didn't, but then she threw a little guilt trip my way. "well, if you don't go, then i can't go, since i have a hard time driving there." i answered with an exasperated sigh and agreed to come along. after all, my cousin francis' wife, renata, did invite me to dinner, too.

the reason for this get-together was because my aunt ampy is in town. she's my mom's sister, and, i have to admit, is probably my favorite aunt. one of the things i like about her is that she never fails to bring up the story of when i was little and called her "fat." apparently, when i was about three or four, i was eating a four-piece, standard-sized kit-kat bar, and she asked me if she could have a piece. i took one look at her, then one look at the wrapper's nutritional contents, and remarked, "you'd better not. it says here that it has fat." obviously, my aunt was insulted, and tells this story to me, and to everyone around, every time i see her. i don't know any other relative who associates me with an insulting remark. i think it's funny, and i like it.

so after she told me the story, she asked if i was working. i told her about the whole mather youth academy debacle, and how i don't think i really want to pursue teaching any longer. she, a formal school teacher, remarked that kids in the u.s. are much different than students in the philippines. and if i really want to teach, the philippines would be the best place to do it. she proceeded then to tell me about a former co-worker of hers that decided to teach in houston, texas. this poor filipino woman was asked, "why are you here?" and later she was assaulted with a handful of m&m's.

at some point, someone, i think francis' mom told us to go into the living room and look at the wedding pictures. my mom, aunt ampy, and i all went to go have a look. we gathered around their ikea table (everything in the house - curtains, tables, chairs, sofa, plates, silverware, etc. is ikea), and opened up a photo album. when grabbing one of these ikea chairs, my aunt ampy said this, (i'll translate from tagalog) and i think it describes her pretty well: "can we sit here? the chair's heavy. nevermind. isn't it heavy?"

for appetizers, we had mussels from costco, and chips with salsa. i ate a lot of mussels. then, frank (francis' brother-in-law) showed up with his wife, ria (francis' sister), and his adopted father, a white man from texas. i think his name was bill. we'll call him bill. bill, as frank would later point out, once worked for dick cheney. he was an oil driller, or oil baron, or oil-something-or-other for halliburton. bill was also an ex-marine. bill also liked to talk very loudly, much to the discomfort of all the poor filipinos around him, about his conservative, pro-republican, pro-gun views. i found it kind of funny, kind of sad.

my mom's blood pressure went through the roof when she talked about him in the car. "typical marino. typical white man." aunt ampy was pretty oblivious. in tagalog, she asked, "what was so bad about him? what did he say?" my mom couldn't give specific examples, because it really was a long, long stream-of-ignorance that he spouted off. my mom just called him yabang, tagalog word meaning, "pompous asshole."

the whole episode made me think of the book i recently finished reading, white like me. tim wise, the author, talks about how he loved debate in high school, but later viewed it as a very "white" activity. he calls it this because whites have the privilege of treating major issues such as poverty, homelessness, war, unemployment, etc. as if it's just a game. it's just dinner conversation that doesn't really affect them.

as i closed the front door, i heard them talking about next year's elections. i closed the door to this massive, four-bedroom, three-bath, ikea-furnished house, to get into my mom's honda CRV, and the only thought i had is that this is happening everywhere. having kept my mouth shut all evening, i felt like somebody else. like a provincial boy who eats at the separate table, who cleans the elders' slippers and sweeps the porch with a broom made from sticks, tied together with rubber bands. at the risk of romanticizing the poor, the servants, i can at least say what they experience is human.

i hate this disease called progress. i hate this religion called success.

last night, my cousin rich and i discussed the possibility of making a documentary about our family. i told him that we should show pictures of our dads and uncles back in the 1970's with their long hair, their giant smiles, their bell-bottoms and fabulous polyester attire. and after we show pictures of them, we should show them now, balding, working random jobs: my dad and uncle mike as uc davis janitors, rich's dad a former CF warehouse worker (CF went under a few years ago and workers were greeted with a locked gate - goodbye 403), uncle tim as an at&t manager. we obviously had a good laugh over this, until i realized, too soon, that we were next. "they were such crazy, party-goin', beer-drinkin', hip guys. and then they all just ended up working entry-level jo..." oh shit. haven't i been applying to random, entry-level positions lately?

it served me right for trying to make light of our fathers' and uncles' transformations. shit, at least they had fun when they were young. for a good, long while back there, they had too much wine and too much song. when did rich, byron, or i ever have that? did our fathers and uncles ever sit around watching reruns on dvd? did they play x-box for hours and hours? did they ever, even for a minute, have to ask the stupid fucking question, "what should we do today?" no, they didn't. they lived their lives. and now, even though they're aging, balding, and some have turned to alcohol, and all but my dad have been through a bitter divorce, they at least have those memories to look back upon. and that, i think, makes them better, happier, more fully human than our sorry lot can ever hope to be.

respect your elders, kids. they're wiser than you think.


Anonymous said...

even whites who lean to the LEFT will exert the privileges of race and class when it comes to dictating the "appropriate" tactics of how to change this carnivorous system we live under.
ever wonder why "non-violent direct action" has a monopoly on the discourse of activism in American progressive circles? take the civil rights movement for example. nobody ever mentions the Deacons for Defense who were responsible through the use of arms and a wide range of tactics for challenging and dismantling the violent acts of the klan against blacks in the south. because of their militancy, they forced the local and federal government to step in and enforce the civil rights act where non-violent activists had failed. how about robert f. williams? in monroe north carolina, he was president of an armed wing of the NAACP. among working class blacks, he was quite popular and his classic book "negroes with guns" was the template for the Black Panther Party. white middle class activists have the audacity to tell oppressed people of color in america and elsewhere living with the violence of poverty, racism, etc. the best way to deal with the hopeless situation they find themselves in. this was the case in the civil rights movement and this is the case today. write a letter to your congressman, protest and march in designated areas, civil disobedience-get arrested-pay your fine-nothing changes. turn the other cheek and pull at the heart-strings of your oppressor while you wait for his conscience to change. how successful is the anti-war movement today? the demonstrations are large, yet those in power continue their bloody, imperial carnage in Iraq. well, i won't bore you any further. for some reading on this subject, i recommend reading: 1) How Nonviolence Protects the State by Peter Gelderloos(South End Press)
2) Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams and the Roots of Black Power by Timothy B. Tyson
3)The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement by Lance Hill
4)Pacifism as Pathology by Ward Churchill

Anonymous said...

I wish that I could leave really long thought out comments that would contribute to some kind of positive opinion of me, but I'm already behind on getting ready for work but thanks to you and my recent discovery of your completely brilliant [in my mind] blog I can't manage to tear myself away.
So I just wanted to say this...
I was with this guy for a year and he was half japanese. I knew his father especially was really into their traditions and so when invited over for dinner one night I wasn't surprised to see alot of really amazing looking foods that I'd never seen before.
I collected some random things onto my plate and sat down. I didn't know what this particular item was, but it looked good so I took a bite of it. I was immediately terrified. It looked soft but it was deceptively hard. I felt like I'd bitten through sticks. I didn't know what to do.
It turned out it was fried chicken and I'd just bitten through all the bones.
How ridiculous is that?
Your ordeal kind of reminded me of that, and how I can think of that moment everytime I get a little too self confident.