Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Stereotypes

Look at the picture of me on my bio -- and you'll see a white girl from Denver Colorado.

In reality, I'm not just the Swedish/Norwegian/Danish/French/Scot/English girl that I appear (can you say "Heinz 57 American?), In fact there's one more detail that doesn't show up on my face: I'm Brazilian as well.

A guy on a travel board I belong to was saying how he doesn't like it that people stereotype -- make sweeping generalizations about certain ethnic groups.

While initially I don't have a problem with that statement, I also realize that stereotypes are, while sometimes terrible, a fact of life.

People look at me and see an Apple Pie American, wholesome looking and all that. While this is a great benefit to me when I have any police interaction (like getting pulled over for speeding, something that has NEVER resulted in an actual ticket), it has also worked against me.

I don't complain about being a wholesome-looking white girl, because most people don't equate my appearance with crime, organized or otherwise, they don't equate my appearance with subversive political activity, or with anything else that would cause anything close to chaos.

What bothers me is that political correctness has reached a level where we can't make fun of even ourselves, that someone can cock off about "not making sweeping statements about other cultures" without even being met with a joke.

Aw, c'mon.

I don't think making NEGATIVE comments about someone based on race or ethnicity is cool, right, or necessary. However, I do think that jokes like Garrison Keillor's observations & jokes about people like me who are Midwest-based Lutherans is just plain funny.

I don't think me making jokes about Blacks, Jews, Asians, or Muslims is funny, just because I'm not one.

But then I read a joke by Jay Leno or David Letterman in the next morning's paper, and they can make jokes about Dubai and their "managing" our ports -- and for some reason it's quite funny.

It's hard to know where to draw the line sometimes. One wants to remain diligent not to foster new problems between races, religions and other ethnic groups -- but at the same time, when does becoming PC get to the point that you've lost the ability to laugh about our differences?

When my Danish Mom was younger, she used to be so slow to get jokes that she'd be laughing in the kitchen the next morning after a joke had been told to her the night before. She'd even acknowledge the fact that it took her so long to get the joke.

So, my brother Jeff came up with a new joke to reflect this.

"How do you keep Danish people happy when they're old?" he would ask.

The punchline:

"Tell them jokes when they're young."

I hope the Danish cartoonists that are in so much trouble over the Muhammed cartoons don't read this blog.

It might take them a week to get it.

Friday, February 24, 2006

I know I did the right thing tonight, but "What The..."

After work tonight I got on the 16th Street Mall bus to go to my bus stop tonight as usual. This free bus runs the length of Downtown Denver, along it's "main drag", and tons of people get on and off of it at every stop along the way. I get on one end and go about halfway down before I get to my stop.

Right after I got on, a couple of little kids got on, ALONE. They had to be 6 & 7 years old, respectively. TOO small to be alone, don't you think?

They look like they do it every day, only about halfway through, one of them looks like he wants to jump off, but doesn't. People on the bus are staring at these kids wondering "Who are they with?"

I stood up from the seat I was in, and the two kids take it. I can tell people think the kids are with me, and the busload of people seem to relax.

Since I'm not sure if they're lost, I ask them where they're going, and the little boy says "to the end of the line. We're going to see X (I couldn't make it out), then we're going to meet our Mom."

I ask if they've done this before, and the boy says yes. Neither kid looks worried, only that they're having fun on the bus.

As I got off the bus, I told them that if they're supposed to go to the end of the line, they have 5 more stops. I'm sure some people on the bus must have freaked watching me leave without these children that aren't mine anyway.

Well, it took me about 5 seconds to realize they shouldn't be alone, so I went to the payphone across the street, dialed 911, and reported it.

I realized that out of all the drunks I've had to avoid on that bus now and then, etc...children that little just SHOULD NOT be there by themselves. I feel bad for not having stuck with them and followed them just to make sure they got where they were going.

The 911 dispatcher said they'd get some cops looking for them, and I was able to give a good description of them.

OMG -- I'm still fuming.

Somebody, tell me...WHO ON GOD'S GREEN EARTH leaves two small children in a city of 2 MILLION people to travel alone in downtown????

Crazy Day

So, let me tell you about my dull existence.

I went to work this morning, and the receptionist Roy, who sits near my cube, says jokingly, "So, does anyone here speak Portuguese?"

"I do," I said. Roy looks at me with a quizzical look. "Seriously?" he said. "Um, yeah," I return. "Well, see if you can help this guy," he counters, and transfers the call to me.

The man on the other end of the line is visiting from Brazil, and is living in Aspen. He explains to me that he has a work visa, and it's about to expire, so he has to go home on March 9, when his flight is booked, and he's lost his passport.

"Will they let me out of the country," he asks. "Can I go home without my passport?"

Being that I'm not working for Immigration, or The Department of Homeland Security, or the Brazilian Consulate for that matter, I have absolutely no clue.

"Well," I said. "Let me take a look and see if there's a consulate office here in Denver I can find for you," I say in the most rusty Portuguese possible.

We talk for a few minutes, during which time I'm frantically Googling "Brazil Consulate Denver" on my computer (he asks me where I'm from and where I learned Portuguese, since he's thrilled to be speaking his language), I keep ending up with the Embassy in Washington DC, and the Consulate office in San Francisco, where I got my passport.

Finally, Marco asks a question, "Are you the consulate office?"

Nope, I say. This is the Denver Post -- we're "O Jornal do Denver".

He laughs.

Turns out he thought he was calling the Consulate in Denver, but instead he got me. I gave him the number to the Washington DC Embassy, and he said, "Thanks for all your help."

Bye Marco, thanks for making me dust off my Portuguese.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

This Old House

Today a bunch of my online friends were posting pictures of their houses to show each other where they live.

I live in an old house in Denver. It's 94 years old this year. But this isn't the house I'm going to tell you about.

My first house I bought was also built in the 1920s. It was in Seattle, with my first husband -- and it feels like a lifetime ago that we bought it, even though we bought it in 1994.

My house was at 29th Avenue NW & NW 69th Street in Seattle, Washington. It sits on a quiet, beautiful manicured street. What made it beautiful was the neighbors, and the house's history.

One time my then-husband and I went down to the archives in Seattle. During the Great Depression, part of the CCC program (a jobs program set up by President Franklin D. Rooosevelt), EVERY house in the city was photographed and logged with its history.

We went to see the history of the house, and found that a Japanese fisherman had rented it for $15 (yes, FIFTEEN) a month in the 1930s when the house was only 10 years old. Mr. Yakamura later bought the house, married and raised two children there, as we found out later. They lived there until he died in the early 1980s, and his wife continued to live there until she died several years later.

When we bought the house, we met some neighbors, a Norwegian couple (this was very common given that Northwest Seattle was an old Scandanavian fisherman's favorite), Anchor and Gaird. This couple had lived in the neighborhood since the 1950s, and knew Mr. & Mrs. Yakamura for more than 30 years.

Anchor (and I know I'm misspelling his name, but that's how it sounded) was in his 70s or 80s when I met him, and he would often come mow my lawn when we had waited too long to do it. They were a very sweet couple, and one day I took some lefse over to them to thank them for their work. Anchor, of course, was thrilled, since lefse is an old Norwegian staple for dessert. Anchor & Gaird worked in the Norwegian resistance against the Nazis in the 1940s, and moved to the U.S. shortly thereafter.

That day I took the lefse over, I learned that Mr. & Mrs. Yakamura had been taken from their home in Seattle to be detained in the camps that the U.S. government set up for Japanese people during World War II. They said that the story in the neighborhood was that the neighbors LOVED the Yakamuras SO much that they PAID THEIR MORTGAGE for the 2 YEARS they were at the camp in Wyoming.

They paid their mortgage for them and kept the house up, so they wouldn't lose it to the government.

Wow.

As I cleaned out my attic one day as we prepared to re-roof the house, I ran across a few items. One was a woman's shoe in what looked to be a size 4. It was a pump, but was so small it would have otherwise looked like a child-size shoe. The other items I found were a Japanese painting, and lastly, a "calling card" inviting people to hear Mrs. Yakamura play piano at the Sunset Hill Community Club in 1939. That would have been shortly before the war started.

It amazes me to this day to think of the history of that one house. To know that I got to own it and be part of who lived there. To realize the chilling details of history were played out there as this couple faced what amounted to a U.S.-led concentration camp.

Yeah, I like my funky house here in Denver. I've always enjoyed owning older homes with a history. But that house in Seattle will always have a special place in my heart because of the Yakamuras.

It often makes me wonder -- if I was taken from my house, would my neighbors notice?

I'd like to think so. I've gotten to know my neighbors better in Denver than any of my neighbors after 15 years in Seattle...but wow. To think of what those people did to help the Yakamuras during the war.

May we all aspire to be better to our neighbors like that. To know when they're in need, and to step up.

Get To Know Me!

I've been tagged. so here it goes...

Name Four jobs you have had in your life:
1. McDonald's Drive-Thru Girl
2. Combine Driver
3. Probation Officer
4. Reporter

Four Movies you would watch over and over.
1. Dave
2. The American President
3. Where The Heart Is
4. Silverado

Four Places you have Lived
1. Seattle, WA
2. Denver, CO
3. Brazil
4. Hermiston, OR

Four TV shows you love to watch:
1. Law & Order
2. Desperate Housewives
3. The Bachelor
4. NFL Football

Four places you have been on vacation:
1. Europe (London, Paris, Venice, Florence, Rome, Athens & Istanbul)
2. South Miami Beach
3. Hawaii
4. New York City

websites I visit daily:
1. MSN.com
2. SeattleTimes.com
3. CNN.com
4. WashingtonPost.com

Four of my favorite foods:
1. Chocolate
2. Mashed Potatoes
3. Spaghetti
4. Coffee

Four places I would rather be right now (or at least places I'd like to see)
1. Chicago
2. Moscow, Russia
3. Thailand
4. Tokyo

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Need I say more?

 

For some reason, I don't think so! Posted by Picasa

Does YOUR Cat Do This?

 

I find it strange, but The Hopper likes to lay on his back like this.

I've attributed it to the fact that he's 22 lbs., which in human terms is about 250. He must have a lot of strain on his back, so he finds laying directly on his spine takes some of the kinks out. He lays like this for hours at a time.

Is this normal? Brian says that he's never seen a cat do this, like this, for as long as he does...

Another freak in the family. Great. Just what we need. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Jules, Pool Shark

Last weekend Brian and I went to Red Lobster for dinner. We sat there for a while and decided the smokeless bar would do (vs. waiting 45 minutes for a table), and we had good service and a halfway decent meal of seafood given the fact that we're 1,500 miles from any ocean.

While sitting there, an old (and I mean OLD) man came in and sat down and ordered some food to go. Sometimes people are so old, you feel compelled to make conversation with them. Well, this old man wasn't just any old man, he owns El Chepultepec, THE jazz club in Denver's LoDo (Lower Downtown)District. We talked a bit about music, and how long he'd owned the place (his Dad bought it in 1933), and I said "I wish there were more blues bars in Denver. I haven't found a good one yet." To which old man El Chepultepec said "Have you ever been to Ziggie's? It's right here in the neighborhood."

So, last night, Brian and I went there for a couple of drinks and to play pool. The blues band was very good, and as it turns out, Brian used to play there (in bands) years ago, and had some fun going down memory lane.

I beat Brian at about 9 of the 10 games we played. One game I even sunk the 8 ball on the break (you win if you do that). Then one guy came over and said loudly but very charismatically "I could beat you at pool". I said "Back it up." He went and sat down. Apparently he's a drunk who gets easily intimidated.

Then a guy named Richard came up and asked if he could play. Brian said "Sure, but you're playing my wife -- not me. I'm tired of losing, maybe YOU can beat her!"

Well, Richard and I played. I shot straight and beat him the first game. He said "You're pretty good, for a woman."

As you can imagine if you know anything about me, I hate that.

The next game, he beat me, then the next game, I sunk the 8 ball by accident and lost. We had half the bar watching us by the time this long game ended, and Richard was feeling pretty good that he was going to win gain. I had 4 balls left on the table while he shot at the 8. But, I came back to win it, even banking the 8 ball (not shooting straight into the pocket, but using one of the side rails to bounce the ball off of at a certain angle) and and it sunk into a specific pocket.

Richard was shocked. The guys at the table next to me were laughing as Richard said "wow, that hurt" (yeah, losing to a girl will do that, especially in public).

But he was a good sport. As I shook his hand when we left, Richard said, "You're good."

No qualifiers.

Thanks, Richard. That's more like it.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Mindless Mindfulness.

I am, what you would call a ruminator. I think, I think, and I think some more. My brother Jeff nailed it when he called us both "processors". We like to process stuff, sometimes to death. Then we want to flip it on its back and look at it some more.

I get a quote a day from thinkexist.com, (sorry for the tangent here, but speaking of irony, that's pretty much the story of MY life Think.Exist.Repeat). Often it has some quote about how life is better not finding the answers, how the trip is more important than getting there, Deep Thoughts like that.

There are days I think "Ah, great quote. I feel better having read that." Other days, I think "Communist. What a load of bull."

There are days I actually expect to find life's answers in all my little ruminating (and of course I don't, at least not for more than a minute before the feeling passes). There are days I take the more Zen approach to life and realize that it is, indeed, the road less traveled that makes the journey more fun.

But when presented with a problem or an idea, sometimes I overthink it on Spock-like levels. Because, I figure (where do I get this???) there should actually be an answer to most questions.

A lot of the time, I use my thinking for fun, including saving information that I get for future reference.

This causes me to called a geek by the occasional friend or co-worker. Like today at lunch, I pointed out that there are more calories in a cookie that's been baked, vs. the cookie dough, since the energy that goes into the baking of the cookie raises the caloric value of it.

Considering the fact that I've always liked cookie dough more than the actual cookie, this isn't just a fun fact, it's actually very, very good news.

Does that make me a geek?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

We LOVE Being The Underdogs!



My home team, The Seattle Seahawks, are playing in Super Bowl XL in about 4 hours. I grew up with Steve Largent and Jim Zorn going duck hunting with my friend Darla Wylie's dad at the duck hunting grounds near our house in Skagit County.

We were kids with parents who never drove to Seattle for games, so I never saw Largent or Zorn play in person, but we rooted for them a lot anyway, given that they were the closest NFL team to our small farming community.

The Hawks were always lukewarm to cold at playing -- not red-hot like they are today. After 30 years, they've barely made it to the playoffs, a few times as the Wild Card team, but nothing close to Super Bowl heaven.

So this year, it's been an amazing thing to watch them play so well, to finally make it to The Big Game.

My sister sent me a Seahawks t-shirt just in time for today's game, and I'm actually nervous enough that I don't want to watch all the pre-game hype.

I find myself instead trying to find something else to do as Brian has gone out to play disc golf with a friend, perhaps feeling the same way I do.

I've played numerous scenarios out on Ghost Recon 2, cleaned up the dog poops in the back yard, and now I sit here blogging, waiting for the game to start.

There isn't much to say about the game -- the hype over The Steelers "Cinderella Story" this year has reached fever pitch, and I think even The Steelers are believing that they are the heir apparent to win this game.

But I know that is exactly what will give The Seahawks the best advantage -- no expectations of them to win.

In 1997, when the Denver Broncos surprised the Green Bay Packers, the whole world thought the Packers wouldn't, even couldn't lose this game. After a couple of humiliations, the Broncos went to their third that year knowing what it felt like to be spanked at the Super Bowl, so being an underdog was probably the best thing for them too.

I do think being the under-appreciated team going to the big game is the best position to be in. What a great surprise it will be if the Hawks can show up for this game and give Pittsburgh what they need: a ride home on the short bus.

GO HAWKS!

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