On Obama and New York’s Yemeni grocers

The thing that always struck me about Obama is that as much as I—liberal through-and-through—loved him, he really was the perfect Republican, meaning he was a committed Christian devoted to the “family values” that the Republicans have always espoused. Never was there ever even the hint of personal scandal, and none of all the alleged political ones ever held any water.

Only one thing ruined him for Republicans: skin color. No, make that two things: skin color and intelligence. Mega-intelligence.

I reflect on this as my Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood Yemeni grocery store owners join their New York countryfolk in closing shop—some 1,000 in all—today from noon to 8 p.m.—in response to Trump’s Muslim ban. That’s a big chunk of vital retail.

Then again, Yemenis are vital to New York City, as are Muslims from all countries. And like Obama, the ones I patronize, at least, are also dream Republicans: hardworking, family-oriented people, who came to this country like all of our ancestors who weren’t Native Americans–in search of a better life, be it to escape religious or political persecution or whatever.

I’ve always felt that’s the greatest thing about New York: Everyone from everywhere—all countries, creeds, colors, gender identities–is all together, such that we’re forced to deal with each other out of common humanity, rather than kill each other over random differences of birth.

Those of us who live here are lucky, indeed.

Talking to Myself Out Loud: Identifying with Rachel Dolezal

There’s a great Godfrey Cambridge line in the 1970 Ossie Davis-directed action comedy classic Cotton Comes to Harlem, “Is that black enough for you?,” which likely spawned Billy Paul’s “Am I Black Enough for You” 1973 follow-up to his signature “Me and Mrs. Jones”–itself sampled by Schooly D in the 1989 rap song of the same name.

Turns out that Dolezal really wasn’t black enough, not with her disingenuous defense of her trying to pass, not without success, for African-American, which didn’t bother me so much as her over-the-top defensive birther stance that there was no biological proof of her relationship to her parents.

Then again, I’m just as guilty, if not for trying to pass myself off as black–though I often do say, when the conversation turns to race, that I’m “light-skinned”–than for co-opting black culture, as has been done by now by virtually everyone in the world.

Somewhere long ago I read or heard how white boys wished they were black, or at least certain white boys, of which I most certainly was one, once I started listening to the blues back in Madcity Wisconsin. Early Bob Dylan brought me to the Madison Public Library, Bob Dylan, who himself embraced black music and culture so tightly that he recorded with Victoria Spivey and Big Joe Williams and by himself under the blues guise of Blind Boy Grunt. And when I started listening to the blues, besides all the country and folk blues records and Chicago blues records I checked out of the library, it was the Siegel-Schwall band, then made up of three white blues players and one black, that became my biggest and lasting influence.

I make reference here to the Born in Chicago documentary featuring Corky Siegel, Mike Bloomfield, Paul Butterfield, Barry Goldberg, Charlie Musselwhite, Steve Miller, Elvin Bishop, Harvey Mandel and Nick Gravenities–all of whom learned the blues at the feet and amps of Chicago blues pioneers like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Willie Dixon, just as the Rolling Stones, Animals and Yardbirds were covering the same records in England.

So I can easily understand Rachel Dolezal, not to mention Caitlyn Jenner and anyone else who wishes they were born someone else or somewhere else. And as for listening to the blues and wishing I were black, well, it didn’t stop there. I went on to listen to and love country music, Cajun music, Russian, Indian, Arabic, going so far, at least in relation to country music, to affect what must be about the most blatantly phony Southern accent any guy that could never shake his Midwestern accent ever attempted, almost to the point of self-caricature.

As for being black, I always remember how I’ve enjoyed being among the few whites, er, light-skinned blacks at all black gatherings, like the first time I was in Jamaica and went to Trench Town, the Kingston neighborhood where the likes of Bob Marley gave birth to reggae, that was so dangerous and off-limits to whites that a number of residents had to be bribed to let me in. Or the first time I saw Ashford & Simpson at Radio City in 1983: It was a sold-out show, and I didn’t count more than half a dozen or so of us light-skinneds. Many years later Nick & Val’s assistant Miss Tee scolded me for not having black-eyed peas on hand for New Year’s–a Southern tradition.

“You’ve been hanging around black people so long, and you don’t have no black-eyed peas?” she asked, incredulously–then hand-delivered a big potful. It was up there with being called the “N-word” by one of the great white blues harmonica players, spoken–and taken–with great affection and respect. A fellow Rider in the Storm, he, too, had managed to leave the House in which he was born to become someone else he wanted to be.

I love how one of my dearest Facebook friends commented how race is “a social construct erected to oppress certain groups of people.”

“That is the only way in which it is a real thing–because truly at a basic atomic level there are no racial differences,” she explained. “But the social construct has made race real and has made the concept very powerful. It has been a scourge that persists too often today. Tragic and stupid….”

Talking to Myself Out Loud: Yes, I am a fucking asshole

[This is a new category. The name derives from what I consider is what writing is–talking to myself out loud. This first post is essentially a continuation of the CF44 post that I put up a few moments earlier.]

Work day shot, what else was I to do but catch up on Twitter?

The day before–Super Bowl Sunday–I’d made a Twitter fan out of a very active Twitter gal who added me to three of her score or so Twitter Lists. I tweeted back thanking her, then got into an engaging exchange of tweets prior to heading out-of-town for an annual Super Bowl party.

But now I found that she’d added me to another Twitter List: “tweeps that don’t follow back for some reason. but will interact.”

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I am a fucking asshole. It goes without saying. And give me credit for being open about it.

But that’s only part of the “some reason.” As anyone who’s with me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn knows (and just be glad I don’t know how to use the other ones) I’m the most antisocial social networker out there. Let me put it this way: I don’t friend or follow anyone. I only unfriend and unfollow.

On Facebook, I pay attention to maybe 20 of however many “friends” I have, and interact with others only if someone responds to my tweets—which I send to Facebook—and then only if I can respond with something utterly stupid within 10 seconds. Anything longer is a waste of time, and at 62 with prostate cancer, time must not be wasted.

Besides, most of my Facebook friends I don’t even know, probably don’t even want to know—and I say that even though they all send me Christmas presents. I only confirm them strictly out of self-promotion—which is also why I don’t friend: I don’t want to lead anyone on in thinking anything other than that I use social networking solely for self-promtion, be it my writing, far-left politics, trival observations, feeble attempts at humor.

Sorry, sister, but I just don’t have a whole lot of time to follow you back. But I do feel bad. Really. There’s a real-life friend I always run into at APAP, the Association of Performing Arts Presenters conference at the Hilton in January. She manages and books her husband, another friend of mine. She grows colder to me every year, and I know it’s because I don’t follow her back on Twitter. She’s as much said so.

Honey, with me it’s all business—the business of information and applied knowledge. I’ll follow back an artist I respect who follows me first, out of respect. Or a friend that brings something useful to my table. And I follow a few others who don’t follow me—POTUS and FLOTUS, Arianna Huffington, Eric Boehlert. Maybe if I were 16 and healthy I’d follow everyone back—though I hope not.

Don’t get me wrong. I definitely wish POTUS and FLOTUS would follow me back, especially since I love them so much and always promote and defend them on Twitter and everywhere else, plus I see that they follow others that I follow or follow me. But, hey! No one understands more how busy they are.

I mean, life’s just too short, especially if you’re a freelance writer, especially one who’s 62 with prostate cancer. Writing takes a lot of time, and so does social networking. I could do both, but that would mean cutting back on my writing time and thereby not writing all the shit that presumably makes the followers/friends I have want to follow/friend me in the first place.

But I will say this: Fucking asshole notwithstanding, I do very much appreciate my followers and friends. I just don’t care about inflating the numbers, and don’t always have time to return the affection.