Monday, January 15, 2007

I was listening to a pod cast interview with a mother who is speaking out against Hiphop because of the impact it has on youth and the messages it sends. She talked about the need to have “teaching moments” with her twelve-year-old daughter about lyrics they would hear on the radio (back when this mother still let the daughter listen to hip hop on the radio). These “teaching moments” were supported also by a caller who agreed that they must take these moments to “teach” their children that violence, misogyny and materialism are not “okay.” That’s it? That’s the message? The teaching moments that our children need are not that the things they love are “not right.” The teaching moments that our children need is a two way street. We need them to teach us why these things are important to them. Why are they important to anyone? What do killers (or people posing as killer-types) get out of killing people? What do rappers who talk about beating up women get out of talking like that or doing that? What does anyone get out of wearing expensive, brand named clothing and drinking expensive champagne? Dig deep. I’m guessing the answers are reasonable. A sense of empowerment perhaps? A feeling of self-confidence. A sense of control. A sense of being longed for.

What is the price that middle-aged Americans pay for these things? What is the price that middle-income Americans pay for these things? What is the price that you pay for these things? I sometimes go to great lengths to feel empowered, self-confident, loved and desired. I have binged on enormous amounts of food. I have smoked cigarettes. I have paid too much money for clothes, haircuts, jewelry. I have said things that are hurtful to someone else so that I could feel better about myself. And it is not easy to break free of those things because no matter how much spiritual and personal growth I like to claim, I’m still on the journey and working very hard to find healthy, enlightened ways to feel balanced and calm and loved. I don’t need someone to tell me that binge-eating or smoking or over-spending are bad habits or that they are not "okay." I know that. I need people to support me in my growth and to help me find alternatives. That is what we need to be teaching our children. How to get their needs met without hurting others. How to lift up other people and themselves. How to resist bad habits and to instead find new, alternative, self-promoting ways of healing themselves and feeling good about themselves.
Looking for a winning team in Philadelphia.

I was walking through the Kensington neighborhood last Saturday afternoon and I saw a woman dressed head to toe in Eagles clothing, under an Eagles awning that was set up on the sidewalk outside of her townhouse. The Eagles/Saints NFC playoff game would be starting in a few hours. She was ready for it. As was the rest of Philadelphia. And I wanted this win for Philadelphia because, even though my stay in Philadelphia has been short, I join those long-time Philadelphia residents in their need for a sign. We need a sign not to give up hope, not to cave in to the affects of the violence and the state of the schools and the trash on the streets. I watched this woman in the Kensington neighborhood preparing for what she hoped would be a victory. I watched this woman in her hyper-enthusiastic, mismatched outfit knowing that she lived on a street I choose to avoid after dark and knowing that she is likely one of those Philadelphians who are turning to the Eagles to help bring light to their place in this troubled city. During the coverage of the game, I heard people talk about the tragedies of New Orleans and how deeply they need this victory. Hearing their tales of destruction, as faces of displaced residents flashed on the screen, I almost began to waive my allegiance to Philadelphia. It was that compelling. But I remembered the stories and the faces of Philadelphia who may not be enduring some natural disaster, but at the same time still suffer a collective ache and loss that seems incurable. Millions of dollars will not flow into Philadelphia’s poor neighborhoods. No one will build up the dilapidated houses. No one will look upon our city with pity. No one will have heard our stories or come close enough to see our faces. Philadelphia needs to be invigorated. We need a renaissance and many of us turn to our athletic teams to give us that boost. And season after season we face our disappointments both in close calls and in embarrassing, all-out failures making me wonder whether it is easier to just never trust in the team or to get so close to a championship that we begin to taste and smell just a hint of success only to have it quickly withdrawn from our senses.

I’m not really a sports fan. I’m learning bits and pieces about punts and downs and all of that. But I’m curious about this connection between a city who loves its teams and teams who can’t seem to get anywhere. And I wonder if the connection is deeper than we realize. Philadelphians turn to its sports teams for a boost, when maybe the energy needs to flow in the other direction. Maybe Philadelphians need to restore themselves, their neighborhoods, their schools and their priorities before they can breed a winning team. That’s my theory. I say if we clean up our cities, stop killing one another, level the power imbalance, lessen the disparity between rich and poor, heal our wounds, restore our buildings, maybe even say “hello” to one another on the street that we will create for ourselves a winning team. I’m just thinking it is worth a try. That’s all.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Today in History:
1994 Ice skater Nancy Kerrigan is attacked by Tonya Harding's bodyguard

I found this very interesting. I guess because it is an event that I never, ever think about, but that at the time seemed so monumental as if it would change the course of history for each and every one of us.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

I can tell a lot about a city simply by going into a store, purchasing an item and saying that I don't need a bag. There are levels of responses that range anywhere from "thank you for sparing a bag" to "there is no way in hell you are leaving this store without a bag even if I have to tie it around your lifeless neck." Some will choose less aggressive approaches--my favorite is when, after their insisting that I take the bag and my insisting that my pack of gum doesn't require a bag, they then mention that the bag is free. They perk up as they think of it as if they have finally come to understand why I have been so resistant to their offer. They must be imagining that I come from somewhere less luxurious where people can't afford cars, or TV's and where stores charge a bag tax to their customers because otherwise customers would just keep coming in for the free bags and sew them into clothing, roofing for their huts and blankets in which to swaddle their young. When I still refuse the bag they figure I must have misunderstood them. Seeing only my vague and ambiguous racial features and ignoring my plain, grammatically correct English, they continue to bag the item and in that moment I must make a snap decision to pursue their refusal or to just take the damn bag.

When I lived in the SF Bay Area, I don't remember this being an issue. I remember being thanked for my environmental consciousness, maybe even rewarded with five cents off my order. When I moved back to the Philadelphia area though, things were clearly different. At the now-folded Tower Records in on Broad Street, they flat out refused to let me leave without a bag for my CD. Something about store policy says that every customer must have a bag. Once I encountered a generous employee who let me get away bagless if I would go through the routine of him handing me a bag and me handing it back to him. I even shook my head for emphasis and mouthed, "no, thank you" in case the store policy moguls were watching.

In Austin I was able to purchase a bottle of vitamins at a local GNC and not have to take a bag. No questions asked. I need to do some further research on this but I’m thinking that, given the struggles I have had living in Philadelphia and the ease of life in the Bay Area and in Austin, I need to live in a bagless city. A place where you can buy a pack of gum or a bottle of vitamins or a pen or a comb and not have to take a bag.
I call this one, "She's Not My Mother"

Traumatized Daughter...........................Maiken
Untraumatized Son..............................Stian