The Devil’s in the Peanut Butter

In honor of those people in New Zealand who lost their lives due to prejudice and ignorance, here’s a repost from a few years back. Before you blindly hate or fear people who may have different beliefs and a different life style, get to know them.


I dropped out of college when the chance to live in Europe came along and didn’t have a chance to return until the mid-eighties when my life hit an unfamiliar period of calm and, because I wasn’t used to calm, I decided to spice life up by returning to UC Berkeley. However I needed childcare as my son was just a toddler. Finding childcare is always a sticky-wicket if you don’t have a mother-figure nearby to help.

After fretting over my options for a couple of weeks (potential child abusers versus soulless baby mills), my husband pointed out that we had an extra bedroom with an attached bath, so why not find a college girl willing to trade room and board for help with the children?

th-2He envisioned a buxom blonde from Sweden. I thought more along the lines of a quiet farm girl from Kansas. 

The ad read: “Room and Board in exchange for child care a couple of times a week. House is only 15 minutes from campus.”

I’d just returned home from posting the advertisement when the phone rang. On the other end of the line was a young man with a thick accent. “I have sixteen brothers and sisters,” he informed me. “I know all about babies.”

Stunned stupid I mumbled:  “But you’re a man.” Something which he’d probably already figured out.

“But your ad didn’t say…”

What a corner I’d painted myself into! I couldn’t say we want a girl, now could I?  That would be sexist. Besides, he had a point. There was no “must have a vagina” in my ad.

“I can come in for an interview today.”

“Today?  Ah, no, um –  that won’t work. Tomorrow, eleven o’clock,”  I needed time to figure out how I was going to reject him. Now, I should have said the position was already taken but I’ve never been that quick on my feet.

OmarSharifThe next morning at precisely eleven the doorbell rang. How stupid, I thought. I’ve probably just invited a serial killer or a rapist to my house while my husband was at work. I should have arranged to meet him somewhere else, a public place with lots of people around.  I should have had him come when my husband was home. But as I said, I’ve never been quick on my feet. 

Like a ninny I peered out the living room blinds.  At my front door stood a young Omar Sharif in a plaid shirt and slacks, his dark hair cut short. Figuring that serial rapists generally don’t look like Omar Sharif, I opened the door and let him in.

“Just call me Aziz,” he informed me. “Americans can’t pronounce my real name,  Azizulah.”

“Azizulah, that’s not such a hard name to pronounce.” You twit, I thought, feeling insulted. I’d traveled the world. I wasn’t a typical American, or so I thought.

He went on to say he was a graduate student from Karachi who had scored fourth in Pakistan’s version of the SATs which guaranteed him entrance into just about any college in the world (lack of confidence was not one of his failings). He took a look at the room and the bath and declared it would suit him just fine as it was far away from the “family” quarters and he liked to touch base with his family in the middle of the night. He also informed me that he expected to be allowed to cook at least one meal a week and asked if the local butcher stocked freshly slaughtered goat.

AzizPinky

Aziz with the woman he couldn’t possibly live without and Cam

I was about to tell him that we’d get back to him when my son who was sitting on the floor abusing the dog began to wail. Aziz picked him up, made a funny clacking sound with his tongue and Cam settled right down. They got along so well that I invited him back to meet my husband for dinner that evening. 

“Is there anything you don’t eat, other than pork?”

“Peanut butter!”  He said, looking as if he’d just smelt a fart.

He stayed with us until he married the woman he claimed he “would die without.”  It was true. Whenever she was out of town he couldn’t eat or sleep, often stumbling from his room red-eyed and moaning.  I’ve never seen a man so love-sick. 

Ceremony

Hindu Marriage Ceremony

Unfortunately, she was a Hindu. And so, of course, his family boycotted their wedding and my children played the roles meant for the groom’s siblings. After a few years and children, fortunately his family softened their stance.

Here are just a few of the things I learned during my years with Aziz:

  • Peanut Butter is the food of the Devil. Grilled Cheese isn’t far behind.
  • The worst thing you can call someone in Urdu is a Devil.
  • Pakistanis do not celebrate birthdays because many of them have no idea when they were born (Aziz was either 24 or 26 depending on whether he believed his mother’s journal entry or his father’s).  The date on his passport was made official by a bribe to an immigration official.
  • Pakistanis also do not believe it is necessary to either give or receive thanks. People are expected to do good deeds for each other without expectation of a thank you.

We introduced Aziz to Thanksgiving turkey, Christmas cookies, and Easter bunnies. He introduced us to curry, Eid and Ramadan. One summer, part of his large family came for a visit, staying at the Claremont Hotel and traveling around the Bay Area in a Azizconvoy of vans. They owned a factory on the outskirts of Karachi and made replicas of the kind of furniture you’d find at Versailles which they sold primarily in Europe. They invited me to their home but, after Aziz told me the honored guest is always offered (and expected to eat) the eyeball of a freshly slaughtered cow, I declined the invitation!

I used to joke that during the time we were all together, we had the bases covered – the son of a Holocaust survivor, a baptized Christian (drifting towards Buddhism), a Hindu and a Muslim – should the world come to a sudden end; an end which would probably have been caused by one or all of the above religions.  Ironic, isn’t it?

Buried in Section C

Many people believe that newspapers are obsolete.  You can, after all, get your news on the internet for free so why pay? Aside from the fact that online you have to put up with numerous pop-up ads just to read the headlines, sometimes it’s nice just to unplug.  To sit with a cup of coffee and read articles researched and written by local reporters who have a vested interest in what is going on in your neck of the woods, who write with wit and passion and deserve to be read and not buried five clicks down and behind an ad for Depends.

Here are some of the local stories that caught my eye in the San Francisco Chronicle last Saturday, March 9th.

Osprey watchers can see clearly now
by Steve Rubenstein, staff writer

First, this article has a catchy headline that infers osprey watchers have been having vision problems.  Oh dear,  Was there some kind of eye infection that affected only people who liked to watch ospreys?  Why? And last, what was the cure that has them seeing clearly now?

It was a … drumroll please … a three thousand dollar remote control windshield washer.

According the SF Audubon Society, over 70,000 people are addicted to watching the mating habits of an osprey couple via a webcam installed downwind of their nest. But when a bird’s gotta take a crap, he doesn’t much care where the wind takes his treasure, no matter how many followers he has. And so Richmond Osprey has made quit a mess and osprey viewers are suffering. There hasn’t been too large a public outcry because Rosie Osprey has been off clubbing in Mexico, as is her habit every winter. But soon she’s returning and no doubt expecting Richmond to give up his bachelor ways to service her at least eight times a day “live and in color” for all to see. Some poor member of the Audubon Society will probably be on call twenty-four seven to activate the windshield wiper when necessary but I’m sure it will be a sacrifice made happily.  If you also like to watch ospreys mate, here’s the link.  I can’t guarantee you an x-rated experience but you may get lucky:

http://sfbayospreys.org

There is, however, a darkly ironic side to this story. 

Point Molate, Richmond California

For at least a decade a friend of mine has waged a frustrating battle to save the shoreline that provides eelgrass for the osprey and other wildlife  from developers hellbent on building subdivisions and casinos. She and others in the Pt. Molate Alliance have provided plans to the city for an eco-friendly nature center, picnic areas and hiking and bike trails which would provide Richmond residents with a million dollar view of the San Francisco Bay.  They’ve also documented the perils of overdeveloping that area from increased traffic congestion to the environmental impact.  But they’re up against big money in a community famous for poverty and high crime.

While she is happy that people enjoy watching these incredible birds, she wishes that money had been spent fighting the greed that will put them at risk once again.  I agree.

Another headline concerning wildlife also caught my eye:

When monkeying around was a job creator and kid favorite
by Gary Kamiya, the author “Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco”

Now I think of monkeying around as cheating on one’s partner. That’s just where my mind goes, folks.  So how could that be a job creator and kid favorite?

Rats! I was fooled again by a clever title.  Building monkey houses for local zoos was one of the projects that got people back to work after the Depression. The one at the San Francisco Zoo was particularly popular however it was not rebuilt after 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake damaged it beyond repair.  The reason why?  The residents, spider monkeys, expressed their displeasure at being held captive by dangling their butts over the mesh tunnel leading to their island and defecating on the zookeepers.  These monkeys also ran in gangs and followed leaders who were often described as “gang bosses.” It was a regular West Side Story on Monkey Island.  I’m sure the zookeepers probably said “It’s either them or us!”

It’s a sad commentary on the times, but I bet Life and Death on Monkey Island would get more views on a streaming webcam than Rosie and Richmond’s last tango mid-air.

Alas, t’is the season for sweeping away spend camellia blossoms.  Perhaps spring will eventually arrive!

The Little Girl

tin hats

The little boy about seven-years-old knocks on my door, in the trees all the birds are waking, chirping about cats and water

I need help, he says, so we walk hand-in-hand to an empty house a few streets over, I get the rusty latch open and he goes in with a smile

A few hours later, he returns and seems to be at least 10

He asks if I can let him use the phone, sure I say and then he calls his mother in a thin voice to come and get him…mommy, mommy please…and then he hangs up and stands on the street corner like a crushed sheet of paper

Sometime in the afternoon he returns and seems to be a girl maybe eighteen-years-old, but  somehow the same…hi, remember me, she asks…sure I do, come in and we talk for a while

Her voice is incomplete like light rain…

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Miss Tinker Tries to Sleep

From Duke’s WIP

tin hats

You left me all those years ago and now I am without your dreams of turning stream pebbles into light, without your technical drawings of how stairs to the clouds can be built with smiles

I toss and turn with my new face

It’s difficult to move around on this bed

It’s like living inside a tree, everything silent and tightly wrapped as if the night is cut up into large black safes and the steel combinations spin into place, leading me into yet another hollow brick where I suffocate and grow old

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MAGA hats in the make believe band

In general I don’t correct other people, especially in public. So what if someone doesn’t know a Monet from a Manet? Who cares? Not me!

However if someone says “I love this song from the musical Carousel” and then proceeds to name a song from the musical Oklahoma, I become an obnoxious know-it-all  who must correct this hideous injustice posthaste and with no sympathy for the miscreant.  Embarrassing confession but there it is.  I can be a bitch. But there’s a reason why.  As a kid I had most of the songs from the musicals written by Rogers & Hammerstein and Lerner & Loewe memorized. 

Rodgers and Hammerstein – true geniuses

I had no television growing up.  Just a record player and a father who loved musicals. As a girl, I was vaguely aware that some of these musicals tackled serious issues however my focus was on the romance.  Would Nellie Forbush overcome her prejudices and accept Emile?  Would Eliza Doolittle take old Henry Higgins down a notch or two?

Now when I happen to catch one of them on Turner Classic Movies, it’s definitely not the romances that pique my interest. Let’s face it, there’s not much chemistry between Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn!

I mean really? He’s ninety-nine years older than her.

I’m more interested in how the source material was altered for the musical and why. For example, South Pacific was based on James A. Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific, a collection of stories set during WWII.  One of the underlying themes is cultural intolerance.   Can an army nurse and young lieutenant from Little Rock Arkansas overcome their prejudices towards those “they’ve been carefully taught to hate”?

The nurse eventually does but in the original story, Our Heroine,  the man she loves has four mixed-race children from four different women none of whom he married. Horrors! An audience in the early sixties would definitely have trouble seeing him as a hero.  So in the musical, R&H gave Emile de Becque only two mixed race children and they are both from his deceased wife making his sin (marrying a heathen) in part redeemable.

R&H had a similar dilemma when writing the musical Carousel.  It was based on an earlier play called Lilliom by Ferenc Moinar.  In Moinar’s play, the main character, Billy Bigelow kills himself after being caught during a robbery but is still given a second chance to enter Heaven.  Recognizing this might make Bigelow less sympathetic to some in the audience,  R&H revised the storyline.  In Carousel Billy Bigelow falls on his knife while fleeing and thus is eligible for heaven.

I could go on but I’m sure you get the point.  Which brings me to The Music Man. This musical is not based on a previous publication but on Meredith Willson’s childhood band experiences in small town Iowa.  For the life of me, I do not understand WTF he was trying to say.  See if you can.

 

Here’s the plot for those of you who’ve never seen it.  A flimflam man who calls himself Dr. Harold Hill is looking for a town full of people gullible enough to scam and decides River City Iowa might be the ticket. His modus operandi is to play upon people’s fears (sound familiar?) but the good folks of the River City seem content and so he decides he’s got to create a problem that only he can solve.  The arrival of a new pool table gives him his hook.

He decides to convince that townspeople that the pool table will ruin the town and turn all their children into shiftless bums. The first thing he does is whip up fear.  Then hatred.  Finally he proclaims he alone can save them by creating a wholesome boy’s marching band. 

Of course, Harold Hill knows nothing about music.  But by the time he’s finally revealed as a con man, the whole town has been brainwashed into believing they can have a world class marching band.  They no longer care that they’ve been lied to and manipulated.  They just want to march happily through the town behind their savior.  (I’m not sure what he saved them from – their rationality?)

The musical ends on a truly bizarre note.  A small group of kids making noise with their instruments morphs into a full-fledged marching band.and around and around the town square they march. I could swear I saw a few MAGA hats in the crowd.

What are we supposed to make of that? What’s the underlying theme? Was Willson predicting a future where we no longer care if we’re lied to as long as we’re given a good show?  I just don’t get it.

Angel or Moth

Superman Can’t Find a Phone Booth has challenged me to write a story using this photo as a prompt. 

Here’s what my demented imagination conjured:

The Shameful Secret

Carl couldn’t confess to his dear sweet mother. Nor could he tell his father or his sister or anyone in his family. And he most certainly couldn’t tell his best friend, Dr. Clarabelle Litchfield.

“Now Carl,” whispered the angel assigned to comfort him as she wrapped her wings around him. “God is with you.  God loves you.”

“But how could he possibly forgive me?” Carl said aloud.

“What honey?” Clarabelle, who could not hear angels, asked as she leaked oil onto the driveway. “There’s a giant moth wrapped around your shoulders.  Should I get out the BlackFlag?”

“She’s my guardian angel.”

“Now dear, I can clearly see, she’s no angel. But we’ll get to that delusion later.  Now, why don’t you tell me what has you in such a state.  I promise I won’t judge you.”

Carl raised his eyes to her face.  She seemed sincere but no, he couldn’t tell her.

“Are you gay?”

“No!”

“It’s alright if you are. In fact there are some nice guys at -”

“No. I am not. Oh god, how could this have happened?”

“Did you tell that moth or guardian angel thing?”

“No, but she knows.”

Clarabelle addressed the angel. “Moth, I implore you to tell me what the problem is so that I can help my friend.  He’s clearly distraught and I am a licensed psychoanalyst.”

The angel rose to her full height, spread her ten foot wings and, then enfolding the two of them, whispered Carl’s shameful secret.

“NOOOOOOO!” Clarabelle cried in disgust.  “You can’t be addicted to that brain dead television show!  It’s idiotic and so phony.  What’s happened to your brain?”

The angel’s eyes turned into those of an irate tigress. “That’s my favorite show too, you snobby bitch!”

Dr. Annabelle Litchfield soon found herself in a puddle on the parking lot.    

[I suppose there’s a moral to this story but I’ll be damned if I know what it is.]

Never surrender to nincompoops or madmen

There are some movies I will watch again and again for just one scene. 

In the movie The Darkest Hour, Winston Churchill rides the Underground for the first time as his advisors urge him to surrender to the Nazis. The bulk of the British army is surrounded at Dunkirk and the Americans are refusing to join the fight. Surrender seems to be the only way to avoid catastrophic defeat. Those politicians on the side of surrender have talked themselves into believing they can come to reasonable terms with a depraved madman but Churchill knows otherwise.The scene I love in that movie opens with Churchill gazing out at ordinary Londoners trying to escape the rain from his limousine. It’s a stark reminder that wars are begun by men in chauffeur-driven limos but it’s the man on the street who pays the price. Suddenly he disappears. When next seen he is trying to figure out the system map much to the surprise of the commuters. Aristocrats don’t ride the Underground everyday. Once they warm up to him, he asks how they feel about surrendering to Germany and to a man, woman and even a child they say “Never Surrender.”

 And of course Churchill weeps and I wept along with him.

After the movie I made the mistake of watching the news. Good grief.  Today a senate committee questioned some muleheaded nincompoop determined to stonewall them unless he could expound upon the dignity of human life (code speak for “take away a woman’s right to choose.”)  Any time a committee member came up with a reasonable question about his credentials, some jackass from the other party interrupted their time by yelling “point of order” which actually had nothing to do with order but had more to do with defending a nincompoop put into enormous power by a madman and I wanted to yell “NEVER SURRENDER” loud enough that it could be heard in Washington D.C.  

On a lighter note, here are a few favorite scenes from movies I’ll take the time to watch just for a few unforgettable scenes:

  • Mortimer discovers his dear sweet aunties are serial killers.
  • Ralphie gets a rude awakening from Santa
  • Winger and Ziskey discover they’ve joined the “wrong” army.

There are many more of course.  And we need them these days, we surely do.  Is there a movie you’d watch again just for one scene or am I the only one addicted to sentimentality? 

Republicans Oppose Cupid’s Plan For Universal Love

Once again, the Modern Philosopher! Enjoy!

The Return of the Modern Philosopher

Valentine's Day, Cupid, love, politics, humor, Modern PhilosopherApparently, President Trump and the Republican Party do not believe that everyone deserves to have a happy Valentine’s Day, Modern Philosophers.

The Republicans today vowed to shoot down Cupid’s proposed plan for Universal Love.

According to the plan set forth by the little archer in the diaper, love would be made available to all, free of charge.

The members of the GOP, which I’m assuming stands for Gang Of Partypoopers, said there is no way such a plan would be allowed on their watch.

“America is a country of freedom and independence, not socialism,” President Trump reminded everyone in a Tweet.  “Love is not a right.  It is a privilege, and wealthy white males get first crack at it.  Cupid can’t just demand that everyone gets love.  Free love was outlawed after the sixties, and it’s going to stay that way!”

Trump wasn’t done (Is he ever???).  “If we were…

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