02 September 2010

Observations of Self

“Optimist only sees doughnut. Pessimist sees hole.”

- Charlie Chan in Paris (1935)

I think I'll make this an on-going series. I did my first Observations of Self a year ago and I thought it went really nice. I liked it better than when I interviewed myself. I came to close to risking dissociative identity disorder while doing that. (Feel free to check it out again.) But just a general review of simple observations can't really hurt. They will always start with something I observe but then the series mixes up a little after that and will reflect something I thought was interesting or otherwise noteworthy. I at least want it to reflect somebody I meet, something I read, or someplace I went. Sooo....

Something I Observed
I was on my way to a dinner the other night and figured I'd stop at the nearby Whole Food's Market to pick up a bottle of wine as requested. The parking lot is full of automobiles that are of much better quality than mine. Most of the people who shop here are of a tab bit high social status than myself. In addition, I've got the dustiest car within a mile radius. I spend too much time out in the wilderness to be washing my car that much. But after I observed this, I next saw an elderly gentleman, walking slowly up the row of cars looking disoriented. I could also see that he held is car remote down to his side and was pressing it repeatedly. I knew that meant that he had lost his car, but I never know how anybody's going to respond to me asking them if they need help. As a large black man in an exclusive white environment, I tend to tread lightly in those situations. Some of you might think I'm over-reacting playing the overbearing and tired old race card, but I'd have to frankly say kiss my ass. I've been in the same situation where a woman screamed her head off and pleaded with me not to hurt her. This was only a few years ago and she was stranded on the side of the road. I could see if I was rollin' up in a old Cutlass, Impala, or a low-riding Chevy Caprice, but I was in a white minivan, dressed in a 3-piece suit, getting off of work at the bank. Everybody isn't as progressive as some others and you never know what a person might come to believe in times of stress and duress. So since they don't carry a sign that says, "I may be frightened by Black people", I approach carefully. Or I could just ignore people in need, I guess.

Model Clarissa

Now back to my story. Where was I...oh, yes...I kept my distance from the man and asked if he had lost his car. He was hard of hearing, so I approached a little closer and repeated myself more loudly. He affirmed that he had indeed misplaced himself. He considered that the car may have been stolen because he was absolutely certain that he parked right up front where we were. After about 10 mins, this parking lot was getting hot, but I still could not find his car. The thought occurred to me that he could have been disoriented with respect to how far he may have walked to the car, so from the place he thought he had parked, I just went back to the far end of the lot. Sure enough, it was there...his silver Camry. He begged to differ and insisted that it was not his. I had to run back out there get the licence and verify with him again. It was his. He couldn't believe that he had walked that far from his car to the store. Lesson: I've seen this quite often. Pay attention to the elderly people in the parking lots and see if they need help.

Someone I Met
Alex. Alex is an Argentinian Christian who was wondering the park looking to pray for people or tell people about Christ. This happened this past Sunday, late afternoon as I was visiting with a client that I'll be doing some work for shortly. She and I had just walked all over Sunset Park here in Vegas and had stopped for a spell and sat down on one of the covered picnic tables. There was a large Mexican family about 50 feet next to us. Part of their group, about 4 men, were kicking a soccer ball back and forth to our front. It was getting late at this point, when Alex and another guy who's name escapes me, approached us and said hello. I thought he was just passing through and that would be it, but then he started in on how wonderful a day it was. I noticed the Bible in his hand and his peer had one too. My first guess was that he was Jehovah's Witness, but I also had to take into consideration that he may have been someone dishonest like a swindler or pickpocket...nothing dangerous, but someone who might try to distract you and take your belongings.

Fortunately, Alex was on the up and up. He talked to us for a bit. We conversed back. When he asked to pray for us, I figured, "...who can say they are well enough that they need no more prayer in their life". So Alex prayed, said his good-byes and God bless, then he was on his way to the next family. I didn't close my eyes during the prayer, but I still received it. Who can turn down prayer? But at the same time, you can't be too cautious. Anyway, Thanks Alex from Argentina.

Something I Read
I know this might seem a little off-beat, but it sure surprised the hell out of me. I mean, maybe you all knew the deal and I was just behind the times or just merely among the ignorant. Yesterday, I just now found out that Charlie Chan wasn't even Chinese! I'm not talking about Jackie Chan...(granted, that would probably be a bigger surprise if we found out Jackie Chan was really Canadian.) I'm talking Charlie Chan from way back in the 1920's and 30's. Okay, some of you may have no idea who I am referring to. You don't see much of his work running in syndication right now, but when I was coming up, it was still a big late night or Saturday morning gig. Charlie Chan was the Asian Sherlock Holmes. He and his "Number One Son" would go around solving crimes. He was a Honolulu police detective, but he also took his show on the road internationally. There are more than 40 feature films that were made, and the more popular ones were done by actor Warner Oland. He's the only Charlie Chan I know although there may have been about 6, (none of them Chinese). Now who knows of any Chinese guy named WARNER much less OLAND. He's Swedish and attributes his success to his mongoloid features. He did not speak any Chinese (Mandarin or any other dialect). His linguistics consisted of only English and the tongue of his homeland. Nevertheless, he was still popular in China. I don't know if they knew of his origins, but maybe they did. You have to remember both Blacks people and Asians are still trying to find their place in Hollywood cinema that didn't include the negative stereotypical connotations that saddled them during this time.

"Interpretations of Chan by critics are split, especially as relates to his ethnicity. Positive interpretations of Chan argue that he is portrayed as intelligent, benevolent, and honorable, in contrast to most depictions of Chinese at the time the character was created. Others argue that Chan, despite his good qualities, reinforces Chinese stereotypes such as poor English grammar, and is overly subservient in nature." 
- Wikipedia
One last thing I want to draw your attention to is the new link on the right, "The Organic Sister" which is the blog of a friend of mine who decided to hit the road with her family in a big RV. How do you describe her? Well, I guess, just like her blog title says...straight up organic, but she's a sistTER, not a sisTA. She's really big on growing her own stuff, though not necessarily in her RV. She had a garden here in Vegas. She a green girl through and through, some may say hippie-ish, but I like hippies. She's got a beautiful head. We were never quite able to lock down a portrait session together, but I really wanted to capture her head...really nice dreads on a beautiful face. I don't think her hubby will mind me saying that. But the biggest thing is that she's become an incredible photographer! I'll be doing an interview with her soon, so stay tuned. In the meantime, go visit her link...Here it is again, in case you just don't feel like scrolling up a few lines for the previous link. The Organic Sister.

Hope you enjoy the pics of Clarissa from a few years ago. I thought I'd also include this video parody my favorite, "The Lord of the Rings". Its titled, "The Lord of the Rings: How it Should Have Ended" (Click the link if you can't see the vid.) Its only a couple of minutes long, but funny.


unbearable lightness said...

An interesting post concept, T. Vignettes. You could make these into a movie.

Joanie said...

While we were talking on the phone last night, you were saying you were just finishing up with this post. Oddly enough, I was sitting in the parking lot at Boulder Station watching my friend -- a VERY large black man (not dressed in a suit) -- coming to the aid of a sweet little old Asian woman who was having car trouble. C thought nothing of going up to her and asking if she needed help. And within a few minutes, well, you heard...he was giving her a ride home in his car.

I know not everyone is going to look upon someone else as one who is friendly, regardless of color, but I find it interesting that you worry about how your offer of help might be received.

That makes me think of the gift of assistance or care. Do you remember when Jesus washed the feet of his apostles? That was a gift of care (as well as a show of humility). Now, his apostles held him in high regard, but still, that's such an intimate act. What if one of them had declined? Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus' feet in gratitude after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. A gift of care, of humility. But what if Jesus had said no?

As a nurse, I was often charged with bathing my patients. Many were shy or reluctant to allow me to do this. For many reasons, it was a necessary task, but one of the things it most accomplished (at least for me) was that it allowed me time with that patient and to get to know them as we navigated through their discomfort (whatever it may have been -- physical, emotional, mental, or a combination thereof). It was a simple act, but one that put me in close proximity to people who weren't always happy to have me that close to them.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle in any relationship, be it between friends, lovers, or even total strangers, is not the fear of the unknown, but rather the acceptance of a gesture or action. For many people, it's the simple fact that you have offered help that sets them off. Not skin color, gender, or whatever else. It's that they appear to need assistance and it hits them all too hard that they need it in the first place.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Photo Anthems.com said...

Not sure if I'm understanding your point correctly. Worrying about how my assistance is received is not an issue. I was simply orating my actions as I recalled them. I will continue to offer assistance as I feel led to. They can accept or decline and if they choose to decline, I am on my merry way with no worries at all. If that man had said, "No thank you", I'd have wished him well and tended to my business without another thought.

I still take into account the situation at hand and the actions I am about to perform. Where I come from, if a white woman is screaming in the general direction of a black man, that dude has got trouble on his hands innocent or not...misunderstanding or not. The lady in the stalled vehicle that I mentioned had sincere terror in her eyes when I stopped my car, got out, and approached her. I was in a sharp suit, clean haircut, and really nice shoes. What is more non-threatening than a minivan. You know how many cool points you loose just being seen in one of those things? I don't know if you've ever had anybody screaming at the top of their lungs out of fear because of you, but it is a most disconcerting experience. Its one that I don't care to repeat, but that still doesn't make me withhold aid when I can be of help. The solution...approach calmly, with caution, and appear as non-threatening as possible. In most cases that works. If that person is under duress, there is any number of ways that sitchu can play out. I'd rather be prepared for either reaction, but wisdom compels me to practice preventative measures encourage a more positive outcom. Everything else you mentioned with respect to Jesus had to do with the recipient refusing aide. In that case, the recipient misses a blessing. On the other hand, if Jesus had said no to Mary, then I'd say it was for good reason and He knows best.

Joanie said...

I understand what you're saying, T. I wouldn't want to be in your shoes at all and have people assume ANYTHING about me just because I'm male and black. That's not fair.

I just find it extremely interesting that two of my favorite people in the whole world...two of the men I hold in very high esteem...are also men who continue to help others even when experience might say it would be easier to NOT help. Not that I'd want either of you to change. Not one bit. But because previous experience would lead you to approach someone in need of help with caution, well, that just makes you even more precious in my eyes.

Like I said last night, I'm surrounded by good men and it's a lovely position in which to be. I'm blessed beyond reason to have you all in my life.

I honestly hope that the color of your skin has less to do with someone avoiding you and have it simply be that they're anti-social misanthropes.

Anyway, I'm glad you're a "helper" and even happier that you're my friend.

Now get back to work! Think of how you can shoot me with some shoes...I need to figure out a way to incorporate shoes into something. And perhaps some lingerie. I know that's not our normal "thing", but we both need to branch out a bit.

Karl said...

I reread your first Observations of Self post and then this one. Both share your experiences of people helping (or not helping) people. I am glad your story this time ends on better terms.

I grew up in Montana which is ~92% white, ~6% Native America, and ~2% everything else. Sadly, many people believed or wanted to believe the Chinese were exactly like Charlie Chan and other stereotypes from radio/TV and movies. I am thankful that the internet and other media are starting to push these generalizations away due to the actual people making content, not others speaking for them.

Photo Anthems.com said...

Indeed, Karl. I remember as a kid when I'd see a really old movie where actors where in black-face or one from the 50's or 60's where you'd see a group of Native American looking people of which non were actually Native American. I remember thinking, "Man, why not use real Native Americans, 'cause those fake accents suck!"