Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Adventures in Chinatown

Last week, I had some allergic reaction stuff going on so I went to Urgent Care. Who kindly set up an appointment for me with a conveniently-located, in-network allergist. 

You've already guessed that the allergist isn't in network and I didn't find out until I got there. Right? Because of course that's how that went down.

But there's so much more to this story.

According to MTA Trip Planner, there was no difference between taking the Q and B trains. Thanks to construction, I had to walk to the express station, so I'd be able to take whichever train came first. Only the B train was a 10 minute walk from the doctor's office while the Q was a block and a half away. 

You've already guessed that I took the B train, right? The heat and humidity were just delightful.

While I was getting my bearings, I was stopped by a rich-looking, older white couple. Who thought I was an MTA information kiosk. Apparently. 

"Does the B train go to Manhattan?"
"We're in Manhattan."
"Well, 50th street."
"Depends on whether you want the West Side or East Side."

I suggested she check out the map to figure out which stop was closest to her destination. Then she asked what the senior fare is these days. Because I obviously know that information off the top of my head. 

Anyway, 10 minute walk in the heat and humidity and about to pass out. I decide that I must have a pork bun when I'm done with the doctor. I see a bakery that looks decent, but also see several others that are closer to the doctor's office. And the fucking Q train station.

The doctor (who is inexplicably in charge of billing) has a, shall we say, lackadaisical approach to insurance coverage. She kept telling the receptionist to make me pay $200 that they would reimburse me if my insurance company paid them. Which they wouldn't do because I don't have out of network coverage. Which isn't a secret - Obamacare plans don't have out of network coverage because if you can't fuck people over with the in/out of network game, then life has no meaning.

So I left.

By then, I didn't want any goddamn pork bun. I wanted the best fucking pork bun in a two-block radius. So I googled. Which led me to a restaurant that specializes in steamed buns. Which turned out to be 5 blocks away, including a stroll down the stinky fish block of Mott Street (you know the one).

And that's when I saw the big C in the window. This tiny hole in the wall with no seating had a C grade from the health department and didn't even feel the need to hide this with a Grade Pending sign. That's how much they don't give a fuck about hygiene. 

Hard pass.

So I walked back towards the Q train, popped into that first bakery I'd noted and bought a pork bun and some moon cakes, which I've always wanted to try. I should've gotten a steamed pork bun, because the baked one was cold, which is weird but fine when you really need some goddamn protein.

I've now walked more steps than if I'd gone way the hell uptown, changing trains 3 times. And I still don't know what the fuck is going on with this whole allergy thing.

Healthcare should not be this difficult to obtain.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

They're My Roots Too

Over the years, I've had plenty of opportunities to be disappointed in my fellow white people. From Vanilla Ice to All Lives Matter, we keep giving the world cringeworthy examples of how we need to do better.

Like how very few white people are tweeting about watching Roots. Maybe they're not watching. Or maybe they're watching, but not tweeting because they feel they shouldn't. This isn't just because Roots is about slavery because the same thing happened with The Wiz Live. One of my white tweeps even tweeted about how much she was enjoying reading black people's tweets about The Wiz. 

Either way, it's not OK. I'm not saying that it's racist not to watch musical theater or an epic 9-hour miniseries. What is racist is white people not feeling a sense of ownership or involvement in anything with an all (or predominantly) black cast. We expect people of color to watch movies and TV shows with all white casts but don't reciprocate. Because we're clueless assholes. 

(I have a theory that the history of civil rights in America is really the history of white people becoming less and less dickish. People of color haven't changed - white people's attitudes and treatment of them has.)

Sure, The Wiz is the black version of The Wizard of Oz. It's also an updated, citified version. Living in NYC in the 70s and 80s, The Wiz was closer to my reality than the Judy Garland version. I was able to like both. I loved The Wiz Live and live tweeted the fuck out of it. (It was a better production than the pretty good Grease Live and that trainwreck Sound of Music Live, and as a musical theater geek, I will fight you on that.)

It bugged me that more white people weren't watching, enjoying and tweeting about The Wiz. It was a damn good show. 

(I have no idea if this phenomenon extends to Scandal and Empire. I had my fill of nighttime soaps with my Dynasty addiction back in the day, so I don't watch or live tweet those. I could find out, but that's the difference between journalism and a brain dump blog post. No time or energy for research. Can anyone fill in that blank?)

Back to Roots. I was a bit young for it the first time around, but did watch it in my 20s. I was a bit of a curmudgeon about the remake until I discovered the reason behind it. One of the producers showed it to his teenaged kids and they couldn't get into it. It looked too dated and they didn't know any of the actors. Essentially, teenagers really need to see this story, but teenagers are little shits so they needed a remake. 

Fine, whatever it takes. And we've learned more about Kunta Kinte's hometown (it was a city, not a village) in the intervening decades, so there was something to add. I also like that they didn't have a different actor playing Kunta as an older man. LeVar Burton and John Amos were both wonderful, but the change was jarring. (Of course, LeVar was a college senior at the time, so maybe they couldn't make him look convincingly older. Or maybe they just wanted to cast another actor. Seriously, the original has more stars than a season of The Love Boat.)

See? There's more to discuss about Roots than the horrors of slavery. But here's the thing - slavery is white history too. Yes, it happened to black people. (And do not come around here with that nonsense about Irish indentured servants being slaves because that it the stupidest shit I've heard in a year with a lot of stupid shit flying around.)

But slavery wasn't an act of God. It wasn't a hurricane. It didn't just happen. White people did that. Our ancestors built and maintained a system that supported slavery. To this day, we go through mental gymnastics to justify how much black Americans have been screwed over. 

This is white American history. As a kid, I felt smug because my ancestors are all Northern so I assumed they didn't own slaves. Then I learned that slavery existed in the North and just ended earlier than in the South. So it's possible that my people owned people. Which sucks. But I don't need to get defensive about it. No one's saying I bear any personal guilt for slavery. There's no reason I can't acknowledge how horrifically wrong slavery was. 

But not everyone feels that way. They say that slavery was so long ago that ever should just get over it and move on. (Even though the racism that white people created to justify slavery is still very much a thing.) They point out how bad they and their ancestors had it too. (I think every white American should at least watch the bit where the poor, downtrodden Irish guy complains about his social standing to the people he owns. Seriously, dude? Juneteenth should be Slap a White Person Day.)

They don't want to watch a show where the bad guys look like them and the good guys don't. (Even though we expect people of color to watch shows like that.)

When I was in grad school, I went on a road trip with some family. Out West, we visited some small museum on a spot where white people committed an atrocity against Native Americans. My aunt explained to her 6-year old son that "our forefathers killed them" referring to the overall genocide. He misheard and said, "YOUR FATHER? Your father was a bad guy."

That's all it takes people. Acknowledge that our forefathers were bad guys, and decide to be good guys instead.

So stop being big babies and watch Roots. It's an engaging story full of hope and the strength of the human spirit. If you have to, start with the last episode (airing tonight) which is about emancipation and reconstruction. (Not that those weren't sucky times to be black, but they sucked a bit less than earlier eras.) Then go back and watch the whole thing because it's a damn good story.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Rap Battle

I have been angrily rapped at. As a forty-four-year-old white woman, this is not something I ever expected to happen. Because - and please correct me if I'm mistaken - rap battles only happen a) on stage, B) in movies, and c) between rappers looking to show off their skills. 

I dunno. Maybe youthful hooligans break out into rap battles all the time and I'm just really out of touch.

But, like professional football and high-heeled shoes, it has nothing to do with me.

Or so I thought.

I live a block and a half from the subway station, but one of those blocks is frequented by chipper youths with clipboards soliciting donations for Greenpeace or whatever. I always blow right past them. Today, there were 2 non-Greenpeace guys in my way. One stopped me (or tried to) and said it was for their basketball team. Which is code for, "This is a total scam."

I said, "I'm late for a doctor's appointment." Which was the god's honest truth.

This young man (tall, skinny, wearing a backwards baseball cap and earbuds in his ears) starts rapping about the white bitch who doesn't help out n-words.

Because that's a completely normal reaction that people have all the time.

Me being me, I turned around and screamed, "Excuse you?"

He ignored me and continued rapping loudly about white bitches. As one does.

Now, in a perfect world, I would've started rapping about assholes who think they're entitled to my time and money. In the world we actually live in, that's nowhere near my skill set. I repeated the Excuse you and finally went on my way because (to quote Samantha Bee) you can't fact check bluster. 

I ended up taking a Lyft home from the doctor because I was dunzo with human beings.

I then spent almost 2 hours lying flat on the couch scrolling through Twitter because what the ever loving fuck?! Who does that? Who raps angrily about someone while refusing to look at them? Was he passive aggressively challenging me to a rap battle? Is that a thing?

What scammer scares off other marks like that? High school basketball coaches are all about making their players wear suits and teaching them sportsmanship. So there's no way this asshole was legit.

My complete helplessness in this situation is the worst part. I stood up for myself and he acted like I wasn't there and he was rapping about a completely different white bitch. I would've been justified in calling the cops, but they can get all Yosemite Sam around African-Americans. Which means that I had to put the bad guy's safety before my own. 

Not that I felt physically threatened, but I do have the right to live without street harassment. Even new and unusual forms of street harassment. But since I didn't think he deserved to die for what he was doing, I had to just take it.

I absolutely feel that black lives matter more than white feelings. I feel just as strongly that women don't owe anyone their time or attention. I just wish I could call the cops and know they won't overreact.

I'll leave you with this. In the Lyft, I tweeted a song parody of Up With People.