Sunday, January 20, 2013

gristle and small grins on hoyt street.

yesterday was one of those shining Saturdays you don't
often get during the cold embrace of days known as winter
in New York City. the sun was high, and the chill was at
a minimum. i was out in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn waiting on
a friend for brunch at a popular spot, Mile End Deli.
French-Canadian/Jewish delicatessen menu. as i stand in
front, as is often the case at times, i become aware i
am the only Black person there. more of an afterthought
than anything else. but what was interesting was the
looks by 3 young women sitting in chairs at the exterior
of the bistro's entrance. it was the look of 'why are YOU
here?' that same look tossed off like shots of house
vodka which hold a different burn. that of the casual
indifference privilege causes. i took note of it, checked
my Twitter feed briefly and saw their looks again, which
i met with a blank face and a raised eyebrow. the silent
reproof mastered by many of color to say. 'oh haven't
you heard? i'm here to up your hipness quotient just by
standing here being fly. you were running low.' a look
like that usually gets people perplexed, nervous or flat
out embarrassed. i try to aim for a 2 out of 3 ratio.

it was a bit crazy to experience something like this on
a weekend celebrating the life of Martin Luther King AND
the inauguration of President Barack Obama to his second
term in office. but it all boils down to the same bit of
gristle no one wants to chew on. this country still can't
fully talk about how it is defined by, and often dominated
by, race. there are many willing to have the conversations,
but there are just as many only willing to have it on
their own antiseptic, almost neutral tones. like commenting
on televised billiards matches on Sundays without football
or basketball. being in some parts of Brooklyn sometimes,
those areas now teeming with new money and insular introverts
in places where cats used to nod off before the night fell,
it's become all too common. gentrification becoming the
new American expansion by way of the coffeehouse and the
organic market. and those who were there before getting a
poisoned blanket of skyrocketing bills and summonses the
color of Pepto Bismol talking about 'quality of life'
violations. but that sickness of not talking about it and
confronting it still lingers. so my recourse at this little
microcosm of the problem was chuckling to myself afterward,
and sharing the episode on Facebook. then something real
cool and revealing happened.

as i finish up, this couple and a friend walk up. their
two kids leading the way, a boy of 8 and a girl who was
about 3. this little girl looked at me and decided then
and there that i was going to be her friend. for the next
few minutes, she had a routine going. stare at me and
smile. run around a bit. come back to standing in front
of me and smile. she even gave me a bag of Sun Chips. her
parents laughed and grinned and more importantly, let her
interact. from what i gathered, they were Canadian, from
outside of Hamilton, Ontario. those few moments were real
heartwarming. and it tied everything together. sometimes,
only the children are the ones who are fearless. and they
are who we have to look to when we forget where to look
and how to be. so i hope she grows up with that same
curiosity, and joy and with little to no fear. it made
the rest of the afternoon that much brighter.

until the next time...

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