Black Friday Random

I get away to do some work, hoping a bit of lesson planning will make things easier when I go back to school after the break.  This is always a lie and the friend who tells you this is not your friend.  My good intentions are short lived.  I have five short stories hoping to finish and the need – wrong word, crazed obsession to finish them weighs on my mind. There is a deadline only I don’t know what it is nor do I know who has set it.  Then I remember about this blog I have not touched in a while.  Here we are.      

My daughter finished a whole series of books a while ago and I’ve asked her to write the author a letter, explaining how much she enjoyed the books.  I say, “Sister, there are no great writers, only great rewriters.”  She gets it.  I write her an outline to preempt, “How do I start?”  This isn’t my first rodeo.

“Why do I have to write this?”

“Sister, writers like to know that others have liked their writing,” I say, as if having authority.

“How do you know?” she asks, destroying my authority.

I smile, not hurt.

“Just a hunch,” I say.

And I fully intend on writing without interruption only I have erred tremendously by believing I can accomplish much work at the local coffee shop.  Technically this is writing but not the “I-have-to-finish-this-story” writing.  Then I remember, or keep remembering like an interrupted, morse code on a loop, that today is Black Friday.  And if I forget, the people here won’t let me.     

The only person I connect (defined as holding my attention temporarily) with in the coffee shop is a tall white man in jeans and a blue flannel with a shaved head I gather is more a necessity than choice.  He’s got a book, I love books.  

“My brother!”

I see only the words “fallen brother” on the book cover.  So I do what anyone does these days to learn about another person without being social, I use the Internet.  I google fallen brother, analyze my choices, analyze the book cover now shoved into his armpit, clamped snug to pay for his Caffe Americano.  Actually, I don’t know what he ordered.  A find a match on Amazon.

The book is Fallen Brother in Blue: The Tragic Death of Police Officer Mark Stall.  I know nothing about the book other than what the brief summary gives me.  The man is now at a table, engaged in an act I rarely find myself in, sitting with a friend at a table and talking.  My friends are pens , notebooks and time.  I didn’t know coffee was this important, a necessary pitstop from Black Friday shopping.  But it’s not that, I know.  Coffee is a quiet mediator, forgotten and doomed to lukewarmness between folks as they talk about deals, as they talk about yesterday, as they talk about books left to lie on a table.  A woman walks by and her shirt is a depiction of Santa’s suit.  A man walks by and I swear he is one of my old drill instructors but I say nothing.  A guy walks in looking like Conor McGregor as if he’s just raided Wyatt Earp’s wardrobe.  Three teachers sit next to me at a long table.  They open up their planners and right away I gather they are more organized than I am, the first of many negative assumptions.  One is African-American.  I remember what a friend told me once, “I’m tired of hyphens.  Just call me American.”  I have the irrational desire of whipping out my planner from my bag just to let them know that I’m a teacher too and that I’m good and that and that and that rather than the guy at the end of the table with the beenie on, shaking his head in disbelief at overpriced coffee mugs.

I see bags of coffee labeled with loaded words like

Ethiopia

Kenya

Guatemala

Sumatra

Rwanda

Columbia,

failing to lure buyers, failing to tap into their “Let’s-make-the-world-better-by-buying coffee-instinct”; failing to lure buyers away from the Black Friday alerts on their phones. For a split second, I see the faces of my students but then I remember lyrics from a System of a Down song I haven’t heard in years:

“Advertising causes need

therapy, therapy

Advertising’s got you on the run

Every minute, every second,

buy, buy, buy, buy, buy.” 

I should have worked at home, amidst the chaos of my lovely family and a hot cup of cowboy coffee in my hand.  Next time.

 

 

 

 

 

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Unfriended

I couldn’t honestly tell you whether I’ve been unfriended on Facebook.  For one, I’ve not gone through my list of friends to research who is missing.  I’m just way too busy for that kind of research.  However, I gather that most of the people who have unfriended me have been offended by my posts that deal with Christianity, politics or morality.  Apparently we’re not supposed to talk about these things.  Okay.

But then I think about Jesus.  He was unfriended by lots of folks.  In John 6:48-51, Jesus says

I am that bread of life.  Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.  I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

Not only were the Jews confused by what he said but his disciples were also.  Scripture says

When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? (John 6:61).

I don’t know how long these folks followed the Lord.  I don’t know if they witnessed his miracles, his speaking, his life.  They walked with him physically which is something believers today cannot relate to.  However, when the Lord talked about being the bread of life and eating his flesh and drinking his blood, that was way too much, apparently.  

From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him (John 6:66)

As believers today, we cannot be concerned, distracted or hurt when people stop following us on Facebook or offended by our beliefs.  If they stop following us, it is okay.  We should be able to disagree with civility.  We should never feel animosity, hatred or disdain for anyone who disagrees with us.  The Lord’s words of Luke 6:31 still and forever apply:  “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”  We would also do well to heed the Apostle Paul’s words when he says, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18).  Love God by being bold for him and love people – period.  If they are through with you, wipe the dust from your feet, love them, pray for them, but move on.  Be about your Father’s businesss.

In the words of that great theologian P-Nasty, Christian, “You do you” and let others be.

Illegal

Last Friday, I was listening to the morning show I listen to every morning, Airing The Addisons on Urban Family Talk when they began talking about this piece of news.  Since then, the story has been all over the internet and most notably on the Drudge Report.  Or so I heard.

The segment focused on this story.  In short, Pete Turner, the owner of Illegal Pete’s, is being pressured by local Hispanic residents and community leaders of Fort Collins, Colorado to change the name of his restaurant; a restaurant he has, according to the restaurant’s blog, been running “for nearly 20 years.”  The Fort Collins location will be his seventh.

The grievance for residents and community leaders is with the use of the word “Illegal” in the restaurant’s name.  According to this Syracuse.com article written by Nick Canedo, “Turner began receiving emails from community members concerned that the name was offensive to immigrants.”  In this CBS Denver 4 news clip, Cheryl Distaso with the Fort Collins Action Network says the word illegal, “When it’s used in reference to human beings is offensive and dehumanizing.”  In that context, sure.  I agree.  It is unfortunate that there will always be people in our society that will use the word “illegal” to intentionally offend and dehumanize others.  True.  As my old boss used to say, “There’s no law against being a jerk.”  Nor are their laws strong enough to make a racist not a racist if they want to remain racist.  Emancipating a racist from his or her beliefs might prove more difficult than reaching the farthest depths of the ocean.

I do not think these critics are saying this at all about Mr. Turner.  To me it seems as if they are trying to eradicate the negative connotations and stigmas associated with the word with very good intentions.  But to eradicate completely is impossible.  Nothing short of Thought Police will make that a reality.  Still, I do not think the efforts of those grieved by the word “illegal” are in vain.  I am not naive to the legitimate hurt the word can inflict when used by a malicious person.  If their protests create a larger awareness of the word’s sting, then fine.  However, as long as there are incidences like this one, for example, those negative connotations and stigmas associated with “illegal” become much harder to rub out of the American psyche.  As a matter of fact, they get stronger along with the animosity of many.

But there’s another side to protests that may be obscured by good intentions.  Ironically, those planning on protesting Illegal Pete’s if it does not change its name, must realize their protests might also heighten the animosity many already feel toward those labeled as “illegal.”  Why might it heighten the animosity of many?  Because their racist?  No, but because many realize this is an injustice against Mr. Turner; who, in the eyes of many, has done nothing wrong.  If he changes the name of his restaurant and somebody asks why, they will not point to a word but to people.  How is that not going to create resentment?

There is no ill-intent behind Mr. Turner’s use of the word “illegal” in the name of his restaurant.  It is probably safe to assume that a business that has thrived for nearly twenty years has done so because the food and service has been pleasing to customers of every shade.  And what of Mr. Turner’s hard work in making Illegal Pete’s successful?  Is he really obligated to these people to rebrand his entire business?  I don’t think so and I am not the only one.  If you were to Google this news story and read many of the comments left by commentators on various articles at various sites, one would see that most are in favor of Illegal Pete’s remaining, well, illegal.  Some call the attack against Illegal Pete’s over-reaching and view it as merely political correctness run amok. Others are more colorful in their opinions, as can be expected.

Others say the name must go because it may incite violence.  No, seriously.  According to the Syracuse.com article, Antero Garcia, English Professor at Colorado State University, “said the restaurant’s name would instill violence in the community.”  If such a loaded word as “illegal” were capable of inciting violence at a Mexican restaurant, why have we not heard of riots, melees, and race-wars with tightly packed burritos as projectiles of death and destruction in Boulder and Denver in the last twenty years?  Are Fort Collins residents just that gangsta?  Who knew?

As a Hispanic, I am not offended by the word “Illegal” in the restaurant’s name in any way whatsoever.  Others are and that is their prerogative.  Perhaps some might even insist that all Latinos should  be offended by this.  Sorry, I’m just not.  I fail to see myself as a victim.  Now, could I?  I guess, but why?  For what purpose?  To make demands upon an innocent, successful business owner all in the name of identity politics, political-correctness run amok?  I simply don’t see what others see about the name.  As they say in the south, “That dog don’t hunt.”  It’s the name of a business.  Illegal Pete’s is not using the word to refer to people.  Those that clearly use the term to debase and dehumanize others should be brought to account.  But not Mr. Turner.  It is unfair that he is being made into a scapegoat.   It sounds like an awesome place to get good grub and hardly the racial boogeyman agitators make it out to be.  We’re talking about burritos, nachos, tacos, and quesadillas.  Subtle racism?  No way Jose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview – A Parable

A man had an interview for a very important job.  It was the third round of interviews and he was quite confident he was going to be offered the job.  Plus, a close friend within the company had pretty much guaranteed

“You have all the qualifications.  The job is basically yours.  All you have to do is show up.”

He did everything that morning to look his best.  He shaved including a thorough trimming of his nose-hair.  He showered, shined his shoes and spent an hour meticulously perfecting the part in his hair with brilliantine.  He was proud of his clothes most of all.  He wore a white business suit, tailor made and bought especially for him by the same friend working within the company he was interviewing with.

It was time.  He stopped at the little desk near the front door and grabbed the portfolio there.  He opened it to make sure he had all he needed:  resume, references, identification.  He grabbed his keys, opened the door, closed and locked it behind him.  The interview was ten blocks away but luckily for him, the weather in the city was clear, cool and a bit breezy, unlike the rain storm from the day before.  It would be a nice stroll since he left an hour early for the interview.

As he passed the first block, he heard a low grumbling ahead.  Reaching the next intersection, he found a shiny, restored 65 Mustang with bright rims, tough tires and tinted windows idling angrily on the street.  He thought of how wonderful it would be to have one of those again.  Within seconds, he was nineteen again, sitting inside his 65 Mustang on a Friday night with friends.  Suddenly, the Mustang peeled out, burning rubber, fishtailing and spewing dust all over the man’s white suit.  He never saw it coming as he was paralyzed with nostalgia.

“Great,” he sighed, throwing a dirty look at the speeding car and wiping at his suit profusely.  Although none of the dust had been wet, little spots here and there were perceptible to him and surely they would be perceptible to the interview panel.  Then he thought, “If I get the job, I’m going to buy one of those cars.  I swear it!”

He checked his watch.  He still had plenty of time.

He continued walking, passing shops, trendy boutiques, bakeries, and coffee houses.  The sidewalk turned into cobblestone and everywhere he looked, the people sitting outside the shops, commanding attention, seemed propped up, content and plastic.

As he passed a clothing shop, he caught a glimpse of himself in the glass.  He stopped, looked around nonchalantly and approached his reflection, hoping nobody would notice.  And then again, he fixated on his clothing; rubbing at stains and spots incessantly like a drug addict scratching at imaginary bugs crawling on their skin.  But then, his eyes focused on the clothes inside the shop.  Everywhere he looked, he saw the nicest and newest clothes: piles of neatly folded jeans, fine shirts, plump cashmere sweaters, scarves, and hand-made leather shoes.  The next thing he knew, he was inside the shop, in front of a wall of dazzling business suits of all colors and styles.  The price of everything was grossly outrageous.  And then, he wondered if his suit was good enough.  It was a fine suit for sure but nothing like what he saw before him.  Perhaps, he thought, one of these suits would be much more impressive in his interview than his white suit.  In a flash, he grabbed a handful of suits and found the nearing dressing room.  He tried one, two, three suits.  An associate came over to butter him up

“My sir, if I must say, you were born to wear that suit!”

“Ya think?”

“Oh definitely!”

Then he remembered about his interview.  He looked at his watch and all the extra time he had earlier had dwindled to nothing.

“I’ll be back later,” he said to the associate.  “Hold them for me,” he said, shuffling through clothing racks, almost knocking a few over.  As he hurriedly left the shop, he ran smack into a man carrying a tray of coffee.

“You idiot!” yelled the man with the coffee angrily, shaking the hot liquid from his hands.  “Why don’t you watch were you’re going!”

“Oh sorry!  I’m so sorry.  It was an accident.  You see I’m late for an interview and I’m in a hurry to get there.”

“Yeah well, I hope they go with someone else,” said the irritated man.  “Good luck with that dirty suit!” he said, angrily walking back the way he came.

Now he was really late.

“Okay, no more stopping.  I have to get to my interview,” he told himself convincingly.  He moved up the sidewalk like an Olympic speed walker, passing slow walkers and gaining time yet completely unconcerned about the muddy puddles from yesterday’s storm that he stepped in so indiscriminately, further sullying his precious white suit.

“I know I’m dirty but they’ll understand I’m sure,” he told himself.  “Plus, my friend said the job was pretty much mine.”

He reached the building with five minutes to spare.  He took the elevator to the fifth floor and entered the lobby of a nearby office; he walked right up to the receptionist’s desk.

“Good morning.  I’m here for a ten o’clock interview,” he said, trying to calm his rapid breathing.

“You have an interview?” she asked, puzzled by his appearance.

“Indeed I do,” he replied.  “There is my name right there,” he said, pointing to a list on a clipboard in front of her.

“Okay sir.  Please have a seat.  We’ll call you in shortly.”

The man sat down in the lobby with others waiting for their interviews.  Suddenly, he noticed they too were all wearing the same white suit that he had.  However, their suits were immaculate and pristine.  They looked at him, puzzled as well, that he would arrive for such an important interview so dirty and filthy.

A door clicked open and a woman emerged.  She looked at him, saying, “They’re ready for you sir.”

“Thank you.”

He stood up with an oblivious smile and passed through the door.

“Right this way,” the woman said, leading him to the interview room. When they got there, two men stood waiting for him.  The woman smiled smartly, motioning him inside with an outstretched arm.

“Good morning,” he said to the two men standing before him.  He shook their hands and they urged him to sit.  He sat up straight and proper, eager to answer any question they had for him.

One of the men held up a manila folder and brought it to his mouth, leaning toward the other man to whisper something.  The two men looked him up and down.  Finally, one of them spoke.

“Sir, were you aware that you had an interview today?”

“Of course.”

“Were you aware that we were also going to offer you this position?”

“Well sir, I had a hunch that would be the case.”

“Don’t you think it would’ve been smart to arrive not looking so dirty, so defiled?”

“Really?  I didn’t think it would matter?”

*

1 John 2:16:  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

James 1:27:  Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.