Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The two-part secret about abortion

Much of my maternal family is buried Montefriore, a large Jewish cemetery in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Visiting my grandfather’s grave one afternoon, we decided to trek into the cemetery, past the plaques imbedded in the trimmed grass, through the modern, polished monuments and into a part of the cemetery studded with stained granite and old trees. This is Workman’s Circle where, among others, my great aunt Ray has rested since 1935.

When my grandmother speaks of her older sister, she paints a picture of a sweet young woman, in love with life but hampered by a life-long heart condition which required a muted existence. Dating, like most activities, was rare; still, she fell in love with a sensitive, passionate young man by the name of Martin.

Martin moved into the row house Ray shared with my grandmother and great-grandmother, starting their common-law marriage.

Then, Ray discovered she was pregnant. Terrified that childbirth would overstrain her fragile heart, she went to the family doctor to seek an abortion.

Though abortion was legally permissible should a doctor deem it necessary for the mother’s health, and though the family doctor gave Ray only a 50/50 chance of surviving childbirth, he refused to terminate the pregnancy.

By my grandmother’s account, Ray was hysterical when she arrived home from the doctor that day. But a friend knew a woman…

In a turn of brutal irony normally saved for O’Henry stories, Ray died from an infection caused by the procedure meant to save her; she was 20 years old.

The story of Ray, my phantom aunt, and Dana L (News and Record, What happens when there is no plan B?, Sunday, June 18, 2006) illustrate a hushed fact about the women who have abortions.

Dana, you may recall, was married and financially stable when she decided to terminate her accidental pregnancy. Her decision was based on a cholesterol medicine she took, known to cause birth defects, coupled with being at an age (42) when birth defects become increasingly more likely, coupled with her inability to get a prescription for Plan B emergency contraception which would have prevented the pregnancy altogether.

So what is this elusive, hushed secret that neither side of the abortion debate wants to discuss?

Pro-lifers would have you believe that most women who have abortions are immoral and promiscuous, using abortion with frivolity as a means of birth control; pro-choicers try to convince us that a fertilized egg isn’t a life and therefore not deserving of any sort of emotional attachment.

But the two-part quiet truth is that most women who have abortions are average, wonderful women. They serve you your food, they teach your children, they run your companies. Chances are you have loved or respected or appreciated a woman who had an abortion.

The other half of the secret is that the decision to have an abortion wasn’t easy for a single one of them. Those women felt the quickening of life within them and knew that they couldn’t allow it to grow because they were physically, emotionally, financially or otherwise unfit. For years after having an abortion, women report dreams of their unborn child and the feeling that every misfortune is punishment for their decision.

Perhaps if pro-lifers could express their opposition without degrading the women involved and pro-choicers could admit that the decision is painful and long-lasting, we could get beyond our picket-line battle cries and truly start to communicate.

This article was first published in the News and Record on June 28, 2006

Truly embedded in Iraq

TruthDig's Nir Rosen recently spent two weeks with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. The interesting twist to his report is that his skin color is such that he was often mistaken for Iraqi which allowed him to see a side of Iraqis and American soldiers hidden from those who are obviously American reporters. Read it here.

Fun games for big kids

I don't think there was a huge gap in my life between when I laid to rest childish games and when I eagerly picked them back up. I was a freshman in high school when I bought a Thomas the Tank Engine lunch box in order to entice my younger brother into giving me his Mickey Mouse head lunch box - I was never a big Mickey fan but the lunch box was shaped like his head - a decapitated Mickey to shove my sandwich in was just too good to pass up!

My friends and I took off from there: playing in puddles, late-night games of Calvinball (from Calvin and Hobbs, where you make up rules as you go), and, my personal favorite, school-wide games of duck duck goose where we felt free to tag and run from people who had no idea a game was going on.

Then a couple of years ago, the movie Dodgeball came out and there was an explosion of adults revisiting the games of their childhood. has a great piece about it today, focusing in part on a game I'd love to see happen in Greensboro: StreetWars, a watergun assassination tournament where you get targets and enough info to stalk them and "kill" them with watergun fire. People go to crazy lengths to get their pray; it even caught the attention of CSI:NY in which the DB had an office with interchangeable decor, depending on the target at hand.

That's my challenge to you, my loyal reader - bring StreetWars to Greensboro and I might take mercy on you if you're my target. But probably not.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The road to citizenship

I had heard that the naturalization test to become an American citizen was packed with stuff most natural-born Americans don't know, so I was tickled when MSNBC had a sample test on its website today. I got a 75% though I admit to having guessed on a couple of the questions I got right and certainly would have failed miserably had it not been a multiple-choice but a fill-in-the-blank, which it is on the real test.

I had also heard that the fee for applying for citizenship is pretty steep, considering the majority of immigrants come here to work at bottom-basement jobs. Sure enough, the Application for Naturalization is $330 with a possible additional fee of $70 for biometrics, ie fingerprinting. Seriously.

As I was puttering around the web looking for all of this, I couldn't help but wonder if by simply accessing the US Citizenship and Immigration Services webpage, I've gained an extra redflag from the NSA. I'll be sure to report back in after they raid my house...

Paul Rieckhoff: The Iraq Debate -- New Ideas Series, Volume 2: "The Brzezinski Plan"

For our continuing coverage of Reickhoff's continuing coverage of feasible ways to get out of Iraq, read here.

Monday, June 26, 2006

What kind of mutant are you?

I really really really love personality quizzes of every shape and size. Though I was by no means a girly teenager, I bought YM for the cheesy and usually unsatisfying quiz in every copy a la "What kind of girlfriend are you?" It's rare that I can pass up an online quiz so when Patia Stephens posted her results from a Mutant Typology Quiz, I had to give it a whirl! I just had to!

And the results are in: this is the best quiz I've taken in a long time - maybe ever. The questions are truly bizarre, Dali in writing. Even more strange than the questions, though, was that Patia warns that this is a really clever promo site for some bizarre novel and I found myself anxiously anticipating the pitch! "Oh, here it comes, it's going to be the next page - hurrah!"

I really don't know what's wrong with me today - except perhaps that, according to the quiz, I have a craniopagus parasite. Maybe that's why I'm always hungry...

Friday, June 23, 2006

Chuck Folds 5

Through coffee and couch avoidance, Rob and I managed to get our homebodies to the Rhino last night to see Chuck Folds 5 play. Full, proud, name-dropping disclosure: Chuck is my brother-in-law. He's an awesome bro-in-law if you consider it awesome to be able to call a relative with any manner of question from home-improvement to urban sprawl and have him answer the phone, "What do you want, beyotch?" and then give a serious, lengthy answer. Which I do.

Some of you unfortunate Greensborians who aren't related to Chuck may remember him from Bus Stop, the pop-rock band that also included Snuzz, Eddie Walker and Evan Olson. Some of you probably have the reunion shows penned in your calendar a year in advance.

When Bus Stop broke up, Chuck put together Rubberband, a party/wedding band. The first time I saw Rubberband, I had to do a double-take - the skinny dude lurking in the back corner of stages at Bus Stop shows was suddenly smiling, riling up the audience, singing and even doing a bopping white-boy version of... wait for it... dancing!

As much as I love Rubberband, Chuck Folds 5 is even more fun because I get the distinct impression (totally unfounded, just my impression) that the primary purpose of the band is to amuse Chuck and the other guys in the band, Tim and Steve. Being the goofy guys they are, they're fun to watch amuse themselves (pervey insinuation totally unintentional... and yet, I'm not going to change the sentence... that's me amusing myself.)

In a moment of uber-radness at last night's gig (no offense to the drunk college kid who bravely attempted a breakdancing move), when I requested Baby Got Back, they sang it to an improv honky-tonk tune. It doesn't get much better than that... except maybe when they played Freebird so the aforementioned drunk college kid would stop yelling, "Lynyrd Skynyrd".

Just for the record, Chuck didn't ask me to write this. In fact, he won't even know I did until I send him the link. I'd worry about embarrassing him except I don't think it's possible.

So, go see Rubberband and Chuck Folds 5- the lack of sleep and dreams of corrugated cardboard (I have no idea what that's about but I swear it's what I dreamt of last night) are totally worth it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The little things I love, part 1

When I'm pushing my shopping cart back to the store and someone offers to take it for me.

(I said it's a little thing!)


You might want to cover your eyes to read this one - it's JUST TOO SHOCKING! Young heterosexual women - I just can't believe it - are kissing each other to impress guys!

Seriously, one episode of MTV's sleazy (yet completely addictive) dating show, Next, could've told you that. All those straight girls who are spending their day on a bus to meet one boy they know nothing about can barely keep their hands off each other.

Deborah Tolman, director of San Francisco State University's Center for Research on Gender and sexuality calls this "heteroflexible." By her definition, bisexuality is when there is a same-sex attraction while heteroflexibility is when lesbian acts occur for gain - to impress a boy or get free beer or whatever.

I say lesbian acts because though the article in sites an "increase in acceptance of same-sex relationships and behavior in general" for this shocking phenomenon, it totally neglects the fact that not only would a group of party-goers not find this same behavior titillating if performed by two guys, those guys would likely find themselves ostracized, if not in the emergency room.

Don't get me wrong: the idea of heteroflexibility rubs me the wrong way because it's demeaning to the girls who practice it and it's belittling to women who are truly bisexual or lesbian. Then again, is using sexuality for gain that much different than the traditional batted eyelashes or a grinding dance with a guy for a free drink?

My favorite part of this article was in the reader's comments where No Name Given, PhD (seriously, she says she has a PhD) admits to kissing women and bemoans the bevy of other readers' comments which call these heteroflexibles whores. "I can't believe how alarmist and misogynistic these letters are," she says. "And, to clear up any questions, I kissed predominantly straight girls because they are hot, and lesbians, all too often, are not."

I wish I was making this up.

Gay marriage, for the kids

One of the reasons that I've always lived in Greensboro (born and raised, baby...) is that my parents had a court-mediated custody battle when I was a kid. One parent wanted to move out of town with my sibs and me, and the other thought that was a bad idea. I guess I don't have to tell you the outcome.

Now, I happen to have straight parents (as far as I know). Let's imagine instead that I had two mommies. So mommy #1 actually gives birth to me, making her the legal guardian. Mommy #2 agrees to this arrangement because she loves mommy #1 and is sure they'll be together forever (just like my straight parents thought). Also, mommy #2 has no choice - by state law, only one person per gender can be a legal guardian for a child.

But, like my real parents, my two mommies find themselves with irreconcilable differences and split. Mommy #1, aka legal guardian, decides for whatever reason - because she wants to move on or because she wants to move out of town or because she can't stand seeing her ex even to hand off the kid - that mommy #2 shouldn't be a part of the kid's life. Guess what mommy #2 can do about that?

You got it: nothing.

Sad as it is, I have a friend in that very situation. Last time I saw her, she told me the exact amount of time until her child turned 18 and was free to see mommy #2 if she wants to. It's over a decade. addressed this same issue today though in an adoptive setting - it's the exact same scenario except without the turkey baster. One brave woman took her custody battle to the Kentucky Supreme Court where she was, predictably, ruled against. She had nine years until her kid is 18.

This is the side of the gay marriage debate that is all too often left unaddressed. Legal marriage = protected kids.

The attack of the killer fluff

In yet another act of lawmaking futility, Massachusetts state Senator Jarrett T. Barrios is going to war with marshmallow fluff which was recently served to his child, en flagrante delicto with peanut butter and bread.

Where to start with this one? The bread, which was likely white and bareing an ingredient list that would baffle many chemistry undergrads? Or the peanut butter, whose high-brow natural cousin is healthy (what with its protein and some monounsaturated fats) and has snuck its illegitimate cousin, Skippy, into the country club via elementary schools? Or should we focus on the fact that marshmallow fluff is only slightly less healthy than jelly (9g sugar and 60 calories per serving versus grape jelly's 7g sugar and 40 calories) and yet I'm guessing Senator Futility has no problem with his kid sucking back a glob of that sugary treat.

Seriously, Senator, there's a war going on. And real nutritional issues - like the cocoa puffs you fed your kid for breakfast this morning.

*Also posted on Thought for Food

Friday, June 16, 2006

Paul Rieckhoff: The Iraq Debate - New Ideas Series

Rob and I used to have a recurring conversation about the fate of Iraq and if there's any good way out - it was a conversation that was always unsatisfying and annoyingly similar to "Who's on first?" This morning, I finally gained some more insight thanks to Iraqi vet Paul Rieckhoff who started an ongoing series on his Huffington Post blog about options for Iraq other than immediate withdrawal or Bush's "staying the course." You can read it here.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The comment boards are now open for business!

Okay, they have been (as Eugene Sims can testify)... I'm receiving increasingly frequent emails about my News & Record column, which I love, but got me thinking that posting the columns here, instead of on, would give people the opportunity to have a conversation. I know, I'm a little slow, but with my new red cateye glasses I'm kinda cute so I'm hoping it balances out...

Military asking too much of soldiers

This was originally printed in the News & Record on June 14, 2006

There are a variety of reasons why many members of my family and circle of friends served in various branches of the US Military: the draft, free education, wanting a direction in life, wanting structure, wanting to get out of a hometown, wanting to feel they made a difference. And while I imagine that each of them knew that there was a theoretical possibility they would be called upon to kill in war, none of them -– like most in the military - joined in some sadistic hope that they would.

One vet in particular has been on my mind as I've read about the alleged slaughter in Haditha. He enlisted during Vietnam with the belief that enlistment meant the ability to choose a post far from action. When his plan backfired, it backfired cruelly, sending him behind enemy lines to locales where the Viet Cong was sure to be waiting.

He and his wife were my friends through my teens and early twenties. Several times over the years, they offered me their guest room as safe haven while I was at lose ends. On occasion, coming home after a late night with friends, I would find him sitting in the dark having been woken by flashback dreams; it was in those witching hours that he would tell me about his life as a soldier, the nightmares that were his realities. Even now, years after our friendship ended, I will not betray his trust by recounting those dreams. But I will never forget the insight they gave me into the realities of war.

Though none of those late night talks involved actions as heinous as was allegedly perpetrated in Haditha, I can imagine those American vets sitting in the dark in the middle of the night 30 years from now, recalling that day in Haditha as if it had just happened.

There was nothing just or good about the murder of innocents, IED or no. There is something deeply, shamefully appalling about the survivors' accounts of soldiers looking pleased as they tallied the body count. But I have a hard time believing that the Americans who perpetrated that crime joined the military in the hopes of becoming savage murderers.

I imagine that these American soldiers joined the military for many of the same reasons as the vets among my family and friends. Maybe they even believed they were doing something noble like protecting our country or liberating an oppressed people. Like the vet with whom I used to share dark, early morning confessions, they then found themselves trained to kill but not trained to deal with the emotional strain of doing so, of being in constant danger, of having to assume that anyone could be an insurgent in disguise. And, as though a tour or two of such pressure and strain is not hard enough, we keep these soldiers in for tour after tour, abusing their willingness to serve because of the shortage of new recruits.

I'm not saying the soldiers from Haditha should be excused from their actions; I'’m saying the system is flawed. We learned enough from Vietnam that these vets, unlike my friend, don'’t have to worry about protestors chanting "“baby killer"” when they arrive back in the States. But we still have so much more to learn about the psychological toll of war. The trauma never stays in the war zone.

I hope the closest I ever get to war were during those late night trips to Vietnam.

Condi v. Cheney, the cage match begins

I have to confess that I didn't realize our fair city was (more) overrun with Southern Baptists yesterday until I read about it on The headline: Tenn. Minister's Wife Pleads Not Guilty. No... no, my bad. Wrong headline. It was: Rice Urges Respect in Gay Marriage Debate. Apparently, Condi refused to disclose her position on gay marriage but said "This is an issue that can be debated and can be discussed in our country with respect for every human being."

I would have rather she had declared eternal, public devotion to Jenna Bush (and you thought it was Georgie she was after!), never resting until their love can be legally sanctified. But I'll take what I can get.

In related news, Cheney is stabbing his lesbian daughter in the back by holding a fundraiser for the outspoken enemy of gay civil rights, congressional-hopeful Michele Bachmann.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

This ya gotta hear

I caught a short segment on NPR (yes, I'm one of those people) yesterday of this guy, Glenn Weyant, who is a self proclaimed sound sculptor - mind you, not a musician. His new medium involves using a contact microphone to amplify the sounds made by bowing objects. In the segment, he PLAYS the wall in Arizona which separates Mexico and the US. You've got to hear this.

What I love about this, other than that he thought to play a wall, the results of which are a soul-chilling sound, is that at the end of the segment, he talks about wanting Mexicans and Americans to join on either side of the wall to play it, thereby changing the very definition of the wall - by playing it, it ceases to be a boarder and instead becomes a musical instrument.

Now, I'm cynical enough to recognize highfalutin idealistic artist speak when I hear it but the fact remains that power is gained, and lost, through definition. Karl Rove is a master of manipulating definitions. He is a big part of why "liberal" has become a dirty word (I don't even say it in the bedroom) and that redefining is a big part of why we're stuck in the midst of a second term of shameful presidency.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Happy 77th, Anne Frank

Yup, what would have been Anne Frank's 77th birthday was yesterday. To commemorate perhaps the most famous diarist ever, the Greensboro Public Library had a reading of the book culled from her diary - beginning to end, all day in the lobby of the Central Library. Come to think of it, I could have given you a heads-up before yesterday. My bad.

I've always felt a special connectedness with Anne Frank, in part because my Jewish elementary school education emphasized the connectedness of all Jews, and in part because her family was discovered in their attic hiding place on the very day my mother was born.

So, feeling a sisterly affection for Anne, and being a compulsive voluneerer, I offered to read during one of the 15-minute shifts. I got there just in time to hear a little blond girl scout finish her shift. The girl scout was likely the age Anne was when she wrote those passages, and though the scout giggled a little when reading of Anne's newly blooming affection for attic-mate Peter, I could imagine her writing similar stuff in her own diary, tucked between the mattresses in a bedroom she can leave freely.

Back in April, I went with Rob on a business trip to Richmond. While he worked, I puttered around the city, going to museums and generally wasting gas. One of the museums I visited was the Virginia Holocaust Museum (not to be confused with the Holocaust museum in Washington - somehow I can never convince myself to drive to Washington just to feel terrible for an afternoon).

A Holocaust museum can't help but be a moving place but what was so interesting about the one in Richmond is that for lack of better displays, such as piles of victim-related goods like glasses and shoes, this museum elicited the appropriate emotions in baser (is that a word?) ways. The lights in many of the display rooms wouldn't turn on until you walked in the room; consequently, the lights pop on and you're standing face-to-face with a mannequin dressed as an SS guard or rows of emaciated prisoner mannequins. In another part of the exhibit, you crawl through a poorly lit tunnel and turn a corner to a display of a family of mannequins, reenacting the potato cellar hide out of the founder of the museum, complete with pet rat. Appealing to my emotions that way made me feel a little... I don't know... cheated is the wrong word but the closest I can come to how I felt... like stepping on my foot was okay so long as I cried.

Ultimately, though, I appreciated what they were doing and that the founder would spend his life reliving his Holocaust experience so that others would learn. With atrocity that great, there's no way to truly express it, to communicate the horror, but it's worth trying in the hopes that remembering will prevent history from repeating.

Much like the reading of the Diary of Anne Frank at the library. Yes, the diary was abridged to present Anne as more angelic, a more sympathetic victim. But that doesn't make her story any less worthy of remembering.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Hate in my 'hood

I guess now that the Anti-GLBT Marriage Fiasco predictably failed, immigrants are back to being the scapegoats of choice...

I love our neighborhood - it's multi-ethnic, dark at night, very green. Other than the guy who keeps a sporting goods store worth of crap on his lawn and the lady who either screams at her kid in the driveway or in the house but with the windows open, it's pretty peaceful and quiet. Until yesterday when a neighbor posted a sign in their yard reading:

Stop the invasion: Secure our boarders
In the background is a little outline of the American boarder at Mexico. Oddly, no Canadian boarder, which, in my understanding, is a favorite entry point for many terrorists. Also, no New York boarder which is where my immigrant grandparents entered the country, along with my Middle Eastern (I've easily met 5 who aren't terrorists - I hear of a 6th in Rhode Island) friends.

We used to hang out with this Mexican guy - we haven't seen him in a while but only due to the usual friend-drift that so often happens. Anyway, when I first met him, I asked him where he was from and he didn't want to tell me. Finally, he whispered Mexico.

Alternately, a friend of a friend was Peruvian, a fact he would mention every other sentence, to ensure that no one would confuse him for Mexican.

Remind me again why everyone hates Mexicans?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Gays are the New Immigrants

We've got to have a whipping post, right? I could comment on this alleged Federal Marriage Amendment - like that the sanctity of marriage would be better preserved by outlawing Britney Spears' or Tom Cruise's nuptials - but we all know that this Amendment doesn't have nearly the support necessary to go through, that it's just a huge waste of the tax-payers' money and congress's time and all in the name of boosting the GOP. Or I could just direct you to Bob Cesca's blog post.

Parent-Induced Obesity

The Boston University of Medicine just released a report that kids, like adults, eat in response to stress, making kids with domineering parents (not to be confused with authoritative - firm but fair) the most likely to become obese. Huh.

Smart Kids Cut...

... themselves, apparently. A recent survey reported that an unbelievable 17% of Cornell and Princeton students have practiced some form of self-mutilation (and not the cool belly-piercing variety), and that 70% of those have hurt themselves more than once, largely due the pressure of living up to Ivy League expectations. Interesting timing given the recent report about how far America is lagging behind China and India in churning out engineers. Perhaps we're first trying to catch up to Japan where overtaxed students, always a step ahead of Americans, move straight to suicide.

I had a friend in high school, also very bright, who used to cut herself. She once told me that she went through three stages: pain, attention and blood. During the first, she cut herself in places that would be slow to heal and a constant burden, like the bottoms of her feet. During the attention phase, she would cut her lips, scalp or arms - the obvious spots. I'm not sure which body parts were employed for maximum blood output but I'm sure it was gross. Eventually, she just stopped only to eventually become a snowboarding enthusiast living in the middle of Nowhere, MidWest with her husband.

None of which is nearly as sexy as the Secretary where Maggie Gyllenhaal's character cuts herself with the sharpened feet of a porcelin ballerina... Or is that just sexy to me?

Ultimately, the point is: given that the primary purpose of higher education is to prove to potential employers that you have the ability to learn what they want to you to know, should education be so stressful?

The Lion, the Christian and the Kiev

I realize that back in biblical days, it was all the rage to prove your devotion to god through extreme challenges like nearly decapitating your son. But jumping into the lion's den, literally, might be expecting a little much of god's attention, particularly these days while he's all occupied worrying about more important stuff like the gays ruining marriage and how much weight Pat Robertson can leg press.

By the way, the article never specifies that the horribly mauled was Christian - I just assumed a Muslim would have been testing Allah and Jews just don't do that kind of stuff anymore - we're pretty secure in our position as the chosen people.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Wallowing in Southerness

Rob and I went to Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston Salem last night to catch NASCAR's minor league. Sometimes you just have to wallow in being Southern.

Just for the record: were it not for Rob, I would never watch motorsports. When he is out of town, I certainly don't saddle up to the tv on Sunday afternoons with a beer and a Junior cap, and the volume adjusted at that perfect level where you can sleep through the uneventful laps but be woken by the screaming commentators at the first spin-out.

But in my attempt to spend our marriage choosing worthwhile battles, I finally gave in to the inevitability of NASCAR in my life. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I have come to find some enjoyment in the sport. In the big leagues, the NASCAR Nextel series, it's the drama between the racers - the off-track interviews and grudge matches that play out when one car "gets into" a rival and spins him out.

With the locals at Bowman Gray, the inexperience and lack of funding for the drivers leads to crappy cars, flaring tempers and tons of wrecks. During my first Bowman Gray racing experience, one driver t-boned another as they were leaving the track - after the race. In the final stockcar race last night, there were 10 cautions in 15 laps.

I do hope to someday compete in two Bowman Gray events - demolition derbies and chain races - and yet even these are not my favorite part of local racing - it's the crowd watching. I wear my sunglasses straight through to the end, long past sunset, so that I can scan the crowd undetected. Some of the highlights from last night included:
  • An 8-year-old (or so) wearing a tee-shirt which read "It's Always Dirtier Down South"
  • Dozens and dozens of kids, of whom only two were wearing ear protection
  • The pack of high-school kids in front of us, three of whom, including one chick, dipped tobacco - the fourth smoked
  • The bald guy with the enormous goatee who stood on the wall to make a two-handed jacking-off gesture at the driver who won the big race
  • The confederate flags: on hats, shirts and purses and for sale at the gift kiosk
  • Fashions revived from my middle school years: opaque, lace-bottomed leggings under jean skirts, polo shirts with the sleeves ripped out, and one girl with a half ponytail and mall bags
  • A teenager in madras shorts and a tucked in polo with the collar turned up who I inexplicable wanted to beat the crap out of
And then there was the peanut vendor - I was really tempted to strike up a conversation with him. He was a thin black teen, maybe 16, walking the aisles alone among an all-white crowd, many of whom consider "redneck" an admirable title.

In fact, all of the non-white people at the track were working: selling beers, overseeing the parkinglot. I spent much of the night wondering if being a black kid working at a venue surpassed in whiteness only by hockey is comfortable in its familiarity, the way being a Jew in a predominantly Christian nation is for me - or is it unnerving, like the time Rob and I went to the UniverSoul Circus, two among 6 white people in attendance, when Zeke, the ringleader's sidekick, picked Rob out of the crowd to scorn?

Much like feminism, American race relations are stuck in that strange netherland where minorities have gained enough ground that some white people like to pretend there's no longer a problem and 60s-style protests seem too extreme, and yet the disparity, in earning, quality of life, prison populations, etc, are still demonstrably great.

I sometimes think about the racial makeup of our friends - while we have non-white friends, the vast majority are white which begs the question: are we more likely to have white friends because we're more likely to have common interest with white people or is it because America still self-segregates, making it more difficult to meet people of other ethnic groups?