Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Wednesday Believer

I teach on Wednesday evenings. Later in the spring it will be a different class, but right now I'm teaching Knitting 1. My class runs from 6-8pm - dinner time. There isn't time for eating between leaving my day job and getting to Webs to setup to eat anything reasonable. And, I've found from past experience, that I do not teach well on an empty stomach. So on Wednesdays I eat a substantial (and often late) lunch. Last fall a friend taught on Wednesdays from 12-2pm and we would meet for lunch after her class ended. Perfect for both of us - I needed to eat late and she was starving by 2:00. She's not teaching this term, so I have decided to take myself to lunch on Wednesdays.

Since Cafe Lebanon's Northampton location (I have dreams about their Fattoush salad...) is no longer open at lunch time, I've had to find a new favorite lunch spot. The Green Bean Cafe which opened in the old Sparky's (previously Java Net) location a couple of months ago is a good contender (try the Green Eggs - they make me very happy).

Dear friends gave me a subscription to the Believer for Christmas. So I've been bringing the February issue with me to read over lunch. Last week I read 'No-Man's-Land' by Eula Bliss. You can read it here. The article begins by using the Little House on the Prairie books as an example of how we (by we I mean white middle-class girls) are taught about fear of other races (in this case Native Americans). I loved these books as a girl and was interested to read Bliss' perceptions reading them again as an adult (I should do this).

Like my sister, like my cousin, like so many other girls, I was captivated,
in my childhood, by that Laura. I was given a bonnet, and I wore it
for quite some time. But when I return to Little House on
the Prairie now
as an adult, I find that it is not the book I thought it was.
It is not the gauzy
frontier fantasy I made of it as a child.
It is not a naïve celebration of the
American pioneer.
It is the document of a woman interrogating her legacy.

It is, as the scholar Ann Romines has called it, “one of our most
and ambitious narratives about failures and
experiments of acculturation
in the American West.”

Bliss goes on to talk about how the white middle class perpetuates fear of other races and potentially violent locations/situations. She brings up the fact that most violent crimes are committed by a person of the same race as the victim (so why is that white people are afraid to walk alone in certain neighborhoods?). She also uses statistics about child molestations - that most children are molested by someone they know, NOT a stranger trying to give them candy. Crimes by strangers are sensationalized, while crimes by familiars are run of the mill.

There was the serial murderer who shot shopkeepers, the KFC customer
who stabbed a cashier, the man who offered a ride to a group of
strangers and was then murdered for his car. These are the murders we
find most compelling, of course, because these are the murders that
allow us to be afraid of the people we want to be afraid of.

A very thought provoking article that's stuck with me for the past week. It's made me feel even more critical of Bill Clinton for trying to play the race card in the southern states where misconceptions seem to breed fear.

Today the Green Bean was packed. Even if there hadn't been a line, it wasn't an atmosphere conducive to reading. I took myself instead to Woodstar where the special of the day was a tasty Thai Chicken Curry soup. And I read 'The Chaos Machine' an essay about fatherhood by Charles Baxter (with footnotes by his son Daniel). Baxter is one of my favorite writers. The Feast of Love is on my list of my all time favorite books. He has a new novel coming out next week that I'll need to get my hands on fast. The beginning of the essay is here.

In 'The Chaos Machine' Baxter writes about picking his son up after he's been away at college for a year. Loading the van with his son's belongings - 'the detritus of a young life' - he ponders what sort of father he has been to his son.

I am a traitor, it seems, to my gender.
Once my wife said, "All you're teaching Daniel is irony."

The essay also includes a pretty good list of 'rules to live by'. Here's a couple:

10. Use the left lane to pass. But don't stay there.
11. Life is really very simple; be openhearted and try to live for others. Avoid pretense.

It's a funny touching story by a writer I love. I will pass a copy to my dad and a couple of other fathers I know.

I'm about half-way through the February issue of the Believer. I'll keep you posted if I find anything else that makes me think or laugh.

1 comment:

  1. The loss of the fattoush has been devastating to me.
    What is this Believer of which you speak. Do you lend it out occasionlly?