Tuesday, December 04, 2007
He Blames Us For Everything
One of my best friends in high school lived in a HUD house on the edge of the decommissioned army base in my hometown. Her family was poor, so poor that she got to pick out clothes for back to school shopping and put them on layaway where they would stay and become her Christmas presents if she was lucky. She'd visit the clothes during the fall, hoping. Some years the gifts would return back to the store and all the installment plan would be forfeited. This was the other extreme from my very best friend who had an actual Saturday Night Fever pinball machine in her rec room, along with two arcade games -- Ms. Pacman and Frogger. I never saw the inside of the HUD house -- her parents, although they loved me because I was a good influence (dear God, if they only knew!), never let strangers inside. My friend's dad was a Vietnam Vet and had many issues with Asians -- the irony being that he married a Vietnamese woman who spoke almost no English and didn't allow the children to speak anything other than English. "We get into trouble if people harass us for being non-whites," my friend would say. "He blames us for everything, even when my brother got beaten up by a bunch of rednecks."
A lot of Asians lived in Mineral Wells given the times -- groups known as "boat people" flocked from Laos and Cambodia to seek refuge. But the racism and poverty was hard -- the typical knowledge of Asian culture was LaChoy, a horrible chop suey mixed (their slogan was "LaChoy makes Chinese swing American!") that my sister and I would beg my mother not to fix for dinner. We'd cry, and she'd tell us to "fucking expand your narrow little horizons." And she'd force us to visit the boat people at Christmas at the Lutheran church who set up shelters for them to show us how lucky we were to get toys and whatnot. I thought about my two friends, how different their lives were. My poor friend was beautiful and my rich friend was not. I was nothing -- poor but not dirt poor, okay-looking but not stunning. On LaChoy nights, I'd pick at what was on my plate, hating it, while my mother told me that it could be worse, that I could have nothing.
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Always make the audience suffer as much as possible." Alfred Hitchcock
Drinking short story collection suggestion: Nobody Belongs Here More Than You Miranda July
Benedictions and Maledictions