Monday, November 9, 2009

Funny Things Heard in Central Park

Every morning, I stretch my limbs and take a nice stroll in the park. The number one reason for moving into our current abode has to do with the 843 acres right across the street. I love the fact that I can walk out the door and see green, not the green of Wall Street moolah, the the actual shrubbery, trees, foliage that exists abundantly in most other places.

There are definite crowds that mill around the park. There are the nannies (which I've mentioned here, here, and here), runners, tourists, lovers, born-and-bred NYers complete with accent, children, athletes, you name it, they all frequent the park at some point. I feel as though I could blog about each one of these groups on separate occasions, but one aspect links them all together; the incredibly bizarre things I hear.

During my daily walk, I always here the most unusual snippets of conversations. I am not one of those crazy skilled runners, the ones who tote four mini water bottles strapped onto their hip, or squeeze gel food into their mouths. I am the very casual walker who listens to music, not to pump up my energy, but to calm me down, to allow me to unwind from the day's chaos. I walk leisurely, with every bone in my body. Since just about everyone passes me, I cannot help but pick up on their dialogue. Sometimes, it's mild, 'Oh, did Janice tell you about the party?', or 'Billy thought he got an A. Wrong!' Other times, it's downright absurd or hilarious. It's most likely because it's taken out of context, but sometimes, I can't imagine how the word would make sense in any context. Here are a few examples that stand out;

'Get through that fucking hole! See it! Go!Go!Go!' (one bicyclist to another)
'Mom, you said I could pet the squirrel this time!!!' (a teenager to his mother, both tourists)
'I need to go back. He made my fucking breasts lopsided,' (One plastic woman says to another)
'Was that Elizabeth Hasselback?' (A woman says to her friend)...'You mean Hasselbitch? Yeah it is!' the friend replies. (The View host was actually there, strolling her newborn son.)

At other times, the conversation that gets injected into my daily walk seems too intimate, too vulnerable;
'So you gonna leave him? You should, you know. You can't keep letting him get away with that....Shit. Sleeping with other guys is not okay,' (a friend telling the woman to leave her closeted gay husband)

The thing I love about New York is that one any given day, there are crazy uninhibited personalities, conversations, dialogues, moments that filter through my life. Going for a simple walk across the street turns into a voyage into people's psyches; their insecurities, fears, and triumphs.

I always listen to music on these walks, even with the drone of conversation and occasional punctuated comments inbetween, so there is not much chance for someone to hear my thoughts, but oh....if they could listen to my head.

The thought of all the conversations with other people and the ones we carry out in our heads, all contributing to a symphony of voices, curses, laughter, and whispers makes me realize how lucky I am to be a part of it all.

Monday, November 2, 2009

To Rant or Not to Rant

I came home yesterday, fatigued, drained, spent from my job. I tutor as a profession. I am pretty damn good at what I do, but it leaves me extremely tired and sometimes irate. Never because of the children, but somehow the commuting and being away from Adele makes me more sensitive, much to the dismay of Alex waiting for me at home.

He always cooks me dinner. Last night; an homage to my heritage, he cooked kimchi marinated tilapia, steamed kale, spicy squid, and rice. Some of you may have just gagged, but I love this stuff. I love how Korean food makes you TASTE, feel, sweat, and really experience food. Fortunately, so does Alex. He not only appreciates it, but he cooks it for me, following my dad's detailed instructions over the phone. I am blessed. Somehow, in this cosmos of amorous pairing, God paired me with a Southern Scots-Irish man who knows how to make kimchi infused anything.

Mid-meal, he casually tells me about his day, all the fun activities that the twosome did while I was gone. Most of the events were ordinary, but he said one thing that caught me off guard.

'So, a little girl went up to Adele today', Alex begins.
'At the park?' I mumble, my mouth ungracefully filled with food.
'Yeah,' he replies, apparently not disgusted at the sight of me ravaging my food.
'Did they play?' I prod.
'No. Guess what she said?' he says casually.
'What?' He's peaked my interest.
'She said, 'She has squinty eyes!' and pointed to Adele.'
'WHAT the fuck?' I say as I almost choke on my spicy kale.
'Are you serious?' I probe.
'Yeah, but she's just a kid.'
'I don't fucking care.' Fury emanates from my mouth.
'You should've said something,' I chide.
'What was I gonna say? Her dad was right there,' he defends himself.
'Oh my god, he wasn't mortified. He didn't say anything?!'
'No. I mean, we made eye contact. He was probably embarrassed.'
'I bet. He didn't say anything?' My liberal ass, California-raised self can't believe his nonchalance.
'Well, maybe he talked to her later,' Alex always gives people the benefit of a doubt which is nice but sometimes annoying.
'If you live in Manhattan, you better have that talk before the kid is school age,' I continue to fume.

I understand that it wasn't intended to be mean. I understand that the situation may have been awkward, but as a parent of a mixed-race child, I demand that parents wake up and clue their children in to the various differences that exist among us.

Growing up, I am haunted by a couple memories. Most of my childhood is filled with the usual warm, fuzzy feeling that one conjures when nostalgia overcomes them. All my haunted memories come from racism, usually from children. As we get older, we learn to either celebrate our differences or mask our intolerance. From my experience, children often imitate what they learn at home.

Racism at asians is usually directed at the eyes. There are plenty of psychologists and scientists who could point to why this is the case, but no matter, it's always directed there. Wake up world! Asian eyes are different, yes, but they are beautiful. Please put those fingers away, the fingers that stretch the corners of rounded eyes to mock the beautiful almond shape of much of the world.

If Adele were a little older, she would have known what was going on. She would have understood the connotations of the scene. For that, I am grateful. She has yet to delve into human habits of categorization and simple ignorance. For her sake, and for any other child who does not look like she walked out of the pages of Aryan Vogue, please educate your children, tell them what it means to be different, watch them grow into aware, kind, compassionate individuals who think before they say.