Monday, June 15, 2020

White privilege, Black Chris & my court appearance

I can’t fathom what would have happened to Black Chris, but here’s what happened to White Chris last week when he went to court to contest a $234 traffic citation.

White Chris got off.

He told some jokes, made nice with the state trooper and the district justice and went home singing a happy tune.

White privilege? Not nearly enough to satisfy White Chris.

Honestly, it had gone so well White Chris almost asked them to each throw in $20 each for the privilege of meeting his Caucasian ass. 

There’s White Privilege.

Then there’s White Chris Privilege.

This all stems back to January when I was pulled over on my way to a Pittsburgh speaking gig. A state trooper had busted me for driving with an expired plate.

In fact, I had the plate. It just wasn’t on the vehicle. It had been on my desk back here at The Tin Lizzy for about two months.

I get to things when I feel like it, I said. The trooper, apparently a connoisseur of brazen ineptitude, thought that was hilarious. She has a nice laugh.

I hope she’d have merely laughed at poor Black Chris, too, but you never know.

Either way, I’d vowed to fight the ticket on the grounds that, gee, I’m just such a nice guy.

I fight ‘em all.

I contend the worst that can happen is I pay the full ticket and burn up a couple of hours playing curios tourist on the fringes of the criminal justice system.

Well, that’s the worst that can happen to White Chris. I think we all know what’s the worst that can happen to Black Chris once he gets hauled, always against his will, into the CJS.

And, hey, I can always, win or lose, get a decent blog out of the day. Black Chris doesn’t do Facebook so I’m guessing he doesn’t blog.

White Chris prepared for his day in court by researching the orations of the man that to him was one of the great legal minds of the 20th Century, that of Oliver Wendall Douglas.

Remember him? He was the gentleman farmer on “Green Acres,” the screwball comedy that ran from 1965-’71 and featured a pig that could attend school and vote during a time in that part of the country where people like Black Chris were discouraged from doing either.

But Mr. Douglas, a lawyer by trade, often wound up in court and always came off as the amiable blowhard — and that’s what I was aiming for.

My arguments to get the fees tossed or reduced were: I’m broke; I’ll never do it again; and I’m the author of “Use All The Crayons!” I intended to argue that because I’ve given away more than 500 free copies I was, in essence, above the law.

And I cringe even writing that in case even one reader mistakes my White Privilege for White Supremacy. And in my defense the book says we should use all the crayons, not just the pale ones.

So it’s probably a good thing it never went that far.

While I was in the waiting room, the trooper asked me three precise questions about my intentions. She then met with the magistrate in what I guess you’d call his chambers. They emerged and said they were dismissing the charge and — what the hell — they were even refunding the $64.75 collateral I’d anted up.

Victory! It was a great day for White Chris justice.

I drove straight home and watched the funeral of George Floyd.

What Black Chris did that day, I have no idea, but I hope he spent some time practicing articulating, “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” and other slogans White Chris will never need to rehearse.

And I hope Black Chris will find it in his heart to one day say two words for my failure to not do more to ensure justice is colorblind.

“You’re forgiven.”

Friday, June 12, 2020

Our appearance, our souls & what bacon has to do with it

A very attractive woman told me I am a very handsome man. She wasn’t hitting on me, damn it. I think she was just being sweet, so her compliment made me sad.

It all started over my Covid Coif. I hadn’t had a hair cut in three months. You’d think my hair would have been grateful. It had found sanctuary, an autonomous zone where it needed not worry about scissored violence.

But, no, the number of hairs going AWOL seems to have accelerated.

Could it be stress? Coronavirus, BLM, Trump continues to tweet — it’s a lot of stress for a guy determined to save humanity one blog at a time.

So while I have a lot on my mind, there’s not as much left just above it.

Thus, when she said I look great, I defaulted and began a tedious list of the ways in which she was mistaken — and isn’t a pity how few of us can just graciously say thank you when someone compliments us?

We’re hard-wired to feel we’re failures.

It is, by the way, why I recommend no one over 40 look in the morning mirror until you've had at least three beers.

I mention this because this is a beautiful woman. How beautiful?

If I looked like her I’d fill my house with mirrors, strip down to my underwear and spend the day doing nothing but admiring myself as I sat around all day eating bacon.

Of course, I couldn’t tell her that. She might take it wrong, as might other nearby women. It could get back to her husband or my wife. Scandal could ensue.

In fact, the only one involved who could take it in the good-natured manner in which it was intended is bacon. Bacon is unflappable. Its emotional steadiness only enhances my reverence for this can-do meat.

I guess I feel sad because I sense her compliment is evidence that the Johnny Syndrome is infiltrating more of my life.

I first detected the Johnny Syndrome last year when I was golfing. Now, I’ve never been a tremendous golfer, but I was good enough to tell the difference between a good drive and a pitifully weak one.

Whether it’s age, Parkinson’s, or general indifference to the task, my drives began to lack vigor. What once used to travel 210 or so yards, would now flutter a mere 140 yards.

As bad as that was, worse were the patronizing compliments.

“You got all of that one!” “Great drive!” was the gist.

It reminded me of the praise the grown-ups showered on the slow kid when he succeeded in tying his shoes.

“Nice job, Johnnie!”

Now I was fearful the Johnny Syndrome was desecrating my vanity.

Was she just trying to cheer Johnny up?

Or am I misreading the whole thing? Maybe she was looking past my bald spot, beyond my paunch — maybe she was seeing straight into my soul.

It’s a nice thought, especially when we’re in the midst of so much upheaval over our appearances.

I hope next time anyone says I’m beautiful, I don’t start a petty argument. I hope I just say, “Thank you!”

Because in the ways that matter most,  I am gorgeous. I’m cheerful, alert, optimistic, unbiased and eager to see everyone gets a fair shake.

By God, I am beautiful.

So are you!

See, once you get past the baggage of appearance, it’s difficult to tell one of us from the other.

‘cept for me. 

My soul’s the one sitting there eating bacon.

Friday, June 5, 2020

A law-'n'-order guy who stands/sits with protesters

I was staring out the window as the nurse announced my blood pressure result like she was announcing I’d just won a new car.

“You’re 98/68!” she said. “That’s great. Many men your age are 140/115.”

This low BP will contribute to my theory that I’m more Muppet than man. The similarities are striking. Muppets have no discernible heartbeat or obvious means of support and Muppets continue to root cheerfully for nonsensical lost causes like Bob Nutting’s Pittsburgh Pirates

She was curious: What did I do for a living?

Still staring out the window, I told her I stared out the window.

And it’s true. I used to tell people I was a news reporter, which was my title when in fact what I did was talked to people and typed what they had to say. Back then when anyone asked  what I did for a living I told them I talked and typed.

Now that I’m what people consider a writer, there’s very little talking involved (and not much typing), but many hours are spent staring straight out of the window.

It’s a very peaceful job, but the pay is low and often sketchy, but I must be competent at the task. No one’s come and told me they found a better starer.

Job security contributes to my low blood pressure. But some days I wish I could look away. Like this week I saw clear to Minneapolis. What I saw made me sick.

Who knew slowly killing a handcuffed man in front of a crowd of camera-wielding hostiles could be done with such nonchalance, such aloof. I’m more dramatic when I squash a mosquito. 

Once again, I’m struck by the contentious divide, which is better than being struck by a riot baton.

For a subject that is described by the word “race,” progress seems to be at a standstill. Some race.

I’m most confounded, as usual, conservative whites who become livid when wished Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas think liberal blacks over-reacting about unarmed blacks getting murdered by conservative whites.

See, I’m a law-and-order guy: Not until all the laws are equitably applied to all the people can true order ever be enforced or expected.

That makes me a law-and-order guy who stands with the protesters. Or more precisely, one who sits staring out the window and with encouraging solidarity cheers them on.

I believe meaningful change can, should and will occur. I believe this in spite of the fact that in 400 years it has mostly not.

But what do I know?

I’m just a guy with a Muppet-level blood pressure who in spite of all he sees out the window believes the impossible is still possible.

I guess my mind must be Muppet too.

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