Thursday, May 6, 2010

Is it the dog or are people just friendly at the coast?

Since yesterday was Cinco de Mayo I thought about writing something related to why this is such an absurd holiday to celebrate in the U.S., one in which the actual meaning of the Mexican army defeating French forces in the state of Puebla becomes co-opted and forgotten in favor of 2 for 1 tequila shots at your local bar. Why does every ethnic holiday have to be turned into a drinking holiday??? Can anyone say St. Patrick's Day?

I also thought I should be blogging about the atrocity that is happening in the State of Arizona. I wonder if Arizona will next be announcing its secession from the United States. I mean, their legislature seems to be acting as if it did not recognize the current authority of our 44th President of the United States. But thinking of all of this just makes me mad enough to spit, and I'm pretty pissed off as it is dealing with my breast cancer diagnosis (click here if you are reading those words for the first time).

Which brings me to today's post. I'm taking a break from reality. I've taken our dog "B" and have headed to a small coastal town where I can be near the ocean and smell the salt air and not worry about returning phone calls since my cell phone doesn't get reception out here. I do have wifi access at the beach house I've rented--and there is a landline for emergencies and for getting in touch with my cancer docs. But for the most part it's sleepy coastal living.

And I have to say, folks are pretty friendly for the most part, something I wasn't certain I'd encounter since it is OBVIOUS that I am not from here. How do I know? Because I haven't seen any other Asian Americans in this tiny coastal town. And believe me, I'd be noticing another Asian face amidst the sea of white townsfolk and fellow vacationers. I did glimpse an African American man in a truck--he looked like he had done some early morning fisherman with a fellow local or vacationer--hard to say--but the guy driving the fishing truck was white, so they are either friends vacationing together or locals fishing together who are friendly. But that's it. One African American middle-aged man and me. We're the two spots of color in this otherwise rather monochromatic beach town.

For some odd reason, perhaps because I'm grappling with so many issues around the cancer diagnosis, my racial paranoia has not kicked in. Perhaps, also, my assumption about being noted as a non-local is that there is some natural hostility towards out-of-towners, vacationers, from the local folk--I've seen it in every resort town and vacation hot spot I've ever been to. The local economy in part depends on tourists but the locals often resent the tourists, so there is a love-hate relationship going on, which is class inflected along various vectors (education, region, socio-economics). Anyway, I figure there's a natural amount of that going on here, and since I'm so clearly marked as being not from here, naturally my assumption is that anyone not being totally friendly to me may be because I'm so clearly a local. Why I assume that as the first point rather than assuming racial tension, I'm not sure. I think my racial radar is on the fritz or is just tuned really low right now -- it's like the cancer diagnosis has messed up the frequency of my natural racial paranoia. I suppose one way of looking at this is that one is a literal threat to my life and the other a potential threat to my identity, so that the literal, life-threatening issue of cancer is superseding all others.

But maybe it's just that locals here are a bit friendlier. Or perhaps word has already spread here that I'm the gal from Chapel Hill with the dog who has breast cancer. I mention this because I had to go in the hardware store recently to find a battery for the cordless phone here at the house. It's not holding a charge and I really do need to be accessible for my doctors, and the other phone the owners gave me doesn't seem to work. So when they told me at the hardware store that they didn't have a replacement battery and the best they could do was to sell me a phone, I tried to explain the urgency of my situation (and the phone they were going to sell me was the same phone the owners had already dropped off) so I just said simply that I really needed to figure out the landline situation because I had breast cancer and needed to get in touch with my doctors.

What followed was that the owner of the hardware store offered me the use of his phone (which was kind and which I declined since I have my laptop and can place outgoing calls on skype--what I need is the ability to pick up the phone when the doc calls). Other men in the store (and they were all men) offered different suggestions on what could be the problem I'm having--like water in the lines interfering with reception. And then one guy--a man who works for the cable company who lives 4 doors down from my rental with his wife who does massages--offered to come by and look at the situation for me. So he checked the line (it is working) and then he brought an extra phone he had lying around to loan me while I stay here. SO NICE!

And while I've been out walking "B" around the village everyone I see either walking or biking or in their cars waves and smiles at us. And while some of this goes on in my small college town, I am inclined to think that either people are friendlier here, or perhaps it's how cute "B" is (and he's a damned cute dog, half corgi, half collie--looks like a little puppy right now since he has his summer shaved look). Maybe a woman walking her dog is the least threatening thing to witness in a neighborhood, esp. an Asian American woman because we have the passive-not-threatening stereotype attached to us (ahhh...these people just don't know how angry I am--hopefully they won't try to run me over while walking "B" because I will cuss them out with a firestorm of curses to curl your toes).

And on that note, I'm going to keep on with my lazy Thursday morning. I am putting together my tenure file while I'm away at the beach, so I suppose I'm not really being that lazy. And although I've been sleeping more since I've been here, I still wake up between 6-7am (I just go to bed earlier now). So I've been returning email and reading and writing, but in sporadic fashion. Which means I have been trying to also keep up with some much neglected blog reading and will be leaving you with this youtube clip I found thanks to Angry Asian Man's blog--it's very appropriate for what is going on in Arizona right now--a comedic take on the ridiculous situation and dangerous situation that is brewing there:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Heh, I've been doing pretty much the same thing - heading to the beach to ignore the rest of the world and its issues. My kid playing in the sand > Arizona.

Have a good time, and here's to R&R!