May 24, 2007

What Lies Beneath

I’m working on a front and back cover wrap for the New York Daily News featuring two of our games. While getting internal approvals for the ads I chatted with a marketing guy. This guy is in his thirties and towers above me at 6’6”. He wears XXX-size t-shirts and baseball hats strategically slanted to the side. He saw the ad and exclaimed, “My home town paper!”

“Where did you live in New York?” I asked.


“I’ve had fun times in Queens. I went to college in western Mass and often visited the city. One year I went down with a Jewish friend to celebrate the Seder,” I was about to continue but he looked confused, so I explained, “We went to a highly a-religious college, so a believing Christian was as close as she could get to someone to participate in a religious Jewish event.”

He laughed and nodded, “fair enough!”

“My other Queens field trips have been going to Flushing with my husband’s mother.” It’s the part of Brooklyn/Queens I know best since it’s the Korean Mecca: markets, soup shops, Korean barbeques, family-owned stores and Mercedes dealerships. “Every time we walk into a restaurant I feel like a huge, pale Amazon.”

He cracked up and nodded violently, “I grew up there and nobody knows what to do when this huge white guy comes walking down the street!”

I laughed, “In college, I took a class on homelessness and the crisis in affordable housing. We spent a weekend in the city and I got to wander around with another white girl. We’re both city kids, so we were fine. But Saturday morning we had to meet someone in Bed-Stuy. [The source and site of Do the Right Thing] We were early and walked into a Burger King to get breakfast. I’m not kidding you, everyone stopped talking and turned and stared at us.We got our food and nobody really cared but it was a tense moment.”

He laughed, “I bet! I used to go to a recording studio near there with my boys. I’d walk in the lobby and everyone would just check me out. But, you know, it’s cool. You say ‘hey’ and don’t get freaked and nobody sweats it, nawamean?” I nodded.

As I sat back at my desk I had to laugh at myself. That snippet of conversation pretty well sums up my under-the-skin culture. In college all my friends were either international or Jewish. Childhood + Baltimore = black like me, baby. And now? I read a book like this by Annie Choi and am wincing as I imagine my husband’s childhood, but am also familiar with most of the scenarios.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

It's interesting that you gravitate toward people from different backgrounds/ cultures. I do too. . .but sometimes being in those situations makes me feel even whiter.