Clareified

Where does the good go

Archive for July, 2009

Summer. In the City.

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009 by Dawn Summers

I love my apartment. It took a year and a half to find, a year to renovate, but three and a half years later, I’m pleased as punch with it.
However, being as close as I am to a highway, on one side, and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park on another, there really isn’t a neighborhood, to speak of, nearby. Which again, speaking as a woman who lives at the far end of a hallway on one of the highest floors in the highrise, is just fine by me. If I have to walk to the grocery store or the pharmacy, I’m there and back lickety split, no muss, no annoying people cluttering up the sidewalk.
During the summer months, there are more kids than usual playing in front of my building, but hey, that’s what kids do in the summer. (Right? Or am I surrounded by mutant, zombie children of some kind. Please advise.)
Anyway, after reading about a new Indian food restaurant in my old hood, I decided to head over there and check it out.
(Note, you might have bought too much car, if you would prefer to walk twenty minutes in each direction, rather than put Indian food in your car.)
It was a nice night and the transformation from Kensington’s empty streets to the rowdier streets of East Flatbush is immediately noticeable as you pass the train station. Men shooting dice, girls in tight shorts singing (what I assume to be) the latest R&B hits. It is 8 o’clock at night and there are people *everywhere.*
There are infinitely more stores and restaurants than I remember; one shop was fixing its awning, as I walked by.
“Watch out, mama, if this thing slips, it’ll more than mess up your hair,” one of the workers shouted down to me.
I went first to the Indian place and ordered. I asked how far they delivered.
“Ten blocks. Where do you live?”
I smiled.
“More than ten blocks.”
He said my order would take 10-12 minutes and invited me to sit down.
“Nah,” I said, holding up my Blockbuster DVD, “I gotta go to the videostore.”
Again, I noticed the bustle of an actual *neighbor*hood. The bar doors were open, so the sounds of the television spilled out into the night, men were hanging out in the bodega storefronts.
Ooh, a new Dunkin’ Donuts!
I’ve always said East Coco Beach needed more donuts!
I returned “Camp” to the Blockbuster and picked up Push. (I have a feeling, this is a step down, not that “Camp” was all that great…but still, an angsty teenageish Dakota Fanning…we’ll see.)
I walked back to King of Tandoor on the other side of Flatbush than the one I had walked down.
I was counting the blocks between my mom’s house and the restaurant.
This path took me right past “Errol’s” (a name I have only learned since the Ugarleses moved across the street. For the 27 years prior to that it was called “the raisin bun place by Betty,” after the food I always get there and my Godmother who lived around the corner. “Errol’s” is easier.)
I stopped in to get my raisin bun (seriously, diet starts next Monday. I totally mean it, this time.)
I discovered what gentrification really means: my fifty cent bun is now SEVENTY-FIVE cents!!!! White people and their disposable income! Aarrgggh.
It had been 25 minutes since I left the restaurant, so I ran the last two blocks, lest they give away my food.
Unfortunately, King of Tandoor is not the King of Hurrying the hell up, so my meal was still not ready.
Dude offered me a seat again, this time I took it. The place was packed…well, about 3/4 full…still pretty good for a restaurant in the ghetto on a Monday night! The diners were very eclectic too (read: not black. Though there was one black woman with her baby in a caboose thing on her back.) I checked out the menu while I waited and chuckled about the misunderstanding regarding their sale of “roti” which would be sure to transpire.
As I waited, one of the guys brought out one of those Indian yogurt, mango drinks for me.
“For your waiting.”
Uhhh.
I took it.
They were staring at me, so I took a sip.
Yep. Yogurt, mangoey.
I smiled and nodded.
I wondered how much I could drink and hold in my mouth without swallowing – but without letting them know that’s what I was doing.
Thankfully, my food came out before I had to figure it out.
The King of Tandoor is also not the King of being honest about their discounts.
According to the article Zinester linked on the Hawthrone Street blog, they offered 50% off on opening day and then 25% off for the next week.
He was charging me full price.
“Um…isn’t there a discount?”
“Oh, yes. Sorry.”
Uh huh.
Gentrification schmentrification, people will always try to rip you off!

Speaking of my old neighborhood

Monday, July 27th, 2009 by Dawn Summers

The more things change…

the more they stay the same.

Never thought I’d type these words, but…

Monday, July 27th, 2009 by Dawn Summers

You GO, Terrell Owens!

“I think he’s done the time for what he’s done. I don’t think it’s really fair for him to be suspended four more games,” Owens said, referring to reports that the NFL is considering further punishing Vick. “It’s almost like kicking a dead horse in the ground. … The guy’s already suffered so much. And to add a four-game suspension on a two-year prison sentence, that’s ridiculous.”

Stupid is as stupid does

Monday, July 27th, 2009 by Dawn Summers

I grew up in a third floor apartment in East Flatbush.
Not the worst place in America, by any stretch of the imagination, but there was a crack house across the street and the one time I disobeyed my mom and went to ride my bike before she got home from work, four teens tried to jack it. (Yeah, it’s going to be one of those posts where the Ivy League educated corporate lawyer Dawn uses words like “jack” a lot.)
In a land of purse snatching, dope dealing and bike jacking, you’d think the police would be your bestest friend. That you’d see the blue uniform, the hat and shiny black shoes and think “oh, thank God, officer!”
But nope.
You saw a cop, your heart beat faster.
I still remember being in the school cafeteria, where the teachers had gathered me and my fellow 11 and 12 year old classmates, all of us “gifted” children who had scored well on standardized tests and who were, by all measures “nerds.” The topic wasn’t sex ed or details about our upcoming class trip.
It was what to do if you are stopped by the cops.
Rule number 1: Don’t get smart. (Which, ironically, is pretty much the same as “don’t be stupid.”)
We were told in no uncertain terms to do as we were told. Keep your hands where they can be seen.
Be polite. Tell them your name. Tell them what school you go to. Give them your ID. Ask to be allowed to call your parents or a (teacher from the school, if this happens nearby.) Do not make any sudden movements.
Yeah, you pretty much handle the cops in the ghetto the way you’d handle bears in the suburbs.
True story.
I will never forget Mr. So and so saying in no uncertain terms: “Cops have guns, ladies and gentlemen, you may be right. You may not have done anything wrong, but they have guns. Keep yourselves safe, everything else will be taken care of later.”
It’s a lesson that has followed me through my whole life. I’ve maybe had about three or four involuntary encounters with police since then and every time, if you would have been passing by, you’d have thought I had won the lottery, instead of being pulled over for some traffic violation or another.
I smile. I move slowly, I do as I am told.
One cop even barked at me that “nothing was funny.”
“Sorry, officer.”
Oh, afterwards I called that jerk’s supervisor and filed a citizen’s complaint against his stupid ass, sure.
Afterwards.
Which of course, brings me to the Professor Gates incident.
As I was talking about this story with my mom and my cousin and his girlfriend, to a person they all said “what was he thinking? Talking to a cop that way? Is he trying to get killed?”
We all know the deal.
You don’t get smart.
I’ve listened to the cop’s “side of the story” a few times since this all happened and by his own admission he arrested Professor Gates because Gates violated this code of obedience that we have with the police. Gates got, as @elonjames so cleverly phrased it, “lippy.”

“I asked him if he would step outside and speak with me, and he said, ‘No, I will not,’ and again words to the effect of ‘What’s this about?’ ” Crowley said. “And I said, ‘I’m Sergeant Crowley from the Cambridge Police Department. I’m investigating a break-in in progress.’ And he responded, ‘Why? Because I’m a black man in America?’ in a very agitated tone, and again I thought that was a little strange.”

Gates is 5-foot-7 and navigates with the aid of a cane, and Crowley said he did not fit the profile of a burglar. “His appearance did lead me to believe maybe this wasn’t your typical breaking-and-entering type person experience, however, that response from him was a little strange; uncommon in my experience,” Crowley said.

Watching the actual interview, you can actually see the officer getting agitated at the memory of the man talking back! How dare he?! Did Gates *touch* the officer, did he spit at the officer, did he break something or throw something?
Nope.
He talked back. And that was “very uncommon” in the officer’s experience.
Ah, except that here -in America – in Barack Obama’s America, you should be able to say any damn thing you please (with the usual “shouting fire in a crowded movie theater” exceptions) to any one you please. Especially in your own house.
But no.
Cops have guns, ladies and gentlemen.
Cops also have handcuffs.
Cops can also mugshot you and release it in the press. And hey, if you don’t count the President of the United States as one of your friends, you will likely be pleading guilty and doing community service for your trouble.
If your lippy ass hasn’t already been shot.
I was stunned that President Obama said the police acted stupidly. Out loud. Where people could hear him. (Of course, he was absolutely right. Hello, mister officer Crowley, do you think a *guilty* 67-year-old black man with a cane would be getting all up in your grill? NO WAY. A *guilty* 67-year-old black man would have been yes sirring and no sirring your ass with excuses about how he was “confused” and “getting on in years” and “you know how it is.” A *guilty* 67-year-old black man knows what’s up. That Crowley doesn’t even know what an innocent black man looks like, well, that’s just sad.)
But I was doubly shocked when President Obama claimed that he was “surprised by the controversy surrounding my statement, because I think it was a pretty straightforward commentary that you probably don’t need to handcuff a guy — a middle-aged man who uses a cane who was in his own home.”
Seriously? Did you not see what happened when Gates got lippy, Mister President, Sir?
Yes, the police acted stupidly, but YOU AREN’T SUPPOSED TO SAY SO!
And in the last few days, we’ve seen someone, probably Michelle, smack some sense into his head and now he’s all “everybody acted stupidly and by stupidly I mean not stupidly, some other word, like “no commently”. Oh, and by the way, why don’t you all come over to my house for drinks?”
President Obama Michelle Obama is no fool. And the cop is happy for the opportunity to go to the White House, get his fifteen minutes. Why not?
But I just about vomited in my mouth though when I saw that Professor Gates agree to have “a beer” with this officer.
Are you shitting me?
You couldn’t swallow your pride for five minutes to answer this man’s question a week ago, but now you’re patting him on the back and chatting with him over cocktails.
#whattheeffjusthappened
I don’t know how this all turns out or what effects it will have on President Obama or black/cop relations — though, I suspect “none” is the answer.
But I do know that I am glad that my 27 year old cousin knows better than to act stupid when confronted by the cops.
By which I mean, getting smart. Or lippy.

Not so random question

Sunday, July 26th, 2009 by Dawn Summers

Am I the only one who immediately stops reading any article that lists “know how to build a fire” as the number 1 thing “Everyone should know”? Look, if I am somewhere and I *must* build a fire to survive, so many things have already gone so horribly wrong that I already know I don’t even want to survive anymore.

Second to last place team says…

Saturday, July 25th, 2009 by Dawn Summers

Thank God for the Nationals.

Tweet of the week

Friday, July 24th, 2009 by Dawn Summers

I was like please don’t be republicans. When I should have been: please don’t be Jewish #stupidgreedySyrianJooos

-petitedov

Song of the day

Friday, July 24th, 2009 by Dawn Summers

Church of England to offer marriage and baptism combos

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009 by Dawn Summers

Which, of course, beats the divorce plus decapitation dealies they used to be known for.

Mother knows best

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009 by Dawn Summers

A long time ago, say twenty-five years or so, I had a First Communion party.
Like all parties in the Joyce Summers household, this was an over-the-top fiesta featuring multiple cakes, fountains and enough food to feed three villages of orphan African babies hiding from the grip of Hollywood starlets.
At this particular party, one of my Sunday school teachers brought a few children from her neighborhood; one of those kids was a boy named Ken.
Ken was a chunky kid, and boy, could he eat.
He had something like 3 hamburgers, 11 hot dogs, four pieces of cake, ice cream and lord knows how much of the stuff he didn’t have to ask adults for.
This story has been told and retold through the ages, so the amounts of food has grown over the years. So, unsurprisingly, as my mom and I were shopping for my birthday party/aunt’s welcome back celebration, conversation was as follows:
“Mommy, I already have like 16 hot dogs from my party last week. Four more packs (8 hotdogs each) is enough.”
“What? Do you remember your First Communion party where that 1 boy ate 24 hotdogs by himself?”
My mother then picked up ten more packs, shuddering at the memory.
Of course, we were also having two cakes, souse, hamburger meat, chili, salads…oy.
I was dreading the weight gain from all the leftovers. So my mother said she would take six of the hotdog packs home, so that they wouldn’t be in my house.
Sammy and his grandmother were the first to arrive, which was awesome cause I could pose him for all my pictures and make him disparage my rival sports teams. (My cousin’s enthusiasm for showing off his many talents is infectious. And hey, 9 months! Still alive! Woo!)
I was working the grill, until my cousin Jon showed up and kicked me off my balcony.
Fuck the what?
Fine. Well, I’m going to play with Sammy.
What the — that little bugger was giggling up a storm with a couple of my friends from college, Mint Julip and Tito! (I hold him, he screams bloody murder until he realizes that I have no intention of putting him down.)
Kaz was out of town, so she sent a most excellent representative in her place!
Tito commented that he liked my Scrabble pillows.
“Mary made them for me a few years ago.”
“Oh yeah, I read about that on your blog…I’ve never met her.”
“What? How is that possible? Yeah, she’s very sad that she couldn’t come today. Poor kid’s probably at home crying her eyes out about letting me down. But I told her, I said ‘Mary, you came to my party last week, you made delicious delicious cupcakes AND brought me presents, I’m not cutting you from Team Dawn just because you can’t make one party.’ But she was still pretty inconsolable. As I’m sure Kaz is.”
“Well, Kaz is in Cleaveland, so yeah, she probably is inconsolable.”
Man also made his debut at Casa de Dawn.
I played his video for the partygoers and it turns out that Tito helped write the music Man had spoofed to mock me. I laughed and laughed. Let this be a lesson to all who would mock me! (Though Man also made me laugh when he said he didn’t know I had posted the video on my blog. “I just assume when you reference me on your blog, you will paste the link on my facebook wall.” Note to self: paste this link on his facebook wall.)
Ah, but back to my title.
About an hour or two into my shindig, the alarm went out that we were OUT OF HOTDOGS!
DUDE??
How did 20 people go through 64 hotdogs in an HOUR???? I had to drive over to the ECB to retrieve the hotdogs from my mama’s house. I was very quiet on the drive over. I took my teenage cousin with me (the tall one with purple hair, green eyes and black nail polish who was the victim of my early child rearing trials which involved always cheating at Candyland so she would never win AND cutting off her cartoons before the happy endings. Don’t feel bad for her though, as she towers over me now at 16, asking if I “will ever grow to real people size,” I think she is okay.)
“Do you understand what this means, Darien?”
“What?”
“For the rest of my life I will have a refrigerator full of hotdogs. Why? Because my mother will never let me forget the day I ran out of hotdogs and had to leave my party to go get more. This will be my life for the next 50 years. And then, when she dies at 116, her will will remind all in attendance to make sure I have enough hotdogs for the wake because at my 29th birthday party, I ran out.”
True story.