right here in the u.s. of a. ???…

Pretty scary to realize that in 2015 there continues to be pockets of blatant discrimination against people of color right here in our own backyard.

No. I’m not naive enough to think our country’s record is impeccable or even spotty at best, but to know that Fergusson, Missouri police can arrest innocent people “just because,” is totally unfathomable. 

When we look down our noses upon what’s going on in the Middle East, clucking our tongues as if to say “My, my. Those poor, unfortunate people running from the violence and terrorism overtaking their countries,”…let’s remember the Fergussons right here at home where many live in fear of being terrorized by law enforcement, sometimes with violent consequences.

When I hear of occurrences like what happened in Fergusson, my gut reaction is to make sure I never, ever visit such a backward-thinking place. And I’m not denigrating third-world countries where they may not know better. I’m talking about towns in our own country where folks SHOULD know better.

Laziness is no excuse. Stupidity maybe. I think I could forgive stupid people, although I wouldn’t hang out with them. Lazy people? Not so much.

Not that the folks in Fergusson care whether or not I set foot in their town. It’s just with all the negative publicity, it’s more than likely nobody outside the town will ever want to visit. That too is probably okay with Fergusson folks, especially law enforcement.

…just needed to let off steam…

………hugmamma.

 

 

 

my “black” brother

You think I jest? I wish I were.

My brother Ed was mistaken for a black man as he earned his keep with JOB CORPS, a federally funded government program for underprivileged youth. It didn’t help that his skin had turned its deepest shade of brown while digging ditches on the island of Kauai.

Entrance sign to the Red Rock Jobs Corps Cente...

Entrance sign to the Red Rock Jobs Corps Center in Colley Township, Sullivan County, Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As he traveled on the mainland working temporary jobs during the 1960s, Ed was forced to sit in the back of the bus and use public restrooms designated…”blacks.”

Small wonder then, that my brother came to feel a strong kinship with African Americans. I don’t think he ever anticipated having to choose between the races, but since the choice was made for him, he embraced the black culture. And it embraced him right back.

Ed married into a black family, eventually fathering a daughter and a son. My husband and I witnessed first hand the loving warmth so readily offered by my brother’s extended family. They accepted us too as though we were…their own. I vividly recall…the laughter…the light-hearted teasing…the delicious aromas…the shared conversations of a family…not unlike the one in which I grew up. 

Some 40+ years after moving to the mainland, Ed remains loyal to folks who welcomed him with open arms, loving him as a son, brother, nephew, cousin, uncle and father.

People, no matter the color of their skin, want the same thing…a job, a home, a family, and a life free of suppression. And with each new dawn…hope is rekindled that all these are possible.

Ed served in Vietnam, an experience which more than likely compounded his distrust of the status quo. Can you blame him?

You can rest assured my brother is no shrinking violet. Having earned a black belt in karate, he is as steely on the inside as he is on the outside. Like fathers everywhere however, Ed’s soft spot is his children.

Growing up black in America remains a hurdle which must be navigated with adroitness. Knowing my brother as I do, Leilani and Chris have had a determined master lead them through the thickets of racial prejudice with stealth and imagination. 

My heart swells with pride when I recall all that Ed has had to overcome to own a small piece of the American dream. He may have gone the route less traveled, but he…

…let his heart lead the way…

………hugmamma. 

 

on the right side of white…

Dear Dr. King,

Your ears must be ringing since everyone’s been talking about you. The media has been playing your “I have a dream” speech over and over again.

The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Free...

The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on the National Mall facing east from the Lincoln Memorial (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One anecdote was of particular interest.  It seems a pro basketball player who stood nearby asked if he might have your speech after you’d delivered it. Evidently you gave him the 3 pages, because he still has it.

I have no such memento of that historical day, or the faintest recollection of where I was when you spoke those famous words. It’s safe to say I probably felt as far removed from the black situation as I was the day you stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I was thousands of miles away on the island of Maui in Hawaii. You were changing history…and I didn’t bear witness.

But just as a pebble causes ever-widening ripples to occur when it hits the water’s surface, your words have affected generations of lives…for the better. And so it seems only fitting that I write you this long overdue thank you letter.

If you hadn’t stood tall for racial injustice I might not be living on…the right side of “white.”

I graduated from college, and with my degree was able to work alongside white colleagues in a number of different jobs.

My family and I have felt at home in neighborhoods predominantly populated by whites.

Our daughter has thrived in all white schools.

We can shop where we please. We can choose which theater to see a movie. We can dine where we like. We can use public restrooms without reservation. We can travel by plane, train or ship. We can overnight in a Hyatt or a Best Western. We can decide which services get our business be it the cable company, the dentist, or a contractor.

No one looks twice at my driver’s license picture. Retailers are only too happy to take my money. Pre-approved applications for credit cards always arrive in the daily mail.

I owe my quality of life to the steps you took to improve your family’s life, and the lives of other African Americans, Hispanics, Middle-Easterners, Asians…and Pacific Islanders like me.

What you did 50 years ago will continue to resonate until mankind ceases to exist.

I may have been born on the wrong side of white, but thanks to your dream of what could be…

English: Inscription on the steps of the Linco...

English: Inscription on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, commemorating the location from which Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington on 1963-08-28. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…i’m living on the right side of white…

…mahalo!…

………hugmamma.

one american’s thoughts…

 In 2009 I began blogging in response to pundits who said they were speaking for the American people. Almost daily I was scrunching my nose, rolling my eyes and talking back to the TV. Exasperated, I often fumed…”are they talking about me?” No one called to ask, not that I’d answer the phone. But still…who told them what I was thinking?

Well here we are again in the midst of another Presidential campaign. How time flies…when you’re having fun. Hmmm…

What are MY thoughts?

President of the United States Barrack Obama

President of the United States Barrack Obama (Photo credit: AN HONORABLE GERMAN)

It seems to me that a black man with a Muslim name wasn’t ever going to occupy the Presidency…without forever having to prove he belonged. As far as white men, and those who think like white men, are concerned Barack Obama is the outsider with his nose pressed up against the glass…still trying to play with the big boys. In this case…the “good ole boys.” If he were a “front man,” things might be different.

That Obama has a mind of his own is a double-edged sword. He’s doing things the way he knows how, which doesn’t always  win him friends. As we well know. He’s a thinker… prone to weighing all options before acting. He’s a professor…encouraging discussion and compromise. He’s a constitutional lawyer…knowing how far he can push the envelope. And he’s a public servant…driven by his compassion for the underdog.

I imagine Obama as a man with a family who goes to work every day, like any typical American providing for his loved ones.

As President, Obama’s days are long. He’s juggling a war, a recovering economy, high unemployment, a combative Congress, terrorists, Mid-East turmoil, nuclear threats, natural disasters, Europe’s financial upheaval…and criticism…nonstop criticism. Including those who deny his U.S. citizenry.

The man has stamina. He’s ready, willing, and able…to go another 4 rounds. Obama’s a glutton for punishment…or the eternal optimist…or both.

Decades ago, when I was in college, I read a novel which told of international bankers who controlled governments, manipulating them for their own selfish purposes. During a class discussion there was talk that bankers were, in fact, in control of global finances. I’d never heard of such a thing. It seemed so hush-hush.

Here we are today with Super Packs buying the White House. And no one’s sweeping it under the carpet. It’s front and center in the media, 24/7. No secrets here, except as it pertains to who the money men are. They could even be foreigners with a vested interest in America’s activities at home and abroad.

So the vote for President of the United States is between an unlikely incumbent, and the “old boys” choice who might be obligated to one or more foreigners with their own agenda.

A U.S. citizen who happens to be black, with a name that some ascribe to our enemy…or the man with all the right credentials which might not be the case with some of his backers.

These are my thoughts based upon gut instinct. I don’t presume to know…what every other American thinks. We’re all entitled to our own opinions…

With his family by his side, Barack Obama is s...

With his family by his side, Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States by Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr. in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2009. More than 5,000 men and women in uniform are providing military ceremonial support to the presidential inauguration, a tradition dating back to George Washington’s 1789 inauguration. VIRIN: 090120-F-3961R-919 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…we’re all equal…in God’s eyes…

………hugmamma.

 

“true you,” more than enough

Almost done reading True You: A Journey To Finding And Loving Yourself by Janet Jackson. Yes, she’s “the” Janet Jackson, sister of Michael Jackson. But I wouldn’t have read it for that reason alone. Interviews of her by Meredith Vieira, and then by Piers Morgan, piqued my interest. Prior to that, I really wasn’t motivated to know more about Janet. Other than her videos, songs and a couple of films, she wasn’t in the media, unless it was to do with her more famous sibling. The youngest Jackson, and second most celebrated, Janet favored living her personal life in the shadows. The reason, as revealed in her book, is that she has suffered low self-esteem her entire life.

True You is probably one of the best biographies I’ve read to date, although Janet doesn’t refer to it as such. She prefers to think of it as a spiritual and physical journey towards accepting and loving, one’s true self. The unique element about her story is its compassion throughout. There’s nothing narcissitic about the book, although the focus is obviously upon her. Janet bares her soul, but does so in relation to her commonality with all of us. We can all relate to her experiences. She’s one of us. And that’s where she seems most comfortable. She appreciates and is grateful for her position and wealth, but not at all like the other so-called “rich and famous.” While Michael remains my favorite performer, Janet is definitely my choice for BFF, that is if I had a choice.

One of the things I enjoy most is how Janet weaves anecdotes shared with her by others, whether personal acquaintances, or strangers who have written letters. Their stories are as poignant as hers, and she generously acknowledges this by featuring them throughout the pages of her book. I like that about Janet, her generosity and her humility too. Wish Michael could have been as balanced in his personal life. But his sister admits that it has taken all of her 40+ years to get where she’s at, and she’s still not done yet.

a lesson for all of us…True You …hugmamma.

“something in common,” an actor and a homeless songwriter

Just saw the Academy Award‘s tribute to singer/actress Lena Horne, with actress Halle Berry doing the honors. Ending the segment was a black and white flashback of Ms. Horne singing “Stormy Weather.” When the picture faded, the screen was left with words attributed to her.

It’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s how you carry it. 

While they undoubtedly speak to the centuries-old African-American struggle, they seem equally befitting of the plight of the homeless in our society. Ms. Horne was the first black actor to sign a long-term contract with MGM studios. Perhaps someone like Chris Scott, a formerly homeless songwriter will be the breakthrough star on behalf of all those living on the streets, or in less than adequate or desirable housing.

Happy Homeless Camper
by Chris Scott (formerly homeless songwriter)
chrisfieselman@aol.com

On October 28th, 2010, I had all my possessions confiscated and disposed of by the powers that be–for the second time. This song was written on October 29th, the day after.

Like a leaf on the wind blowing down the street
Backpack carrying everything I need
Like a Bedouin gypsy or refugee
Always seem to catch them staring at me
Well I do OK to make it through the day
But it’s a fight to survive the night
Find a little place that’s out of the way
And try to stay out of sight

Can a happy homeless camper find
A place to lay his head
A tent’s protection from the elements
And a sleeping bag for a bed
I don’t need a lot…Just a little spot…
And I promise not to make a mess
Can a happy homeless camper find
A place to lay his head

Now trying to get by and live a simple life’s
Not as easy as it seems
There’s a price to pay when you live this way
Trying to chase your dreams
Find a good spot in the woods that’s not
A problem or disturbing the peace
And sooner or later someone’s gonna make you
Pack up all of your stuff and leave
Usually it’ll be the police

Can a happy homeless camper find
A place to lay his head
A tent’s protection from the elements
And a sleeping bag for a bed
I don’t need a lot…Just a little spot…
And I promise not to make a mess
Can a happy homeless camper find
A place to lay his head

Why can’t they leave well enough alone
We’re trying to make it on our own
In the struggle to survive
We’re fighting for our lives
With no place to stay and no place to call home

Can a happy homeless camper find
A place to lay his head
A tent’s protection from the elements
And a sleeping bag for a bed
I don’t need a lot…Just a little spot…
And I promise not to make a mess
Can a happy homeless camper find
A place to lay his head

know anyone in need of a lyricist?…hugmamma.

the “power of words,” beware

Spent the night tossing and turning as negative thoughts about this, that, and the other, crept into my overactive brain. As I fought to regain control of my positive self by repeating good thoughts, I finally felt as though an invisible hand reached in yanking me from the fray. I’m sure you’ve had such moments, perhaps not as I’ve described. But I’m a writer so I tend to dramatize.

The “invisible hand” was the realization that Kitty Kelley, via Oprah: A Biography, had inadvertently infiltrated my spirit with negativity. It may be that all she says is true, as told by those she interviewed. Of course it’s their perception of events and occurrences to do with Oprah. Meanwhile, the woman herself did not speak on her behalf. So we must take the words written about her with the proverbial “grain of salt,” in this case a whole shaker full.

I don’t question others’ perceptions; I do question the author’s need to slant her “tell all” with overwhelming negativity. As a biographer, Kelley feels compelled to delve deep. But the truth she reveals can be edited to corroborate what will drive readership and therefore, sales. Just as Oprah may not be the altruist everyone perceives, Kelley may not be the diligent author she presents herself to be.

Other than financial gain, why would Kelley choose to decimate Oprah’s visage as the great humanitarian? In speaking of the failed attempt by Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu to get Oprah nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, Kelley writes:

I started the Nobel movement after Oprah appeared at the Dream Academy Dinner (May 24, 2005) to raise money for at-risk children whose parents are in prison,” said Washington, D.C., publicist Rocky Twyman. “When she stood up, praised God, opened her purse, and gave that Dream Academy a million dollars, I wanted to get her the Nobel Peace Prize…but the Nobel committee did not want to give it to a celebrity. So I formed a committee, and we talked to Dorothy Height (president emerita of the National Council of Negro Women), who was all for Oprah because Oprah had given Dr. Height two-point-five million in 2002 to pay off the mortgage on the NCNW headquarters….Dr. Height contacted Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu, and we set out to get publicity to collect a hundred thousand signatures for Oprah’s nomination to present to the Nobel committee….

“Unfortunately, we only got forty thousand signatures…because a lot of men, black and white, refused to sign…and a lot of religious people would not sign because they said Oprah was not married to Stedman and she gave a bad example to our young people by her lifestyle. I believe we all sin and come short of the glory of God, but these folks, mostly from black churches, and all conservative and law-abiding, felt very strongly that Oprah had put herself above the laws of God. I was stunned, but I’m afraid there are strong feelings against her in our (African-American) community….Of the forty thousand signatures we were able to get, most were white, not black. We got a lot of publicity and raised awareness for her getting the prize, but in the end I guess God did not want it to happen.”

Good read, but essential? Only in a gossipy tell-all book, trying to leach off the wealth and celebrity of another. I got sucked in, yes, but most biographies I’ve read have a thread of compassion running through them. When I turn the last page, I’m usually filled with sadness that once again fame and wealth has destroyed, rather than helped, someone’s life. By comparison, Oprah: A Biography, left me with a bad taste in my mouth. All the negativity consolidated in one place by the author’s self-serving manipulation of the facts, goes against my beliefs.

My gut instincts now tell me to be wary of silver-tongued writers. Readers with a stronger stomach and a less-sensitive constitution may be unaffected. I take what others say, to heart. Living and working in New York City left its mark, for I am cynical. But my island roots run deep, and my Aloha spirit makes me more empathetic, especially when Oprah’s childhood was not one of happiness and privilege. I may not condone all she does, but I take the good with the bad. She’s human like the rest of us, no matter what she and her fans might think, and say.

the power of words…be wary of their effect…hugmamma.  

weekly photo challenge: boundaries #3

…now remind me again…why were there boundaries???…hugmama.

“free at last, free at last,…we are free at last!!!”

Another place, another time, Martin Luther King proclaimed the freedom of African-Americans from slavery’s lynch-hold.

Today Egyptians have realized the decimation of Hosnei Mubarack’s stranglehold on their lives. But while King and his followers protested nonviolently with as much support as they could muster, the cause to free the Egyptian people from their leader’s tyranny was embraced by millions via the internet. 

Thirty-eight-year-old Wael Ghonim, marketing director for technology giant Google, spearheaded the campaign to free his countrymen from 30 years of suppression and hopelessness. No longer able to distance himself from their plight, Ghonim felt compelled to help, even risking his own security and comfort, and that of his wife and kids. Instant viewing of global images on YouTube these days seems to uphold the truism, that there’s “safety in numbers.” So perhaps Ghonim knew that the rewards reaped would far outweigh the risk in which he was willing to engage. 

“A digital revolution,” as one news pundit explained of Mubarak’s removal by his people. The internet has leveled the playing field, allowing the “Davids” of the world to successfully take aim and bring down the “Goliaths.” My earlier post “give up the internet?” published on 2/7/11, pondered the inevitable loss of a simpler life, when technology came to dominate.  

These last 18 days have shown the internet to be a weapon in the hands of the masses. Egypt‘s next generation, fed up with a government they didn’t countenance, and armed with useless college degrees, expressed their contempt for the status quo. They voiced their vehemence on Facebook, the online social networking system. From this global vantage point a phenomenal movement grew. As a result, President Mubarak is history.

“Aided and abetted” by technology, Oprah Winfrey, a black woman, garnered unimaginable power from the masses who identified with her. “Aided and abetted” by technology, the Tea Party Movement born out of the disenchantment of Americans for their government, has the power to make and break political careers. “Aided and abetted” by technology, the Egyptians gathered millions together in protest, making their collective voice heard and their will known, successfully bringing down the enemy. 

I’ve always felt that the “have nots” live with faces pressed against the glass, envying the lives of the “haves.” If those who “have” don’t freely share of their material wealth, then the “have nots” will wrestle away whatever they can. Deserving or not, it doesn’t matter. All “have nots” probably feel it’s their moral right to live in equality with their fellow “haves.”

who could argue… with the “have nots” in egypt…hugmamma.

short films, michael jackson’s

Below my blog’s photo header is a new “page” entitled “mj’s short films.” Because readers often overlook the pages, I’m including this post to alert you to the new addition, in the hopes that you’ll have a “look-see.” I’ve recopied the text below, and included a few of the youtube videos…to entice you. You can view more on the page “mj’s short films.”

Michael Jackson invented music videos as we know them today. It is a well published fact that he catapulted MTV into television’s stratosphere with his creations, best known among them, THRILLER. Not only a stroke of genius, but also of magic! Thriller went “outside the box” in its storytelling, its costuming, its haunting lyric and MJ’s unforgettable moves. He went on to create numerous other short story videos, some of which have rarely been seen by the general public, among them, Speed Demon and Captain EO. As you scroll through the youtube videos below, these 2 will appear towards the end. 

Captain EO  was a collaboration with Walt Disney Studios. It had been in place at Disneyland from 1986 through the 1990s. With Michael’s passing, Captain EO has been restored to Disney’s amusement parks. I’ve visited Disneyland in Anaheim, California, numerous times. But my family and I have never ventured to Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida. Captain EO may just be the excuse I’ve been looking for “a ticket to ride.” I may have finally found the fountain of youth at age 61. As they say, “it’s never too late.”

As with my other page “boogying with mj,” I wanted to extract my favorite short films from the vast intergalactic space known as the internet, for my personal viewing pleasure as the spirit moves me. This is so much easier than having to click endlessly through files and files of videos, to discover the ones I most like. I hope some of you will derive enjoyment from them as well. If you do, you might check back to see if I’ve added others to my personal catalogue.  

Remember, there are more to view on the “page,” entitled “mj’s short films,” under the photo header at the top of my blog.

i’m hoping you’ll boogy on down with michael…and me…hugmamma.

“witch doctors,” do you believe?

With Halloween just around the corner, I’m reminded of something that raised the hairs on the back of my neck. I’m in the midst of reading Orson Welles-A Biography” by Barbara Leaming. Written with his complete cooperation, it really is “a dazzling, intimate portrait of a legend.” Never one of my favorite actors, I must admit that I’ve altered my opinion after reading 396 pages of the 630 page book. Welles was really the genius he was touted to be! Unfortunately his diverse talents overextended him physically and mentally, so that his failures were as huge as his successes, both personally and professionally. But I’ll leave that for another post.

Through a series of fortuitous events, 20-year-old, recently married Orson Welles made his New York directorial debut in the midst of this country’s Great Depression. In 1935, Hallie Flanagan, head of Vassar College’s Experimental Theatre Workshop, was appointed as national director of the Federal Theatre  project. As part of FDR’s Works Progress Administration, the FT was charged with providing work for the nation’s unemployed theatrical professionals. Because Flanagan “was not a member of the Broadway commercial establishment, but an academic with a taste for experimental and regional theater,” and because, by rule, 10% of actors, musicians, playwrights and technicians “could consist of theater people who had not been receiving relief, thereby ensuring the presence of expert professional talent to counterbalance the inevitable amateurs who found working in the theater more appealing than a government construction project,” Orson found himself among this elite class of professionals.

Charged with mounting a classical production, Welles, upon his wife Virginia’s suggestion, chose to stage   “an all-black Macbeth by transposing its action from Scotland to Haiti, a startlingly new setting with important artistic advantages, not the least of them the rich possibilities for music and decor. … Preferring not to anchor the action too firmly in Haiti he had in mind a mythic island more like the fantasy setting of The Tempest than any actual place. But as Orson saw it, there was a significant gain in realism as well: by alluding to Haitian voodooism the production could make credible the role of the witches that modern audiences of Macbeth often have trouble accepting.”

At Harlem’s Lafayette Theatre,  Orson’s Macbeth opened to a mixture of  gang members, respectable black bourgeoisie, and Manhattan’s chic downtown crowd. When the curtain rose on “the intricate jungle settings, piquant costumes, and sensuous lighting,” the audience broke into “wild applause and gasps of pleasure.” And the critics’ reviews were just as ebullient. Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times wrote with enthusiasm  ” ‘As an experiment in Afro-American showmanship the Macbeth fairly rocked the Lafayette Theatre, …If it is witches you want, Harlem knows how to overwhelm you with their fury and phantom splendor.’ ” The New York Daily News’ Burns Mantle hailed Macbeth as ” ‘a spectacular theatre experience. …the most colorful, certainly the most startling, of any performance that gory tragedy has ever been given on this continent.’ ”

In contrast, Percy Hammond of the Herald Tribune wrote ” ‘What surprised me last night was the inability of so melodious a race to sing the music of Shakespeare,…The actors sounded the notes with a muffled timidity that was often unintelligible. They seemed to be afraid of the Bard, though they were playing him on their home grounds.’ ” One of the African drummers, who accompanied the ranting of the three witches, made a voodoo doll in the critic’s likeness, hanging it in effigy and sticking it with pins. When told by the lighting director that Hammond was entitled to his opinion, the African replied ” ‘He’s bad man.’ ” Humoring the man over beer and pretzels at a local bar, Orson agreed to his drinking companion’s decision to put a curse on the critic.

“The African made one stipulation: the responsibility for Hammond’s death would be Orson’s alone. As a pretzel disappeared into his mouth, Orson nodded agreement. The rest of the company, Orson among them, watched with amusement as the voodoo practitioners blessed their drums before pounding on them backstage for several days. He barely gave it another thought until, shortly thereafter, he gasped to learn that Percy Hammond had just died.”

One of these times I’ll tell you about my “big-aunt,” who was a “Kahuna,” a Hawaiian witch doctor.

makes you wonder…hugmamma.

attitude adjustment

One day I had occasion to visit a beautiful, upscale mall in sunny southern California, The Costa Mesa Mall. Sprawling over several acres, it was a shopper’s paradise. A favorite phrase,”eye candy,” coined while strolling the cobblestone streets of Venice, seemed just as applicable at this retail complex. Anchoring this shopping mecca, were giants Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, Sak’s, and Sear’s. Sprinkled in and around them were other name stores, Gap, BCBG, MaxMara, Mango, Barney’s New York, Abercrombie & Fitch, and a seemingly endless list of other brands. Rolex caught my eye. I’d not seen it in any other mall I’ve visited. In fact, I’ve never seen its storefront before.

My first stop had to be Bloomingdale’s. Our first “introduction” was at 53rd and Lex in NYC in 1976. Several years ago, my daughter and I visited a branch in Soho, New York. There’s a distinct vibe to the retail icon. It’s upscale with a contemporary, youthful flavor. New York is culturally diverse, with Chinatown and Little Italy as neighbors, deli workers commuting alongside doctors on subways, and homeless setting up house across the street from Trump Tower. As a result, Manhattan’s Bloomingdale’s caters to customers from all walks of life. Everyone is treated equally. When you enter the store, whether you browse or buy, you’re a BFF (best friend forever).

As I wandered through Costa Mesa’s Bloomingdale’s, the mood was the exact opposite of its “sister” in the east. I felt invisible as I made my way through different areas of women’s wear. Several of the saleswomen were young and Asian. None approached to assist me, instead greeting and speaking with Caucasian shoppers. I took notice because I’m half-Chinese. Perhaps I didn’t appear to have the money to spend. No matter I thought, I’m just browsing. If something “grabbed” my attention, I would’ve made myself known.

In lingerie, I looked at a selection of bras displayed on a table. While fingering one in particular, a lovely, black, young saleslady approached saying “Isn”t that nice!” I replied that it was, but couldn’t find the price. She checked one like it nearby. It too had no price, so she left to make inquiries, indicating she’d be right back. Upon returning with the price, she pointed to another bra that was on sale. Following her to the “sale” rack, I explained that I had been searching for one that I had seen more than a year ago at Free People. The saleslady quickly informed me that the store had a branch in the mall. I was pleasantly surprised that she referred me to a competitor. Her recommendation reminded me of the Santa Claus in “It’s A Wonderful Life.” If an item was not in stock, he sent customers from Gimbel’s, where he worked, to Macy’s where he thought they’d find exactly what they were looking for.

Leaving Bloomingdale’s I pondered what had just happened to me. I was ignored by my own ethnic “sisters”, and treated kindly by a black woman, who reached out in true sisterhood. On my way out of the store, I saw BCBG, a retailer of expensive, designer wear. Stepping inside, I strolled about, stopping to more closely inspect items that were of interest. The 3 young, Asian, sales help never acknowledged my presence. Interesting, I thought. As I made my way from the back towards the exit at the front, I stopped to allow one of the sales women to pass. I noticed a half-smile on her lips as she walked by. Continuing towards the door, I saw a Caucasian customer enter and heard one of the sales ladies call out “Hi! How are you?”

In my 20’s I perceived such affronts as there being something wrong with me. Almost 40 years later, I find such experiences curious. On its face it might seem that the Asian women thought I was “beneath” them and their Caucasian clientele. I was dressed well, but not anything like their regular customers. By contrast, the young, Black woman treated me as an equal or better, since I was a potential consumer. But setting aside what might seem like the obvious, it may be that the Asians were behaving according to stereotype, quiet and shy. And the black woman was, perhaps, more outgoing by nature. Murmuring to myself, I continued on my way.

My next encounter, more pleasant than those previously, added another dimension to the racial question. Sylvia, in DKNY, greeted me with a pleasant smile and “Hi! How are you?” As I wandered from table to rack, looking at Donna Karin designer digs, Sylvia’s eyes followed me. Stepping closer, she commented that I should let her know if I needed any help. I thanked her. When I finally spied a long, grey, sleeveless dress that might fit my daughter nicely, I asked for Sylvia’s assistance. We talked a little about the details of the dress, its fit, its color, its multiple use. I shared a picture of my daughter. Sylvia complimented my daughter’s beauty and her pursuit of dancing as a career. I learned that Sylvia was of Korean-Polish ancestry. I expressed my feeling that marriages between easterners and westerners, can produce attractive offspring. My husband and daughter who are Hawaiian-Chinese-Portuguese are proof-positive. I left in a very good mood, promising to return later that day, my daughter in tow.

Before heading off to get a bite to eat, I stopped in at Free People. Immediately inside the doorway, Ashley greeted me with a huge smile and friendly manner that wrapped around me like a warm blanket. We chatted continually while I moved hangers aside to better inspect each piece of clothing. I couldn’t stop staring at her, wondering who she looked like. After a few moments playing charades, we arrived at the conclusion that she bore a close resemblance to the youngest of the 3 protagonists fighting the “good fight” against the witches in “Hocus Pocus,” a Halloween favorite on the small screen. Throughout the boutique, Ashley met up with me to comment on an item that I’d hold up for a better look. A native Californian, she was the friendliest I’d ever met, and I told her so. She laughed, and thanked me for the compliment. To better explain myself I told her of my experience in Bloomingdale’s. “Oh!” she exclaimed, eyes rolling, “They need an attitude adjustment!” Well, I just loved her absolute candidness. She was too precious, I thought.

It was so refreshing to make small talk with a young person, so totally unimpressed with outward trappings. She was Caucasian, but it didn’t matter. She was a resounding reminder that it’s what a person is like on the “inside” that matters, not skin color, or social status, or age. Because of her innate skills for serving customers, Free People made a tidy sum when I returned with my daughter to make a number of purchases. I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. I wanted to return to Bloomingdale’s and BCBG to say “I was the one you wouldn’t help. Big mistake! Huge mistake! Huge!”

best not judge a book by its cover…hugmamma