Posts Tagged ‘racism’

The Grape Vine

October 12, 2020

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Guest column by Yuri Raisinstein, award-winning author of The Grape Advantage: Us versus Anarchy

Sustainable? Cuke-o-phobic?

Feline colleagues often ask me how I can justify living a comfortably lazy life as a Grape Monkey, enjoying delicious sweet treats by just snapping my fingers, while most other monkeys have to make do on a diet of mainly dried out cucumber, and work for most of their waking hours. Why do I get free time and ripe grapes, while others get dried out cucumbers and burnout?

Let me start by saying that many other species also reserve different diets for various classes of their species. Grapes for some, cucumbers for others – it’s the way we primates roll. Just look that other famous primate, the human being:

Humans had some castes that ate lentils (Dalit, or untouchables), and other classes that ate better-prepared kosher food, or some (the 1%) who could even limit their diet to catered, well-branded food in trendy third spaces.

So dietary difference (Vive la différence!) has always been an acceptable way of creating the unique individuality that adds so much meaning and drama to Grape life.

Roots of the the Great Grape Culture

Grape Monkey culture started in the 20th Century when our Great Prophet – Frans de Waal – fed a few of our sacred ancestors – Experimental Monkeys 1 and 2 – grapes, while feeding other less high-end monkeys cucumbers for performing the exact same tasks. To this day, almost all Grape Monkeys have pictures of Frans-the-Father hanging in their bedrooms and offices.

Gilded Pictures of Frans the Father

On that Holy Day that we remember in the Gilded Picture, Father Frans alloted to Monkey 1 the cucumber of shame – the vegetable of losers and suckers, while our great-ancestor Monkey 2 received the Holy Grape of the Laboratory Sample – or what is commonly called the Holy Sample.

When Monkey 1 got angry and began to act aggressively, Frans-the-Father smiled knowlingly and scientifically, and looked favorably at Monkey 2’s plexiglass cage. This smile (the Smile of the Selected – החיוך של הנבחר) is why we Grape Monkeys get to live more high-quality lives than the rejected cukes ever will. We recite this inspiring story to one another almost every day before the First Grape (Primum Uva – 6 am). And the Gilded Picture captures that famous smile.

Cucumber’s sad Decline

In the last few decades, Cucumber terrorist organizations like Cuke-nuke and Pickle-o-thon have destroyed thousands of these framed pictures while stealing billions of dollars of grapes and grape juice reserves. But we hope that new laws forbidding cucumber monkeys from gathering in groups of more than six might improve things crime-wise. Likwise, the decision to tatoo cucumber monkeys and implant security chips in their arms are promising initiatives – lots of new ideas are circulating that could keep Grape culture alive for eternity, like it says “will be” in The Holy Book of the Grape (كتاب العنب المقدس).

And I don’t think that the inequality question is as important as media make it sound. In the latest surveys, Grape Monkeys suggest that the state of cucumber-monkeys concerns only 4 % of the population – well below other issues like grape prices and wine quality. And the lack of education or functional family units in Cuke settlements seems to point to an evolutionary difference that simply renders them incapable of enjoying Grape High Culture.

Faith in Our Shared Grapeness

It may be true that the humans let themselves fall into extreme inequality, and that the loss of shared empathy destroyed their ability to care for one another and ended up driving their own species to extinction. But Grape Monkeys will never let cucumber terrorism sink us to that level. We look to Frans-the-Father to lead us into the paradise that grape consumption assures us all, in the name of the Bloom, the Pulp, the Skin, and the Sacred Seeds.

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Dazifasomi Water

August 26, 2012

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(dedicated to all cowboys)

“Steee-rike!”

It’s the beginning of the seventies, and I’m eight while my little sister Shirley is six. In the middle of July, the old man is playing a ball tournament in the Dazifasomi Indian Reservation. The Steel City Sixpax are playing three games against a Tictax team at the same provincial skill level. And even though the reservation is an isolating half-hour drive from any white suburbs, the Rotary Club calls this a community-building activity. I guess the idea is to build community by beeping your car horn whenever a white guy scores a homer against the injuns.

Baseball has always been an important part of my childhood. My earliest childhood memory is of being punished because I wouldn’t “sit still and watch my father play” when I was three and a half. Back in those days, people used to say that male homosexuality was caused by having an invisible father and a nasty mother. Now we know it was actually a reaction against feminism, but for a while, we were told it was healthy, natural, and merited rainbows and weddings.

In the Brave New P.C. world in which I turned 17, gays were supposed to embrace diversity and they weren’t supposed to question their upbringing or try to start a family. The 80s were a decade of abortions and permanent bachelorhood, and having been told to “sit still while other men play” was probably my own personal abortion moment.
(Imagine your own mother telling you to stare at guys in tight pants running in circles when you were a child. You would also have probably come out gay if this had happened to you.)

Victor Armstrong

One of my dad’s ballplayer friends is a skinny and talkative ball of nerve named Victor Armstrong. He’s visited our bungalow a few times, and once, when I was six, he showed me how to do some magic tricks. Victor’s not the best ballplayer on the team – he smokes three packs of cigarettes per day – but the Sixpax keep him around for morale and because he organizes off-season poker tournaments (and is a bootlegger).

Hard Times

Like many other economically-depressed small towns, Steel City has hundreds of baseball diamonds that are the result of Recreation grants that were designed to help locals get enough weeks to qualify for Employment Insurance.

Most of these pogey parks don’t have drinking fountains because outdoor plumbing is too expensive. And it’s the same in Dazifasomi: four diamonds, zero drinking fountains. So both teams resourcefully bring their own water coolers.

Explorers

Exploring the land around Dazifasomi Ballfield, Shirley and I find grassy meadows, beaches, and woodlands, and run so much that we get tired and thirsty. So we decide to get a drink of cold water from the orange water cooler on my dad’s team bench.

Little sister goes first. She slowly separates a conical white cup from the pile and places it under the spout. But before she can get any water to come out, Victor Armstrong is standing over us, menacingly frowning with his forehead crunched up. “Shoo!” he yells at us, as if we were wild dogs.

Shirley looks at him confused and scared, but he just repeats “Shoo! Get the hell out of here!” even more loudly, and motions violently with his hands for us to scram while flashing his shiny white shark teeth. Shirley starts to cry, so I grab her arm and we run away.

“Steee-rike Twooo!”

Shirley says between sobs that she wants to see Ma, so we find the playground where Ma’s smoking with another player’s wife, and tell her what happened. When Victor sees us chatting with a white woman, he comes over and explains: “Oh my God. I thought they were two little squaws. I didn’t know they were yours. Sorry ‘bout that, Kass.”

Ma takes a long drag from her DuMaurier King Size, and shakes her head: “That’s what youze get for getting’ so dark this summer. He’s right.” Embarrassed, she tells Victor not to worry, and then tells us to go sit in the car until the game’s over.

I suddenly realize that our Acadian skin tans deeper than most of the Scottish and Irish people who play on my dad’s team, and that this is a liability.

““Steee-rike Threeee! Yuuuuu’re out!!”

My sister and I liked to think of ourselves as Malibu Barbie tanned, rather than as two little squaws. See, Steel City summer is usually two months of rain which is perfect for playing Barbies and watching TV, but this summer’s been sunny for a change. I guess that’s why we were ethnic-cleansed by Victor Armstrong. No hard feelings. We chose to tan, after all.

Talking in the car

On our way back to the car, we meet up with two Tictax kids our age – a brother and sister – and ask them to come with us to talk privately in our parent’s massive Ford Gran Torino. They tell us that they saw what happened, so we sit and share personal stories about growing up. We learn a few words of Tictak, and share a few words of our remnants of French. The girl – Pamela – tells us we can drink water from the Tictax cooler if we want to. But after what’s happened, we decide to just hang tight and wait until we get home.

Even though my mother agreed with him that day, Victor Armstrong never visited our house again after the ball tournament. And the Steel City Fruit will live his entire life without enjoying a card trick, a magic act, or playing in any kind of poker tournament because, well, those are ethnic-cleanser activities.

(Note. Any resemblance to real human beings is unintentional. This story – like other Steel City Fruit stories – is purely fictional.)

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