All Mixed Up


I grew up in a small town that insulated me from a lot of things. 

Crime?   Oh, there was the occasional bike theft.   Some hipster would periodically  remove the “L” from the word Public on the marquis  in front of the library.    We proclaimed we hated the Lions by spray painting that fact in no uncertain terms on underpasses and anything that was blank and not private property  during the week before the Friday night football game with our archrival, Kenedy.   We toilet papered a few houses,  but believe it or not, I never TP’d a house.    Had mine done once…just once, and I’m pretty sure my Jr. High boyfriend did it after my father caught he and I making out in my living room.

So, in terms of larceny, thievery and subterfuge, that was about it.   I was also raised in a town that kept me insulated ethnically.  

My hometown is located in South Central Texas.  We had plenty of Hispanic families, a smattering of African-Americans but in the mid 60’s and 70’s, when l was growing up, it was still predominately Anglo.     It was unfortunate, but the three cultures rarely mixed and when we did, it was scandalous.   In hind sight it seems so ridiculous now, but there was a determined, it seemed to maintain that old adage, “birds of a feather, clock together”.  Everyone had their designated sides of town.  Segregation at its best.

This wasn’t just the mindset among the White folks, it was across the board.  I understand how people of similar backgrounds and cultures would want to  cling together.  Familiarity is half the battle, but then again, whatever happened to “vive la différence”?

I’ve always had a thing for the dark and swarthy.  I always loved Latino men.  My parents found that disconcerting.  They lived in a time and place where one only hired Hispanics; never dated them.   

When I graduated from high school and went to college, I loved the veritable bouillabaisse of ethnicity I saw on the campus at the University of  Texas.   

Why not?   We had only one woman of Asian descent in my hometown and she rarely ever left her home.   Guess she didn’t like the stares.  Until then, the closest I came to anything even remotely Asian was the Chun King aisle at the Mercantile and the occasional glimpse of the woman who portrayed Mrs. Livingston, the Asian housekeeper on TV’s “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” .

A little about Mrs. L, if I may;  Umeki Miyoshi was best known for her roles as Katsumi, the wife of  red Button’s character. Joe Kelly in the 1958 film Sayonara.   She was a shin Issei (or post-1945 immigrant from Japan) and quite an accomplished singer, as well.   But what many may not remember is that Myoshie, was the first (and so far the ONLY)  person of East Asian  descent to win an Academy Award.  She won hers for “Best Supporting Actress” for Sayonara.

She died in August of 2007 at the age of 76. 

Back to the issue at hand.  

At college, it was as it’s supposed to be–I received incredible exposure to different people, places and things.   Different cultures, food…religions.   I met my first Jew in Austin;  my first Greek too AND I saw my first set of mirror image identical twins during my Freshman year. 

For some reason, fertilized ova rarely split in my home town uteruses.   

I was thinking about all that as I chose to treat my hardworking middle class ass to a small pizza at a place near me that makes a pie that’s hardly New York style, but something slightly close to it.  

I sat there eating my ten incher (8″ after baking)  and noticed an Indian family (three generations as best as I could tell) eating pizza at the table next to me.  The younger ones spoke English; the elders spoke this  Hindi/English salad.   An older gentleman asked for Parmesan and crushed red pepper.   I don’t know why I was amused by that, but I was.

I love it when things like this happen to me.

 A few weeks ago, my friend Martha and I met for breakfast tacos, a traditional Mexican breakfast…bacon, eggs, cheese, sausage, hot sauce…..whatever you want, all layered betwixt a flour or corn tortilla.

The photo here is an example of breakfast tacos but in reality, they rarely come on a plate garnished with cilantro.  

There’s a certain amount of brevity involved with eating, making and serving breakfast tacos.   They’re made quickly; eaten even faster and plates are rarely involved.  usually, they’re wrapped in aluminum and placed in a paper bag.  They’re the consummate ‘to go’ breakfast.

Anyway, Martha and I were eating our tacos and seated next to us, were three tiny Chinese women…all speaking Mandarin, as best I could tell and eating the hell out of their breakfast tacos. 

And then I rememberd the time I marvelled when I saw two men who I assumed were of Arab extraction eating the number one seller at Einstein’s Bagels.

With a schmear even.

I guess what I’m trying to say in the most circuitous way possible, is that we’re all different, yet intrinsically the same.   What Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms thought; what Malcolm X and Farrakhan  believed; what Netanyahu and Arafat will never concede, is all wrong.  Underneath the dreadlocks, the yarmulke, the kofi, the turban, or what’s behind the Daoist principles or those blue eyes and pale white skin is a heart that beats.

Remove one from each of the representatives mentioned above and you’d never be able to tell to whom it originally belonged.

Let me put it this way:  the battery keeps the package in working order; yet the package is what we see first.   But maybe, in the grand  scheme of things, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.  We certainly can’t deny that’s the way it is.  And has been.   Perhaps we’re different for a reason.   

But why?

So the Carpenters could still have something of a music career on an Adult Oldies  radio station?

So, Del tha Funkee Homosapien could bring da house down, yo?

So, Flaco Jiminez could make a living as un cantante?

So, the world could sup on falafel and humus?

So, Bollywood could help bring Indian cinema to a position of celluloid prominence?

So,  Joan Rivers (Jewess) could have facelift after facelift to the point where her skin is pulled so tight she could be an extra in Flower Drum Song (Asian)??….which was also a film starring Umeki Miyoshi who we’ve already mentioned and that…THAT my friends is how you end a blog post by coming full circle. was close.


One comment

  1. Laurie, you never fail to amuse, cause thoughtful wrinkles in the brow or bring a chortle out of silence. Thanks for everything you have ever written. Even that bad article several years ago. OK, it wasn’t that bad, or even several years ago, and it was moderately amusing and that is how you bring a comment to a close… full circle.


    I love when I’m given me, back to me. See? Clever is as clever does, my friend.


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