Sunday, August 25, 2002

Next installment:

Up early on Friday to go for a quick run, then a lot of hustle and bustle loading the cars to go camping. This is the first time my dad has gone with us, he usually stays home. He told Catherine at one point during the weekend he was only going because I wanted him to, and that partly made me feel good because he was doing something he thought was important to me, but partly made me feel bad, because it must have sucked to be around all that cigarette smoke. He told her it was hard to breathe, and I can believe it. My lungs are perfectly healthy, but when ten people are simultaneously exhaling cigarette smoke in my direction, I am forced to cough.

My dad and I don't talk much, he mostly tells stuff to Catherine and she passes it on to me. He told her how much he appreciated my coming home in February, and it seems that he more or less admitted that my siblings are less than responsible when it comes to taking care of things around the house, etc. And he also apparently admitted that Tim was a complete jerk, but since he's his oldest son, what can he do? I have a few ideas of what he can do, but I doubt he'd want to hear them.

I felt bad because Dad tried to start several conversations with me, but it's hard to re-train myself to talk to him. I'm afraid to say anything that really matters to me for fear that he'll pounce on it and use it to hurt me. We didn't really argue (well, okay, maybe once), we just didn't really say much because I was doing a "yeah/no" routine all weekend. It didn't start out that way, I guess, but one of the first conversations we had Friday morning really knocked me off balance. I've been puzzling for awhile now over our family tree, because let's face it, there is nothing on the paper version of our lineage that explains our ethnicity. And I was looking at some photos and thinking out loud, and that always leads to problems.

An actual conversation with my parents:

Me: (looking at photos of my cousin) I just don't get where our coloring comes from.

Mom: It's Lousiana French.

Me: How can it be Cajun? I've never met anyone with French blood from Louisiana as dark as Sean, Toran and Meaghan.

Mom: No, not Cajun, Louisiana French.

Me: That is Cajun. You know, the French? Acadia? That's what Louisiana French is.

Dad: She means they're niggers.

Me: (Saying nothing because I'm too shocked. Did he just say what I thought he said?)

Mom: Chuck, you know if I had said that, you'd read me the riot act.

Me: (Regretting I ever said anything but continuing to talk anyway, like the idiot that I am) We don't look African-American. Latino, Mexican, Native American, maybe, but not African-American.

Dad: I should sue your mom for lying to me.

Me: What?

Dad: She didn't tell me I was marrying into a black family. That's misrepresentation.

Me: I don't think that will hold up in a court of law, Dad.

Dad: She lied, she didn't tell me I was marrying a black woman.

Me: As far as I know, miscegenation laws weren't in effect when you got married.

Dad: I think I should sue her for misrepresentation.

So, maybe my dad was joking at least a little bit, I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt. I find it incredibly depressing, however, that my parents--who have had every opportunity to learn more about the world, get to know their neighbors, inform themselves of how ethnic/racial stereotpyes harm people--grow more bigoted instead of less as time passes. My parents are literate, they both finished highschool and tech school, my mom is now in college, my dad was in the military, they read a lot, they have internet access and a satellite dish. Yet nothing seems to change, unless it gets worse. If it's this bad with them, what kind of hope is there for joe militia man, living up in the hills, shooting at everything that moves? It's just too fucking depressing, and this is a lot of why I dread going home.

We had another brief conversation on Sunday about using Spanish at work that I don't have the heart to type out, but really confirmed a suspicion I've had for awhile about my parents hierarchy of racism. In their eyes, it's bad to be African-American, definitely. But if you have to be something other than white, it's better to be black than anything else. It's completely shameful to be Native American, but it's better to be that than to be Asian-American. And it's better to be Asian-American than Mexican-American. And better to be Mexican-American than just plain Mexican. It's not just my parents, unfortunately. Maybe that's the worst part. I heard the same sentiments from other relatives, relatives I really like, over the weekend.

I don't know, by the end of the weekend, I just wanted to gather all my "of color" friends up, hold them close to me and protect them. Okay...I guess that sounds a bit paternalistic. It's not like anyone I know needs the weird white chick to help them out. But, maybe it's like being gay--I can get all the gay people I want to agree that I should be given certain basic rights, but unless I get the straight people to work for me, too, it's not going to happen. It's just...I can't stand to think of people I care about having to listen to and be hurt by this crap. Well, again, maybe it's like being gay. Pretty much by the time you get to be 30, you've learned how to tune things out so they don't bother you so much. If you get too distracted by being hurt and angry, you can't get anything done.

10:19 PM

Ten thousands notes to write down about our trip.

The trip out was pretty uneventful aside from a weather delay in Houston. It only set us back an hour, so it was just getting dark when we headed north from Wenatchee. I was wicked tired, with sandpaper eyelids, and not looking forward to driving in the dark, *but* dark is the perfect condition for watching wildfires burn. In the first draw just past Beebe Bridge (Chelan Falls), we pulled off the highway to watch the newest inferno. Terribly beautiful, like a John Martin painting, but done with the palette of Frederick Edwin Church.

After the excitement of watching pine trees explode into flames, we drove the rest of the way to my parents' house. I could hardly wait to get to sleep, and instantly made up our beds in the backyard. And I did get a few hours of sleep, but that was it. Of course, a windstorm struck as we were sleeping. The next day we found out the winds were clocked at 60mph. I toughed it out for almost an hour, trying to hold the blankets over my head, but we kept getting pelted with dirt and rocks and tree branches and twigs. When my mom's watering can hit me on the head, I finally said, "Fuck this!" and dragged our air mattress inside and wedged it between my parents La-Z-Boys. Of course, my dad gets up hyper early, so we only got a couple hours of sleep altogether. I didn't turn my parents' police scanner down quite far enough, and the storm-related calls that went out all night kept waking me up.

9:43 PM

Man, I go away for ten days, and not only do I not get any good real mail, I don't get any personal e-mail, either. What have my friends been doing for the last week and a half while I've been out enjoying myself? My god.

We seriously didn't want to come back from vacation, maybe we wouldn't have if we were a) independently wealthy and b) didn't miss the kitties.

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