Thursday, November 23, 2006

Playmobil Indian

This is a story that John Aditsan Anderson, a Navajo, told me.

His four year old son, Askii, was playing on the carpet with his Playmobil figures. He had stood them up in various rows: the knight, the policeman, the Indian.

To see his reaction, John pick up the plastic Indian and said, "You know, you are Indian." Askii looked confused. "Are you Indian?" he asked his father.


"Is Mom Indian?"


This gave Askii pause. John watched as Askii's face scrunched up, trying to sort out this information. Then Askii asked if his brother was Indian.

"Is Grandma?"
"Is Grandpa?"

With each new revelation, John could see that his son was trying to sort how this fit into this definition of 'Indian'. And how this all fit with this plastic figure with its plastic feathers and painted blue streaks on it.

John knows that Askii will be searching for his identity. Right now, Askii perceives his world as all inclusive. He doesn't see the boundaries between watching Scooby Doo cartoons and playing video games and going to the hoop dances and eating mutton.

Later, he will go to school and wear a construction paper headdress and paper bag vest. He will learn about how Indians and Pilgrims had a feast. Later he'll learn about how Columbus discvered America. Later he will learn about Woulded Knee and smallpox and Crazy Horse. Later he will learn about the cliff houses and the disappeared Anazazi. And he will learn that Native Americans are other people who live long ago or far away.

But he won't learn at school why Grandma works at K-Mark, even though she has a computer science degree. And he won't learn why his cousins' lives are so difficult on the reservation. And he won't learn why the stories he learns in school are his stories.

I thought it odd that John opened a dialogue with his son over a Playmobil Indian. After all, the pointy headdress and painted face have as much to do with thier lives as the plastic knight or cop.

But perhaps it was John's way of telling his son, "This is how people will think of you. Do you know what it really means to be Indian?"

Askii will have to deal with other's perceptions of what it means to be Indian for the rest of his life. Some of these attitudes will be vilifying, some will be flattering. But, ultimately, Askii will have to reconcile who he is against the Playmobil Indian and other fictions that define the Native American experience.

Note: Aditsan is a Navajo name that means "listener"
Askii is a Navajo name that means "boy"

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Roses in November

I am cutting the last roses of the season.

Frost has killed most of my roses. Yet, there are still a few buds, tightly furled. I don’t know how they survived the freeze.

But they are there, waiting for a warm day to blossom.

That day won’t come for a long time. I cut them because I know that they will not survive the coming snowstorm.

Flags line the street. And as I snip, I cannot help but note, that on this Veteran’s day, it is now 11am.

Last night, I saw a video of my father speaking about his experience in Vietnam. War weary, he described how he had to change into civilian clothes in the airport bathroom so that no one would know that he was a soldier.

This is how he was welcomed home for serving his country.

As I cut, I think about all those soldiers who bear wounds that we will never see.

And about the soldiers that didn’t come home.

All I can offer is my thanks, however meager.

And these November roses.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Bag Lady

I am walking across college campus and a blonde in a pageboy cap passes by me. She looks over her shoulder and says, “I like your purse. It’s really cute.” She accentuates the u in cute in a long drawl, like a proper Paris Hilton neophyte.

“Uh, thanks.” I reply.

She slows down a little. “Who makes it?”

You must understand. Slung across my shoulder is not a Louis Vutton. Or a Dooney and Burke. Or a Coach.

It’s a Walmart.

Specifically it’s a brown hobo purse bought two years ago. Notice that I said two YEARS ago, not two seasons ago. I think it’s leather, but I can’t be too sure. Imported, which means China.

On the clearance rack, even. Purchased for $5.

And since this is my only purse, it has obtained the “patina of a well cherished item”. This is catalogspeak for “dirt in the creases of the hide and little frayed edges appearing at the zipper fob.”

So I answer, “Walmart,” and search her face for a reaction.

If she is surprised, she hides it well.

“Like I said, it’s a cute purse.” She walks off.

I am perplexed. Did I just have an Ugly Betty moment? Will this girl, safely out of my line of sight, whip out her pink Razor phone (you know it has to be pink) and screech, “Oh my GAWD! I saw the most HIDEOUS purse today. It looked like a cow’s uterus! And I told the lady that had it that it was CUTE!”

Or was I the purveyor of a bit of fashion enlightenment? That form and function can marry in a serviceable bag, even if the purse has an identity crisis? For the Path of the Thrift is narrow, but many have come to embrace its Spartan ideals.

I do not know.

I do know that I’d rather have $300 in my $5 Walmart bag than $5 in a $300 Coach bag.

The End of Blogging

You must mark this day, October 23, 2006, as a history making day in blogging.

With my first post, as of right now, blogging is now passe.

So you can consign blogging to the dustbin of history, along with shizzle and bling.
Because if I'm doing it, you know it's been done to death.

However, if you are as unhip as I am, perhaps you'll enjoy these little mental musings.