Wednesday, November 30, 2005

NDN NEWZ: The Lost People of Nome, An Outrage of Abuse

Meetings discuss Nome's missing or dead
Law enforcement, Native leaders venture to villages to listen, mend fences and search for clues

Anchorage Daily News

SAVOONGA -- It was dark with blowing snow and waves battering the shore as Nome Police Chief Craig Moates stepped off the airplane on St. Lawrence Island on Thursday morning.

Two years ago, the 47-year-old Moates was living in Tennessee, where he'd spent his career as a small-city cop. Now, as police chief of the biggest city in this part of Alaska, he had flown 160 miles to an island in the middle of the Bering Sea to try to repair decades of mistrust between Nome police and the Siberian Yupik villagers of Savoonga.

By late morning, nearly two dozen snowmachines and four-wheelers were parked around the door of the village's city hall. Inside, Moates and U.S. Attorney Tim Burgess were ready to listen.

Forty people sat at folding tables more commonly used for bingo as Ada Niksik told how police had beaten up her brother when he went to Nome, once in 1998 and again in the spring of 1999.

"He told me cops in Nome did that to him," said Niksik, 57. "He didn't say who." She never went to authorities to report the beatings. She promised her brother she wouldn't, she said in an interview, because he didn't want to worry their elderly mother.

Then, in October 1999, her brother disappeared in Nome. Lancelot Immergan is now on a list of about 20 people, most of them Native villagers, missing or found dead under questionable circumstances in Nome since the 1960s.

The cases, long a concern in the villages, finally caught the official attention of Native organizations and state and federal law enforcement authorities earlier this year. The FBI has assigned serial-homicide profilers to the cases.

Most of the cases remain under Moates' jurisdiction. One big reason for his whirlwind tour of villages last week -- to Elim, Koyuk, Brevig Mission and Savoonga -- was to elicit new leads in those cases. The chief said one of his purposes is to sort out "urban legend from fact."

In the villages, Moates heard some pointed questions and comments that revealed a deep-rooted mistrust of Nome police. But he also was thanked repeatedly for reaching out to the villages, and a number of people opened up.

"He choked me, kicked me," said Joseph Akeya, 40, speaking softly with a toddler on his lap. It was 1988 when, as he recalled, an officer barged into the room at the Polaris Hotel in Nome where he was sleeping off a few drinks. The officer beat him up, he said, calling him a "drunk Eskimo."

Court records say the officer was called to the room about a fight.

"He threw me down, handcuffed, stepped on my neck real hard on his hard boots, brought me downstairs from the hotel. I was choking and couldn't breathe. On the way down, he opened the door and banged my face on the door. And my mom saw that because she was working for that hotel."

Akeya said he fought back.

"I went to court for that," he said. "I lost the case. I felt powerless and scared 'cause that cop threatened to kill me. He said it to my face. I was so scared I had to be with friends all the time. I had to run from police cars, knowing it might be him. ... I could have been one of the missing persons."

"Did you report this to anybody?" Burgess, the U.S. attorney, asked. Akeya said he didn't.

Burgess told the villagers that anyone with concerns about excessive force by city or state police should call the FBI. He gave them the number.

Moates said they should also call him -- a point he made at several meetings. The chief said, however, there probably was not much he could do about things that happened many years ago.

"I want to ensure everybody in the room -- and you can tell anybody that you talk to -- the members of the Nome Police Department are professional police officers, and you should be treated with professionalism. You should be treated with dignity. If you're not, then you need to let me know, because that's not going to be tolerated."


The meetings, organized by the regional nonprofit, Kawerak Inc., were polite. Villagers wanted to know if police had installed audio or video recording devices in their cruisers (the answer: no), if they patrolled alone in their vehicles (sometimes, with the force short-handed), and how far back their records go.

"I have a question. Do your records go back as far as the '40s and '50s?" asked a woman in Brevig holding a toddler. She pointed to an elder sitting nearby. "Her brother was missing the late '40s and another from Teller was missing in the '50s."

The police chief said his department's records probably don't go back much further than the mid-1970s.

Moates has found that memories are long on the Seward Peninsula -- especially when they involve allegations of police misconduct.

One such incident was recalled in an interview last week by John Jemewouk, who served as a Nome police officer in the mid-1970s. Jemewouk, who went on to serve as chairman of the Norton Sound Health Corp., recalled a night on duty with an officer who had come from the Lower 48.

The two officers pulled up behind a Native walking down the middle of a street late at night. The other officer got out and began pushing the citizen around. When the Native finally pushed back, the officer tried to enlist Jemewouk's support in charging him with assault on an officer. Jemewouk said he refused and the matter was dropped.

"The guy was doing nothing. He was minding his own business,"
Jemewouk recalled. Jemewouk later became involved in the 1987 search for his brother-in-law, who remains on the missing list, and said he was frustrated by the lack of police help.

Secondhand stories of alleged police misconduct came pouring out after a Nome officer, Matthew Owens, was charged in 2003 with murder in the death of a 19-year-old Unalakleet woman who had moved to Nome. His high-profile trial in Nome earlier this year ended in a hung jury. A second trial of Owens is now under way in Kotzebue.

Among the complaints was that police took nearly a month to follow up on reports from Native witnesses linking the victim's disappearance to a police car. State troopers eventually took over the investigation. Nome's police chief resigned after the arrest. Moates, who had worked his way up through the ranks to become deputy chief of the 100-member Franklin, Tenn., police department, answered an ad on the Internet and arrived in Nome 18 months ago.


As Owens' first trial wrapped up last February, Moates joined the panel at a public meeting on missing persons in Nome, where Natives complained that police had not adequately followed up on family members' cases. Strongly worded resolutions from Native organizations followed, citing "discriminatory harassment and excessive force" among other things.

One common complaint involved police supposedly driving drunks out of town and leaving them to walk home and sober up.

"My nephew who was driven way out of town will not even talk to me about it," said Delbert Pungowiyi at the Savoonga meeting. "He's traumatized about it." Pungowiyi said the bright floodlights at the Anvil Mountain Correctional Center, on the outskirts of town, had guided other people back to safety.

Even former Nome Mayor Leo Rasmussen said he'd heard such reports, though he said they were from several decades ago and only involved summer incidents.

Moates said he has investigated reports of past police misconduct but has been unable to substantiate any cases at this time.

Aside from trying to improve trust of police, Moates flew around the Seward Peninsula last week to deliver a cautionary message about safe and responsible behavior when villagers travel to Nome, the region's commercial hub.

Alcohol is a huge factor in crimes and accidents in Nome, which has busy late-night traffic through its bars. It is not uncommon in Nome to see people stumbling drunk on the street, in taxis, at the airport.

Moates told villagers that while it is not illegal to be drunk in public, state law requires police to take into custody those who cannot take care of themselves, like someone stumbling around on a freezing night without a coat or shoes. If a hotel room or a relative isn't an option, then jail is usually where the person lands.

"I wanted to bring that out because sometimes people may think we're picking on them and we're not," Moates said in Brevig. "We're mandated to do certain things by state law.

"If you come to Nome, I don't want you to drink," the chief said. "But if you come to Nome and you are going to drink, we are going to ask that you drink responsibly."

He asked that villagers not flash money around, know who they are hanging out with and buy their plane tickets and rooms in advance.

"We have a lot of people who come to town and they won't do the room thing, they won't get their round-trip ticket and they'll end up drinking up their money. And then we've got a situation where they've got no place to go."


In Nome, many officials and residents dispute the notion that local people don't try hard to keep visitors safe and search for missing persons. The town often goes all out, they said, with businesses letting employees off work to help with searches.

"You look until your heart just goes to pieces," Rasmussen said.

But volunteer fire chief Wes Perkins, a lifelong resident, said it can be wearing for police and rescue workers to answer repeated calls involving alcohol. However nice people can be when sober, he said, they are often relentlessly combative when drunk, even on medical calls.

"They've got a mouthful of booze and they're ready to tear the world in two," Perkins said. "Here we are volunteering to help them."

Melanie Edwards, Kawerak's executive vice president, returned with Moates and Burgess on Thursday to Savoonga, where she grew up. She told villagers at the city hall that more than 100 people, both Native and white, have volunteered to do late-night safety patrols during Permanent Fund season and the Iditarod.

"They don't like having this bad reputation that Nome is a dangerous place to be," she said.

Edwards took part in the safety patrols herself, saying later it gave her a new appreciation of the difficulties faced by local police.

"We need to start taking personal responsibility," she told the Savoonga gathering. "It really pained me when I was doing the safety patrol, when I would watch the bar break and I would see my own people coming out of those bars.

"We need to start changing what people consider is normal," she said. "Is it normal to see somebody stumbling down Front Street? (The police chief is) getting two to three missing person calls a week. I wonder how many of those have alcohol involved. I'm not trying to preach. I'm just saying we all have some responsibility."

I have a number of things to say about this.

First, I want to know why, if there have been missing and dead Natives under "suspicious circumstances" for decades, the FBI is only NOW getting involved? How many people must die before the government cares what happens in NDN country?

And then I read further, and see that they care now...because it's affecting the tourism trade. To say that I am disgusted is putting it mildly.

I am also disgusted by the many excuses the government officials in Nome have come up with for their inability to solve these cases. They don't have records from before 1970? Are you kidding me? And then they claim they don't have enough manpower...despite the many people who volunteer to search. And then there's the "we can't substantiate any claims of police misconduct." What kind of nonsense is THAT? You can't, or you haven't investigated? Is this another case of "missing records," or a case of the police not caring what happens to the Indians of Nome? And then there's the reports that it's taking the police a month or more to investigate. A MONTH? Would this be acceptable in ANY OTHER PLACE IN AMERICA? The cops are accused of beating man, of threatening a man...of being discriminatory and racist...of using excessive force on a man who then disappeared...and the police do NOTHING for a MONTH? Am I the only one hear who smells a conspiracy, a cover-up by the police in Nome?

Not to mention the reports of beatings, threats on the lives on Natives, and driving them out of town to walk home alone. The fact that the former Mayor claims, "Oh, it only happened in the summer," is REVOLTING. As if that made it somehow acceptable that the police were FORCING RESIDENTS OUT OF TOWN TO WALK HOME ALONE.

And I am also disgusted that the blame shifts so easily and carelessly to alcohol. Yes, alcohol is a big problem in NDN country. But nowhere else in NDN country are this many people turning up dead...or not turning up at all. The police whine about not wanting to spend so many "man hours" responding to "alcohol related calls," but I wonder how many really ARE alcohol-related...and how many they simply ASSUME are alcohol-related, as soon as they find out a Native is involved?

In addition...I don't blame the Natives in Nome for being hesitant to file reports of police misconduct and abuse. Fear of retaliation must be a very harsh reality to them, in a climate where cops beat and threaten men who disappear, and no investigation takes place for more than 30 days..and even then, they simply stay missing.

Two to three missing person calls A WEEK. And how many dead? I notice they fail to mention that in this article. I shudder to think what the number must be.

Do we have a serial killer targeting Natives in Nome?

And how many have to die, before the rest of America cares more about them than they do the tourists, the reputation of the town?

This article is why so many in the NDN community are disheartened. Let this happen anywhere else in America, and it would be on the news. It would be in all the major papers. But when it happens in NDN takes DECADES before anyone cares...and even then, they want to blame "drunk Indians" for the problem.

Two to three missing people a week.

Wake up, America. Your first people are dying.


Top 20 Geek Novels

While cruising the message boards recently, I came across this site:

Top 20 Geek Novels

So far, 132 people have voted for the best geek novels written in English since 1932, in spite of Survey Monkey's rubric saying free polls were limited to 100 responses. The top 20 is therefore as follows, with the numbers in brackets showing the number of votes.

1. The HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy -- Douglas Adams 85% (102)
2. Nineteen Eighty-Four -- George Orwell 79% (92)
3. Brave New World -- Aldous Huxley 69% (77)
4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? -- Philip Dick 64% (67)
5. Neuromancer -- William Gibson 59% (66)
6. Dune -- Frank Herbert 53% (54)
7. I, Robot -- Isaac Asimov 52% (54)
8. Foundation -- Isaac Asimov 47% (47)
9. The Colour of Magic -- Terry Pratchett 46% (46)
10. Microserfs -- Douglas Coupland 43% (44)
11. Snow Crash -- Neal Stephenson 37% (37)
12. Watchmen -- Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons 38% (37)
13. Cryptonomicon -- Neal Stephenson 36% (36)
14. Consider Phlebas -- Iain M Banks 34% (35)
15. Stranger in a Strange Land -- Robert Heinlein 33% (33)
16. The Man in the High Castle -- Philip K Dick 34% (32)
17. American Gods -- Neil Gaiman 31% (29)
18. The Diamond Age -- Neal Stephenson 27% (27)
19. The Illuminatus! Trilogy -- Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson 23% (21)
20. Trouble with Lichen - John Wyndham 21% (19)

My husband, a self-professed geek, has read most of them (#19, #6 & #1 rate among his favorite books of all time). While I am familiar with many, I have only actually read and enjoyed The Hitchhiker's Guide Trilogy. I guess I'm not a very good geek.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Which Icons Are For You? MEME

What Icons are for you?(Thank you for #1!! Please check out my other Memes!!) by ladyallie
Favourite Colour
Your Love icon is...
Your Sexy Icon is...
Your Animal Icon is...
Your Sad Icon is...
Your Random Icon is...
Your Happy Icon is...
Your Food Icon is...
Your Cartoon Icon is...
Your Angry Icon is...
Quiz created with MemeGen!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Slammed Moose Search For More Alcholic Fruit

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) — They rarely have problems with drunks or rowdy animals, but residents of a retirement home in southern Sweden had to deal with both: A pair of intoxicated moose invaded the premises.

The moose — a cow and her calf — had become drunk over the weekend by eating fermented apples they found outside the home in Sibbhult, said employee Anna Karlsson.

Police managed to scare them off once, but the tipsy mammals returned to get more of the tempting fruits. This time the moose were drunk and aggressive, forcing police to send for a hunter with a dog to make them leave.

Police did not pursue the culprits, but made sure all apples were picked up from the area, police chief Bengt Hallberg said. No one was hurt.

OK, I can't stop laughing at this. Those moose know how to PART-Y! Now I know why the moose from the opening credits of "Northern Exposure" was wandering around town...he needed a fix!

NDN NEWZ: Little Girl Found Dead Behind Funeral Home

Nick Coleman, Star Tribune
November 2, 2005

It was just before sunrise on a late October Sunday when Sidney Jade
Mahkuk was found on a gritty boulevard on Columbus Avenue in south
Minneapolis. She was on her side, her jacket covering her like a blanket. She loved animals. She loved spelling. She was 12 years old.

"I thought she was sleeping," says a 23-year-old man named Nick who
found her on the street. "I said, 'Hey, hey, wake up!" Then I shook her, and there was nothing. Her eyes were rolled back in her head. That's what I remember: Her face was so distressed. There was no question she had passed."

Her body was discovered behind a funeral home. In the other direction, a block away, was a hospital. She fell, or more likely was dumped, closer to the funeral home than the emergency room, a sixth-grader just seven blocks from home and a million miles from a chance at life. There were no signs of trauma and Minneapolis police are waiting for tests to tell whether she overdosed on drugs or alcohol. Investigators are trying to trace her last days and find out who she was with. They have labeled it a suspicious death.

A better label might be: An invisible life.

For if Sidney had been a white high school girl who disappeared on a
spring fling in the Caribbean, she'd be a household name and the mystery of what happened to her would be hyped on every cable channel. But she was an inner-city girl from a poor American Indian family, and when she disappeared and died, hardly anyone outside her little, besieged neighborhood noticed. Not the school where she enrolled in September but which took her name off the rolls when she didn't come back. Not her family, who thought she was staying with friends. Not the many institutions that are supposed to protect kids from the perils of a life unprotected. And not the media, which responded slowly to the unexplained death of a kid on the street.

If Sidney had lethal amounts of drugs or alcohol in her system, police will try to learn who gave it to her, police Capt. Rich Stanek said. "There may not have been a knife sticking out of her or a gunshot wound, but a crime has been committed," he said. "I doubt that this little girl had a heart attack or a stroke."

An older look and crowd
Sidney looked older than 12, her family says, and Stanek says she hung out with an older crowd, a troubled crowd. It took two days before she could be identified from a tattoo that an officer had noted earlier. When cops asked Sidney's mother, Glenda Askenette, to make a positive identification, she was too upset to view her daughter's body. Sidney's brother Zachary, 25, stepped in, almost blacking out when he saw her.

"I knew it was her, but I kept telling myself it wasn't," Zachary says. "My family is really angry and we want to know what happened to our sister. If she got murdered, we want someone to pay for it. It's hard for our family to take itall in. It seems that because she was a native girl from the Cities, no one cares too much."

Sidney was the second youngest of seven children. Last spring, she and her mother participated in a "strengthening families" program in which the youths vowed to become "strong young people with a great future" and to make "good decisions so we reach our goals."
Wonderful words, easier said than done.

Her father died of a heart attack a few years ago, on a street corner only blocks from where Sidney was found. One of her big brothers, Edison, 20, is serving a 62-year prison sentence for a gang-related double homicide last year.

He hopes that anyone who harmed his sister will end up in prison, too, "It's heartbreak and loss," he said by phone. "I'll miss her. That she had to go like that, so young, you know? I hope somebody goes to jail for it."

Grief is not excluded by prison bars. But some may look at a clouded
family history and find it easier to turn their backs on a dead 12-year-old. To turn away requires a willful ignorance of the crushing costs of poverty, racism and the crime that stalk the poor. But go ahead, if it makes you feel better.

Turn your back on Sidney Mahkuk.

She was used to it.

'Looking at the system'

"There are a lot of kids that just fall through the cracks," said Rich Wayman of Street-Works, a street-based outreach program for homeless youths. Adolescents and teens are particularly vulnerable, he said, because many child support services have been cut and older kids are considered old enough to run away from trouble. That's a tight-fisted budget tactic that ignores the fact that many kids run into trouble.

"This has us all looking at the system," said Tim Brown, Indian
education director for the Minneapolis public schools. Usually, a social service agency or a family asks for help with a child. In Sidney's case, no one rang any alarms. She showed up to register at Sanford Middle School, then vanished.

Until she was found on Columbus Avenue, before sunup.
"She was just a blip on the radar screen, never to appear again until she showed up this way," Brown said. "She just fell through the cracks. How did this come to be?"

Whether we are as interested in what happened to a girl in Minneapolis as on Aruba may tell us a lot about ourselves.
"This is not just another dead body," says the Police Department's
Stanek, who has a 12-year-old. "We're working hard on this. This girl fell through the cracks and was discarded, like a bag of trash."

Sidney would have turned 13 on Nov. 29. Her funeral was held last
Saturday, on the Menominee Indian Reservation in northeastern Wisconsin. It began with traditional ceremonies and a two-night wake, followed by a Catholic funeral and burial at St. Anthony's Church in Neopit, Wis. Elders said she had a restless spirit that was anxious to go back to the spirit world.
Comfort comes where you can find it.

During her wake, Sidney was given a traditional Indian name. A year
must pass before it can be revealed to the outside world.
Perhaps by then, the truth of what happened to Sidney Mahkuk -- and
what didn't happen for her -- will be revealed.

I'd like to thank my friend BravesHeart for posting this article on our "Natives Speak" message board. May justice be done for this child.


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Why Don't You Celebrate Thanksgiving? An Essay

***Once again, I am having blog trouble. For the third time, new posts keep appearing under an old one. As I result, I've had to delete and re-publish them in order to keep continuity. If anyone knows how to fix this problem, I'll be in your debt. And please scroll past this post: I've written three more since this. Thanks.

I post this on the message boards---and here on the ZPT---
every year. I've added a few things this
year,as well. Have a wonderful day---whether you celebrate
Thanksgiving or not.

A disclaimer: read the warning first. If you don't, I'm not responsible
if you get offended. Hell,
I'm not responsible if you get offended either way.....

Do not read this if you will be offended by a different point of view on the Thanksgiving holiday.
I am not hereto preach to anyone and have no desire to ruin anyone's concept of the holiday
(and the quotes at the end are intended to be humorous, nothing more).
I am posting this only because I received so manyrequests to do so,
and I am personally of the belief that knowledge hidden is knowledge wasted.
Thanks in advance.


Over the last few days, I have been asked this a dozen times or more.
It happens every year.
My reply that Iam Native American only seems to confuse some of the questioners. "Well, it's
your holiday, too," I hear quite often. My answer: it is not my holiday.
And here is why.

The traditional Thanksgiving story tells that the Pilgrims, after a long and hard winter, celebrated with a
feast and invited their Indian friends. A nice story, to be sure. But not the whole story. That story is a mixture of both truth and myth. What follows, is our truth (just a note: there is another version of a Thanksgiving which has nothing to do with Pilgrims. Click here for the story of the Pequot Tribe massacre
and the feasting that the Mass. Bay Colony declared to celebrate it).

First of all, one must understand that the Pilgrims were a splinter group of the Puritans, an extremist religious
sect. They viewed themselves as the "Chosen Elect" from Revelations. They saw themselves as fighting a Holy war against Satan, and anyone who disagreed with them was their enemy. This inculded their "friends," the Natives. In fact, in the 1623 Thanksgiving sermon, they gave thanks to God for the smallpox that had nearly wiped out all of the Wampanoag Indians. They were especially thankful that the men and children had died, or the "seeds" of their nation. Not a particularly nice way to treat peoples who helped them survive that first winter in the "New" World. For without the help of the Natives, the Pilgrims would have died. Insofar as the Pilgrims were concerned, they had "repaid" that kindness with the feast, and owed the Natives nothing more. The
Natives were still their Holy enemies, to be treated as such. In fact, the Pilgrims believed that they only had to
be kind to the Natives because they were, at that time, powerful; and only needed to continue being kind until the boatloads of settlers shifted the balance of power in the Pilgrims' favor. Anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of American history realizes that that is exactly what happened.

Which leads one to a question with an ironic answer: "Why did the Natives help the Pilgrims?" Because, in their religion, one must give hospitality to any who came to them with open hands, and their religion stressed charity to the helpless. In fact, it was the Natives who brought the vast majority of the food to that first Thanksgiving feast! The Pilgrims weren't "sharing their bounty." It was the other way around.

By the time the children of that first Thanksgiving reached adulthood, the Pilgrims and their reinforcements
began to systmatically commit genocide against the Native peoples in a war known as King Phillip's War.
Many Natives were also captured and sold into slavery for the profit of the Pilgrims whom they had saved
from starvation only years before. So successful was this slave trade, in fact, that the settlers began raiding Africa to bring slaves to the "New" World.

To add insult to injury, children in schools have for generations been prompted to "re-enact" that first feast
by donning gross misrepresentations of Native ceremonial clothing and speaking in broken English in order
to pretend be the "Indians" who are "thankful" to be invited to the feast! These "costumes" and broken English stereotypes are highly offensive to Native Americans, and many schools now are discontinuing such programs
as a result, or altering them into a more tolerant program.

Many Natives celebrate a "Day Of Mourning" on Thanksgiving Day, to mourn our ancestors who were killed
for their generosity (I am not one who does this, although I respect those who do).

So, to wrap it up: in our version of the first Thanksgiving, we helped the Pilgrims survive that first horrible
winter in the "New World." We even brought a great deal of food to a feast to celebrate. Once the feast
was over, we discovered that our "friends" saw us as demons to be eradicated from the land or sold into
slavery for their profit. Shiploads upon shiploads of the "white man" came to make good on the promise to commit genocide against us. Our religious beliefs prompted us to help them; theirs promted them to kill us.
The sad irony of the myth that the Pilgrims "escaped" England because of religious persecution does not
escape us (That story is not exactly true, either. Click here for a more accurate history of the Pilgrims.).

So I cannot, in good conscience, celebrate a holiday that in my mind is a lie. I cannot celebrate the
decimation of the Native American. I cannot celebrate people who, if they had had their way, would rather
I not exist at all.

To be fair, Thanksgiving has evolved into something far beyond what the Pilgrims celebrated. Now, it means a gathering of the family, and a chance to count one's blessings. I respect those who celebrate for those reasons, and wish them a happy holiday.

I wish our side of the story was taught in schools, rather than perpetuate the myths. I wish that Thanksgiving could be a time when Americans remember and honor the Native peoples who helped them survive and made this country possible. Perhaps someday, it will.

I want to thank everyone who showed interest in this topic. It brightens my day that
so many people wanted to hear this side of the tale. Thank you.
a quote from the movie, "Addams Family Values":

"Wait, we can not break bread with you. You have taken the land which is rightfully ours. Years from now my people will be forced to live in mobile homes on reservations. Your people will wear cardigans, and drink highballs. We will sell our bracelets by the road sides, and you will play golf, and eat hot h'ors d'ourves. My people will have pain and degradation. Your people will have stick shifts. The gods of my tribe have spoken. They said do not trust the pilgrims, especially Sarah Miller. And for all of these reasons I have decided to scalp you and burn your village to the ground."

And one from the television show, "King of the Hill":

Dale: "Do your people even celebrate Thanksgiving?"
John Red Corn: "We did...once."

And finally, one from a Wampanoag Tribal member in Massachusetts, from a speech given in 1970 at a ceremony marking the 350th anniversary of the Pilgrim's arrival:

"Today is a time of celebrating for you -- a time of looking back to the first days of white people in America. But it is not a time of celebrating for me. It is with a heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my People. When the Pilgrims arrived, we, the Wampanoags, welcomed them with open arms, little knowing that it was the beginning of the end. That before 50 years were to pass, the Wampanoag would no longer be a tribe. That we and other Indians living near the settlers would be killed by their guns or dead from diseases that we caught from them. Let us always remember, the Indian is and was just as human as the white people. Although our way of life is almost gone, we, the Wampanoags, still walk the lands of Massachusetts. What has happened cannot be changed. But today we work toward a better America, a more Indian America where people and nature once again are important."

Have a blessed day.

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Reform Jews Vote Against War In Iraq

My husband is a Reform Jew, and so I was quite interested---and thrilled---by the following:

Union for Reform Judaism, Representing 1.5 Million People,
Votes Against War in Iraq;
Resolution Calls for Exit Strategy and Specific Goals for Troop Withdrawal

HOUSTON, Nov.18, 2005—Representatives of the 1.5 million Reform Jews in North America voted almost unanimously to call on the Bush Administration to immediately provide a clear exit strategy for the War in Iraq, with some troop withdrawal to begin after the December 15 elections.

More than 2,000 voting delegates from more than 500 congregations in all 50 states participated in the session at the Union for Reform Judaism’s Biennial Convention, meeting in Houston Nov. 16-20.

“The sentiment was clear and overwhelming,” said Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President of the Union. “American Jews, and all Americans, are profoundly critical of this was and they want this Administration to tell us how and when it will bring our troops home.”

The Union, which represents the largest branch of Judaism in North America, has a long history of opposition to war and was the first religious organization to oppose the War in Vietnam. In 1965, the Union’s General Assembly called for a cease-fire in Vietnam; four years later, the General assembly demanded an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of all troops no later than December 31, 1970.

While other mainstream religious organizations have expressed opposition to the war, no other Jewish organization has taken this step. The Union is the largest grassroots Jewish body in the United States, and this decision therefore has special significance.

In addition to the development of an exit strategy, the resolution calls on the Bush administration to provide more transparency regarding all aspects of the war and calls for a bi-partisan, independent commission to determine the lessons learned from this war’s failures. It also condemns “in the strongest possible terms,” violations of the Geneva Conventions, including torture and abuse of prisoners and detainees in US custody, and condemns those who would use opposition to the war as a justification for anti-Israel efforts.

Dr. Michael Rankin, who served in Vietnam and has treated those wounded in every subsequent war as a Navy physician, said that 40 years ago he asked himself, “Why in God’s name are we here?”

“There are just wars and unjust wars,” Rankin said. “This is not a just war."

The full text of the resolution is available at

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Nutbag Tom Cruise Buys Sonogram Machine

For those who enjoy my periodic bashing of Nutbag Extraordinaire, Tom Cruise, I offer up the following:

Cruise buys sonogram machine for Holmes

Tom Cruise has made an unusual purchase for his fiancee Katie Holmes — one that will let them see the development of their baby. "I bought a sonogram machine," Cruise says on ABC's "Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2005," to air Nov. 29 (10 p.m. EST).

Excerpts of the interview are published in the latest issue of People magazine, on newsstands tomorrow.

The 43-year-old actor said the couple will do their own sonograms, which show fetus development with ultrasound waves. Cruise said he will donate the machine to a hospital after the baby is born. Sonogram machines range in cost from $25,000 to $200,000.

Holmes' pregnancy was announced in early October. The couple, who have been dating since April, became engaged in June.

"We are gonna get married next summer or early fall," Cruise told Walters. "We don't have a date set yet."

Cruise said he didn't know if the baby is a boy or a girl. He has two children, Connor, 10, and Isabella, 12, from his marriage to Nicole Kidman. It will be the first child for 26-year-old Holmes.

So let me get this straight...he claims his religion prohibits anti-depressants, but allows its members to do their own home sonograms? Anyone else hear a cuckoo clock going off?

And for those who REALLY love to make fun of ol' Jumpin' Tom, I give you this link. It's a satire, but's so realistic, so utterly believable that the rampaging idiot would do such a thing...that when it was posted on one of my message boards, most people thought it was a real news story:

Tom Cruise Takes Out Pregnancy Restraining Order Against Brooke Sheilds


NDN NEWZ: Day of Mourning Message from Leonard Peltier

Although I do not celebrate the Day of Mourning, I respect those who do. The following is a message from imprisoned NA activist Leonard Peltier:

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Day Of Mourning Message From Leonard Peltier

Aho my relations,

I again write to you on this day of mourning as I approach the end of 3O years of deprived freedom. I am here to appease a vengeful government that has come onto our lands, committed genocide and continues to rob us of our history and culture while giving away our land, murdering, and torturing our people. I am held here because of the corruption of two countries (Canada and the United States) which illegally extradited me, and which led to an illegal conviction and imprisonment. Despite the incessant claims of this being a country of laws and an example to the world of justice, freedom, and democracy, it is obvious that this Government protects whoever it wants, and imprisons and kills whoever it wants.

My imprisonment is one key example of what lengths this Government will go to in order to achieve its goal of repressing indigenous dissent. The United States Government continually seeks to imprison all indigenous peoples on our land. The US Government has been increasing its oppressive and tyrannical tactics. All peoples rights are being eroded and fears are heightened as a tool to keep the war machine alive and increase the destruction of Mother Earth. Innocent people are dying, not only in this country, but all over the world in the name of "democracy and freedom."

My elders before me said, and I tell you now, "The earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth." And I want to say, this earth belongs to Tunkashala, the creator of all that is. There has already started a time of great cleansing upon the earth and this Government has begun to crumble. The fabric of the constitution is soiled and torn.

We as human beings can give thanks or mourn, but if all that happens is no more than lip service, very little will happen to correct things. In the traditions of my native people we barely had words of thanks. It was something that was shown by action of giving or doing. We all breath the same air, are made of the same earth, and drink of the same water. We are all more relative than we sometimes acknowledge. We need to do more than just what is right. We need to join together and right what is wrong.

It is time we all unite to stop the madness threatening the whole planet, and stand together with those who go beyond words and deliver on the promise of freedom and justice, and against those guided by greed, arrogance, and prejudice. Stay true, work in unity, confront the traitors, don’t be afraid, and don’t let our struggle die. And finally, I mourn the loss of so many of our relatives over the past year and especially my brother Steve Robideau. I appreciate you each and every one. Now, please organize and set out to correct the wrongs so that this day of mourning will become a relic of the past.

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,
Leonard Peltier Mitakuye Oyasin

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Vindication! More on My Continuing Search for Spooky Smokin'

I am vindicated! Somewhat.

I've posted before about my search for a clip from the original ADDAMS FAMILY television series, in which Morticia and Gomez smoke from a hookah. For years, I told people about this, in the hopes that someone might remember more details about the particular episode...only to find that no one believed it ever happened!

Then, a few days ago, while watching a program on TV Land, there is was...the clip! The hookah! Jonathan and I saw it in all its glory.

A Google image search failed to turn up a picture of the infamous Addams Family Hookah. A regular Google search turned op these two links, however, proving that I'm not the only person to remember the elder spooksters puffin' out. The first:

FCC Slaps Anti-Drug TV Shows

"For all those who think what the networks have done is anything recent, I have a news flash: it's been going on for a lot longer than you think.
For example: It's been many years since the old 1960's TV series "The Addams Family" has been on the tube. I am old enough to remember when it was first on (yes, children, I am an old fart; I've earned my scars and wrinkles, and wear them proudly).

In several of the episodes, the two main characters played by John Astin and Carolynn Jones, were seen smoking a big Turkish hookah. In one episode where this happens, Astin's character disgustedly throws down the hookah hose and irritably complains that 'nothing seems to calm my nerves' after having witnessed something severely aggravating to them.

He then gets up to light a cigar.

You don't have to be Einstein to figure out that what they were smoking in the hookah probably wasn't tobacco. Else, why the cigar?

But in later re-runs of the syndicated show, these scenes are edited out. This none-too-subtle redacting began back in the early 1980's and these episodes are rarely ever shown in their entirety, which causes no end of frustration as it severely affects what little plot the shows had."

Well, that explains why so many people hadn't seen the Addams' hookah scene: it was edited out for fear that someone might think Gomez and Morticia were hopheads. Which should go without saying, anyway....

Now, for the second link:

Female Celebrity Smoking List: Reviews - "Addams Family, The" (1964)

"Smoking a Hookah pipe with Jon Astin towards the end of one episode"

Well, now I know the scene is at the end of an episode...and I also know that I'm unlikely to see it in syndication, as the offending scene was probably edited out. In addition, I'm not going to be able to find it on DVD, because to the best of my knowledge, the two seasons of THE ADDAMS FAMILY are not yet on DVD in their entirety, and even if they are...will they be the originals, and unedited?

My search continues: for the name of the episode, for a photograph of Morticia and Gomez sparkin' up, and for the episode itself on DVD. Keep your fingers crossed!

I get obsessed over the strangest things.....

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Best & Worst TV Couples...According to Zen Angel

I was up the other night in pain and caught a television program about television of the "best" on their list was Gomez and Morticia of "Addams Family" fame. And one of the clips they ran was of Gomez and Morticia smoking from a bong. Eureka! I've been telling people for years that I vividly remember the elder Addamses partaking in a little bonging...but no one believed me. Now, if I can only find a picture of it, I would be vindicated!

And so, on that note, I bring you Zen Angel's Top Ten TV Couples. These are from my preferences only...not what are "the best" (so no Lucy and Ricky here), just the ten I personally love. On with the list, in no particular order:

1) Gomez & Morticia, THE ADDAMS FAMILY.
Is it strange that when I was a child, I wanted to be Morticia? And have a husband who called me "Cara Mia" and went wild when I spoke French? They may have been altogether ooky, but they were also a great romantic couple. Mon sauvage!

Deep down, most women want a man who would fight & die for their honor. Worf was the man, K'Ehleyr's was the honor. Love, Klingon style.

3) Cliff & Clair, THE COSBY SHOW
The older I get, the more I appreciate the kind of love Cliff and Clair represent: two people who love one another more and more as the years go by...and never lose that spark of romance that brought them together in the first place.

4) Eric & Donna, THAT 70's SHOW
I think Eric and Donna represent that wonderful, high school love that sometimes works out...and sometimes doesn't. Small-town boy and the girl next door...a classic combination. Add a "secret circle," and it's a classic 70's combination.

5) Elaine & Puddy, SEINFELD
I was really hoping that they would get married in the final episode---and of course, call the wedding on and off a dozen times before they did. A perfect example of a couple who are made for each other---but aren't ready to admit it just yet.

6) Nancy & John Red Corn, KING OF THE HILL
Some might question my inclusion of Nancy and John Red Corn---after all, Nancy is married to the clueless cuckold Dale, and has had New Age healer John Red Corn over to "cure her migraines" for years on the side. In the end, Nancy gave up the adulteress' life to devote herself fully to her marriage...but KOTH fans like me miss the days when John Red Corn would fall out of Nancy's bedroom window just as Dale was coming home.

7) Thurston & Lovey, GILLIGAN'S ISLAND
Even when stranded on a desert island, Thurston and Lovey remain in love and completely devoted to one another.

8) Leon & Scott, ROSANNE
ROSANNE was never afraid to face controversial issues, and was years ahead of its time with the characters of Leon and Scott. Not only did this loving gay couple get married, they even adopted a child together. You go, guys!

9) Kevin & Winnie, THE WONDER YEARS
Puppy love was never so sweet. I think we can all relate to having a schoolyard crush, and adoring someone so completely...and that's what made this couple work.

10) Mimi & Steve, THE DREW CAREY SHOW
Drag queen meets woman who looks like a drag queen...they fall in love, get married and have a baby named King Gus. It's a fairytale romance. Twisted, but fantastic.

And as long as we're on the topic, let's go the other way and look at my picks for Ten Worst TV Couples:

1) Harry & Christine, NIGHT COURT
Let me get this straight: they love each other, but can't be with each other because she's a defense attorney in his court, and she can't transfer (or accept a promotion to judge) because it will ruin what they don't have. Huh?

Sorry, but a woman marrying her rapist isn't romantic. It's creepy. Just how high was America when they all tuned in to watch this wedding because it was SO SWEET?

3) George & Susan, SEINFELD
She's way too good for him, but HE'S the one balking on marriage? Oh, and she's rich, too, so he could be unemployed and it wouldn't matter? Come on. In real life, George would have married Susan on date two.

4) Mulder & Scully, THE X FILES
I stopped watching after they became romantically involved. Why? Because to me, it ruined the entire premise of the show: two FBI agents, one who believes and one who is a cynic, investigate strange, unusual and top-secret cases. THAT premise is exciting, different, interesting. Two FBI agents, one who believes and one who now sorta believes because she's in love with him and is ignoring the porn collection in his dresser draw while they sometimes chase aliens together....that premise is boring, stale and a little dopey.

5) Jackie & Hyde, THAT 70's SHOW
In the first few seasons of T7S, Hyde hated Jackie. And the feeling was mutual. The two had nothing in common: he's a cynical burner, orphaned by his parents and believing in every conspiracy theory about the government ever written. She's the spoiled rich girl who gleefully plans to get by life on her good looks. He loves Zeppelin, "special brownies" and catfights. She loves unicorns, Donnie Osmond and pretending to be a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader at the mall. When they got together, he got less abrasive and she got less mouthy. Neither was funny, and the entire relationship was unbelievable from start to finish.

6) Abby & Carter, E.R.
Slightly dorky rich boy with a heart of gold meets whiny divorcee obsessed with her bipolar mom and bipolar brother (who once showed up to ruin Gamma's funeral). The entire relationship played out more like a trip to a therapist's office than a passionate affair: Abby whining endlessly to a solemn, nodding Carter. She rarely even called him by his first name, and responded to his marriage proposal with "You're crazy." Cupid missed his mark here.

7) Joanie & Chachi, JOANIE LOVES CHACHI
It was cute as puppy love...but after the wedding? And on their own show? It was just kind of...pathetic.

8) Brigitte Neilson & Flavor Flav, THE SURREAL LIFE/STRANGE LOVE
It got to the point where if I had to hear that old slag yell "Foofi Foofi!" one more time, I was going to have to go Van Gogh and cut my ears off.

This show unabashedly ushered in an era of hit sitcoms in which the wife somehow didn't notice her husband was an absolute moron until after the wedding...and is intent on making him pay for her shortsightedness. Jill constantly belittles her husband, laughs as her friends call him a "moron" and rarely watches his tv show. Not to mention the fact that she openly hates everything he loves and to top it off, she spends untold hours attempting to make him like the things she loves (ballet, opera, calling a plumber) and getting angry with him when it fails. Not to say that this man is a prize...he's always blowing himself and parts of the house up, he's dumb as a brick and lies more often than an elected official. How they manage to stay married is a mystery to me. Why they manage to stay married is an even bigger mystery. Someone call Matlock...

You just had to feel sorry for mild-mannered, hard-working, sweet ol' Nels Olsen...married to a loud-mouthed, bigotted, overbearing, materialistic shrew like Harriet.

And those are my lists, the 10 Best and the 10 Worst. Agree/Disagree?

Still want more?

Famous Couples: Movies & TV Quiz

Mister Poll: Who are the best television couples?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Nutbag Parents & Owner Fight Over "Please Behave" Sign

This has been all over the news and the message boards, and so I'm adding my two cents. Here's the article, with my comments in red:

CHICAGO (Nov. 8) - Bridget Dehl shushed her 21-month-old son, Gavin, then clapped a hand over his mouth to squelch his tiny screams amid the Sunday brunch bustle. When Gavin kept yelping "yeah, yeah, yeah," Ms. Dehl whisked him from his highchair and out the door.

Right past the sign warning the cafe's customers that "children of all ages have to behave and use their indoor voices when coming to A Taste of Heaven," and right into a nasty spat roiling the stroller set in Chicago's changing Andersonville neighborhood.

The owner of A Taste of Heaven, Dan McCauley, said he posted the sign - at child level, with playful handprints - in the hope of quieting his tin-ceilinged cafe, where toddlers have been known to sprawl between tables and hurl themselves at display cases for sport. I think this is a good idea on Mr. McCauley's part...although he could have worded the sign better. It's a bit...antagonistic, as it stands. I think we can all agree that it's annoying to hear children scream and fuss while you're trying to eat your dinner. And I shudder to think how many injuries are caused each year (to children and to servers) by children running around in restaurants, or "sprawling between tables"---or "hurling themselves at display cases." Now, my kids have never done this, and I've got to wonder...who does let their kids do that? Just fling themselves at display cases for fun? Yikes, buy a deck of Uno cards if your kids need a lesson in what's fun.

But many neighborhood mothers took umbrage at the implied criticism of how they handle their children. Umm...I don't think it was criticism. It was a reminder to kids---who, let's face it, sometimes do need to be reminded---that a restaurant is not a playground. If it doesn't apply to your kids, then ignore it. Soon, whispers of a boycott passed among the playgroups in this North Side neighborhood, once an outpost of avant-garde artists and hip gay couples but now a hot real estate market for young professional families shunning the suburbs. I don't see what good a boycott will do. If this cafe is the kind of establishment that really wants to court people without kids, or people with kids who DO behave...then the parents of kids who can't behave refusing to come to the restaurant really just gives the owner what he wants, doesn't it? I mean, who thought up this boycott idea? Did they not think this through? And really, why waste the effort? Why not spend that time, oh, I don't know...teaching your kids to behave in restaurants so the sign isn't needed???

"I love people who don't have children who tell you how to parent," said Alison Miller, 35, a psychologist, corporate coach and mother of two. "I'd love for him to be responsible for three children for the next year and see if he can control the volume of their voices every minute of the day." No one is asking you to "control their volume every minute of the day." They are asking you to teach your kids to not scream when they are inside a restaurant. Honestly, is it that big a chore? I have three kids, and I somehow have managed it. I'm not saying that my kids have never thrown a fit in a restaurant or store...but you know what we did? WE LEFT. We were not going to allow them to eat in the restaurant if they could not "control their voices" in the restaurant. I'm beginning to wonder if that solution is beyond some of these moms.

Mr. McCauley, 44, said the protesting parents were "former cheerleaders and beauty queens" who "have a very strong sense of entitlement." OK, I was on this guy's side until this. He's acting just as childish now as the kids he's trying to "educate." Is name-calling really necessary here? They don't agree with your sign. No matter what you do in business, you're going to have to deal with complaints...and a businessman who responds to customer complaints (however frivolous they might be) with potshots and armchair psychology is not the kind of person I would want to do business with...and I doubt many others would, either. It's just not professional, and it makes me wonder how he responds to more legitimate complaints. It also makes me wonder why he didn't simply attempt to re-word the sign, to make it more palatable to ALL his customers. He didn't seem willing to make an effort to address the complaints of an apparently large number of patrons...and that isn't good business at all. In an open letter he handed out at the bakery, he warned of an "epidemic" of antisocial behavior. OK, now he's just being ridiculous. Kids have been misbehaving since Adam and Eve had to first master parenting. Crying, tantrums and naughtiness are all part of the package. Now, a parent who doesn't teach a child proper manners and behavior and/or refuses to remove a child who is having a meltdown is going to have problems with that child and with the general public---but that doesn't make the child antisocial by any means. I think my previous statement about "armchair psychologists" may be right on the money.

"Part of parenting skills is teaching kids they behave differently in a restaurant than they do on the playground," Mr. McCauley said in an interview. I agree with him there. He's absolutely right. "If you send out positive energy, positive energy returns to you. If you send out energy that says I'm the only one that matters, it's going to be a pretty chaotic world." Oh, my---someone either spends a lot of time playing hacky sack or spent a lot of time in Dr. Leary's experiments in college. Kids don't understand "sending out positive energy." Has this guy ever had children...or even spent much time with them? I am beginning to wonder.

And so simmers another skirmish between the childless and the child-centered, a culture clash increasingly common in restaurants and other public spaces as a new generation of busy, older, well-off parents ferry little ones with them.

An online petition urging child-free sections in North Carolina restaurants drew hundreds of signers, including Janelle Funk, who wrote, "Whenever a hostess asks me 'smoking or non-smoking?' I respond, 'No kids!' " I don't see a problem with this, although in many states there already IS a "no kids" section---the bar. Here in Oregon, many nice restaurants have a seperate room or cocktail lounge, and it's strictly no minors allowed.

At Mendo Bistro in Fort Bragg, Calif., the owners declare "Well-behaved children and parents welcome" to try to stop unmonitored youngsters from tap-dancing on the 100-year-old wood floors. I think that sign is worded a bit better than the one above. More diplomatic, you might say...and likely to make parents and kids smile, rather than feel unwelcome. And were I the owners, I would not balk at placing a sign calling attention to the beautiful, century-old floors...and asking everyone to be mindful of them.

Menus at Zumbro Cafe in Minneapolis say: "We love children, especially when they're tucked into chairs and behaving," Once again, this could have been worded so much better. I think many of these owners should take notice of how the Mendo Bistro has worded their sign. Remember Mary Poppins..."a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down." which Barbara Daenzer said she read as an invitation to cease her weekly breakfast visits after her son was born.

Even at the Full Moon in Cambridge, Mass., a cafe created for families, with a train table, a dollhouse and a plastic kitchen in a carpeted play area, there are rules about inside voices and a "No lifeguard on duty" sign to remind parents to take responsibility. Now, that sign is inviting, diplomatic and even clever.

"You run the risk when you start monitoring behavior," said the Full Moon's owner, Sarah Wheaton. "You can say no cellphones to people, but you can't say your father speaks too loudly, he has to keep his voice down. And you can't really say your toddler is too loud when she's eating." Now, the cell phones thing is a big pet peeve to me. There is nothing worse than trying to eat a meal while some idiot is blathering to her friends about the mediocre sex she had the night before, and does her friend think it might be PMS to blame? Or a man loudly re-capping last night's big game. And these are, invariably, adults who absolutely should know better.

Here in Chicago, parents have denounced Toast, a popular Lincoln Park breakfast spot, as unwelcoming since a note about using inside voices appeared on the menu six months ago. The owner of John's Place, which resembles a kindergarten class at recess in early evening, established a separate "family friendly" room a year ago, only to face parental threats of lawsuits. Wow. I can't imagine wanting to sue someone for that. If anything, I would be grateful for it. A "family friendly room" sounds more like catering to families than excluding them!

Many of the Andersonville mothers who are boycotting Mr. McCauley's bakery also skip story time at Women and Children First, a feminist bookstore, because of the rules: children can be kicked out for standing, talking or sipping drinks. When a retail clerk at the bookstore asked a woman to stop breast-feeding last spring, "the neighborhood set him straight real fast," said Mary Ann Smith, the area's alderwoman. WOW. This one really, truly shocks me. Now, I can understand not wanting children to have beverages in a book store. That makes complete sense. But for a place called "Women and CHILDREN First," a FEMINIST bookstore, to be hostile to a breastfeeding mom? That's outrageous to me...not to mention, illegal. And come on...if you want a smaller child to be quiet, nursing is a very good way to ensure that. I know many times my little ones have been fussy in public because they were hungry, or tired, or whatnot--and calmed themselves down quite quickly at the breast. You would expect a WOMEN'S store to know this!

After a dozen years at one site, Mr. McCauley moved A Taste of Heaven six blocks away in May 2004, to a busy corner on Clark Street. But there, he said, teachers and writers seeking afternoon refuge were drowned out not just by children running amok but also by oblivious cellphone chatterers. I wonder...did he put up a sign for the annoying cellphone addicts, too? Just curious.

Children were climbing the cafe's poles. A couple were blithely reading the newspaper while their daughter lay on the floor blocking the line for coffee. Who are these parents, who let kids do this? Do they not realize the risk in allowing kids to climb poles, not to mention lying in the path of hot coffee? Do they just not care, or are they really that stupid? When the family whose children were running across the room to throw themselves against the display cases left after his admonishment, Mr. McCauley recalled, the restaurant erupted in applause.

So he put up the sign. Then things really got ugly.

"The looks I would get when I went in there made me so nervous that I would try to buy the food as fast as I could and get out," said Laura Brauer, 40, who has stopped visiting A Taste of Heaven with her two children. "I think that the mothers who allow their kids to run around and scream, that's wrong, but kids scream and there is nothing you can do about it. What are we supposed to do, not enjoy ourselves at a cafe?" OK, I was with Ms. Brauer at first...I would not want to patronize an establishment that made me feel uncomfortable every time I went in, and it does sound as if maybe the sign---and the owner's attitude---have created something of a hostile environment there for those with children. But she lost me after that. "Kids scream and there's nothing you can do about it"? Has she never heard the word "discipline" in all her life? How about the concept of just removing the child? You know, the whole "you are not allowed to behave like this in public, and we will not be coming back until you do learn how to behave"? And yes, if your kids cannot behave in a cafe...then YOU DO NOT GO THERE WITH THEM UNTIL THEY DO. You can still enjoy the cafe, of course...when your kids are not with you. Or when they do, finally, learn not to scream while there.

Ms. Miller said that one day when her son, then 4 months old, was fussing, a staff member rolled her eyes and announced for all to hear, "We've got a screamer!" I think I was dead-on about the hostile environment thing. This sort of rudeness is UNACCEPTABLE in a server. I say this, as someone who used to be a server and someone who used to be a manager. I would fire someone on the spot for treating a customer like that. In a heartbeat. I also think there is a world of difference between the kids who were old enough to hurl themselves against display cases, and a four month old infant. The former should know how to behave. The latter is a newborn. You cannot simply put up a sign and expect them to be able to follow it. For all we know, Ms. Miller might have been about to nurse the child, and the fussing would never have escalated to screaming. Or she may have needed to take the child for a diaper change. In any event, it's not a matter of discipline with a tiny baby. Babies will fuss, even for the best parents. That's how they communicate. Now, if a baby is screaming, and cannot be consoled with nursing/bottle or diaper change, then the parents should leave. Not only because the baby's fussing is bothering other customers, but because the baby is clearly unhappy and probably needs to be at home. Is this rocket science, that so few are getting it?

Kim Cavitt recalled having coffee and a cookie one afternoon with her boisterous 2-year-old when "someone came over and said you just need to keep her quiet or you need to leave." Once again, rude. I find it a bit ironic that some of these adults are up in arms about the lack of manners and good behavior in the children, when they themselves are behaving with less than sterling etiquette. Although I wish they would have specified whether or not the "someone" was a staff member or another customer...and just what Ms. Cavitt considers to be "boisterous."

"We left, and we haven't been back since," Ms. Cavitt said. "You go to a coffee shop or a bakery for a rest, to relax, and that you would have to worry the whole time about your child doing something that children do - really what they're saying is they don't welcome children, they want the child to behave like an adult." No..they are saying they want the child to behave, period. Some of these mothers are acting like that is an absolute impossibility, something completely out of reach for any child...and that just isn't so. And once again I am struck by the irony: Ms. Cavitt insisting that the coffee shop is for "rest and relaxation," but doesn't seem to "get" that if her child is screaming and misbehaving, there can be no rest and relaxation for the other patrons.

Why suffer such scorn, the mothers said, when clerks at the Swedish Bakery, a neighborhood institution, offer children - calm or crying - free cookies? A good way to handle the situation, and a good way to promote the bakery's cookies. Kills two birds with one stone. THIS is good business at work. Why confront such criticism when the recently opened Sweet Occasions, a five-minute walk down Clark Street, designed the restroom aisle to accommodate double strollers and offers a child-size ice cream cone for $1.50? (At A Taste of Heaven, the smallest is $3.75.) To that I say: if there are cafes ready and willing to accomodate and even welcome parents with small kids, why would the parents bother with a place that is clearly wanting to be more adult-oriented? Go to Sweet Occasions, and let them have the money A Taste of Heaven is losing. Why bother with a boycott? Just take your business to someone who will appreciate it.

"It's his business; he has the right to put whatever sign he wants on the door," Ms. Miller said. "And people have the right to respond to that sign however they want." I am beginning to suspect that the kids aren't the only ones with behavioral issues here---the owners, the parents, the staff---there's plenty of childishness and a good "sense of entitlement" to go around.

Mr. McCauley said he had received kudos from several restaurant owners in the area, though none had followed his lead. He has certainly lost customers because of the sign, but some parents say the offense is outweighed by their addiction to the scones, and others embrace the effort at etiquette. "offense is outweighed by their addiction to the scones"? Get a life, people. Seriously.

"The litmus test for me is if they have highchairs or not," said Ms. Dehl, the woman who scooped her screaming son from his seat during brunch, as she waited out his restlessness on a sidewalk bench. FINALLY! A parent who not only understands taking her business to child-friendly restaurants, but understands REMOVING her child if he can't behave there! Hallelujah! "The fact that they had one highchair, and the fact that he's the only child in the restaurant is an indication that it's an adult place, and if he's going to do his toddler thing, we should take him out and let him run around." My faith in mankind is (somewhat) restored!

Mr. McCauley said he would rather go out of business than back down. Stubborn, and would rather go under--and put his staff out of work during a recession---that try to act like an adult businessman and find a good solution that will work for everyone. I give him maybe a year, two tops...before he's wearing a paper cap and asking people if they "want fries with that." He likens this one small step toward good manners to his personal effort to decrease pollution by hiring only people who live close enough to walk to work. That, at least, I can respect.

"I can't change the situation in Iraq, I can't change the situation in New Orleans," he said. "But I can change this little corner of the world." Oh, for crying out loud. Forget "sense of entitlement." Talk about an overactive sense of self-importance!

In closing:

To Mr. McCauley: Get a clue. If you want to own a restaurant and actually turn a profit, you're going to have to learn a few things: 1) Noise is unavoidable. Kids are going to be fussy, babies will cry, people will talk loudly and cell phones will ring. If you want quiet, buy a library. 2) Offending a huge customer base---such as parents, for example---is not the best way to make money. 3) The customer is always right. If you get even just one customer complaint, take it seriously. Even the people who agree with you are going to have less confidence in you as a businessperson if you are completely deaf to customer complaints, and completely unwilling to find compromise so that your customers know they are number one with you. Your utter refusal to back down in the light of not only numerous complaints, but a boycott, proves that you, sir, are number one...not the customer. And even the customers who are applauding you now have to wonder why they themselves should patronize a business that puts the owner owner who has no problem insulting his patrons publically if they dare disagree with his policies. And most importantly: 4) It's not the message, it's the tone. The message, in and of itself, is a good one: please keep your kids from destroying property and eardrums while in a restaurant. It's sad that some parents need to be told this, but addressing the problem is not a bad idea. HOWEVER, the way you worded it leaves a bit to be desired. I hope you read the article you were interviewed for, and take note of how other establishments have worded their signs. A little humor and a lot of diplomacy would not only have possibly avoided the boycott and bad blood, but made your customers---ALL of them---feel welcome. If you care more about "changing your part of the world," if your agenda here is more important that making an inviting, welcoming environment for all your patrons...then maybe owning a restaurant is not for you.
To the moms who are boycotting: Get a life. Children screaming and hurling themselves at display cases is not something out of your control. Discipline them. Teach them how to behave in public, or don't take them out in public. And if you don't feel your children are welcome at some restaurants, simply save your money and spend them at restaurants that not only don't mind your family's patronage, but actually cater to it. Walk the five blocks...and if you are so "offended" by the sign, but too "addicted" to the scones to stop giving Mr. McCauley your need help. Maybe a 12-step program: Assholes Anonymous. Because if you actually ARE offended, you aren't going to give the jackass money even if his scones were made of solid gold and sang show tunes. If you can still go and buy the damned scones, you weren't really offended. You were miffed, and you got over it. So get over it already.
And to the "Women and Children First" bookstore: Get a clue and a life. You might have some reading materials handy to help. If not, I suggest Barnes & Noble. You can even breastfeed there. ;-)


Monday, November 14, 2005

Weird eBay: God Warrior!

If you missed last week's "Trading Spouses," well, you missed a doozy of a show. If you're unfamiliar with the premise, the idea is that two moms trade homes & families for a week. They usually switch you with as opposite of a family as they can muster up.

Last week, the switch was between Jeanne, a hypnotherapist and new-age afficionado, with Maragaret, who can best be described as an extreme, EXTREME religious nut. At the end of the show, Margaret had a meltdown of, well, Biblical proportions.

Which brings me to my latest "Weird eBay" find:

The Margaret God Warrior Bobblehead

Scroll down on this one folks, and you can hear Margaret in all her God Warrior nuttiness. Not only is the item hilarious, the page is ingenious.


Hurtful Things

(Note from Zen Angel: I was having difficulty with this kept changing dates on me, and new posts would appear under it rather than on I had to delete the original
& am re-publishing it now. I went ahead and posted Amanda's comment below, so it
would not be lost. Sorry for the mess.)

Hurtful Things

I belong to an online support group of people with MS. It's been such a gift to me, over the last few years. Each week, we have an "open-ended" chat, where we can discuss anything we like (MS-related or not), and we have a "topic" chat. The topics change every week.

This week, the topic was "Hurtful Things." We were supposed to examine hurtful comments or actions by friends related to our MS diagnosis (we've discussed family in the past, and as we all know...there's a big difference between family and friends). The goal being, to determine WHY it was so hurtful, how that impacted our relationship with the friend(s), and what we learned from it.

It was a difficult topic for me, and I ended up being pretty "silent" during the chat. I am now thinking that this was a bad move on my part, that perhaps maybe I do need to examine those "hurtful things" that were running through my mind during the chat but didn't make it to my keyboard.

And lucky you...I'm sharing them here. Well, it's my blog, and all that.

There are two "hurtful things" that I've been thinking about since the chat. One is kind of non-specific, and one is definately a specific incident. The non-specific one I have already discussed here before...the "fair weather friends" who quickly abandoned me when I got MS. The specific incident, I haven't shared here, or talked about, in some years.

It happened on Halloween, four or five years ago. I had been very sick that year, but was improving. So much so, that I accepted an invitation by a friend, "Julian," to come see the debut performance of his band at a local nightclub. I had not been able to enjoy an evening out in a very long time, and I was greatly looking forward to it. Jonathan stayed home with the kids, and a mutual friend, "Kim," went with me. We both dressed up as sort of dominatrix-sisters. It was fun.

When we arrived at the club, I found out that Julian had forgotten to put our names on "the list," so I had to stand outside in line. Now, normally, that wouldn't be a problem...but my legs had been giving me trouble all year, and I had been counting on that early admittance. There was nowhere for me to sit, and I had to sit on the curb...with my cane and Kim to help me up and down. In front of a lot of people. It may seem silly, but that was embarassing to me. In any event, I wasn't going to let it ruin my evening, and was still looking forward to the show.

A few minutes before the doors opened, another mutual friend, "Donna" arrived...with her seven-year-old son, "Allan." I had two problems with Allan's presence: one, it was almost two in the morning, what on Earth was this child doing out, downtown, so late (at a night club, no less); and two, he was dressed in faux moccassins, buckskins and headdress. The first disgusted me as a parent, and the second offended me as a Native American. But it wasn't my kid, and once again, I chose to overlook it all because I was bound and determined to have a great time.

The doors finally open...and again, I'm in trouble. Stairs, stairs everywhere. No elevators, no ramps (I have no idea how this building gets away with being so completely inaccessible. Maybe it's historic? I don't know). And after standing for so long and struggling with the curb...the stairs looked, to me, like Mount Everest. And felt like it, too, once I was finally up them. I was close to collapse by the time Kim got me to a table. Adding to my problems is the fact that the place is not air-conditioned. My MS is heat-reactive, and no air conditioning equals big symptom flare-up for me. Still, I am trying to make the most of it, and hoped to cool down with a drink...with lots of ice.

Julian sees us, and rushes over to ask why we hadn't come in for the sound check, only then realizing that he had forgotten to put us on "the list." He shrugs it off, no apologies. I am a bit peeved. He buys me a drink, and all is forgiven.

After a few minutes, Julian takes off backstage to get ready for the performance. I am on drink number two, and beginning to enjoy myself. A few casual acquaintances join us at the table. The drinks are good, the conversation excellent. I am having a great time.

Then...the spotlight on the stage turns on, and we all quiet down for the show. An older man, dressed like a monk, is standing alone at the microphone. For a moment, he says nothing. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out some index cards. Then he begins to speak.

To my absolute horror and astonishment, it's a long poem about the "red man's savage god" and "primitive cries to the heavens, ulalala ulalala yahalalala!" I am speechless. My first thought is, "Julian must not have known about this, this guy must be with some other band."

I am wrong.

As soon as the "poem" is over (finished with a pathetic, two-minute-long war-whoop), the curtain rises...on Julian's band. They begin to play, some pretty decent goth-metal type music. And there, in the forefront, pretending a sacred dance of which he has absolutely no Donna's son, Allan. War-whooping and acting for all the world like a tiny, hyperactive Tonto.

I am stunned. I am horrified. I am hurt.

The people at my table, and many at other tables, are staring at me. One of the beforementioned casual acquaintances whispers to me, "Ah, man...I am so sorry about all this. I can't believe they did this. Are you ok?" I hear a man behind me ask someone unseen person if I am going to "do anything about it."

I decide that yes, I am going to do something about it. I got up, and I left. I did not care, at that moment, if Kim came with me or not...but I am glad to say that she did.

We caught a cab home, and the whole time I kept thinking...this was my first night out after a long, long MS attack. And I spent it, listening to a poem insulting my spirituality, my ethnicity, my people. And to top it off, my friends knew all about it. Julian, Donna...they orchestrated this, as part of the show. They actually thought it was a good idea. I was struck by the conclusion that they were either A) racists, set out to humiliate me and mine, or B) ignorant shitheads, who didn't actually stop to think that this sort of display would be hurtful or offensive to anyone...much less, their one American Indian friend. And as much as I, in my anger and hurt, wanted to believe it was A, I knew in my heart it was actually much more likely to be B.

For several days following the show, I did not speak to Julian. I did not trust that I would not say something that could not be unsaid. And so, I kept my silence. I later found out that Kim had not been so inclined...she had called him the very next day and read him the riot act. Apparently, it really was B, after all. It had not occured to him that Allan's "dance" would offend me, and he claimed he was unaware of the monk's poem (the monk turned out to be a relative of one of Julian's bandmates). I still find that hard to credit, as the poem and the "dance" were clearly inter-connected. I accepted his apology, but it saddened me that after being my friend for so long, he had learned so little from me. I was also saddened when he told me that he felt that I, also, had acted wrongly...that I should have stayed until the end of the show (another hour), and spoken with him then. Which told me that he didn't understand at all.

He didn't understand how hurt and offended I was. He didn't get that it wasn't just the contents of the poem and the "dance." It was the fact that I spent what little energy I had, and had in fact had to struggle most of the night to get to the show, to only be hurt and offended. He didn't understand that as a result of both the physical and emotional stresses of that night, I was sick for a week. He didn't understand the pain of my legs the next day, strained by the standing and the curb and the stairs and the heat...and the relative swiftness of my retreat. And most of all, he didn't understand that as his friend, I was willing to suffer that week gladly, just to see his band perform for the first time...and instead, what I saw was like a slap in the face. And that, that hurt far more than my legs did.

Julian and I remained friends for some time after that incident...but we are not friends anymore. But, that is a story for another time...if I tell that story at all.

So, what did I learn from that "hurtful thing"?

Well, it reaffirmed my belief that anti-Native American sentiment is so ingrained in this society, that many if not most people do not notice it when it occurs...even when they themselves perpetuate it. Julian and Donna were not racists. None of the people there were racists, as far as I know. The people at the show, these are the people who hate racist skinheads, who are pro-gay marriage and pro-ERA. The kind of people who have "hatred is not a family value" stickers on their cars. And yet...they wrote that poem. They set up that show. They dressed up a child to mock what an entire culture holds sacred. And they did it, without a second thought.

But, that was something I pretty much already knew. Can that really count as "learning" something?

I suppose I learned that people who are not disabled often have a hard time discerning what will be difficult or impossible for a disabled person to accomplish. The owners of that club had made no arrangements for disabled persons. The manager stood right there and watched as I struggled up the stairs. It had not occured to Julian to make sure I was on "the list," so I would not have to stand outside.

More importantly, I learned that I had to be more pro-active in those matters. I cannot simply rely on others to tend to them for me. If I had to face the same situation today...I would have called the club well in advance and asked about their accomodations. I would have also made certain I was on the list, or even went with Julian and the band so that I could come in the back entrance (which I later learned had a ramp for band equipment). When it happened, I was still self-conscious about the MS. I didn't want to have to ask for help, or make a "big deal" of needing it. Today, I would see that as nonsense. So, I learned to be more of an advocate for myself, to not take for granted that an establishment would be accessible or that I could simply "muddle through." A good lesson. I don't think I realized until now that I learned that lesson on that night.

I guess I should have spoken up in my chat...I not only learned something, but it did actually apply to my MS!

At 8:42 AM, amanda said...
good for you for learning the ever so hard fact that WE as MS'ers need to learn to accept help and more importantly ASK for it when we need it!!! That I believe is the hardest thing to over come living with this disease.

AS far as the Native American racism I see and hear it all the time No I am not a native but live so very close to the Seneca Nation Reservation and travel there very often it is like 20 miles or less from me. My son't step-siblings are all full blooded natives.

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