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Blackgirlinmaine…no more??

11 Mar

The first time I saw Maine, I was a Mama Bear armed and ready to go into battle. My ex-husband had decided not to send my son back after a holiday visit and after several months of trying to work through the legalities of the situation, I couldn’t take anymore. I had to see my son, I didn’t know at that point the changes that lie ahead but all I knew was that I needed to set my eyes on my son and make sure he was okay. At that point in time my ex-husband and I had a less than pleasant relationship made worse by his refusal to send my son back. No one wanted me to go to Maine, but a Mama Bear separated from her cub is not to be fucked with…no one and nothing was going to stop me. Not the fact that Maine was a white rural state, not the fact that my ex was living in a little town in Western Maine, not the fact that I had never been here. Nothing.

Mind you in making my preparations to go to Maine for the first time 14 years ago, I realized that Maine was a different beast. I hopped on a flight from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to this day that was probably the smallest plane I had ever been on. Looking back I remember thinking oh shit, as I looked around on the flight and saw that I was the only person of color on the plane. Yet my seatmate was a chatty middle aged woman, who gave me her number if I ever found myself in need of help while in Maine as during the course of the flight I shared why I was going to Maine. I admit in my heart I was considering taking my son back, legal battle be damned…my seatmate was a mother and though I did not articulate my true thoughts I suspect she knew what I was planning. I also remember thinking people here seemed pretty friendly.

The flight landed and walking into the Portland Jetport I remember thinking, this is an airport? Coming from Chicago, the airport in Portland looked like starter airport….I didn’t have much time to think as I was immediately greeted by my driver. See, at that point in life I had never even behind the wheel of a car and with over 50 miles separating me from my son I had to hire a limousine service to get me to my destination. I won’t go into every detail but I remember that first night thinking I had never seen such dark roads and looking up at the sky thinking what the fuck are those shiny things? Silly city girl…they were stars but rare are the sight of stars in Chicago. So many firsts.

At the end of that first visit, I didn’t steal away with my son since having gotten a lay of the land I realized it was much harder than I had planned but I did meet some of the friendliest humans I had ever known possible. So when the legal battle got to the point that winning meant emotionally hurting my son and also bankrupting me, I realized that moving to Maine was simply a better option.

My relationship to Maine has  been tenuous at times. I didn’t exactly move here because I wanted to, I moved here because I had to. Sure no one put a gun to my head but not moving was simply not an option. I never planned to settle down and buy a house but after the first couple of years realized this was not a great place to be a renter. While its easy to set a goal and say you will only stay in a place a certain amount of time its hard to avoid getting on with the business of living while you are in that space.

However I woke up this morning and realized that for the first time in a long time, I miss city living. Oh I love nature now, I love having my own house, and I love the sense of community. But my city bones are ready to be stretched! I am not sure what brought this about; I suspect it was triggered by the sudden closure of my favorite non chain coffeehouse in my area. I am tired of having to make hair appointments weeks in advance because there is a limited supply of places to go and the list goes on. There is also the realization that being a Black woman in a white space is challenging. My recent dental experiences have reminded me of that especially when someone I know told me they went to the same oral surgeon I went to and had a far better experience.

Of course now the Spousal Unit and I are not as young as we used to be and there is something to be said for stability. I shared my thoughts this morning with my husband that perhaps it is time to consider our options and he did remind me of how traumatic this move was at the time, I can’t say I had forgotten but I am open to the possibilities. The downside of course is that being homeowners it’s not so easy to pick up and move and living in a one hundred plus year old home that still needs work is not exactly going to fly off the shelf.

I don’t know what the future holds, perhaps more weekend trips to Boston and New York, both places where I have friends and connections. Perhaps such getaways will reduce my longing for city life. Or is it simply time to start working on the exit strategy? I admit when I do the pro and con list there are strong reasons for staying put in Maine as well as strong reasons for leaving. Decisions such as this almost make me long for the days of childhood when the big decisions got made for me. Oh well…I will keep you posted!

 

 

Dentist gone wrong and I put ya on blast

8 Mar

I rarely use my writing as a way to put assholes on blast, at least once a year someone will call me and tell me about some injustice generally racial that has happened in our fair state and ask me to write about it for my regular writing gig at the Phoenix. I rarely do because stories have to have wide appeal and not be one sided but today I am going to break with my own way of doing things to put someone on full blast.

If you follow me on Twitter you may know that yesterday I had a dental appointment, if you are a regular reader, you can read this post to refresh your memory but long story short, there was a root tip left from my wisdom tooth that was pulled years ago that had started to abscess. If you know anything about abscesses they are not something to play with. Which is why when the general dentist I went told me it needed to be pulled and that he had to refer me to an oral surgeon, I didn’t argue or try to shop around. There is also the pesky fact that since I lack dental insurance and need to pay for all this out of my own pocket without benefit of insurance I really was not in a position to go and get second and third opinions. That’s basically $100-200 a pop just to be told you need to have the tooth removed. Now I did ask the general dentist if the guy he was referring me to was good, he assured me that he was.

I won’t lie I was hesitant, since I don’t exactly have a long term relationship with this general dentist and in the two times I have been to his office, each time I was charged more than the quoted price. Guess I get the uninsured special which is more than what insured patients get.

Look, I will be the first to tell you I have a complex relationship with dentists, I was well into my teens the first time I ever went to a dentist and that first visit was at a free clinic that resembled a torture chamber. This free clinic was also the place that told me at 16-17 I had hepatitis, the kind you get from drug use and or sex….they were wrong but not before they loaded me up on a shit load of drugs. Drugs that at one point had me damn near hallucinating.

I learned early on in life that when it comes to healthcare in this country you get what you pay for. By the time I was on my own with good dental insurance, my teeth were a mess. Thankfully I started going to this dentist who is what I lovingly call a dental God. My old dentist, who is also an oral surgeon, he did crazy amounts of work on my teeth and got me over my dental phobia, in fact he was so good that when I knew we were moving to Maine I was truly sad about losing him as my dentist. He worked through my phobia issues treating me as a human, if I said I was in pain, he stopped and addressed the issue never belittling me or making me feel crazy. Yes, he was expensive but it was money well spent.

Well yesterday’s experience was hellish; the oral surgeon I went to was a chap by the name of Mark Britten. Prior to the appointment I tried getting additional information but despite the fact this is 2011 this chap has no website, even by Maine standards that’s a tad strange. Instead that lack of website was a sign of things to come. I was totally calm until I arrived at the office and was taken to the room….this room looked like it had not been upgraded since the late 1970’s. Nothing in there said oral surgeon in 2011, when Dr. Britten came in, he looked like the guy in a horror movie ready to pull your teeth with pliers and a blow torch. I wish I could say I was kidding. I started by explaining that I am an anxious patient and if that was okay with him, he told me “I will give you Novocain and then you will hear scraping and feel pressure” I admit part of me wanted to get up but knowing that this fragment was causing an infection I felt like as a grown up I needed to make a wise decision and get it out after all how bad could this be?

Sometimes the first thought you have is actually the best, I should have left at that point before he started anything. Well I get the Novocain shot, and 7 minutes later he starts working and I am feeling a lot more than pressure I am feeling naked pain, agonizing pain, feeling like someone is in my mouth with pliers yanking. I cry out and he stops, I explain and he says you can’t be feeling pain its just pressure. Mind you I have given birth two times, once without benefit of drugs I know pain, this was pain on that level but in my mouth. Dr. Britten proceeds to tell me that he pulls 20-30 teeth a day and if he hadn’t stopped we would be done…..is that supposed to make me feel good? I won’t go through every detail but will say by the point he offered to just stop my guns were already open and bloody. I was in tears, I started having flashbacks to a date I had many years ago that went wrong where I was almost sexually assaulted. I felt my body and mind breaking apart in that chair…I prayed, I did deep breaths and I finally sent a text message to my husband who came to the office and demanded to be brought into my room. (The hubster was less than a mile away hanging out with kidlet at the library hence his speedy arrival)

By the time the Spousal Unit arrived it was clear that Dr. Britten had wished he had never laid eyes on my Black ass, but the Spousal Unit who in real life is a medical writer/editor spoke quietly to the dentist and explained that he needed to take me serious and some white guy medical babble that I swear had an impact. (the fact that Britten took my husband’s words seriously could be a post all its own…got privilege?) Next thing I knew Britten was back in my mouth this time far gentler and actually got the tooth out without the extreme pain of earlier and nope he had not given me another dose of Novocain. It took him longer than his usual but I can’t help thinking that had he started off being gentle after I explained how I am this situation would not have escalated.

I am still processing this whole experience but am already planning on contacting the folks who license this man as well as lodging a complaint with the local dental society. I also have no intention of going back to the dentist who referred me to this jackass. If that is their idea of good, I would hate to see what constitutes bad but sending me to a guy whose personality was lacking with not one iota of patience and antiquated equipment is not my idea of a good surgeon.

This whole dentist experience has me seriously thinking either I need to plan a week long vacation back to Chicago to see my old dentist for the other $2000 worth of work I need or maybe I need to go to Mexico as many Americans are now doing for dental care. Maine is a state that has a shortage of dentists, it’s not so bad where I am but the situation is grave in more rural parts of the state. It’s not uncommon to see people with teeth in bad shape with clearly rotting teeth, at least not for me though this may be a side effect of the work I do. Granted I worked with a similar population in Chicago and rarely saw teeth in such bad shapes. I do think the side effect of having a lack of dentists is that the ones who are here have almost a God complex at least the ones I have encountered and it’s really not cute. At the end of the day I have the right to be treated with dignity and compassion. I won’t let this stop me from taking care of my teeth but I will be a lot more discerning about who works on my mouth and trust my instincts.

When the dentist finished he just walked out the room and didn’t speak to me nor did he come back instead having the assistant give me the follow up instructions.

Kiss my Butt….really?

15 Jan

“Kiss my Butt” How many times have you been in a meeting with someone and just wanted to say that to someone who was working your last nerve? Truth be told at least once a week I want to tell someone to kiss my ass and walk out. But alas I try to keep it classy so generally when those moments come up, I make that pinched face smile and deal with the situation at hand like an adult. After all I am almost 40 years old and one would like to think by a certain stage in life you learn a little tact.

Apparently though my state’s new governor, Paul LePage missed that piece in his developmental growth and when asked why he was not honoring a 30 year tradition set by his predecessors of attending the annual NAACP MLK day events here in Maine. He decided to go off on a one minute tantrum that was caught on tape where he referred to the NAACP as a “special interest group”, told us he had a Black son and eventually said that folks meaning the NAACP could kiss his butt. Now maybe LePage is not clear how things work in 2011 but in a fast moving world where one week a man can be begging on the side of the road and 7 days later being showered in offers for jobs and houses. Telling anyone much less the nation’s oldest civil rights group to kiss your butt when you are the leader of state even a small state like Maine gets everyone’s attention.

Needless to say us colored folks in Maine are scratching our heads but considering this man during the campaign season was caught on tape saying he would tell Obama to go to hell and frankly has a manner more becoming for a bar owner rather than a governor…are we really surprised?

Truthfully I am not involved with the NAACP in Maine but the minority community in Maine is small and in many ways all roads lead to the NAACP. Though the fair governor who thus far, despite letting us know he has a Black son could care less. By the way we didn’t see too much of this adopted son during the campaign season. Hell during the actual inauguration he had the brotha man so far back on the stage I thought he was a security guard. Hell the good governor whipped up a feeding frenzy by giving his daughter a well paying job before he was even sworn in…hey! What about the Black kid? I suspect having Paul as a Dad when you are the Black son might be like having been one of Joan Crawford kids. You get brought out for the photo ops and then taken back to the big house where hopefully you aren’t beaten with a wire hanger.

However as a Black chick living in Maine and nope I am not a native, I am a Chicago girl through and through but this is my adopted home. I have to just say publicly that the vast majority of Mainers are good folks and Lepage who only won by one percentage point because the Dumbocrats and the Independents split the vote does not represent the average Mainer. Due to my work I meet all kinds of folks and most of em have good hearts. So don’t let the ranting of a crazy man think that we are being set back and hell if you don’t live here…come visit and shit bring the catfish!

Revisiting the issue of food and class…a visit to Trader Joe’s

12 Nov

Living in Maine is an experience, Maine is a rural state but at the same time it’s a place with class. It’s a place where the pace of life is definitely slow but at the same time due to its natural beauty and relative closeness to places like Boston and New York City, there are tons of transplants here. While this is a rural state it’s rural with a cosmopolitan feel especially in our largest city, Portland. We have a growing well respected foodie scene, shit even the New York Times says we have some of the best bagels here. (This place is fucking amazing).

That said, Maine is slow to catch on as far as the big national trends and places…hell, we don’t even have billboards in this state. When I first landed here almost 8 years ago, you could count the number of Starbucks on one hand and it would not have been full. The first year I was in serious coffee withdrawals since the closest Starbucks meant heading to the next county over. Thankfully after a year here, Starbucks opened in my town…the upside of living in a tourist destination, the tourists like decent coffee. (Sorry New Englanders, where I come from Dunkin Donuts is what you drink at 3 am when you are drunk as a skunk and need to start the sobering up process).

Other national places that were slow to arrive here include Whole Foods, hell that took several years to arrive. Those of us from away were jonesing like crack addicts waiting for the next fix and let me tell you it was a big deal when Whole Foods landed in our fair state. But nothing and I say nothing could have prepared me for TJ madness…that’s Trader Joe’s in case you don’t know.

Now Trader Joe’s is a place I had only been in once before on some trip many years ago, hell the Spousal Unit is a California boy and he had been to them but clearly in the time since we lived in close proximity to one, their legend had grown. I have had buddies in Maine tell me how they drive monthly two states over to go to Trader Joe’s. I admit I am lazy; the idea of traveling like that to spend my money leaves me scratching my head. To each his own though, in my early years in Maine I trekked monthly to Boston just to get my hair done, so who am I to talk shit?

In recent years there had been all kinds of talk about bringing Trader Joe’s to Maine and it finally happened. They officially opened a few weeks ago; a colleague from grad school actually got up to stand in line at 6 am to shop there on opening day. Um….nothing short of a sick child or a flight will get me up that early. I admit the energy over Trader Joe’s was contagious, the way folks talked about their beloved Two Buck Chuck, the treats, oh my…shit I was expecting a magical experience.

Well today the Spousal Unit and I decided to have an early date while the kidlet was in school and hit up some of the new Maine chain places. First stop Cracker Barrel…that was ummmm interesting. Breakfast didn’t quite rock my world though the hash brown casserole was intriguing, though I admit I will go back, they serve catfish and I do love me some catfish. Enough about the Cracker Barrel though, on to TJ’s.

So we arrive in the parking lot of the Portland Trader Joe’s and it was real clear that just the act of parking the car was going to take some time, thankfully after a couple times circling around a space opened up. First thing I notice people are flying in the doors as if they ate a McRib and their bowels were about to open up, but I think they were just excited to go in. I admit for a moment it felt exciting. I grabbed my cart and away we went, I won’t bore you with the details but I did drop $100 on items that I am not sure I would have normally have bought, after all will I really eat those dark chocolate mints?

What I was struck by though was how much TJ’s reminded me of Aldi, the no frills grocery store where folks who tend to be short on cash shop. It’s my understanding that the two stores have some type of connection though it’s not entirely clearly but what I was struck by is that just like Aldi caters to low income folks allowing them to splurge on cheap faux peanut butter cookies, canned ravioli and pizza rolls. Trader Joe’s caters to the well heeled who like to eat hummus and pita and kick back with a cheap wine but not too cheap. Once the wine can be opened with a cap its officially low class.

I have talked here before how much our food choices are tied to where we sit on the class ladder. I will openly admit that once a year I like to kick back with a glass of grape kool-aid and a fried bologna sammich on Wonder Bread, it’s the comfort food of my youth. Truth is in the past decade or so since I officially moved up the class ladder leaving my working class roots behind by virtue of my education, I have worked hard to change my palate. If left to my own devices I will eat the shit out of fried whatever, smothered in gravy with a side of bread product with a limp green vegetable on the side.

The thing is I know now that such foods are bad for me so guess what? I rarely eat them, they are now officially treats. I literally have willed myself into liking sushi, there are times I ask myself is this really good? Yet as I have shared here before it was in graduate school where I learned to eat it since not eating it made me stand out even more, besides I like spice, with enough wasabi my mouth is on fire so it glides down the old shoot.

Yet it’s funny where food is as much about comfort as nutrition certain food choices are seen as less than and the eater seen as less enlightened yet if you are high enough on the class ladder your junk food is seen as better. Take Cheetos versus the Pirate Booty that the well heeled feed their progeny. Truth is I will takle a damn Cheetos or Cheez Doodle any day over Pirates Booty, yet now that I no longer am a card carrying member of the working class, I feed my kid Pirate Booty. I admit I fear being judged over this stuff, though occasionally we share some of Mommy’s off limits Cheetos.

I must admit I often like looking in people’s carts at grocery stores and today’s maiden voyage into Trader Joe’s was no exception. I found myself thinking that most of the patrons myself included had quite a bit of processed food items in their carts yet unlike many there I have no problem buying the occasional junk food from a regular grocery store. In most stores when I see someone with processed food items I figure they either have no time or talent for cooking, but what I was struck by today was that most of these same people with carts piled high (and I saw a few folks I know personally) would never be caught in say Wally World buying some off brand frozen burritos yet in the right and oh proper setting, buying such things are a sign of how hip you are.

Take the famous Two Buck Chuck wine; while I am not a wine snob, I am not big on California wines so after reading the label I took a pass though the Spousal Unit grabbed a bottle for himself. Yet I found myself wondering how many of these same folks grabbing up bottles of Two Buck Chuck would be caught dead with some Julio and Earnest Gallo? Not many I bet.

So like most things in America it all comes down to class, even our taste in junk food is segregated, while I didn’t see any good ole fashioned bologna at Trader Joe’s I did see plenty of deli meat that would definitely be higher up on the class ladder.

As for me, while it was great to check it out and I admit tonight’s Mandarin Orange Chicken was tasty as hell, not sure TJ’s will be a weekly stop though it might be nice for the occasional treat. I will continue to eat much like I live wedged between my working class by birth roots and dangling in the middle class, quite an interesting place to be.

Open season on those pesky poor folks

18 Oct

Despite the fancy words that the powers to be use to tell us that economically things are getting better in the US, most of recognize a con job when we hear it. The truth is there simply are not enough full time jobs for all the folk looking for them and that is not even taking into consideration all the new entrants into the work force. I suspect we don’t really have a good idea how many folks are jobless or underemployed. I do think it’s safe to say that the go-go days of the early 2000’s are but a distant memory and something we will tell our grandkids about when we talk about how the US went down the tubes.

I do know though that when times get tough rather than working together for the collective good, human nature often makes us hold tight to what we do have and in some cases get quite judgmental of those who are without.

Here in Maine, we are just a few weeks away from electing a new governor and let me tell you its crazy time. We have a slate of 5 candidates running and the 2 major party candidates in my humble opinion leave a lot to be desired. One of the independents is starting to look promising to me but I fear that he will split the vote with the Democratic candidate and we are going to get stuck with the crazy Republican Paul LePage. LePage is crazy, thus far he has shown that anger management is something he lacks and that he often he forgets where he lives since he and his wife filed homestead exceptions in both Maine and Florida. LePage happens to be the general manager of a chain of salvage shops in Maine that while they employ a lot of folks they keep the wages low and don’t offer a hell of a lot in terms of benefits. Yet Mr. LePage talks a good game of how if he is elected he will be getting the welfare cheats off of welfare, in fact it appears that LePage is one of those lucky bootstrap fellas that worked his way up and gosh darn it if he can do it so can the rest of the other poor bastards.

Such talk about ridding welfare of the cheats and making everyone work sounds good and it’s appealing so much so that LePage seems to be emerging as a front-runner in the race. This week the state’s largest paper is talking about the welfare system in Maine and it’s definitely worth a read even if you aren’t a Mainer. I have been working with low income folks going on 15 years now and if I had a buck for every time someone tells me about some person they know on welfare that is cheating the system I probably could take that dream vacation to Paris that I have been dreaming of lately. In all my years of work I can count on one hand the number of folks I thought may have been cheating the system.

Perhaps it goes back to the days of Ray Gun Ronnie when he whipped up a frenzy about the mythical Black woman on welfare driving a Caddy in the 1980’s but for a segment of Americans they truly believe their fellow Americans who receive assistance are just milking the system. Never mind that Bill Clinton killed welfare as we knew it and created in it’s place a safety net program that started off with holes and now has gaping rips. Of course in the 1990’s we were optimistic that the good times would always roll…never thinking about the fact that continuous growth is just not possible and it damn sure is not possible when we ship all the good paying jobs to 3rd world countries so we can maximize the profits for the company owners and board of directors. Oh in the 2000’s we were still playing that game of illusion that all was good but that was before the credit bubble went pop.

Yet it makes folks feel better to shit on the poor and assume they are poor because they are lazy and shiftless…never mind the fact that if you had to live off say $600 a month even with food stamps and reduced rent via a Section 8 apartment how well would you live? No, we want our poor to work hard for their pennies! Go slave away at an $8 an hour job, a job that pays so little that in most cases the worker still qualifies for some type of benefits.

Now the poor are not even being allowed agency to determine their drink choices if New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has his way. Bloomberg is trying to get permission from the feds to ban food stamp recipients from purchasing soda…look no one is saying soda is a great thing, it has no nutritional value and some might consider it a waste of money. I will be honest and say I enjoy an occasional soda. Why? Life is short and I like to do things that bring me pleasure. I suspect most of us have things we enjoy drinking or eating that offer no nutritional value yet we still partake, otherwise how else can you explain the rise of Starbucks? Very few things that Starbucks offers are truly healthy. Shit, you can go and get a drink with a calorie equivalent to a meal yet as Starbucks is frequented by folks who are middle class and above there is no rallying cry to help those folks. I bet Bloomberg most likely enjoys the occasional latte yet as lattes are the purview of people we figure are financially better off even if it’s simply because they have better access to credit, no one slams those choices.

Nope, we like to make the matter of poor folks a morality issue. If people are poor it’s easier to assess individual blame and assume these folks need guidance or to be told what to do rather than looking at the larger systems that create poor people. That is why a guy who runs a chain of stores that most certainly do not assist folks in rising up from poverty can convince folks he is the guy best suited to cut the fat in state spending. It’s why folks can get behind soda bans all the while sipping on a mocha which isn’t much better and say we care about nutrition.

Perhaps we would all be better off if we acknowledged that unless you are a member of the wealth holding community that our fates and lives are far more intertwined than we would care to admit. Real change happens when we band together and create policies that benefit us all, after all I wonder how many of todays newly poor are realizing that we have insufficient safety nets and that once you tumble into poverty what you need is a hand up and compassion not legislation.

Revisiting Mainers and their Dogs or maybe White Folks and Dogs

29 Aug

The post that follows is a reprint from one of my first posts back in June 2008. Considering that I went into my favorite local cafe to grab an iced coffee this afternoon and was greeted by an adorable pug, re-running this post seemed appropriate. Clearly since this post ran in 2008 a few things have changed that are mentioned in the post, namely that Obama is no longer the Democratic nominee but actually the president. I will also add that my attitude towards dogs continues to evolve as my daughter is a dog lover determined to wear me down…kid really wants a dog though any pet will do for the moment. Yet I still have issues with dogs in certain spaces…like the place that serves my food and drink.

In case you didn’t know, Maine is a very white state, I believe its only second to Vermont as far as the whiteness factor. Now, when a sista decided to move here 6 years ago, I knew it was white but I figured what the hell, I already own one white person (aka spousal unit) and despite growing up in Chicago I attended predominantly white schools, so I felt as comfortable as a sista can around white folks. Heck, I figured one white person is about the same as another, how different could the Maine white folks be versus Chi-town whites or my own California version?

Well I would soon learn, they are a little different out here, for starters they all seem to have a deep love affair with fleece and anything that comes from LL Bean. Now in the defense of my fellow white Mainers, LL Bean is headquartered in Maine, so that makes sense and while I do find most fleece clothing lacking on the style factor, the reality is its cold as shit here 11 out of 12 months (nah, I am kidding its cold 8 out of 12 months, on the real I generally turn my heat off in June and that is real.. mind you I am from Chicago so I know cold weather, here it’s not hawk cold like in Chicago, it’s a low-grade type of cold that never ends).

However the one area that I discovered where Mainers are different from the folks back home is with regards to their deep and abiding love for their dogs. Now to be totally stereotypical, in general it seems white folks love the dog’s way more than Black folks. I have known Black folks who loved their dogs but it just isn’t the same. Back in Chicago, my biggest gripe with dogs was that folks seemed to never want to keep em on leashes or they would use a leash so damn long that you wondered why they even bothered.  That said, most of my dog issues back home were in my neighborhood, so I could reasonably assume that if I went to downtown Chicago, I didn’t have to worry about seeing dogs. It was an understanding, you keep the dogs at home, the park, or near your home.

Mainers though, well, they take their dogs everywhere and I don’t mean that jokingly, I have seen pooches sitting patiently in the car at the movie theatre parking lot. Um, why? Seriously, the average movie is at least an hour and a half if not longer with previews, you cannot bring Fido in the theatre so it seems to me, Fido would be happier at the crib chilling out. I have seen dogs at eating establishments in our largest city despite the fact that there are laws forbidding such things, yet I guess the general assumption is everyone likes dogs.. Who cares if Fido is running around while you are enjoying a latte or in a real life example trying to get a burrito?  Most Maine folks don’t but guess what I do, I don’t like dogs, I used to be extremely scared of dogs, now that fear is only reserved for large dogs and scary breeds aka Pitbulls, dogs of that ilk.

Which brings me to last night, the family and I went to a street festival in town, gorgeous night to walk and partake of some good greasy french fries and other foods I generally avoid. So how come my night was almost ruined by folks strolling around at a festival/fireworks with dogs? Not cute lil dogs, no folks walking Rottweilers and Pitbulls at a family festival, come on now what the hell is that all about?

I guess I was more bothered because just a few days earlier a dear sista friend originally from NYC who lives here in Maine, contacted me about a situation she was having with dogs. She has asthma and was trying to connect with a group of folks for a work retreat and she simply asked the leader of this get together to not bring the dog because she has asthma, well long story short, leader woman who is a  White Mainer said no, the dog is family and he goes where I go.

Well, as you can imagine that spawned some heated dialogue but for both my girl and I we realized that culturally Black folks just don’t dig on the dogs like White folks do. I have a Black girlfriend here who has a large dog and whenever she invites me over, she has no problem putting the dog up for the few hours I am going to be over. Yet with white folks, you ask can they move the dog so you can breathe and they act like you tried to smack the shit out of em.

Its cultural differences like that, that despite folks like me being married to a white guy and Obama being the Democratic nominee for president that keep me aware that we have a long way to go before white folks and black folks will truly connect. It’s cool to love your dog but damn what about the humans?

Saturday in Maine

24 May

Thanks to all my readers who responded to me previous post, I was having an incredibly bad day and thinking that it was time to pull the plug on my blog. While I am not up to resuming my almost daily posts, I have decided to take snapshots of my life in Maine. Right now I am working with a cheapo camera while I save my coins to buy a decent camera, yet here are some shots of a Saturday in Maine.  Saturday’s outing included a trip to the local coffeehouse, time in my yard and a trip to the drive in. There was also a visit to a new Japanese hibachi style restaurant, but I will share those pictures on a later post.

Marching in Maine

13 Apr

Today’s post might not hold much interest outside of Maine but hey the title of this blog is Black Girl in Maine; so occasionally I like to speak about what’s happening in my corner of the world. Lately it seems marches are all the rage in Maine, a few weeks ago we had a group of ladies who decided to march topless through the streets of our largest city, Portland. It seems these gals wanted to bring attention to the societal double standard that allows men to go topless in public but generally speaking does not extend to women. Turns out though in Maine, ladies you are free to go head out sans shirt and bra anytime you like as we have no law that prohibits you from doing so. The organizer was a tad pissed since it seemed her statement march attracted the attention of a bunch of men who wanted to look at the ladies marching without shirts. I don’t know… march if you like but from my view it seems that to not expect folks to stare is akin to sitting a dish of ice cream in front of most folks…it will be eaten. It’s just the nature of the beast..right or wrong. Though I must be honest I really don’t want to see anyone topless, hell only time I want to see the Spousal Unit sans a top is when…you know where I am going.

After the success of the topless ladies, it seems the open carry folks have set their eyes on our largest city for a gathering. These would be the folks who like to demonstrate that the constitution of these divided states is still valid and like walking around in public like they are wandering through the Ole West fully strapped.

I have been following the accounts of these folks and I guess if I could ask one question it would be why? Seriously, I understand out in California the open carry folks have been gathering in Starbucks….um, is there a high chance of getting jacked for your double shot mocha? For real, aside from the fact that you make others uncomfortable, why wear a gun where we can all see? Funny thing I often wonder how many of these folks carrying guns openly live in areas where it might stop a person from robbing you on the street?

I admit I am not much of a gun person, but hey if you want one in your house I get it. It’s just that when you decide to stand next to me inline flexing your gun on your hip I wonder what is the point? Other than to make me think let me get the hell away from you quickly.

So readers if you like to strap up with the gun when you head out, I would love to hear your reasons why…I am serious.

Really…it’s everywhere

29 Mar

I was relaxing Saturday afternoon catching up on Season 3 of Mad Men courtesy of my love who decided to treat me to the gift of renting the entire season at one time rather than making me wait for them to become available on Netflix. It was a lazy day, kidlet was chilling with Papa upstairs so Mama was engrossed in America circa 1960’s when the telephone rang. Initially I ignored but after looking at the number on the caller id, realized it was my good sista friend who used to live in Maine but now resides in southern New England (CT, MA and RI are southern new England, I live in Northern New England). Let’s just say that since she left Maine she has felt no love with the place and I can dig it, hell she spent damn near 10 years living in the same town in Maine made famous by a certain family that gave us 12 years of presidential rule in the last what 25 years…yep, that town, starts with a K and that’s all I got to say about that.

Now when my girl first moved to Maine she was still youngish and happily married to her knight in shining armor, a white fella a good 10 years older than her who made a shitload of cash. So she wanted to live in the best school district for their boys with zero crime…you get the picture. Well lets just say that 10 years in that town took a toll on my girl and that knight in shining armor well he morphed into a cockroach. Right about the time life started changing for my girl she found Blackness in a major way, no more undercover Blackness meaning she was Black when we hung out but did a code switch when she was around whites. Nope she went from being the favorite Negro to having her son’s teacher slap a restraining order on her when she no longer played the game. So yeah, to say she caught the bitter bug about this place would be an understatement.

So she packed up the kids after a bitter divorce and moved back to where she came, but thanks to the divorce and the pesky need for the kids to see their Papa she still is in Maine a couple times a month. Anyway, I gave her a call back since I had a feeling I knew why she was calling. See, a mutual friend had just been in the paper because she was dealing with some racist shit in her little town here in Maine. Long story short, our mutual buddy came across an email that a town official had received and forwarded to other folks…tuns out that email contained a rather unsavory “joke” about Michelle Obama who as we all know happens to be the FLOTUS. The nasty little joke compared Mrs. Obama to an ape, really not very funny at all. Our mutual buddy took this email to the media and lets just say in certain places in Maine folks have a lot to say about this, some felt it was racist as hell and others felt  that our buddy was just an oversensitive Black woman playing a deck of those race cards again.

So my girl wanted to talk about this, also she wanted to get a sense of what I planned to do since I do have a venue for sharing my thoughts courtesy of the monthly column I write for a local publication. Of course you know, I have to say something and those thoughts will hopefully be published later this week unless my editor decides otherwise. But what I really want to get to is the heart of the conversation with my girl, she made a seemingly innocent statement that I have been sitting on all weekend. She stated that she felt Maine was and I quote a racist ass state.

Now I know my girl has a lot of bad feelings about Maine, it’s that lovely relationship that goes sour like milk left out on the counter all day. You forget that once upon a time you liked that glass of milk. In her case she forgot she used to love this state. Lately all she can see is the bad but lets not throw the baby out with the bath water. Make no mistake there are some racists here but the fact is they are everywhere.

Big cities and urban areas are not immune to racism, shit I grew up in Chicago and in the city limits there were and maybe still are neighborhoods you knew were not places to go if you were Black. You might be fine in downtown Chicago but go 20 mins south to Bridgeport and there were whites who would have no problem pulling out the N-word or jacking you up. I remember years ago, a young Black boy from the adjoining community rode his bike into Bridgeport and a group of savage motherfuckers beat that boy silly to the point of brain damage. This story has repeated itself in numerous so-called diverse areas across the United States. Racism and ignorance to the point of violence is real and not at all limited to small white towns or lily white states. Shit I suspect Southern Illinois is still scary place for Black folks.

I often talk with friends from away who remind me that I live in a white state and remind me how much of a drain it can be on the Black soul. I agree it can be a drain but at the same time being Black anywhere in this country can be a drain on the soul. Looking back on life in Chicago, I was denied jobs due to my race…a brokerage firm flat-out told me they could not hire me because the clients would not want to deal with me because of my race. Once I called about an apartment in Chicago’s Lakeview area, an area that seems open and accepting after all its the home of Boystown (gay community) and well on the phone the place was available but when I showed up less than 2 hours later it was magically gone. I could go on…on the flip side and I am being honest I have not found my race to be a barrier to housing or jobs in Maine. I thought they would be but I actually landed a job, a job that by Maine standards paid damn well with complete benefits less than 2 weeks after moving to Maine. Hell, I thought being a Black woman in Maine would make it harder instead professionally in some ways its been a plus. The biggest challenge has been that salaries are much lower than I want factoring in the 100 grand in student loan debt I am carrying.

Now I know some would say that maybe I was just in the wrong areas in Chicago, well I spent my high school years and a year in my early 20’s living in a predominantly Black area and that wasn’t a cakewalk either. I was either teased or ridiculed for my “white” taste in things or looked down upon because I have working class roots…it was a damn I can’t win for losing situation. Get dissed by folks that are not like me and dissed by the one who are like me. So I have come to a place where I cannot let outside shit affect who I am, yes I miss certain things about living in close proximity to my own kind but I try for the most part to not let it get me down. Technology has allowed me to create a virtual sista circle of Black women who are similar enough to me, that I have support, some are sistas I have met in real life and some I only know via email and phone calls but its enough to sustain the soul.

I wish there was some truly ideal place where one could escape the ugliness of hate but in this country no such place exists so rather than focusing on the negatives I choose to create my own positivity no matter where I go and suggest that others do the same. I like to joke that I create my queendom no matter what…as for the Mainers I suspect if we wanted to call an entire state racist, I say look to southern states. I suspect places like Alabama and Mississippi have a few more racists than a place like Maine. Here we might have a bit of ignorance but not all ignorance equals racism, sometimes lack of exposure creates ignorance but those can often turn into teachable moments.

Got to revisit the dog issue

18 Mar

This is a reprint of a post that I did back in 2008 when I first started blogging. I got a fair number of emails about it since I sounded like an ass to some degree but I stand by what I wrote. What inspired me to bring this back up is that earlier today I was checking out a potential chiropractor locally who I had heard about, so I did what folks do these days and went to check out the website. Well I was ready to make an appointment until I got  to the staff page and noticed that the office dog was part of the staff. Look, I know folks like their dogs but as someone who is just not  that into dogs, when I am going to get medical care I really don’t want to see a dog in the office. I will be honest and say that since this original post in 2008, I have warmed up a bit more to dogs since the girl child is a huge lover of dogs and at some point we may consider an english bull-dog but for now its all talk.

Dogs and Mainers..they really love their dogs

In case you didn’t know, Maine is a very white state, I believe its only second to Vermont as far as the whiteness factor. Now, when a sista decided to move here 6 years ago, I knew it was white but I figured what the hell, I already own one white person (aka spousal unit) and despite growing up in Chicago I attended predominantly white schools, so I felt as comfortable as a sista can around white folks. Heck, I figured one white person is about the same as another, how different could the Maine white folks be versus Chi-town whites or my own California version?

Well I would soon learn, they are a little different out here, for starters they all seem to have a deep love affair with fleece and anything that comes from LL Bean. Now in the defense of my fellow white Mainers, LL Bean is headquartered in Maine, so that makes sense and while I do find most fleece clothing lacking on the style factor, the reality is its cold as shit here 11 out of 12 months (nah, I am kidding its cold 8 out of 12 months, on the real I generally turn my heat off in June and that is real.. mind you I am from Chicago so I know cold weather, here it’s not hawk cold like in Chicago, it’s a low-grade type of cold that never ends).

However the one area that I discovered where Mainers are different from the folks back home is with regards to their deep and abiding love for their dogs. Now to be totally stereotypical, in general it seems white folks love the dogs way more than Black folks. I have known Black folks who loved their dogs but it just isn’t the same. Back in Chicago, my biggest gripe with dogs was that folks seemed to never want to keep em on leashes or they would use a leash so damn long that you wondered why they even bothered.  That said, most of my dog issues back home were in my neighborhood, so I could reasonably assume that if I went to downtown Chicago, I didn’t have to worry about seeing dogs. It was an understanding, you keep the dogs at home, the park, or near your home.

Mainers though, well, they take their dogs everywhere and I don’t mean that jokingly, I have seen pooches sitting patiently in the car at the movie theatre parking lot. Um, why? Seriously, the average movie is at least an hour and a half if not longer with previews, you cannot bring Fido in the theatre so it seems to me, Fido would be happier at the crib chilling out. I have seen dogs at eating establishments in our largest city despite the fact that there are laws forbidding such things, yet I guess the general assumption is everyone likes dogs.. Who cares if Fido is running around while you are enjoying a latte or in a real life example trying to get a burrito?  Most Maine folks don’t but guess what I do, I don’t like dogs, I used to be extremely scared of dogs, now that fear is only reserved for large dogs and scary breeds aka pittbulls, dogs of that ilk.

Which brings me to last night, the family and I went to a street festival in town, gorgeous night to walk and partake of some good greasy french fries and other foods I generally avoid. So how come my night was almost ruined by folks strolling around at a festival/fireworks with dogs? Not cute lil dogs, no folks walking Rottweilers and pittbulls at a family festival, come on now what the hell is that all about?

I guess I was more bothered because just a few days earlier a dear sista friend originally from NYC who lives here in Maine, contacted me about a situation she was having with dogs. She has asthma and was trying to connect with a group of folks for a work retreat and she simply asked the leader of this get together to not bring the dog because she has asthma, well long story short, leader woman who is a  White Mainer said no, the dog is family and he goes where I go.

Well, as you can imagine that spawned some heated dialogue but for both my girl and I we realized that culturally Black folks just don’t dig on the dogs like White folks do. I have a Black girlfriend here who has a large dog and whenever she invites me over, she has no problem putting the dog up for the few hours I am going to be over. Yet with white folks, you ask can they move the dog so you can breathe and they act like you tried to smack the shit out of em.

It’s cultural differences like that, that despite folks like me being married to a white guy and Obama being the Democratic nominee for president that keep me aware that we have a long way to go before white folks and black folks will truly connect. It’s cool to love your dog but damn what about the humans?