Monday, September 05, 2005

Alvin's Umbrella

Are disaster preparations and relief operations tainted by racism?

Kanye West thinks so (though folks in LA didn't get to hear his remarks thanks to the censor)....Stephanie Miller thinks so, along with all the other commetators on our new left wing radio station. The mainstream talking heads scoff at the notion: Not in modern America! Preposterous! Racism is dead for all intents and purposes.

Well, we got a different view this weekend.......

A couple of months ago our buddy Alvin got fired from the Sunset Center. No big deal..... until the Pine Cone ran an article about the work environment there. In the course of the article, they quoted a co-worker as saying that Alvin was a horrible, dangerous man. Amanda and I were pissed off enough to write a couple of letters to the editor

Dear Editor:

In the course of last week’s article about Sunset Center labor turmoil, a colleague of ours is mentioned as being “a horrible worker” deserving of at least firing, if not summary execution.

We have known the gentleman in question, Alvin Young, for ten years, and have found him to be quite the opposite. He is polite, even courtly. He is friendly and engaging, professional, and has a Depression-era system of values and honor. His finely honed sense of irony puts him in the top tenth of a percentile in my world. As a middle aged man with a new baby, the weight of financial responsibility is never far from his mind, and he is hardworking to a fault. Still, this has never dimmed his sense of social responsibility: Alvin is always my first call when I need help at a fundraiser…..and he is the first to decline payment in the face of a worthy cause.

You might ask the members of the Carmel Women’s Club for their views on the new Sunset Management. All I needed to know about the new regime was the news that the good ladies had been denied access to the Sunset toilets when the Club privies failed on bridge day. Not public access, you see. The nerve to even ask!

My enduring picture of Alvin Young is this: Alvin is neatly turned out in a dress shirt and Talbott bow tie, sweating like a stevedore to load our van at the back door of Sunset Center….as a volunteer bartender, at the close of an event to raise funds for the Sunset Center. Alvin will need his irony.

As far as being a “horrible worker” goes, perhaps I am being uncharitable if I hark back to an old ditty that once made the rounds of Sunset in its elementary school years: “It takes one to know one, Alexandra….and, baby, you know ‘em all!!”

Michael Jones
A Moveable Feast

Dear Editor:

Re: Sunset Center Labor Problems

After reading the article about labor problems at Sunset Center, I was struck by a not-so-subtle undercurrent in the paragraph about Alvin Young. I am puzzled why the Pine Cone would join in Alexandra Chappell’s defamation of Mr. Young. To the unknowing reader, Mr. Young is characterized in your article as potentially violent, probably black, certainly litigious, and a “horrible worker.” These characterizations work together to give us a picture of a lazy, shuffling, dangerous welfare cheat….just the kind we need to keep out of our Carmel.

Mr. Young is anything but. I turns out he is black. He is intelligent, well-educated, well-spoken,
well-groomed, with wide working experience, kind and funny, and a hardworking father of a new baby. Frankly, he is the kind of black person most Carmel folk wish all black people were. That his race even comes up at all in the discussion of Sunset Center is disturbing. I can’t help but think that where there is smoke there is fire: there may well be a racial angle to this story. After all, Carmel’s idea of diversity is having a Mexican gardener, maid or busboy. I challenge anyone to find a black worker of any description in Carmel, now that Alvin Young has been fired. And with the “horrible” reference the Pine Cone helped give him, I doubt he will be working anywhere near Carmel anytime soon.


Amanda Girard
Carmel Valley

Anyway, Alvin worked for us this weekend as a barman, and pulled my ass out of the fire. Saturday he calmly and competently ran a bar for a hundred fifty raging Dutchmen, and never lost his smile , and then got up at the crack and did it again Sunday morning for a wedding brunch. The brunch was for a beloved doctor and his wife (fellow Cornellians). They had an Israeli house guest and the combination of my Irish Catholic luck and the doc's Yiddish mitzvah resulted in the first sunny day in Carmel in weeks.

We set up Alvin on the patio in the blazing sun. We were commandeering a big market umbrella to shade the bar when the houseguest walked over: "Why does HE get an umbrella? Are you afraid he will get BLACKER?"

We were stunned, and expecting a punchline or something, we stood with stupid smiles our faces. "My friend in Israel adopted a black boy, and she keeps him inside during the day so he won't get too black." He looked around smiling, as if waiting for applause for his fine wit.

I stammered out something about the many black jews in know, Bathsheba of Solomon and Sheba was from Ethiopia and later Yemen and her people are still there. During the Ethiopian famine there was a big deal about an airlift of Ethiopian black jews into Israel..... Alvin just stared.

Nope. According to our guy, there are no original black jews.....only Americans, like Sammy Davis. Wow, what an asshole.

Alvin was steaming, but he remained cool. It was a buffet, so there was no opportunity for us to piss in his food, so I texted everyone I knew who went to Hebrew school: "How do you say 'Fuck you, racist bastard' in Hebrew?"

Yael called right back. Ironically, Yael is from Yemen.....and a strong case could be made for a genetic line right back to Bathsheba if courtly, queenly beauty is any indication. Yael is also a nice person, so it took some persuasion to get the translation from her. It goes something like this (phonetically): "Lecchh tizBAH-yenn deez ah-KNEE maz REE-achh."

We muttered this phrase every time we bussed the guy's table.....and we kept his table REALLY clean. He never tumbled: his opinion of working class Americans in general was not high enough to suspect Hebrew curses.

Anyway......Poor Alvin. Not so much the slur, but the fact that we couldn't get the prick alone. And the fact that in the course of Alvin's life, this is a normal thing. Can we therefore even begin to think that the lack of support in New Orleans is not race related?


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