Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Boston, Part 4: Long Day, Longer Night

If I thought the previous day's morning was tough, 5:30 AM on Friday came with even greater difficulty.

I rarely get up at that time, and if I do, it is usually the result of (or precursor to) something tragic.

By 7, I was at a publisher focus group, earning my daily bread (and a couple hundred bucks) in exchange for my time. Jose went with me, and we were done by 9. Walking back to the hotel, we did some graveyard touristing. Returning to my hotel room, I prepped some comments for my next morning's presentation, then half-watched/half-dozed through a couple History Channel documentaries about the hunt for John Wilkes Booth and then scientific study of the Antietam battlefield.

Later, Jose and I headed over to a great Chilean place for these beautiful sandwiches called Chaceros and some killer empanadas. One of these days, I'll get the photos off my iphone and post them here. They were that delicious and visually impressive that I had to get all lame foodie nerd and take some pictures in the restaurant.

After lunch, it was a very light drizzle in the unseasonably warm temperatures of 62-63 degrees, perfect for taking a walk. We burned off our calories by making our way across the Common and Public Garden, and then down the commonwealth mall of sculptures. We followed that as far as it would go, then took a left and then another and made our way back toward the hotel following Newbury. Newbury, as some of you might know, is a cool little shopping district, kind of like Coventry but more high-end and about 10x (if not more) as extensive. On our walk, we poked our head into a bunch of different places, including Trident bookstore (where I picked up a copy of the Believer - despite my disdain for Eggers - and some postcards), Newbury Comics (where I snagged a used copy of an old Luna album and Jose picked up a copy of the recently released Golden Smog greatest hits on Rykodisc), Johnny Cupcakes (where I admired the gaping contrast between the feminine stylized baking theme and the punk rock dudes staffing the joint, and bought a present for my friend), and karmaloop (a boutique that reminds me somewhat of Brigade here in the heights, only a bit more urban, where I snagged a cool retro cardigan for cheap), among others.

We made it back to the Common and immediately fell under assault from a group of cute but insane squirrels. It reminded me of when my family took a vacation to Boston when I was 14 and my little brother was bit by one of those squirrels. We headed over to Silvertone for a couple cocktails before meeting up with some colleagues for dinner at Ivy and, later, drinks at The Last Hurrah.

During drinks, I found myself stuck in a conversation with a colleague that became increasingly heated. She kept saying things that were tiptoeing around racism, the kind of things that you knew were motivated by racial bias when you heard them, but if you called the person out they could throw out some allegation of being a member of the PC police squad. I've come to expect this from right-wingers, as they learned a long time ago that in the battle between being called racist versus being called PC, liberals are more afraid of the PC tag than conservatives are of the racist tag. Anyway, this colleague of mine is supposedly a liberal, certainly she frames herself as a certain kind of feminist. But her comments were undeniably racist. Taken alone, they could be rationalized in one way or another, but as they piled up, an undeniable pattern emerged. From stupid shit like "no single white person lives in Beverly Hills anymore, 90210 is a myth, the Persians have taken over" to "white people can't get elected in LA anymore" to "Barack Obama gets his black from Michelle" it became increasingly uncomfortable and increasingly idiotic.

Some small part of my anticipated professional success over the next couple years is tied to this individual in a way, so I wanted to be as delicate as possible, but when she made that last one, I snapped a little bit. I didn't call her out directly, but made a passionately and nuanced statement about how such statements make me uncomfortable and I'd like to stop talking about race before any more comments are made that might make me rethink my views of some of the folks at our table. Unfortunately, this didn't stop anything, and it kept going, maybe another hour. I sat there, looking for an exit strategy that wouldn't involve me getting up and storming off, but one never came. Finally, the bar manager came over and said they were closing down (it was a little past 2), and saved us.

I got back to my room and composed myself. I wasn't really angry, but I did feel a lot of adrenaline, and I was really torn about this person and the new side of her I'd been forced to confront. Eventually, I faded off to sleep.

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