Archive for the 'Boston-Irish Roots' Category

25
Jan
09

Lace-curtain Striving

This is the word that I have come to believe epitomizes my family‘s working-class ethos.  Though we’re firmly middle-class, the lot of us, in fact some quite well off (in the top 10% of wage earners), the reality is that we’ll never shed this sense of wanting to do better.  Better than what, at this point, you ask?  I’m not sure.  Most of my cousins are better off than their parents, I think.  Most of us could probably keep up with the proverbial Jones, whoever they are.

But there’s this feeling, best summed up by my godfather once talking about his daughter getting a promotion at work because “she was looking to do more” and her higher-ups noticed.  This is a good example of how the intangible becomes tangible.  How trying to prove oneself pays off.

Yet, striving includes determination fueled in part by insecurity – am I cut out for MIT?  How did I get here?  Will people find out I don’t really belong?  That I’m faking it?  There’s also how we measure success: for some of my cousins, it’s the size of the house or the paycheck or even the clothing brands they bring home.  Some of those matter to me too, but clearly I’ve chosen to prove myself through education, by going where no one in my family has gone before.

In choosing an adulthood of more or less continuous graduate school, my income has fluctuated dramatically over the years, and I often find myself filled with self-recrimination because money is tight and the future’s uncertain and I am definitely not financially secure like a responsible adult in my family should be.  This post is spurred by the fact that I had to put plastic up over my living room windows tonight to keep out the draft, leaving me feeling ashamed that I am worrying about my heating bill and embarrassed that I’ve had resort to crude and unattractive measures when my parents clearly would not want their only child to be worrying about her utility costs like they did long ago.  I should be beyond this, I scold myself silently.

Seriously, somebody call me a wahhhh-bulance, I know.  But my family’s version of making it is always having enough disposable income for shopping or dining out, and then talking about our purchases (look at us! We can buy what we want!).  And here I am wondering how I’m going to pay my household bills come June.  (Any other debt payments have already been slashed to the bone.)

I’ve started to resign myself to that reality that I will probably not outearn my parents in my lifetime.  In exchange I am trying to figure out the bourgie trappings of academia, to demonstrate a different version of, a slight twist on “making it.” I am a quick study, at least.  I only need to get around my own working-class chip to embrace the intelligentsia lifestyle.  We’ll see.  Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to learn a whole new language out here.  And I need some (lace-) curtains stat, so no one can see my plastic window.

16
Jan
09

Please help Kori!

kori I’m shamelessly using this blog in the hopes that you can help my family:

My 7yo cousin Kori, whose family is very low-income and lives in public housing in South Boston, has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.  She has been in treatment for some time, and her short-term prognosis is good.  Long-term, her disease is pretty deadly.  Her family is acting strong but they are definitely struggling.

If you can spare even a dime, please consider making a small donation to help with Kori’s treatment. You can learn more about Kori here, and help with her treatment here.  (There is also the option to contribute instead to the Make-A-Wish Foundation for those not comfortable with donating directly to an unknown family.)

The power of the internet to raise awareness and funds is powerful.  I cannot thank you enough for keeping my family in your thoughts and for any help you can provide for Kori.

I am collecting funds through Friday, January 23.

20
Mar
08

Class, Power & Voting

Because election fever has overtaken my brain, I’ve been neglecting the issues I usually talk about here: poverty, urban development, housing, inequality, and post-Katrina New Orleans. (That my blog readership is way up reinforces the notion that no one likes to talk about poor people.  Sigh.)  So I pass the mike to Prof. Peter Dreier from Occidental College, who I recently saw speak at a conference where he urged those college kids who could afford it to drop out of school this fall and organize voters for the election.

Dreier sums up a great deal of what I’ve been studying these last four years – in the context of class, power and voting patterns. His point of departure is Obama’s re-hashing of the meme about working-class white (WCW) resentment – one I picked up happily as it gave me an opening to embrace the good and bad about my roots. Dreier points out that although WCW racism and prejudices held by all middle- and lower-income social groups exist, it is the institutional power of wealthy whites that perpetuates structural racism and inequality – a system upheld in the voting booth year after year. He writes:

…let’s be clear about the class nature of racial prejudice, stereotypes, discrimination, and disparities. Wealthy whites are more likely than working-class whites to use the race card in the voting booth. Voting statistics reveal that most upper-income whites consistently vote in Republican, not Democratic, primaries, which means they don’t have to vote for black or Latino candidates. And in partisan run-off elections, wealthy whites overwhelmingly vote for Republican over Democratic contenders. [He goes on to sample supply voting data by income categories.]

…in an Obama-McCain face-off fewer wealthy whites will vote for Obama than working-class whites whom affluent pundits are so quick to label as racist. Indeed, we’ve already seen a significant number of blue-collar white voters show their support for Obama in Iowa, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and other states. Yes, white working-class Democrats in economically troubled Ohio favored Clinton over Obama. But in November, most of the blue-collar Democrats, working-class independents, and union members who voted for Clinton — in Ohio and elsewhere — are likely to switch to Obama, not McCain.

It is understandable that most wealthy whites would consistently vote for Republicans, who like low taxes and hate strong unions. But in recent decades, a significant number of working-class whites — the so-called “Reagan Democrats” — have voted for GOP candidates who have done so little to address their bread-and-butter concerns. As Thomas Frank argued in his book, What’s the Matter with Kansas?, the Republicans have successfully used “wedge” issues — abortion, religion, gun control, gay rights, affirmative action, and, of course, the war on terrorism — to persuade some working-class whites to vote against their economic interests.

But the tide seems to be changing.

By focusing on voting behavior and attitudes, however, political pundits deflect focus away from other fundamental concerns. America’s corporate and political rulers have long used racism, ethnic stereotypes, and immigrant bashing to divide working people and weaken their collective power. Manufacturers recruited Southern blacks to act as strikebreakers in Northern cities, and employers warned “No Irish need apply” and resorted to anti-Semitism to pit workers against each other. In hard economic times, scapegoating against blacks and Hispanic immigrants diverts white workers’ attention away from the failure of business and political elites to create enough decent jobs.

Although working-class white Americans may harbor racist sentiments, they do not control the major institutions that are responsible for America’s racial divide, including the economic forces that sometimes pit white, black, and Hispanic working families against each other for jobs, housing, and decent schools.

in every sphere of American life — income, hiring, promotion, housing, the quality of public schools, college attendance, treatment by the criminal justice system, media portrayals, and others — race remains a divisive issue. While upper-middle class pundits may get some smug pleasure out of pointing to racial prejudice among America’s white working-class voters, they would be more accurate if they looked up, rather than down, the economic ladder to identify who really has the power to prop up, or fix, the institutions that turn bigotry into discrimination.

It’s worth reading the whole thing. This is where my worries flare up that current Clinton supporters – should she not get the nomination – will fall for the “Maverick McCain” meme rather than supporting Obama/the Democratic nominee. We cannot let that happen.

20
Feb
08

Vexed

Still I believe.

13
Feb
08

Brighton Moments

Driving to school this morning in the NAS-TAY rain and slush, pass Brookline Liquors and read on the awning, “Go Celts”.  It’s been A LONG LONG time since I’ve seen that.  Pretty sure I was still shooting hoops in junior high during the last Celtics fervor.

Driving home from school this afternoon, still DISGUSTING outside, 93.7 Mike FM-“We play everything” delivers on that promise by playing Styx “The Best of Times.”  Picture me sitting at the Comm Av/Chestnut Hill Av intersection in Brighton in my turquoise love machine, “PONTIAC” lit up in red on the trunk since the lights are on, with Styx cranked and me singing right along.  I bet it’s moments like that that I’m at my most attractive.  (Guess the classic-rock-obsessed hs boyfriend was good for something.)

And then there’s this in the NY Times: a guy living outside Brighton Center receives a postcard dated 1929, addressed to the former owner of his house.  To quote the history-loving M.A.S.:  COOOL.

 

 

15
Jan
08

G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S (the Flouncy, Flouncy…)

Weboy here.

It was during the third shampoo – the one before the scalp massage and the Shiatsu in my chair – that I realized I like the pampering of my hair salon. I have given up a great many extravagances – I no longer shop til I drop, or go to the Spa for massages – but my hair is one thing where I just cant skimp.

And too, there’s the moments, like the shampoo, that are just utter indulgences. I usually close my eyes to experience the sensations of having someone else touch my head; it’s not something that happens all that regularly, and because, like many, I carry a lot of stress, it does take a lttle work to let oneself be touched. I completely understand people who say they simply leave their body – I drift into semi-consciousness.

Red is quite simply the only woman I know who came with amazing hair and needs to do little to it – when I first met her we discussed hair coloring, and she decided she couldn’t do it because her natural red might never be the same. And dash-it-all, she’s right: I don’t think I will ever see such golden tresses, especially when they’re kissed by the summer sun. Not only that, but with little effort – and I mean one basic blow-and-go haircut she’s had pretty much in all the time I’ve known her – her hair falls in waves of cascading shoulder length curls that most people get perms to achieve.

Me, not one thing about my hair is natural – I’ve cut it and dyed it and straightened it and braided it and done God knows what else. My current regime is the famous “Asian straight perm,” which I love, and which is utterly time consuming. My hair stylist is a genius, a wizard at cutting straight hair, and a great chemist – the results are long and lustrous, with minimal damage.

And, with a toss of my long mane, that may be that: thanks for having me over. Red should be back online shortly. With a tan, no doubt, and a refreshed spirit. It is, after all, a glamorous life.

08
Jan
08

Everyone Loves A Boston Girl

Weboy here.  It appears our Red-headed mistress has decided to bask in the sun, without more posting.  Good. 🙂

I think it’s only fitting that my last post in Boston should be on Red’s site – it’s her town, and now I leave it to her. Red isn’t happy about the fact that I’ve moved back to New York (I am, after all, an NYC Weboy), but I think time has shown that one town can only contain the both of us for so long – at some point, no town is big enough. 🙂

Last night on my blog, I talked about the feeling that it’s over.  Today, walking around town, I was reminded that it’s not.  Boston SkyIt was a beautiful day (take that, LA), and people all over reveled in the ability to skip the winter coat and play outdoors.  Boston, at heart, is an “outdoorsy” town – ruddy faced people who enjoy a brisk run or a game of pickup touch football on the quad (there’s a reason the northeastern college experience is so quintessential).  RedStar, our very own, confessed to me one rainy day that for years she got mistaken as the “field hockey” type… when really she’s probably a kindred spirit to nice Upper East Side girls who’s main competitive sport is shopping…. or nightclubbing.

I’d say I’m with her, but really, I’m not.  There’s a secret, solitary jock inside of me who likes a good run.  I may have felt a little lost, a bit out of place here in my two year residency… but we were getting there, Boston and I, on a mutual agreement of terms. In New York, it puts me in something akin to the “gym bunny” class of gay men, but without the Zone diet and the crazy abs. Healthy, and a little thinner… that would be fine.

Walking home today across the Public Garden, I was sad to see that the Swan Boats are on their winter hiatus.  As a kid, nothing thrilled me more than visits to the Garden, and a chance to ride around the (man made) lake.  Looking for Mack, Jack, Lack and Quack and all the other ducklings. My first gift to my nephew (the Most Adorable Nephew in the Universe), in fact was just that book. Now, with adult eyes, I see that the amazing lake is really just a man made pond, no deeper than a duckling’s legs.  But in Spring and Summer, with the Swan Boats circling, it still seems magical.  It’s not the worst memory to go home with.

Everyone loves a Boston Girl.  I still love mine – the inner one, and the Redheaded stepchild. Take care of our town, Red.