On Political Correctness (or not)

Today is Cinco de Mayo in the States. I live in a corner of West Texas; the country of Mexico is within three miles of my house. I did my Master’s degree at a program that was primarily concerned with social and cultural implications of borderland living, mixed-race literature, and that had a lot to say about cultural appropriation.

Battle of PueblaMy ethnicity is Hispanic. My race is white. I grew up white, with all the privilege that is afforded a white person. I never had to deal with language barriers, ethnic barriers, familial or cultural barriers. Those were things my grandparents lived through – I only reaped the benefits.

Cinco de Mayo is not the only culturally appropriated holiday in the States.

Earlier this week I equated Cinco de Mayo to St. Patrick’s day. My comment was deleted and replaced with a post about how the writer will not tolerate hostility. Let’s make the world a better place.

Second Battle of Puebla by Jean-Adolphe BeaucéCRITICISM makes the world a better place. ENGAGEMENT makes the world a better place. Agreement does not make the world a better place. It feels better, short term. It’s nicer.

But it’s not BETTER.

Passive aggressive wrist-slapping does not make the world a better place.

SHAME makes the world a better place, actually. But shame takes guts. Making people feel shame for actions requires direct confrontation. And direct confrontation is, apparently, not an option.

I was trying to be entertaining and instead I was viewed as hostile. I made a contribution and it was ignored and rebuked. No direct contact, all very passive. No way to actually engage. Just an unspoken shut-out of what was perceived as a dissenting opinion.

Battle of PueblaAn academic posts something controversial. A response is perceived as hostile and is (therefore) a dissenting opinion.

It’s fundamentally insincere to delete a dissenting opinion and replace it with vitriol about “engaging in a discussion about cultural appropriation.” You know what that is?

That’s silencing a voice and replacing it with your own.

That’s the heart of cultural appropriation.

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Snakes on a Trail!

Rattlesnakes, mostly. Western diamondbacks, mostly.

We’ve been in Texas for YEARS now and I have rarely encountered snakes. Usually they are stretched out on the road as I whizz by in my trusty Honda.

Hubs has seen more than me, and his encounters are more with live snakes – he’s usually working at dawn or dusk (the most active times) and he has more occasion to be outside in fields and whatnot.

But one thing I’ve been hearing a lot of lately, now that we live in the foothills of a mountain range, with a great trail system right around the corner from our house, is watch out for snakes. Since the pups and I try to get out to walk regularly, this is useful information.

I do not take this warning lightly, because I know next to nothing about how to spot snakes, and generally I tend to be attentive to dangerous things I know little about. However, I also take this advice with several grains of salt depending on who is offering it. When my spouse tells me to be on the lookout for snakes, especially around dawn, I wake up a little earlier (pre-dawn) and start using a flashlight for better visibility.

When the dog-mother whose precious baby dogs get their own live-in babysitter and birthday parties tells me that snakes are around every bend… okay maybe.

This area of the southwest is tree-less so guess what kind of snakes we have? PIT VIPERS. I love how ridiculously scary that classification term sounds: PIT viper. Not just a regular viper, but one that hangs out in shallow, hard to spot pits of doom.

Interesting factoid: pit vipers are named for heat-sensing pits in their heads, not because they live in pits (which is also generally true).

I looked up native Texas snakes because, well, why not? There are four in the state, three are pit vipers: copperheads, cottonmouths, and the most common and prolific in our neck of the woods, the rattlesnake. Western diamondback, to be precise, although we have a whole bevy of rattly-beauties.

by jeanette m otis on flickr
{image by Jeanette M. Otis on Flickr}

There’s also the colorful and elusive coral snake, which is a cobra, rather than a pit viper. The main differences are the type of venom and how they deliver poison (foldable teeth vs. non-foldable). Coral snakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths aren’t huge in our neck of the woods. Apparently they all like trees and water. Wusses.

I haven’t seen any snakes on walkies yet, nor heard any (Rattlesnakes blend in really well in grassless brown desert, so they are not very visible. But they are very hear-able). I hope it stays that way.

However, if I do encounter a snake I will stay calm and still, back away slowly, and then run home and write about it here.

Baby, This Place is Cold

image

(Snow on the mountain caps!)

I do love that classic Christmas duet, “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a version that I didn’t enjoy.

After growing up in the cold, we lived in a warm climate for eight years. Now, while we’re not back in a land of snow and ice, we are in a multilatitude arid desert zone, meaning hot in the summer, cold in the winter. There’s not a ton of precipitation (either rain or snow) but the temperatures get extreme.

snowflake on my windshield | sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com
That’s a snowflake on my windshield. I’ll get better at taking these kinds of pictures. Right now I’m out of practice.

In the last 24 hours I’ve seen flurries and the overnight temp dipped below freezing. Those words seem unimpressive but I haven’t lived in snow flurry land in almost a decade! I felt like a kid in her first snow.

I’m looking forward to the “winter” months in this new climate. It will be a good adventure.

FOOD omnomnom

I’m not sure it’s possible to overstate how much I’m loving the food situation here in our new place. Where we lived for eight years we had ONE RESTAURANT that was open for dinner. Every single night out, holiday, anniversary, etc happened at the same place.

For.

Eight.

Years.

We haven’t eaten at home much in the month we’ve been here in a big city.

FOOD omnomnom | sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com
Shrimp and Grits
FOOD omnomnom | sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com
Spam Moco
FOOD omnomnom | sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com
Jirashe
FOOD omnomnom | sundriedtomatoe.wordpress.com
Gyro and Souvlaki and Spanakopita and Keftedes

New Lights, Big City

We have successfully made the move from the middle of nowhere to the “big city” of El Paso, Texas.  

 

There’s a trail into the foothills (of the mountain range that splits the city) RIGHT around the corner from our house. The dogs and I have been out walking almost every day. We meet the sun in the morning or watch it set at night. Some desert lizards have had a bad time of it but otherwise it’s kind of like hiking near the edge of heaven. 

  
We have HUNDREDS of restaurants within 15 minutes. Eating dinner at home is a real challenge! After living years with Applebee’s as our ONLY choice for dinner, we are overcome with food-happiness. 

  
Our house is one of those things I’m scared to love too hard. It’s that good. Above is a picture of an outlet IN THE BATHROOM. First, we have three bathrooms. Second, they all have outlets. I can dry my hair right there! LAP. OF. LUXURY. 

In all seriousness this house is nicer than we expected. This is the kind of house we expected to be in as we approached our 50s. It’s surreal every time I drive up and realize the house is ours. 

 
New job is just so good. I’m the creative one, the square peg, the “outside the box” person, which delights me to no end. And I get to do that in an industry that I LOVE, that makes so much sense to me, and that I appreciate on an intellectual level. It’s outstanding. I’m only three days in and I am sure of the fact that it’s outstanding. 

Overall, things are awesomely excellent at the moment. Just wanted to share. 

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*Posted from my phone. 

Real Estate Agents Are Ridiculous

Holy smokes in a cat-herding hand-basket of spaghetti. What a joke this “buying new home” process has been. We have laughed a LOT over the last month… with the understanding that this is a kind of dark humor born of the depths of weird doublespeak and fundamentally shady standards.

{The feature image for this post is so smarmy that I just had to include it. SNARF SNARF.}

My first draft of this post was SO LONG, mainly to try to explain the mental gymnastics one has to go through to even understand U.S. home-buying real estate.

The super-short, very pared down version is this: we didn’t use a real estate agent to buy or sell the house we’re currently in. We live in such a small, rural area that word of mouth and a local real estate attorney was all we needed to get the contract and lending obligations done. In fact, this house never even went on the real estate market – when we bought it was because we heard it was available through a friend and when it was time to sell we had four different people interested before we were even done cleaning!

under contract

Contrast this with our new location – a large city and a robust real estate market and hundreds of homes for sale. Any time we saw a house the selling agent would do a double take in shock and awe when we said we weren’t working with a buyer’s agent. They just couldn’t wrap their heads around it.

What that means, now that we’re only two weeks away from moving in to a new house, is that we tend to get ignored when we have questions or document needs. Title companies, other agents, inspectors, even the lender (to some extent) are used to working with agents. They are NOT used to fielding calls and answering questions directly from the buyer. So the responses have been mostly surprised and sometimes strangely dumb.

I actually had one guy call and scold me for not using an agent. And the seller’s agent called and told me our lender (a major bank) was a “terrible decision” and that I should go with “their guy” who could get the whole loan processed in three weeks or less.

the most interesting realtor in the world

Seems to me that the assumption is that we are stupid, or foolish. Going against the flow so dramatically (I had no idea…) as to not even HAVE an agent at all kind of marks us as weirdos in a major real estate market.

The plus side to all this is that I have control over the timeline. No one is lagging on sending documents to our lender. Nothing we say is getting lost in translation as it passes through two or three middle men. I have a solid idea of where the listing agency is in their “to dos” for this sale. Mostly, I’m not having to rely on one person for all my information. Worth it.

If all continues to go “well” we will be done with the Real Estate Agent Circus and in our new home in two weeks. That’s pretty cool, and also scary! MAJOR change, and one that is not a sure thing until all the paperwork is signed. I never realized how big a deal it was to pack up your life and head to a new place without a sure spot to land! We’ve always had a rental or apartment lined up. This is kind of a “pack up and hope for the best” situation!

Ch-ch-ch-CHANGES.

David Bowie Ch-ch-ch-CHANGES