“Are you Mexican?” she asked after the how-do-you-stuff was over.
Must have been the look on my face over the abruptly blunt question coming right after my introduction. Because that’s when the nice middle-America Boomer lady lamely explained how first names fascinated her. I was meeting to talk about possibly joining a community chorus. Oh . . . I didn’t realize ethnic identity was relevant to sing wonder bread.
After all, I wasn’t there for a background check or to discuss my mestizo roots. It was just the obligatory first step for an audition. It was not American Idol but chorale for fun not for my supper.
Maybe it was the absence of an “e” after the “o” in ‘Mo’? Or maybe my given name caused her to see nopales growing out the back of my swarthy head?
Not to say there haven’t been people confused before. Just this past Christmas, I met a retired judge who swore I was Hawaiian. “Mahalo!”
It was just an opportunity to sniff each other — to see if our interests were simpatico — or not. Besides, who said I could sing? I don’t karaoke or sing in the shower. Had someone heard me serenading my dogs?
“Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?” — Neale’s “Good King Wenceslas” (1853)
And why now? Not like this has been on my bucket list or I might have tried it sooner — like after my duet of Good King Wenceslaus on the church hall stage in 8th grade.
But why not singing? I know lawyers who relax or relieve stress by acting in community theater or hunting or river-rafting and of course, yoga. Some really get into yoga, too.
I was defending counsel at a deposition and remember how at the end, the lawyer taking the deposition broke immediately for the door. When I glanced up, sotto voce he said how pleased he was to finish early and make his 5 p.m. yoga session. And I’d thought he badly needed a bathroom break. Lotus headstands and forearm-stand scorpions? Class four rapids? Chasing chukar across steep rocky peaks and desert slopes? By comparison, I thought, chorale singing was no big deal.
Castrato from a contralto.
Famous last words since after hearing about time commitments, long practices and my non-music-reading learning curve, I begged off. That’s a lot for somebody who barely knows a castrato from a contralto or a mostaccioli from a mezzo-soprano.
It’s back to singing in the car or on the golf course. So it really wasn’t because I’d happened upon an etiquette-challenged ethnically-oblivious person in a place where one in three residents are Latino.
Same o’ same o.’
Speaking of which, I was right to earlier have qualified my expectations in ascribing more enlightened post-racial sensitivities among the post-Boomer set. Not when you still have college fraternities like Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) taking political incorrectness and racial insensitivity to new lows. The Arizona State University TKE chapter was permanently expelled the other day by the university after it hosted a racist party as some kind of twisted Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemoration.
Yet from my read of the local press, there were also enough Arizonans who thought it was overreaction and overwrought political-correctness. The frat boys and their girlfriends may have been dumb but not racist, they said. Kids will be kids.
So even college-age ones can be expected to act in childish ways and not just in Arizona. In November, for instance, there was the “‘Catch an Illegal Immigrant‘ Game” at the University of Texas at Austin. And before that, there was that UC Irvine fraternity blackface video or that “Outrage at Duke Over a Fraternity’s Asian-Themed ‘Racist Rager'” or those fun-loving Penn State serape-wearing sorority sisters and a Mexican-themed party complete with “Will Mow Lawn for Weed + Beer” signs.
More Corona than Constitution.
In any case, their apologists argued, the ASU frat partygoers were merely exercising their Constitutionally protected First Amendment Free Speech rights. And anyhow, whaddya expect at a university long famed for its perennial rank among the best party schools in the country?
If the public university opts to expel the students for violating the ASU Code of Conduct, then those Free Speech arguments will reverberate. For one, ACLU legal director Dan Pochoda gravely opined ASU can’t expel those at the party.
Then call it clueless doltishness if you prefer instead of what it really is — old-fashioned racism. But since these days, the race card is conveniently out-of-favor among those least likely to be racially discriminated, let’s blame it instead on the more socially-palatable ‘stupid is as stupid does.’
When all is said and done, twits are inter-generational.
Photo credits: Nopal_en_Ojitos.jpg, Zacatecas, Mexico, by Mannyp at Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license; Mariachi, The passion of the mariach by Señor Codo at Wikipedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license;Two Dogs Sniffing, at Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License, public domain; Good King Wenceslaus, engraving by Brothers Dalziel at Wikipedia Commons, public domain; Corona Extra, by Odbake at Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license; you gotta love, by Robert S. Donovan, at Flickr via Creative Commons-license requiring attribution.