Friday, May 30, 2008

What is "White"?

Every night before I go to bed, I stand at my open window and breathe in my last scents of the night and give my thanks. I need to remember to start thanking the the spirits for not being a Dermatologist.

I went to mine yesterday and it was a very odd and somewhat unsettling experience. As if sitting in a little room on wax paper in a cotton "gown" (whoever gave it that euphemism should see what happens when a woman tries to wear a hospital "gown" down the red carpet), staring at all the pamphlets detailing the horrible things that will happen to your health if you're not careful, my dermatologist came in to look at my acne and instead freaked out about my back. "This... well, it's hard to judge... but this is the amount of sun damage I'd expect to see on someone older than you." Okay, so it's not the equivalent of going to the gynecologist and hearing "Oh this is interesting" once the doctor's down there, but being told you have old lady skin is enough to make any twenty-four year old scowl.

She stepped in front of me with slight shock. "What have you been doing?" she asked. She was probably hoping for me to chomp on some gum and say, "I tan at this place downtown every week." I told her the truth. "Uh... chores? I have horses so I'm out there cleaning horse stalls and stuff in a tank top..." She was still amazed. Why? Two reasons. One -- I have freckles. I don't find that very odd. I am part Irish and, well, I'm a freckly person on my arms and back where I get the most sun. As she stood there staring at me I even asked, "But none of my freckles look like they're planning anything, do they?" "No, they're fine," she responded. So what was the big deal? That leads me to my second reason: the sun had made me, a "white person," brown. *gasp*

From early March when I first showed up at school in a short skirt and tank top my classmates were gawking and saying "wow, someone's seen some sun" when in fact... um... yes, I had seen the sun (as opposed to not seeing it?) but no, I hadn't been intentionally tanning. I'll lie out in my swimsuit and read sometimes, but I'm always careful not to get burnt. And I haven't been burned yet this year. I just browned. Which led me to the extremely belated revelation that I have olive skin. I have arrested development, okay? These things sometimes take me a while to notice. But I notice the big things fast. Like when I was seven and put myself into a depression when I figured that all religions were wrong and when you die you cease to exist. But anyway, I'd gotten so used to my sister's fair complexion that I saw myself as the same way. And I am pretty white -- I mean, I have dark hair and eyes so I always look pale by contrast. But once in the sun I turn brown.

The only pic I could think of where you can see some of the color in my skin.

After a few weeks of warm weather one of my friends even announced that I "had to be part African American or Native American" to be brown as I am, though he's from the Seattle area so I'm not sure if he counts. To be fair, I was raised believing I was Mohawk, however then my grandma admitted to being a liar so who knows. She changes her story every time. Hey -- at least she didn't say we were Cherokee. No one will probably get that joke except for the one Indian who might stumble upon this blog... So it is possible that I'm part Indian, but if it were true, it would be several generations back and I don't think it would have really contributed to my phenotype.

The other odd thing is that, when I was about fifteen, I had a freckle/mole removed from my shoulder. It was tested and turned out to be just fine, though the derm I had back then wanted to share his surprising news that I actually don't have freckles. Given that this doctor also said "hey, who knows?" when I'd joked that some people thought the world was gonna end on 9/9/99 (yes, it was that long ago) I seriously suspected him of insanity. Especially when he told me to move to Alaska because my skin was fair or at the very least, wear a hat when I was standing on the sidelines of my soccer game to hide from the sun. As if. So it turned out that my freckles were really patches of melanin... in other words, patches of pigmentation, like... patches of skin from a darker-skinned person. Interesting.

Back to the present. The dermatologist I have now pulled up the sleeve of her white lab coat and held her arm up to mine to compare skin tones. Now, she's Asian. If I had to guess (yes, I'm racially profiling) I'd say she was Chinese given her name. But as we studied our forearms she said, "you should not be darker than me." At the time I was nervous since I was in a sack in a cold room with a stranger who was dictating to me the norms of my race without even bothering to ask why my race was, so I didn't say do much more than nervously laugh and say "my ancestors come from the North Atlantic and they didn't get much sun but here I am in California..." She advised me to "wear long sleeves as often as possible" and to "apply sunscreen every day, even when it's cloudy out, and reapply every 2 hours." I think she left out "live like a Vampire in the shadows."

Not feel the sun? Wear long sleeves all the time? She might as well have said "don't live!" I kept thinking along the lines of Donkey from Shrek: "Humans were born outside, we're meant to be outside." Yes, I understand the risks of sun exposure and yes, the people of Ireland are often sickeningly pale but... humans adapt. Our bodies are not stagnant. It seems to me that I should be able to handle a little sun now and then, or more often, especially if it doesn't burn at all.

Then I realized what she'd done during my visit. She'd compared her skin to mine and told me what I should look like... according to my "race." Whoa. Dude. Did she think I shouldn't be darker than her because "white" people are supposed to be... "white"? This is even more insane and insulting when you consider the fact that the creed of "proper skin tone" was being stated by a dermatologist who clearly believed in what she advised and most likely took every precaution in her life to try to simulate living in a cave void of UV rays.

I'm always puzzled by the idea of "white" as a race and the more opinions I hear from people of other races talking about "white people," as if an entire group of people are one homogeneous, single-minded mass, the more I wonder how much "white people" should be doing to define themselves. A few months back I looked up "Caucasian" since I was curious as to my "race" only to discover that I wasn't Caucasian at all. Caucasian, as a race, refers to Europeans or those of European origin. As far as I know, I only have a small bit of German but am predominantly a Celt. From now on when I fill out forms I'm checking "other" then filling in "North Atlantic Islander."

You mistakenly call an Irish person English and you'll get your ass kicked. I mean, WWI and WWII were all about different white people getting annoyed with each other and attacking each other. If "white people" are a homogeneous mass, then we're a damn volatile one. Then again, it is often the case that the moment one starts to discuss what it means to be "white" and mentions any other race in the discussion, one runs the risk of being labeled a "white supremacist" or "racist." Notice I felt compelled to use "one" in that sentence. Hmm.

What are your thoughts, anyone out there?

Chee Chee doesn't worry about his pale fluff.

Going back to dermatology, my cousins are ideal patients. They wear these swimsuit tops that look like wet suits and cover their chests and arms. Last year when we were camping I was watching them in their suits and asked "...don't you ever miss feeling the sun or the wind?" and neither missed a beat. Both said, "no" and looked at me funny. What's the world coming to?!

My visit ended with her waving off my acne as "a classic case of adult hormonal acne" with a brief treatment plan and many cautionings to cover up. I'm sorry, but I'll risk a little future sun damage (I mean, since my poser freckles aren't planning anything, they're not a threat) in the future. I mean, what's my back gonna do? Wrinke? Fine. At least I don't have to look at it. And it's worth feeling alive.

On an entirely different note, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has been out for a week now! I saw it last weekend and it was great fun. Indy is always an adventure! When my friends first started calling me "Bone" back in high school (hence the name "Bone Rice Productions") it was sometimes changed to "Indiana Bone." And I was Indy for countless Halloweens. Here's a picture from way back when I was a teen with braces!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Happy Memorial Day

A call to arms!

This weekend was the annual Civil War reenactment at nearby Roaring Camp. It's a beautiful place and if you're ever in the area I highly recommend a visit.

But this weekend it was a battlefield. Literally! And what better way to invoke reflection on Memorial Day weekend than to be reminded of the war that, in many ways, defined us as a people. Americans vs. Americans. Rivers running red. Families sundered. Grudges that are still held between North and South. It was a rift in our history that is still healing and prompts us all to pause and consider our roots -- blood, rotting flesh, tears and dreams. Of course, that's being a bit grim but it's hard not to be when dealing with the war in which more of our countrymen and women were slaughtered than any other.

A woman portraying Mary Edwards Walker gives a talk about female surgeons during the war. The beebees in the metal bowl to the left represented how many soldiers were treated in a half hour, if I heard her correctly.

Bloodied water. Shame they didn't know about germs and sanitized nothing!

Severed limbs

Surgical instruments

The North and the South both had encampments set up but I only got the chance to photograph the Northern encampment before the battle began and the camps were sectioned off.

A soldier finds a moment of peace. He has a nice rocking chair.

Someone's lunch!

Beautiful dresses but... can you imagine being trapped in that hoop skirt and sinister corset?!!!! I don't know what would've become of me had I lived back then. I couldn't even survive the clothing!

These soldiers saw me with a camera and instinctively posed.

Three gentlemen and a lady

We just don't have signs like this anymore. It's a bit of a shame.

He looks pretty good!

I'm glad I don't have to spin my own yarn!

Here are the few shots I managed to get of the Confederate Camp:

Soon the battle began. The cannons are so loud that you literally feel your chest quake from the boom. All were advised to protect their ears.

The Union Army advances

Union soldiers ending their break before the battle

The Union Army forms ranks:

The Confederates prepare to fire

The smoke from the cannon creates a ghost-like atmosphere

The Union retaliates

As do the Confederates

Union soldiers are already dying

Some British officer looks on... maybe he's hoping the Yanks will all kill themselves and England can colonize America once more.

Got his hat blown off!

A soldier helps a wounded comrade

Confederate causalities

A confederate fights back

Perhaps her husband is out there

Both sides exchange fire.

Then all at once, the Confederates charge! Watch the little kid in the Union army -- he kicks butt!

A Confederate casualty screams fro help

The Confederates have won! The raise their hats in triumph as belles watch in the distance. The sickos.

The victorious men of Robert E. Lee's army

The Confederates have won the battle... but not the war.

Reenactments are wonderfully entertaining, educational experiences that bring history to life. I adore them and attend this one every year. Though I must admit, the sounds of the cannons carried rather far, and as I listened to them from my lawn, I got a cold shiver. It reminded me of that spooky scene in The Patriot when the family hears booms and steps outside to see the Revolution literally being fought outside their front porch. Here's to hoping we never again have war on American soil, feeble as that hope may be.

To all our fallen soldiers -- thank you for your sacrifice and may you be at peace.

Happy Memorial Day!
(white doesn't work on a white background)

melissa - I can't believe you also know about Herbie Barnes! That is so cool! :oD And best of luck finishing up all your work! Hope you get some sun soon. :o)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Communist's Potato Chip, Parades, and Damage

Black's pollin-covered toes

First off, thank you kindly for all of those who expressed concern for my family and I. After three days things have started to seem normal again, though sirens and helicopters still could be warnings and the big fire is still raging elsewhere in the mountains - 35% contained by the most recent estimate. Scary.

Though as evidence of the return of normalcy I offer up an instance from Friday, May 23rd, 2008, in which my sister and I were eating lunch outside in the sun, enjoying our home and animals to the fullest. When the Communist eagerly trotted over to rub on me with his tail, I refrained from calling him any anti-red names and instead tossed him a bit of a Kettle Chip potato chip. To my utter surprise, he crunched the whole thing up!

I saved him a few pieces so that I could film the Communist eating a potato chip. With Alex, Teyla and Comanche watching, I set the Commie on the table and tried to feed him a chip. Watch what ensues. Teyla gets jealous then when she gets teased and yelled at, she runs into the garage to tell on us to our mom who she also thinks is her mom, of course:

Saturday morning was the local Memorial Day parade to honor our fallen soldiers. ...And it started off with a horrendous rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Seriously. Think Hillary Clinton screeching at the top of her lungs.

My sister rode our horse Sparrow in it while her boyfriend and I talked about filmmaking. As you can see, Sparrow, high-strung by nature, wasn't exactly cooperating. The good thing is her antics made her look like she was intentionally side-stepping and the crowd enjoyed it! And Alex looked gorgeous as ever. :)

Right about now Sparrow bucked. I can see why. Look at her back hooves. Someone chucked a cherry candy at her, the jerk!

Here are a few of the parade's other participants:

This handsome and patriotic youth was in attendance, perhaps to see...

...this guy and...

...this guy.

And really, no parade is complete without Bigfoot. He lives in the area and needs representation, after all.

Here are some of the other sights:

A WWI Fillipino Soldier (but don't quot me on that, I can't recall exactly)
Local volunteer search and rescue

My good friend, and Iraq War vet, Tony

Howard doing the best job of them all -- cleaning up after the horses! Check out his shirt. Like it? That's my drawing. ;)

Me and Tony after the parade. Needless to say, I am not a morning person. And it shows.

Later that day I hiked to the North Ridge to survey the burnt forest on the mountainside. Very sad to see so much death and damage, but hopefully it will soon yield new life. I think the pictures speak for themselves without captions.

Look at the ash when I step: