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Archive for May, 2010

Syracuse Pool is for White People Only

May 27, 2010 2 comments

Apparently the appearance of brown or poor people having fun keeping cool was too much for the largely white business owners in downtown Syracuse, who have called the police on city residents trying to cope with the near-90 degree heat. According to the article Clinton Square fountain is not a pool in the Post-Standard:

After people showed up with beach towels and coolers on 85-degree days this week, Syracuse Police launched an education campaign to remind people that the fountain in Clinton Square is not a water park. Police officers rode bicycles and drove cars around the square today to shoo people out of the water.

Police will give friendly warnings for a few days, said Sgt. Gary Bulinski. By the end of the week, police could start writing tickets to people 16 and older and parents of those under 16 who are found in the fountain.

Syracuse Parks Commissioner Pat Driscoll said he and other city officials saw the crowd Tuesday and heard enough complaints to start enforcing the law.

Just to be clear: Clinton Square is a city park, and the “fountain” actually is a pool… it’s officially called a “reflecting pool” on the city parks website, though the fountains do tend to make the reflections kinda wiggly. This same non-pool pool is also used as an ice skating rink in the winter.

The comments after the Post-Standard article feature some of the worst kind of close-minded, racist and classist remarks which I won’t repeat. Suffice to say, there are some people here who feel that it’s better to spend city tax dollars to provide attractive views from office windows rather than make the city livable. That the response has been “call the cops” — even polite, bicycle-riding cops who are giving people a few days’ warning — says a lot about the city’s attitude towards its poor and brown people. Remember this is the city that once tore up its most racially diverse neighborhood to build an interstate.

Now, it’s fair to say that there are safety concerns — insufficient chlorination and possibly dangerous fixtures — that were clearly missed by the pool’s designers who, hello! didn’t anticipate people actually using it for cooling off in the summer. But sending in the police rather than address a clearly defined civic need seems pretty wrongheaded to me.

So, to recap. Here are some OK and not-OK uses of the Syracuse’s city park’s reflecting pool in Clinton Square:

OK: white people's wedding
(photo: Michelle Breidenbach/The Post-Standard)

OK: White people ice skating
(photo: Preservation Association of Central New York)

Not OK: Brown boy cooling off
(photo: Bill Wingell)

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Categories: Essays Tags: ,

“Healthy Mix” Should Have Been Warning Enough

May 12, 2010 6 comments

When I’m at work and say “I’m stepping out for a few minutes,” what I usually mean is “I’m hungry and I’m going to the CVS.” Sometimes it involves going out to lunch with a side-trip to CVS for something I didn’t realize I desperately needed (like a Spinz pen) until I got there. But most times it means “I’ve already eaten my lunch but I’m still hungry so I’m going to see what’s on sale at CVS.”

I recently had one of these hungry days — at seven a.m. I’d breakfasted on a bowl of bran flakes and a banana in Vanilla Silk, by nine I’d eaten my orange, and by ten I’d finished off my peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich. By one o’clock I was feeling like Eric Carle’s very hungry caterpillar.

Now, I work on a fairly large college campus so my food options come in all three varieties: fast, very fast, and out of my price range. Yet for some reason I keep gravitating to the CVS, partly because it’s one of very few establishments which hasn’t changed in the more than 30 years since I settled here, partly because I’m cheap and there’s usually something on sale. But I think it’s mainly because it reminds me of my childhood trips around the corner to the candy store (I called it that, but it really was a stationery shop) where I’d deliberate for many minutes among the jujubes, wax soda bottles and those strips of paper with the candy dots on them.

I always start with the candy aisle, checking out the twofers. From there it’s the snack section (CVS has a new line of pita chips which are actually quite good and 50 cents cheaper than Nancy’s) and the wall-o-cookies, where I can often find discounts on CVS’s worthwhile and cost-effective Gold Emblem brand (I highly recommend their chocolate covered biscuits and shortbreads).

On this day there was a half-price sale on one of their snack mixes, located with the nuts. I vaguely remember having gotten this before, but it had been a while — probably because it was over my snack-price threshold of $2.99 when not on sale. It had sesame sticks, dark chocolate covered cranberries, almonds, and I really didn’t have to see what else was in it because those three had already aroused my taste buds and like I said I was still hungry.

Back at the office, I removed the plastic lid and enjoyed the reassuring “whoosh!” as I pulled back the foil seal. The sesame sticks definitely delivered (they were honey roasted, yum) as did the cranberries and the almonds, which were sufficiently plentiful. I ate half the can and saved the rest.

Now, I’ve been a non-meat-eater for thirty years, and am well acquainted with many varieties of soy-based food. I’ve happily consumed tofu, tempeh, the above-mentioned soy milk, textured soy protein, and all manner of veggie burger, bacon and weiner. I’ve had my soy blended, scrambled, grilled and puffed. But no matter how many times and ways I’ve tried them — salted, smoked, wasabi or cajun spice — I’ve never developed a taste for roasted soy “nuts.” There’s something about the flavor that I find fundamentally unappealing, and I suspect I’m not alone — other than in mixes like this one, I’ve never encountered them outside the bounds of the health-food aisle.

Thus it was that the next day I was heartbroken to learn that eight and a half ounces into my ten ounce can of snack mix, I’d hit soy. I was overcome by a feeling of deja vu… a feeling of disappointment similar to first hearing the one Phil Collins song on an old Genesis album, or finding that the only unbroken crayon left was green-blue, a color I’d never encountered outside the 64-crayon box (the one with the built-in sharpener).

That 85% empty can of fail stayed on my desk for two more days — during which my attempts to nibble out the last non-soy crumbs remained consistently futile, as it is very difficult to distinguish between an intact soy nut and a fragment of honey-roasted sesame stick — before I finally admitted defeat and threw away an ounce and a half of perfectly good and completely inedible soy nuts.

I know I sometimes have trouble seeing the common thread in my failures in life. I don’t know how many times I need to learn that buying the wrong thing is never a bargain at any price point. I just hope that next time it doesn’t involve soy nuts.

Categories: Essays, Whining Tags: ,