Thursday, September 18, 2014

9ja in Mill-town

Thanks to huge heads from my buddy, Midwestphoto, I learned that Milwaukee has a Nigerian culture festival.  Woo hoo!  Now how could I miss out on that?  It was held at the Nigerian Community Center up on Appleton Ave at W. Hampton.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was sure it would be an adventure.

I had to laugh as I pulled up to the building.  The parking lot was being used for the festival, so attendees had to park on the street.  Except the street was under construction.  The far left lane was torn up, a lane of gravel about 4” lower than the street itself, marked off by orange construction barrels.  So where had the Nigerian’s parked?  In the under-construction lane.  They’d just driven between the barrels, gone down the lip and parked on the gravel.  I went the extra 20ft to the end of the block, turned onto the cross street and parked on the empty street.

At the festival, people were milling around inside and out.  Lots of bright colors and a mix of Western and Nigerian clothes, just like in Abuja.  The inside of the community center had something going on in nearly every room.  Outside, a stage area was set up and a row of booths ran down the parking lot from the stage to a giant bouncy castle.

The festival booths reminded me a lot of the booths at the Nigerian Bar Association Meeting I attended several years ago, except without the magical potions.  There were clothing booths with both traditional and club wear, and lots of food vendors.  All of the food vendors were local catering companies.  I talked to a couple of them.  They make the food in their homes and then take it to whatever function has hired them.  As most Nigerian food is not vegetarian-friendly, I had only a couple of fried plantains off my friend’s plate.

We watched two fashion shows: a club wear show and a traditional wear show.  Both shows featured local designers.  The club wear  show models were all grown-ups (thank goodness!), and many of the outfits were rather risque.  There was one white model and in one of the outfits, you could see her lower back tattoo through the dress fabric.  None of the club wear left much to the imagination.

club wear at Nigerian fest (1) cropped

Outfit at the club fashion show

The traditional fashion show models were area students.  They looked awesome.  Some of them were a little shy and it was adorable.  The designer had tried to feature outfits from multiple tribes.  The models had to change very quickly and there weren’t a lot of them, so there was often a lull.  But, the show overall was very nice and well done.  Plus, the soundtrack for this fashion show was all Nigerian music. :)

traditional wear at Nigerian fest (1) cropped

Outfits at Traditional fashion show

Other performances on the stage area included a gentleman playing the talking drum and cultural dancers.  The event was running about 2 hours behind the program schedule (I wouldn’t have expected anything else), so we didn’t stick around for the cultural dancers.

We did, however, check out the story time inside.  That was very interesting.  Gentlemen from different tribes took turns presenting traditional stories from their particular tribes.  Mostly.  There was a great rendition of the story about why the tortoise's shell is cracked.  But there was one guy who got up and instead of telling a story – maybe he did eventually – he went on a 10 minute rant – at least - about how his tribe was the best tribe in Nigeria.  Sadly, this was less surprising than it ought to be.  I don’t know if he ever got to a story because we, like many others in the room, left.

Overall, it was a very fun afternoon.  I felt a bit like I was back in 9ja.  The Nigerian Community Center is having an Independence Day Celebration on Oct. 4th.  Maybe I’ll go check it out.  Maybe I’ll even be gutsy enough to wear one of my traditional outfits.

After enjoying enough Nigerian fun for an afternoon, I went for absolute culture-shift shock and headed to Cudahy for Sweet Applewood Fest. Twenty minutes and a world away.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Purple Sparkly Gloves

Somehow, I’d wound up at JoAnn Fabrics with Munchkinhead and Mommy.  This always-dangerous event has been made more so by my now living with Munchkinhead and gaining access to her employee discount.

So, I’m tootling around the store, pretending I’m not going to buy anything, and then I see it, red discount tag enticing me, sparkly-ness calling out to me, “Pincess… Pincessss!  You can make something fabulous with me.”  Purple yarn with a strand of silver running through it, purple sparkly yarn on clearance plus with Munchkinhead’s discount… Into the basket, one, two, three, four, is that enough?  Shrug.  Munchkinhead, “what are you going to make with that?”  “I don’t know; something fabulous.”

Turns out, my answer should have been “somethings fabulous.”  My first fabulous item was a new pair of summer gloves.  Purple, sparkly, lace, summer gloves.  I crocheted them!

Mommy tried to teach me to crochet when I was a little girl.  I wound up with a lot of triangular Barbie blankets, always losing a stitch on each end.  But I had the chaining part down pat.  I’m not great at knitting lace patterns, so I thought I’d see what options there were for crocheting it instead.  I went on YouTube and found this fabulous video for crocheting a basic lace.  I watched it at least half a dozen times, got the basic lace pattern down and made some gloves.

I used what I remembered from knitting gloves to give me an idea of the basic structure and just sort of went at it.  They are not perfect, but they turned out pretty decent.  Had them both done in just a couple days.  The wrists were a bit loose, so I went through my button collection and found two similarly colored purple buttons.  They’re different sizes, but that just helps me keep straight which glove goes on which hand.  Perfectly princessly!


purple sparkly gloves 1

yarn: Vanna’s Glamour by Lion Brand in Purple Topaz; listed for size 2; 96% acrylic and 4% metallic polyester

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Where in the World is… oh, San Diego

This month, I’ve been impersonating Carmen San Diego.  And this time, my where in the world is – fittingly – San Diego.  Except, I keep forgetting I’m in America and keep feeling like I’m in Africa.

The weather is amazing and is probably the main reason I feel like I’m back on the continent.  It’s deliciously hot, but with a wonderful breeze.  There’s something in the air (probably humidity) that feels cozily familiar.  Plus, there’s palm trees all over the darn place.

The other reason that’s a potential contributor to my feelings of Africa may be the hotel I’m staying at.  You see, I’m in San Diego for the State Bar of California Annual Meeting, which is at the Hyatt.  As a speaker at the meeting, my travel and one night at the conference hotel could be covered by the Bar.  This is a wonderful bonus, and I’m very thankful.  However, I’m also a tad too poor for the rather pricey Hyatt the rest of the nights.  So, I got myself a simple room about a half-mile from the Hyatt.

I didn’t know how simple.  I think Mr. Trizzle – who also came for the conference – felt tricked.  We’re at a place called 500 West, supposedly the oldest hotel in San Diego.  It’s atop a YMCA and I believe it was part of the YMCA back when people could actually stay at the Y – like the Village People sing about doing.

Personally, I like the accommodations.  The bed is comfortable and there’s free wi-fi.  That’s all I need.  I love that there’s no air conditioning but instead a giant window that opens.  It doesn’t have a screen, which feels very African.  There’s a ceiling fan in the room.  I keep expecting the power to go out and am pleasantly surprised when it doesn’t, because I keep forgetting I’m not in Africa. 

The bathrooms are down the hall and are kept stocked with toilet paper, soap, shampoo and shower gel.  All things that also continue to pleasantly surprise me, and the toilet paper’s free!  There’s little flies in the shower that kind of look like botflies, but as far as I’m aware aren’t, because I’m not really in Africa.  Mr. Trizzle and I went to get flip flops our first night here.  I pretty much never wear flip flops in America, so my feet think they’re in Africa.  Somehow, I forgot to pack a citenge.  The hotel has towels though!  That was a nice surprise, as was discovering that my feet don’t turn black if I walk around the room barefoot.

There’s also a mini fridge, that actually works, and an ice bucket for the ice machine down on the second floor.  Mr. Trizzle and I have each killed a bug in the room (one of us far more calmly than the other; I’ll let you guess which), but I haven’t seen more than that.  And as far as I know, none of the bugs we have seen, in the room, shower or outside, are potentially lethal, so that’s always nice.  Lots of the other guests here speak languages other than English, perhaps foreign tourists.  That also adds to the feel of being in Africa.

I think I’d rather be in Africa, but that’s often the case, no hard feelings to San Diego.  Love the weather, and the conference has been pretty great, too.

500 west 3

Most of the room.  There’s about 3 feet to the side of the bed, including the wardrobe, and about 4 feet at the end of the bed, where there’s a desk w/o a chair, the mini-fridge and a very tiny television.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Adventures with Ivory and Munchkinhead: German Fest

One of the best parts about Milwaukee is the weekend ethnic festivals down at the lakefront.  Back in June, Munchkinhead and I headed down to check out Polish Fest.  In July, we headed to German Fest.

German Fest had lots of fun adventures.  We started in the culture tent where we learned about different German groups in the area, perused some fancy crafts and practiced our colors auf Deutsch with one of the local immersion schools.  We also entered a raffle which resulted in us being on the mailing lists for darn near every county in the state.

We went through the various shopping plaza areas.  Munchkinhead got some sort of adorable shirt.  For a moment, I wanted a drindl; then I saw the price tag.  I was also eyeing up a very non-German handkerchief dress, but decided not to get one.

There were a lot of patrons in lederhosen and drindls, which was pretty awesome.  The music was fabulous – lots of trombones in the various large bands on stage.  And all around, happy, smiling, rather large folks enjoying the best Milwaukee’s Germans have to offer.

Katrina eating her german food The best part of the summer ethnic festivals is always the food.  Mmmm… German food, so many options for a vegetarian.  Wait. What?  Well at least Munchkinhead found some super good eats and shared her sauerkraut wit mir.  I found my own deliciousness from the roasted nut haus.  Mmmm.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

C-O-W-L *-O-W-L *-*-W-L and Cowl was it’s name-O

katrina and bingo card We were at Hamburger Mary’s for a church fundraiser.  Bingo night.  It was great fun.  In between the drag queen-led Bingo games, the church was handing out raffled door prizes.  Mommy won one!  Mommy won a knitting basket, lined with a fabric scrap and complete with 2 skeins of Alpaca and Merino hand-spun wool, size 9 bamboo 24” circular knitting needles and instructions for a cowl: Tweed Cowl Pattern by Melina Martin Gingras.

Mommy immediately gave the basket to me and said I could make whatever was in it for her.  I got to keep the basket :)  (She, of course, got the fabric piece for her quilting collection.)

It just so happened that I had meetings and trainings at the State Bar Offices in Madison over the next two days.  By the time I came home Friday night, I had a finished cowl for Mommy.

This was my first experience working with hand-spun fiber.  I liked it a lot.  The different textures and thickness as the yarn works through your fingers gives some neat variety.  The yarn worked out smoothly and gave the finished piece an extra level of coziness.

The pattern was pretty simple, a combination of basket weave and knit and purled sections.  I only needed one stitch marker to ring stitch markerkeep track of where my row started.  Somehow, I managed to lose my stitch market while sitting still at the meeting.  Needing something, I improvised and used the ring from my finger.  It worked well, and thankfully, I didn’t lose that, too.  (I later found my stitch marker; it’d fallen into my bag.)

The cowl looks great on Mommy – everything looks great on Mommy.  And now she’s all set for the start of autumn.

mommy in cowel

yarn: OMG Handspun by Melina Gingras, 70% Alpaca/30% Merino, 8wpi (Aran), 3 oz.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Privilege to Choose

The thoughts for this blog post have been in my head for awhile, but I haven’t been able to formulate things into words.  I’m just going to sit down and write and hope I can express this somewhat intelligibly, because it’s a very important topic.

My last couple serious relationships were with black men.  I’m not saying that for some sort of “see, I’m not racist” point.  In fact, what I’m about to say is more likely to prove I am.

My last serious relationship was with a black man in America.  At some point in the relationship, as a woman is apt to do, I started thinking about what it would be like to have children with this man.  What they might look like, how they might act, what kind of mother I’d be, what kind of father he’d be.  I found myself wondering if I could really keep going with this relationship.  I legitimately questioned whether I could stay in a long-term relationship with a man because he was black

You see, if I were to have children with a black man, I would have black children.  Could I handle that?  Could I handle everything that meant?

There was the easy stuff.  If I had a daughter, she wouldn’t look like a little me.  I wouldn’t know how to do her hair. Etc.  But if I had a son,  could I handle it?  My son would be light skinned, half-white, but to society, he would be black.  He would be a black man.

Black men wind up in jail.  They wind up on church fans and screen-printed T’s.  They wind up in chalk lines on the news.  Black men wind up as hashtags.

Statistically, my son would be 3x less likely to graduate from high school.  My son would be nearly 10x more likely to go to jail.  My son would have a shorter life expectancy.  My son would be more likely to be in a gang, more likely to die in a violent crime, more likely to be harassed, targeted or killed by the police.

Yes, the odds on some of these things can be changed based on location, schooling, parenting, etc.  But nothing, nothing, can completely erase all the extra risk that comes with being a black man in America.  Names like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Oscar Grant are still fresh in our minds.  Take also Caleb Gordley, a black male teenager, with a white father, who lived in a wealthy neighborhood and attended good schools, who was shot and killed by a neighbor when he accidentally entered the wrong house in the middle of the night.  There’s how many hundreds more stories.  We know it.  We hear them.

As a mother, I’d be carrying all this.  I’d be the one sitting up late at night worrying the worst had happened when he wasn’t home on time.  I’d be the one teaching him to keep his hands on the steering wheel until the officer was next to his window and talking to him – something I learned from a black boyfriend and never would have thought of on my own.  I’d be the one letting the police know he would be walking around his own neighborhood.  I’d be the one scared and panicked and helpless.  Could I handle that, could I handle being the mother of a black man?  Did I want to take all that on?

In the end, I decided yes.  I cared about the man I was with and if we would be together long term, I’d want a family, no matter what our children looked like.  The simple fact that I could make that decision, that I had a choice, that I could walk away from the risk and pain, exemplifies what it means to be white in this country.  No other race can do that.  A black woman can have a child with a white man, that child will be black.  A Latina woman can have a child with a white man, that child will be Latino.

As a white woman, I can choose the color of my biological children.  Let that sink in for a moment.  I. have the ability. to choose my child’s race.  That, my friends, is just one example of white privilege.