Random Thoughts Two Days After Thanksgiving

1.  Once again, you must ask, if it turns out that the perpetrators of the horrors in Mumbai are self-described religiously observant Moslems, what part of the Moslem community will come out publically to condemn it?

2.  Yesterday, Black Friday as they apparently call it (have they always called it that?  and why do they?), the weather was nice and I took a walk.  I found myself in Friendship Heights across the street from Mazza Gallerie, probably the most upscale shopping mall in the greater Washington area.  Outside, activists of PETA were gathering to stage a loud 3:00 p.m. protest.  An equal number of metropolitan police officers stood near the Wisconsin Avenue door to the mall.  Signs were hoisted; handbills distributed.  Nieman Marcus seemed to be the major target.   According to this morning’s Washington Post, an official of the shopping center, when asked what he thought of the protest, said something like:  “They seem to be anti-fur”.

When you enter the mall, you see one of the world’s tallest and most elegant Christmas trees; it is very tasteful, as you might expect.  On your right, on the wall, you see one of the most ludicrous things that you could find in a shopping mall.  It is a large oil painting, in an expensive frame, of an elegant lady of a certain age, sitting on a settee, exuding well-earned satisfaction.  This is Louise Mazza, identified as “our founder”.  It is a nice painting, and would look nice on someone’s living room wall.  In Mazza Gallerie, it looks ludicrous.

I didn’t make an overall survey of the post-Thanksgiving shopping, although there were clearly a lot of people mulling (malling?) around.  I only went into one store, the Saks Fifth Avenue Men’s Store, two floors of stylish men’s clothing.  On the first floor, the signs advertised designer clothes for “up to 70% off”; upstairs, it looked like most items were being sold at 50% off.  And, of course, this is on the biggest shopping day of the year, the start of the Christmas shopping season.  The store was very crowded.

My wardrobe is not in very good shape.  As I only go to work two or so days a week, I don’t have the need for the 5 day a week suit and tie collection that I used to have and, of course, things are more casual now anyway.  And just last summer, when I went through my closets, I saw that the majority of my suits, slacks and sport coats had been discovered by a moth, so I pitched them.

Maybe this is my chance to restock my closet, I thought.  Then I looked closer.  Much of what was on the racks was clearly not for me (or for anyone else I had ever met), but putting that aside, it was the prices that got to me.  OK, so suits were half off; what good was this when the original price was over $2000.  Why buy a sport jacket for $500; only so you won’t have to spend $1,000 when the sale is over.  Isn’t $125 too much to spend on a tie on sale.  And I guess it was the tattered looking designer sport shirt that was originally listed for $735 that finally did it for me.

I am going to stick to Joseph Banks, even if it means that the clothes that I wear look exactly like the clothes I wore forty years ago.  And, after all, there is some comfort in that, isn’t there?

They did have a Santa at Mazza Gallerie, but he was not an ordinary Santa, and he looked like the loneliest Santa in the world.  He was skinny, his beard was orange, not white, he looked very disinterested in his job, and his clothes might have been Designer Santa clothes, but they did not look right.  No kids came up to him.  He was identified as a “signing Santa”, equipped to speak to deaf children.  Which led me to wonder:  how does one first believe in Santa?  How would a deaf child learn about Santa?  At what age do you first learn sign language?  Does the average deaf child learn sign language before outliving his or her belief in Santa?  I have no answers to any of these questions.

3.  Native Americans.  Do you know that yesterday was the first Native American Heritage Day, proclaimed by act of Congress, and signed into law by President Bush?  The legislation became law less than six weeks ago.

I don’t remember seeing one thing about it, do you?  There certainly weren’t visible traces of it on the streets of our nation’s capital.

But I did celebrate it, as it turns out.  I went to an afternoon free movie at the National Gallery of Art, to see a 1961 movie called “Exiles”, about a group of young Indians who had left their reservations in various parts of the Southwest and migrated to Los Angeles.  It is a black and white movie, seen before only as a part of various cinema festivals in the 1960s, and recently restored.  I guess I would call it a sort-of documentary.  The makers of the movie (not Indians) decided to film the struggles of Native Americans in Los Angeles.  They found a group of young men, who were jobless and spent their nights drinking and fighting and gambling, and a smaller group of young women, who yearned for family life, but figured that men would be men.  They interviewed a great number of them and convinced some of them to act out their lives in this movie.  So, the actors were all non-actors, reproducing fictionalized versions of their lives as they described them during the interview process.  And what a sad life it was.  These people seemed to be clearly going nowhere, and in fact, coming from reservations at a time when the reservation populations were so demoralized, they did not seem to have a past, either.

I wonder what happened to them?  I know that one of the women is still alive; according to the representative of the National Museum of the American Indian who introduced the film, she had been present at a recent, small showing of the film in New York and was “very embarrassed” about her role in the film.  In fact, she portrayed a young pregnant wife, who only saw her husband when his buddies and he lolled around the house, and who had to go to the movies, and find her way back home, by herself.  Her situation might certainly have been cause for present embarrassment.

But did any of the other actors turn their lives into something other than drinking and regretting?  It would be interesting to know.

One of the things about this 1961 movie was to look at the Los Angeles that it portrayed.  A lot of cars on the road, of course, and all of them American.  Gas was 27 cents a gallon regular, and 29 premium.  A bottle of scotch or bourbon cost $3.39, a pound of mackeral was 21 cents, a bottle of ‘kosher’ wine was 59 cents.  A rail drink was 55 cents. The beer of choice was Lucky Lager, the cigarettes Lucky Strike. The wines were Gallo and Thunderbird.  You could get your hair cut for a quarter.

At any rate, I felt I had done my thing for Native American Heritage Day.  By the way, the legislation created the day only for 2008.  Next year, they have to start all over again.

4.  Hockey.  Well, of the 20 non-goalies on the Caps roster at the start of the season in October, 8 are now injured.  I believe that 6 minor league players from Hershey have been called up to take their place.  On Wednesday, we went to the game, and saw the Caps beat Atlanta 5-3, and last night they beat Montreal, 3-0.  They now have won 9 games at home this year, and have lost one overtime game.  They have not been defeated at home in regular play.  This quite an accomplishment, and you wonder what the rest of the season will be like.

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