The Uncertainty of Crepes


The worst thing about racism is when you’re not quite sure whether or not you’ve just experienced racism. When it creeps on you slowly and leaves you frustrated and paranoid.

I was supporting my homegirl who had a poetry reading in the Mission District of San Francisco last night. Her reading went very well as she tore through a 15 minute set reciting well-crafted poetry about blackness, queer identity, and family. When her set was over The Poet, her friend, and myself walked through the Mission on a Saturday night like hundreds of other artists. She was high from all of the adulation she received and I, being a man, was hungry. I had a sweet tooth to be more specific. I wanted a crepe hella bad and I knew just the place.

So we approach a trendy little restaurant on Valencia preparing to eat some of the best blueberry crepes with ice cream that San Francisco has to offer. But as soon as I walk inside the dude behind the counter says they’re closed. I look around and sure enough there didn’t appear to be anyone in the kitchen as if they were about to close but I also saw no less than 8 white people who appeared to be in their 50’s sitting down and enjoying their food.

“Ya’ll closed?” I asked incredulously.

“Closed,” The gentlemen said as he cleaned up.

“Aight, whatever.”

Of course when we got outside The Poet checked her smart phone and discovered that they were supposed to close at 11:00pm. At the moment it was 10:49. Perhaps sensing the tension heighten or knowing that I was just about ready to slap the hell out of dude and force him to make me a blueberry crepe, The Poet then added, but I don’t want to eat there now because they’ll probably spit in our food.

She had a valid point of course, however, I was still pissed and by this point it wasn’t even about my inability to consume ice cream. I was irritated because I had to think about the fact that if it would have been three well-to-do white folks who showed up at the door instead of a black guy, a black queer poet, and a white female anarchist he probably would have let them eat crepes for an hour. And, ironically enough, I was equally irritated because I will never know whether or not the former statement is true.

For all I know a small place like that could close the kitchen down 30 minutes early, or maybe the cook had some kind of emergency. Also I used to wait tables and I know how annoying it can be when people slip through the door at around closing time. We were never allowed to turn people away like dude did us last night but we definitely wanted to.

As much as Americans speak about racism it’s really rare that we delve into the psychological effects that it has on oppressed people in general and black folk in particular. I was so quick to assume that the guy was being racist (and there is a good chance that this was the case) that I allowed my anger to build before I could follow an effective protocol to get the right answers. Had I just remained calm and asked the right questions I would know for sure why I couldn’t have my crepes, but I didn’t. I stormed out of there with an attitude. He won.

Even though I ended up eating a breathtaking strawberry crepe (I was no longer in the mood for blueberries) in the Sunset District, he won. And even though I’m currently calling that gentleman’s motives into question in this blog entry, last night he won. He didn’t want us there for whatever reason and we all left. I couldn’t keep my emotions in check for long enough to properly challenge that man and so I lost. I hate losing just like I hate racism but I must confess that I hate uncertainty even more so.


Move the Crowd

August 28, 2011

I had the opportunity to share some of my work at a reading last night. It was just a few small pieces that I had written while in self-imposed exile so I didn’t really think too highly of them. And this is not because I thought they were poorly written or inadequate. It was only because I didn’t know.

There was no teacher that put a big “A” on the paper that I had expressed myself upon, and there were no passersby who stopped in their tracks while I was writing it and told me what a gorgeous piece it was. No, there was nothing close to that; these children were born deep in the country with no midwife or witnesses present to confirm their existence. Therefore there was no way of knowing whether or not they would be accepted by their peers on the first day of kindergarten down at the schoolhouse.

I stood there nervous as hell in front of about 30 people behind a microphone that was set up just a little too high for me. The reading was being held in an art room in the somewhat gentrified but still very hood Mission district of San Francisco, CA. The space is very loving and the people present appeared to be positive and nurturing but I was still scarred—scared that I would stumble over the words written on the page before me, scared they just wouldn’t understand, and scared they would tease my babies mercilessly about their country accents and their strange ways.

I got over it.

Then shockingly enough when I spoke they listened, they laughed, and they were engaged. Yes, I had moved the crowd. And when I say moved the crowd I don’t mean I made them “Throw their hands in the air/ and wave them like they just didn’t care,” I only mean that for that small five-minute interval they followed my words. They could feel them, they could see the images I had created, and on some level they could relate to them.

It was such an exhilarating moment for this writer to know that I had not toiled in vain. To know that the craft that I have sacrificed so much to learn how to do is still appreciated by a select few. When the event was over a stranger who was in attendance approached me. He looked me in the eyes and said; “Hey that was good stuff.” I gave him a generic response about how I was glad he liked, but he wasn’t having it. “No,” he responded to me slightly annoyed. “I’m serious that was really good stuff.”

I smiled and took a few seconds to soak it up.

“I really appreciate that,” I told him.

God bless my little country children. They made me so proud.