Monday, 9 April 2018

Cultural Appropriation?


            When I got to the food bank on Saturday morning I asked a couple of guys having a conversation near the bike stand ring if the numbers had been handed out yet and they told me they hadn’t. I noticed that even a month after they brought in the random way of giving out numbers, people still line up and take note of their positions in line. I think it’s useful to be in a line when Martina comes around with the box of numbers because it makes it easier for her to make sure that everyone has gotten a number, but the first person in line could get number 27 now, so it’s meaningless where people stand in line. Unless of course Martina miscalculates how many numbers she needs to put in the box. If she does so then the last person in line won’t get a number from the box but rather a higher number brought up from downstairs.
            At first I thought it was warmer outside than usual and I started reading “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver with my bare hands. My hands got cold though so I put on my spring gloves, with which I can still turn pages but then I began to realize that it was really quite frigid outside, so I put the book away, zipped up my jacket and switched back to my winter gloves.
            Coco came for the first time that I’ve seen her on a Saturday. She’s the only transgender person that I’ve noticed at the food bank in the three years that I’ve been going and she was there the first time I went to the old location. In the last year or so that I’ve seen her around the neighbourhood she’s acquired a little toy poodle, which she brought with her this time in the front basket of her bike. It was wearing a white sweater with a red maple leaf on it, but the outfit didn’t look like something that was made for a dog. It looked more like something Coco had adapted from a kid’s sweatshirt.
            After leaning her bike on a pole Coco put the leash on her dog, but most of the time she held the pet in her arms and danced with it while singing. I didn’t notice that she had headphones on so maybe she was moving to music in her mind. At one point I turned to look at her and she laughed. I smiled and told her that I used to dance with my daughter like that when she was small.
            Martina came around with the numbers and I got number 6, so for the second week in a row I got a number lower than I ever would have gotten under the old system.
            The big Jamaican woman who hadn’t been there for a month arrived. She asked if she was behind me because it always seems to her that she is just behind me in line. I explained to her that the line-up doesn’t really mean anything anymore because the numbers are randomly given out. Coco was confused by her wristband with the little square arborite number attached because there was a number on both sides, one of which was much higher than the other. That was true for all of the cards, which have a light side and a dark side. Mine, for instance, had the number 6 on the light side, whereas on the dark side it said 93. I assured Coco that her number was the smaller one, which was 14. She didn’t understand why I would get 6 and she would get 14 when I was one place ahead of her in line. I explained that it was done like a lottery and that the reason was to prevent food bank clients from showing up at 7:30 so they could be first in line.
            Bart was there but he was much quieter this week than last and the his uncontrolled rants were not about parents having sex with their children this time but about people smoking crack. He was talking to a guy in line who kind of looked like a young Ice-T. Bart said a bunch of stuff that mentioned basketball and baseball and the other guy told him, “I don’t wanna hear about your balls”. For a while it almost sounded like Bart and the other guy were engaged in a rap battle, although there was no rhythm or rhyme to any of Bart’s streams of words. The other guy would listen to a machine gun barrage of phrases about crack smokers and then he’d respond with rhythmic and rhyming lines that were definitely intended to be hip hop lyrics, such as, “I’m a gay lord! I’m the lord of all gays!” The Bart would spew for a few seconds while the other guy was cooking up another zinger, which he would finally blurt out, “I’m a faggot, but ya can’t have it!” Coco was passing him just as he said that and she snickered. This went on for a couple more minutes, with the other guy always injecting some short rhyme relating to homosexuality.
            I suddenly noticed people going downstairs and went into the foyer and asked someone if Martina had called any numbers yet. He told me that he thought she was up to number 10. I find that Martina often speaks in a very low voice when she’s calling the numbers and I find it annoying when I’ve missed my cue to go downstairs so I can get my food and leave.
            After I had been processed on the computer I turned toward the first set of shelves and a young volunteer that I’d never seen before asked if she could see my card. I showed it to her and then I asked if I could see her card. She said, “I don’t have one. I’m just a volunteer.” I continued teasing her by asking, “How do I know you’re not just somebody posing as a volunteer if you don’t have a card?” Suddenly a large and very butch woman that I’ve seen and loudly heard hanging around the food bank for years, but never saw her acting as a helper at the shelves, came forward and said to me, “Okay, let’s go!” Her pushy manner meant that she was going to accompany me. The other volunteer, who was next in line to guide a client, asked, “Oh, so you want to take him?” The pushy one said, “Yeah, I’ll do it.” I should have just told her I’d go with the nice one, and I probably will if the situation repeats itself. The pushy one didn’t even seem to want to start with the first set of shelves. She went over to the second set and tried to motion me over. I stood there looking at the first set and so she came back.
            At the top of the first shelf, amid the cake mixes and taco kits, were small bottles of organic, cold pressed flax oil. I took one of those. Further down there were various cans of different types of fruit. I took the one with the peach slices from Greece. From the bottom she gave me four crunchy granola bars.
            There was another volunteer serving another client at the set of shelves in front of us, but instead of waiting until they were finished, my impatient helper went ahead of them and called to me over their heads to ask, “You want soup?” Then she looked at the cans and said, “There’s tomato and chicken!” I calmly told her that I needed to see what was there. “I’m telling you what’s there!” she barked. “There’s tomato and there’s chicken!” The people ahead of us moved on and when I got close to the shelf I saw that there was indeed mostly tins of tomato and chicken soup, but I reached to the back and turned a can around to find it was chunky pepper steak and tomato soup. From the bottom she gave me a couple of little cups of orange-pineapple juice and a bottle of jasmine tea.
            From the protein shelf I got two containers of chickpeas and a can of tuna.
            The people ahead of us were still at the pasta shelf and so my bumptious helper jumped ahead once again and asked, “You want pasta?” I told her “No thanks.” “You want sauce?” “Yes, I’ll take some sauce.” She handed me a can of generic spaghetti sauce, but when I got to the shelf I put it back and took instead a jar of Délices D’Autrefois meat sauce. Delices D’Autrefois is a Quebec company specializing in gourmet sauces and the name basically means “Old Style Delicious”.
            I was almost at the end of my ordeal with the overbearing volunteer. From the cereal shelf I selected a family size box of honey-sweetened Shreddies. I noticed that on the back there were recipes for kids to have fun using Shreddies to make “inukshuks” with the help of pretzel sticks for vertical support, fruit leather for horizontal support and chocolate icing for mortar. I think that the plural of “inuksuk” is actually “inuksuit”. I noticed that the best before date on the cereal was June 17, 2009 and so the inuksuk recipe was meant to ride on the inuksuk that was the official symbol of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. I wondered if encouraging kids to make inuksuit out of food might be considered to be cultural appropriation. I looked it up later but only one person mentioned it in a three-page search. All the other articles were arguments as to whether or not the Olympic inuksuk was cultural appropriation.
            With great relief I moved on to Angie’s meat and dairy section. She offered me a carton of milk but I had three bags at home and I don’t go through it very fast. I took a four-pack of strawberry yogourt. I was asked if I wanted butter and was handed a container for Silhouette yogourt. I looked inside it when I got home and found that it was half full of a shapeless mass of butter. It didn’t look like it was cut from a block of butter like one would buy in the supermarket so I wondered if someone had actually made it at home and scooped it into available containers to donate to the food bank. If they did I hope they used a machine and didn’t sit there shaking a jar for hours like I did once.
            Angie still had whole chickens and hams like last week so I grabbed another one of the chickens. She gave me a frozen dinner that looked like it was meant for Thanksgiving, with turkey meatloaf, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash and mashed potatoes. I’m a little worried about that item though because the best before date was August 2017. She also asked if I wanted some cheese but all I’d seen in that bin was the packages of single slices of veggie cheese, which tastes like the sweat on a horse’s ass. I told Angie that I didn’t want any veggie cheese and then she dug down deep in the bin and handed me a ball of mozzarella, which I took. She told me that she really couldn’t tell the difference in taste between the two. I repeated her statement incredulously, “You really can’t tell the difference between veggie cheese and mozzarella?” She confessed that she lost her sense of taste a long time ago.
            At the vegetable section Sylvia offered me some of the enormous potatoes she had but I turned them down because I have a lot and I only eat one potato a day. She suggested that I just tell her what I wanted from the things that were on display, so I asked for a cauliflower, a seedless cucumber, some of the different coloured little peppers and some onions. Sylvia invited me to help myself to the bread, but once again I had enough at home.
            The only unpleasant experience on this food bank visit was dealing with the pushy volunteer. I’m sure she’s a wonderful person who would come on like gangbusters to defend any of her friends, but I don’t really think she should be serving clients at the food bank. Her talents would be much better utilized if she worked in the back, stocking shelves, unloading trucks or stopping traffic with her fists so the trucks could pull in.
            The shelves had been well stocked for the last couple of weeks and this time I had no complaints about the food either. Whole chickens and hams for two weeks in a row are unprecedented and then home churned butter too. Thanks to everybody that donated!
            I took my food bank groceries home to put them away and to free up my backpack because I wanted to go back out to the supermarket to get some fruit. I went to the No Frills at Jameson and King. I got a couple of bags of black sable grapes; three greenhouse tomatoes on a vine; some old cheddar; paprika was on sale; three containers of yogourt and two LED light bulbs that were on sale. I felt so practical buying the light bulbs because I usually wait until I’m in the dark.
            The cashier asked if I collect points. I said no and when I thought to answer, “I’m pointless” it was too late for the timing to zing.
            After going home I went back out to the liquor store to get a couple of cans of Creemore.
            That night I had bacon and eggs while watching an Alfred Hitchcock Hour teleplay starring James MacArthur (who played Dano on Hawaii Five-O) as Dave, Lynn Loring (who became a powerful Hollywood producer when she was still in her 40s) as Bonnie and Gloria Swanson (who was 65 at this point and still going strong) as Bonnie’s mother.
Dave and Bonnie break into the abandoned mansion in which Bonnie was raised.
As they are exploring, Dave finds one door that is locked and wonders why. Bonnie says she never knew what was behind it. Dave thinks it must be something of value if it’s locked and he wants to get inside. Bonnie says that all she knows is that it’s been locked since her father died and maybe she associates it with her father’s death but she feels funny about looking inside. Later, Bonnie goes to sleep and Dave goes back to try to open the door. While he’s trying jimmy the lock a mysterious elderly woman looms behind him holding a candelabra. It turns out to be Bonnie’s mother. Next she is confronting both Dave and Bonnie about sneaking around the house when Bonnie is supposed to be in boarding school. They reveal that they’ve gotten married but the mother says she’ll have it annulled. Dave thought Bonnie was 19 but she is really 17. A few months later, when Bonnie turns 18 they get married again. They try to make a life together but Bonnie’s mother is rich and powerful and influences people not to hire Dave. Finally Dave has a plot that he thinks will scare the mother into leaving them alone. Bonnie will send her mother a suicide note and take some sleeping pills. The mother will rush over there just in time and Dave will time his arrival for that moment as well and as they save Bonnie he will accuse her of almost killing her. The note is sent; he gives Bonnie four pills and leaves. When he and Bonnie’s mother rush in they find Bonnie dead. The mother explains that that Bonnie had scarlet fever as a child and so even one sleeping pill would have killed her.
Later Bonnie’s mother tells Dave that as a gesture to the man that Bonnie loved
she will give him the old house. As soon as he has the keys he goes there and heads for the locked room. He opens the door and screams as he falls down the shaft of an unfinished elevator, breaking his back. He calls for help but no one will hear him.


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