That’s where he met Jim a man who loves me like a father. He is a White man from Iowa. His eldest sibling was born in the 1800’s. He grew up on a farm the last of 15 children, I can never remember exactly how many. I think my Pop was the first Black man he ever had more than just a brief conversation with, and he is the first person I can remember that is not a member of my biological family. He and my pop shared an office and became like peas and carrots. I used to fantasize and think of them as Bill Cosby and Robert Culp from the old TV show I Spy.
One day my pop comes home and tells me that he and Jim had gotten jobs with the Borroughs Corporation, and not only were we moving to sunny Southern California but we were going to be moving in with Jim and his family. That was nothing but gravy to me. I’m an only child and my very best friend in the whole world was Jim’s son Brian, it was going to be like a permanent sleep over. Plus my pop had just bought a brand new Chevy Camaro with the 396 and we were going to drive across America.
Once riding in old Baltimore,
Heart-filled, head-filled with glee;
I saw a Baltimorean
Keep looking straight at me.
Now I was eight and very small,
And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
His tongue, and called me, "Nigger."
I saw the whole of Balimore
From May until December;
Of all the things that happened there
That's all that I remember.
That poem has always stuck with me because I had similar experience on our trip west. We stopped at a motel in Oklahoma City that had a pool brimming with white kids. Now for a kid who had grown up in Ohio Oklahoma City is plenty hot and a pool is quite a treat. We checked into our room where I changed and then raced for the pool. I jumped in, and 3 different moms grabbed their kids out of the water. That's right it emptied out from maybe 10 kids to none in like 3 minutes, and as one kid was crying at his mom that he still wanted to swim she looked at me and said you can't go swimming with that nigger.
Although I obviously do remember the incident I can’t say it left a scar on me or anything. I told my mom what happened. This lady was one of thousands of warriors in the battle for civil rights. She did multiple sit-ins and took several arrests, so she was well trained. She changed into her suit and took me back to the pool and we played in the pool until the sun went down. None of the other kids came back to the pool but I don’t remember caring.
Well five days in the back seat of a 1970 Camaro didn’t turn out to be exactly the most fun thing in the world. In order to calm the- are we there yets? my pop hyped a trip to Disneyland to the point I was afraid to even move in the back seat of the car. After we got to Pasadena we settled into a motel and after two weeks that seemed like four months Disney day came. My parents woke me woke up bright and early on a Saturday and we headed for Anaheim. Jim’s family had come west 4 months earlier to scout a house big enough to hold two sets of parents and four kids, and they were there as well, so my brother Brian and I were going to have a funky good time. We got there right when the park opened and went to the Oscar Meyer pavilion for breakfast. Ten minutes later I erupted in a blinding fever. To this day it is the sickest I think I’ve ever been. They took me to the infirmary where I went to sleep. When I woke up the park was closing. All I got to see was Mickey waving goodbye and all I got was a picture with him and a whole pack of unused E tickets.
My Momma Sherry is Jim’s wife and her brother is Uncle John. Uncle John heard this tale and a couple of weeks later as I really was knocked out for days my uncle John showed up at the door at the crack of dawn with Brian in tow. We jumped in his 69 Beetle and he took us to Disneyland. We had so much fun at Disneyland I thought they would throw us out.
My four parents eventually found a house that would hold us and after a few months in the motel we moved in together like a regular hippie commune. We stayed like that for 6 years until Jim and Sherry divorced, but our family didn’t end in divorce. Although our house split up our family did not. I got a new Momma Betsy from Jim a new Poppa Ron from Sherry. When my own parents split up a few years after that I got another set of fantastic parents. All us kids have grown up to be happy and healthy and we’ve even raised some children ourselves.
There is a lot of talk going on about unity, and where the pro and amateur parts of America are. We haven’t even had a big speech on what it is to be a pro American like Barack did on race. It’s frustrating and when you see some of the reactions from Palin or McCain’s rallies it’s even scary. We know that there are some people who are just mean and hateful, but when the spotlight of our 24/7 media hits them it gives us the impression that there are more of them than there actually are. That races and religions can’t live together. I guess that’s what motivated me to write this.
This is my American album.
I don’t see America as what happened to me in Oklahoma City. I see America as my Uncle John taking (Im the guy in front Uncle John is right behind me) me to Disneyland. My America has a White man moving his family together with that of a Black one and growing together. My family contains White people, Black people, Jews, Asians, Christians and Muslims. If I left anyone out I have a sister Laura who is looking for a good man. We are the real America and I just believe that there are a thousand times more of us than there are of them.