Thursday, November 09, 2006

fear of a black rex

One of the great things about being adopted is that my ethnic origins are mostly unknown and therefore subject to a bit of creativity. I’m mostly white, obviously, and I know of some Scottish ancestry, but there is no one to say that some of the unknown branches in my family tree aren’t black, Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, or Chippewa. In fact, there were a couple of regrettable binge drinking episodes in college when it was later recounted to me that I engaged in diatribes against whitey for stealing my land and then segwayed into discussions of themes for my Casino.

No, I’m not quite sure that any race would want my representation either.

Anyway, there was another incident a few years back when a Mexican janitor told me that I was a black man on the inside. I hesitate to tell the story since I found out later that the man was a bit of a fraud and that…

Ah, when did you find out that he wasn’t really a proctologist?

That’s a different story, Captain Howdy. Anyway, I discovered later that the Mexican janitor was actually Honduran and that he was simply a coworker who liked to sweep the hallway in his spare moments. I don’t know why. I never got to know him that well, but he was sweeping by my office one day when he was drawn in by some Howlin’ Wolf playing on the stereo.

“You like this music?” he asked.

Now, I rarely pass up the opportunity for a good sarcastic remark, but the plight of the sanitation worker deserved a bit of respect, I thought. Also, he had a crazy look on his face.

“Sure,” I answered.

He came in closer, leaned down toward me, pointed to my chest and said, “On the outside you are white, but on the inside you are a black man.”

I rarely remember the specific wording of things that people tell me. However, my brain took a moment to chisel this one out for posterity. It then took another moment to peripherally scan the desk for something that could be used as a weapon with which to defend myself.

I nodded politely, awkwardly answered him with some bit about wishing that more people could see the black man inside me, and then breathed easier at his exit.

He didn’t work there for long, and we never again discussed the black man inside me, but I was a bit troubled at the few conversations we had afterward, as they dealt mostly with his distrust of the actual janitor who he was convinced was a Gypsy out to curse him and steal things from him. The janitor was actually Serbian. I had never feigned being a Gypsy, a Serb, or a janitor and was therefore not personally offended.

Now, did the fact that a Honduran Gypsyphobe found me to be black man on the inside cost me the Tennessee senate race?
I’d like to think so.


Anonymous Joe said...

He wasn't Honduran but Chilean-Morrocan who was brought up among the Italian-Chileans.
Rather chileanos.
You should pay more attention to these details.
Oh, it's blogific license, isn't it.
Never mind then.

2:29 PM  
Blogger newscoma said...

Okay, there is a German Shepherd here in town called Black Rex.
I don't think so.

3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My sister has had lots of black men inside her. ;)

5:41 PM  
Blogger Rex L. Camino said...

I actually thought he was Honduran for some reason, Joe. I print nothing but the truth here. Do you happen know if the Chilean-Morrocan Chileano in question still teaching?

You know the names of the dogs around town, 'coma? Do you live a Mayberry-esque existence or is simply your journalistic nature to know these things?

5:43 PM  
Blogger Rex L. Camino said...

Ah, I was waiting to see where it would come from, Sara Sue.

Nicely played.

5:45 PM  
Anonymous Joe said...

I thought I knew because of the Serbian janitor. It all seemed to fit the workplace that I thought it was, but maybe I didn't know after all.
Why don't you translate the whole experience into a Hitchhiker's Guide clone and wow us all?

8:24 AM  
Blogger Rex L. Camino said...

You were right about the place, but I was talking about that Goerge guy. Was there somebody else who swept in his spare moments and was afraid of the Serbian janitor?

9:12 AM  
Anonymous Fake Name said...

OK, he was support staff, but I wish you hadn't said his name, even though you misspelled it.
Nevertheless, sure enough he is a Chilean-Moroccan by blood. After the Moroccan went away his Chilean mom married an ethnic Italian man who was a Chilean citizen. Goerge (sic) was legally adopted by his stepdad, taking his family name.
The story gets more interesting. One morning in Goerge's teen years the family, which now included a coupla younger kids, found a bag of raw meat on their doorstep, which, to his Italian-Chilean businessman dad's sensibilities meant they had better hightail it out of the country lickety-split. So they did, settling in Peru, which is why some of us momentarily thought he a Peruvian, but no.
Stay with me.
Said Goerge (again sic) finished school, left the country (I think for the states) then went back again to visit Peru, where his heart really wasn't, but he still had friends there. Who can blame him?
But even though he didn't consider himself a Peruvian the Peruvian gov't considered him such, for the purposes of military obligation, that is. So Goerge found himself serving a stint in the Peruvian military. When he got out he came back to the states, where, unless I'm mistaken his widowed mother now lived. He went to school, etc, etc., became proficient in English, speaking it with almost no trace of South American accent.
Anyway, meanwhile his stepdad's (adopted dad's) estate had been divided by his younger siblings, who had divided Goerge out. I guess they figured they could get away with it, which they did financially, but not relationally, because their older half-brother (Goerge) never forgave them and, as he confessed to me (it hurts me to say it but) he would murder them if he ever gets the chance. (sic: do you think that will keep this content safe from a google search of the real spelling of his name?)
I didn't intend on telling it all but you wheedled it out of me.

3:42 PM  
Blogger Rex L. Camino said...

Wow. You think you don't know someone but then you REALLY don't know them, I guess.

Still, this doesn't explain all the sweeping...or maybe it does.

And maybe I am a black man on the inside.

8:41 AM  
Anonymous Joe, not fake said...

Well, the only reason I know all that is I let him know I was a good listener. Then he turned into a good talker.

10:55 PM  
Blogger Rex L. Camino said...

I've found that it's much better to nod and only half listen and then make up the rest later.

But it's probably not best to let people know this up front.

4:21 PM  

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