Thursday, November 20, 2014

The immigrant song

Mediterranean Food Market

Back in early October, I pitched a story on local ethnic grocers to my editor. He gave me the nod and slated it for publication on Nov. 20--today--which serendipitously coincides with President Obama's scheduled remarks on the subject of immigration tonight.

Tink Holl Food Market

The research and writing of the article, The Diverse Language of Food: a Guide to Ethnic Markets, was both grueling and exhilarating. I am very proud of the result. It reflects this town and its people. It's about where we've been, where we are and where we're headed.

Almadina Imports

The people I met as I gallivanted around Cleveland snapping pics and interviewing for this piece were a true inspiration. These are the real Americans--hard working as they endeavor to deliver the very best of the best to their customers. They embrace diversity. They know it's the only way to run a business.

Marco Mougianis at Mediterranean Foods,
the shop his Gramp opened some 50 years ago

Diversity is what built this country. It's the only thing that will save it.

Bob has manned the counter at Krusinski's for 53 years

Now then, dear reader, imagine this. About a week ago when I was deep in the throes of penning my article and a bit breath-taken by it all, I took a break to go to the gym, where I mounted an elliptical machine next to two white men in their sixties. Here are some snippets of their conversation, spoken loudly enough to be heard by anyone within three or four feet.

One mused on people who file for bankruptcy. "I'd shoot all those sonsabitches first. I wouldn't even leave any for pallbearers."

There was another comment about Obama wanting to let "them" all in and how he couldn't remember "the numbers" in California, but "you wouldn't believe."

Race predictably came up.

"Can you imagine if they had a white scholarship fund? Nope. You can only do that for the n-----s."

That's what it looks like folks--the very worst this country has to offer, and a far cry from this quote from Enrique Muniz Jr., owner of La Borincana.

"All the Africans working here are refugees. They came here legally through the Catholic Church. No one wanted to hire them, but we opened our arms and hired them."

Enrique Muniz Jr.

I imagine Obama's upcoming remarks will spur a great deal of talk about immigration in gyms and bars and coffee shops around the country. Which side of history will you be on?

As for me, I'll be here in CLE shining a light on the little corners and rooting for the good guys as the Irish and Hungarian and German blood courses through my veins.

*  *  *


DogsDontPurr said...

"Bull Pizzles!"

Great article. I love love love ethnic stores like that. I could spend hours in those places just looking at the packaging of their products. So much to look at, so many things to try. Thanks for taking us on the tour.

Anonymous said...

Prosecutorial Discretion. Not an illegal act. Fuck the bigots. And have a nice day.


Bill said...

Seriously? 2 old white guys? You spent the week doing the immigrant thing and decided to eavesdrop on 2 old white guys? Too perfect. I know a lot of old white guys and have never heard a conversation quite like that. Maybe it's a Cleveland thing.

DogsDontPurr said...

Bill?...really? Bull pizzles!!

Erin O'Brien said...

Nope, Bill. There's plenty of racism to go around.

Bill the wrenchbender said...

Yup. I know lots of old and young white guys too, I hear that kind of garbage all the time. Mostly from those who call themselves Christian. I find that just a bit ironic.

Bill said...

You live in Kentucky wrenchbender? I'm aware of some Christian's who are doing some really good work around the world, including in Africa (ebola) and Haiti. Samaratin's Purse is probably motivated by white guilt. I think bigotry is pretty evenly spread across all skin tones. We could get Reverend Al's take on that.

Erin O'Brien said...

What's your point, Bill?

Bill said...

My point is that I think taking cheap shots at "old white guys" is bull shit. OK?

Harry Finch said...

I'm an old white guy. I don't think it's cheap, and I don't think it's bullshit.

Erin O'Brien said...

I believe I described them thusly: two white men in their sixties.

I believe you were the first one to refer to them as "old," Bill. Go ahead--check.

However you want to describe them, they are everything that's wrong with this country.

Anonymous said...

@ Erin-Since you posted this title all I've been able to think of is "Hammer of the Gods, We'll drive our ships to new lands." So thanks for that.


One of the last waves of unfettered immigration into the country, at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, was from the Mediterranean littorals and Tsarist Russia, along with lesser quantities from previous feeder nations. There was widespread belief, from every segment of the polity, that it was a disaster and endangered the health of the Republic. Slovenly, ignorant, diseased, drunken, lazy and papist were among some of the more common tags hung on the newest Americans. And the tags were handed out across a wide swath of political thought and philosophy. Nativist and Progressive. Left and Right. Poor and rich. It was a point of agreement that these immigrants could never and would never find a spot in the American sun. They, and their offspring and heirs, were doomed to a lower existence.

But a funny thing happened on the way to immigration purgatory. The new immigrants worked-harder-to find their place and understand the opportunities America presented them with. They had a keen eye for the main chance. When they got their hands on it they refused to give it back, and they refused to waste it.

Ah, but you might say, the heirs, the offspring? Starting from so far behind, did they ever have a chance to step up, too?

They did ok, too. They earned a nickname: today we refer to them as The Greatest Generation.

"Still from near and far, to seek America, they came by thousands-to court the wild.

And she just patiently smiled and bore them a child to be their spirit, and guiding light."-J. Kay, 1969.


Bill said...

"However you want to describe them, they are everything that's wrong with this country."

A little bit of over reach. Maybe they are everything that's wrong with Cleveland.

Anonymous said...

I am sure Erin spoke up and corrected them.


Erin O'Brien said...

You know, James, I went back and forth and back and forth over that. I was very close to saying something to them and probably should have. I kept my mouth shut because I was so disgusted, I was afraid what might come out of it.

That said, I also could have said something to the gym management.

Trouble with this turd (one was doing all the talking) is that he comes in every day for hours. Nothing I could say would change his mind. I'd just end up getting my car keyed.

Next time, I'll just ask him politely to abstain from the racial slurs. As for "correcting" his politics, what's the cliche I hear from the right all the time?

Oh yeah: You can't fix stupid.

Bill said...

Something like, "Hey cracker. Keep it down!"

Anonymous said...

In the alternative a little rudimentary detective work and a post on 4chan get those mofos doxed.


Erin O'Brien said...

MR, thanks for that thoughtful comment, btw.

Iffin' anyone's interested, click on over to Evil Overlord Facebook to get a load of discussion on immigration.

Here's the initial post. It's garnered about 60 comments.

Dear conservative friends,

I am a mick/hunky/kraut mutt of a broad and I know this country was built on the backs of the immigrants I came from and it's future lies in the hearts of the immigrants we've yet to welcome. If you don't believe me, come on over here to Cleveland and I'll prove it to you.

So please quit your miserable bellyaching and lawyering up and remember what it means to be an American.

Love, Erin

Anonymous said...

How come them Facebook people don't come over here?