Immigrant Life / Writing and Reading

The Black Hole: Or Top Ten Posts That Never Were But One Day Might Be

When Chris Rock does his stand-up, there’s often a part where, after he makes a statement that gets the audience rolling, he goes ‘Yeah I said it! I said it. I fucking said it.’ 

This feels like one of those moments. Except I’m not Chris Rock so whatever I have to say is not funny and it’s probably already been said somewhere out there already but I haven’t found it yet so I’m saying it.

The above were the opening sentences of a blog post which I started writing on April 8 and saved as a draft, and never got around to finishing. Reading it now, I really wish I could remember what it was I wanted to say! There’s also this note attached to it, so that I’d remember what to write when I returned to the draft:

(Danticat essay as reminder)

But even that doesn’t jog my memory. But I have a good guess. At the time, I was reading Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work by Edwige Danticat and was still on chapter 1, so I think what I wanted to blog about was how that first chapter reminded me of a question I get from time to time and the ‘Yeah I said it, I fucking said it’ style answer I wish I could give. I could be totally wrong, but I’m sure the question that chapter reminded me of was: “So what’s the political situation in Ethiopia?”.

If only I could remember what answer I dream of giving. But if I’m not even sure what the question was how am I supposed to know the answer?

Oh well. Let the above stand in memory of all the other posts that could have been written during my past twelve weeks on non-blogging silence.

I never get asked ‘What’s the political situation in Canada?” Funny that. There is an election going on now though. Maybe I’ll make it my mission to follow it closely so that I will know all the answers to all the questions I will never be asked. While I’m at it, maybe I will also get around to writing about all the other blog post ideas I’ve had in the past weeks. For now, here’s ten mini-versions to make up for my laziness. I’ll happily take votes on which one to tackle in depth first.

1) Lies told in past posts: Confess. There are a lot. That’s why it’s called creative non-fiction. Or maybe ‘most creative versions of the truth in past posts’.

2) Gruesome folk tales: I’ve started this one already. The ‘Why Sleep‘ series. I just need to keep up.

3) Fun with world airport codes: come up with creative interpretations of all the airport codes of airports I’ve passed through. Example: ADD (Another Diaspora Delegation).

4) Amazon is no jungle: whine about dearth of Ethiopian diaspora literary fiction. I was going to review how, compared to the likes of Nigeria and South Africa and Kenya, etc. there is so little modern English-language literary fiction by Ethiopian diaspora writers. I counted 4. Three by the same author. Here’s hoping one day Ethio-diaspora lit will catch up to teff as our new super-export.

5) Pets and habesha people: write a retrospective of my colorful personal histories with pets. His name was ‘Yeneneh’. Things would have worked out much better between us if he himself was aware of that…

6) Thank yous: acknowledge my top commenters of all time and offer them an opportunity to write a guest post for Diaspora, valid for one year.

7) Expose the adventures of a single habehsa female staying solo at an Addis hotel.

8)  Talk music: how I finally downloaded Arif Zefen. Used to be I didn’t like listening to Ethio songs unless I was in Ethio company. Otherwise I found it depressing, because I guess it contrasted too greatly with my non-Ethio surroundings. Then out of the blue recently (or maybe to psychologically prepare for my upcoming pilgrimage) I downloaded it. But of course they don’t have my favourite habesha song of ALL TIME: Elias Tebabal’s Mamaye. I have no idea why but that song just hits me on a molecular level (or is it cellular? do I have molecules?), every time. Close runner-ups are Mohamed’s Ineman Neberu and Lansalish Chewata. The latter reminds me of NTO bus trips to Sodere, for some reason. And I always imagine the former as the soundtrack to our parents’ dating-in-secret beginnings, when they used to meet “under the trees”. Those three are my serious favorites, the ones I would vote to save if all music was going to be erased from existence. All oldies all the way. The app keeps asking to know my location, and I keep saying ‘no thanks’. Wherever it “finds” me, the location would only be half true, no?

9) On Becoming a Grown Handywoman: Forget changing lightbulbs, brag about fixing my own kitchen plumbing. Am working on the toilet tank. And next up: re-grouting the bathtub tiles and patching up some holes in the drywall!

10) Make this here post into an actual blog post about something!

I can do that right now! To finish off with a reference to another comedian, Dave Chappelle this time, and his bit about being a “racism connoisseur”. I had a bit of a racism connoisseur moment yesterday, in the sense that my expectations were greatly disappointed. You’d think that in a city like Toronto, it’d be down to a finer art than ‘Go back to…’. I was an innocent bystander when this guy decided to go nutbags at a taxi driver because said taxi driver was stopped in front of him on a one way street, loading up some stuff for passengers (one of whom was yours truly). Now because of the glare of the sun on the nutcase’s windshield, I couldn’t see his face, but I am 101% sure he was of the Caucasian variety, not least because he waited a total of 2 seconds before starting to scream and shout at the taxi driver (of the ‘South Asian’ variety) to move his car. He railed and railed, getting angrier because the taxi driver was giving him zero reaction, and finally finished off with “Go back to India!” Up to that point, my heart rate had been racing because of the spark-working-its-way-up-a-line-of-gunpowder tension, but that phrase just stopped it cold. And not from shock either. Ok, shock, yes, but because I was thinking “Who says that anymore??” It was the equivalent of ‘Go suck an egg.’ for insult, or ‘Don’t have a cow.’ to calm someone down, or ‘Rad’ to say something’s cool. It just seemed SO dated as far as racist insults go! Like, really, what decade are you from dude?? Of course in a nation created and sustained by immigrants, someone who uses a phrase like that marks himself out not as rude or racist, but just terribly terribly uninformed, only slightly more so than a non-Caucasian person who might use the same phrase against another: (Imagine me, mad as hell and fresh out of creative-intellectual insults, resorting to: “Go back to Wales!”  or “Go back to Korea!” Now there’s a dream of belonging.) Anyway, all this to say that, in this age of gourmet racism, I was more disappointed than mad to come across that guy’s no-name version of it.

Later, the incident reminded me of something else. A postcard I once saw in a humorous gift shop in Vienna. It was an image of earth as seen from space, and approximately over where Germany and Austria would be, there was a dialogue bubble. Inside, the words ‘auslander raus!’ (foreigners out!). I wish I’d bought and kept it. I could hand itout to people like that guy. For now, I’ll just use this.

7 thoughts on “The Black Hole: Or Top Ten Posts That Never Were But One Day Might Be

  1. Pingback: The Pet Chronicles | Diaspora

  2. In #8, did you actually mean ArifZefen? It’s a streaming music app started by an Ethiopian who works at Pandora (and his buddy, a habesha at LinkedIn). Anyways, I would like to know your thoughts about #4: Whatever happened to seleda.com? Where is Dinaw Mengestu hiding in Paris? Why does everything the diaspora 30-somethings write have to have the shadow of Derg all over it, while those who were affected by Qey Shibir want to talk about everything but?

    • Oh yes, that’s what I meant. I’ll fix that. Thanks for looking out, and for the background info. Had no idea. Seleda was wonderful. I hope they bring it back. Check with Dinaw’s agent, maybe he/she can point you in the general area of where he’s hiding 🙂 I totally feel the same way about the repeat subject matter of Ethio diaspora literature. I guess that generation was just too busy surviving, and the one after it now has the time and space to reflect. At this rate, our experiences today won’t make it onto bookshelves for another couple of decades, I guess…God I hope not!

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