A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Gold Medal in Bigotry

                                (Above: Simone Biles, the greatest gymnast in history)

Female athletes – especially African-American female athletes – have been dominating the Olympics, but you'd never know it from listening to those old white dudes in the media.
From NBC's Al Trautwig harping that gold medal gymnast Simone Biles's grandparents, who have raised her since she was a baby, are not actually her parents, to his colleague Dan Hicks' contention that 400-meter gold medalist Katinka Hosszu's husband is "the guy responsible" for her win, to the Chicago Tribune's reporting Corey Cogdell-Unrein bronze medal in trap shooting with the headline "Wife of Bears lineman Mitch Unrein wins bronze in Rio," the sexism was almost comical if it weren't so embarrassing.
African-American gymnast Gaby Douglas, a member of the gold medal-winning all-around team, was thoroughly trashed by the right wing media for not holding her hand over her heart during the medal ceremony, but they never uttered a peep when Donald Trump did the same thing during the presidential debates.
But at least her ceremony was televised. When 100-meter freestyler Simone Manuel made history by becoming the first African American woman to win an Olympic gold in an individual swimming event – with all its social/political implications, given the bitter civil rights battles during the 1960s over blacks being allowed to use "white" swimming pools – NBC didn't even show her medal ceremony.
NBC didn't televise the opening ceremony live, either, because, as chief marketing officer Jeff Miller explained, "The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans. More women watch the Games than men, and for the women, they're less interested in the result and more interested in the journey. It's sort of like the ultimate reality show and mini-series wrapped into one."
Want more? Uzbecki gymnast Oksana Chusovitina was roundly criticized because her pink and white leotard "failed to complement her skin tone," Austrian Larrissa Miller "turned heads for all the wrong reasons" because her leotard had "an unattractive teal hue with a rhinestone-covered collar," and when NBC's camera showed the U.S. women's gymnastic team gathered together during the all-around competition a male announcer – whom NBC still refuses to identify – said, "They might as well be standing in the middle of a mall."
Before you accuse me of political correctness, ask yourself: When was the last time you heard this kind of language being used about men, especially white men? Michael Phelps is being called "the greatest Olympian in history," but Katie Ledecky, a five-time Olympic gold medalist and nine-time world champion, is only "the female Michael Phelps" and is praised by saying "She swims like a man."
One incident can be brushed off as a fluke. Two could be a coincidence. But three or more – and there are a lot more – is a definite pattern. Shame on the media in general and NBC in particular.
But there's one shining exception: swimming commentator Rowdy Gaines, who said, "A lot of people think she swims like a man. She swims like Katie Ledecky, for crying out loud!"
Of course, Gaines is a three-time gold medalist himself, unlike Trautwig, whose sole connection to organized sports was being stick-boy for the New York Islanders and ball boy for the New York Nets, or Hicks, who, as far as I can determine, never played organized sports at all. So what does he know?

The Last Of The Old Fashioned Hardware Stores

(Above: The magical K&V Tite Joint Fastener.)
 My sister, who knows me oh so well, calls me "a man of very little faith," and she doesn’t mean it as a compliment. She's not referring to anything religious or spiritual; what she means is that I have a bad habit of always expecting the worst. And she's right. If I had a coat of arms, it would show a half-empty glass.
Then an amazing thing happened.
For the last two months I've been engaged in the arduous experience of moving to a new home (which I'll write about in another column). But at least I'd be able to take my two cats, Sally and Pepe with me, as well as my beloved chest bed, which has a lot of sentimental value for me (two ex-girlfriends and five cats).
But when the movers came to pack me up, they informed me that they wouldn't be able to put the chest bed back together again because it needs four essential metal thingamabobs to connect the pieces, and three of them were missing.
What's more, they were doubtful about my chances of finding any replacements. "They're so rare, you'll never find one in a hardware store," they told me. But they gave me a list of places to start looking and wished me luck.
I prowled every salvage yard and antique store in Berkeley, but nobody even knew what the thingababob was, much less where I could find any.
I was in despair. Finally, I gave up and decided have a professional machinist hand-make me three more. It would mean big bucks, but I really love that bed.
But a little voice told me that I'd never rest easily unless I gave it one last shot and, despite what the movers said, ran it past the folks at my old tried-and-true, Berkeley Hardware.
I showed the thing to Assistant Manager Andy Taylor, and he said, "Oh yeah! A K&V Tite Joint Fastener!" (You mean the thing actually has a name?)
Whereupon, Inventory Manager Sherrin Farley, who had been listening to our conversation from her adjoining office, piped up, "I got 'em right here on my desk!"
It turns out they'd had them for nobody can remembers how long, and rather than let them take up space on the shelves, where nobody would want them anyway, she decided to stash them in her office and worry about what to do with them later.
Now that's a real, old fashioned family hardware store!
Berkeley Hardware has been serving the community for more than 120 years and has been owned by the same family for more than 70. Last month it moved from its longtime home on University Avenue to a new site at 2020 Milvia Street.
Family is the operative word, from owners Bill and Virginia Carpenter (and their kids and grandkids) to General Manager Quentin "Chuck" Moore to the employees, all of whom seem like they've been working there forever.
On August 20 they'll celebrate the move with a "Grand-Reopening" with refreshments, goody bags, drawings and more.
Parking can sometimes be iffy, but don't let that deter you. Berkeley Hardware is a community treasure. I mean, where else are you going to find a K&V Tite Joint Fastener?
And the kitties? I still haven't been able to coax Pepe out of the bedroom. Suggestions will be gratefully accepted.