Eight-thirty in the morning, looks like another all-day rain, and if you’re shopping for Murk, well, we’re selling Murk today, cheap. I just raised the blinds all the way, and I can still hardly see across the room. The earth needs its rest this time of year, and we shouldn’t argue. We should all go back to bed, but that’s not the way the world works. Whimper all you want. No one is listening.
I’m thinking I’m going to make gingerbread later today. Not for gingerbread houses, but Nick Malgieri’s basic gingerbread, a tea cake that goes great with applesauce. Recipe’s in one of his books and not online, where the archive is cluttered with gingerbread men and cookies and other Christmas-y stuff. I should get with the program, but I choose not to.
What a great discussion you guys had yesterday about the Fuqua School. Like Kim, the era of Massive Resistance was mainly unknown to me, too, and the principal’s we-wuz-robbed letter on the school website is laughable. The psychology of racism — or any other shameful matter — is interesting to me. For years here in the Grosse Pointes, a system of institutionalized racism carried out by real-estate agents effectively kept the area not just white, but the right kind of white. There was a story about it in a 1960 edition of Time magazine, on the web but only fully available to subscribers, or you can read a summation at the bottom of this story by yours truly. Private investigators were employed by something called the Grosse Pointe Property Owners Association to vet potential homebuyers:
The three-page questionnaire, scaled on the basis of “points” (highest score: 100), grades would-be home owners on such qualities as descent, way of life (American?), occupation (Typical of his own race?), swarthiness (Very? Medium? Slightly? Not at all?), accent (Pronounced? Medium? Slight? None?), name (Typically American?), repute, education, dress (Neat or slovenly? Conservative or flashy?), status of occupation (sufficient eminence may offset poor grades in other respects). Religion is not scored, but weighed in the balance by a three-man Grosse Pointe screening committee. All prospects are handicapped on an ethnic and racial basis: Jews, for example, must score a minimum of 85 points, Italians 75, Greeks 65, Poles 55; Negroes and Orientals do not count.
The Time story went on to note that the Pointes were already home to several of the Detroit area’s more prominent Italian-American gangsters; maybe they squeaked through on the “sufficient eminence” clause. And in 1960, the system had its defenders:
The questionnaire and scoreboard, says Grosse Pointe Realtor Paul Maxon, “have been very successful, have kept property values up, and are approved by at least 95% of the people out here.” The whole idea of the system is to keep out people who tend toward “cliqueishness,” “Old World customs,” and “clannishness,” e.g., “an Italian fruit vendor.” Furthermore, real estate men point out that Grosse Pointe has a number of Polish, Greek and Southern European people scattered throughout the suburbs. Says Realtor Maxon: “I am sure Albert Einstein would have been accepted here.”
This was 50 years ago, and the Realtor’s comments are true today, although I’d hope the percentage of approving residents has fallen. But there are still many who would, in their heart of hearts, love to see some sort of screening system that would guarantee them better neighbors, like one of those infamous New York City co-op board that pokes through all your financial statements and club memberships before granting you the privilege of buying an apartment.
But racism persists, here and everywhere, sometimes in shocking displays. The local newspaper will sometimes note, in crime stories, that “the 16-year-old juvenile, a Detroit resident, was released to his 32-year-old mother.” A story last year about a teenage girl, “a Detroit resident,” who stole a car at knifepoint from another girl her age, a Grosse Pointer, outside her father’s office, was illustrative. Of course they didn’t need to note that the thief was black and the victim white, but just in case the reader was particularly dumb, the reporter quoted extensively from the thief’s written statement, a tragedy detailed in run-on sentences, misspelled words, and incorrect declension of the verb “to be.” I’m sure many readers had a yuk over that one.
Running a little late on time here, so let’s hop to the bloggage:
A sneakily seductive essay from Salon in which the author details his term selling high-end housewares in Los Angeles, naming names all the way through:
Bridget Fonda, who had married film composer Danny Elfman and had stopped appearing in movies, shopped there compulsively. I have vivid memories of loading cumbersome decorative pots into the trunk of Elfman’s Maserati. Zach de La Rocha, the former frontman of Rage Against the Machine, apparently had a lot of time on his hands, too, because he drove his cool Mercedes over all the time and drank coffee at the cafe attached to the store by himself. He looked desperately bored and was always alone. Nicole Richie was not alone when she came to the cafe, nor was Kevin Costner. Victoria Beckham wore her sunglasses indoors, throughout lunch. David Schwimmer came a few times, alone, and was precisely as bitter and patronizing as you’d expect him to be. Gary Oldman was completely banal, just a middle-aged man shopping for furniture with his impossibly gorgeous 20-something lady friend.
But that’s not what makes it. It’s the sly observations on how you sell to these folks.
Damn security cameras! Why we need tabloids in the world.
How do you hold a job with the same company for 65 years? A retiring 83-year-old offers some tips:
“You do the best you can,” Simler says. If you can’t get something done today, she continues, make sure to finish it tomorrow. Don’t give up. Enjoy the people you work with. And if you find a job you like, keep it.
Words to live by. Whether it’s murky or sunny where you are, I hope your Wednesday is a good one.