I Miss My Racist Friend

Is that weird? He drove me nuts in the first place, even if you take away what he said to fully break up the friendship. Let me begin at the beginning.

We’ll call him Frank (after the wrong name another friend calls him). He’s my neighbor and I met him after he took in a chihuahua that had been terrorizing the neighborhood. I noticed that shortly after that, he took in another dog, a female. (I don’t poke my nose into other people’s business, EXCEPT when it pertains to animals since I do dog rescue.) I immediately thought, “Oh hell no, no babies…those dogs need to be fixed.” So I introduced myself and got to know him and the dogs, and asked if he wanted to get them fixed since I had contacts that could help do it at a lower fee.

After some time, I realized that he didn’t have electricity or water, and was living in his house (which he owns) that really ought to be condemned like a squatter. But, since he owns it and doesn’t cause any problems the city overlooks it, I guess. The rescue community raised funds to buy a propane heater that used my grill’s tank; he filled jugs of water from my hose; we got food together for him and the dogs; I gave him my camp stove to use so he would no longer have to eat cold food.

Over time, we became friendly and he’d come over to watch TV. I finally got him to apply for food stamps and go back to the VA for his health care. When he qualified for Social Security, we used my laptop to apply. I trusted him enough to have him as my dog sitter — he stayed in my home while I was away — what could he do? If anything went missing, I knew where he lived.

And while his views sometimes grated on me, it was mostly because he was ignorant — just an old Alabama redneck with little education. But he listened to me more often than not. He supported me (and watched my dogs) when I went to the Women’s March on Washington after Trump’s election. We didn’t always agree but it was a respectful disagreement and he’d listen to me even though I was an educated Yankee — one of “those people”. One of those “elites”. HAHAHAHAHA. Elites. Yes, I’m a college graduate and a Yankee but elite? I live in a low-income area of Alabama (he’s my neighbor, remember), am on disability so live under the poverty line. This hasn’t always been my life, but I’ve always been struggling financially even when I was working. I’m a liberal — more moderate than most — and he’s not as conservative as many down here on the Deep RED South. We were able to have discussions, and sometimes he’d even listen to my point of view and learn from me. I’d listen to his and …. well, I’d listen and learn how people can think the way they do.

See, living down here has been an education in and of itself. When you are a white latina, you pass. When you’re of Jewish ancestry (I’m ethnically Jewish, semi-culturally Jewish but definitely not raised religiously Jewish), you pass. When you’re pagan…you pass. When you’re LGBTQ and cis, you pass. And that passing means I wasn’t the recipient of a lot of racism, but got to hear a lot of it because I passed. I was “safe”. Yeah…. no. No, I’m not.

That white latina thing got you hung up, didn’t it? Allow me to explain. I’m Brasilian. Look at Giselle Bündchen, Adriana Lima, Alessandra Ambrosio (supermodels), Morena Baccarin: White. Sofia and Alice Braga, Rodrigo Santoro? Definitely more Latinx. Pele, Ronaldinho, Lazaro Ramos (actor): black. Brasilians are just like Americans — we’re a mix. Brasil is the largest country in S. America, was colonised just like the US was, with slaves imported and the native population either decimmated or assimilated. The colonizers were first Portuguese, but later waves were other Europeans — many being Germans (my family), some escaping World Wars I and II. I’m not going into the Nazis that ran to S. America to hide — that’s not my niche. I’m just explaining how so many South American Latinx can be as white as snow and still identify as Latinx. Especially those of us born to people from countries with higher populations of those European immigrants like Argentina, Brasil and….Uruguay. Chile falls in there as well. My point is, a lot of people don’t realize that I am a child of a Brasilian mother who was VERY MUCH a Latina, who raised me the same way and I identify as such. Brasilians, like Americans are mutts.

Frank started to help his family out by watching their dog when his sister’s husband fell ill and was in and out of the hospital. I’m not sure why he was so involved when his family didn’t lift a finger to help him. They left him in that crumbling house, hungry and cold…but I don’t know their side of the story only his and I’ve since come to realize that Frank tells stories. Anyway, for a few months, Frank hasn’t really come around since he’s been busy with his family. I’d see him from time to time and we’d chat but he definitely wasn’t hanging out as often as he used to. He wasn’t even around during the death of my beloved chihuahua Pix, a dog he also adored. I *kind of* missed him, mostly just realized the quiet? But my dogs missed their “Uncle Frank”. And I think hanging around his family changed Frank. That, and one of the other neighbors allowed him to tap into the electricity in the unused house next door, so he had TV. He had an industrial cable running next door to power a lamp, one of my ACs, a TV and a small fridge.

Frank had TV and was also hanging at his sister’s house with cable, therefore he was watching a lot of Fox News. So one day, I was walking my newly adopted senior chihuahua and saw Frank speaking to our other neighbor Ron. Pix used to love to visit Ron, my special little hospice chihuahua going over to sit with senior citizen Ron, who also had bad eyesight and a stroke and she’d snuggle into him. Ron wasn’t a great guy but Pix loved everyone. So I decided to bring Cocoa over and let her meet him, even though Cocoa is most definitely not the same type of dog. Just meet the neighbors, you know?

We go over, and Cocoa is sniffing around and Frank first calls her “cuckoo”. OK, no, you know her name. Cocoa is easy to remember. “Why are you being rude? Her name is Cocoa, like the chocolate.” “Hey cuckoo, c’mere cuckoo…” So, I realize Frank is in a mood. Forget him. I turn my attention to Ron. (This is right when the first wave of the “migrant caravan” was headed to the border in Mexico.) Frank tells me that his food stamps were cut by a large amount. I say, “We expected that, didn’t we? When you got your social security, we knew it they’d be cut.” He says, “Yeah but not as much as they did. It was Trump’s farm bill. The caravan, it’s the caravan.”

I did a double take from my dog to him and back again.

“The caravan? What does the caravan have to do with the farm bill and your food stamps?” I ask.
“You’re a Hillary person, and I’m a Trump person so you’re not going to get it,” he waves at me.
“I don’t understand, what has Hillary to do with anything?”
“The caravan is coming to take our stuff, all of it. They’re going to invade our neighborhoods and take our jobs. And the farm bill is going to pay for them to be able to live here. YOU want to live with all of THEM here?

*blinkblink* “First off Frank. Look around. Most of our neighbors are already from Guatemala, Honduras or Mexico.” (This is true. The dog that caused us to meet? Escaped from his Honduran next door neighbors that I have to keep rescuing neglected and abused animals from.) “Secondly, take WHAT from YOU? Your should-be condemned house? The nothing you have that came from ME? Your LATINA neighbor? Oh…that’s right. You forgot that, didn’t you? Because I’m white. I’m a first generation American and daughter to an IMMIGRANT dammit.”

He continues in the same vein and I just decide that I’ve had it. I take my dog, who he’s also insulted by refusing to call her by the right name and leave. I’m FURIOUS. I go back to my little duplex apartment across the street and try to decide what I’m going to do. I’ve gone out of my way for this man for three years. He wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for me, and now he’s just insulted ME, my mother, and everything I believe in — probably because he’s in a bad mood for some reason and has been taking in too much Fox News at his sister’s house. But he showed his true colors and I won’t let that in my home. I’ve dropped all the Trump believers and supporters from my life, and he’s insulted me TO MY FACE and also insulted my Family. Not to mention all the people that live next door and around him.

I take a few hours to cool off and speak to my duplex neighbor, a black woman. I’d needed to mess with my WiFi router anyway, and she uses my WiFi (we have an agreement, she parasites off my cable internet/I use her garbage can) so I told her what happened. She was just as mad, or maybe mad FOR me. So I tell her I’m going to change the WiFi password and NOT tell Frank (yep, he also used it with his free government phone). Racists don’t need to use my internet. I’ve done enough. I’ve HAD ENOUGH.

The next day, a text: “Is the internet fixed yet?” Then a phone call. Frank wants his Candy Crush or whatever. Then that evening, he knocks on the door. I go outside to talk to him. He asks if I fixed the internet yet. Yes, I tell him, I had. “I have my long sleeves on, can I come in and see the doggies and talk to you and get the password?”

“No. You can’t.”
“So I can’t use your internet anymore?”
“I’d rather you didn’t since I had to fix my router problems from all the viruses you keep getting (a lie to soften the blow that’s coming because dammit I just can’t stop being nice).”
“Oh. I’ll stop using those sites.”
“Look, Frank. Here’s the deal. You insulted me. You insulted my mother with your racist rant about the caravan, which was completely wrong, by the way. You really hurt me .” He backs off my porch. “I didn’t mean to insult you.” and scurries off across the street.

I haven’t seen him since. I mean, I’ve SEEN him — sitting on his porch with his dogs. Talking with Ron. Getting in and out of cars from family or other friends that take him to the store or an appointment. Doing the things for him that I used to do. (Which, to tell the truth, I don’t miss. I hope they’re letting him shower because I DO NOT MISS him sitting in my house unshowered, stinking of cigarettes. I offered my shower every time he was here.)

But my dogs miss their Uncle Frank. His dogs miss their Auntie Jax and tell me so every time they see me, because they are tied out front (not for long, they’re not outside dogs.) I kinda miss my friend, although…was he my friend or was he just some guy that took advantage of my kindness and compassion? He watched my dogs for me when I went out of town, gratis. Sure, he ate me out of house and home while he was here and got to watch my TV and Netflix and stuff and didn’t rob me blind. I trusted him to help me when I needed it. He had a key to my home. And then he showed me his true self and it hurt.

And yesterday, I took my little foster dog for a walk and saw him. He came out of his home when his sister drove up. She didn’t come out of her truck until I was well away from his house and he didn’t come down the walk. What, am I something to be afraid of? I even waved. Every other neighborhood “friend-feud” he’s had has resolved itself in days. It’s been since before Halloween. He missed Thanksgiving with me and now Christmas (I’ve always fed him, at least he got leftovers and a special birthday meal.)

I feel so odd. I miss my racist neighbor-friend. And when Game of Thrones comes back on in April, I’ll miss having him over to watch it, especially since he got so into it that he binged the entire series in the two weeks I was gone and he watched my dogs for me. And he borrowed an entire Drizzt DO’urden series of books and learned to love the Forgotten Realms, and started to love Valdemar as well. I’m willing to forgive if he’s willing to learn from his mistake but it seems that he’s not. And that makes me really sad, especially now that I hear Bandit barking outside. 😦

Advertisements

Own Your Crazy, Help Your Friends

I commented earlier on a friend’s post: “Rein in your crazy, it’s hurting other people.” and realized that a lot of folks don’t or won’t tell their friends when their crazy slip is showing.

Why? We’ll tell people when they have spinach in their teeth or if their shoelace is untied. We’ll point out dirt on their face, or any other matter of embarrassing, offensive or potentially dangerous situation. But when they are behaving in manner that you know is related to their mental health problem, no one says anything. “Oh, that’s just Joe being Joe.” No…that’s Joe being manic and possibly off his meds and maybe someone that knows Joe really well ought to go talk to him and see what’s up for real.

Yeah, it’s hard. It can be as hard as having an intervention for an addict at times, depending on the mental illness. But do you care about your friend or loved one? If you do… speak up.

Knowing HOW to speak to the person is key. I’ve posted in the past about the very wrong thing to say to someone in the throes of a fragile episode. The post I referenced above is someone being obnoxious and offensive and doesn’t see it — because that’s THEIR brand of crazy. If you’re close to someone with a mental illness, you should know what it is, and how to deal with it. If not — approach with caution and care. Letting the person know that YOU CARE is the most important part. “Hey, I’ve noticed you’re not quite yourself. Is there anything I can do?” Just those few words can do so much more good than you’d know.

If you’re the one with the illness, own it. Don’t be ashamed. “Oh I’m just kidding. I’m just playing.” No, you don’t understand social cues. Or you have borderline personality disorder so you blurt out things without thinking. Or….whatever. Own it. At least then the people in your life know that you’re not just an asshole. You’re crazy — and it’s OK. You’re THEIR Crazy Asshole, and they’ll love you just the same. *mwah*