a white bread world.

My first memory of there being "others" in a cultural sense was in my 
relationship with Arabelle Brown. One night I drove her to church and 
sat outside in the car listening to the music from within.

A few of our maids were Mexicans and I spent some time on a large ranch 
in Mexico when I was 4 and 5 years old. I spoke much better Spanish then 
than I have since. The ranch hands convinced me that the prevailing view 
of Mexicans as lazy incompetents is as peculiar as the notion that girls 
are dumb.

In 1960 I had the opportunity to record the first visit by the Armenian 
church prelate to the Western Hemisphere. Vasken I, the Catolicos of the 
religion that is an older version of Christianity than Roman 
Catholicism, was singing mass at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. He 
was a tenor and one of his aides sang baritone and in that great hall it 
was an astounding musical experience for me and an unforgettable 
religious event for the hundreds of Armenian-Americans who filled the 

When I say "some of my best friends are Jews" I expect you to understand 
that I don't mean that in its usual sense as an apology for bigotry. I 
find Jews to be far more thoughtful and aware on the whole than the 
Goyim I grew up around.

Since then I have experienced that captivation among Cockfighters, 
Gamblers, Performers - all the groups I have written about. One of the 
things they have in common is me. That is probably of no importance to 
them but the effect on me has been the stuff of my life.

If I had never experienced a Roman Catholic mass or sung the National 
Anthem before a ball game I would be hollow. I like to think that the 
idea that there is a meta-experience here is what impassioned me to 
write all this down.

We ask "what are we here for?", presuming some purpose to living; our 
multiple ethnicities have similarities that provide an answer. Even if 
our goal is to move the planet in such a way as to cause it to move the 
solar system and in turn the galaxy and the universe, it starts with 
recognizing the sameness we get from mutual laughters, animosities, and 

Although I never particularly identified with my WASP roots, I have 
moved from embarrassment, shame, and pity to respect for the culture. As 
Bill Shea was wont to say, "it's great for what it is." He was talking 
about forms of music that I really hated but I guess it applies to a lot 
of things. My belief in The Jazz Truth can coexist with others' "there's 
only two kinds of music - country and western (or rock and roll, or 
rhythm and blues, etc.)."

How can we reconcile our love for life with the idea of "ethnic 
cleansing" or the Turk/Armenian, Nazi/Jew, Us/Them problem when it 
becomes murderous? Although I won't call it "The Final Solution," I hope 
that Aretha Franklin's R-E-S-P-E-C-T or perhaps UNESCO, or the Internet 
will bridge these troubled gulfs. If Crips, Bloods, Skinheads can dance 
to the same drummer from time to time we may yet be cool.

Umpires are booed, ridiculed, and heavily dissed. In terms of the game, 
they also have life and death power over the other participants. They 
know how it feels to be an outsider but they can also "pass" during most 
of their lives in the "real world" because they go largely unrecognized 
when not working.

The reverse of "passing" is the closet. When I was about 10 I began to 
follow the fortunes of a Texas League team, the San Antonio Missions, a 
farm team of the the major leagues' perennial cellar dwellers, the St. 
Louis Browns. Following their fortunes meant listening to radio 
broadcasts of the games. The announcer was a colorful gentleman using 
the name of Bolivar Dougag. His name was Sam Goldfarb and in that part 
of the country in that part of the century his real name would have made 
the announcer's job unobtainable.

I got to know him and occasionally hung out in the broadcast booth at 
games and had dinner with him and his wife. I didn't know that Jews were 
supposed to be on my shit list. Umpires couldn't fraternize with team 
members so they often socialized with announcers and sports writers. My 
first acquaintance with an umpire was to caddy for Sam and umpire Coe 
one day and I got to hear grown men use all the curses and obscenities 
that were hidden from use around women.

This sort of exposure to Jew, umpire, and foul language was formative in 
about the same sense I later learned about music and dope: the power of 
these forbidden fruits and the humanity of these people were being 
denied by most of society and that is everybody's loss. Jews, 
cockfighters, umpires, women: they all qualify and to behave otherwise 
robs us even more than them.

Passing is sometimes done for the sake of safety but it is not always 
possible or convenient. Recently it has become a sign of cowardice, 
earning the contempt of fellow outcasts.

"I'm Black and I'm Proud" says a song typical of this attitude. There is 
a movement in the gay community to force people out of the closet, even 
against their wishes; liberated women profess pity for those still 
confined barefoot to the kitchen; kids don't trust anyone over thirty 
and horsemen echo the carny anthem, "fuck everything but the circus."

"Uncle Tom" has his counterparts in many of these cultures. Chicken 
fighters on the whole prefer to stay secretive about their passion but 
"grey panthers" are becoming politically militant although the effort to 
look ever young is the foundation of huge industries. People in wheel 
chairs chain their vehicles to cable cars and picket Jerry Lewis, who 
seems astonished that they think of his "help" as insulting.

As "backlash" is used as an excuse for not making waves it also serves 
to stiffen resolve among people who feel oppressed. The remedies for 
making changes in "second-classism" are often political or legal. The 
backlashers resort to demagoguery, pretending that discrimination 
doesn't really exist; previous generations blamed "outside agitators" 
riling up "our nigrahs."

What might be the best thing to learn from these put-downs is that we 
are all perpetrators as well as victims: Black Muslims who are doubly 
outcast vilify Jews; born again "Christians" organize to deny 
homosexuals relief from discrimination; women who were once children 
pose protectionism for youths who don't know what's best for themselves; 
Catholics try to impose their vision of morality on society; the list is 

Blind peoples' solutions teach that our preconceptions of reality and 
importance contain flaws just as the presence of testicles can mislead 
us into converting differences into superiorities. The teachings of 
Mohammed, Jesus, Buddha, and Hensley have threads that indicate common 
ground for us all. Perhaps we are creatures in service to our selfish 
genes, but maybe those genes have an enlightened self interest that 
insists on "live and let live" as well as "do unto others..."

The fastest growing segment of the world's population is the leisure 
class. TVs and cars are emblematic of people living off pump royalties. 
In the flower generation's heyday it was hard to take seriously the 
Mustang Maoists' preachings about the redistribution of wealth but a 
visit to the Goodwill store tells a lot about the disposability of 
fashion. To many young people, goods displayed on the racks of salvage 
shops are more "in" than those in the boutiques on Rodeo Drive.

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and William Blake's "...Believe a 
Lie when you see with, not thro, the Eye" sum it up pretty well. We 
presume a reality independent of our senses - the tree falling in the 
unpopulated forest most likely makes about the same sound even if 
unheard by any ear.