My home town has been selected as a start city for the Tour of California, Stage 4. I guess Monterey couldn't be bothered. Passed it on instead to the red headed step child of the Monterey Peninsula.
Seaside was one of those towns on the other side of the tracks. People who didn't live there were afraid of it. Seaside is where the army boys bought their drugs and their women. There were housing projects, pawn shops, and gang members. You could rent a room by the hour at the Thunderbird Hotel, drink at 6:00am at the Oak Tree, or see porn at the Del Rey Theatre.
And minorities lived there.
As I got older I realized thats what some people were really hinting about when they wondered how "we" could live "there".
As I kid, I didn't know any different. As kids usually don't. Until they are taught.
I didn't know it was dangerous, even though Boo Del Rosario stole my halloween candy at knifepoint, and I was jumped at school because I was wearing red (I think I was 7). And even though I knew some of my classmates weren't white, I didn't think anything of that beyond that. I mean, as long as they could swing on the monkey bars, or ride bikes down to the foster's freeze, what does it matter to a kid?
Until you bring those friends home to meet your parents.
My dad had one of those talks with me. I don't remember the talk, but I remember very clearly how confused I was. I was confused because my dad had very close friends who were black and mexican and filipino. We visited with them all the time. In the wandering life that is the military, these friends were our surrogate families. My aunts, my uncles, my cousins. We loved them. He loved them. The men had literally risked their lives for each other.
So what was he telling me?
He was telling me the only thing he understood. He was the result of a family history of racists. And even though he had spent most of his adult life in the military side by side with other races and cultures, and even though some of his closest friends were minorities...he was still a racist from a long line of racists.
But the line was being broken. And it wasn't because I am some good creature of higher moral fiber. Or because my mom told me he was wrong. Its because deep down my father didn't want to be that way, his heart was too big, and he invited people into our lives that a racist who believed his own rhetoric wouldn't do. And by having those people in our lives, I was able to see the contradiction and irrationality of what he said, vs how he lived his life.
And of course, I always do whatever the hell I want, regardless of what people tell me. So my friends, the people I invited into my life, were there because they made me laugh and they loved the same adventures I did.
And my dad softened. As much as he could allow himself anyway.
And SeaSYDE grew up. The army left and with it went much of the criminal element. Seaside became not a place where "they" live, but embraced as a diverse community, in an otherwise homogenous peninsula.
The Thunderbird now welcomes Monterey tourists, the Oak Tree is a tacqueria, and the Del Rey Theater has been long since torn down.
But, its still kind of a funky place. Its still the stepchild of the peninsula. Its foggy, its sunny. Its poor, its wealthy. Its lovely, its ugly. It marches to its own beat.
So when the Tour of Ca hits on Stage 4, I just might have to go watch.