Thursday, August 17, 2006

The South Dakota Event

Famine In South Dakota

I showed up yesterday. They asked for my ID at the gate. Don't I look old enough? I am past 30 for sure. I don't eat much. It is a lazy bone thing.

The downstairs was crowded. The event was upstairs. They would not let me in. I was a few minutes early. They had not started to check people in yet.

I had this lingering feeling I had not been to a DFNYC event in a long time. This was not strictly a DFNYC event. But the organization was one of the sponsors.

Heather Woodfield passed by as I was seeping beer. "It's upstairs." She looked dead serious. Then Leila Noor. And she looked dead serious. "We were to get both floors, but they messed up." And because Leila talked to me, the "guard" let me in before time. Some people have friends in high places. I had a friend upstairs, it appeared.

A familiar faced lady was checking people in, a DFNYC person. "What's your name?" "Bhagat. You mean last name?" "No, first name." "Paramendra." "There you are." "You owe 20."

I had paid 15 online.

I went in. The crowd was thin. I decided to walk to a few tables. There were these two young ladies. Natasha, and Shawna. Never seen them before. The conversation did not pick. I headed to the next one. There was this Indian looking woman - "I have been to India twice" - and a blonde who looked like a starlet. She was. Heather Tom. She was the featured person for the evening. I did not put two and two together until much later. I had visited her website but did not recognize. She looks much more beautiful in person. I don't know what she is a star of, but she must be someone famous.

At that table also the conversation did not take off. So I moved to the next. "Ravi." "Oh, so you are Indian?" "That is my mother." White lady. "Did you adopt him?" "I'd have if he were not born to me!" "Julie." "Daughter in law."

Jewish New Yorker married to an Indian diplomat.

"You should go talk to the women," she suggested.

"I tried twice. It did not work. What do you say?"

"You say, Hi, how is it going?"

"Tried. Didn't work."

"Then say, Don't I know you from somewhere!"

I got up. I spotted Farez Qureshi. So it is the same guy, I thought. We touched base. It appears he knows Dana Northcraft. There was a little of how do you know her, how do you know her. And this ACLU lawyer lady he was talking to. She was feeling a little self conscious. "I might be the oldest person here." "That is a non issue. And besides, that is not true."

And then it happened, the gelling. Farez moved out of the circle. And first one, then two, then one more woman came along. And the conversation really took off. These four women and me. One was an organizer for the event. Adrian. The whole thing just gelled. And it was a wonderful conversation. "I grew up in a part of the world where women have it real tough. So I feel the need to make up for it. That is why I am here." "Actually I am here because I am a staunch supporter of Hillary 2008." "I almost did not come. Then I came." "The person who sold me the ticket, I cost her so much time, I felt guilty, and I came." "Oh, so you are from Nepal? Do you miss family?" "No. We talk all the time, online for free." "But Hillary will not win. They say Rudy might run." "I hope Rudy runs. Hillary can beat the crap out of him." "So that is your friend Amy you were talking about?" "You from Connecticut? Rhode Island? I been to Rhode Island." "All these right wing young white boys in DC. All of them are so short, and wear funny shirts, cut by the arm. It is like they got rejected at their high school proms and they never got over it." "I am one of the organizers." "This crowd is too small. Not enough money got raised." "You think there are a hundred people? That is more than 5,000 dollars." "Not enough." "What did she say? What did she say?"

Reminded me of my first year at college. A fresh off the boat foreigner. The college newspaper deputy editor said, "Do you notice how when the girls are talking to Paramendra they are really really happy!" All that was before the Kentucky Rednecks in various age groups, various shapes and sizes descended upon me after I poked into the religious hornet nest as a freshman elected student body president. "We should stop calling Berea a Christian college." In a speech to the entire faculty.

And then flash. Somebody just took a picture. It was Tracey Denton. She snapped her guy and the guy's male friend. I had this eery feeling I might have ended up in a corner of the picture. Going by the in your face flash. Me and my group were right behind the posing duo.

There is this chill phase between me and the DFNYC. Funny. A lot of water has gone down the Hudson. That was the first group I sought out after I moved to the city, before I sought out any of the Nepali groups.

I could just go down the list of people. Specific words, specific actions.

Like Dan Jacoby. The guy is a total asshole. He has made a racist comment every single time we have interacted. Like I am making small talk at this DFNYC Mixer - one where T snapped my picture with a black dude from Boston - with a young woman Austrain Green Party sympathizer journalist and Jacoby walks past, and I introduce him to her, and the guy makes this ugly hip gesture, and says something to the effect I should seek opportunities in the porn industry if the idea is to make money. The weird part is he feels somewhere along the way we bonded and became friends. Loser. Like he found me at this Laughing Liberally event as the April Revolution was raging in Nepal. "We did not have to send in the troops, did we!" I had to restrain myself. Noone knows you in Washington DC, bugger, don't flatter yourself. Who the fuck is we!

Josh Skaller and Heather Woodfield organized for me a date with an "Asian" a few weeks after it went public I had expressed "interest" in Denton. The highlight was his "long nails" comment to her. The story must have spread. Because I have had hints from a few others how it is all okay. Friends go out to eat. We do that at our university among students. I went for lunch with Wesley Clark. As in it is a political thing. Can't take offense.

It is an iceberg thing. The white male's cobra strike. It is like during an early month, Heather and I are at this bar on our way from the East Village LinkUp to the After LinkUp, just the two of us - she needed to drop off some campaign posters to the bar owner - and there is this white asshole male from Texas at the bar. The guy just can't stand it that I am with a white woman, the facts be damned. He hit on her.

Like I am at this party in Lexington, KY, my sophomore year, with a Scandinavian girl, a drive away from the college, and this white asshole male proceeds to hit on her for the sole reason that she is with me. She looks puzzled and gives me this look.

Or this redneck at the college food service. I am with a friend - girl - sitting at a table, whiling away. And the asshole pushes his chair between our chairs. His mother never taught him table manners. Mofo.

This is not romance. This is politics. The romance department goes like this. I am a Buddhist. The concept of soul does not exist. So it is not a soulmate thing. A relationship is a decision. That two people take. Cobra strikes only work when two people have not, or do not intend, or are not interested in taking the decision. But they are always always always relevant politically.

So when the cobra strike is a pattern, you are not dealing with humanity. It is more like physics.
Like Josh Skaller at this DFNYC debate in Brooklyn. I ask a gender question. "What will it take to get more women in Congress?" He speaks his first sentence to me in months. He comes next to me and requests if I will please ask an enviroment question. That is what white men are like. Gender talk is taboo. And that right there is the opening counter strike to the cobra strikes. I am in. I am up for the challenge. I am angling for the fight. The April Revolution did something to me. It is like I got my voice back. I can talk again like during my freshman year.

Or poor old Abhishek Mistry. The token Indian at DFNYC. There was a time when people talked to me "through" him. There is mild racism. And there is mild internalized racism. Internalizing racism feels like too much work. I don't know how to do it. I am lazy like that.

Lewis Cohen. He has been getting my cold shoulder. Last two events where he found me. DL21C events. He makes small talk with Tom Daschle, Daschle obviously recognizes him, and Cohen makes the point, and then turns around and looks at me. As in, don't you know who I am! (Tom Daschle - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) I don't give a fuck. Some of my fanciest comrades from the April Revolution are cab drivers in the city. If you want to impress me politically, show traction. Don't pull your white male stunts and expect me to get impressed. I lose respect. Like Larry Ellison said, I believe in random acts of kindness towards complete strangers, but that don't apply to my enemies. (Larry Ellison - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Cohen Sirs me. Now that's my kind of white male. There is this brief thaw. But only brief. If I see him again, I will explain the cold to him. If it is worth his time, or this is a big city.

If you are white, and you make a racist comment, I figure you are white, and you need to stay out of my face. But if you claim to be political, and you claim to be progressive, and I don't care what color you are, if you make a racist comment, I know you are not in the game. You are a novice, you must be some hobbyist. How can you be so blind to the political contours!

DFNYC stands out as an organization. I have tried them all. And Tracey Denton is a big part of it. She is amazing with face time. I have witnessed this many times. She is at some DFNYC gathering. And she leaves. And half the room leaves behind her. Reminds me of when they drive the jeeps on the mud roads near my homevillage. The dust follows. Half the time I can tell what she is doing, the mechanics, but I will have to work hard to get there myself, and I might not be able to. My specialty is screen time, with the face time in the works. She is so good at reading faces there have been times I have felt like saying, when you do all the talking, you feel like you had a conversation.

Like the last time she talked at me. Howard Dean had showed. It was a Mixer. She walked out with Dean. The dust followed the jeep, but some of us stayed back. (Dean, DFNYC, Daily Kos, Justin, Brooklyn, Nepal) I was talking to Maya. Denton apparently came back. And she was in her own corner. There were few people around. Maya left. Then I got up. And I walked over to the corner where T was running her show, holding court.

And she showed me the rainbow coalition looking straight at me. First it is, I am not engaged. Then it is, I have told my boyfriend we are not both going to be back at 6 PM. Then it is, my parents said if ____ and I were to break up, they are going with him. Then it is. Then. And then, something about like in the movies. Then something about professionalism. A leg movement. Then how her boyfriend speaks a few languages, and it is easier for someone like that to learn yet another language. She tried Dutch, I guess.

And she looks down. And I feel uneasy. And I move away to where Cohen is holding court: that guy barely talks. She gets up. She announces she has a newsletter to write before the end of the day. "Can I go now?" Cohen gets asked. The guy feels a surge of power.

"Did he screw you at his blog!" (Tracey Denton Of DFNYC) The slimey piece of shit actually began the evening with pleasant talk. And then she leaves, looking a little puzzled herself.

That particular blog entry has been a stickler. I never understood why. But I would rather have my blog than DFNYC events, by a wide margin.

Murderball. Bumped into Denton here a few days later.

When the spectrum goes from "I am not engaged" to you make me feel uneasy, the safe thing to do is to realize you have grown out of the organization. Especially when you are getting busy: Community Center Idea: A Few Options.

Too bad we are in the chill part. She feels uneasy.

I have a failed marriage in the past. I have a really complicated relationship with my brother in law who lives in the city, and it is bordering towards a non relationship. I have not seen my parents in a decade. I feel like a relative of mine who as a kid went to the train station in town and asked himself the question, I wonder where these train tracks go. He ended up in Assam.

I guess I don't have too many bragging rights on the personal front. Like Larry Ellison said once, I obviously failed as a Dad.

But then there is the safety issue, and there is the race issue. Like this girl at college, she took me through a college judicial hearing because I asked her out, and later told my now ex, then girlfriend that maybe I did not like her because her breasts are too small. Maybe she did not like the asking out happened over email. My enemies in the college administration used her to get even with me. I had challenged their power. I have not even started.

Email, phone, face time: they are a continuum. But if guys are instrumental, and women are more relational, I can see how email can feel instrumental.

Somewhere along the way, I became a public figure. Your reality changes a little when that happens. Parts of it get surreal. There are two basic furnaces in the mind. One is to do with curiosity, another to do with sex. If the crowd is an organism, it churns both ways. Inviduals the crowd identifies with become vocabulary to express the crowd's churns.

But the public figure part is so easy to walk away from in a big city. It is so easy to walk two blocks and become a nobody.

Mostly it is just fascination. Political reality, all political reality, is fascinating.

Cohen broke ice. Barely. Denton walked by a few times. She looked dead serious. If she had met eyes, I would have said hello, for ole' times' sake.

At the Tom Daschle event, Leila is like "you and Tracey should talk."

"Talk about what?" That was not supposed to be a smartaleck question. It was a plain question.

"She is a great person."

"She is a great political talent ..... During the April Revolution, there was this one village in the middle of nowhere. All the women in that village came out into the streets banging their pots and pans, chanting No More Cooking, No More Cooking ..... noone planned that, it just happened, it was spontaneous."

Then there was speech making. Dana Northcraft. And Heather Tom.

Then I bumped into this guy. He works at the same firm as Leila he told me. A Law School friend of his came along. That is when Cohen Sirs me. And these two guys look at me. They are impressed. They feel like they are in the company of greatness. I got taken by surprise. I did not show up to say hello to Cohen. But I did.

It is a decent thing to do. The active ingredients of DFNYC deserve to have their leg room. I got my own. I inhabit an alternate reality. We are talking voting rights among the Nepalis in New York City.

But what really floats my boat is the IC idea. It is not even Hillary 2008. I am going entrepreneurial. I am a netizen. Rupert Murdoch says he has always been an outsider, for a reason. You don't join clubs. It is called out of the box thinking. Politeness makes you numb.

By the way, I thought a theme for Hillary 2008: This Is A New Century. Like Bill Clinton had "It is the economy, stupid!"

And as for race, it is just work. You are in the business of selling ideas. It is not like you meet your kind, and there is amazing bonding. You have no idea about the ethnic stuff I deal with.

There are people who can't vote. You are still getting them to do things that will earn them the right to vote. And there are those with votes, but lack the power. You are trying to earn their votes. It is a market share thing.

There is the personal, and there is the political. The personal is one person at a time. The political comes in floods.

Community Center Idea: A Few Options
Internalized Racism Among Nepalis In NYC

Stitch Bar & Lounge - New York, NY
Stitch NYC Bar and Lounge Press
Stitch NYC - New York, NY - Bar, Lounge and Event Space


15 August09:07United States (
15 August10:57America Online, France
15 August15:12New York State Assembly, United States
15 August18:13Columbia University, United States
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15 August19:26Environmental Systems Research Institute, United States
15 August19:32Rogers Communications Inc., Canada
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16 August18:06New York University, New York, United States
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17 August14:21Telecom Italia Group, Italy

17 August18:40MCI, London, United Kingdom

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