Thursday, July 10, 2008

What are white people good for?


I've been raving about my identity as a working class white boy. Bear with me, this is gonna get complicated. I've also been participating in a blog to blog dialogue with my good sister at La Chola. Today she asks who made the best Michigan white boy remix? Was it Eminem sampling Aerosmith, or Kid Rock sampling Warren Zevon and Lynrd Skynrd?

I think BFP is not a city girl so I can see her getting sentimental about Kid Rock's tribute to lake front underage drinking. Michigan to me is about Detroit and hard living. I'm gonna have to go with Eminem.

Personally, If I had to pick a favorite Michigan white boy it would be Iggy Pop. He, among other things, has never lost his Michigan accent. Every time I hear him speak I expect him to pause at the end of a sentence and say, "...and stuff."

When it comes to white boys in general, I like Junior Brown. How many people would think of a song called 'My Wife Thinks You're Dead'? Check the video above.

I haven't lived in Michigan in a long, long time. I'm a retired Michigan white boy. I don't just mean I'm retired from Michigan. I've turned in my papers on being white and a boy. I'm praying to live out my days as a human among humans.

If I can manage to get the words out, I have a lot more to say on that subject. Meanwhile, here's Merle Haggard. Merle has a big, big heart and absolutely no patience for bullshit. I hope I age as disgracefully as him.
Big City - Merle Haggard

4 comments:

bfp said...

hahahahaha....I'm SO not a city girl, I visited Boston, and a friend had to peel me off the wall of the parking garage because I was just astounded at how HUGE it was. I felt very hick, pointing at row after row of cars. They only make them that big at airports in my area. haha.

but I do get the big city thing too, I spent most of my "becoming a woman" in Flint, which is clearly not Detroit, but comes with its own inner city problems. tough living for real.

(and on a purely non-deep note, come on, Kid has got Hot Chicks doing poll dancing in the middle of a lake. That's gotta count for something, yes? And Kid looks very rural Hott in this video. The goatee, no shirt and baseball cap? mmmm.)

I think in the end, tho, I'm with you. Eminem digs at some really deep places, stuff that touches the lives of small town kids, too, even tho I think he's talking about city kids.

And Merle Haggard...are you sure you're not a rural kid?

bfp said...

I have to say, I like his analysis of the power of words--although I disagree with his final conclusion--which seems to be words are powerful, but but don't act on them--I see his point in the context he's speaking of, but as an artist that is trying to get folks to DO something because of the words/images they see, I have to wonder why he doesn't go just a step further and say "This life sucks and is hard and wrong, let's change it together" (ala early hip/hop artists...)

Jon said...

BFP, as I write, I am sitting in a trailer on a working ranch. A little bitty working ranch, but my gay landlords, Buck and Tex, really do breed horses. I am awakened daily and way too early by a rooster.

I also drive into the big city every working day and spend more time in San Fran than I do up here and awake. I generally like the country better, but I'm very aware of the good points of city living. One of them being public transportation. I try like hell to avoid driving into big cities, so I usually manage to avoid those parking garages.

And then there's Merle. Merle is all about the central valley. Probably the most industrialized agricultural area on earth. It's also oil country. Arvin, not too far from Bakersfield, is a tiny little town surrounded by gigantic ranches. It is the most polluted place in California. The air is worse than in downtown LA.

That's the world that Merle comes from. The valley is also intensely racially mixed. Farmworkers aren't just latino. When Merle was a kid, a lot of them were poor white. Now there's Palestinians and Vietnamese mixed in there, among others.

There's big populations of Sikh farmers around Arvin and Yuba City, they've been there for a hundred years. People come from all over the world to farm in California. I've come across farmers from all over Europe along with a few displaced white African settlers.

When they talk about Agribusiness in California, they mean big, big business. Feed lots that go on for literally miles. Cotton fields from horizon to horizon and leveled to within fractions of an inch by laser guided tractors.

I've been in an industrial hen house with 750,000 chickens.

So yeah, Merle, and Merle is definitely a hick, but he's a working class California hick and anyone who worked in a car factory back in the day can understand him too. I dunno, he works for me. He even worked for me back when I was a punk rocker. In 1980, it was hard to explain being as excited about the new Merle Haggard album as I was about the new Clash album.

Now there's folks like Dwight Yoakam who do country covers of Clash songs. It's a great big world, isn't it?

Jon said...

By the way, BFP, are you hinting at opening up your comments section? It would be fun to do some exchanges of some sort. I've got something about racial and sexual identity bubbling up from my subconscious. It has to do with feeling very much identified with my class, but disconnected, in a weird way, from my race and gender. At the same time I want to honor all of it. It really feels like something big is going to break the surface. I've been reading up on some stuff that's new to me about sexuality along with trying to understand whiteness theory. I'm not going to come out with a repetition of something academic. It's going to be coming from that point where the personal meets the political. I really don't know what it will be, because it hasn't arrived yet.

It might not arrive. I have to go back to work in a few days and I will effectively turn into a pumpkin when that happens.

If it does surface, it might cross post well to your blog. In the meantime, I could give you my blogger passwords and you could have fun with music and stuff.

Just a thought.

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