At the University downtown school is back in. Groups of young people are everywhere on the street, moving furniture, some carrying bedding, as they move into the apartments near the school. As I cross the street I’m cut off by a distracted driver in an SUV pulling up to the far curb in front of one of the student apartment buildings. I go around behind him and pass him on the sidewalk to his left, before changing my mind and turning around to go the other way. As I pass the car I hear the driver from inside calling, with a Middle Eastern accent:
“Hey. Hey you!”
Great, I think; this asshole is starting trouble, after I was so gracious in not so much as giving him a second glance after he cut me off. I stop and approach the lowered passenger side window, ready for whatever–there’s only one of him, at least. I lean toward the car and he says:
“No. Not you.”
I look the other way and see two young girls, attractive, lively, utterly oblivious to me and the skeevy looking Arab in the car’s shadowy interior.
“You. Hey you. You want a ride?” He calls out. They don’t even seem to see him, as they move off in the other direction. I move along myself, thinking, would it really be such a bad thing if I was to drag him from the car and give him a lashing (assuming I could pull it off )? Is “stay away from our women” really such a bad sentiment? Is it really bad for women?
When I lived in California I used to joke that I wanted to start a band called Leering Mexicans. People, even Mexicans, got the joke. The leering Hispanic would-be street-suitor is a commonplace in Southern California; it’s a commonplace here in the Northwest now–I recall once experiencing revulsion at the sight of a Hispanic man in a car who appeared to be in his thirties making a gesture with his mouth–that I can only compare to what Hannibal Lecter does after that ridiculous “…fava beans and a nice Chianti” line–in the direction of two girls on the street who looked to be barely out of middle school. He did it in the same instinctive way I’ve noticed cats call out to birds (and the expression was very similar):
But this is Portland now. Young vulgarian Muslims and others (make that Others, capital O) mingle with tattooed, decadent American youths.