Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Finally, An Update

This has been quite a month of firsts for people of color. First, on November 2nd Englishman Lewis Hamilton became the youngest world driving champion with his fifth place finish in the F1 Grand Prix of Brazil, and even more notably, F1's first black world champion. On November 4th Barack Obama became America's first black presidentmat. And today, the Seattle Mariners announced they had poached A's bench coach Don Wakamatsu and named him their manager, making him Major League Baseball's first Asian to hold such a position.

Hamilton's got a terrific story. Generally, professional race car drivers come from rich families. It costs an awful lot of money to do it competetively, and it takes a sustained financial effort to keep it going long enough for a driver to reach a professional level. But this is not the case for young Lewis Hamilton. It has been reported that his father had to take multiple jobs to keep his young son's career going and had maxed out all of his credit cards when Lewis was finally picked up by the Mercedes McLaren team. Legend also has it that when Hamilton was ten years old he met F1 big shot Ron Dennis and said to him, "I'm going to drive for you one day". Thirteen years later he won the world championship for a team owned by whom? You guessed it. The same guy. Ron Dennis. Sadly, his story is somewhat marred by numerous reports of racial slurs used against him throughout the season.

The significance of Barack Obama being our first black president cannot be understated. It speaks volumes that maybe, just maybe we as Americans have grown past the point where a person's ethnicity is held against him. The day after election day Whoopi Goldberg said on The View that she had always felt she was American, but now she feels like she can finally set her suitcase down. When I heard that I damn near started to cry.

Personally, I think Obama's going to be a great president. He will bring the country together. He will end the war. He will return America to respectability in the eyes of the world. He has a sense of calm and authority that the office of presidency demands.

And he was born in Hawaii, too!

I don't really know much about Don Wakamatsu. He had an unremarkable minor league career and spend almost zero time in the majors. It's hard to say someone did a good job as bench coach. After all, who really knows what a bench coach does, and how do you measure his degree of success? But I do know that he's from Hayward, the town I grew up in. He was a great high school player. I remember always seeing his name in the prep section when he went to Hayward High. And for many, many years now, Wakamatsu's, a Japanese restaurant, has been a fixture on Foothill Boulevard in Hayward.

Speaking of great high school players, my dad recently gave me a folder with xeroxed copies of newspaper clippings from his high school baseball-playing days. I always knew my dad was a good baseball player in his day. It was quite a treat to read about some of his accomplishments in those clippings.

Over the last five years or so it has been a tradition in my office to adopt a needy family for Christmas. This year's family is very special. It's the family of our friend and former co-worker, Rachel.

Rachel was recently let go by our company. She had been out on disability for a while. Apparently, the company sent a "come back to work within five days or else" letter that she evidently didn't respond to and was subsequently let go. The letter is not a mean-spirited as it sounds. It's actually pretty common for those go out for long periods of disability, and it's very much a procedural thing.

Now, before you say to yourself, "Well, that's her own fault for not staying on top of things", you have to know the rest of it, and it's a lot. Rachel's ex-husband and father of her two kids, was shot and killed, allegedly by his current wife. She was out on disability because of a very painful condition she has in her neck, so she's frequently in pain. Her daughter is diabetic. And if that's not enough, she doesn't even have a car.

Karen and I, along with another co-worker, have been spearheading the effort at work to try and get everyone's donations together. We hope to give her the accumulated donations in time for her to have a reasonable amount of time to shop for Christmas gifts for the now-fatherless children. Our plan is to not tell her that her's is the adopted family and surprise her with the money.

We're having her over for Thanksgiving and what we'd like to do is hand over our spare car for her as a surprise as well. But the car's got bad tags and it's not smoggable yet. Why is it not smoggable? It's because (and what non-mechanic type would ever be expected to know this?) we recently changed the battery and the smog guy told us that when you change the battery it resets the computer and it takes driving it 50-60 miles before the smog computer will get a proper reading.

Karen and I had a plan where last Saturday we were going to go down to DMV, get some temporary tags, and drive the car around for a few days. After which, we'd be able to get our smog out of the way, get new tags, and then have a street legal car to give to her. We didn't count on the state cancelling all Saturdays for all DMV offices. So now I'll be taking my last vacation day tomorrow to get that smog and get down to DMV for those tags. This is probably our last chance to get it legal in time to give to her on Turkey Day. Wish us luck.

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