“How I got more votes than Obama”
by Faiz Razi,
Check, Please! All-Star
Here is the ~20 min episode in three segments: Mercat a la Planxa, West Town Tavern and Danny’s Café
Co-reviewers Tina Valentino and Cuyler Brown and I got along famously & Alpana Singh was a charming host.
BONUS: Check, Please! produced Faiz Zeppelin performance of “Emmigrant Song”
This is the performance David Manilow saw when he invited me to be on the show.
(special thanks to Madeline Yastrow for the footage)
In January of 2010, I received this letter:
Beginning in June, we start our tenth season and I’ve decided to bring back some of our favorite guests for
brand new shows. Our viewers will vote online for 12 returning guests (out of 25 choices) and you’ve been
selected as one of our Check, Please! All-Star candidates! I’d love to have you participate. Are you interested?
Let me know,
All my best,
Naturally, I was in. By the Ides of March, the Check! Please All-Star
voting page went up and a portion of the ballot looked like this:
Unreal. This was the third time Barry Obama and I brushed. I guess it’s fair to share the first time now. I was a booking agent
for several years, and did tons and tons of national tours. One of the last tours I did (and one of the most rewarding), was the
first U.S. tour for the D.C./Kenyan band, Extra Golden. It was difficult, rewarding, fun, exciting, and they’re one hell of a band.
I had the tour finalized after 4 months of hard work. I busted ass, since having half the band come from Kenya was a huge
expense, and I couldn’t mess this up. It was the coolest tour I had ever done. There were shows at the Warhol Museum,
MFA Boston, Garfield Park Conservatory, Chicago World Music Festival, the International House in Philly, Bohemian
House in Detroit, etc. It was just great.
then, one week before the tour, the Kenyan Gov’t said they weren’t going to give Opiyo and Onyango their visas.
They were screwed, I was screwed, and no one was going to get paid if the shows didn’t happen.
Their label, Thrill Jockey worked with Mike Orlove of the Chicago Cultural Center and appealed to some higher-ups.
Senator Barack Obama made a personal call to the Kenyan Government and got their visas the next day. He personally
helped me make my ducats, and he helped bring an incredible band to the U.S.
That was the most punk rock thing I have ever seen a politician do.
All favors aside, this was a popularity contest, and I took it seriously. I had only one goal for this. I wanted more votes than Obama.
I made some calls, sent some emails and wrote my posse. On Monday, Mar 22, 2010 My brother called me while I was at the
grocery store: “Dude. You beat Obama.” Granted, he was also beat by a kid and a sex-shop owner, but I digress…
Here is the ~20 min episode in three segments: Nightwood, Bien Trucha and Central Gyros
NOTE: Alpana Singh pranked me on TV. I have never in my life referred to anything as “A Hipster’s Dream”,
not even the time I saw a pillowcase with a moustache stenciled on it.
Rob Hohmann was probably the MVP of the show. Odd thing is, his brother, Mat Hohmann is in a band called Bully Pulpit
with my Small Awesome bandmate, Jim MacGregor. Rob’s brother and I had practiced in the exact same rehearsal space
at different times for over a year, and had never met.
Zena Kirklewski was fantastic. She was even cool with me really not liking the food at the restaurant she chose. Although, I was…..
they re-aired my last episode a few times this weekend, and I just got forwarded an email sent to stockyard that reads as such:
firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:You are a real piece of work. I saw you on Check Please reviewing a gyro spot on Belmont and Central. You were ripping into the neighborhood and made a comment about a club across the street saying it’s for weird people with gold chains. Seriously Faiz? You ignorant, partially educated zit. Faiz, what is the deal with Middle Eastern people anyway? How come they all walk around America in dirty bathrobes and dirty tennis shoes? It must have been hard for you being raised in a weird wannabe American, bathrobe toting, buck teeth, taxi driving family. At least that’s how Caucasians view you when you’re walking down the street. Although I would never go on television and say it.
here is my response:
Thanks for the kind words!
I’m really impressed at your complete inability to grasp the subtleties of the English language. This is partially because it makes me laugh to see some sub-literate shut in blow his stack, but mostly because you were so ready to get your hatred of Arabs off your chest (I’m Indian, by the way) that it really made my night. Sorry, I didn’t respond sooner, as I was busy teaching, a profession I’ve held for about 18 years.
For your convenience, I’ve transcribed the portion of the T.V. program about the neighborhood that brought your barely-concealed racism to the surface:
Faiz: It looked like maybe in the 1920’s it was the place to be, and then they kind of just put new signage up on the buildings, but yeah, it was great,
there was this weird gold-chain disco across the street…”
Rob: yes (laughing)
Zena: yes (laughing)
Rob: …good people…
Faiz: oh, absolutely…
In case you didn’t know, there’s nothing racist about the phrase “gold-chain disco”, as at the time of the restaurant’s opening (1979), discos were both prevalent, and the patrons of discos often wore gold chains. I apologize that I didn’t dumb it down enough for you to grasp that, but then again, you don’t seem too astute, so I guess I can’t fault you for it. I recommend renting Saturday Night Fever if you want a window into the culture of the 1970’s that won’t stress your low-watt mind too much. There’s lots of dancing and music, and you won’t really have to follow a complicated plot.
Secondly, in television, there’s such a thing as editing. We taped for several hours, and that was edited down to a taut 22 minutes.
that means that the staff of Check, Please! went over the footage and selected the sections they thought were good and appropriate for television. Oddly enough, I know that the editor of Check, Please! (as well as the producer, the stage manager, the film crew and the majority of the staff) happens to be Caucasian, as I teach his three daughters. I guess all of these Caucasians missed this obviously racist screed I rattled off (this is sarcasm, in case your mouth is moving as you struggle your way through this).
Another little fact: did you know that Arabs (not me) and Indians (me) are Caucasian as well? See, there’s this invention people created called the dictionary, and in it, you will find that the races are broken down into three major groups: the Caucasian, the Mongoloid and the Negro. I think these terms are a bit outdated, and the latter have both become slurs, so I guess you and me and all the other Caucasians lucked out, as our category isn’t considered an epithet. man! we are so lucky!
Maybe next time, for clarity, you should just use “White People” instead of “Caucasian”. I wouldn’t want you making a fool of yourself.
Actually, If I may edit one of your sentences even more succinctly: “At least that’s how racists view you when you’re walking down the street.”
I know this is a bit wordy, but I come from a long line of English majors on my mother’s side (and a long line of mathematicians, physicists and engineers on my father’s side). I don’t think any of us wear bathrobes in public, nor are any of us taxi drivers, although the next time I visit my mother’s V.P. office at a fortune 200 company, I’ll be sure to double check. It’s possible that some of my family have buck teeth, but we’ve done so well for ourselves trying to be Americans, that we can afford the dentistry to correct that. Personally, all my teeth came in straight, as Indian genetics are pretty strong in that area. Next time, try pointing out the fact that our eyesight is poor as a people, as the glasses I wear aren’t meant to make me look more distinguished when I go to my other job at a major university, but are actually necessary because I don’t see so well.
Lastly, I’d love to address your sign-off: “Although I would never go on television and say it.” with the fact that I’ve published your email to several public places so that people can go ahead and chime in if they feel like it. They probably won’t have to after my thorough dressing-down, but I like doing lots of things publicly, including shaming bigoted simpletons. Thanks for that.
Feel free to pass on my personal email: email@example.com to any of your friends, as I’ve done for you. I’m not particularly intimidated by anonymous internet blowhards, as I have a black belt in mouthing off as well as a black belt in martial arts. I am a third of the way through my second black belt and have studied stick fighting, knife-fighting, grappling, wrestling, street combat and other assorted means of incapacitating assailants. So, if you do happen to see me walking don the street, please feel free to say the above to my face.
Dude wrote back.
firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:I was not the only one in the room watching the show.1) I got my point across.
2) I too could display lots of credentials but I what’s the point.
3) The belt system does not mean shit. I’ve seen 4th graders with third-degree black belts. When was the last time you punched or kicked someone in the face outside of a ring?
Oh, I get it. You’re just stupid.
never heard back. and so it goes.
anyway, long story long, if you’ve made it this far, the restaurant I didn’t spoil on TV is Mirabell. You people are my kind of people.