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Friday, March 27, 2009

That Dance Called: "Letting Go!"

"I Love, I Love To Do My Thing
Ha, and I, I Don’t Need No One Else.
Sometimes I Feels So Nice, Good God...
I Jump Back, I Wanna Kiss My Self!” –
James Brown from “Superbad”


For the past week my personal grief has been a self-conscious little dance of avoidance.

Step One: Turn away.

Step Two: Lean back from people who don’t give a shit, and even those who PRETEND to give a shit.

Step Three: Cover your ears to platitudes, and probing questions of “how are you?”

Step Four: There is no step four. You simply allow the dancer to dance in his corner, alone.

I’ve never been very good at reaching out when in need. I’m usually the reachee. Through some Grand Design, through fate or destiny, I’d long ago been assigned the role of The Strong, Dependable One. We so-called 'Strong Dependables' do have reps, you know. There are unwritten, unspoken, and yet understood rules that we do not allow the hue of our fears, or the blue of our tears to the reach the surface of our public skin.

Because of this, we can be seen as Superbad Superhuman Mofos. Our needs are rarely if ever considered. Our feelings don’t really matter.

We are appointed to be the net that catches those weaker ones who fall all around us. We give great hugs, and good late-night phone. We know when to nod quietly… and when or how to provide the right words. Our shoulders grow strong and wide from the weight of our boundless feats of empathy. We are longtime companions to the misunderstood, brokenhearted, and the lonely.

This is what we do. We get damn good at it, too. So damned good at it, we become these scholars and superheroes at it, even though, it’s a thankless gig, most of the time.

But… what… ABOUT… US? Don’t we MATTER? Are we not worthy of the same strong nets to catch US should we ever fall from the ledges of OUR lives?

Apparently, NOT!

Last night, I ‘broke up’ with a once closeasthis friend of mine. It was TIME. It was due time. It had long been passed the time, but being a person who collects and keeps souvenirs, I hold on to people longer than I should, longer than necessary, and longer than they even deserve to be held. Maybe that’s a very human trait. The friendship was not working in a way that provided mutual dependency or accountability. The relationship was not nourishing or fulfilling to my spirit. In the role of GIVER: I was the one EXPECTED to remember birthdays, anniversaries. I was to be the thoughtful one, the in-the-moment one whose caring and consideration was a GIVEN... while my own birthdays, anniversaries, triumphs and tragedies would traditionally go unnoticed, unacknowledged, uncelebrated, unfelt. But that’s cool. I don’t bitch, much. We can’t expect people to be the way we want them to be (though sometimes, a lil mutual appreciation would be nice).

The final straw came because I realized the worst offense of all in any relationship is to be taken advantage of, taken for granted, and just plain TAKEN.

When we reach that place where we give much and receive little, when we become an option as opposed to a priority, and when we become conditioned to being treated as if we don’t matter, then, for one’s own sense of self-worth, it’s time to reevaluate our place in that relationship.

And so, I’m doing that Dance of Letting Go.

It’s not done with hard steps that lack of grace. It’s not some deeply attitudinal selfish-assed boogie. It’s a dance done by moving away from the constricting atoms around us. It’s believing in your own stars, and orbiting your own moon, your own sun. There’s no partner involved… and none is necessary, unless you find a good one who can keep time with you, and who can accentuate and compliment your rhythm.

The people we surround ourselves with should add to the cadence of your lives, and not stumble around blindly or clueless, as if oblivious to the beat…

So… I’m doing the Dance of Letting Go. And I’m doin’ it, and doin’ it, and doin’ it WELL!



Snatch JOY!


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

And The Top 25 Most Influential Writers Would Be...

So, check it:

I was tagged by fellow Brotha blogger Keith to form a list of the 25 Most Influential writers in my personal estimation, right? At first, I thought this would be a cakewalk, because truthfully, I’m a knowledge junkie. I get a little high on literary grog. I become a tad agog when I see, hear or read greatness. I hold in the Highest Regard those people who create a world and who allow me an entrance into it, if only with the keys of my imagination. So, being an vivid reader, I've been influenced by a lot of artist-people, and by the characters, the places, the dialogues they created. The art of writing has always helped me to get in touch with my core emotions, shape my opinions, inspire and inform the way I view the world.

However, since writing isn’t comprised solely of book authors, in naming 25 influences I had to show some respect for other forms to reflect the infinite variety (books, music, theatre, etc.), and that’s where my list became tricky.

So... these are the ones off the top of my noggin that have left an indelible impression upon my heart, spirit and psyche:

1. William Shakespeare

2. Walt Whitman

3. Toni Morrison

4. James Baldwin

5. Langston Hughes

6. Zora Neale Hurston

7. Alex Haley

8. F. Scott Fitzgerald

9. Gwendolyn Brooks

10. Amiri Baraka

11. Maya Angelou

12. Jack Kerouac

13. Eldridge Cleaver

14. Ishmael Reed

15. Henry Dumas

16. Nikki Giovanni

17. Audre Lorde

18. Lorraine Hansbury

19. August Wilson

20. Arthur Miller

21. Ntozake Shange

22. Tennessee Williams

23. Tupac Shakur

24. Walter Mosley

25. Truman Capote

Damn! That was hard. Many others made the list... then I had to delete them because I was only allowed 25. However, honorable mentions and special shout-outs must go to:

Ralph Ellison, Stevie Wonder, Jayne Cortez, Alain Locke, William Carlos Williams, Federico Garcia Lorca, Joseph Beam, Norman Mailer, Alice Walker, Joni Mitchell, Etheridge Knight, Haki Madhubuti, Marlon Riggs, John Ashberry, Allen Ginsberg, Essex Hemphill, Robert Bly, Prince Rogers Nelson, June Jordan, Gloria Naylor, Jamaica Kincaid, Hart Crane, Countee Cullen, Lucille Clifton, Adrienne Rich, Sylvia Plath, Rita Dove, Lennon and McCartney, Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon, Rickie Lee Jones, Ursula Rucker, Maggie Estep, Clarence Major, Charles Johnson, and a host of others whose number compete with the amount of stars in Heaven.

Since I must tag THREE others, I’d be curious to know the influences of the following blog-lings:

Joaquin Carvel

Free Spirit




Sunday, March 8, 2009

Spotlight Review: Owen Fiddler, A Journey Best Not Taken… But a Book Well Worth Reading

There are times when reading a book, you happen upon an unexpected lesson, and a shining gift wrapped up in darkness. Its wisdom comes from the voice of its writer. It makes you think, discover, nod your head and relate as you read along. I just completed such a novel. It reached my inner voice, gave me a lesson in humanity, in faith, and in mankind. The book is called “Owen Fiddler.” It’s actually written by a fellow blogger, Marvin Wilson. While I was aware that Mr. Wilson was a writer, until now, I didn’t realize the fully loaded caliber of his gift. This book is the real deal. It has more than left a lasting impression on me. Owen Fiddler has branded my spirit, like a cautionary tattoo.

This is the tale of a man who is a drunken, gambling, womanizing malcontent. He has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, and yet something about his story compels you to read further. As the novel begins, Owen is awakening from another of his habitual stupors. He’s falling down drunk, crawling around on the floor, being sick enough to call a few toilet yodels, all before heading off to another thankless day at work.

Right away, as a reader you find nothing to root for in this cat, and he only gets worse.

Owen has no luck, and never had any. He blames everyone for his station, but himself. He is one of those tedious people who never seemed to take life or his responsibilities very seriously. As Owen stumbles off to his soulless gig, he is busy cursing the world and damning his place in it… but then something quite unexpected happens. The hapless Owen sees a pocketbook on the ground, picks it up and discovers it’s filled with thousands of dollars in cash!

He can’t believe his sudden change of fortune. He chooses not to listen to that quiet inner voice of common decency. He doesn’t even search the contents for any I.D. He simply takes the money, tosses the pocketbook aside, and goes on this way with plans to spend it on endless boozing and wild fits debauchery.

However, this one act of selfish uncaring leads to a tragic set of events. Here, the author takes an ironic twist in storytelling and it is a brilliantly effective one. Without giving too much away, finding the money leads Owen Fiddler on a journey into a deeper darkness.

The novel shifts back in time to when Owen was a boy and details how so often the choices we make in our youth can haunt us for the rest of our lives. Owen is abusive to everyone, has little regard for his mother and brother, and cheats at games played with his friends. He steals a bike from the neighborhood, and runs away when the cops show up at his home. In running away, Owen unknowingly enters into a newer darker strange world filled with runners and pimps, dealers and hardcore criminals. No longer homeward bound, the boy doesn’t look back. Instead, he becomes a street kid who embraces the fake freedom of never going to school and doing as he damn-well pleases. His life now consists of having sex with loose women before his time, and running drugs for the big boys uptown. Once busted by a plain-clothes cop, juvenile detention awaits him. Life there is worse than ever, and when he finally emerges, he is a hardened teen, unready and unwilling to embrace a new life with his family.

The precarious events of Owen’s story are harrowing and filled with the terrible details of what can happen when we fail to acknowledge our blessings, refuse to accept the onus of our actions, and neglect to live up to our potential.

Owen is good at only one thing: sex. His earlier experiences taught him well in that department, and with this skill he is rarely at a lack for fast-food companionship. What he does lack is the vision to look inward and to believe in something real and necessary for his own personal happiness.

What is so fascinating about this book is that for all his peccadilloes, everyone knows an Owen Fiddler. He’s that cat who doesn’t give a damn; the one who will always find some lame excuse for his behavior, and curses most anyone who comes into his path. He dismisses his mother’s love and rejects his caring stepfather. He despises his younger brother for being everything good and decent that Owen clearly isn’t. Once he finds a kind and beautiful woman who actually loves him, and he cheats on her during their honeymoon. He is his own worst enemy, and yet he doesn’t have the clarity or the guts to realize it.

I didn’t much like Owen, the man. But I loved Owen Fiddler, the novel.

Of course, even a troubled soul like Owen can’t go through his journey without some sort of redemption, and it is here the author surprises, astounds and enlightens his reader.

The closing chapters of this superior story elevated the form of visual-spiritual-transcendent writing for me. It was so otherworldly, so perfect in detail, so imaginatively rendered that it stunned my eyes and warmed my soul.

I used to think that for something to be Great, it had to make me cry. I’m not an easy crier, so to find greatness was always a challenge. This book didn’t make me cry (though the final confession scene between Owen and his ex-wife Jewel DID make me a tad misty). No. Art is truly Great when it makes us think of things differently, view them with new and different eyes and challenge the old perceptions we once held.

Author Marvin Wilson managed this SUPERBLY with the story of Owen Fiddler. The writer uses an eloquent language to elevate his tale. His descriptions are often poetic and lyrical to the point where they reach elegance, even in a story that reveals so little beauty until its memorable conclusion. He took me into a world I always knew existed, but always did my best to avoid.

Being one who doesn’t like to be hit over the head with religion lessons, Owen Fiddler made me appreciate that The Word doesn’t necessarily need to bombard us in order to be FELT, digested or absorbed. This is a morality tale at its finest.

Wilson, as the writer-storyteller became a wicked force, a sexy force, a spiritual force, and most of all, an Enlightened force. Once turning the final page of this opus, I could honestly say I felt CHANGED from having read it.

What more can any writer ask from an audience?

If you want an unexpected surprise, I would highly suggest you pick up Owen Fiddler by Marvin Wilson. In it, you will find deceptively wrapped in a shroud of darkness, one of life’s most shining gifts.

Snatch JOY, and snatch this book!

You can find it at: Owen Fiddler

It can also be purchased on, at: Owen