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Friday, June 25, 2010

Never To Be Forgotten...

Michael Joe Jackson 1958-2009


"If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place... Take A Look At Yourself And Make A Change!"

One Love.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

For My Father...

He knew how to wear a hat.

Trust... that’s not always an easy trick, when you’re a Black man, trying *not* to look like a pimp, a mack, a dandy, a fop or a player.

My father possessed that infinitely smooth gift of slipping on a chapeau and becoming this cool and mysterious character. Though barely 5’8, he always stood larger in his fedora. It seemed as if his posture changed and he became this whole other Larger Being , at least, in my eyes.

I was discussing this phenomenon with my mother, yesterday, as we were approaching yet another Father’s Day, without his presence. Because of this, she seemed determined to remember to be sad. And while I could only validate that emotion for her, an extended appointment with sadness was not placed upon my schedule. Instead, I spoke of a certain bronze-colored Oldsmobile Delta 88; how my father would take the family for long rides on Sunday afternoons, and how, from the backseat, in his fedora, he resembled some quietly Elegant Black King to my eyes.

When he died there inside the emergency room, a nurse brought his possessions into the waiting room. Perhaps she thought it would be too much for my mother, so she called me into a quiet corner, and she handed me his gold retirement watch, and his wedding band.

I tried like hell not to cry, especially there in that setting. Although my brother publicly lost it, I'd somehow retained my composure. It was a strange day. It was even stranger, holding those articles in my hand, as if the were supposed to represent this man I called, “Da.”

A day or so after this, at a more quiet time, I presented those articles to my mother, and hugged her tightly and for the longest time. I still hadn’t cried, but I wanted to.

After the funeral and after all the guests, and the food, and the stories, and the emotions, after the hubbub and the shows of sympathy, when everything sat quietly in its own haunted space, my mother asked if wanted anything of my father’s.

I thought for a minute about the car, which never was my style, and the clothes, ditto, and were way too small, and finally, I said,

“You know that black fedora? The one he wore back in the day, when he’d take us on those Sunday drives? I think I’d like to have that hat.”

Maybe it seemed like a strange request. But then, I was always her ‘strange poet son,’ and so she just shrugged and gave it me.

I’ve placed it on the top shelf in my closet. I hardly ever wear it. Over the years, I’ve thought of it as a kind of trophy to the modesty of his life, his quiet elegance; his one slice of mysterious cool, his subtle sense of royalty.

And so, on Father’s Day, in lieu of tears, and instead of episodes in sadness, I slipped on that black fedora, and tried like hell to mirror my father’s style-- not pimp, not mack, not player, not fop, not dandy.

You know, just a Black man, in a black chapeau, with a smooth gift for becoming a cool and mysterious character.

That’s it. That’s all.

Happy Father’s Day to YOU, Da.

One Love.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Usual Bullshit a Go-Go...

An addendum to the previous entry: the cat I caught stealing from the till last week was officially given his walking papers on Friday night... when someone else caught him dipping and ATTEMPTING to get away with the same activity.

Karma is indeed a bitch.

Another interesting factoid, which I only discovered upon his firing: the lying, theif/bartender/cat just happened to be the nephew (in-law )of the bar's owner. Hmmmm... so, maybe he felt it was cool to take and rob from the boss, since it was all in the spirit of keeping it in the family.

Odd that!

In keeping with the nightlife theme, the following piece deals with my life as a bartender... the things I see, the emotions I feel, the impressions I come away with.

It is a repost, I call:

The Usual Bullshit a Go-Go

Sometimes and some nights you pick up the gist of these conversations your ears are virtually held hostage to hearing. You don’t want to hear them. You’d much rather, not know, because people are far more noble and more attractive when they retain a little piece of their mystery.

But you’re hurled into this cacophonous arena. You’re caught inside this land of ventriloquists, throwing their voices from the slick lips of the jagged, and the twisted. You’re caught… like some reluctant spectator, as the smooth and vicious volleys of nightlife play out.

Everybody wants to be a star, at least after midnight... Everyone wants to shine brighter, to be hotter, and more brilliant than the rest.

If you work in a bar, you begin to intuit this, know it instinctually, detect it in the mirrors. You can smell the smoke and bravado of it. You get to know it intimately. You hear the riffs of its blatant braggadocio, its egotistical emoting, its convoluted conversations seasoned with slick words, slick proposals and slicker motives that will make you go, “like Whoa!”

You know the routine, and you've seen it all before. You know the stagger, the swagger, the vogue of faux emotions, the scam, the scandal, the hustle, the quick buck, and you even become familiar with the woo and ways of the opportunistic fuck…

And it all makes you lose just a little faith in humanity, especially the drunk and the distraught, the lonely and the desperate, and the despeartely lonely kind.

This all paints a wildly psychedelic/imagistic landscape inside the mind how people so easily become victims to the night's carnal crimes, and forge foundations of potentially core relationships on a tradition of paper houses that sit and waver upon acres of bullshit.

However, once, just once, I’d like a night of nostalgia, of respect, of charm, of something on the fringes of finesse. Just once, I’d like some lively intelligentsia which rubs my cranium with a mouthful of lovely. Just once, I’d enjoy the give and take, the ebb and flow of a buoyant conversation that doesn’t hurt so much, or nulls my senses, make me feel so nauseous, used or abused, or to become just another sad citizen of the usual Bullshit, a Go-Go.

In short, some people can astound me with their sadness… this way they attempt, yet fail to mask it with manicures or too much make-up, with gym memberships, or impeccably groomed wildness, or with cologne or perfume to drive away the stink of it. I’ve seen and watched them pickle their sadness into fits of supercilious arrogance. Seen them erect their genital sadness; get it to wink, to smile, to do risqué somersaults and parlor tricks in the neon-lit darkness.

I could be far more specific. I could name names and events and even describe, in great detail, the outcome of these retarded little incidents. But why, when doing so would only blast a light upon it and add more sheen to this sadness; this barren piece of celebrity?

I’ve come to see the Saddest Truth of all is this: people, even barflies, even drunks, even users, even thieves, even adulterers, even bitches, even bastards, even bullies, and even hacks like me… all want a little piece of acclaim.

It gets lonely out there in that fog of horror to head back home all alone, untouched, unkissed, unfucked, unfelt, unloved.

I guess.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

And The Oscar For The Most Convincing LIAR Goes To...

Maybe it’s a Blessing, but I think it’s a curse, that some people can exist just fine, living in a chronic state of what I call: integritas-rigor mortis.

They LIE! They possess not an ounce of personal integrity. They can emote an untruth as easily as most people breathe. Better yet, they can live, quite well, with their dishonesty without any signs of guilt or remorse.

I'm sure you probably know some of these people. They are everywhere. They are endowed with the ability to look at you dead in the eye, LIE, better than any prize-winning Oscar-toting thespian, and make you BELIEVE them. I, in my time, have sat inside the theatre of the absurd and watched the performances of some mad gifted and brilliant liars.

Trust… my name’s not Paul McCartney… but Maybe I’m Amazed.

Last night, a co-worker lifted some cash from the till.

No. This is not some Hitchcockian mystery; but more like a Woody Allen dramaedy. See, I already KNOW for a fact who the culprit was. The thing is, they’ve successfully finessed and polished their Act of Sincerity to a tee. They appear to be so damn honest and so very trust-worthy. The thing is, you want desperately to believe in them. And because they've become such convincing players upon the stage, most people DO believe them.

Trust me. Had I not SEEN, first-hand, this person so slyly slip the cash inside his pocket, I would’ve thought this act impossible of them. It all happened so quickly, that I almost thought I’d imagined the shit.

Yes. I realize for many of us, times are indeed hard. Trust, I’ve spent the greater part of the last year trying my best to hustle some extra ducats. I’ve been a-knocking on the doors of tardy and negligent editors asking for the status of those lax checks. I've been offering up my services, submitting, resubmitting, following-up and sweatin’ those dreaded deadlines. When reaching that critical point were the change is strange, I will go into tunnel-vision mode: slaving, scraping, saving and short-changing creativity in an effort to fatten my wallet.

But being hungry or being needy, hasn’t descended to the point of me actually stealing from people... people who trust and believe in me. It hasn’t led me into committing some bold, bodacious, or blatant integrity-free act.

I hope it never will.

So, after witnessing the incident, I took this person aside, and said ‘I saw what you just did, man.’

But guess what? He denied it. He looked me straight in the mug, and shot me with this quizzical what-the-fuck-you-talkin-about gaze. He said something about “making change.” He displayed these prize-worthy Denzelian-like skills and dismissed and denied what my eyes had so clearly seen.

Hey! Morgan Freeman, Don Cheadle, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, you cats better look out, yo!

Yes. He was good, too. So damn good, I almost believed him. I almost questioned my own eyesight. But I knew what I saw, and now he KNEW that I saw him. But since he obviously played to win, he wasn’t about to admit a damn thing.

We’re not real friends, only coworkers. He’s been there maybe four months. I know he has a new kid and wifey separation issues. I offered to split my tips with him, if he would only replace the cash I’d witnessed him stealing.

He looked at me like I was some crazy person.

As I gazed in his eyes, I realized that no matter how hard or earnestly you might try, you can’t make a person rise up, do the right thing, or be Real with you. It hurt, insulted my intelligence, and pissed me off to see this denial, up-close, and then to watch this feigned little act of resentful anger.

I didn’t want to make a scene, or cast either of us in a suspicious light, so... I let to go, knowing that while the conversation had dissolved, the real issue and the consequences of it would not simply vanish.

I know the code of duh street: you don’t rat, ya don’t squeal, ya don’t snitch, ya don’t reveal. But this AIN'T the streets. This is MY livelihood! This ain't a game! This is real-life!

Truthfully, if it came down to losing MY livelihood, or protecting some less than upright individual, well, that choice has already been made.

So, when the cash is counted, when totals are tallied, when receipts are checked, rechecked and checked again, when the discrepancy is noticed and employees are questioned… someone will have to rise up and take responsibility. Someone had better possess the gonads to step up and be a man. Or at least, a RIGHTEOUS human being!

And when it's all said and done, and the ish really does hit the fan, I can only HOPE he has *that righteous role* stashed somewhere deep inside his acting trick bag.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

My Personal Perversity: Please Don't Fall Down... Go BOOM... Around Me!

Steady.... lady! Easy, Gaga!

I try, I mean, I seriously TRY to be a good person. But sometimes, I just plain suck at it. There are certain quirks in me that I wish didn’t exist. For example, perversity. Sure, we all possess a bit of it. It’s obviously not something to be proud of, and certainly not our best trait. But it exists, and it can, will and does manifest in different ways.

Me? I’ve a few of them. But something I tend to do in a disturbing way is to laugh at things I’ve no business laughing at. And I kinda feel guilty when I laugh at stuff I'm NOT supposed to be chortling at.

Like what? Well like: grown-ass people falling down and busting their azzes can make me erupt and cry with mad wild laughter.

I know! I know! I ain’t right, yo. I ain’t right! I am NOT right!!!

Here’s a prime example. Picture it: a while back, I'm walking down the city street with a close friend. It’s all good and animated, as we’re talking and riffing back and forth, and our conversation's fairly serious.

But suddenly, this very sharply-dressed sista came darting outta this fancy clothing store right in front of us, all aloof, and very, very quickly, and then BAM! BOOM! She just hit the sidewalk, HARD!

My bwoi said: "Day-YUM! It look like somebody just THREW her azz out the store!"

That statement tickled me to my core. And then, I just lost it, yo. For real. My adult manhood took an extended holiday. Suddenly my inner Junior High School Kid emerged, and that lil fool in me busted out in this mad LOUD GUFFAW! And I do mean... GUFFAWED, like a BIG DAWG!

But ATTEMPTING be a gentleman, and not wanting to HOWL out loud in this woman’s face, I, at least had the good sense and common decency to actually duck into the nearest foyer... just to get my chuckle on.

See? Nice guy, right? Nah! NOT! Why? Because this only made the sound even worse, and now my chuckle had insanely LOUD reverb and it was emptying out into the streets!

So, this poor, exceedingly well-dressed, well-coiffed woman is still laying there on the sidewalk, maybe hurt-up, and all she hears is this LOUD, cackling, disembodied LAUGHTER!

I know! I know! I need my ass kicked! Clearly, I am NOT right!

Meanwhile, my friend, the comic, the fool who'd made the damn joke that prompted my outburst, has now shifted into being the Adult One. This versatile bastard is jumping into Prince Valiant mode, helping her up, dusting her off, acting all concerned and whatnot. But me? I'm a victim of this unhinged fit of laughter. I'm the madman in the next storefront, CRYING, doubled over in hysterics, and I can’t seem to stop! That wild scene, it just kept replaying in my brain, as if on a loop: her regal, finely designer-clad-azz, stepping all lively, and then, BAM! BOOM!

A part of me was laughing at how it DID, indeed, did LOOK like someone had “just THREW her azz out the store!”

I’m so, so ashamed of myself! Seriously. I realize it was WRONG. There must be a 12 Step Program for supposedly GROWN and emotionally mature people like me! I mean, WHY couldn’t I had just MANNED-UP, and helped this woman, like my friend did? I’ve carried elderly women across NY puddles before. True story. I've rescued a stranger who was having a seizure right in front of me! I've a history of stepping up, and doing the RIGHT thing, dammit! Shouldn’t that COUNT for something!?

And why is it that some folks are endowed with the witty gift to say the funniest shit, and keep a straight face, while I look like a total idiot, busy ROTFLMMFAO?

I told myself, the woman had only bruised her well-pampered and manicured ego. My friend would later concur, she wasn’t seriously hurt. Kool. Kool. This made me feel a little better. I told myself this scene would have been far LESS hysterical, if she wasn't so damn ROYAL with her shit. Her attitude was so imperial, so regal, that surely The Last Thing this fancy woman expected to do was to BUST her azz on the city sidewalk!

It’s not like I’m immune. Just this last winter while taking out the trash, that first step onto the very slippery ice-laden stair, and WHAM! Picture it: Me, on my back, fingers scraped on concrete, trash bag ripped, garbage everywhere. But I was able to visualize just how ridiculous I musta looked, and I laid there, pissed, and yet laughing at myself. It’s just mad FUNNY when adults fall down… go BOOM! And personally, I’ve discovered, the better dressed someone is, the MORE HILARIOUS it is when they BUST that azz!

Is it me… and my sophomoric Three Stooges mentality? Am I alone in this fit of mindless perversity?

Sometimes, I think laughing at our fight with gravity comes to us naturally. Or else, why would small children laugh at such things at an early age? As someone else reminded me, you can entertain kids for a long time just pretending to hurt yourself.

But somewhere down the line, we're taught that's not right. Someone could be hurt. So, even when you WANT to, you force yourself NOT to laugh... well, it ain't natural.

“It's all fun and games till someone loses an eye.” Right?

So, I’m not proud. I’m actually a little ashamed myself. But at least I’ve shared, and I’m seeking the cure.

That's an episode of me, being "perverse." How does YOUR adult shame manifest?

After all... we’re only as sick as our perversities, right? Right? RIGHT?