Just some thoughts and ideas going around in my head while trying to figure out where I am and where everyone else is going.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Black History Month Redux

I have always read books. I like to read books. I would like to say all types of books, but that wouldn’t be true. I don’t do non-fiction well unless it’s a history, and even then it would depend on what kind of mood I’m in for me to read it. I like novels. Give me a good fiction that tries to explore the “human condition” (cliché) and I will be wrapped up for days if not weeks trying to get to the end. Then I’ll spend even more time trying to decipher how the story relates to my own life. Right now I’m in the middle of Anna Karenina, Oprah’s book club version and even though I know how it’s going to end, I’ve seen at least 4 movie versions of the story, I’m still enthralled. I should have that same feeling for poetry, but I don’t.

That’s the reason why I have never seen Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam. I don’t think I could get into it. In fact the only poem that I remember from high school is Macavity the Mystery Cat by TS Elliot, and that’s only the first 2 lines. Poetry for me has always been an arduous task of reading between phrases and trying to find meaning when I would be so much happier if someone were to just slap my face and say, “Hey this is what I want you to know.” But no one ever did that to me, except for Essex.

I have been thinking about Essex Hemphill for the last couple of weeks. I’m not sure why, maybe because of Black History Month or maybe not, but Essex was a poet. He was also an editor and an activist. I met him at a barbeque party for Marlon Riggs and himself in West Philly. I think the party was to celebrate the release of Marlon’s film Tongues Untied, I’m not sure. I was just there for the free booze and red meat; I was young.

I had read and skipped over some of Essex’s poetry in the book In the Life, so I knew he was, but I didn’t really have much to say to him. Nevertheless we did talk for a little bit, about what I don’t know.

I remember that he had this way of asking a question that made you know that he really wanted know what your answer would be. He had a way of looking at you and you could tell he was analyzing you. He would look into you as far as you could let him and maybe even a little further without being obtrusive. He had the ability to take your thoughts without you being aware of it happening and then place them back where they belonged before you knew they were missing.

I knew Essex for about 2 years and he would do this to me again and again. I only saw him 4 or 5 times but each time was so intense that I would have to have a cigarette after talking to him. It was almost as if we’d had sex and I had walked away panting, trying to catch my breath. Then Essex died.

I went to the memorial service they held at the Quaker Friends Meeting House for him. I didn’t really think that I would miss him. We weren’t great friends, but I did.

I still do.

So I found this poem written by Essex and I’m working on trying to understand it. I hope the family doesn’t sue me.

Conditions XXI

You judge a womanby the length of her skirt,

by the way she walks,

talks, looks, and acts;

by the color of her skin you judge

and will call her "bitch!"

"Black bitch!"

if she doesn't answer your:

"Hey baby, whatcha gonna say

to a man."

You judge a woman

by the job she holds,

by the number of children she's had,

by the number of digits on her check;

by the many men she may have lain with

and wonder what jive murphy

you'll run on her this time.

You tell a woman

every poetic love line

you can think of,

then like the desperate needle

of a strung out junkie

you plunge into her veins,

travel wild through her blood,

confuse her mind, make her hate

and be cold to the men to come,

destroying the thread of calm

she held.

You judge a woman

by what she can do for you alone

but there's no need

for slaves to have slaves.

You judge a woman

by impressions you think you've made.

Ask and she gives,

take without asking,

beat on her and she'll obey,

throw her name up and down the streets

like some loose whistle --

knowing her neighbors will talk.

Her friends will chew her name.

Her family's blood will run loose

like a broken creek.

And when you're gone,

a woman is left

healing her wounds alone.

But we so called men,

we so called brothers

wonder why it's so hard

to love our women

when we're about loving them

the way america

loves us.

"Conditions XXI" © 1986,1996, 2002 by Essex Hemphill

Friday, February 22, 2008

Keyon & Teyon

Keyon & TeyonPornucopia is one of those HBO programs shown late at night because of the subject matter. It’s not just about sex, but about the porn industry and the advantages of being involved in it. I haven’t seen all of the episodes but they seem to stress the good points of the business, lots of sex, lots of money and apparently no consequences. It’s late night so you have to suspend your sense of logic and disbelief.

The big money makers are white women, especially the stars, followed by white men who do gay porn. Gay for pay is what they call it. This is where men, gay or straight, will perform in a gay movie because the money is that much more than what they would get doing a straight movie. In fact, Jeff Stryker gay movie icon, said that he wouldn’t even take his shoes off for the money a straight movie would pay him.

The show doesn’t say this, but at the bottom of the porn hierarchal system are black men who do gay movies. These men are known to be the least paid performers and are usually found to be young, scarred and less educated than their peers. So I wasn’t really shocked when I met Keyon at Six Flags Great Adventure last September. After all, an amusement park isn’t known to be millionaire’s row.

Keyon, is the screen name of a brother who works with his twin Teyon. They are porn actors, models whose pictures and movies can be seen on the web. I had seen pictures of them before and recognized him. My friends introduced me to Keyon and I was surprised that he was taller than me by about half an inch. He was also skinny and I noticed his plastic pectoral implants sticking up through his chest and over the edge of his tank top. He was dressed in clothes that were inexpensive but clean and his skin seemed smooth but with some acne that young people are prone to. He had about him a sense of youth and false confidence that made him attractive and would appeal to people of his own age. I watched him go as he was surrounded by a group of three or four people who were dressed similarly to him and I got the impression that none of them had any money. Although, I guess that was about to change.

I saw on the local news this week that they had caught the rooftop burglars who had plagued towns in South Jersey, Delaware and the city of Philadelphia. It was believed that there were about 35 convenience stores broken into. The culprits had climbed on to the rooftops of these stores and cut holes in them. They had then lowered themselves in the stores. Stolen cigarettes and beer and broken into the stores’ ATMs. The TV showed the pictures of the people who were arrested, and there was Keyon and his brother.

Of course everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but the porn industry really must not pay its black performers if they have to turn to crime in order to make a living. It’s just like the scene out of Boogie Nights with Mark Wahlberg. I guess the positions in front of the camera must not be full time positions where you feed your family and build up your 401k for the days when you can no longer get up an erection.

Of course you don’t have to do porn to commit a crime, but if the boys should be sent to prison, will the good times really begin there and if they do, who will enjoy it more, the boys or their fellow inmates?

Keyon & Teyon

Monday, February 18, 2008

Is it Really Time for Change?

I believe that supermarkets are the greatest invention that man has ever known. A good supermarket is a place where I can find almost anything that I need in order for me to survive. It will have foods from all over the world and across the country giving me choices and options that broaden my knowledge of cultural differences and lets me exercise my palate for different flavors and tastes.

Another advantage of having a good supermarket is having a good butcher. He or she can present various types of meat, which I love so much, which I would not be able to provide for myself. They allow me to eat that which I would not hunt or kill my self. They supply me with cuts that I would not be able to cut myself without getting my own hands bloody.
Dennis Rodman
Two weeks ago, I was accosted by a little girl using a small bull horn screaming in my ear. I could tell that she hadn’t meant to scream at me. I had just walked in her way as she and a few other people were protesting outside of Jacques Ferber, a furrier in Philadelphia with posters and placards showing skinned animals. I had no idea that people were still do this and I was reminded of being on Bond St in London about 2 or 3 years ago, when the same thing happened.

I remember walking down the street thinking there was nothing there that I could afford when I walked into a small group of teens or young adults. They also were holding up banners and screaming something. I didn’t realize what it was until I was outside a fur store. The group offered me some leaflets and asked me to sign a manifest or something. I shook my head and kept walking thinking this fight was not my fight. Then someone shouted as I was leaving, “Could you please not wear leather sir.” I flinched expecting a bucket of paint splashed on me and wondering which way I would have to turn so I could throw out the first punch. But no paint came my way. What did come however, was the realization that even though I had said I believed in animal rights, maybe I just believed in them if they were convenient.

I have never in my life been to a circus because I think that the animal acts are obscene and the way the animals are trained, even more so. I have only been to a zoo twice and both times I felt uncomfortable surrounded by wild animals caged up in an area no larger than the average bathroom. Knowing this always made me feel good knowing that I was not contributing to the suffering of animals taken from their native habitat. But I had always felt free to wear cow skin and eat the flesh of other animals. Maybe it was time for a review.

Except of course, I never did that examination of my habits and that last encounter reminded me of my doubts. I still wear leather and eat meat. It just tastes so damned good.

Now there is news today of sick cattle being slaughtered and sold by Westland Hallmark as meat coming from otherwise healthy stock. Beef sold by this company is being recalled by the US Dept. of Agriculture until further investigations can be done. And I wonder again, is it time to rethink this western way of life that I live, where livestock is raised on antibiotics and growth hormones. Where there is always an outbreak of foot and mouth or mad cow disease somewhere on the western hemisphere. Is this really a safe way to live?

I wonder, is time to change my relationship with the butcher?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Special Ed

As mayor, Ed Rendell would be seen in all neighborhoods of the city of Philadelphia talking with people, joking, discussing issues and maybe even listening. Sure, he had the touch of the imperialist about him, maybe that was because he’s from New York or just the many years of being District Attorney, but that never got in the way of him being friendly. You could always talk to Rendell. In fact, if you threw hot dog in his face or a bowl chop suey, you had his attention. You see, Ed Rendell loves to eat.

No matter what the function was that Ed was attending or the reason for him being there, Ed would stuff his face with food and tell everyone that he had heard it was good for his diet. The former mayor loved food and he loves anyone who can make good food, or at least different food, or maybe even junk food. It’s weird reasoning but bear with me, by extrapolation then, Ed Rendell loves people, black, white, Asian, anyone who can cook.

So when Rendell would take Bill Clinton when he was president up to South 52nd St in West Philly, a predominantly black and run down area for some ribs and a Diet Coke, a place I wouldn’t even go to with or without secret service, I’m sure he must have bonded with the man and possibly by default, with the Mrs. to.

Now there is some talk of Governor Rendell perhaps helping the Clinton campaign of being divisive by bringing up the race issue and stating that many whites would not vote for Obama in Pennsylvania merely because he is black.

I have seen Rendell only a couple of times since he became governor. I would see him often when he was mayor and attended my gym. We would do the politician to electorate speak, “hey, how you doing?” and “let me move this out your way.” He probably didn’t know I lived in New Jersey and couldn’t vote for him anyway, but I would bet the whole $8.60 left in my pocket that he does not have a racist bone in his body.

When Ed Rendell says that, "you've got conservative whites here, and I think there are some whites who are probably not ready to vote for an African-American candidate," I’m sure he didn’t say it lightly. Much of the state, west of Philadelphia except perhaps for Pittsburg is very conservative, and has been known to be of interest to several hate groups. The governor knows this, his state and of what he speaks. He is just being realistic and truthful, a trait I wish most politicians would have.

So before anyone in the media starts to tag Rendell as a reincarnation of David Duke or some other clown, I would just like to say chill out, have a bowl of soup with someone and you’ll be able to understand Ed really well before you are done.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Tale of Grannies

I don’t know when Barak (Barry) Obama first met his grandmother. I don’t know how they have developed a relationship on two different continents separated by a vast ocean, but I am sure that she is proud of him. Any grandmother would be proud of any one of her grandchildren who were able to pursue their dreams. Whether that dream was to be the most powerful person in the free world or be the first one in the family to complete a high school education; pride is never very far from a grandmother’s heart.

I have always called my grandmothers granny and I have often wondered how they felt about me. Granny, my mother’s mother is proud of me just because I can walk straight. When I was younger I was bow legged and pigeon toed, a combination of deformities that she remembers fondly of helping me overcome. Although, I get the feeling that if my legs hadn’t of straightened out in time, she might have persuaded my mother leave me out back at night and let the elements have their way. Granny has lived with my family since I was two, but my earliest memories are of Granny Muriel, my father’s mother. I don’t know how I came to call her using her first name, I think I’m the only grandson who does that, but that’s how I refer to her, even thirty-one years after her death.

I remember when I was four, my sister had not been born yet so those were the happy days when I received all the attention, at least from my parents and I was out with Granny Muriel and at least one of my aunts somewhere. There was a cup in a store window that had a picture of a naked woman in relief on one side. Attached to the cup by a thin wire were boobs that swung separately and provocatively. They were large with nipples that were perky and pointed upwards like how you would see on a sixteen year girl or a woman who has had a successful relationship with her plastic surgeon. They made me laugh and this pleased Granny Muriel. She bought the cup for me.

Over the years, even through her illnesses, she would buy other things for me, usually clothes that I grew out of. However, after I while I became less sure that she knew my name. I was always Victor’s boy. But then I think I was somewhere around the tenth grandchild out of thirty-two or five at the time she passed on so it was really forgivable. So when she died, I stayed in my room for about two days and I said to myself that I would hold onto that cup, because it was the last thing that I had to remind me of her. But eventually, that too went.

I still remember the cup falling in slow motion, just like in the movies; it shattered into a hundred pieces. However, at that moment I realized I didn’t need cheap porcelain crap to remind me of her. I still had pictures that my father hoarded somewhere, one day I will have them transferred digitally somewhere, and I still had my memories of her that can be triggered just by a passing thought, a faint resemblance to someone or a sense familiarity that brings me back to her.

I say all of this because Torrance Stephens, the author of the blog Raw Dawg Buffalo has been one of the authors who has revealed to me what a blog can be capable of. By his own example he has shown me that writing can be an avenue for exploration and not just an excuse for personal diatribe or petty discourse. I read his blog whenever I can and I am never, not rewarded for doing so. He also calls his grandmother, granny which was a surprise to me, since I had never known anyone else to use that term. Unfortunately I learned it by finding out that his granny had passed away recently.

Now I am not a religious person, I’m C of E (Church of England) that should explain everything, but I wanted to let Torrance know that the hurt and the pain will go away eventually but the memories of her will last forever and maybe one day, not soon, the fact that you have those memories will be privilege enough.

As for you others, check out Torrance’s blog. Although, he has more than his fair share of readers and there maybe something that you wont agree with, there's lots there for you to think about, pro and or con. Stay awhile put your feet up, relax and enjoy the ride.

Friday, February 8, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

It’s almost the middle of February. Winter seems to be on its way out. The sun is shining and the bitter chills of the last few weeks seem to be just a memory. Consequently, I have decided what my New Year’s Resolutions will be. Alright, so I’m a little late, but I run on CP Time now and again.

CP Time is a birthright afforded to me by my ethnic inheritance. It’s something that I nourish and cultivate from time to time and hold sacred, especially when I can’t find any other excuse to explain my tardiness. I know that I am not alone in this behavior because when people come in 15 to 20 minutes late to those Barber/Beauty Shop plays, or the He Did Her Wrong shows at the theatre, I realize that I am surrounded by my beautiful brothers and sisters who like me, have no concept of Eastern Standard when it comes to certain things.

The other day I arrived in Philly. I had walked up the Speedline steps and was on my way to wherever I was going and I noticed my breath. I wasn’t huffing and puffing, but I noted the rhythm of how I breathed, deeply and long. I breathed as if I was trying to catch my breath. I felt uncomfortable but I did not need to slow down; people often tell me that I walk fast. There was no need for me to pull over to side, clutch my chest and exclaim “ooh chile,” like I’ve seen elderly ladies do after they have exerted themselves. But this was something that I had become aware of happening to me more and more. I will admit, the days of me waking up in the morning and running 4 or 5 miles a day before work is long behind me, but breath control has never been an issue until now. Of course in those days, I would smoke about 2 or 3 cigarettes a day. Now I do about a pack every 2 or 3 days, or a pack a day if I’m out drinking where they still allow you to smoke. So that is my first resolution.

Since I intend to have more beautiful oxygen filling my lungs repairing cell tissue promoting muscle growth and things, I thought that perhaps this year I could get rid of that jiggle. I’m not complaining about how I look, but I have an ego like a lot of people. Also, I am tired of how listening to people say how good I look for someone of my age. My age, what the hell does that mean anyway? I look ugly and decrepit but since I’m close to collecting social security you’ll give me a pass? No sir. Not interested in hearing that any more. So this year, I’m going for that 6-pack. I’m going for that stomach that people can wash their clothes on. For once in my life I want people look at me and just say “damn” and leave it that. I want to be seen as attractive before I’m old enough to start getting the scope up my behind by a doctor with whom I’m not that close.

I don’t usually do resolutions. First I think it’s kind of silly and childish to pledge to do something that you want to do anyway but only at a certain time and date. And second, for me they have never lasted more than the second week of January. Looks like I’m ahead already.

So there you have it, 2 resolutions. And with that, in case I didn’t do it before, I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year, better late than never.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Death Throes of a Dynasty?

Most of the results are in from Super Tuesday and the winner is, well anyone you want depending on how you look at things or who is doing the counting for you. Obama seems to have won most of the states that were being contested, but Hillary has won enough delegates from the big states to continue her spread against him. McCain has finally noticeably pulled out ahead of Romney and Huckabee with such a lead that the only way he could lose his party’s nomination would be for someone to pull a swift boat action on him. And we all know the Republicans know how to do that.

With Massachusetts, California and New York going to Clinton, perhaps the only loser in Tuesday’s big event is perhaps Uncle Ted and family. It seems that in what ever state that the senator or any other member of the Kennedy family came out and endorsed Obama, that state went to Clinton.

Is Camelot finally beginning to fade into the pages of a bygone era? Are we starting to lose the mystique and reverence that was once held for the Kennedys? Has the relevance of a family that was synonymous with the Democratic Party started to dissipate as we have moved further into the new century? Perhaps.

What I do know is, Barak didn’t seem to gain anything by cuddling up to the old political warhorse, old Joe’s only surviving son; and come next senate elections in Massachusetts, Teddy might think about “change” again for himself and just retire.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

It's Super Tuesday

I guess much of North Jersey is in New York celebrating the victory by the Giants. It's cloudy as I look out the window towards South Jersey. It's February 5th and as usual most of that part of the state has been passed over and looked at as inconsequential by most of the presidential candidates. It's Super Tuesday. Much of the country must be heading for the polling boothes in order to pick the next President.

But do you know where I'd rather be?

Rio Baby!!!!

It's Carnival.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Will the Real Geek Stand Up

Saturday night I was bitching and moaning. Bitching and moaning. 12 bucks for a movie ticket in West Philly, can you believe it? This isn't London or New York. That’s like a 20% increase over the price from last year. And I was complaining about the increase in the company healthcare plan deductions. Also, and also, the guy had the unmitigated gall to keep a straight face as he took my money.

Well, I said to myself as I sat in theatre auditorium, if I couldn’t afford the $12 to get in then maybe I should waited for cable or something and stop griping. Then the commercials came on and I started to seethe. “12 bucks and I got to go through this. This isn’t London or New York, and I don’t want to be recruited by the Marines for Iraq, I’m too damn old.” I think I bitch like an old man now.

Anyway, the coming attractions started to play. I heard someone talking about an eye in the sky and I recognized the voice of JFK speaking about heading into space. I couldn’t quite see what was going on on the screen. There was some guy welding something. Was it a boat, a building? I couldn’t tell, but there note of music in the air that struck me as someone else wished John Glenn God speed. What is this? More words and more words as the camera pulled back from the lone welder still revealing nothing and then, “Space the final frontier.” The voice of Spock.

A chill ran through me. A thrill overcame me. This is what living was all about; I would only have to wait until December, 10 months, to prove it. Yes I knew there was talk of a new Star Trek movie, but who cared? I shouldn’t be so jolted. It’s a prequel and everybody knows prequels suck. But it’s been so long since I have been able to boldly go where no man has gone before (insert pun here) that it’s easy to forget all your misgivings and just go with it. I mean --- I am a movie buff.

So satisfied was I, that I realized at that point I could go home happy. My money had been well spent and I hadn’t even seen the movie that I bought the ticket for yet.

Cloverfield, good flick. A sort of Blair Witch Project meets War of the Worlds on 911. You actually feel what those Japanese people must have felt when they first saw Godzilla in the 50’s.

Now that I am at home though, I shall be looking for my official Geek membership ID card buried somewhere here. And I shall be reporting for duty on Christmas 2008. Maybe I’ll see you there too.

Live long and prosper.

Friday, February 1, 2008

It's Black History Month, Strike up the Band!

Let the word go forth, it’s Black History Month! There, I have said it.

Now I’m not going to talk about somebody doing street designs in DC, or someone else inventing traffic signals that you ignore and then have to show up later in court for. I can’t even tell you about how I marched with Martin in the fifties and sixties, unless of course you use that Mitt Romney way of looking at things. I don’t know much about those things so I will mention something about support.

In the mid nineties, I was given the predicament of making a choice. The Honorable Minister Farrakhan was organizing a rally in Washington, the Million Man March that he hoped would bring together black men. This was to be an act of mass confession or atonement by brothers in order to see where they had come from and to develop a more positive direction in which they would go.

I had seen Farrakhan before and whereas I had believed he was a very interesting speaker and much of what he said appealed to me, I didn’t hold much significance in what I considered would be a million man group hug. I didn’t want to go. But Bernadette however, did.

Bernadette was a girl that worked with me and as she stated, if she couldn’t get a man there, she would not be able to get a man anywhere. Hence, after many days of hemming and hawing, swinging and swaying, I thought to myself that if she could go for whatever reasons she could find, it would be wrong for me not to go and the March fail because of my indifference. I would feel bad if the whole thing fell short and people looked at me pointed and said, “because of you.”

Consequently on Saturday with my boyfriend, not Bernadette, I headed for DC for the Monday meeting, after assuring my boss that I would show up for work on Monday. Some sacrifices would have to be made, otherwise the whole effort on my part, would be meaningless. I showed up at the march at around noon Monday after calling out sick at 5am from the club. I met a few people, but I saw was reintroduced to even more people who I had not seen in a while and had lost contact with. I listened to many of the speeches from the various speakers all the way to the end and I came away with the idea that it was the responsibility black men to stop the violence, look after their families and honor their women. I had done my part for the cause and I left satisfied.

After all this time, I’m not really sure if anything really positive came out of the whole thing. There seems to be even more black on black crime now than there was then. I don’t know anything about the black family other than my own and I can’t tell you much about that, the case is coming up soon. But as far as honoring women, I have never in my life seen so many women called bitches and ho’s and treated with so much disrespect on TV and in real life.

So now, there is a junior senator from Illinois asking for support from me as well as others and as usual I am wishing and washing away like it’s nobody’s business but my own. But I don’t know if I should support people or issues just because we’re both black. It seems to limit my choice or even my thought processes if I do. But there is something to be said about climbing on the bandwagon or joining the herd. There is a safety in numbers that will be hard to find when you are out there on your own. What to do? What to do?


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