Share It — Your Gifts, Your Talents, You

“How you going to be dope and keep it to yourself?” he asked earnestly, flashing his winning smile, which devolved quickly to a pressed lip smirk, coupled with eyes that were visors, throwing all the shade. The seemingly odd combination somehow perfectly accented and punctuated his statement question. For over three hours, my cousin and I sat, ate (sidenote: we had some delicious oxtails, rice and plantains, which was pronounced exactly as it is spelt by our white waitress, which sounded foreign to our Caribbean-bred ears, never hearing it pronounced that way except by white folk in NYC who have recently Columbused our beloved ripe banana), drank (quite a bit of rum, bourbon and whiskey), and conversed. The topics ranged from trashy, binge-worthy television shows to family gossip to podcasts to personal stories.

My cousin, like me, is a writer and he is gifted to be able to put his words to melodies, creating music that makes you feel, dance and sing, often all at the same damn time. Towards the end of the night, he shared that he struggles with his writing process because he overly criticizes his work, concerned with what others will think about his music, which then delays and often torpedoes the whole creative adventure. As a response, I shared two brief stories, one from Debbie Allen and one from Jerry Seinfeld. Debbie Allen, who is amazing and you need to google her if you do not know who she is, shared a question that her Pulitzer prize nominated momma, Vivian Allen, asked her and her sister, Phylicia Rashad, who you also need to google if you do not know who she is; in fact, lose yourself in a wikipedia vortex of the Allens (sidenote: Stop. Take a moment. Clap for all that #blackgirlmagic in that household). She would ask her daughters, “What have you done today that helped you get closer to your dream?” Action. Getting closer to one’s dream requires it. Similarly, Jerry Seinfeld, I would say google him but I have a sneaky suspicion that y’all already know this white male comedian (sidenote: I’m sucking/kissing my teeth right now cause race and gender), shared a seemingly simple practice with an up and coming comedian to help them improve their craft so they could hopefully become successful (such a loaded word — I would argue that the younger comedian is already successful because they are actively pursuing their passion, yet American society would say otherwise because they’re not rich and famous). Seinfeld told them to buy a calendar and every day, whether they felt like it or not, to write a joke; it did not have to be a complete joke or even a particularly long joke, but it had to be written done. Action. And, afterwards, they should draw a big [insert your favorite color] X over the day and watch, with growing pride at its increasing length, their X-snake (phallic much?). He mentioned that he would sometimes write what he knew was a crappy joke just to keep his streak going. He also warned that if the comedian missed a day, it would make it easier to miss the next day and so on, creating a blank calendar snake that would also be challenging to break.

I shared those two stories with my cousin and we both came to the conclusion that dream-realizing requires action, daily. So here is my first X as I get back in the habit of closing the canyon sized gap between my thoughts and my writing. And whenever my cousin wakes up from his full belly, alcohol infused sleep, in his inbox will be a link to this post, a reminder that he now has to actively do something so that he too can start his own X-chain.

The last ones to leave the restaurant, sans the workers, who were busy with their closing time routines well before we paid our bill, I told my cousin gushingly that he was awesome. He retorted, “I already know that…but, thank you.” I playfully countered, “So, you have to share it!”

Looking Out the Window

window

I looked out the window of the pristinely kept, heavily sanitized hospital room. On the field, unaware of my eyes watching them, the women’s rugby team threw and tackled each other. Seemingly having fun, they ran around the field, completing various drills.

Meanwhile, within my short sight, my grandfather rested in the bed, positioned at an acute angle to add comfort. His grayed head hung to one side, while my mother held his hand. She asked him if he was in pain, and his eyes feebly looked upward towards her. His mouth, empty of his dentures, moved slightly. Barely audible sound escaped. She griped his hand tighter. Witnessing this intimate moment between father and child, I averted my attention to the window and watched the women for a few moments.

She brushed past me, as she made her way to one of the cata-cornered chairs by the window. After taking off her jacket, she pulled the chair closer to his bed. His grayed eyes met mine. “How you doing, Charlie,” I asked. His head briefly perked up upon hearing the family nickname that the dementia has not stripped from his memory. Yet, his eyes sparkled gray, letting me know that he was there, present and fighting. Fight on, Charlie, I thought to myself. My mother’s voice interrupted our fleeting moment together, as my grandfather seemingly strained to turn his head to where this new sound came. Holding her phone, she began to read a bible verse from Psalms, her favorite book. After two or three verses, she did not like the psalm she had chosen. My grandfather agreed, with an audible grunt that conveyed he wanted her to stop. She grasped his hand again, and this time, without looking at her phone, recited psalm 23 effortlessly, while looking in his eyes. There is no grunt this time. In fact, his head relaxed into the pillow and he began to close his eyes. Once again, with the verses penned about faith in the midst of anxiety as my background noise, my gaze returned to the world outside of the window.

That’s Dope…That’s Not Dope II

Let’s get right to it with this week’s edition of Dope and Not Dope.

Not Dope

  • The tragic shooting in a Colorado theater
  • The unnecessary stigma behind receiving help for mental illness, especially in communities of color
  • Politics and its production of overly biased commentary
  • The current USA men’s basketball team saying that they can beat the ’92 Dream Team…no way, no how
  • The unfortunate death of Usher’s stepson
  • Stopping the pursuit of one’s dream

Dope

  • Penn State removing the Joe Paterno statue and cleansing the school of his name
  • Nas’ Life is Good album
  • Water parks
  • Occasional summer days that feel like early autumn ones
  • Grandmas
  • Dark Knight Rises…not as great as The Dark Night, largely because Joker made that movie amazing!

My Son, Larry Bird, and Boston Market

Last winter, my son received an animated book about basketball, For the Love of Basketball from A-Z, which highlights the best players in NBA history while reviewing the alphabet, from his “uncle” (aka my best friend). His “uncle” is a huge Celtics fan; makes no sense to me because as a New Yorker, I hate all things Boston (blame it on my love for the Yankees) and think that all other New Yorkers feel the same way. I’m wrong; he bleeds Celtic green.

Earlier this summer, my son’s interest in basketball spiked. He wants to look at games with me; he practices his dribble; he watches his uncle, my youngest brother, play an NBA video game. Hence my excitement when he grabbed this book off the shelf, while we were getting ready to leave the apartment. Walking down the hallway to the elevator, my son fumbles with the book as he tries to read it and put on his book bag at the same time. In the elevator, he flips the pages to the letter B; there is a huge picture of Larry “Legend” Bird. “Larry Bird was one of the greatest Celtics players of all time,” I share with him. He does not look up, yet responds confidently, “I know, but I don’t like him.” Confused as to why he so adamantly dislikes Larry Bird, a player that he has never seen play, and more than likely never heard of before this book, I ask him, “Why not?”

He finally looks up at me and responds, “I don’t like Boston. I only eat from their market.”

My Family

 

The following italicized lines are from Joe Budden’s song entitled, “For a Reason.” I’ve always liked this song for the third verse in which he discusses his family. His family, filled with colorful characters, reminds me very much of my own. Under the italics are my thoughts.

I got a brother always keeps it real, his name’s Guilt
Let’s me know I can’t stand however it is I feel

Guilt really makes me question the decisions that I make. He always has something to say about everything. Thankfully, I am accountable for my actions, both positive and negative, and am (still) learning how to deal with the resulting consequences.

I got a cousin named Pride, [dude] acts like a lawyer

Pride confuses me. He apparently is a sin, but also a satisfying feeling. Complex…to say the least.

Gotta a sister named Karma, I be tryna’ avoid ‘er

Yeah Karma is that family member that appears at the randomest of times. More importantly, I rarely know to which past experience she reacts…whichever one it is, she has clear,tangible feelings about it and is not afraid to show them. Bitch!

Gotta ex that’s Bitter, wants me to be her [dude]

There’s a reason she is my ex, but she does not feel the same way about ‘our’ decision to split.

Hates my girl Self-Pity ’cause I’m always with her

This new girlfriend always wants to hang around me, especially when after I speak with Guilt or when I fight my stalker, Depression.

But Bitter’s beef is valid, she don’t like shorty ’cause she use me
One time she seen ‘er verbally abuse me

Sometimes an ex knows best and sees things I cannot see. But who I am kidding, she’s just Bitter.

Got a friend that’s passive, friends call him Passive
He just says whatever, hoping that shit passes

I do not hang out with this dude often. Life passes him by, and I can not hang with people like that. I want to live life and be present in the moment.

My Uncle Hindsight wears real thick glasses
Reminds me of where I been and how shit gets drastic

Hindsight has 20/20 and makes me wish that I could live life backwards because then I would make some better decisions in real time. He always has the right thing to say after the right time.

Got a Aunt named Humility, she speaks low mumbles
Don’t care that I’m a rapper she keeps me so humble

My favorite Aunt! She keeps me grounded and never lets my ego get big. She cares about my accomplishments but never too much.

In my head I’ll debate it, outloud I’ll never say it
I’m pretty sure it’s a good reason we all related

Yep, that’s my family. And Joe Budden is correct; there is a good reason that we are all related.


Womb II

“Where you at, scrap? You sleep?” his voice booms through my iphone receiver. I can hear the laughter percolating in his voice. He knows my answer.

“I’m chillin’ at my mom’s house, man,” I respond sleepily, waiting for it.

And it begins…he laughs a deep laugh born in the pit of his stomach. He laughs for only four or five seconds, but it feels so much longer because his laughter is filled with sincerity. He laughs that kind of laugh that makes me laugh.

“I know what that means,” he teases. “You’ve been sleeping. You always sleep when you go to your mom’s house.”

He’s right. I have sleeping issues, but those slowly melt away like butter placed on a warm skillet when I enter my childhood home. I feel safe. I feel comfortable. I am myself, no pretense. Consequently, my body resigns to the fact that I’m tired, spent, and stretched a bit too thin. It finds solace in 3014.

“Man, that place is your womb,” the banter continues.

I told my family that joke during Thanksgiving dinner. When I woke up a few hours later, after a turkey induced coma like rest, my family revealed that they were laughing at me while I slept. Did I snore? Did I yell out some nonsensical sound? Did I drool? I quickly touch and wipe my mouth as the thought rushes through my mind.

Nope. That wasn’t it.

Apparently, I was curled up in a fetal position with my hand under my head and my knees slightly bent towards my stomach. That opened the flood gates to “Wombgate.”

Joke on jokes on jokes.

When they finished cracking up about my sleeping habits while visiting the house, everyone went to sleep, and I thought it was over. Oh, I was wrong again.

In the morning, as I prepared to leave, I decided to stock up on some delicious thanksgiving leftovers. I asked my mother to help me fix a tubberware plate. My youngest brother quickly quipped, “That’s right mommy, he can’t get food without you.” The simulated pregnant belly rub made us all laugh.