Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ms. Honey

Today I saw evidence of colony collapse in bees, I have heard so much about. I got off at the Baychester Avenue stop on the 5 train and walked across the walkway that is suspended above Interstate 95. There was slopping of earth that started just as you crossed the traffic jam below. Perched on high was a tall bush, in full bloom, smelling sweet and delectable. At first I thought it was honeysuckle, but the flowers did not have a bugle shape, instead it had a small gardenia like setting, white and with a light petal count. The blossoms were small and in bunches.

On this tree there was not a single bee. I know that I was in the Bronx and all. But damn.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Beached Bones

I made an after-thought-blog.

It is kind of blog light, for when I don't have time to say what I want to say in a properly written construction.
I just looked in the mirror and decided to divided myself in a very Ego Trippin' sort of inspired moment of surrealistic Afro-Punk desperation in the middle of my Suburban/Subalternite Life.

Can you dig it?

It is called Beached Bones.

But it is cute.



Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Left Overs -- Notes from a Life Fiasco

The past couple of days have been pretty long and full of unwelcome trials. First, my basement is still jacked up, so I am back to living out of boxes and bags since the lower level of my father’s house was in all actuality my de facto apartment. The ant infestation is still here. Yesterday I saw a larger black ant, which in Tennessee harkens drought because they live so deep under the earth. I wonder what they mean in New Jersey. I guess I should Google it.

My cell phone is dead and I won’t have money to buy another one till the end of the week. My commute took 3 hours yesterday and my day “job” work schedule is in full conflict with my scheduled field work. I also found out that my summer stipend, besides not being enough, will be distributed in two parts, one in the middle of the term and the other at the end, which means I have to wait one month longer than I expected to get my hands on it. Plus yesterday my father and I had a very touchy conversation concerning relationships, as in what floats my boat . . . wink, wink.

Oh! And, how could I forget, my computer has caught something. I was battling it last Sunday night while I was doing work for my father’s business. My father insisted on the deadline, I just don’t think he understands the gravity of the technical situation. I am glad that he is my father and my boss, and not just my boss. He has a much lighter hand as a father.

So, on to publishing . . .

The last couple of weeks I have been picking up bits and pieces of information concerning the state of the book business. Since my stint as a consultant for Reader’s Digest Germany I have been out of the loop.

Exhibit #1
The New York Times printed an article 2 weeks ago dealing with the demise of the book review as a separate section in many major news papers. I enjoyed the article because it dealt fairly well with the marketing and advertising issues that are essential in print media and how books are fairing in an ever more capitalist game. It also touched on the electronic media’s effect on the reading public and featured a couple of literary sites and blogs.

It is funny. Seven years ago I worked for a bunch of old Jackie O stalwart New Yorkers, who while smoking their cigarettes, exhaled through their open brown toothed mouths, scratching their tweed shoulder, staring at the computer like it was shard of crystal dislodged from a frozen comet. I departed for Germany after that experience. Now the nightmare scenario they could have headed off if they had one ounce of business acumen is perilously breathing down their necks. I know book businesses that were still working on typewriters at the turn of this century. Now the high nosed reviewers of that same ilk do not only have to deal with the habits of their readership, but the decentralization of their deafening gaze concerning what is literature and what is not. Even the white boys are tired of the drivel of critics whose economy of praise is governed by their inflexible molars. The thing that worries me is that there is a grave possibility that underneath all of these mergers and reductions of publishing houses and distributors, the nurturing of writers, editors, sales representatives, publishers and designers is at stake. I am not sure if publishing can replicate its own environment. Who can make a living doing it?

Exhibit #2
So, I have been listening to my sources at Vibe/Spin. It is not a scandal, but from what I can surmise, Vibe is restructuring and it might loose a little bit of its edge. But this is just a hunch. I dare not get too detailed because I heard more about the business side of things, which, again in the new media industry, treats editorial as the “content” division which is interchangeable with television programming, websites and infomercials. So, we will have to see. The ouster of Mimi Valdez and the placement of Danielle Smith at the helm have not moved my fingers to the magazine rack. So, I doubt if there will be a change in editorial vision just yet, which will have me wanting to write an article for them.

Exhibit #3
Jstheater has put up some great blog entries on poetry and distribution. The entries speak for themselves and contain an excellent resources.

Brainstorm #1
I think that the small publishers that do poetry should send a proposal to Ingram and see if they could work as a consortium. The Ingram family made their money originally in the barge business before becoming a book distributor and they donate tons of money to Vanderbilt and different organizations. If a consortium could assure the feasibility of having part of its operational cost being tax deductible under 501C tax status, then maybe poetry houses could gleam the benefits of both world. To have such a distribution giant as Ingram married to not-for-profit business tenants could breath new life and a mode of competition that is viable against the miss guided steps of Peruses who are over-stretching their staff to the point of breaking with mergers that in the long run will make reaching their customers ineffective. Did I mention I lived that life before?

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Imperative MEME

Sorry about the long pieces. The "purpose" of this blog has morphed a bit, and it will probably morph again, as I have been thinking about blogging more in terms of art, writing as practice and writing as an experiment. A couple of my friends believe it to be a bit self-indulgent (Rat-mo and Ava), so, I give a shout out to them because they read it anyway and they are involved in the stories if they like it our not. Hugs Amigos!

Writing about politics is a bit nerve wracking for me right now simply because I have been very frustrated since Senator Barak Obama has requested protection from the federal government, and it was granted. I can't really discuss it. I just feel a level of anxiety equivocal to some silent threat circling my house -- that barely audible snap of a dry twig in the brush, followed by long irregular intervals of nothingness. Maybe this is what some people call ancestral memory. I truly that my nerve endings are honing in on the unrest of post-Reconstruction Alabama.

So, on to the Great Imperative Meme, thanks to Professor Zero by way of Geoffrey Philp

The great imperative of my life has been . . .

Man that is a really hard self reflective question. For me, it has been not to be scared of other people. I have a tendency to poke my head into a million different places, not altering myself, and figuring out if it is the place for me, or if it is hostile, or if it is indifferent to me. Sometimes I go so far as to learn how people speak. That is probably grounded from growing up between Nashville and Anniston, Alabama but spending many summers in the either Washington D.C. or New Jersey/New York. As a teenager I went through great pains to not sound like I was from Tennessee when every time I went Up South. That was from about the age of 12 until I was in college. In the long run, it has proven advantageous for learning how to replicate sounds in other languages.

First and foremost my maternal grandmother lived in Anniston, Alabama and traveled all over the world, regardless of what white people or black people said about her. She went to Egypt, Yugoslavia, Fiji, Italy, England, you name it. When I was about 11 she would brag that she had been to every continent except Antarctica. I would look at her in amazement. And her joy of life was so vibrant that she talked to me about her death like it was just a passing spring shower. Sentences such as, “I want to travel to the tip of Argentina before I die.” would just pop out of her mouth while she was doing the dishes. She seemed so fearless to me, able to plan and execute her travels oblivious to the fact that many people thought my grandmother was too proper and too high maintenance for her own good. The town’s people said that you needed a dictionary to speak with her. The world outside her door seemed to be tolerated; the world she engaged was far beyond our national borders. She would read articles in the paper to me as a kid, and then discuss them; or, my fondest memories were of her criticizing Ronald Reagan on television calling him an old fool. “He is older than me and has no business in the White House.” she would chide, especially when the administration tried to make ketchup count as a vegetable on school lunches.

My father has also contributed to my inquisitive life. While he was a professor at Vanderbilt University he would take me to the campus just to watch him work, and then immediately turn around and take me to the projects to get my haircut. What a great gift. You have to remember that Vanderbilt in 1977 was just being “intergraded” faculty wise, and I remember going to the faculty dinning hall a few years later with all the other professors and their families. It was my father, my mother, my grandmother, my sister and I. We were the only black family, and the only other soul people I remember seeing were dressed like they were from the set of Gone with the Wind. All the men were stiff cryptic looking butlers. The women wore all black with white lace and doilies adorned as aprons and pinned to the crown of their hair. The only things I remember are the waiters smiling at me and my sister as they served us. I was delighted and they were too, and in some way, I remember my race consciousness coming to me at that moment. I was suppose to be there, and not suppose to be there. My grandmother was such the grand dame, my mother was too militant to actually enjoy it, and my father leaned back with a Kappa swagger, oblivious to the chatter around him.

To move from that sphere to the barbershop in the hood was normal for me as a seven-year-old. I remember the drive with my father. I felt as if I was in a space ship, not only because he drove a 1977 Cordoba with Corinthian leather, but because the environments were alien to one another. I remember that these two worlds did not mix, and once we stopped by Farmer’s Market to pick up some part of the pig -- I must now eat with great convincing -- and headed into the Fisk and TSU area, we were in fact in another world.

Afros, decked out deuces, soul food sold through a large rectangle opening on rusty locked gated doors, tonics and salves of various colors and fragrances were all part of that world. The men gathered and talked about Jaws the movie, about Tina Turner’s real age (Dad remembers seeing her play at some juke joint, and figures she is much older than she is saying), about basketball, about the benefits of Aloe Vera juice, and about Ronald Reagan. They used to joke about my father being a Republican. They called him Doc. We always felt welcome. My father always made a point that you don’t change because your environment changes.

So, I learned, from these experiences not to be scared to walk into any situation, no matter what people may or may not think about you. As a writer I like to report what I see, but the impulse to open closed doors comes first. I don’t like to be told to act a certain way because white people will think this of you, just as much as I don’t like to be told the same thing concerning black people, French people, Puerto Rican people, Korean people, straight people, gay people . . . whomever. I will change if you tell me that my signs and gestures are offensive due to a cultural difference; and, I will want to know more about what I can and cannot say or do.

I am a man. I am not perfect. I get angry. I am amorous. I am smart. I get sad. I have feelings. I have armor. I am an Independent (don’t like the Republican/Democratic assumptions). I am convinced you can only afford to be a Socialist in a Socialist country. I think the Black church is a great social institution that could be greater if it did not close itself off from information. And, the list could go on and on. I have never seen why I have to be any different because my environment changes. Let’s be honest. I can see you. And, you can see me. I am willing to take the time to learn how to communicate with you, and I am willing to be misunderstood.

OK. I have to tag 10 people for this blog.

J’s Theater – because your blog has taken the place of the nightly news.

Jocko Homo – because your blog brings out the Soho prowling, elastic waist cargo paints wearing, inner muscle boy in me that I am trying to let out.

Blabbeando – because your blog is the Care Bear that is not scared to fight the dark Seth Lords.

Felix D’Eon – because your site is dedicated to the beauty of East Tennessee.

Lyrically Yours – because your poems are cool to the touch.

Hedonistic Pleasureseeker – because your blog is hot, literate, insightful and hot.

Black PhD – because your blog makes my heart race.

SWEAT – because your blog posts are the most cherished.

Angry Black Bitch – because your blog will kick me in the pants and get me to fightin’ for my life. Go on bitch!


You – cause I don’t know you. And I want to know you, but not in the biblical sense.

Your answer can be one line or a million. It doesn’t matter. Thanks again Professor Zero and Geoffry Philp

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Obama Drama, Foreign Currency and Deemi

These are the things that have caught my eye over the last couple of days.

Obamaphobia, by J. at J’s Theater is amazing. Again, I found it difficult to confront because all the Rush Limbaugh commentary really depresses me. The threats to Obama have put me on edge, especially since I have never known New York to be a place where you are attacked for being “liberal” (whatever that means), or for being an artist, and that is exactly what has happened to me in one of my numerous gigs. I know what is beyond the Hudson, and its fury must be harsher than I thought for it to reach me all the way over at 59th and Lexington.

Foreign Currency by Professor Zero is a post that brings into sharp focus a reality I lived for some time, though the country she describes is not named. I really don’t have a clue of where it could be. It could be any number of places in the EU. But it is an interesting set of observations.

Deemi – I have been rocking this for days and days while I work on the computer. She really hits it home for me, though our lives are very dissimilar (I am not a baby’s momma if you have not noticed).

I do recognize her story from good friends of mine that have had the same experience. Her songs are sad, but the story is real, and I love that she sings about herself and reality so passionately and candidly. And, it makes me feel like I am at home. NYC has become sort of an adopted home for me; and, the Brooklyn sound -- with its raspy songtresses over well worked and popular beats -- hits me in the heart everytime.

Friday, May 04, 2007

American Byways, Highways and Crossways -- The Freestyle Entry

I am at a loss for what to write right now. Not so much because my vision or imagination has stalled but because I am embarking on teacher pre-training and graduate school. As I communicate with my new classmates and colleagues, I am super aware of my life experiences. Mind you, some of this is good baggage. I have stories from other places, great skill sets that I would like to expand, mistakes I have learned from and wonderful friends and relationships. But I can't help but feel cynical about the next 2 years and the process I am going through. I am constantly comparing things to Stuttgart, Nashville, or Cologne. I wish I could talk to someone and not think: "Our social system has too many wholes in it concerning retirement and health insurance?"; or,” Why is education so politically charged in the United States?"; or, better yet "Why do we spend so much time explaining Black people to White people? Are they that unconscious of the world around them? Aren’t there better things I could be doing with my time? Why is it always my responsibility to explain these things? Damn! It has been 400 years and people seem not to get it yet? Am I still responsible for White people's progress?" Evidently, after watching the Republican debate, I still am.

So, I feel a little mixed up. On one hand I feel happy that health insurance and a pension check I can actually see is coming down the pipeline. On the other hand, I feel like I am settling into a profession where the barefoot party monger side of me will have to sit still as I make my way into the community as a teacher. I must admit that people have shown some sort of respect towards me that was lacking when I was managing inventory for a publishing company, or when I was even teaching university. I would explain my ideas about the Creole world and people would immediately say, "What are you going to do with that?" But now I seem visible to everyone as a black man that is a teacher in our community. And with that comes all the race pride and preacher complex salutations that make me feel a bit asthmatic. I am not worried about the teaching part; I have that down packed after four years. I am worried about the family reunion, Christmas, the barbershop and my gym in mid-town where I am forced into a wool, double breasted, black pin stripped suit of African-American normative behavior where rice and peas with coconut milk and steak au poivre become either exotic or the signifier of an uppity Negro.

Whew, I need some water on my face.

For example, I talked to my friend Kurt last night. I was busy typing on myspace with all my crazy cats and cool babes when a message came up from him at 1:57 am that I should give him a call. My self proclaimed “project” before bedtime was a meme sent by a barefoot stomping party gal/church worker who was run out of New Orleans by Katrina and is busy making a life for herself in S.C. I decided I could not send it to everyone on my list because many of the people were professional colleagues and I did not want them to know such private things about my life; and, because many people were friends, but they used their myspace as a promotional tool and I did not want to interrupt anyone’s vibe with what I sometimes think to be childish. But, hey I still want to party.

Kurt is now a famous lyrist and producer with work on a Jennifer Lopez album, many European hits and trips to Norway for house and electronic music stuff. But ten years ago, we were just 23 or 24, traveling between Rutgers and New York City and all points in between just to finally settle in Harlem. Kurt and I learned from a friend I will call the Mighty O everything about ball culture, clubbing, orishas and uptown institutions (like Ralph Ellington’s address). We were the Mighty O's acolytes and he was the bestower of our most piercing criticisms; divinator of our most unattended and deepest feelings; and, our truest benefactor with a wealth of uplifting heart felt words for our battered self-esteem after being dogged by the music and publishing worlds. The Mighty O took us to the Octagon and Sound Factory Bar like they were weekly temples in the summer. The Mighty O cooked cornbread and greens in his kitchen. The Mighty O strolled with us through Harlem, Mid-town, Chinatown, The Cloisters, Washington Heights, Columbia and Times Square like we were out bird watching or shopping for a new blade for the lawnmower on Main Street. For Kurt and I, The Mighty O was our greatest wish in the flesh, a guide through the looking glass and into the New York we were searching for but could not find without his special key.

Kurt and I talked about that decadent afterlife in quick flashes of disjointed memories. The majority of the discussion was the demise of The Mighty O, a fall that wrecked havoc on all who knew him. It was a string of other late night sentences and conjuring. But, the mourning tone was there, The Mighty O's misfortunes piled up so quickly and astonishingly that no one had time to act. His heartache was maddening. His manipulation was maniacal. The volleys of insults and control were terrorizing. All of it disguised in terms like "pouring tea", "throwing shade" and "trade". All of his towers seemed to fall after 9-11 and Kurt witnessed it and I did not. I was far away. The conversation soon turned to us, those that are left. Kurt and I were thinking about the young boys we were 10 years ago, and the parts of us that wanted that back.

"Who was I? Who was that kid?" said Kurt.

"I don't know? But there was nothing wrong with you then." thought the Unbeached Whale.

I just stayed silent as I let Kurt talk about that party time.

I guess I am busy writing about that conversation because as I sent my meme out via e-mail to those select few (cause I did not want to bother anyone else with what I was feeling) talking to Kurt made me realize that not only is New York not the same anymore, but neither am I. And, that “summer of '97 and ‘98” guy is gone, smashed up into a million carbon atoms that only live in my brain; or, maybe he is all dead skin devoured at night by small mites; or, maybe he is a broken toenail at the bottom of a pool on the mezzanine level of an Atlanta high-rise hotel. But, in the meantime, this same Unbeached Whale is wondering when he will get a chance to dance and party like that again. Is the party really over? Is New York really dead? Or, is it just me, scared to jump into the deep water? Party life is a hard thing, even if you are there only for the music. The Mighty O is not the only person we have lost.