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

4 comments:

Daniel said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Professor Zero said...

Hi and great post and by the way I like the other recent ones too - too swamped at school to comment much, but *I* don't think they're self indulgent or whatever someone else said, they're interesting writing...

John K said...

Hey Bill, this is a great post, and I will address the imperative TOUTE SUITE!

J

hedonisticpleasureseeker said...

Augh I've been thinking for two months and I still can't figure out my grand imperative! Could it be that my life has no meaning?

Thanks for tagging me though, and thanks for the compliment! :-)