Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Looking at the Boys and My Private Fangora

Love, Cinnamon and Cloves, in the Morning
So, this morning I am surfing through my Myspace page and drinking coffee while listening to "Labios Compartidos" by Mana, which is the sexiest song I have heard in a while. It is more of a Gypsy Kings manly sexy Latin tune as opposed to an Eros Ramazzotti lyric which makes me giddy and happy like a 15-year-old girl speeding towards Jones Beach in a VW bug with no air conditioning. So I guess that this is a signal that some form of normalcy if returning to my life. I probably should enjoy this break because I have only the rest of this week before graduate school returns as well as my new nine to five.

The Needle and the Knife
I will finally be insured by the end of the month, but the havoc my finances have gone through in the past 2 years is enough to put me back on the drip. I still have to pay out of pocket for a while and wait for reimbursement. I just don't know where the money will come from. Sometimes as a teacher and instructor I just don't feel like a professional person. Security is just very, very shoddy. It is a shame what people go through in this country. Embarrassing to everyone, including the doctors that have no explanation as to how I am to pay for the care I require; and, it is embarrassing to me to have to ask for charity. Why the hell did I go to college?

Sorry, just venting. It really is a horror show.

The Wayward Spiral of the Dead Dowager Empress
I was sent an article this morning by a Cuban friend about Brooke Astor's funeral. The New York Times article ends by saying that the funeral is beyond the end of an era -- there has not been a Mrs. Astor in New York City for the last 150 years. Pity. Growing up I remember this noblesse oblige mentality as being the equivalent of corporate brand recognition at the end of all the PBS programs that I watched. I used to wonder about the Rockefellers and the Vanderbilts. I used to visualize them in my head as people running the world, still dressed in an Edwardian fashion tailored so tightly you would think that they were stitched into the upholstery of their Victorian furniture. I don't know how I made that association, but I did.

There is some sense of horror to this situation. There are no replacements to that world. The rich have changed and New York has changed again. Or, maybe the horror is my placement in the situation, I am witnessing the closing of one century and the dawning of the next and with that comes a hyper-awareness that this new fortress being built is one I do not recognize. New York is becoming Chicago, a Broadway lite poster board replica of the Death Star, as menacing as a prequel without the funk of the 70's. With each passing day and step I open the paper to see one more building bought, one more neighborhood striving to maintain after the closing of a Copeland's or a CBGB's, and now with the death of Mrs. Astor, the erasure of a certain aesthetic. Forget the Astor 400, it is the way old money made me feel as a writer, a viewer of the arts, a purveyor of Lincoln Centers tall columns before Balanchine died. Maybe I am still playing catch-up to that New York, because I came to the city for far different reasons as a boy (hip-hop) and now am returning to it hurt by what I didn't know about the legend of the philanthropists and their pack of muses. I should have payed more attention, but my head was in a whole different stack of books -- maligned by race, class and gender, the foundations of the city never touched my fingertips.

I am making up for it now though. And there is more to report.

Oliver's Morbid Twist
My father has always been good for giving me the most unbelievable speeches while I am in the car. I guess I can't escape. I have always been a reclusive child -- at least around my parents. My grandmother was who I sought out. And in certain ways that has continued to adulthood. Even watching my father return from work in his grey suit sets off something in me concerning expectations and values that is incongruent. I am not like him in so many ways, but I am exactly like him in all the other ones.

It is as if my father is unable to speak for hours on end in the house, but once we are alone in the car he digs into me, or imparts a gem of knowledge, or makes a confession. It is like when I finished my stint at my HBCU and I was riding with my father on the New Jersey Turnpike heading north. In middle of his tyraid, as my 21-year-old mind drifted to the reeds growing in the toxic swamps beyond the oil refineries my father said, "It is all corrupt from top to bottom." I remember pushing my dreads away from my ear in some sort of physical response to the words I were pretending to ignore.

My father was in his fiery mode of speaking. I can count the number of times the man has been in a church, but the passion in his voice is something that I have inherited for sure, just as I witnessed my paternal grandmother siting in her chair with her cane using "the voice" at points of frustration or when instructing my younger cousins to pull up their pants , then coyly asking if them if they need her to buy them a belt.

"It is totally corrupt son. The entire system."

And I sat their in my new found righteousness thinking something odd with my father. As time has gone on and I have transformed from dread bean pie eating collegiate, to insecure graduate student, to secretively sexually liberated night walker, to naive office worker, to wise instructor, to just not giving a shit I realize that my father was simply trying to protect me. And that conversation concerning corruption is one of two different speeches I actually remember out of the hundreds my father felt he could embark on as soon as we jumped on the New Jersey Turnpike at exit number 9A.

My father's words have never rung so true as when I read the New York Times article concerning the bribery charges and subsequent confession of New Orleans councilman Oliver Thomas. The disappointment that I am feeling oscillates between despair and disbelief. This indictment hurts me worse than the Quincy Troupe affair a couple of years ago (well, that didn't really hurt, that was just human folly). New Orleans is without governance and I am wondering if there is any order into the investigations. Those council people who are disappearing seem to be disproportionately black, just as Operation Tennessee Waltz swooped up several black elected officials in Tennessee. But in the end, the ball lies at the feet of Thomas and all of his infamous alumni. Conspiracy theory or not, New Orleans is suffering from an attitude concerning its public contracts and rights as being part and parcel of private funds accessible to elected officials. And, on top of that, the most articulate and visible personality representing the disenfranchised in this terrible fiasco of the post-Katrina picture show is now gone. Oliver Thomas officially stepped down from his post, and it is effective immediately.

His absence was felt by me just as instantaneously.


Cero said...

NY becoming Chicago, quelle horreur.
But - yes. And New Orleans will become ... Orlando? Ay.

My father also used to give that speech about how it was all corrupt.
I found it very disheartening but should get philosophical about it - it was an attempt to protect, it's true.

Cero said...

P.S. teachers and instructors are no longer middle class, it is true.

Littlemilk said...

Middle Class. You are right. I know of college professors that are living check to check. I really believe that we are making strides to better our schools and our teachers compensation, but it is almost as if you are a social worker and not an educator. That is what people think/say when you announce that youare a teacher in NYC.

But that is part of the territory, I am not upset about that.

Littlemilk said...


You are right about Orlando and NO. I already see men running around in khaki shorts and pink polos of various sizes and shapes turning beat red from the heat, a dozen raw oysters and two hurricanes.

Cero said...

I live check to check and I feel like a social worker. But I am now a Mana fan!

Littlemilk said...

Yeah. Mana kind of hits the spot. I have had a hard summer work wise, and there have been some personal hurdles too.

I guess when it comes to languages and music I never really understood how many people immediately around me think it useless.