Monday, June 29, 2009're always running here and there ... you feel you're not wanted anywhere...

So ...

I was going to attempt to avoid this whole topic ... who wants to read another post about Michael Jackson? But then I remembered, nobody reads this blog anyway, so ...

I've been asking myself how one ought to grieve for someone he never really even knew. A better question is why ought one grieve. But the thing is, if you are an african-american of my generation then you grew up with Michael Jackson. I have known him {okay, known of him} since I was old enough to know anything. Over the years he became sort of like a crazy cousin ... one you never understand and often disagree with but whom you were always glad to see. His passing has made me inescapably sad, y'all. And in spite of my attempts to remain above it all, to adopt a more sagacious perspective on the spectacle that is still playing itself out, I am still just very very sad.

In the title I quoted the song "Ben," MJ's first solo #1 hit. It is about, of all things, a rat ... the vicious ringleader of a pack of man-eating rats at that. You can listen to it here . The tender song didn't really go with a horror movie ... wasn't even a very good horror movie either. In the it, Ben-the-Rat's friend was a lonely, misunderstood, abused-by-society, misfit named Willard. And at the end of the movie Ben and his rodent cohorts killed poor Willard who did kinda bring it on himself having trained the rat's to do murder at his bidding.

I suspect that, in Michael's case, a tender soul did not really go with the horror movie his life became. I think Jackson's "Ben" was his celebrity. It gave him astronomical sums of money, colossal fame and, I think, an unprecedented amount of sadness. Now, I'm not saying that some of his misery ... maybe even a lot of it was not self-wrought. But a soul is such a delicate thing, and more so the soul of an artist ... what is it about the American style of celebrity that tends to devour some of our brightest (and therefore some of our most fragile) souls? I don't know ... you'll have to ask Billie Holiday, Elvis Presley, Kurt Cobain, Karen Carpenter Michael Jackson and all the other's whose fame seemed to shorten their trajectory and turn it prematurely downward. Here's to the hope that Rock and Roll Heaven is real and that over yonder backstage passes are plentiful and readily available.

So now, I say about Mike what I say about other departed friends and family members --"those I loved and did not understand" as Norman Mclean put it at the end of his beautiful story A River Runs Through It ...

Damn, bruh ... wish I coulda -- I don't know -- been there for ya ... Or something.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

All We Are Is Dust in the Wind ...

... or maybe we're plastic letters on the fridge?
Saturday morning ... and I woke up to the very pleasant sound of Sister Baby's morning show. She has these magnetic letters on the refrigerator and each one is a different character in an elaborate drama. Funny to me that with all the high-tech (and expensive) trinkets we have attempted to delight her with, this is still one of her preferred play activities ...
Sort of reminded me of my occasionally idle mornings and afternoons when I was a kid. When the sun was just right, shooting nearly solid beams of light into the room through the windows between the slits in the curtains, I would go and find a t-shirt or a dry towel. If you wave the thing in the shaft of light you release thousands and thousands of floating specks of dust and lint. I would pretend it was a dogfight ... Allies vs. Axis over the skies of World War II Europe. The smaller specks were the fighters ... the little spitfires soaring deftly among all the flack. The larger ones were the bombers, lumbering toward their intended targets, pilots white-knuckling the controls, gunners spinning in their turrets. After waving the t-shirt, I had no control ... the dust fighters fought furiously till there were only a few left and then the victors flew slowly, gratefully and pensively home. I couldn't control it, all I could do was watch ... some of my favored pilots made it, some didn't.

I wonder if that's how God is ... having waved the T-Shirt of the Cosmos, setting this whole thing in motion. Is He waiting for the dust to settle? And after we have flown through the fray, protecting some harassing others, who among us will make that peaceful flight home?

Or is the Universe more like the refrigerator and God, like Sister Baby pulling all the strings ... lots of action and high drama ... danger, fun, love, strife, hate, bliss, misery and (occasionally a little) peace ... but in the end, everything comes out okay.

Monday, June 15, 2009

You Know You're Gettin' Old When ...

You watch one of those movies with lots of different big name actors and with a bunch of semi-complicated, interweaving plots and the one cat you relate to is Morgan Freeman!!!
Oh well ...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Back in the Day, 'Round the Way ...

We've had a pretty feeble spring her in Boston. Every time we get a bit of good weather and begin to hope that it might stick around for a while the rain and the cool winds come and chase it away. Today is nice ... yesterday afternoon was too. So here's hoping that Persephone can stay out and play with us for a little while.

And, speaking of playing ...
The other day, Shemetra and I came home from work only to find a gang of kids hanging out in front of our house. Okay, yeah we do live in "the 'hood" but it wasn't a gang as in Crips and Bloods ... more a gang as in Our Gang -- you know, Spanky, Alfalfa, Buckwheat 'n' 'em. Yes, these were young kids, riding bikes, playing ball, being children. There was something quite heartening about it. Reminded me of the kind of fun we used to have as kids 'round the way, back in the day. But these kids don't play like we used to play ... sure we had days like their's that were sort of unstructured, free-for-all fun, but we had actual structured games we played. Here are a few of the best ones:

Hot Peas and Cold Butter. In this game, one kid would take a leather belt and hide it somewhere, preferably in a vacant lot that had a lot of flotsam, jetsam and debris strewn around. When the belt was hidden, the hider would scream out "hot peas and cooooold butter!" This would let all the other kids know that it was time to come and look for the belt. The hider would give clues ... at first, everyone would be pretty "cold," that is, far away from finding the belt. Then the hider would say, "Rodney is getting warm." At that moment, each player would have to make a decision: do I go over by Rodney to try to find the belt or do I ease my way back to the base. Because, you see, whoever found the belt was then permitted to beat the crap out of anyone he or she could catch before they got back to the base (usually somebody's front porch a considerable distance from the field of play). As the hiding place became more compromised, the tension would build ... "Rodney is red hot! Oh man, he's burnin' up! He's on fire!" By this time the most timid and the slowest runners are already halfway back to base and only the boldest are still searching. Believe you me, you don't want to be anywhere near ol' Rodney when he finds that belt ... especially if you were the dude that smacked him hard right 'cross the bee-hind with it a couple of rounds ago.

Red Rover. This is the game pictured above. Two teams would line up facing each other. Each team would link hands to form two opposing human chains. After some consultation, one team would say to the other, "red rover, red rover send Frankie right over," at which point Frankie would run as fast as he could attempting to break the link between two of the opposing team members. If he broke it, he would rejoin his team in triumph, if not he would have to join the other team. Now, the strategy was for Frankie to find the weakest link and then run in a swerving pattern to surprise those two players at the last possible minute. Now the game was supposed to end when one team had acquired all the members of the other by forming the most unbreakable links ... but it usually ended when someone (often yours truly) unable to break a link either flipped over it (hitting the front of his head on the asphalt) or bounced off it (hitting the back of his head on the asphalt). Note: somehow we never quite figured out that you shouldn't play this game on ASPHALT ... grass or even sand would have been better. But of course, there ain't too much of either of those in the city.

Chinese School. Sorry for the politically incorrect and racially insensitive title ... but we were kids, we didn't know any better. This was a much less violent game and was essentially, stand up comedy for elementary school kids. The audience would sit on the front steps of somebody's house and the teacher would step to the front of the group and recite the following rhyme:

"Chinese school has just begun,
No more laughing, no more fun.
If you show your teeth or tongue,
You will get a penalty done."

Then the teacher would launch into a stand-up routine to try to get people in the audience to laugh. If you laughed, the teacher would then give you a penalty ... often something silly or embarassing ... like singing a love song to the next girl to walk down the street or getting a wedgy and having to keep it ... er ... lodged until the end of the game. My brother Darryl was the master of this game. If you know him, ask him to do the "frozen pudding" routine for you ... but you'd better prepare yourself for the ensuing penalty 'cause there's no keeping a straight face in the midst of the "frozen pudding."

Kill The Man with the Ball. This was one of several manhood testing games. Nothing complicated about this one. The ball ... (usually a deflated football or baskettball that wasn't good for anything else) ... would be thrown into the air and whoever caught it would have to elude everybody else because there was only one rule in this game ... you have to kill the man with the ball! It was a test of agility, endurance and guts. Oh, the bruises, chipped teeth and scraped elbows and knees this glorious game produced. I still have scars.

Chase. This was the most Homeric of all neighborhood games ... really seperated the manly boys from the girly-men. Two teams would start at opposite ends of the predetermined territory (usually about a three block radius) and would split up in groups to find members of the opposing team to beat the crap out of and then capture and lock in a "prison" (somebody's porch that was guarded by two or three guys). The object of the game was to capture everyone on the opposing team. There were ambushes, jail breaks, traitors, valiant last stands, heroes who fought, and a few cowards who hid. It was AWESOME ... no weapons, only hands, feet and wits. It was like an inner-city Iliad! This game is probably the reason I don't walk right to this day.

Now ... if you are a kid reading this, let me say that you should NOT try these games at home. We were trained experts working under controlled conditions ....

Okay, so we were nuckle-heads, risking limb (if not life) for the sake of a good time. But nobody died (at least not that I can recall) and we sure had us some fun ... boy, I'm tellin ya!

"I don't hate Balboa -- I pity the fool ..."

So, by way of confession, let me just say that I LOVE THIS MOVIE!
I know, there is nothing good about it from an artistic standpoint ... it was arguably the end of the Sylvester Stallone's acting career and the beginning of his downward spiral toward the grunting, mumbling action hero muscle-head.
Watched it again this week ... okay, let's be honest. I watched it TWICE this week. And here's the thing ... not only do I watch it but I get misty-eyed when I watch it. It's like I'm a crack-head but the Rock I'm addicted to is a juiced-up make-believe boxer named Balboa.
This movie shamelessly displays all the worst things about the 80's ... the clothes, the music. But I can't help myself. I have even addicted my poor daughter who now will not enter the bathroom in the morning to brush her teeth unless hum the Rocky fanfare:
Dah di-di dah di-di dah dah dah,
Dah di-di dah di-di dah dah dah,
Dah di-di dah di dah di dah,
Bam baaaaaam!
Oh no ... I'm jonesin' again. Yo, Adriennnnnnnne!
Somebody please help me ... recommend me a movie with subtitles or foreign accents or an actual plot. Have some pity on this fool!