and happy holidays. This blog is dedicated to anyone who has a hard time with the holidays. This year has been a little dark for me. Sudden deaths and many other abandons. It's amazing in this city how far people can get from one another. I find myself thirsting for opportunities to be entertained. I've blown money on music and the movies like you wouldn't believe.
I tried to describe to a friend what this time is like. If you've ever walked a labyrinth, you will understand immediately. Come flow with my explanation for a minute...
Imagine a series of concentric circles. Imagine their various positions like 3 o'clock or 12 o'clock.
Now imagine walking the outmost circle and stopping at 3 o'clock to observe your surroundings.
You continue walking and a small path connects you to one of the inner circles.
Now you walk the inner circle and again stop at 3 o'clock to observe.
The view isn't much different.
You're maybe 5 paces closer to the center than you were a cycle ago.
Every thing around you looks and feels practically the same in relation to you.
You say, "How did I get back here?"
That's what this year has felt like. Like I've returned to some former pattern of living. Like I'm no different than I used to be. Like I'm back here again in the uh-oh phase. "See," my angry self critic says. "You're in the same spot you were in when you did this or that thing that got you all crazy last time."
BUT here's the truth about this movement.
I am five steps closer to the center of being.
I have walked an entire cycle to get to this new position.
I know more than I did at 3 o'clock-outer-circle.
I am not stuck or standing still, I am in revolution.
I just have to remember that sometimes it looks the same, but the inner life and the underneath of things is always shifting.
I hope that gives you hope for these holidays.
In the spirit of the season:
"Be humble and gentle.
Be patient with each other,
making allowance for each other's faults
because of your love."
-Ephesians 4:2 (NLT)
I will try to do the same.
Sunday, December 21, 2003
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Hey hey hey! It's Fat-tastic! An I'm gonna sing a song for you...and Ray's gonna play you a thing or two...
Let's play a game. See where the following belong: the "y" in every. The word "said." HOW 'bout the poorly edited first installment of this blog thing. Editing stream of consciousness is like trying to play your own improv backwards. It will be frustrating for me to not be self critical as I create & analyze these things. This whole culture of automatic response and feedback tends to stunt the editing process in general. Not so sure how seriously to take all that. Maybee i shud jus right lyke thice on purpos end furgettahboutit.
So today one of my cherubs says to me, "I know how you can have great dreams. Like if you wanted to have a dream about frogs, you could like watch a show about frogs on Animal Planet, and then talk about frogs on the phone to your friends, and then like read a book about frogs before you go to bed and then when you close your eyes, think about how cool frogs are an stuff and then you'll dream about frogs. I did it and I dreamed about frogs. Today I did it and I was in the war in Somalia. Tomorrow I'm going to Viet Nam..." They never cease to amaze me.
So last night, my friend Peter V. and I went to see BB King @ BB Kings. That dude is phenomenal. 2 some odd hours he played without stopping, and Dr. John sat in on a few tunes. What a gift. And if you go to BB's get the peach cobbler. Whoah. GET the peach cobbler. What I loved about BB was that he told us over an over again how much he appreciated our time, our enthusiasm. We all got along so well. And the band was off the hook. These men have been with him, some of them for over twenty years. they deserve all the love. Props especially to James Tony on keys. He played that Hammond Organ like it was an extenstion of his fingers and he was eating music!
MOrE 2 CoME.
Tuesday, December 09, 2003
Documenting this beautiful & brutal life will be an absolute treasure. It's a little silly, because of course the folks that will read this are gonna be the folks that already know what's happenin' BUT it is what it is. SO YESTERDAY... I won my first SLAM over at Bar 13. And there was so much love. It was particularly painful to read my first poem Abenkwan, set in my village in Ghana, because my Aunt in Ghana just passed away a few days ago on the 1-year anniversary of my cousin Owura's death. Life brings brutal surprises sometimes. Keep Breathing I say. See beautiful. The absolute incarnation of this...Jason Carney, last night's feature. He told us exquisite stories, was warm and clever. The poem that was not a love poem put vulnerability in his huge body and it was breathable. I felt that. Not to mention, I was so grateful that he paid homage to his muses frequently. He was standing there alone, but everyone he loves was with him on that stage because he invoked them. Much love for you, you Texan Masterpiece.
So, I have to start this conversation like I start every conversation. Have you seen the River Niger? Joseph A. Walker? Now I know some folks have mad hateration for those low budget seventies fliks starring larger than life blackfolk, but understand this beautiful cocoa melting pot of a cast: James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson, Roger Mosley, Glynn Turman, & Lou Gossett Jr. WHAT in the WORLD?! James is this poet who paints for a living. The bleeding rock on which his family is built. Severely and poetically alcoholic, ever word that tumbles from him is a rock waterfall! He writes the poem the River Niger as the movie progresses. His shining moment is a double fisted fight with God. Straight up JaCob, like the Bible. Some serious "give me my blessing or else" bizniss. Lou plays his loyal to the core JaFakin friend (the accent is inexcusable, but you tolerate it for the love...) who rides him for being not just a poet, but a philosopher poet. And as Debbie (best friend of 20 years... ya betta recognize) he must be a Jafakin and not a Jamaican because keeps loaning this drunk fool money, to the tune of like $400 with no plan for payback, no nothin. But you must give love to the brown suit. The rest, you'll have to peep for yourself. Let me just say that "No ways tired" is a gorgeous poem with imagery and incredible movement. I showed it to my high school language and literature class.
I teach Middle School and High School and from time to time I will entertain you with stories from the underground. So the children just read "The Secret Name of Ra." Ra's name has all the power, Isis wants to steal it, blah blah blah, you get it. So they were instructed to transform the story into a theatrical moment. Language living in breath. It's a need for these kids, more on that later. So three of them (who by the way belong to the Jew Unit, more on that later...) decide that their presentation will be a musical. THEY SANG every single word they had written. Entrances, exits, and the curtain call which involved a chorus line, starring these 3 children as the RA-kettes. I am not making this up people, we're talking about 11 & 12 year olds! And did I mention that in this stunning musical rendition that Ra's secret name was revealed to be none other than...................RUMPLESTILSKIN!!! WHAT!!! These kids transcended like 4,000 years of literary experience in one moment! This is why I stay.
SO ABOUT THIS STATEMENT Language living in breath.
Sometimes it frightens me that so much information spins towards my kids. The stimulus of TV, Video Games and the Internet combined is a greater density and intensity than I or my parents experienced as a child. This though, is a natural progession. The world gets older, there are more of us. What concerns me is that so much of this information happens outside the context of human interaction. It's not face to face arm in arm kiss to kiss interaction. It's machines and reflexes, unfiltered impulses, mechanized feedback, compulsive reactiveness. Language is a series of flat moving fast codes that have no faces or manufactured faces. They are 3rd party participants in their own experience. So in school, we plant seeds with breath in them so that maybe their language will grow up healthy. Words come at them and they don't filter. They just let them in and through them in the mix. A young white child called another young white child his pimp for writing a good essay. Another asked if he could be ghetto for Halloween. I stand amazed and confused. So we have these conversations in the classroom about culture and their not easy, because I'm the only non-white person in the room. They name the silly characters in their stories Shaniqua and I cringe. We talk about the difference between embracing each other's culture and mocking it. And we just keep having conversations. I'm trying to listen to them too.
So I have a group of yungins who call themselves the Jew-Unit. It's a bittersweet adorableness they have going on. Hit lyrics include their version of 50 Cents' P-I-M-P with these lyrics, sing along if you know...
I don't know what you heard about me
But you can't get my Torah outta me
I was Bar Mitzvah'd at age 13
And I'm the Jew Unit's REB
And away we go!
Monk + Ella = Abena