Tuesday, May 31, 2011
*the author takes a sip, exhales*
maybe it fits into the divine equation that
exists within and outside of us that brother
Gil Scott-Heron went home on a Friday evening
in the city that was always in his blood, even
as it was killing him to hear him tell it. i've
always been of the opinion that a lot of his music,
intentional or not, went down better with a good
deal of nightfall and all of its open frontiers.
how many of you out there remember your parents
busting out that LP of 'The Bottle' at a family
party or hearing it being spun at some funky,
sweat-inducing house jam? for me, the first time
i ever heard that song bless my ears was as i was
sitting in the back of my dad's blue Cadillac as
he and my mom drove up to my grandmother's house
off of Gun Hill Road in the Bronx. and every last
bit of it, even though i was nine years old made
perfect sense and would continue to as i got older.
see, Gil Scott-Heron was many things to all of us
while still being one of us. many others with talent
as he had find themselves removed from the souls that
inspired them, be it by celebrity or other influences
and motives. Gil never did that. you saw that in all
of his music, even in his writing. i still remember
my great surprise at finding his novel 'The Vulture'
in the library at Hofstra University back in the day.
Gil kept up with the people. they didn't have to keep
up with him. and he spoke on damn near everything
with Black folks with a sage eye, and a voice that
grabbed your soul and shook it up enough to make you
realize you've been there before. if not you, your
mother, father and their ancestors back on down the
there will be eulogies. there will be many tribute
posts, many roses for this poet and musician, this
griot of the streets. there's going to be many who'll
reference perhaps his best known work, 'the revolution
will not be televised.' perhaps the best light that
can be gained from Gil going home is this: thanks to
him and his work, our voice, the one that was neglected,
almost snuffed out in the slime of ignorance, beaten
down and medicated to a stupor has risen to a place of
power that cannot and will not be denied ever again.
and that voice will keep on keepin' on until something
or someone outs the light on this blue marble we call
rest in power brother. and thank you for everything
you've done and were.
*pours out the last of the bottle, sighs*
as if the New York Mets and their fans didn't have
enough to worry about this season.
Gary Carter, better known as 'The Kid', a catcher
who was one of the more popular members of that
1986 World Series team the Mets had, found out this
past weekend that he not only had four brain tumors
in his head, but that surgery was not an option. for
me, Carter was as much a cool customer as Doc Gooden
or Daryl Strawberry was. when i started following
baseball, i noticed that i didn't root for a team,
but i was behind certain players all the way. and
Gary Carter was one guy who i liked to watch as a
catcher back then. even as i wound up being a Yankees
fan in the early '90s, i had a special place in my
heart for those '86 Mets 'cause they were what the
city missed since the Bombers' last title: winning
with grit and style. i hope he beats the big C just
like he did against opposing base-runners in his
Hall Of Fame Career.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Saturday, May 28, 2011
sitting in a barber's chair
in the midst of hot air and cold beer
the only fade that interests us
is that which she possesses
now glistening with sweat
as she bucks like a bronco
within a ring of dudes
who will call her every delicacy
on the planet
but won't call her 'miss'
dollars cut blunt smoke the best
and tonight's shape-up
can be yours in the back
behind the arcade cabinet.
even being a seasoned New Yorker, one station that
is always bound to set you on edge is Broadway
Junction. i don't care who you are. it's as if you're
in the African veldt, keeping your eyes out for a
sudden movement, a certain odor that differs from
the scent of stale Newports, fresh urine and a little
too much Blue Nile oil on someone's neck. why here?
mainly 'cause this is the junction where the A, the C,
the L and J/Z trains connect. this is as much a looking
glass into the soul of New York City as much as the
7 train is, just with less fan fare and more somber
i'll never forget two instances that happened right in
this station, situations that make for good B-movie fare.
the kind that would star Dolph Lundgren with a mangled
American accent and Ja Rule, if he wasn't in the bin.
the first was a classic Giuliani-era episode. if you
take the J or Z from Jamaica Center in Queens, in order
to transfer to the A or C you need to head up the stairs
and hit the escalators to the lower level. before you
get to them, there's a clearing which can take on the
aura of a sacristy because of the colored glass windows.
one Saturday afternoon, i'm on my way to Bed-Stuy. as
i walk over to the escalators, my eye catches something
on the ground. i slow my pace and realize that it's a
Ziploc bag of cheeba. marijuana for the un-hip. as i
stare at it, wondering why its here in the middle of
the train station, i feel as if i'm being watched. i
let my eyes trail up from the bag and meet the gaze of
this swarthy white guy in a hoodie and jeans with a
black baseball cap.
it's a set-up. or in other terms, a 'n***a trap'. Rudy
Giuliani as mayor vowed to clean up crime in the city.
he felt that one of the best wats to do so and have the
city earn some extra cash was to target weed smokers.
heavily. so throughout the city, the NYPD would leave
a bag of weed out and the person who'd pick it up would
summarily get arrested. and get a ticket for about $250.
i give the undercover cop a 'not today muthaf***a' grin
and get on the escalator. it wasn't until i reached the
street level that i saw the paddy wagon outside with
about two unlucky dudes inside.
the second situation? i'm coming back from Franklin Ave.
and making the trip back to the 'hood. all in all it
would take an hour. as the C train pulled into the
station, i hear a woman yell over the music in my ears.
'LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD JESUS!!!' we all step
off the car and look towards the stairs heading up to
the ticket booths and the street. this brother was
basically butt naked, dancing with a blow-up doll in one
hand and a 40 of Olde English in the other to some far-off
imaginary tune in his head. his clothes lay near the edge
of the platform. the woman who yelled took it upon herself
to perform her Christian duty and pray as she stood five
feet away from him. what did i do? i kept it moving. i
had a train to catch.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
photography by Dave Willis
this soldier of the streets
who dealt in desperation
wanted only his dream of eternity accomplished
the time between
the flash of the muzzle
and the slug cracking open
his cranium for display on Pitkin Avenue
granted him that final wish.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Monday, May 23, 2011
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Thursday, May 19, 2011
(photo by Vivian Maier)
i am guilty sometimes of thinking too much. so much at
times that i can feel a pain in my neck radiate upwards
into my head. usually, once that happens i stop what i'm
doing. because it's a sign that the checkpoints in my
head need a minute. 'whoa, slow down, SLOW DOWN A SEC!'
it's only then that i realize that i'm climbing too fast.
from time to time, i like to believe that the daily struggle
is akin to mountain climbing. all of the elements are there.
the rapid search for places to get a good grip or solid
footing. the straining of the neck to keep your eyes on
the goal in sight. trying your best NOT to look behind
you but doing it anyway. i've never been mountain climbing
for real; hiking yes. but i feel life right now, my struggle
to be a 'success' at life (which sometimes feels like it's
only just so you keep pace with what is considered 'normal')
is just like that. and maybe that neck pain is just all
about me not being cautious enough to refrain from rushing.
be precise. think carefully. move swiftly and with no fear.
and this applies even to walking up a steep flight of stairs.
it takes thought, but i'm learning not to do that too much.
it gets in the way of what is and what will be.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
speak of sadness more
than books collecting dust and the faintest touch
lies with the words hidden inside
dreams dashed out at ends of pens
the pages turning bitter and yellow
left to die
and not as often
but just enough
i feel as if fragments of my spirit
join them on the shelves
wedging the covers shut
draped in only the faint cloak of dreams
turned into a fine blend
of dreams and a fond touch
turned to dust.
Monday, May 16, 2011
i cast my eyes upward
beaten about by disdain and neglect
harsh november waves
off of cold Nantucket shores
my limbs are sore enough
to make me wonder how
i keep from collapsing
the cliffs of rough hewn fear
is what i'm fighting for
its not only courage
but the recklessness
doubt doesn't stand behind
that i will need along with scarred hands
i desire you
where sunlight finds no corners to hide
where the air
sways slowly snd is damp
like the curls of your hair at times
desire the embrace of your waist
to the point
where they curve under their own power
as i sleep
you've instilled in me
a somewhat melancholy mimicry
on overcast days
but does nothing for clear and crisp nights
i desire you
but i am content for now
with the memory of your waist
and your words
and your scent.
Thursday, May 12, 2011
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Sunday, May 8, 2011
nights between your words
and my ears
are mourning veils
woven with spider's cotton
and hunger pangs
each blinking streetlight
reminding me of the glint
of a smile that cuts with sweetness
i live better
with your voice
dancing in my ears
like slow southern moonlight
upon a river's face
so i draw back the veils
and let your steady sunlight
resurrect forgotten laughs
and clear longing nights
in its place.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
it's midday and i join the other flies taking a break
from hovering around life in a bar that years before
i would've held in disdain. but i'm here now, because
it's the only place in the world at the moment that i
can disappear without hopping a plane, train or bus.
this is where time, if it doesn't stand still, stands
on its head long enough for you to get your balance.
or lose it. a dive bar always needs a set of curtains,
as if you're shutting the world's judgement out. the
bar needs to look as if it has weathered wars, the
projections of one's thoughts and stomach and can still
bear the cuts one makes with a Swiss army knife. this
bar that i sit at is on the way there, looking as if
it once was the centerpiece of a Polynesian themed
restaurant in the middle of Carle Place.
i nurse my Heineken and think about things. the jukebox
plays Sam and Dave, but it doesn't do much to rouse
the few people in the joint. that's Carrie's job.
Carrie is one of the dancers here. this is one of those
bars where strippers go to die. once the breasts sag,
once the lines of age show through all of the foundation
around the eyes, once the cellulite gains control of
the thighs...if the woman who dances and strips doesn't
let go, it is the beginning of the end. only joints
like this will welcome her. the low lights and Miller
High Life make her young again. she becomes a siren
who lets her body sing with a muted voice. i've known
many women like Carrie. that's for another round and
another time. she moves up to the stage and removes her
bra and gyrates to the music. smiles come after the tips.
places like this make you feel melancholy. they make
you feel as if you've hit the bottom of the bottle.
you start thinking about the past a bit too much. you
start reliving each moment. you begin to believe you'll
never get out. the other bar patrons all have this look,
a cross between glazed indifference and sober thought.
which you wouldn't expect during happy hour. i think
about my life at this point. i dress those thoughts up
in rags, feeling poor beyond words. the dive bar is
limbo for me. a purgatory with cheap drinks, the closest
thing to heaven for folks on the bottom rungs. Carrie
looks towards me, and grins. her nipples glisten like
the chocolate icing on fresh cupcakes. i grin back and
raise my beer in a toast to her. it's my third one, the
one that brings me back to the shore of hope. i look
around at the construction paper signs and the pool table
bathed in fluorescent light.
the bartender saunters over, fresh off of picking at a
roast chicken dinner. 'want another one, hon?'
'no hon, i'm good. take care.' i leave her a good tip,
raise up off the stool and slowly walk towards the door.
this walk always feels as if you're wading through a
tide of molasses. i open the door and let the sun hit me
flush in the face. but i know when i'm ready to dive
into whatever is bugging me, places like this will still