"If you want to know the truth
I could care less about a period
at the end of this sentence
for i have no desire to stop here..."
-"Your Self-Fulfilling History",
Mbembe Milton Smith
You know, senior yearbook quotes can reveal a lot about a person.
In my high school, the seniors had the most detailed portion of the yearbook. Unlike the under classmen who had all of their images squeezed onto a double page spread like so many sardines, our photos were laid out three per page, so we could include a list of all our extracurricular activities, our signatures and a quote of our own choosing.
People pulled activities out the woodwork. I’m convinced some even made them up. My own list wasn’t very robust, as I worked all through high school. But the most interesting part wasn’t the list of extracurrculars; it wasn’t even the highly stylized signatures of the senior girls – complete with hearts and smiley faces, ad nauseum. The most interesting thing about the senior section was the quotes.Being several years removed from high school, I’ve gone back to peruse my yearbook on occasion. I’ll read a few of the handwritten messages; then I make a B-line for the senior section to see who’s quotes exemplify their high school selves, and who’s quotes were foreshadowing the people they would become. Of course, I have not kept in touch with everyone from my graduating class, so maybe the quotes just fit my memories of them. At any rate, here are some of my favorites:
Yippie – n. a term used to describe the young and upwardly mobile who despite their education, professional careers and relatively affluent lifestyles persist in expanding consciousness through nonconformist, unconventional and free-spirited behavior; a cross between a “yuppie” and a “hippie”; ex. It’s good that she’s buying local and handmade items, but that yippie spends way too much!
I know you don’t really celebrate your birthday, and that’s fine by me. But I do. So, how can I satisfy my need to recognize and your request to keep it quiet? I think a post will do the trick. Here it goes…
“Twenty-Eight Endearing Things About You”
28. You look like a child when you’re sleeping – totally unassuming and peaceful.
27. Your search for humor is relentless, and you always share your findings with me. (Whether I find them funny or not – that’s a different story ;)
26. My friends love you, and my family respects you.
25. You’re a rather good impersonator; your Nas and Mos Def are pretty good, but your Elijah Muhammad is the best.
24. However, your impersonation of my dad still leaves much to be desired – keep working on it. ;)
23. Your competitive edge is pretty funny. Phase Ten has never had such an intense interpretation before you started playing, I’m sure.
22. You love your friends and family with steadfastness and intensity. I admire that.
21. You introduced me to Aesop Rock, L’Roneous and Aqua Teen Hunger Force. How can I ever repay you?
20. WWJD – What Would Jay Do? If I'd had you as a math tutor, maybe I'd remember a few things.
19. I love to see you and your sisters together; you have a beautiful relationship.
18. You don’t buy me flowers, you bring me ginger snaps.
17. When you get into a hobby, you REALLY get into it. RC Cars, boxing, MMA and jiu-jitsu… need I say more?
16. You are the reason I know anything at all about the UFC, and I really do listen! BJ Penn, Royce and Roger and all the Gracies, Tap Out, Affliction, Sherdog, arm bar, triangle choke, oma plata – see?
15. You may single-handedly keep afloat the protein powder industry.
14. I see a tree limb, a doorway, a set of monkey bars; you see a pull-up opportunity.
13. Somehow scaring me as I walk into dark rooms or turn corners is still funny after all this time… to you.
12. You, in a most beautifully articulate manner, defended feminism to my father. While I observed in absolute silence with a smile that could rival the Cheshire Cat.
11. Your pragmatism and frugality can be irksome – they also come in great handy.
10. You research EVERYTHING, from laptops to what’s the best method for making coffee. (I love our French press, by the way. Thank you.)
9. You’ve relinquished any creative control in the interior design of our home, but you help me carry out the ideas.
8. After only 3 years, you’ve nearly mastered the art of dishwashing. ;)
7. You are kind to all animals, and even pet the strays.
6. You have high school memories of me from before I even really knew who you were.
5. You never hold me back from anything I want to do.
4. You make me question myself, which ultimately results in a stronger resolve or a clarified perspective.
3. You were a soldier, and you are a scholar.
2. You’ve pondered a multitude of ways to embarrass our future children.
1. You are who you are all the time.
I hadn’t been listening to you recently.
You were like milk –
fortifying me in my youth,
but less tantalizing as I got older.
Sure you were still important,
but I needed you less and less…
Still you were a part of me,
as familiar and requisite in my world
as the building fund, alter prayer
and aluminum foil at the tips of cornrows.
Maybe I should have
shook my head in defiance
instead of in shame
because maybe you didn’t do those things you were accused of?
Should have been more vocal
instead of lending my silence to the swell
of rumors, cruel jokes and accusations.
When the news came, I didn’t believe.
But when it was confirmed,
I retreated into my catalogue and let the whole thing play.
You never miss the water…
or in this case, the milk.
I’ve kept my sadness to myself, mostly.
Not really wanting to join the throngs of mourners
whose sincerity is only outdone by their amnesia.
Could a little more kindness have saved your life?
Yes, you have Gone to Soon.
Yes, I Want You Back.
Yes, those are very clichéd things to say –
I guess that means I’m just like all the others.
But you are not, and you never were.
I am ready. So ready to transform this house some more. I have a love/hate relationship with our Queen Mum. Sometimes, I am dazzled by her stateliness, endurance and potential, other times I wish she was a brand new modern condo. My dream for this house is somewhere between restoring her to her original grandeur and updating everything with just a wink to her history.
I’ve visited blogs and websites of people who have been in this same 100+ year old Victorian ship that we’re in. I’ve seen some scary befores and inspiring afters, and they make me want to make this house all that it can be – inside and out. HomeBoy and I, for the sake of our savings and sanity, are taking things slowly. Last year, we focused on the LR and DR; not too shabby, if I may say so. Both rooms still need finishing touches, but we’ve made great progress.
This spring and summer, I want to take things to the next level. No, seriously. We’re going to do some work upstairs. The initial and ambitious plan is to finish all the floors, repair a little cracked plaster, customize our bedroom closet and paint and paint and paint. We’ve already been to Home Depot and made some color decisions; it went relatively quickly because I knew what I wanted. Warm colors are downstairs, so we’re doing all cool colors upstairs – calming, soothing blues and greens and gray (for the office).
We’ve learned quite a bit from last year’s projects:
1) Projects should be done in a specific order to minimize unnecessary work. Last year, we had the floors done before we did the painting, and though we were very careful, there were still a few spills to pine over and clean up. This brings me to the next learning...
2) We are not painters. You put on your coveralls and your scarf and it’s all cute for about an hour; then you want to call the crew that HGTV keeps off camera. I will be pricing some interior painters; if the cost is reasonable, I will gladly turn over my brush and roller.
3) There will be times, outside of moving into a new place, where you will have to lift your furniture, and it will suck.
4) And finally (for the moment at least), house renovating is hard work. Take the time and appreciate the process. Sure we worked on weekends then went to work on Monday; sure we came home to a dining room covered in tarp and tape and a bedroom with a dining table and chairs in it; sure taking a full couch up a full flight of stairs will make you feel like every push-up you’ve ever done in life meant nothing. But when the tarp comes up, the furniture goes down and you love what you see – it is all worth it.
image from this cool blog.
The first time I saw Love Jones, it was in the theaters. I was in the seventh grade, and I remember going to the movies with a friend of mine – still high from Erykah Badu’s debut album, and couldn’t wait to see a good romantic drama about black love. (Though I doubt we would have articulated it that way back then.) From the leather, denim and sepia saturated cinematography to the bluesy soundtrack to the flawless beauty of Nia Long, everything about that movie excited me. And Darius Lovehall (Lorenz Tate)? Darius Lovehall was the best thing since sliced bread.
The character’s pomposity and wordplay were an intoxicating combination that could make you slap him and still invite him in to “talk”. I’d experimented with writing poetry by this time, but Love Jones introduced me to the performance aspect. Though it would be a little while before I began performing, from the night I left the theater I was hooked. Spoken word was this intellectual, grown and sexy thing in my mind, and Darius Lovehall was it’s patron saint.
Fast forward some years, and I’m at the New York comedy club about to slam against some dude named Talaam Acey. I’d never heard of him and the prize was a paltry $25 (enough to cover the drink minimum, the host joked), but no matter – this was just for the love of words. I. Was. Floored. He had an amazing way of intertwining sensuality and social commentary ( p**sy and politics) that tricked the audience into learning something. His delivery was wonderful; his demeanor – haughty and humble at the same time. After a close judging, we complimented each other and I invited him to a bi-monthly open mic in Jersey City.
When he showed up to my stomping ground in JC, he brought some copies of his latest CD to sell. The title was Morally Bankrupt, and it was the best $10 I ever spent. I played it on all-day repeat for weeks, and I dethroned the fictional Darious Lovehall as patron saint of spoken word because here was a man who made Mr. Lovehall sound like a beginner. Since our first meeting, I have purchased two more of his CDs and even saw Talaam when he came to KCMO earlier this year. (It was a Tuesday night, folks. I don’t go out on week nights for just anybody.)
He’s made a living at this performance poetry thing for over a decade. He travels and performs and writes. He’s still just as haughty and humble. He’s still teaching audiences on the sly. And for a limited time only, he has a free download (courtesy of Microsoft) of a piece called “Five Women”. I’ve listened and I enjoy it; though I think some of his earlier work had more fervor. Check it out, if you have a chance. For some, this will be an introduction; for others, sweet nostalgia. Either way, I offer a taste of the Good Deacon and his Reformed Church of Lyrical Lucidity. (Oom Sha-lock-lock.)*
*The italics reference specific pieces of Talaam’s poetry. Though I would like to take credit for “The reformed church of lyrical lucidity”, I cannot.
I had lunch with a Colleague the other day. We talked of creativity and occupation and ULTIMATE LIFE PURPOSE – nice light conversation. As we talked, Colleague began to muse about the near future, “…in three years, I’ll be 26.” And just like that, I was older. Colleague’s future is my present. In 3 more years, I’ll be 29 for the first time…
Last weekend, I attended my baby brother’s high school graduation; it was yet another reminder of the passage of time. his current milestone was my past cornerstone in a foundation that has, thankfully and prayerfully, been building upward ever since. Combine that with all the recent weddings and babies, and it’s a surprise I haven’t started to grunt when I get up from a chair or forget my sunglasses are on top of my head.
“I feel my mortality,” Colleague said.
“It’s better than the illusion of immortality,” I replied.
“But ignorance was so much fun.”
“Yeah, but I wouldn’t go back to not knowing.” We both agreed on that. We both also have had the experience of growing up as mature youths – old souls, wise beyond our years or whatever. It’s funny how you can be those things without ever feeling like a grown up.
“I feel like a grown-up now,” Colleague said. So what does this mean? Maybe it’s like the bird feeder said – about feeling the changes as they approach (and while in the midst of them, I might add).
As a purported Millenial, I am part of the “it” group right now. Everybody wants to know what we think/feel/want. That could easily be no more than our society’s obsession with youth culture. What about when this glorified decade passes? Who will we be then, and will anybody care?
A colleague of mine saw a Kenneth Koch book on my desk last week, and he engaged me in a brief yet enthusiastic conversation about the author/poet. Later that same day, said colleague left this poem on my desk, and though I am still in my twenties it feels appropriate to share:
To My Twenties
How lucky that I ran into you
When everything was possible
For my legs and arms, and with hope in my heart
And so happy to see any woman--
O woman! O my twentieth year!
Basking in you, you
Oasis from both growing and decay
Fantastic unheard of nine- or ten-year oasis
A palm tree, hey! And then another
And another--and water!
I'm sill very impressed by you. Whither,
Midst falling decades, have you gone? Oh in what lucky fellow,
Unsure of himself, upset, and unemployable
For the moment in any case, do you live now?
From my window I drop a nickel
By mistake. With
You I race down to get it
But I find there on
The street instead, a good friend,
X-- N--, who says to me
Kenneth do you have a minute?
And I say yes! I am in my twenties!
I have plenty of time! In you I marry,
In you I first go to France; I make my best friends
In you, and a few enemies. I
Write a lot and am living all the time
And thinking about living. I loved to frequent you
After my teens and before my thirties.
You three together in a bar
I always preferred you because you were midmost
Most lustrous apparently strongest
Although now that I look back on you
What part have you played?
You never, ever, were stingy. What you gave me you gave whole
But as for telling
Me how to best use it
You weren't a genius at that.
Twenties, my soul
Is yours for the asking
You know that, if you ever come back.
I am not familiar with Koch’s work, but I definitely want to get acquainted now.
And as I am in the habit of creating connections and naming things, I hereby christen this my Marathon Year. Whatever does that mean? Well, bare with me as I make something up, won’t you? Twenty-six is the number of miles in a marathon; the Greek myth of the battle of Marathon concludes with a foot soldier running the distance of 26 miles, despite fatigue, to tell of a victory against the Persians.
lesson #1: fight through the fatigue
lesson #2: try to have good news
Marathon runners today have tremendous endurance and strength, though you can’t always tell by looking at them. They train hard and often, but always give themselves time to recover. The night before a race is critical; they always eat well and rest up.
lesson #3: endure
lesson #4: never reveal all of your strength
lesson #5: give yourself time to recover
lesson #6: carbs are okay, if you have a long journey ahead
In the case of the Battle of Marathon, the Persians outnumbered the Athenians 4 to 1. In the case of modern day marathons, those who start strong don’t always finish strong. Yes, training and preparation are key, but there are always variables we cannot foresee. It would behoove me to remember this the next time I’m feeling like I’ll never get ahead or when I’m feeling like I can’t be stopped. Both self perceptions are false and could cost me dearly. A lot can happen in twenty-six miles, which brings me to my final lesson:
lesson #7: it’s anybody’s race
(This actually happened a few weeks ago. I can laugh at it now because it's over.)
I came back from a meeting to find a tiny bug on my screen. I flicked it, but it didn’t move. Why? Because it was beneath the glass of my monitor. I had to watch it crawl – up, down, across, along the edge. I called IT,
“This is going to sound weird, but um, there’s a bug in my computer and I can see it crawling around, but it’s beneath the screen so I can’t kill it.”
“I was wondering if I should use some compressed air or something; I think it must have gotten in there through the speaker holes.”
He’s obviously struggling to find a response. I put him out of his misery.“It’s not really affecting my work.” That’s a lie. I was totally losing my shit as this thing crawled across my word documents and excel spreadsheets and NY Times homepage.
“Well, there’s nothing we can really do. What kind of computer do you have?”
“If any more show up, we can replace the entire unit. Definitely call back if you see any more.”
“Okay. I’m sure this is the weirdest thing you’ve heard all day.”
He laughs to make me feel less lame. Thank you, IT Guy. I hang up the phone convinced that this is karmic payback for the innumerous and terrible puns that I have tossed about with reckless abandon. I changed my desktop wall paper, which was a super focused and close cropped photo of a flower petal. (Do I look like I’m kidding?) I opted for a black and white landscape shot with a few strong lightning bolts in the middle. If this little nuisance was going to traipse around on my screen, I didn’t have to sit there and bare witness. Of course when I open anything that wasn’t a predominantly black screen – there it was!
I haven’t seen the little bugger all day. I guess it’s gone, as quickly, quietly and uneventfully as it had come. I couldn’t be happier. In the future, I’ll be more sparing with my bad puns, but I’m tucking this experience away for a time when I am old, quirky and have to be tolerated. Then I will turn to the young’uns and say, “Ask me about the time my computer had a bug.”
I don’t know how to say this without sounding like a stuffy, pretentious, self-important poser. Maybe it’s because I graduated from college. Maybe it’s because I was an English major, but to have a self proclaimed "non-reader" co-create a book seems a rank offense. Like he is intentionally thumbing his nose at articulation and literacy. In this 52 page mega pamphlet, some pages have a few odd words or phrases and others are completely blank. It irks my life. I’m not taking away from his capacity to create catchy music and clever wordplay. I am dismayed, however, at the outright frivolity of the endeavor. I wonder if this is how actors feel when some random celebrity “tries their hand” at acting - or any aspiring or established craftsperson, for that matter, who has to entertain the wanton antics of some smug dilettante suffering from a case of self-entitlement.
If you want to write things down and make those things available for others to read, that’s cool – put it in a CD jacket, publish it through Kindle or post it on your blog. Hell, put it on a T-shirt even, but don’t waste the resources to print and bound something you don’t even believe in. You’re a non-reader? That’s cool. Now you can add “non-author” to your credits as well.
See the article (with my orange interjections) below.
It's like writing in the margins - the margins of books. Take that!
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rapper Kanye West does not read books or respect them but nevertheless he has written one that he would like you to buy and read.
The Grammy Award winner, known for his No. 1 albums and outspoken statements on everything from racism in America to the banality of Twitter, is the co-author of "Thank You And You're Welcome."
okay. I do like this title.
His book is 52 pages -- some blank, others with just a few words -- and offers his optimistic philosophy on life. One two-page section reads, "Life is 5% what happens and 95% how you react!" Another page reads "I hate the word hate!"
ever notice how words that lack any real impact tend to be followed by very strong punctuation?
"This is a collection of thoughts and theories," West, 31, said in an interview about his spiral-bound volume, which was written with J. Sakiya Sandifer.
because heaven forbid you ever throw away something you’ve written down? I guess you’ve forgotten the better stuff.
West said he put his thoughts in a book because "I get paraphrased and misquoted all the time." He calls his wisdom "Kanye-isms."
"My favorite one is 'Get used to being used,'" he said.
"I feel like to misuse, overuse or abuse someone is negative. To use is necessary and if you can't be used, then you are useless."
wow, to be a hater of books, he sure is a fan of semantics! this is kind of clever – in a suessical sort of way or like a freestyle. however, the thing with freestyle fodder is that much of it is really clever in the moment, but if you have time to think about it, you come to a conclusion like, “WTF are you saying?”
So does he fancy himself a modern-day Confucius?
"I'm trying to end the confusion," he said, laughing and adding, "I'm gonna put that on the next album."
again, with the wordplay; look for that Confucius / end confusion line in the next single.
West's derision of books comes despite the fact that his late mother, Donda West, was a university English professor before she retired to manage his music career. She died in 2007 of complications following cosmetic surgery.
"Sometimes people write novels and they just be so wordy and so self-absorbed," West said. "I am not a fan of books. I would never want a book's autograph.
All artists are self absorbed to a degree. How else can we think that our perspective and opinion are so important that the whole world ought to know about it? And don’t you worry about getting a book’s autograph; I doubt you’ll ever find a book to give you one. (That’s personification – something people tend to use in books and other such contraptions with words in them.)
"I am a proud non-reader of books. I like to get information from doing stuff like actually talking to people and living real life," he said.
I get this. there’s no substitute for experience, but books are not simply purveyors of someone else’s life. they are also playgrounds of inspiration and doorways to worlds unknown. not to mention we don’t all have the means to get up and go whenever we’re curious about something. “I wonder what Paris is like in the fall? I think I’ll go in September!” and limiting this statement to real life leaves no room for fiction. even you can’t disregard the importance of imagination.
West, a college dropout, said being a non-reader was helpful when he wrote his book because it gave him "a childlike purity."
should I read “childlike purity” as “infantile intellect”? hmm…
West dedicates the book to his late mother.
"My mom taught me to believe in my flyness and conquer my shyness," he said, defining "flyness" as confidence. "She raised me to be the voice to allow people to think for themselves, to find their own way."
know what makes your closing statement appealing? rhyme and assonance – literary devices. you are a walking contradiction, sir. now if you will excuse me, I have to find my own way to the library.