Saturday, December 31, 2005
I'm no closer to winning the lottery (it would help if I actually bought a ticket), haven't found the mother of my children (here again, it would help if I didn't rely on MySpace or It'sJustCoffee, or those other dating and hookup sites, but got off by butt and mingled with real life women in public places).
2006 will be the first year I'll have New Year's Resolutions: trim the midsection, because I hate shopping for clothes, and I can't afford what I want (right now).
The plan: Shop for ingredients to make a heaping pot of southern-style gumbo and hot spiced apple cider, compliments of Jim Beam or Jack Daniels. This year, I'll celebrate with Bryce, her sister, and roommate in Washington Heights. Bryce makes it sound in her blog entry as if I'll hold a shotgun to her head while would-be Martha Stewarts and Ty Penningtons makeover her smallish apartment and set up pastries, pastas, and gurgling punch bowls.
My recollection of the conversation leading up to New Year's Night uptown as we walked to the Columbus Circle Subway Station from a screenwriting group meeting.
"Hey Bryce, has the apartment search coming?"
"We found an apt uptown, not in Brooklyn."
"Do you like it?"
Crossing the street before a yellow cab or New Jersey driver plowed into us, delaying any immediate chance of either of us completing a screenplay and getting it read by unemployed actors or sold to the highest bidder.
"Yes, I do, actually. I received the strangest phone call. My landlord called to ask if everything was okay with the apartment."
(omitting Bryce's giddy, girly statements while she held up a pretend phone to her ear)
Somewhere between the platform and our separating (not quite movie hero and heroine, or even co-villains) . . . I asked about a housewarming party and her New Year's Eve plans.
I'm so not a movie heavy. I didn't twist her arm. Honest engine. I thought it would be cool to share hosting and cooking duties.
Back on track. We're having a shindig uptown in the colorful neighborhood of Washington Heights, where I expect there'll be revelers young and old in the streets and hanging out on their stoops. At some point when she kicks us out of the apartment, I'll make my way downtown to download the digital photos from the party. A day or two into the New Year, I'll set about exercising, getting back into African dancing/rollerblading shape, and finishing two screenplays and a novel within the first three months of 2006. Once that's done, I'll start sending out query letters, and continue building a short story collection.
I've never been much of a drinker, so I don't have to resolve not to drink like a sailor or nowadays, a surburban soccer mom.
Like Bryce, I too, like the planning, prepping, and cooking for parties. It takes my mind off which friends and colleagues will actually show up. Years ago, I was a restaurant host, so I know how to work a room and make almost everyone feel comfortable.
Must not forget to get out of the apartment in 2006 and find potential candidates to bear my younguns before I'm too old and ornery to raise children.
Friday, December 30, 2005
Why couldn't she, why can't she?
Why can't I, will I ever learn to trust?
Promise though they may, promise they do.
But they never change, they're always the same.
Idly standing by in the meat-packing district,
Johns go, Harrys go, Toms, Dicks, Franks go by.
In their gleaming tombs on wheels, they slow to a steady cruising speed, promising fancy and grandeur with eloquent words rolling off their slivering, slippery tongues. Do I get in?
Or will you just take me for a ride?
To allow one, two, three people to cross that barrier that not many people have been allowed to walk near.
But yeah, you were lucky, you're lucky. Who was playing the game here, was I playing the game, was I just being greedy?
Were you being gluttonous? Were you a little lost?
In your showroom new car, you're clearly out of your 'hood.
Am I the lost one?
Why did you come to me, are there problems back at home?
Your problems are too much for even for me!
Yet, you come whenever it's convenient for you.
You grope, feel, and touch . . . Pathetic little simpering.
You initiated it all, I did not ask for the attention.
But of course, who doesn't love attention? Not that I'm starved for the attention.
Standing on my corner in my battle fatigue, you approached me.
I didn't approach you! What were you running away from, who were you running away from? Are you running away from yourself, are you hiding from yourself?
Does your wife know that you're quite fond of boys?
What would she think of that, just a momentary lapse into Haedes? Does she know that you're a chocolate lover?
As I sit in my modest studio that not only you, but also others have paid for hoping one day to retire in a penthouse.
Not having to walk the beat, not having to sell myself because you're in heat. Suicidal tendencies of a male prostitute.
Each time you leave, I feel cheapened, not even worth the gum that gets stuck on the bottom of my shoe during rush hour.
Each time you leave, I feel less, each time you leave I feel less than the time before. Each time you leave I feel nothing.
The way you tricked me.
It takes two to tangle, three, four, five there's an uprising.
The battle is within, the battle is always within until it's voiced on the outside.
How dare you, you potential johns, you grotesque johns, how dare you invade my space.
Through no fault of my own I am out here peddling my wares, displaying my seemingly ageless spirit, my seemingly ageless form. Well-preserved, like those creatures of the night that feast on the blood of humans. I couldn't stand to be as immortal as they are thought to be, and maybe are.
Male prostitutes are a dime-a-dozen.
What makes us so, what makes us?
Each time I say to myself, tonight will be the last time, tonight I'll score big. All it would take is a simple, swift, painless blow to the cranium. You, those potential johns who want to savor the flavor of chocolate left on your tongue. You like having your cavern explored.
How do I do it all, why do I do it all?
How did it all begin?
Original hatred of something that I dare not become, dare not be.
Original hatred having me hate myself.
For all the lies I've told myself, for all the lies you told.
It was fun while it lasted. Suicidal tendencies of a male prostitute. Left feeling empty, left holding the bag, left with a lie. Why does it have to be a lie?
Just phone home to California, Alabama, Kentucky, tell the family what I'm doing for a living. I'm making more money in one week than you'll make in six months. But where's it all going? (Laughter.) It's going to my therapist, it's going to my tailor, it's going down the toilet.
When will it all end?
Can I end it, or will it put an end to me?
Turn a cold shoulder, walk away from it all, am I strong enough? Do I just need you, you fucking johns, just as much as you desire, crave and lust after me? What power do I wield, what power do you wield? Is it power, or it just physical? Who else have you slept with? Which of my colleagues have you played the same mind games with?
Woe is me . . .woe is me . . . you, the little lost boy.
Not knowing want you want, I can't begin to give you what you so desperately need, a swift kick to your ass, is what you need. Your brown, black, white, green ass, a sharp kick to the mandible, a roundhouse kick to the groin.
As I lie and lie in my modest apartment, or was it a motel you left me face down in that I reflect upon my life that's gone.
Are there methods to my madness?
Why do I torture myself, why do I give you the time of night?
Come clean, come clean to the world.
Time shall be no more . . .
Friendship is totally out of the question, how can I as a male prostitute befriend any of my clients? Stupid.
There's no special privileges, there's no friends involved.
Do what you have to do, leave the money on the nightstand, don't let the door hit 'ya. Thanks, buddy!
You with your simpering, sobbing eyes like a doe looking nonchalant. Don't you have the chutzpah to look me square in the eyes? It is you who came to me, it is you who steal away in the night to me. Trust me, here today. . . not tomorrow.
You left me and leave me emotionally drained every time each one of you come about. Why can't life be like those country songs mama used to cry to, why does life have to be the way it has to be?
Can't there be a different way of doing things, why does history have to repeat itself? Each time I lie next to you, I hate myself, but yet there are times I yearn for you.
As with a battered wife, she can't leave her abusive husband because there's comfort in what's familiar.
One day look for that light that may be shining brightly, nothing's guaranteed.
To walk away and have a clean slate, easier said than done.
I will get what I want, I wanted you to stop that night.
How can I, an old card, be taken as an amateur?
I knew the risks, I knew that there were no rules, play it by ear, play it again Sam.
What goes around, comes around!
How could I have known, of course, it was after the fact that you had been with my friend that works on Twelfth Street and lives in the building adjacent to me?
Neither of us deserved to be on the street.
All the same, with your slobbering, snobby upbringing, your class and savoir-faire, you to a point had your way.
You mistakenly left no way for me to get out.
Suicidal tendencies of a male prostitute . . .
The lame excuses you offer to escape into the night.
Run, run while you can, run before the wind catches you.
You little pervert, you.
Wanting your cake and eating it too.
Didn't your mother tell you better, you have a choice, bake, decorate and display, or just eat the damn thing.
When you do all, the calories add up.
Run, run fast as the night, run, run fast as you can into her outstretched arms, but I know your favorite charms.
I don't enjoy what I have to do, but do it all the same.
Is there a way out of this madness, or am I forever spiraling downwards into the bowels of hell.
Of all the fools that came by, emotionless, you seemed different somehow. I felt nothing until it was over.
I can't feel the pain anymore, if there is pain.
Never mix, never worry.
Soon it will all be over . . .
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
The diminutive brown birds chirping in their native island dialect.
Nervous laughter and knowing eyes populate the subway cars.
Everyone’s suspect. No one’s a suspect in the concrete jungle.
On certain days, the commute seems to last minutes, and on others, hours.
The morning commute can bring out the best and worst in a person in this overcrowded city.
Up above the subway are power brokers bustling about in their condos.
How different, if at all, is the evening commute from the morning commute?
Are people less agitated faced with roommates, spouses, and what to cook for dinner?
Thoughts of overzealous co-workers, managers, and professors fill the minds of hundreds of commuters sitting or holding onto the poles in the subway cars.
The morning commute is a symphony of languages, cries, and sights.
The morning commute is yet another opportunity to decide whether to continue onto school or work, or make a u-turn back home.
Monday, December 26, 2005
This excursion was guided by God's candle that lit the path into the beyond.
The journey was in celebration of a time gone by, a capsule of life that cannot happen a second chance.
The now one-man army came upon this place by way of the serpent that twists and coils underground, making occasional appearances atop soil.
Out onto the outermost reaches of the now infamous chamber 'o horror, the fearless lad strode watching for any sign of displaced trouble.
Nothing was observed to be out of kilter, not even the fine-tailored leeches in their immaculate tombs on wheels peddling their illegal wares.
Graffiti 'round, temptation and damnation bound.
All quiet on the warfront. Could it be the demons are solely nocturnal beings? Nah, behind the steel gates and manicured walls, deals are in the making.
At play, were children perhaps unaware of their environment. Is there bliss in ignorance?
Just turn the other cheek, and look to a better day.
The gatekeeper has been summoned to lower the drawbridge.
Ascending the descending stairs, a lady in faux leopard sings praises, and uplifts her God.
You best be on good behavior.
Mind your manners if you know what's behind door two.What's this? Or rather, who is the new gatekeeper? What has happened to the original?
I see, he has gone to retrieve firewater to help celebrate.
After much time, and a bit of despair the gatekeeper returned with liquid pleasure. In the interim imagination proved fatal. What could have befallen him to cause such a delay?
A suggestion on the floor . . . What would be given the partygoers to calm their appetites?
The bodega provided such treats and illusions.
Do you know something I don't?
Well, then, it isn't polite to gawk.
Preparation, execution, diversion, the festivities were underway.
Guests arrived, unchastened and without a fathom of how to act.
The gathering grew tedious for some; off into the tears from Heaven, a yellow chariot carried an all-male sextet a bailar.
Reverberating and sinister beats lured them onto the dance floor.
¡Baile! Uno, dos, tres, cuatro . . . etc. Build your confidence while she dances with you.
Spotlights. Strobe. Vogue. Surveillance.
¿Volver a casa? Sí a dormir.
The festivities to our chagrin continued. The sextet had earlier disintegrated into a duo.
Boisterous noises, moans and groans of carnal desire.
Yo tengo doler de cabeza. ¿Tiene aspirina? Gracias.
A failed attempt to depart the chaos was evidence enough of a guardian angel.
The chamber now became a sanctuary for the remaining inhabitants in slumber.
¡Descansar Hijos . . . Vaya con Dios.
In sleep, all was well, a newly forged triumvirate peaceful and respectful of individual territories.
Para desayuno, carne de cerdo, huevos fritos, y batidos.
Descending the ascending stairs, four amigos, four hermanos.
Each had given and received his fair share.
Now to embark upon an even more treacherous adventure.
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Three in honor to celebrate the bittersweet taste of success and departure.
All about lurked the rejects of life, or at best civilization. They gasped and groaned for the fairest of us all, she had within her their most secret of desires and most vile perversions.
Inseparable we were until we came upon our destination; a place notwithstanding its hideous ambiance was not all too appealing.
We had reached a point of seemingly no return.
Our haven or heaven depending on faith was a phone call away.
The burden of truth, which of us would bear it?
Alas, the gatekeeper allowed entry into the maze of Technicolor eyes, ears, and fears.
Climbing the stretching stairwell, uncertain what or who would lie beyond the threshold, we three were united in our cause.
The innermost sanctum held no allure, but for the moment we had escaped the hounds of hell that run rampant in the night.
Spirits and snacks abound, we entered the post Art Deco chamber 'o horror.
Our fair maiden was at first the only one her species, the beasts were not pleased.
They had specifically requested naïve sacrifices for their tawdry pleasures.
The aroma of the chamber took on an inebriating, hallucinogenic pressure. Merriment and joyful noise continued to underscore this fated journey Gulliver would have bypassed.
One of the beasts lost his secret charm, composed of one of Mother Earth's precious alloys.
With this charm he was lulled into a false sense of security and power.
This charm was the by-product of the sale of a thousand souls.
The chamber vibrated with disgust and outrage; someone had best step forward before this demonic being followed through with explosives and explicatives.
The mood went from jovial to shifty eyes, sweaty palms, and allegations of misconduct.
Had the demon from beyond been careless, or had the culprit fled with the forbidden charm?
The gatekeeper released the hounds of hell and a search ensued.
All was for naught.
The faceless faces on parade, who was guilty?
Knowledge is supposed to be the key to success.
Each of the three sought refuge in delusional mind tactics, perhaps to ensure their own safety.
The gatekeeper permitted the three to leave, and a chariot guided by Heavenly Force made its way out of the bowels of hell to bring the trio safely to the surface of the city.
Friday, December 23, 2005
For when you're that close to temptation, logical thinking is abandoned.
The Tease comes in many forms and colors, careful.
The Tease can be either male or female, or a combination to achieve the desired results.
Eyes that trace the body and penetrate the soul.
Conscious decisions are made to lure you the lair.
Subconscious gestures and actions seal your fate.
Sometimes regretful, seldom scornful of what may happen.
The Tease is an addiction, watch where you may tread.
Teasing is automatic, they know now what they do.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
The Maytag humming, agitating nosily, makes Lady Clancy quite edgy and unaffectionate.
The hopeful primas trilling and shrilling in and out of key well into the late hours of the night.
What must they do to keep up the constant mayhem?
Now, there appears to be yet another diva on this very floor.
A bit pretentious though, the door ajar to be heard.
Why do they attach bricks to their feet when they walk?
Don't despair, 'tis only cowboy's footwear.
The masterpieces carefully etched on the drafting board valued at millions in the open market.
Amongst the clutter and chill, a mega-corporation waiting to be born. Not unlike the very couture designer, or a pack of Marlboro, each waiting to shine.
The observer has to discern if love exists in this seemingly bland union.
Painting takes all one's time, not leaving the energy to fulfill the most docile of fantasies.
As many have discovered before, "Art isn't easy." Made more so difficult if one has the talent or can create the illusion thereof, of sustaining a career downtown.
"Yes, I do agree some poltics play an inmportant part in forming a career."
Tsk, tsk! You shouldn't leave her alone and unattended. She can be easily satisfied with someone else despite the years you two have been together.
Pay attention, not every party should be attended.
Idle thoughts and hands could be detrimental to your decaying fortress.
Luckily for you, she isn't a lady who lunches, she has more than enough to do.
Be warned, you could lose your treasure.
"No, silly! Not those obsure oil painting, but your mate."
Pass on the reception in SoHo, spend quality time at a bed-n-breakfast in Vermont this weekend.
It's only as potent as you believe it to be.
This anonymous city so many flee to escaping and hiding from the demons that haunt them.
Stand your ground, feet firm and challenge them.
They exist with your permission only.
Stop baring your soul and innermost fears for $150/hour. "Yes, at one time it was trendy. You're not sleeping around, are you?"
A dying breed?
Not on your life. Not as long as the bus continues to pull into Port Authority. There will be thousands of cannibals making tracks into the concrete jungle.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Person on line, thank you.
Applicant with proper registration.
Next . . .
"Right this way, no problem at all."Year? Month? Week?
"Why didn't you say so?"Next . . .
Second corridor, stairwell to the right.
"No, really, it's not necessary."
"If you insist?"
Next . . .
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
The timbre of a southern gentleman's voice.
Past images of a father long ago.
The labyrinth of pain.
Do you know who are you?
Treading through the revolving door of emotions.
The countless knowing on parade.
In and out of the night they have come.
Not knowing they were being auditioned for an ideal role.
Distant images of a father long ago.
Not knowing who he was, you can't know what to be.
Feel the emotions running rampant?
Show him how he has impacted your life.
Tell her she only shares the blame.
Stranger things have happened.
You could just wake from the nightmare.
It would be so easy to forget yourself in his arms.
At what cost?
To lose yourself completely, is that your goal?
Others have tried to undertake the impossible.
What makes you think you're different?
Should you just give in to the strengths of his charms?
He knows your dirty little secret.
What will come of it? Will he abide by your rules?
Too early for conjecture.
What does your heart and soul say to the matter?
Lose yourself completely in his arms.
It will work . . . I think.
Running away from yourself, running into his embrace.
What will he think of you?
In time all feelings will be revealed.
Ready for the adventure?
Do yourself a favor -- live a little.
Monday, December 19, 2005
The Black Widow enters the stage, dressed in a black-n-white cat suit, and takes her place in the center.
She commands attention behind the closed velvet curtains – her ebony features worth the price of admission.
Some in the audience have seen her in a variation of the dance she will perform tonight.
She is a natural dancer, like her mother, before she realized who she was.
The conductor taps his baton as the orchestra readies the instruments.
The house lights fade and the curtain glides open revealing the Black Widow seated, knees at a ninety-degree angle, arms outstretched above her head.
The music starts, yet she does not move. She doesn’t move or make any indication that she’s aware of the live music or audience.
The orchestra continues under the direction of the conductor, yet she sits immobile in her chair.
The stage manager flicks a flashlight on and off to try to stir her.
She lowers her arms, reaches down and picks up the rose, and sits upright.
An investor in the front row shifts uncomfortably in his seat next to his wife.
The Black Widow stands, pushes the chair backward with an extended leg, and exits stage right.
The conductor continues to lead the orchestra, unsure of what to do.
The stage manager can’t convince the Black Widow to return to the stage.
The curtains close.
End of her career.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
It starts with a fire in the stomach, and keeps many aspiring artists awake at night long before they recognize the drive toward performance excellence. This call to arms knows no geographic boundaries and speaks many languages. For every artist who seeks a career as a performance artist, there are no guarantees of success, which does not deter thousands of students who apply to and audition for The Juilliard School each year.
This venerable institution attracts students who come to pursue their dreams as performance artists, and a world-renowned staff of working professionals who provide an enviable education. The admit rate for the past year of undergraduates was 7.6%, the year before it was 6.8%. This makes Juilliard more selective than Har
The Juilliard experience isn’t right for everyone. Students must discover who they are inside and outside of the rehearsal studios and recital halls. Apart from the school’s reputation, it is wise that young artists chart their own path, and prepare themselves for the realities of the outside world. One of the hardships students might face upon graduation is a professional lull after an intense four or six year program, for which some aren’t prepared after emerging from The Juilliard Bubble. In today’s society, the supply is larger than the demand for musicians, and the Office of Career Development does its best to prepare the students along the way and after graduation with professional seminars and workshops.
The emerging artists introduced here have similar traits and belief systems. They are dedicated to their instrument, practice and performance schedules, and realize that Juilliard is a resource. At the end of the audition or competition, the best player gets the job or award, not necessarily the person from Juilliard.
Prior to the undergraduate and master’s programs, students as young as seven years old begin their formal music education in the Music Ad
Students roll out of bed everyday and practice their instrument, not worrying about the revolving door of others coming through. Certain students feel a career in music is a predestined path; it would go against their nature to do anything else. There are no student molds at Juilliard. Each pupil is an individual, in attendance for technical, emotional, and professional discovery and growth. Unlike traditional academic programs, students are able to speak through their instruments, channeling nerves, insecurities, and fears into their music.
Natalie Joachim began playing flute at the age of nine. Natalie credits the school district requirement in her
Ms. Joachim doesn’t fit a role or in a category, unusual for pre-packaged artists in many genres inside the hallowed halls of Juilliard and in the professional world. “I’m more than a Juilliard student, I’m an artist living in
Students are protected at school, within the bubble, but some don’t plan beyond graduation. It takes more than a formidable education to fulfill goals as a musician. There’s no sense of entitlement among the students, yet more of an understated expectation that Juilliard on a résumé will open or knock down doors at auditions and in competitions. There are no scientific predictors for future success. Artists who step outside the box, and challenge the status quo are more likely to etch a career as a musician.
Brandon Lee is a trumpet player in the Jazz Studies program who remembers being musical since he was two or three, singing in his father’s church. His parents laid an early foundation for his burgeoning musical career back in
Students aren’t able to see family and friends as often as they’d like due to the ten or more daily hours of rehearsals, performances, recordings, and professional gigs. Jumaane echoes that artists must have an unrelenting desire to stand above the rest. “There are five hundred people in a five block radius that can do the same thing I can. What separates them from me is my training.”
Audrey Flores plays French horn in what she describes as the
There are more female brass players at Juilliard than in the professional world, a fact she bears in mind as she nears graduation. The
Ms. Flores is a composed and confident person, who wants to provide music for the less fortunate around the world. The
Christopher Guzman is a second-year pianist in the Master’s Program, who credits his mother with his auditioning for Juilliard. “Juilliard is a great and competitive place to be. You love and hate it at the same time.” His passion for music makes it worthwhile. “There’s a lot of backstabbing in the music world, loyalty doesn’t exist.” He feels important that all aspiring musicians prepare themselves for not being a superstar, and the likelihood of not being hired. There’s an underlying sentiment of an educational imbalance in the conser
The musicians profiled are aware that the odds are stacked against their future success, yet they are prepared for the long haul ahead. Juilliard can be a key to eventual success, but isn’t the key. It’s important to have a singular commitment to an instrument and the craft. Many seek careers as musicians, but what gives them an edge are personal and professional dedication and focus. Musicians who realize and are not upset by the possibility of there being someone better than they are on any given day, are those who have prepared for different scenarios. Today’s student peers are tomorrow’s professional competitors.
Artists who pursue a career as a musician must weigh their decision against perhaps more stable careers in arts administration, teaching, or leaving the field once the reality of the imbalance sets in. It’s a nontraditional career path, definitely not lucrative, and only a handful of musicians land steady jobs. The goal of the administrators and faculty at The Juilliard School is that the available individual and group training, extensive library, and access to artists in other mediums, will arm their students for years to come.
* This article originally appeared in the Music Mayhem Issue of unChín Magazine.
Saturday, December 17, 2005
When I relocated to the East Coast years ago, I was running away from everyone and everything I knew at that point in my life. I thought life wouldn’t be as painful or severe in another city. I had the misguided notion that I’d find fame and fortune as an actor on Broadway or one of my deceased aunt’s favorite soap operas. I didn’t give much thought to how I’d achieve this destined success of agents, directors, producers, publicity and interview requests. I thought I’d figure it out if I decided to stay, if not every violent stereotype about
I played it safe for too many years and didn’t become a media darling before thirty. Safe isn’t always good. Safe can pay the bills and prevent hunger, but safe seldom realizes dreams.
Home was “home”, no glamour or ceremony, just a place I returned to after church or school prior to living on campus. Until seven or eight years of age, home was my grandmother’s house which smelled of coffee brewing in the early morning, skillet cornbread, collard greens, baby formula and baby powder. I thought home would never change, but it did. I grew older and started asking tough questions, challenging the status quo in my single-parent home. I didn’t think about a sense of place or home as a child surrounded by screaming, scheming cousins and manipulative adults, or later when I had my first infatuation with a girl.
Home morphed into parallel worlds – the reality that I couldn’t escape and join the circus, away from a family in constant turmoil, and an academic/extracurricular one of an overachiever showman seeking emotional support and comfort from overworked teachers and administrators.
I was happier away from my mother’s home. I was able to be someone whose opinion mattered. My mother reminded my younger brothers and me that she held the purse strings, that she could make our lives miserable, and that she held our lives in her hands. I left
Each succeeding year the gravitational pull of my birthplace decreases. I have tried to remain close to home in my heart and through phone calls, but some memories cut like a knife. I retract my hand to save my arm. I’m far from home, yet when I call my grandmother and listen to the cadence of her voice and words of wisdom and inspiration, I’m transported back. I miss sitting next to her on the living room sofa as she sits with the phone nestled in her lap. When she dozes off, the ringing startles her awake, interrupting private conversations with deceased relatives.
I’m far from the unknown family history that granny alone might hold the key. I think back to what I can imagine as her past in the early 1920’s as a young child. I wonder what memories she’s locked away or forgotten, though she’d say she’s in full command of her mental faculties. Anywhere in the world I’ve traveled or lived, I always remember my petite grandmother, a one-time mother of twelve, now grandmother and great-grandmother to at least thirty. I’ve not returned home in a few years, there are new cousins I’ve not met. No matter how far from home I live or travel, I remember my grandmother gave me a ride in a wheelbarrow early one school morning when I was in kindergarten from a house my mother rented up the street to her house with my school clothes and lunchbox in tow, under the cover of dark.
Granny was strength and sacrifice to me before I realized and appreciated that all heroes weren’t men in costumes. I keep telling myself it doesn’t matter that she can no longer do the same activities she was once capable. Far from home, I miss the type of genuine woman my grandmother has been most of my life.
I don’t know if it’s wise to continue suppressing the urge to visit, concerned that I’m not supposed to be the peacemaker or anthropologist. Now that I’m older, I’d like to think the past can remain in boxes, trunks, and bags stuffed in a basement or attic, and not interfere with the present or future.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
My mother sent a scrap of paper with a few words in her scrawl that I think were painful for her to write near the one-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. She showed her vulnerable side, not often displayed, that she needed to reach out and tell me that the emotional gulf between us couldn’t keep her from expressing what I knew of her love for her eldest son.
Letters from home informed of births, deaths, weddings, and miscarriages. I held my tongue and waited until some were divorced. Letters from home brought a smile to my face. I feel as if I were away at college overseas or in a remote land working in the Peace Corps, and these letters, birthday cards, and postcards were my only link to people and a place I once knew. The correspondence afterward showed how people perceived me. Most supported or encouraged my decision to relocate, but I suspect there were a few who hoped that I’d fall on my face and return, brokenhearted, with my head between my legs. I remember feeling reckless when I decided to move to the East Coast, another adventure for the trained actor – a role of a lifetime – I tried to take
The letters and birthday cards diminished with each succeeding year. I held onto ninety percent of the correspondence from family and high school and college friends. The remainder might have been lost in transit when I moved from
When I responded or called to check-in, I tried to hold onto the person they knew: exuberant, social butterfly. There were times I wanted to cry, and had it not been for the computer and printer, a few letters might have been tear-stained.
Part of me wanted to burn the old correspondence in a ceremonial pyre in the bathtub – couldn’t do it in a BBQ pit in
One person who I grew to love as a friend, and perhaps had a secret desire for her to mother my children was J.B. The last time I saw her, she still had blonde Bernadette Peters-type curls, only wilder. I was a different man back then. I wasn’t as worldly and sophisticated as the men she attracted and dated. She dated men with two or three cars and at least one well-appointed home.
I miss her
In some of the correspondence, I detected an end before the author, something in their nervous penmanship or disjointed, obligated sentiment in their words. While I stood in front of the opened mailbox, eyes trying to digest each word and punctuation mark for fear of missing important news. Those were the worst type of letters or postcards to receive after a bad audition or long day at work. When I realized the communication was strained or absentminded, it made the climb upstairs laborious. I didn’t expect Pulitzer Prize worthy correspondence, just thoughtful and worthy of the envelope and stamp the author used to transport the missive.
These letters became addictive, the good ones, at least. All the more reason I felt dejected when they stopped. I remembered the scene in the movie, The Color Purple, when Shug Avery showed Celie where Mister hid letters from her sister in
Postcards from the edge of sanity, mine and others, were brief and detailed information fit for public viewing by the postal carrier – sometimes bragging about something I’d just as soon not know.
Letters and e-mails from
Letters from home over time pushed me farther away from the people writing and situations and places described within. I read some letters multiple times, with a different reaction each time. In addition to the postmarks, the correspondence began to age. I’ve yet to determine if they improved over time like a Chilean cabernet. We changed. We grew into different people, which wasn’t good for some involved. Some people chose negative feelings and to live in the past. I chose to polish the glass figurines in my menagerie, replace them in the curio cabinet for the last time, lock it and put away the key.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
I have worked an assortment of jobs since I was sixteen years old. My first job was in southern restaurant chain as a busser/stocker. It wasn’t a particularly difficult job, only tedious; marrying bottles of ketchup, cleaning up after people who must have had holes in their mouths, and mopping the bathroom floor.
Like most other teens, I wanted to work to buy stuff. My first big ticket item was a pair of designer jeans, a purchase someone complained about to no end. Why did I need a pair of sixty-dollar jeans? What was wrong with less expensive clothes? Why are you trying to show off?
I moved up in the world with a job at a summer amusement park working in
I don’t remember when I decided that menial labor wasn’t for me, or that I didn’t like working for anyone else, or if I just wanted a more appealing job.
My next foray as a young working stiff was a job at McDonald’s, which didn’t last long. Learning that cash register wasn’t as easy as you might think with all those color coded buttons, and daily or weekly specials. I have faint memories of working the entire store, bussing tables, lugging around that yellow mop bucket and Caution - Piso Mojado sign. The wet mop weighed more than I did at the time.
After working at McDonald’s and a few other places that escape me, I enrolled in modeling classes out in a ritzy neighborhood on other side of town. I caught hell for that. I was determined to do something, anything besides handling frozen French fries and a lightweight headset. I remember one of the instructors, Aldo, a tall, heavily-accented Italian. Who’d have thought there were genuine eye-talians in
Fast forward. I landed the commercials and arrive on the set of a soon to open McDonald’s out in the boondocks of
Every job since then, I’ve used tools from my acting training. I played the part of an aggressive credit collector for a major retailer in college, after having been a credit authorizer. I did a lateral transfer from
Many years later, I’ve worked as a roller-skating restaurant host, food runner, software trainer/helpdesk agent, fragrance model, and booking appointments for a podiatrists in an outdoor booth in the dead of winter. The complete list, while not necessarily embarrassing, is too long to catalogue.
I’ve not been happier since hanging out my shingle as a Freelance Writer/Editor/Creative Writing Teacher. Health benefits aren’t included, so I make a concerted effort to keep myself mentally and spiritually happy. First the mind goes, then the body!
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
What do humans need in life in order to survive? Do we need to be happy? Do we need to be fulfilled? Do we need to be needed?
I am the oldest of three brothers born to a strong-willed southern mother who I often times clashed with because of my independence. She taught me how to take care of myself and my younger brothers. She taught me how to cook and clean. She taught me not to be needy.
At different stages in my life, I have felt happiness. Today is not one of those days. I feel as if the wind has gone out of my sail.
I have lived in the same apartment for more than ten years. I had no long term plan. I had a need to keep my head above water, a roof over my head, and not crawl back to
When I feel shades of my mother coming through, I freeze. I have seen her in some of my reactions with family, friends, and co-workers. I have heard her voice and word choices pouring forth from my mouth as I disciplined my cats. Was I becoming my mother after all? Who is my mother?
Whereas I have felt my mother needed to be needed in order for her to survive and function, I have become an enabler, a facilitator, a protective rooster in the country henhouse. How different are we, my mother and I? Are our similarities more so than our differences the source of our past fights?
Every now and then I face myself in the bathroom mirror, doing my best to remove the mask we all wear from time to time. The mask that says to the world, “I am ok. Don’t worry.” Last night or this morning, I didn’t have to remove my mask; it fell to the floor of its own volition. Perhaps it was overdue for maintenance. Whatever the case, I have to reexamine myself today, before the weekend comes. I would rather not be stuck indoors, melancholy.
Today’s exercise is to figure out what I need to work through my habitual and exhausting role as big brother/father/nurturer to people who cross my path with a sob story. A friend recently confronted me: “Oh, you like that. You like that someone needs you. You live for that.”
One thing is for sure, I have to turn off the beacon in the lighthouse, and find a safe harbor for myself. I admit that I need to be taken care of as much as I have taken care of classmates, past roommates, and co-workers. I need someone to put me first. Is that too much to ask?
Monday, December 12, 2005
Artists in urban cities, unless they’re born with a silver spoon and a nanny, or fortunate (or unfortunate) to have a patron to their art, must live with roommates.
My first roommate was a human lab rat who subjected himself to different physical and emotional tests in
I don’t remember how long after that he continued along his journey or if he disappeared in a medical basement somewhere in
Next on the list was a female kleptomaniac who made no qualms about taking designer lipsticks, skin or hair care products. She was instrumental, so she says, in our getting my current apartment. She wasn’t unattractive; yet she was a great bullshit artist. I didn’t admire her for cunning or thievery, but her bra
We remained in the one-bedroom apartment in NJ for a few months, before the floor fell out from under our feet. My first cat was a gypsy, too. The sequence might be off these many years later, but I think I took her back to the “cat lady” in
I remember living temporarily with this prissy Nubian girl and a bossy Asian chick the bold klepto met and befriended (kudos to her for being a smooth talker). I knew on some level being with her, I’d be fine. She was a survivor, and too
Fast forward. We find an apartment listed in The Village Voice. We met with the landlord in the
We move into the apartment and it went downhill. She became complacent, irritable, and unsure of her sexuality. She went through of a series of jobs; one of the most colorful was at a strip club in
Students, Con Artists & Inconsolables. The “condition” I had (some symptoms persist) for rescuing birds with broken wings or scoundrels playing possum got me into more trouble with succeeding roommates.
I lived with a peeping tom who always had to pee the MINUTE I stepped into the shower. He could be at school, and instinctively know I was disrobing en route to the shower. (It probably didn’t help matters that I had a clear shower curtain back then.) He was a nice guy, but I asked him to move out in favor of a co-worker/club kid. HUGE MISTAKE. He had NEVER lived on his own, and he and his filthy, trifling girlfriend regarded the apartment as their own den of iniquity. I had to have a friend force him and his cohorts out of the apartment. I didn’t actually see the gun my friend allegedly had in his leather jacket . . .
Sometime after that fiasco, I wasn’t content to live alone. I had to have a roommate. There were two Spanish con artists within a year and a half of each other. The memory of the long distance calls left unpaid and his failed seduction sting like a bottle of unopened ammonia left in a hot southern cellar. The second one was my first introduction to “metrosexual” years before it became a part of the lexicon. With those two, I often thought I’d wronged someone in a previous life, and they were here to avenge their loved ones.
Mr. Metrosexual used his deep baritone voice and Spanish good looks to beguile women and men. At the time, I thought of him as the male equi
In packing a life into suitcase, the hope is good memories will go along for the ride. If it were as easy as flipping through a family photo album or a school yearbook that we’d be able to hear those voices, and reach out to touch those faces, no one would be homesick.
When reality sets in and the people in the photos haven’t materialized in the living space, disappointment soon follows. We hear the cadence of grandmother’s honey-tinged voice and the smell of three-alarm chili despite the lack of evidence.
Cost of living is a deciding factor in seeking out a roommate or roommates, but it isn’t everything. I’ve had my share of bad roommates, and I’ve also had compatible, trustworthy, and respectful ones.
The klepto said to me one evening before she moved out, “You need a roommate with lots of money, and who’s never home.” That I remember this many years later, is only to point out she was dead wrong. My more successful roommates were compatible because we were different yet complementary. The peeping tom cared for my cats, cleaned common areas of the apartment without asking, and was a genuine guy besides the aforementioned predilection.
The second successful roommate happened into my life through a cultural group. We got along better before we lived together. You never know a person until sharing a roof. Our problem was that I fell into a big brother role which he didn’t like. My younger brothers are in
Rounding out the third slot as my most successful roommate (does this sound like a reality TV show or what?) was a would-be writer who locked into my caretaker/big brother role. Whereas the roomie prior to him rejected that part of me, he embraced; no he needed someone to watch over him. Our living environment at times felt like father and son. He’d do something and I’d reprimand him. I’d feel like a bad parent, and apologize. At the end of the day, I enjoyed living with him, despite the disagreements and misunderstandings.
Again, I am my mother’s son. I learned how to be a parent and caretaker, and it worked in
Sunday, December 11, 2005
The sound of my name from your lips fills me with anticipation and hope.
Is it a matter of cultural divides or social customs that keeps us apart?
I want you out of my mind as a potential soulmate so that I can concentrate on our being platonic friends.
You need someone like me to take care of you, yet I don’t know if I’m the one for the job.
Traveling along opposite roads, we might one day collide.
It is this collision that concerns me – you can certainly topple the careful structure I’ve built all these years.
Are you aware of the way you can dance in my mind at a moment’s notice?
Are you as tormented by a potential union as I am?
It’s the simple things you do that stirs my imagination.
I’m flattered that you call unexpectedly to say hello.
I don’t know if we’ll ever confide in each other. I don’t if we should.
Perhaps I’m not as tormented but afraid of extending myself to you.
On some level I enjoy not knowing how you really feel.
If you were to show me, we might be inclined to take the next step.
I don’t think either of us is prepared for that happening.
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Nina Simone’s voice floated through the opened door when I first met Jermaine Browne. He asked that take off my shoes, leading me to believe I was entering a sanctuary. It turned out it was a practical request; he didn’t want snow and slush trailed over the polished wooden floors in his serene home in
Who is Jermaine Browne? Born in
The British Guyana native’s first obstacles were the weather, a new education system, and learning about the various ethnicities in
The choreographer would have me believe he was unpopular and a loner as a child. Extracurricular sports and leadership clubs lead the way for him to come out of his shell— he realized he had something to offer. Cultural exchange programs at school helped bridge the gap in his new country. Early dance instructors helped him build self-esteem and pulled him further along on his journey to becoming the formidable person he is today. Among his special memories are being on the beach in Guyana, returning home to a hammock while his grandmother baked in a brick oven, dancing on stage in France in front of twenty thousand people, and falling in love for the first time.
The man who physically commands attention on or off stage is focused, dedicated and spiritual. He unwinds with visits to the spa, going to the gym, talking walks in the park, and learning to sketch and paint surrealist works. In his opinion, trust equals honesty, whereas loyalty doesn’t equate trustworthiness. “Some people might have their own agendas. I’d rather someone be upfront with me than sneak around behind my back.”
Sexy and provocative, Jermaine’s choreography examines various topics ranging from lynching, domestic abuse, and lesbian love and loss. “I want to introduce the world to a new kind of choreography not seen on stage or film before.” His detractors criticize for his triple approach to dance which is a mixture of Jazz, Funk, and Hip Hop. “Everyone has their own views, opinions, and ways to express themselves creatively. I tend to ignore people who want to take away from my energy.” A desire to be a few steps ahead of the competition drives him and makes it all worthwhile.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without my mother’s love and support. She has always believed in me, and I’m grateful to her.” The lithe dancer/choreographer is an inspiration to his students and fellow performers. His advice to young dancers: involve your parents; have them in your corner, which creates a supportive environment as you pursue your dreams.