Sunday, June 03, 2007

Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Life is oftentimes a series of tests that can be hard to overcome-- nightmares, emotional scars, and hiding out in your apartment or at your best friend's are left in the wake of said tests, trials, and hand-wringing troubles.

I've always taken refuge in my grandmother's strength, will to live, and spirituals as a way to heal what might ails. Nothing could go wrong when Granny was on the scene. Granny was there to impede our parents from spanking us when she thought we deserved a second or third chance. Staying overnight at her house was mandatory on the avoid a sneak attack in the middle of the night or the next day.

Over the years granny's strength has waned, her eyesight not what it used to be, and there now great-grandchildren scattered throughout Houston and surrounding subdivisions. Her will to live remains, even if her body contradicts her. I'd love to live as long as she has and have a similar will to persevere at ninety and beyond.

People have come and gone in my life, and I try to be grateful for having met them and shared experiences in all forms good, bad, and those I try hard to forget, but reside at the edge of my sanity.

I travel back in my mind to pleasurable memories when the bogeyman, devil, or the rude neighbor downstairs bangs out the same simple rhythm that I played in kindergarten on my wooden chopsticks. I remember Granny pushing me down the street in the wheelbarrow before sunrise in my footed pajamas, her walking along with one of my aunts to every daytime performance at my junior high, or her giving my first drink of coffee, cooled, on a porcelain saucer when I was a child.

Music has a similar soothing and escapist effect on me, be it Billie Holiday's blues, Marvin Gaye or Aretha Franklin's soul, Jessye Norman singing Wagner, Purcell, or Schubert. Add to that a hot-as-I-can-stand-it bath with Epsom Salt and wintergreen alcohol, Granny's recipe for anything that bothers you, as the CD's shuffle as I fall asleep with a towel as a pillow in my clawfoot tub.

I remember when I first heard Jessye Norman's voice. I was still living with my mother and two younger brothers. I was alone at home, and had turned on the TV while I prepared something to eat -- the local PBS station. Her voice rose from the TV and over the sofa and latched onto me. The closest I'd ever come to classical by that point in my life was being forced to take private piano lessons as a child. I made it as far as third grade in piano before being pardoned by mother. Anyway, where I grew up and in my family, little black boys didn't listen to opera. Piano was different, because it was something my mother had wanted for me, for a foolish reason to impress her boyfriend at the time.

As an adult I don't care what other people think of me as African American male. I've only my faith and coping skills (see above) to get me over the hiccups and through the challenges that are part of life on earth.

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