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Holy Shit!

Have you ever had the experience where you’re just hanging out or doing whatever, minding your own business when out of the blue it hits you that your life for the last 15 years, your surroundings and your routines, may very well be totally upended and real fucking soon? And you sure as hell ain’t ready for the train that’s about to run your ass over?

Yeah. That happened to me yesterday.

My sister from out of town had come to DC, and I ran into her outside our parents’ house. We went inside and talked about inconsequential things for a while, and then our conversation turned to my parents.

A little background: My parents are in their mid-80s and have chosen to “age in place” as it’s called in newspeak. My other sister lives with them, mainly because they want her there, I think. My mother is getting more and more forgetful though she doesn’t have dementia or Alzheimer’s (thank goodness). Otherwise, my parents are in fairly good health for their age.

About two weeks ago, while visiting folks in Georgia, my mother fell and cracked her hip. The Georgia surgeons successfully put her back together and she’s now undergoing physical therapy to get her to the point where she can at least get on a plane. When that happens, she and my father will return to DC. I’ve talked to her a couple of times since her accident, and I’m happy to say she’s her usual, bubbly self… Continue reading

Oddz ‘n’ Endz

Just a few random thoughts that crossed my mind today.

I am officially old. The gym I go to plays music, I guess it’s supposed to help your workout. After finishing my shower, I’m back in the locker room getting ready to leave. Listening (you can’t help but do so), I came to the conclusion that today’s music is absolutely banal. No artistry in the instrumentals. The lyrics are stupid. Then a memory surfaced. My mother and I had a very similar conversation in the car when I was a teenager. The song on the radio was Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You.” Mom said she thought the lyrics were too suggestive to play on the radio. I countered with Bessie Smith’s “Kitchen Man,” which makes the lyrics to “Rock With You” sound as innocent as a nursery rhyme. Then she said, “well, I don’t think a 19-year old should be singing a song like that.” Then another memory surfaced. An ancient television show, it might have been Steve Allen, and anyway, this guy on camera was reading the lyrics to the Beatles’ “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” The look on his face was one of pure disdain. And that was me now. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Today, while driving to the gym, I asked my housemate when he’d next be out of town. He thought for a moment and then said around the July 4th weekend. It gave me a start. It’s almost July. This is… Continue reading

How The Hell Do They Know?

Okay, so lately I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries about ancient megalithic structures and stuff like that. So here’s the scenario: Somebody stumbles over something that looks interesting, digs a little bit and realizes they’re in way over their head. They call the university, and a horde of archaeologists descend upon the place and start digging. They find something truly spectacular. Here’s another scenario: A bunch of spelunkers exploring a cave find a bunch of stones arranged in a circle inside this big chamber. They call the academics, and everybody gets excited.

Then the anthropologists step in and declare the stone structures or arrangements or whatever to be religious sites. How come it’s always gotta be connected to religion? I get that ancient peoples might have thought the gods were pissed when some bad shit went down and they thought they’d better sacrifice something to chill ’em out. I get that they didn’t understand stuff like the connection between ocean currents and weather and the rest of it (though honestly, I’m not so sure they didn’t). But why can’t Gobekli Tepe be a party place where everybody got together for a hootenanny? For no reason other than because it was a helluva good time? And the animals and stuff carved into the stone was simply decoration? Those circled stones found in that cave that anthropologists claim were put in place by Neanderthals? What if they set ’em up for a game of bocce ball?

See, what makes me suspicious… Continue reading

Another Year Gone

If you could live your life over again, what would you change?

Yeah, I know. The epitome of tired old questions. But I ask for a reason. My birthday is in a couple of weeks, and I’m not happy about it. I haven’t been happy about my birthday for almost a decade. It’s not so much that I’m growing older, though I’m not happy about that either. It’s that when I look back on my life all I see is gray. To be sure, there are bright spots but the gray consumes all. When I look the other way, toward my future, I see the same. Bleak.

Me, I would make several huge changes.

When I was 12 (or even earlier), I’d have figured out some way to convince my parents that there was something wrong with me, that I was emotionally unstable. I would have badgered them to take me to a psychiatrist, instead of retreating because I figured they didn’t care about me. Then again, when I was growing up, black folk didn’t go to mental health providers unless they were going to the loony bin. Psychiatry and such was for white people. Black people worked out their problems in private. Don’t air dirty laundry.

I’d have stayed with my music studies. Become a professional musician. Years ago, I caught up with some of my friends from high school. One is a bluesman in South Carolina who performs with his wife. They travel the globe doing their thing.… Continue reading

Treasonous Tittyknacker!

The mother of a dear friend of mine is a narcissist.

She’s told me much about her childhood, what it was like growing up with a mother who, through word and deed, took every opportunity not only let her daughter know she was unloved and unwanted but fervently hated. A refrain my friend heard often was “I wish I’d aborted you!” or “I wish you were dead!” When she was small, about 7 or 8, a major fire broke out in the apartment building where she and her mother lived. She had been asleep and was awakened by a fireman who carried her to safety. After leaving the building, the fireman asked the crowd standing nearby where her parents were. HER MOTHER DID NOT SPEAK UP. Eventually, she was claimed by one of their neighbors. I don’t think it can be more obvious that my friend’s mother wanted her to die in that fire. And, my friend said, her mother had been mightily pissed off that she hadn’t.

There were other incidents. When she was a teen, my friend had gone shopping with some of her friends and bought a trendy outfit for a party she was attending that night. After dropping off her purchase at the apartment she shared with her mother, my friend went back out. She returned home to get ready for the party and found the clothes she’d bought that afternoon had been cut to ribbons. When she asked her mother why she’d done this, her… Continue reading

The Smart Life

What do you think about artificial intelligence? Is it a good thing? A bad thing?

For me, it depends on how far it goes. I can appreciate AI in some circumstances. Like self-learning thermostats for the home, and similar things. Beyond that, I’ve got some problems. Self-driving cars are great but do they record all of your trips? Alexa and products like that– collect information about you. Smart TVs that can do that and more. All of that information about you is stored somewhere. These products will learn to tailor ads and whatnot to your preferences.

To some, this might be a dream come true but it scares the hell out of me. Our privacy has been compromised enough, with products like Facebook, not to mention the web browsers we use. Zuck once said, “there’s no such thing as privacy anymore.” And he’s right. Where does it end? It doesn’t. AI products are getting smarter all the time. What if, say, you’re buying bomb-making equipment using your Alexa. If it finds your purchases suspicious, will it alert your local police and the ATF? There are some who’d be cool with that. I appreciate the sentiment. But I don’t think I’d want something recording my every purchase and whatever else. That’s why I don’t have one.

A long while ago, I read a novella where people were constantly under surveillance. Everywhere. Can’t take a dump without somebody watching. All in the name of security. I wouldn’t want to live like that.… Continue reading

Are There Enough Hours in the Day?

So I’m kinda trying to make up a summer schedule balancing work, writing, and everything else.

It’s not going well.

May has come and is almost gone, and I haven’t even finished the editing job I started in April. And according to my original schedule, the one I did in February, I’m supposed to have a novella written by August. Don’t know if that’s going to happen. August might seem far away, but we all know it’s right around the corner.

That makes me wonder–how to squeeze more hours out of the day? I could do it with drugs, but I take more than enough of those as it is. Besides, I don’t know how speed or something like that would mix with what I’m taking now. I’m insane as it is and the last thing I want is to make it worse–can’t afford it. I’ve got a mortgage to pay, you know? There are those energy things–you know, 5-hour or something like that. I used to take those a lot but after a while, they seemed to stop working. Guess I got used to them.

In The Moreva of Astoreth, Tehi, our heroine, is racing to find the cure for the deadly red fever. She concocts these extreme energy pills to keep her going on maybe two or three hours of sleep and gets addicted. Sucky.

Yeah, I wish there were more hours in a day. Then again, do I? I have enough trouble managing 24 hours. Twenty-eight hours?… Continue reading

Sleeping Dogs

The other day, I read an article in a major U.S. newspaper about one family’s experience with DNA tests. I think it’s great people want to discover their heritage, but frankly, I don’t trust the accuracy. My father was tested and the result was the company really couldn’t identify his ancestry, but they concluded he was mostly European. My father is African-American. Then again, given U.S. history, he might well have a good chunk of European ancestry.

Anyway, this story was about two women, sisters, who had the test performed and the result “blew the family apart,” as the paper put it. Here’s what happened, as I understand it. A couple, both white, got married. The wife had an affair with another man, also white, and they produced a daughter. The husband had sexual relations with another woman, who was black, and they produced a daughter. I hesitate to say affair because given the time period and not knowing the circumstances, I can’t be certain the black woman was a willing participant in their relationship.

So not only are these two NOT sisters–completely unrelated–but one is biracial. Well, that just fucked up their minds for a while. After a lot of soul-searching, they’re working on figuring out their new relationship.

A friend read the article and asked what I thought. My first reaction was the two women should have just let sleeping dogs lie. But that’s not really fair. They didn’t know, and that’s why they wanted to find out.… Continue reading

Fifty Shades of Black

The other day, my sister and I had a conversation during which the maelstrom of emotional confusion which I’d endured for decades, unexpectedly crystallized.

Before I begin, please note that my remarks are my own, told from my point of view. Others might have a different point of view. Their views are no more or less valid than mine, but this is what I saw and experienced.

First, a little background. There are no photos of me on this site (at least I don’t recall any) but I’m black. I grew up in the late ’60s and ’70s. The gains made by the protests of the Civil Rights Movement were showing fruit–black people, at least in the cities, were more secure, especially with respect to property ownership. Thus empowered, black people began forging a new identity, fueled by the energy of the revolutionary fervor that was sweeping the nation’s young people, expressed by the Vietnam War protests and the like. Black people had firebrands like Angela Davis who forcefully spoke out against the white establishment’s racism and exhorted black people to fight back. Then there were the Black Panthers, a peaceful organization founded to help the black poor and disenfranchised in the cities (the Panthers only later became militant after attacks by the white city police), and many others. Black power, characterized by the black upraised fist, was a gesture of defiance against the whites who had oppressed us for so long (and which scared the bejesus out of them,… Continue reading

Monica Lewinsky, Survivor

So I’m still on my YouTube kick, and recently discovered John Oliver’s “Next Week Tonight.” Just hilarious. Yeah, yeah, I know–just call me a late bloomer. Anyway, the show was about public shaming. When I think about it, it seems public shaming has become an American pastime. Oliver portrayed a woman who’d been publicly shamed and she said she had to basically reinvent herself because she couldn’t do the simple things, like find a job.

But the star of that episode was Monica Lewinsky. Remember her from the 90s? Remember what she went through? The sordid details of her affair with Bill Clinton laid bare in Attorney General Kenneth Starr’s report to Congress? I felt so sorry for her back then. To have your life cut open and dissected like a frog in a high school biology class. And she was only 22 years old.

On his show, Oliver aired various clips from speeches she’d given about her ordeal. In one, with tears in her eyes, she talked about the horror of having her name dragged through the mud and her reputation tarnished “on a global scale.” Can you imagine that? Everybody in the world knows your name, and though they might not know what you did, they knew it wasn’t good. Oliver also shared an interesting tidbit. Monica Lewinsky’s name has been mentioned in 193 songs by various artists. Gah.

The jewel, though, was an interview he did with her. Nearly 20 years on, she talked about what the… Continue reading