Monday, January 30, 2006

chip robinson and me

this is chip and me, running around downtown nyc the other saturday night. i can't remember exactly what he said that made me want to grab him like that but he definitely deserved it. we went to see demolition string band at rodeo bar, which was a lot of fun -- and way too packed. i have never seen so many yankee cowboys in my life. it was really strange. i guess if you get the hat and the boots, that makes it official -- you're a redneck.

chip is my little hick-a-billy. i hadn't seen him since the middle of december. hard to get him to leave brooklyn for anything -- but he's writing songs again and so am i, so maybe we'll play out soon. i definitely want him to sing with me. i'll even go to brooklyn to make that happen. i am in love with his beautiful voice.

Monday, January 23, 2006

"Martin Luther King Jr. Day" and me

i don't know how i feel about celebrating martin luther king, jr's birthday anymore.

at first, there was some victory in having a black holiday because they didn't want to give it to us. when it was finally official, there were so many states that ignored it, it was laughable. (and no, it wasn't just arizona.) actually, i thought it was a massive step forward that they were all so honest about how they really felt. but everyone from the media to public enemy pummeled those states into politically correct submissiveness, and after awhile that was that. well. not exactly. i can remember being on a bus and overhearing a couple of white girls talking about how "black people's day" was this huge inconvenience because the post office would be closed -- and what good was it anyway. my black nationalist buddies think that public soundbite is a microcosm of how a lot of white people feel but i'd go a step further and say that it's how a lot of people feel in general -- black, white and otherwise.

in a way, a part of me agrees with those white girls.

i'm from atlanta. i grew up surrounded by images of dr. king and became well versed in his accomplishments and what he did for the civil rights movement from a very early age. i watched his center for non-violent social change grow from an idea to a federal institution -- and steps were taken to preserve "sweet auburn" avenue for the black cultural mecca that it always had been. i remember when his mother was assassinated. she was alone in ebenezer baptist church, playing the organ and singing to herself when someone walked up out of nowhere and shot her. i remember when his father passed away and what a big deal that was in our community. like i said. these things were a part of my childhood.

because i had a mother that taught me how to read as a three year old, i fell into the habit of "doing research" when i was a very small child -- going to a library and reading up about whatever i was interested in. one day, i happened upon some speeches and letters by dr. king that i hadn't heard before. he was a different man: indignant, fearless -- and interestingly enough -- angry. the dr. king everyone spoke of was eulogized as a man of peace that was on par with ghandi, the epitome of change through non-violence. this other king wanted something else that was equally important: justice.

have you ever read dr. king's letter from a birmingham jail? here's an exerpt:

"We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we stiff creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dark of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you know forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness" then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait."

riveting stuff. the question that flashed through my little kid head was: why hadn't i ever met this man before? why didn't everyone know who he was? who was the real mlk?

now this is where the rubber hits the road.

i think they (the federal government, the powers-that-be, "the man" -- come on people, you know what i mean) picked martin luther king, jr. to be everyone's all-american civil rights hero because his non-violent stance made him less of a threat than shirley chisolm or malcolm x or angela davis. they sanitized him for public consumption. they neutered him. think about it: it's much safer for black people to pay attention to this peaceful negro than robert f. williams, a highly intelligent, politically active, gun-toting southern black man who played an active role in the civil rights movement and who fought long and hard in north carolina and beyond. what about bayard rustin? he's the one who organized the march on washington. he's also the one who brought gandhi's protest techiques to the civil rights movement. everyone shut him out because he was openly gay. can you imagine that? a vital member of the movement that's as gay as an all-white liberace picnic. he died quite recently, in 1987. it's a shame that he isn't celebrated.

i'm sick of them telling me who my black heroes are. i'm sick of them telling my stories. actually, i'm sick of them, period. but i digress.

i'm glad that we have a day to come together collectively, as a community and as a people. it's a lovely start. but if we accept the sanitized, media driven version of martin luther king, jr. instead of the man i came to know through those impassioned speeches and letters, his holiday won't mean anything more than what those white girls said: yet another day that the post office is closed. we have to educate ourselves as black people about our history and our culture -- because the schools definitely aren't going to do it. and neither is the government. it's simply not in their best interest.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

my top ten guilty pleasures

  1. the dormitory boys
  2. fresh, whole, pasteurized ice cold unhomogenized organic milk, in an old-fashioned unmarked high-necked glass bottle
  3. toblerone
  4. i don't know why, but i really like this guy and i have a lot of respect for him as a man. (seriously.) call me nutty but if we lived in the same city, i think we'd be friends.
  5. adult swim (specifically: the boondocks, aqua teen hunger force, robot chicken, sealab 2021, harvey birdman attorney at law and of course, squidbillies)
  6. celebrity fit club
  7. the mexican blt on barrio chino's brunch menu
  8. drawn together (never seen it? here's a video called "black chick's tongue in my mouth" -- very entertaining.)
  9. hot milk and almond pedicure at bliss
  10. scotch eggs

Thursday, January 19, 2006

there's an artnet photo?!

someone sent me a little note and a link to let me know that i'm in artnet, thanks to a shutterbug at franco mondini-ruiz' book signing party for "high pink" at bergdorf-goodman. franco was so sweet to invite me to be a hostess. what a lovely party that was! very highbrow/lowbrow. lots of champagne in dainty little teacups. roasted peanuts in the shell in little baskets. franco's ceramic art and little paintings everywhere. and the food was such a hoot -- lots of mini chili dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches and bite sized tacos. dee-lish. and i love it that his mother signed the books, too.

this is me -- "harlem performance diva" (gee, i guess that's about right) -- with collector lesley horowitz, who was a real doll. *sigh* God, i love that dress... of course, ricky recognized it as a dvf original immediately.

there's probably more pictures floating around out there somewhere. i'd love to see them.

Monday, January 16, 2006

my ultimate dresses

just look at these beautiful dresses. are they not things of wonder? they are by visual artist yinka shonibare. i think they're brilliant. they really sums it all up for me, in a strange way: cultural assimilationism, colonialism, victorian/edwardian style and all of the restrictiveness -- sexual and otherwise -- that's implied with that. combining the african and the european. there's something subversive and dangerous and weird about them, which excites me in a way that contemporary visual art hardly ever does. this one is on exhibit at MoMA right now, along with the two others below: they stand there, headless, endlessly free-floating in this wide open white space, like they're drifting around at some tea social or something and i just so happened to glimpse them before they put their appendages back on. i loved this one the most for its impossibly gorgeous train. check out that bustle. everything layered and tucked just so. i love it. these dresses are so me, it's dizzying.

that's another thing. i couldn't get over how beautifully tailored these dresses are. really, so detailed and intricate, it's exhaustive. when i first saw them at the studio museum of harlem a few years ago, i felt naked. all i could do was stare and stare and stare. if i had to dress up for the academy awards or the grammys or something, this is what i'd wear. if i could, i would dress in some variation on this theme every single day. only i'd want it in different kinds of denim. maybe that would be the african american combination.

i wonder if i could talk someone into making me a dress like one of these?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

once again, stating the obvious...

You Belong in New York City

You're an energetic, ambitious woman.
And only NYC is fast enough for you.
Maybe you'll set yourself up with a killer career
Or simply take in all the city has to offer.

You Are a Normal Girl

You are 50% Good and 50% Bad
Sure you've pulled some bad girl stunts in your past.
But these days, you're (mostly) a good girl.

You Are Ani Difranco!

Honest, real, and well liked.
You're not limited by any boundaries.
"And you can call me crazy
But I think you're as lazy as white paint on the wall"

Saturday, January 14, 2006

i love this restaurant!

this is the coolest restaurant in brooklyn and no one knows it. not yet, anyway. it's called "a bistro" and it's almost at the corner of myrtle and carlton in ft. greene. it's cassandra and abdul's place. he cooks the food, she serves it. what a team. after they'd been together for awhile, he told her that he wanted to be a chef -- so they rolled up their sleeves collectively, made a plan of action for attending cooking school and working in quite a few gourmet restaurants inbetween and here they are with their own place. ain't married life great? if it's one thing i love, it's a strong partnership. i'm really proud of them.

what's so cool about it?

whenever i'm there, i feel so at home. it's everything -- the curtains at the window, how small and intimate the space is, all of the attention to detail. it's a very relaxed atmosphere. everyone is enjoying the food and each other, even though they're all strangers. not surprisingly, there are quite a few regulars. the food is absolutely spectactular.

they've only been open for about six months or so but the neighborhood seems to be catching on. i try to go there once a week but eventually i'm sure there'll be a new york times review and i won't be able to get in at all.

garland had his birthday party here a few months ago and everything was so good, i had to come back. i want to support my friends when they do things but this is different. there's no obligation here. it's just me, treating their kitchen like it's an extention of my own. it's just that good.

that's the real reason why i work out: so i can eat with relative abandon.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

i don't have any new year's resolutions

someone asked me recently if i had made any new year's resolutions. when i said no, they didn't believe me because, according to them, it's something that everyone does. since when does what "everyone does" have anything to do with me? i heard myself think and then i heard myself saying it. dang! that editing machine in my head is broken again. gotta look into getting that thing fixed...

i took a workshop in college via the ywca at a friend's suggestion that taught me about goals and priorities and how to set them, and how to live a purpose-driven life. i have used the tools that i learned over that six week period every day, ever since -- so much so, in fact, that it's something i do without even thinking about it. my morning isn't complete unless i've done my morning pages and skimmed through those lists, adding notes here, ideas there, a thumbnail sketch where needed, and so on. i am always making lists. while my moment-to-moment world is a huge blank book that's sectioned off by time (daily, weekly , monthly, seasonally, annually) and subject -- and they change all the time, by the way -- i have a blank book in my purse that catches whatever's skimming through my head while i'm on the train or waiting in line at the bank or whatever.

i realize now that i haven't made any new year's resolutions since i took that workshop because i'm already making things happen by being so goal-oriented. i feel pretty fulfilled in general -- not because i've got everything i want but because i'm getting things done but more importantly, i know that i'm on my way there. i don't really feel as though i've accomplished much, probably because i'm not paying too much attention to what i've done. i'm way more focused on the future and what's coming down the pike.

a resolution doesn't mean much if you don't put any action behind it and if it doesn't have an expiration date. it may as well be something you're wishing for, like a flatter midsection. if you really want to get rid of that gut, you can't just say you want to get rid of it -- although acknowledging that you need to is usually a tremendous first step. you know what i mean. lay off the beer swilling and the pork rinds and the fried everything. eat healthy. pop a vitamin after every meal, fer cryin' out loud. get off the couch and work out. like my favorite chinese saying goes, "talk doesn't cook rice."

most people don't even know the difference between goals and priorities.

i think that life needs an owner's manual, so that these things are explained thoroughly and fairly early and no one is left to make wishes and resolutions and live on the hope that someday they'll lose weight or stop smoking or dump that abusive boyfriend. but then again, circumstance has a way of handing us the life manual that we need when we least expect it. we just don't pay attention to the information we're given until it's too late.

it was arthur miller who said, maybe all we can hope to do is end up with the right regrets. i think that's an interesing way to look at it. i have regrets but they're good ones. so far, i don't regret leaving home. new york city hasn't been an easy place to live but i don't regret moving here. i don't regret my refusal to smoke cigarettes. and although i had a moment in college where i tried drugs because i was curious, i didn't lose myself in speed or heroin or whiskey like everyone else did. so my liver and my brain cells and my skin and the rest of my major organs are all doing great. but some of my friends are falling apart. and some of them aren't here anymore. i still miss carrie every day. God help me. i really do.

hey. wanna know something that millionaires have in common? they all take excellent care of their bodies. that makes a lot of sense to me. why work so hard to get all that money, only to keel over from a heart attack right when you've got nothing but time to enjoy the good life?

it's a way of thinking, i suppose. i changed my way of thinking when i took that workshop and i didn't even realize it. that was circumstance, handing me a piece of that life manual that i so needed. thank God i was paying attention.

anyway, it's true. i don't have any new year's resolutions. but i don't think anyone else should have any, either. there. i said it.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

God bless us, everyone.

Happy New Year, World!
God bless us, everyone.

love and grits
your biggest fan
Queen Esther

"...a timelessly beautiful voice accompanied by a stunningly
gorgeous woman stuck in a world of soulfully seductive sound."