Friday, November 30, 2007
Thursday, November 29, 2007
i knew very early on in the dating game that just because a guy is an african-american, that didn't mean that he would understand me or "get" where i was coming from or get along with me -- or find me attractive. as a matter of fact, a lot of african-american guys find me patently unattractive because i don't straighten my hair -- believe it or not. (note: i said african-american. not west indian. not african. african-american. but i digress.) it's the wierdest thing, to walk through greenbriar mall in atlanta and watch black folk stop eating to stare at my hair.
here's an interesting sidebar: i don't straighten my hair because it is at its strongest and healthiest and most beautiful when its in its natural state. it's expensive to chemically treat it, too. do the math: if you trot to the beauty parlor every other week or so for a touch up, that money invested wisely long term could probably buy you a house or give you an early retirement situation in no time.
besides -- i don't think i should have to affect a white standard of beauty to be presentable. or pretty. if some african-american man thinks otherwise, that's his problem.
unconsciously, i realized that because i had essentially become the person i wanted to date, that's exactly what i usually attracted: men who wanted a cool girl, irrregardless of race. oh, there was the occasional righteous brother who preferred me with a perm, or who was genuinely disgusted that i'd dated "outside of my race." as far as i was concerned, that made them much easier to sort through. i didn't care how black or white or whatever he was. he's not cool, i'd casually observe. i cannot date him. and i would move on.
case in point?
years ago, some white guy was trying to chat me up at a party somewhere deep in the heart of brooklyn and i wasn't having it. somewhere in the midst of the conversation we were barely having, he told me that he only dated sisters. what baffled me is that he said it in this confidential "just between us" tone. the implication was that i had nothing to worry about because he understood who i was and where i was coming from -- he was familiar with me, with my culture, my people. bad move.
"who are you calling 'sisters,'" i snapped, "black women aren't sisters to you. you have to be a brother to say that." he vehemently disagreed. we were off to the races. i remember watching his face change as he realized how deep he'd stuck his foot in it. that's when i said, why would you only go out with black women, anyway?
to his credit, he tried very hard to explain himself. he went on about how beautiful black women are, how intelligent, how much more interesting they are than white women -- blah, blah, blah. as he went on, what i couldn't stop thinking was, there's some great looking white women out there that really are all that. why is he systematically excluding them? why would someone not date within their own race? it reeked of self-hate but he didn't see it that way. fortunately, i did.
(it's a preference, he said. no it's not, i countered. it's a fetish. amazing, the things people will say to justify themselves.)
my friend happens to be one of the coolest guys i've ever met. i think we're kind of spoiled because we're artists and we don't really live in america. we live and work in new york city -- a place where it's very easy to meet and hang out with people of different races and nationalities and cultures. here, your life can be as segregated or as diverse as you want it to be.
last night, i made my friend watch the online component of nbc's african-american women: where they stand series called love in black and white. he sat there quietly holding my hand, occasionally crinkling his nose in disapproval. when it was over, he said it sounded like the black women in question were dating white guys because black men weren't available. like the white guy was a consolation prize, and if some black guy came along, she would dump him. to his way of thinking, race is not a reason to date anybody.
and that's when the obvious struck me: it's really not about black women dating white men. it's about black women dating the cool guy. why wouldn't anyone say that on this segment? why can't anyone think it? they were so conditioned to think in terms of black and white that they couldn't see it any other way. ridiculous. it's a big world out there, ladies. lots of men, all over the world. the one for you could be anywhere. he could be anyone. a turkish businessman. a polish bar owner. a chinese chef.
it could very well be that the cool guy that God wants for you is probably in Prague right now, having a latte.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
there's so much that they're not addressing, it's almost dizzying. here's my top three:
- the impact of slavery and how in many ways, we are still living through its aftermath
- the antebellum south, reconstruction and how that decimated us
- the drug explosion of the 60s and 70s, urban blight and ghetto miasma
where's my tv special?
if we're accomplishing so much, why does all of this sound so negative, somehow? isn't it good that we're college graduates, that we're enterprising and self-sufficient and independent? why did the segment end with me feeling profoundly let down by everything they had to say?
get this, loud and clear: there are more women than men in college of every race -- period. why aren't we talking about what's wrong with white men and why there aren't as many of them in college as their female counterparts and what can we do to help them along? why has no one ever thrown that statistic up in the air?
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
and this one is mary j. blige
i suppose i could wax some kind of poetic about the pain and expense that they had to endure to get their hair to look like that (nevermind the contacts or the makeup, if you can) but it's so far removed from what they're naturally like, you could probably fill in the blanks for yourself. if i wanted tamara dobson's afro when i was a little kid, i shudder to think of what black girls see when they watch their videos ad infinitum on b.e.t. and then look in the mirror.
Monday, November 26, 2007
i want to be famous so i can declare war on weaves everywhere -- and any black woman who doesn't think that how she looks isn't presentable or acceptable, until she straightens her hair and dyes it some bizarre shade of blonde. i'm going to be a freakin' ultra blackgrrl superhero, just like cleopatra jones or foxy brown -- except instead of getting "the man" out of the community, i'm going to get him out of your hair.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Saturday, November 24, 2007
this is pretty cool -- james "blood" ulmer in action with alison krauss at radio city music hall performing sittin' on top of the world (one of my favorites) when someone (scorsese?) had the bright idea to explain and reintroduce the blues to the world via PBS. i love eddie "son" house's input at the beginning; it really connects the old and the new.
Friday, November 23, 2007
that said, i don't shop recreationally because i can't afford it -- but even if i could, i wouldn't spend, spend, spend. i'm way too frugal. i'm going to be the multi-millionaire that everyone thinks is broke because i'll clip coupons and shop at sam's and eat in. no one is going to know that i'm loaded. interestingly, that's the way it is with most rich people.
i wonder how many millionaires next door were at walmart today?
anyway, i think most days should be "buy nothing day" -- because people don't need to eat or wear most of the crap they buy. especially in this country.
what did you buy today?
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
my first thought was, they're going to get this all wrong. when it's time to talk about african-american women, they dwell on the poor and underpriveleged who live in some urban ghetto situation, with kids they can't take care of. they talk about the welfare system. the prison system. the system, period. i'm never mentioned -- probably because i don't fit into anyone's ethnic stereotype. i'm a single, never-married, college-educated african-american woman with no children. i'm in excellent physical condition. i see a doctor regularly, i get a mammogram annually. i vote. i pay taxes. i've got my own business, more or less. and i've got good credit. in a minute, i'll flat-out own my own home in new york city -- no easy feat by any far stretch of the imagination.
i'm the typical african-american woman out there, not this claptrap i see everywhere in the media/movies/tv. where's my profile? where's that episode of sex and the city? why don't they do a sit-com about me and my single black college-educated friends who are just like me?
even if they did -- would anyone believe it?
NBC NIGHTLY NEWS WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS SPECIAL FIVE-PART SERIES "AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMEN: WHERE THEY STAND" TO AIR BEGINNING ON MONDAY, NOVEMBER 26
New York, N.Y. - November 15, 2007 - Throughout the week of November 26, "NBC News With Brian Williams" will take a look at the issues facing African-American women across our nation in a new series "African-American Women: Where They Stand." The series will cover a wide-range of issues from their role in the '08 Presidential race, to the increased health-risks that they need to be concerned about.
Monday's installment will discuss African-American women's progress in the education field. Nearly two-thirds of African-American undergraduates are women. At black colleges, the ratio of women to men is 7 to 1. And that is leading to a disparity in the number of African-American women who go on to own their own businesses. Rehema Ellis will talk to educators, students and businesswomen about why this disparity exists.
Tuesday, Ellis will look at relationships within the African-American female community. Many agree the gender disparity in education and business among African-Americans is having an effect on relationships that African American women have. Some even say the implications could redefine "Black America's family and social structure." In the past fifty years, the percentage of African-American women between 25-54 who have never been married has doubled from 20% to 40%. (Compared to just 16% of white women who have never been married today). Ellis sits down with the members of a Chicagobook club and talk about this difference and how it impacts them.
Dr. Nancy Snyderman will discuss the increases risks for breast cancer for African-American women on Wednesday. Mortality rates for African-American women are higher than any other racial or ethnic group for nearly every major cause of death, including breast cancer. Black women with breast cancer are nearly 30% more likely to die from it than white women. Premenopausal black women are more than twice as likely to get a more aggressive form of the disease. And, not only are African-American women more likely to die from breast cancer, but they're less likely to get life-saving treatments. Dr. Snyderman will profile one of the only oncologists in the world who specializes in the treatment of African-American women with breast cancer.
On Thursday, Ron Allen will take viewers to South Carolina -- the first southern primary state -- and ask the question: Will race trump gender or gender trump race? In South Carolina, black women made up nearly 30 percent of all democratic primary voters in 2004. This year, polls show a significant number are undecided, torn between choosing the first African-American or first female Presidential candidate. Allen talks with the undecided, as well the state directors for the Clinton and Obama campaigns, who happen to be African-American women.
To close the series on Friday, Dr. Snyderman will raise the frightening statistic that African-American women are 85% more likely to get diabetes, a major complication for heart disease. And, like breast cancer, more black women die from heart disease than white women. Dr. Snyderman will profile a leading expert and a unique church-based outreach program in South Carolina that seeks to spread the word about heart disease risks to black women congregants.
Mara Schiavocampo, Digital Correspondent for "Nightly News," will address two hot topics in the African - American community: interracial dating and the impact of hip hop music on black women.
Interracial dating is a growing trend in the African - American community. An Essence.com < http://essence.com/> poll found that 81% of participants approved of black women dating non- black men. According to a U.S. Census Bureau report in 2000, 95,000 black women were married to white men. In 2005, that number increased to 134,000. Schiavocampo will talk to experts about the trend and discuss how this defines the "Black family" of the future.
Schiavocampo will convene a panel of leading black men and women from the hip-hop industry for an engaging discussion on whether hip hop lyrics and videos positively or negatively affect black women. The roundtable also will address how these portrayals are affecting relationships between black women and black men.
Consumers can go online to join the discussion and share their thoughts on message boards. They can also read and respond to blog entries at<http://www.nightly.msnbc.com/ < http://us.f510.mail.yahoo.com/ym/www.nightly.msnbc.com > > .
Alexandra Wallace is the executive producer of "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams." Bob Epstein is the senior broadcast producer, and Rich Latour is the senior producer for this series
Monday, November 19, 2007
Sample De Byron Stingily Pour You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real).
Sunday, November 18, 2007
what's cool is reading about his adventures via his blog and seeing the beautiful pictures. at one point, he says that the south is the most beautiful place this side of heaven that he's ever known. and it's true, it's so true. it's so sweet to see that he's figured that out. but you have to go there to see that, to understand that. you have to get past your preconceptions and all those misnomers and stereotypes about the south and its history, just let it go and embrace the beauty of it all. most people can't do that. like there wasn't racism anywhere else -- certainly not up north, in places like brooklyn or out west in san francisco. like the klan wasn't everywhere.
in his last missive, he told me what i'd known to be true for quite some time: that new york city is not the center of the world anymore, and that with every olive garden and applebees and pottery barn, it's becoming more and more generic. the city is dying and no one seems to care. "you can make art anywhere," he said dismissively. that depends entirely on exactly what kind of art you want to make. you can't do broadway if you live in omaha. then again, with stuff like the little mermaid up and running, and a julie taymor-directed spiderman coming to the great white way, who cares?
i'd rather bankroll my record label with commercials and film/tv work, sequester myself in graduate school and wait to originate something cool onstage. and you know what? garland is right. i don't have to be in new york city to do any of that.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
why do i want to finish a master's degree program from the new school? i'm so glad you asked!
a rather wise lester bowie once told a somewhat clever kelvyn bell: "don't be in new york city for 15 and 20 years and have nothing to show for your time." although i never met mr. bowie, i clung to those words for quite awhile, and in the telling of that little antedote, kelvyn gave me a precious gift. both lester and kelvyn are musicians from st. louis, missouri. they well understood the sacrifice that happens on this whole other level when you want to live in new york city, much less accomplish anything of merit here. when you're not from new york city, you don't have the luxury of not knowing exactly what you want and how you want to go about getting it. everything around you constantly says, time is of the essence. you don't have the luxury of a home court advantage.
and yet even with the best intentions, you can spin your wheels ad nauseum and end up with nothing that's tangible to show for your time.
what mr. bowie said caught me early in my time in the city. it changed the way i thought about my art and my life in general. i became much more focused in a different way. doing it wasn't enough. i wanted results. and i got them. i went back to college, finished my BA and became a working professional. but that wasn't enough. so i started writing and creating work for myself and i haven't looked back since.
i've got a decent reel but i'm still transitioning into film/tv. i've got two music projects to finish. i'm working on another one person show. and blood wants to make another album. so as usual, i'm flying by the seat of my pants. graduate school would be another log on the fire but it wouldn't be an impossible thing to do. it's a two year program -- and anyone that's lived here for more than a month knows that time moves differently here. two years goes by in new york city in about six months. i would have a chance to study semiotics in theory and in practice. i could take an audio component and finally learn pro-tools. concentrate on screenwriting and develop some ideas. make little art films. think and grow in another direction. i'd get to explore certain theories and ideas that would make me a better rock star. basically, all of that reading and writing and free expression would augment who i am creatively in a profound way.
the thing is, their graduate degree program isn't anything that i'd have to stop the world to do. that's the beauty of it. all of the coursework is offered online, so i could do it anywhere, at any time. and i suppose i could just take class here or there but ultimately, i want something quantifiable and tangible, and that's where the degree comes in.
it feels quite sane, to fly by the seat of my pants.
that statement reminds me of a story about james "blood" ulmer. early in my time in new york city, he used to sit me down and make me tell him everything that i was doing. i can still see him in my mind's eye, sitting at his kitchen table, leaning to one side towards me, smiling at me sideways, holding my hand and listening to me tell him all about it. one day he told me that i was a harmelodic person. that's why it was so easy for me to do everything all at once. he said that people wouldn't "get" that about me, that this was a difficult thing for most to understand -- especially certain free jazz musicians, ironically enough. i told him that i didn't know enough music theory to understand harmelodics, so i didn't really know what he was talking about. i was just being myself, really. but that's just it -- you don't need theory, he laughed, you've already got it!
evidently, he was right.
Friday, November 16, 2007
i passed by the american apparel store in the lower east side with my friend and his buddy todd the merman once. all the salesgirls were wearing micromini dresses or hot pants that exposed their bums, with skimpy semi-see-through tops. one of them was spinning records. "let's go shop in there," todd the merman said, and he headed inside before my friend and i could reply. i wasn't blown away by their selection like todd seemed to be. maybe it was the fluorescent lights but i remember thinking that there was something drab about clothes that were that colorful. it's like that store units from the 80s, but urbanized -- garanimals for the tragically hip. both todd and i left emptyhanded. my friend thought the whole thing was funny. he thinks american apparel is a cult. (he's probably right.)
jump cut to me, feeling the pinch of the cold and realizing that i'd tossed out all the worn out leggings i had. while surfing the net for a high-waisted version, i fell onto the american apparel website and i found what i was looking for in short order. was it any good? it was cheap enough for me to take a risk. i called first to make sure that the particular store location had everything i wanted -- i can't stand wasting time in a store when i know what i want -- and that was pretty much it.
what did i get? really great thigh high socks. high waisted leggings. high waisted shorts. a tube dress that's going to be a terrific long skirt. all of that, for a grand total of $99. not bad. and here's the kicker: everything fits remarkably well.
i care about style. style has nothing to do with fashion. i pick and choose certain pieces so i can look like my own unique self when i get dressed. whatever works, you know?
next: h&m for a black 3/4 sleeve cardigan. i tossed my worn-out ratty ones -- and after all, it is a basic.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
the years floated by. with every bit of progress, joan was somehow a part of it. over steak frittes, she reminded me of when she came to boston when i did RENT and i popped the strap on these amazing shoes she let me wear. and then there was the work i threw at her, at random. one of them was a short off-off broadway stint that i couldn't finish. she stepped in and closed the run. she saw my one person show. i gave her sheet music. "you were good to me," she said. truth be told, actresses don't do things like help each other. especially black ones. but i never concerned myself with that kind of backstabbing piffle. i knew i'd never get anywhere by stepping on people and using them. i figured, what's mine is mine. so why not tell someone about some audition or whatever. why not? no one can take anything away from me that God wants me to have. God is sovereign -- not some casting person on the other side of the table. if God doesn't want me to have it, i don't want it.
after the divorce, as joan settled into her new place in east harlem with her son, she thought of me and decided to take me out to dinner, to catch up and reconnect.
i'm glad she did.
of course, everything was running fast in our conversation. fast and strong. that's the kind of thing that happens when you're with someone that you know, and the love and respect are ever-present. when someone doesn't have an agenda with you, when they aren't denigrating you or one-upping you or playing games with you. when you're just talking -- free and open and easy. it's actually a relief, to be that way. no wonder i've always liked joan.
i caught her up on my family, my career and my love life before the steak hit the table. there was her babysitter to relieve uptown, so unfortunately, there wasn't much time. nevertheless i gleaned so much from what she said. and of course, with those pearls of wisdom came a great deal of sweet relief. but i'm getting ahead of myself, i think.
it's so easy to get stuck here, doing the same things over and over in the name of your career or progress or whatever. making the rounds and going to auditions is something you have to do strategically. you can't just do it ad nauseum -- not without strong results. but then again, auditioning is one of those things that you can do and do and do and keep doing, whether anything ever happens or not. because something could happen. and so you keep doing it. and i suppose that makes it hard to walk away -- there is always the idea looming that the next audition is The One. it's like panning for gold. you're an eternal optimist. but after the divorce, joan makes the rounds again and discovers that those early 40-something trying-to-look-30-something black dolls were now in their early 50s. they never stopped to have a life -- to get married, have kids or whatever. they never stopped auditioning and hustling to the callbacks and scheming towards the next job. they never stopped panning for gold.
i stopped that hustle with Harlem Song. i hit a wall and i realized, i didn't want to do any more regional theater. i didn't want to do any more off-off broadway for the glory of a great new york times review and no money. and club dates made me sick. i wanted to get paid. and that meant transitioning into movies and television. what did i do in the meantime? i wrote songs. i played guitar for fun. i treated working out like it was my part time job. i spent optimum time in day spas. i got my teeth fixed. i worked a day job. and somewhere in there, i landed a ton of callbacks, three commercials and a movie.
all of a sudden, i was so grateful. for everything. i was so grateful to be in the place that i'm in right now. i'm not out there, grasping at sheet music, standing in line and waiting to sing 16 bars. i don't even think i want that anymore. that's when i realized: something happened. i don't know what it was, but something happened. i took a turn somewhere in there and the next thing i knew, everything headed in another direction. and as if all of that weren't enough, i have a friend that's the coolest guy in the world. go figure.
for joan, it was her little boy. she says having him changed everything. it forced her to live on a certain level, get organized and reconfigure her life. auditioning was no longer a priority.
i think we're thinking along the same lines: we want to create and produce something for film and/or tv. have a comfortable life filled with creativity and family and ideas while the checks come in.
we're still panning for gold. we're just not standing in the same stream, doing the same thing over and over again, hoping for different results.
hm. the next time her son is with his father for the weekend, i think i'll show joan my screenplay.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
why did it take 18 shots to "disarm" this guy? why do they always have to shoot to kill? couldn't they have shot him in the foot or the arm or something, like they used to on the rockford files or whatever? they didn't kill the guy every time they shot at him on hawaii five-0, so why is that the policy now? (i know, i know -- that's television. but still.) why doesn't this "the cops shot him 41 times" or "tomorrow would have been his wedding day" stuff ever happen to white people?
when are cops going to stop getting away with shooting black men?
Man, 18, Is Fatally Shot by Police in Brooklyn
A young man was fatally shot last night in a hail of 20 bullets fired by five police officers who responded to his mother’s 911 call for help in a domestic dispute in Brooklyn, the authorities said.
The police said they believed that the man, Khiel Coppin, 18, had a gun. But when the gunfire stopped, it turned out that he had been holding a hairbrush.
Officers went into the building at 590 Gates Avenue, in Bedford-Stuyvesant, about 7 p.m. The police said they were responding to a 911 call from the mother reporting domestic abuse and asking for help to “deal with this,” and that on the call a man was overheard threatening to kill her and claiming “I have a gun.”
One resident of the building, Andre Sanchez, 17, said that after the police arrived, he saw from the hallway through the open door of the apartment that the officers inside were talking to Mr. Coppin, who was in a bedroom and opening and closing that door as they spoke.
Mr. Coppin then climbed out a first-floor window and confronted more officers outside the building, and multiple shots were fired at him, bystanders said. Wounded, Mr. Coppin fell to the ground and was handcuffed, witnesses said. He was taken to Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center, where he was pronounced dead, the police said.
It was unclear how many of the 20 shots hit Mr. Coppin, a law enforcement source said.
Mr. Coppin’s mother, whose name was not released, was among the people outside the building during the shooting. Earlier in the day, she had called a hospital psychiatric unit asking for urgent help in dealing with her son, the law enforcement official said. Psychiatric workers came, but Mr. Coppin was gone. After waiting two hours, the workers left, and later, Mr. Coppin returned.
Two bystanders who said they saw the shooting said that Mr. Coppin was not armed, but was carrying a hairbrush when he climbed out the window and that he dropped it when the firing began. The two witnesses also said they both heard one officer yelling for the shooting to stop.
According to the police, another witness described Mr. Coppin as concealing the hairbrush under his shirt, pointing it outward.
A restless crowd quickly gathered and grew to as many as 150, as some neighbors shouted protests against police brutality. “You need training — this is absurd!” one woman shouted out a window to the police. Another man pressed against a yellow crime-scene tape and said: “I’m not trying to start a riot. I’m just saying it’s not right.”
The site and surrounding blocks were cordoned off as dozens of police officers, detectives and community affairs officers arrived to investigate the shooting and control the crowd. Community leaders at the scene included City Councilman Albert Vann.
Witnesses and the police offered different details about how the shooting occurred.
Mr. Sanchez said that just before the shooting, he went outside and saw several officers there with guns drawn. Mr. Coppin approached the window, backed away, then returned and stood on the sill, Mr. Sanchez said. When an officer told him to get down, he jumped to the ground and started to go through a gate in the fence in front of the building, Mr. Sanchez said.
An officer told Mr. Coppin to put up his hands, and when he did he dropped the hairbrush and the shooting began, although one officer called out to stop the gunfire, Mr. Sanchez said.
Officers started chasing Mr. Sanchez and knocked him to the ground after, he said, he protested: “Why you got to shoot him like that, for nothing?”
A similar description of the shooting was given by Precious Blood, 16, who said she heard about 10 shots fired, most if not all by one officer. Another officer called out: “Stop, stop, stop shooting — he’s down,” she said, but the shooter kept firing, “like he was playing with a toy.”
The law enforcement official gave a different version of the encounter, saying that Mr. Coppin charged toward the officers and refused repeated orders to stop. The police said they were also exploring the possibility that Mr. Coppin was trying to prompt a shooting, a phenomenon known as “suicide by cop.”
Mr. Coppin’s mother was at the 79th Precinct station house last night and gave a statement to the police, they said.
The five officers who fired all passed Breathalyzer tests, the law enforcement officials said.
Al Baker and Annie Correal contributed reporting.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
for real, though: my southern 85 year-old, piggly wiggly-shopping, late model caddie-driving church lady grandma could have picked him off a country mile away. in his bio, sylvester said his grandma was the one who told him that he was gay. hm. maybe that's it. black mommas always know. terry mc millan had a very nearly grown kid when she hooked up with this guy -- plus, she's a woman of the world (with all the pomp and circumstance that goes with that title) -- and she still couldn't figure it out? sometimes it's astonishing just how far some people will go to decieve themselves.
i watched the stella lose her groove episode on oprah like everybody else. confronting your gay soon-to-be ex-husband on national television, all the while admitting that you were intimate the night before and you still love each other? now that's some high drama -- and an implosion heard 'round the black (gay) world, like none other in recent memory. as oprah took terry's side, he seemed very much the victim on the show -- and then later, he and his lawyer threaten to release messages from his answering machine to the media of terry calling him a "little fag" (amongst other unsavory things) unless she ponies up some big bucks. tsk, tsk.
after the oprah debacle, mr. plummer signed a fictionalized tell-all book deal with simon and schuster. (i could go on about truly talented writers out there not being able to get book deals, but why?) it's called balancing act, appropriately enough -- probably piggybacking on terry's book disappearing acts -- and it just hit the bookshelves. i know that in posting any of this, i'm promoting this garbage and all the hot mess that goes with it (is she over it or not? her latest essay says "not really"...) but mr. plummer's book is so badly written, so trashy, so out that i had to post an exerpt. (and two reader reviews!) enjoy.
"You bitch-ass motherfucker!"
"Who the fuck do you think you are?! You can't leave me! You ain't going no fucking where!"
If any of Tasha's clients or competitors had seen her, they wouldn't have recognized her. In public, Tasha was one of the most controlled and controlling women there ever was. Tasha was, in every sense of the word, "regal," in her walk, in her talk. She possessed the trained grace of someone with upbringing and character. She rarely smiled or joked. She was all business and very good at what she did. She was a perfectionist without a conscience. There was no place in her business for someone who was sensitive, for someone who had second thoughts, for someone with emotions.
Tasha Reynolds was at the top of her game because she did what she had to do to be the best. She worked harder than anyone else and she made tough decisions without batting a fake eyelash. She was never out of control. She was smooth as ice, cold as ice, hard as ice. Tasha Reynolds always got what she wanted.
And what she wanted right now was Justin Blakeman.
He stood in front of her, wiping the blood from his mouth, trying not to react, holding himself back. The last time a woman had smacked him, he'd been ten years old and it was his mother. He'd lied to her about where he went after school, and she smacked him in the mouth for lying. He also got a beating with a cane when his father got home later that evening. The smack on the mouth by his mother was worse. It was humiliating, even for a ten-year-old. But he'd learned how to take it like a man. And he held himself like a man now.
Justin had been raised in an old-fashioned Jamaican family, where roles were very distinct. Women had their place, and men were king. A man never subjugated himself or bowed to a woman. Justin had allowed himself to be Tasha's subject for far too long, as far as he was concerned. She had been the queen and he had been part of her royal world. He had allowed himself to be paraded around like one of those Westminster Kennel Club show dogs for three years, at her beck and call, doing whatever she asked. He'd loved her in the beginning, and there was a part of him that would love her always. But now he was reclaiming his manhood.
"It's over, Tasha," he said as calmly as he could, trying not to respond at all to her emotional outrage. His nonreaction stoked her anger.
"It will never be over until I say it's over!" she growled.
Justin turned and began to leave. He had packed one bag, taking only the few clothes he'd bought for himself and some personal items that he'd brought with him from Jamaica. He knew how she was and he didn't want to give her any cause to come after him.
As Justin reached for the door, a Baccarat ashtray narrowly missed his head, crashing into the cedar door. It didn't shatter, the crystal was too heavy. But had it connected with his head, Justin would have had at least a concussion, if not worse.
"Where the fuck do you think you're going?! Are you hard of hearing? It's not over, Justin!"
Tasha rushed him, slapping at his face and shredding the skin on his forearms with her nails as she tried to pry his bag out of his hand. He dropped the bag and grabbed her arms, stopping her from hitting and scratching him. She was struggling and he threw her to the floor. But Tasha was possessed. She kept coming at him, swinging. He blocked most of her blows and grabbed her around the waist, lifted her from the ground, and carried her to the couch in the living room, throwing her like a rag doll.
"Now, stop this!" he said, finally raising his voice. "Look at yourself, Tasha! This isn't you! It doesn't have to end like this! Just let me go!"
Tasha's chest was heaving. She was out of breath and going out of her mind. She rushed him one more time. This time Justin met her with a blow to her head, driving her backward with force. She fell to the ground hard, teetering on the verge of consciousness.
"You motherfucker!" she slurred. "You...you're going to pay for this."
Justin looked at her -- a woman the world saw as untouchable greatness. He looked at her with sadness. He walked calmly to the door, picked up his bag, and left. He didn't look back. He walked to the elevator and rode the twenty floors down, collecting his thoughts. His black Lexus convertible -- the car she'd bought him -- was parked in the front of the garage, as it always was. A nice, fast drive was just what the doctor ordered.
Justin started the engine and screeched out of the garage, headed for the FDR Drive and on to his new life.
He was excited. He was free. More free than his days chopping sugarcane in Jamaica. Freer than he had ever been in his life. He allowed himself to smile, dabbing away a bit of the ugliness he had just left behind, as he thought about where he was headed next. It would be the first official night as a single man. He was free to love. And he couldn't wait.
He selected "Love Songs" on his iPod's playlist and drank in the opening notes of Maxwell's "Till the Cops Come Knockin'."
Gonna take you in the room suga'
Lock you up and love for days...
Justin was caught up in the music. And caught up in his fantasies. He didn't notice the flashing lights bearing down on him and he raced past the Twenty-first Street exit. He was a couple of miles from Tasha in distance and a million miles from her in his mind. But it was all catching up with him.
"Pull over!" The gruff voice came over the loudspeaker, shaking Justin out of his mist. He'd never noticed the sirens because Maxwell's song has sirens throughout, which he had grown used to over the years.
"Pull over, now!"
Justin eased over.
"What the...?" But he knew. "Tasha."
The police were angry for having to chase him for nearly a mile. They got out, hands on their guns, one at the passenger-side window, the other at the driver's side.
"Step out of the car," the officer barked.
"What? Why did you pull me over, Officer?" Justin asked.
"Shut up and step out of the car!"
Justin kept his hands in full sight. He was new to America, but he'd heard about Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell and knew he was black enough to give a New York police officer cause to pause. He didn't want to be that kind of victim. So he kept his hands raised above his head and, because he didn't want any trouble, asked the officer to open the door.
The officer opened the door with one hand and yanked Justin out of the car with the other hand, threw him to the ground, and handcuffed him.
"You have the right to remain silent..."
By Missy Me "ONE DISGUSTED READER!" (Oakland, California)
Monday, November 12, 2007
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Saturday, November 10, 2007
as we walked home afterwards, i thought long and hard about my time in a ground floor apartment on E. 100th street between 3rd and lex. the area so desperately wanted to be yorkville but it was standing on the verge of spanish harlem, with projects and abandoned buildings everywhere. it was dangerous on my block. and scary. i would watch filthy scab-covered junkies crawl into and out of the abandoned building across the street from me at any given hour like mice do in those mgm cartoons when they're eating a hunk of swiss cheese. dealers did their business on the rooftop, lowering the drugs to the ones who handled business on the ground with the actual buying and selling. each drop was one order. the money went here with one person, the drugs went there with another person, while little kids were parked on bikes as lookouts on each corner at either end of the block. it was a well-run money-making organization these young black kids had on their hands. a part of me couldn't help but wonder what they would be able to pull off if they were ever allowed to be a part of the corporate world.
one evening, i distinctly remember seeing a line of people going up the block, waiting, as the drug dealers scrambled to accomodate them. everyone was panicky because the line was so long. but no one left. i remember thinking, how good is this crack, anyway? heck--how good is crack, period? i recall falling into a conversation in a bar downtown with a part-time junkie who was also a full-time wall street exec of some sort. when i told him where i lived, he was suitably impressed. there's really good shit on your block, he murmured approvingly.
why did this cross my mind after seeing that movie? i don't know. maybe what i lived through on E. 100th street was a minature version of what i'd seen on the screen. maybe it was the closest i'd come to seeing the mechanics of how the drug thing worked on the street, firsthand. the business side of it all -- that was the connection.
what's the upshot? what did i learn from all this?
- cut out the middleman. frank lucas went straight to the source in southeast asia for a product that was ultimately better than everyone else's
- undercut the competition. he sold a better product at a cheaper cost
- branding is key. he called his product blue magic. whenever anyone made that point of purchase, they knew what to expect
- word-of-mouth is your best advertising tool. once the word went out on the street, that's all anyone wanted to buy
- they will want you -- and in frank's case, need you -- when you don't need them. frank's competition came calling when they realized he beat them at their own game
there were other lessons, too. stuff like, don't do the crime if you can't do the time. still and all, it was interesting to see a business model applied to drug dealing. how hollywood was that movie? frank lucas is alive and well in north carolina. nicky barnes is in the witness protection program, working a 9 to 5 like any other lemming. but something tells me that there's way more to the story than what i saw. (thus begins my winter reading list...)
Friday, November 09, 2007
makes me wonder who else i'm missing out on.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
it's not that i ever doubted ed. it's obvious that he knows what he's doing. it's just that with film, you don't know what you have until you've edited it and it's up on the screen. while you're actually doing it, everything is all over the place. there's just no predicting it. it's pretty clear that ed is ambitious and aggressive with all this. he's going to follow through with the festival circuit and push as hard as he has to, to make something happen. it's his first feature. (and mine.)
with theater, you can read the script and know what you've got. and when all else fails, great acting can save bad direction. not so with film. it's all about the direction -- ed's vision, his ideas, they're all up there.
the fun part is, my nieces leslie and monique came out to see it, and leslie brought her husband ernest. leslie and ernest sat behind my friend and i, and i got to talk to them before the movie started to fill them in on my life and make faces at them and stuff after everything was underway. fun. and ralph was there. and stephen. and john and judtsna. it's like i got this moment to catch every one up on at least some part of what i've been up to this year. quite gratifying.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
we were on our way to ej's luncheonette for dinner. they have great chili, texas style.
i can't remember what we were talking about. what i do remember is that this woman sort of materialized out of the crowd and kept a steady pace directly in front of us. she wore her hair in a bun and she was terribly pasty and she looked taller than she actually was, in those strappy silvery sandals. as the gauzy dress swirled around her, my friend and i fell silent. and then we looked at each other with the same thought hovering over our heads in one collective glassy thought-bubble: we could see straight through the dress! we could see her thin flat backside and the flab that twitched with every step. we could see that thong that was so much darker than the dress that for a minute there, i figured she must have wanted everyone to see her backside. we could see everything.
i'm going to say something, i whispered. no, you're not, my friend hissed, grasping my arm. (clearly, this wasn't the first time he'd done that.) what's she gonna do? go home and change?
and i said, well, yeah. so then he countered with, you don't think she knew what she looked like when she left the house? i thought about that one. i mean, who doesn't have a set of flesh colored bra and panties? don't they make slips anymore? didn't all of that gauze come with some sort of filmy underlay, or something?
i felt sorry for her. i thought, that could be me, walking down the street naked. did other people notice? were we the only ones who could see this spectacle? did anyone else care? i would want someone to tell me something. i told that to my friend. he made a face and shook his head, saying no you wouldn't.
so the three of us walked along in grand strides and as we did, my friend explained that in polite society, people wouldn't say or do certain things. like yell in the street. or draw attention to themselves. or be rude to anyone, in any way. that's the behavior of true aristocracy -- but the thing is, they have enough handlers to insulate them from having to interact with people and live in situations that might compell them to raise their voices above a conversational tone. they never have to yell at anybody. that's somebody else's job.
as i told my friend my favorite story about jackie o. that epitomized this way of life, the visibly naked lady took a right turn and disappeared into a movie premiere private party that left us not wondering who she was. and i was left to wonder: what would my life be like if i behaved like an aristocrat?
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
what a low blow, to have to wait. but because they shipped in the city, i got it yesterday. now it's taking forever for the battery to charge. (i left it in overnight and it's still not ready.)
i wonder what my first shot will be?
Monday, November 05, 2007
i lovelovelove this book. why?
he’s got this conversational tone, like he’s at your elbow walking you through it all—whether it’s a sample sale or your own closets or a seasonal sale at loehman’s. he’s high brow but he’s accessible and so effortlessly self-deprecating that you find yourself wanting to like him even if you really didn’t think you would. he’s smart and he’s cool and he uses what are commonly considered to be complicated things (like kierkegaard, for example) to explain something very simple (how you present yourself is a reflection of who you are—be your authentic self at all times. accept who you are and be that person when you get dressed.) and makes it all easy to digest.
i saw my closets (and myself) so differently after reading this book. the dresses i was holding on to, out of sentiment; the pants i was hoping to fit into but couldn’t (but would, someday, believe me); that blouse i never wore. no wonder i swung the closet door open time and time again, only to say “i have nothing to wear.” and i didn’t—that is, nothing that reflects who i am NOW.
i’m an artist, so this is how i dress anyway. i pride myself on not dressing up like anyone else. but it had me thinking in another direction about clothes and presentation. and for me, that’s always a good thing.
very simple. makes sense. we should all do it. especially if we live in nyc.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
and then the camera got stolen when my friend and i took a day trip to jersey one weekend.
i felt badly about it because that camera was from tracey and franco. but then again, they didn't give me the camera, per se -- what they really gave me is a visual life, a different way of looking at things. out of sentiment, i wanted the same camera but they don't make it anymore. so today's the day: i'm going to b&h this afternoon after church to get an upgrade.
i had a casio exilim, so i think i'm going to stick with that brand. i want to be able to take action shots and take better pictures in low light. and i don't want to pay more than $200 for it.
PS: here's the kicker -- a photo i took of harriet tubman's home for the aged in auburn, new york is to be published in a children's book about her, in the spring. (me, a published photographer? who knew? i didn't.)
how did they find me? someone googled me on flickr, of course.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
it dawned on me that i had one eye on every commercial that blipped across the tv screen. what was i looking for? in a word, everything: people i knew; black people i knew; black women i knew or even vaguely recognized. i'm looking for what can only be described as "a look"-- the question i constantly ask is, how many brown-skinned black women in my age range with my look are getting work? which products are using them? why her and not me? the more i see, the better my chances are.
all of these questions come and go in a flash. some commercial comes on and i think, wow, it's a young black mom that doesn't pass the paper bag test. slim and pretty with natural hair and great teeth. ah, well -- it's target. yeah, they're pretty inclusive racially but strong on the eye candy and they use lots of dancers and models. that's the way i think when i watch tv nowadays. and i can't turn it off. when i meet someone that tells me that they're an actor, i look at them and i think, you're an attractive white guy -- there's plenty of work for you, why are you non-union, why aren't you working? or i think, if you don't get your teeth fixed, you'll never get on-camera work or i think, i hope you like the chorus, because that's where you're going to be until you retire if you don't transition into film or tv. it's a voice in my head that only talks serious showbiz schlock. and i can't turn the volume down.
without even realizing it, i've made reaching and maintaining that visual mark a high priority in my world. my day isn't complete unless i've had a good hard workout -- and afterwards, the steam room. (steam/sauna is such a luxury when it's cold in the city.) i see my eyebrowist every two weeks. i get my hands and feet done every other week. i get a facial once a month. i moisturize constantly, with great products. i even got a mac pro card so i can give my makeup case an overhaul and have a finished look when i really need it. and they offer classes and workshops so i can get better at applying makeup.
i schedule all this stuff like i schedule appointments with my periodontist. everything is on automatic. the point is, maintainence and upkeep for on-camera talent is a full-time job. it's in my job description/requirement that i do all this crap, which is why i can write most of it off on my taxes. in 20 lbs, i'll be back to normal. and i'll be able to fit into all the clothes in my closet, not just the ones that i'm wearing when i'm having an especially "thick" month.
i want to give myself that 20 lb weight loss as a christmas present.
Friday, November 02, 2007
i was antsy about what i'd look like because i'm not as skinny as i was last year and my hair is totally natural and i'm not necessarily a film actor (yet). but when i saw the rough cut, i realized that my hair looks way better than i dared to imagine it would. and when i relaxed, the camera seemed to like me. now i'm very comfortable on camera, thank God -- which is probably why i keep getting called back for almost every commercial that will see me.
what's especially cool is that the director ed durante is using two of my songs, in the very beginning and the very end of the movie.
ed and his editor sen are close to a final edit, so they want some viable feedback. they're going to show it at tisch school of the arts (ed's alma mater) next week. i can't wait to see what it looks like and how it feels. and yes -- when all is said and done, i'm really glad that i did it.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
yeah, so i figured that if i'm going to write a book in a month, i may as well blog everyday this month, too. i don't know how i tripped up over National Blog Posting Month. what a cute idea. it must have been kismet. what kind of an avalanche of words will come out of my head in 30 days? at this point, i'm going to need a tidal wave. shouldn't be a problem. lately, it feels like i'm always riding one. but where is it taking me?
who knows -- maybe i'll shake some great ideas loose. scribble, scribble, scribble!