Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Bruh, 2014 Was One Hell of a Learning Session

By the end of each year, we flip back on old blog posts and diary pages to look at what we were so adamant about changing (or not changing) about ourselves. Praying that some inner or outer transformations occurred, trust circles shrunk and expanded, and that we know an ounce more about ourselves than we did 365 days ago. It's fun to wonder and revisit the mindset you left behind or lifted off with before all the confetti fell.  

I was flapping my gums about honoring and focusing on me this year, and I think I've lived up to that more or less. I've experienced some serious highs and lows this year, channeling both sets of emotions into understanding not only my needs and wants, but how others factor into creating said emotions. A year of focus on myself turned into even greater lessons about the people I'm surrounded by. Whether I liked it at the time or not, outside elements and personalities really helped me learn about my abilities, my distractions, my limits and my lack thereof. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Feeling Love, in Retrospect

We sat in silence, absentmindedly eyeing the backs of the wooly bus seats in front of us, occasionally stealing glances at the greenery whizzing by on our ride up from the Atlanta to New York City. Our hands were were clumsily linked at the fingers and rested on the lump of jackets between our laps. Dumb smiles plastered our 16- and 17-year-old faces. That moment could've easily been an awkward silence. But it wasn't, because just moments before, he'd asked me to be his girlfriend. And I said yes.

Before that two-week college tour spent under loose adult supervision, he and I had said no more than a few words during brief hallway huddles with mutual friends. We were simply colleagues. In time, I'd learn that the L-word was more than just part of a Hallmark card greeting and the quiet, dreadlocked boy who sat on the other side of Ms. Medlin's English class would eventually claim ownership of my heart.

I can't really recall the moment I said I love you for the first time and meant it. I'm not even sure which one of us said it first. But I know that when we exchanged our virgin sentiments, the new feeling made perfect sense. Almost seven years of uninterrupted singledom later, whatever fleeting feelings I felt then have reduced themselves to a figment of my imagination. It's not that I've become scornful of love or anything. I just… forgot. 

Some things I can still recount from our courtship. There were spontaneous trips to the Bronx Zoo and Roosevelt Field Mall during days off from school. There were times I'd visit his house to say hi to his mom, aunts, sister and little brothers, then sit on his bed not doing anything but playing Wii games, listening to Ne-Yo and (willingly) folding his laundry until it was time to head back to my side of the subway map. I remember trying to keep up with my best friend and her boyfriend to the pulse of Soca music down Eastern Parkway during the Labor Day Parade. Or that one time I went to National Wholesale Liquidators with my mother and pushed a wobbly cart down the hosiery aisle, imagining us one day grocery shopping as a couple. We talked for hours on the phone about everything and nothing as if I didn't have to get up before 6 a.m. for school the next day. Sometimes there were arguments about whatever, where I angrily hung up the phone just to see the same number call me right back minutes later, and him insisting that we just talk it out. Closing every exchange of words with "I love you." Yes, 2007 was no doubt a blissful year.

During the time we were together, my heart felt full of something. There were plenty of unforgettable experiences -- all kept in tact by Facebook pictures I refuse to delete for nostalgic purposes -- but now, I can't necessarily equate them with feeling "in love." 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

A Short Story About Something I Know Nothing About

This is old, very old. So old that I'm not sure if I like it anymore, so here.


LOCKDOWN 

I must have come on a super busy day. The struggles-of-a-baby-mama and I-hate-my-job chatter around me and the static-ridden television set showing an old episode of All My Children were hard to drown out. The smell of acrylic was making my head hurt and the short Asian man scrubbing the bottom of my feet tickled like all hell. My phone had been buzzing for damn near ten minutes and I couldn’t dig into my pocket to answer it for fear of ruining my French mani. 

None of that could keep my mind from retreating to one thought and stirring up a week’s worth of worry. The only thing on my mind was how, ultimately, one word had turned into a life sentence. How could I have let that happen? 

I scooped up my purse, tucked it under my arm and blew at my fingernails while being led to the nail drying station. “Careful! No touch!” my manicurist snapped at me. “Sorry, sorry,” I said, clearly distracted. Couldn’t knock him for making sure his work didn’t smudge. He pulled the chair out for me to sit down and placed my purse in my lap. That was grounds for a tip. But his efforts didn’t impress me for too much longer before I tumbled back into my conflicted thoughts. 

“T! You ready?” My thoughts were yet again cut off. A man with a 6’2” frame, freshly re-twisted shoulder length locs, tamed facial scruff, deep Hershey Symphony bar skin, bright eyes and a line of pearly whites affixed into a beaming smile walked into Hui Ja Nails’ lobby. Every woman under the nail dryers (no matter how old) snapped their heads in his direction and tried to stifle the vocal demands of their hormones. “Oh, God…” I heard someone whisper. 

“Give me like ten minutes under the dryer,” I answered him.

“Okay, hun.” He took a seat by the door and pulled out a rolled up copy of GQ from his inside jacket pocket, as if he expected me to not be ready. I laughed to myself at the thought. He knew me all too well. 

I never thought in a million years that tomorrow, I’d be marrying Ray. 



2002 was one hell of a year. It was my freshman year at Hillman University and I remember almost everything that happened as if it happened two days ago, unless of course the memory was wiped out by a hangover. I especially recall one day about three weeks before spring break. My dorm hall was running rampant with foolishness as usual. The heat in the hall was on high, and my some of my floormates were clad in cheek clenching shorts, crop tops and high heels, partaking in sporadic “fashion shows” and twerking contests. City locals with back home boyfriends checked in their men and brought them to their rooms until visitation ended at midnight. My roommate Desiree and I were idly sitting on the floor in the center of our room, making a list of places we’d visit during spring break if we actually had the money. In reality, I’d be bussing it back to my New Jersey home and she’d be visiting her cousins in Virginia. 

“Venice! Or maybe London,” I’d suggested.

“You’re aiming too high, Tamera. That’s a senior year trip,” Des countered. “Maybe Cancun?”

“That sounds nice,” I said. “But what about the Bahamas? Girl, I’m trying to see Atlantis.”

“Or Vegas!” interrupted one of my floormates who poked her head into our room while shaking her behind to “Drop and Give Me 50.” We left the door open because the hallway commotion never failed to entertain. She hadn’t broken her body’s cadence since she spoke. “You know, what happens in Vegas… stays in Vegas!” 

Des and I held our stomachs in laughter at the talk we were engaging in. All of a sudden, Soulja Boy’s “Donk” resonated throughout the hallway. Someone had some mean speakers. Nonetheless, this was the freshman girl’s party anthem. There was no way Des and I could sit this one out. 

The beat pulsed and made the walls quake. We joined in on the signature bouncing dance that usually accompanied this song until I heard an unfamiliar voice in my room. 

“Um, I’m sorry, but is this Liz’s room?” it boomed.

I froze mid-twerk. I turned around to see a fairly attractive young guy with neatly braided dreads, nicely fitted jeans, a plain white tee and sneakers, holding a denim jacket in his hands. His face was familiar. I’d seen him sitting with the football players in the cafeteria from time to time. Charm aside, I was pretty annoyed to be walked in on like that. “No,” I said flatly. I saw him look up at our room number above the doorway. He looked genuinely confused and visibly uncomfortable after my reaction. Des, who hadn’t stopped dancing, continued with the conversation. “Naw hun, two doors down!” He thanked her and said sorry to me again. I flashed a fake smile at his apology before turning my back to him. He hesitated one more time before walking down the hall. 

Des lightly punched my shoulder. “Aw lighten up, T,” she said. “Don’t front like he wasn’t fine.” I laughed but didn’t answer her. She was right, though. 

After that day, I started seeing him at random school events. At each one, we never caught eyes, and I didn’t try to make that happen. We just kept passing each other by, although I always felt like he noticed me every time. One warm day while I was sitting outside of the student center doodling in my notebook to kill time, someone blocked my sun. I looked up. It was my room intruder. 

“Hey,” he said. 

“Hey,” I returned. 

“Can I sit here?”

“Sure.”

I moved my things over to make room.

“I just wanted to say sorry for walking into your room that time. I know it happened mad long ago but I just wanted to say sorry again.”

I laughed. “It’s cool. No biggie.”

He smiled, relieved. “Ok, phew. We never really met or anything like that. I’m Ray,” he said, sticking his hand out.

I shook it. “Tamera Wayne.”

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Why Can't I Find Life's Cheat Sheet?

I don't know shxt, and there's nothing I hate more than that. 

Answers are worth more than money. They'd solve all the world's problems. Most importantly, they'd solve all of my damn problems. Every last inner quarrel I have with myself about the way to approach a challenge. Or not approach it. Foreshadowing outcomes before I prioritize my workload. Putting a timestamp on my patience. The best time to take a leap of faith. The common void in these situations? Answers, answers, answers. As elusive as Mariah's vocal prowess right about now. 

It's like, when people ask me what I am, what I do, where I want to be, how I plan to get there and my ultimate goals, I can never hit them with a straight answer in under five seconds. I stop and fidget, trying to encapsulate my dreams and hopes and swirl of ideas running through my mind a mile a minute into one concise sentence. It usually comes out as a stammer of inaudible words, then "a lot" or "everything." 

And to an extent I'm telling the truth. In a perfect world, I will have my hand in more than one industry and will have accomplished a lot. If all goes as I daydream, I will have served as a top editor at a print or digital publication, be dabbling in freelance photo projects, and have a decent side life as an independent artist. I will have produced at least two books: one novel/biography/memoir (when my life story actually matters) and a book of photography. Mind you, this is meant to be in a lifetime, but I can only (prayerfully) see as far as 10 years from now. I have a plan without actually having a plan. So when the question comes around, in a bumble of words, ultimately I want to be a professional person-who-is-great-at-many-things.

But maybe the real, real truth is that I don't freaking have a clue. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I Need New, More, Different Friends.

this one's short.

i need to know more people.

i know people think that having "too many friends" is a thing, but that's stupid. limited. safe. why wouldn't you want to have someone to dial-up other than the regulars you toss back Henny shots with or the members of your graduating class? someone that has an area code you'd have to google search because they're that unfamiliar? someone to be your artistic muse? someone to see you as their artistic muse? someone who makes fun of your accent and tries to imitate it after you reciprocate the joke? someone to respectfully question your ideals and beliefs and offer insight into how they were raised because it's so different from your upbringing. someone who's skills sets don't align with yours at all, but that doesn't make them any less interesting? someone who's god-given talent is damn near otherworldly and secretly you're hoping that a shard of it will catch on to you with continued contact? someone to help you decode a map. someone to pull you out of your comfort zone? someone that you don't owe much to, yet you feel like you owe them the world after opening your eyes to what you've never seen outside of your life's cubicle? someone to ask me why i don't know kilometers, celsius, non-American "football" and other things the United States chose to be on their own shit about? someone to teach me french, german, arabic, swahili, catalan, dutch, greek, chinese and italian beyond the numbers 1-10? someone that grew up with struggle. someone born into privilege? someone who doesn't blow $7 on soy lattes everyday? someone who makes everything they consume from scratch? someone who lives almost in solitude? someone who farms, surfs, is a craftsman? someone who seldom uses their phone? someone who finds fun in nature? someone who only shoots with film? i don't know, just someone… else.


wanderlust is kicking in, and i need to know more people. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Lost in New York

New York has always been perfection to me. It always will be. From the suburban enclave I was raised in to the bright, blinking and bustling city I got familiar with after starting high school. The overwhelming smell of jerk chicken on a grill and reggae pouring out of backyards in the summertime. The lilt of patois on crowded dollar vans running up and down Merrick Blvd that I used to be so scared of because I didn't trust strange drivers. Chugging along on the E, J, F, A, C, L, G and whatever other trains to take me to hubs of faceless people who pique my interest. So many shapes, sizes, colors, flavors, personalities. The ice cold silence on public transportation that I find oddly comforting. Scornful eyes following the person that bumped you a little too hard on the crowded platform, but the anger disappearing when you snag that empty seat. The sucking of teeth when you hear "Showtime!" in between express stops. Strolling around SoHo as if you're actually going to buy anything other than an H&M blouse and chicken over rice from the halal vendor. Watching the break dancers, skateboarders, lovers, homeless people, chess players and Hare Krishnas coexist in Union Square after dark. Being able to grab a Caramel Frappucino from Starbucks from any corner even though you don't really drink coffee like that. Knowing that the kids with hole-ridden Chuck Taylors, frayed jeans and greasy hair crammed into a beanie probably have more money than you. No one notices. No one cares. It's just the New Yorker way. I love it. Knowing that no matter how many people are around you, you are alone and not alone at the same time. You can be ass naked, or dressed head to toe in Balmain, if people turn their heads, it's only for an instant. And then the individual memory of you is gone as they hit the next traffic light. You exist as a people. Powerful in bulk. That was the main thing I loved about this city rife with individuality but majestic in all its anonymity. 

And today, I realized that that sweet city relic is my handicap. Existing en mass, the urban charm that I usually brag about, is probably the source of recurring bouts of depression (not clinical, a girl just gets sad sometimes).

I keep a running tab of all the photographers whose work I love. Yes, I think I'm good at what I do and proud of what I've produced thus far. But I know I can, and need to, go deeper. Seeing them come alive when they shoot the subjects they're passionate above. Same with writers. And artists. Creating and curating and sharing and living and it's beautiful and I'm just here. Bookmarking articles from pen gawds and dope pictures I wish I took because i'm A, stuck in a monotonous and colorless routine, B, don't know what's truly "my thing," and C, too scared to take risks and spend money I don't have and talk to people I don't know to change it. 

I creep through Instagram, vicariously living through people's memories of things they've done and ways they've shined, wondering why the hell I'm sitting still, cotched in my room in far out Queens doing not a damn thing but scouring my feedly for the next Kanye West rant or Beyonce tumblr post. 

And I'm like, is this life? People always tell me how well I'm doing and how much I've accomplished. How lucky I am to be here in amazing New York, the city of promise and opportunity and the best place to flourish. To an extent, I agree. But it's hard to nod along when I can't see it, not all of it at least. I'm on a totally different comparison scale as them. I don't know what they see, but I see what a successful me looks like a little differently: I'd know what I want. I'd know that I'm happy. I'd know who I am. And right now, I'm sure of only 10% of that. 

New York is a great place to come here and conquer, but I'm coasting almost idly on my own stomping grounds. I don't feel that same rush as every other transplant. I live in what I see as the most awesome place in the world, but I kind of only just exist here as an awestruck spectator.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

So… What Was #30DaysofSELF, You Ask?

Around this time a few days ago, I would be scrambling around my house with my tripod and camera in hand, searching for an unphotographed nook and a little inspiration to produce what manifested itself as #30DaysofSELF.

Why the heck did I embark on such a journey, force-feeding my face to timelines for the entire month of April? To be honest, when I first started it, I literally had no idea. It was March 31 and the idea just came to me. Well, the name rather. It sounded like a dope hashtag, a great challenge like all the other writing ones of yesteryear I'd attempted and failed. But I didn't want to write for 30 days.

I looked over to Gavin Desmond (yes, I named my camera) perched on my dresser, catching dust since I last used it to archive my trip to New Orleans at the top of March. Hmm, this can be a self-portrait challenge, I thought to myself. I've never done one before, so let's just give it a go and see what happens. And that was that. 


Day 4
To be honest, I didn't know what I was getting myself into. I didn't have any sort of preconceived notion or planned outcome. I didn't have a blueprint from any other person since I made it up on a whim. I barely had a concrete objective. But what I got out of it was truly a blessing. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Stuck At The Light: A Short Story

"This doesn't really mean anything does it."

I kept cutting at my steak. Without breaking my concentration, I pulled a medium-well cube of meat from the tip of the fork with my teeth. It was a question I knew wouldn't end well. 

"You've asked that question before," I said, glancing up at him. He fidgeted uncomfortably across the dinner table, swirling whatever was left of his Riesling in his glass. He'd been doing that for the past ten minutes. 

"The fact that I still feel the need to even ask it is what's bothering me..." 

I felt bad. Chey was a nice guy. A great guy, actually. I met him at an internship luncheon two years ago and we clicked immediately, making sure to exchange business cards at the end. We kept in loose contact for about a year and a half, updating each other via texts and emails about our day jobs and occasionally grabbing coffee during our off days. He was a senior account executive at some hotshot advertising agency in the city, but you wouldn't be able to tell unless you asked for his resume. He was a natural jokester, and laughter came easy and often with him. Even when he clowned me for having flyaway hairs or tripping over the gaps in the sidewalk, I couldn't help but laugh before the embarrassment set in. 

Chey was a looker, too. He was tall enough for me to wear my favorite black pumps, tip toe in them and still not match him. He was sturdy without looking like a ball of muscle, but gave warm, gentle hugs that could make you lose track of the time if you nuzzled into his chest. His even, ceramic skin had a warm glow to it and his high cheekbones were peppered with freckles that seemed to dance around his glassy brown eyes when he laughed. 

"I just want to know where we stand," he continued, his eyes pleading with mine. His inquiry was a fair one. 

This was our fifteenth "date." His words, not mine. Outings were a more appropriate term. And this was an outing with a friend… who wanted to add "boy" as a prefix. I dodged his hints as often as he dropped them. 

My mother fussed over my lack of commitment the weekend prior. "Dionne. Are you blind? Chey is a keeper." She made it quite clear that she was pro-Chey. "Get with it. Or stop stringing this young man along if you're not going to take him seriously. It's not fair for him to be hanging in the balance while you get your act together."

Ma wasn't wrong. I mean, when was she ever? Chey was undoubtedly a great friend and fun companion for city explorations and fine dining. He even willingly listened along whenever I needed to talk my shit, which I did quite often. 

He was nice. But nice wasn't quite enough. He didn't thrill me. He wasn't like Dane, and for some reason, I couldn't look past that. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Wishing Death On A Part Of Me

I don't believe in suicide, and that makes things a little tricky. It's extreme. I don't want to kill me. But a small part of me, yes, I do. Her name is Shy, and I want her dead. 

Shy -- and all the other traits she brings with her (second guessing, waiting, missing opportunities because I simply don't take them) -- is nagging and annoying. She's smothering like a pastor is to his teenage daughter, or like a significant other fishing for some Instagram-worthy PDA. 

When I want to be let alone to just do my thing, here Shy comes, hovering over my shoulder like cartoon depictions of Satan. Whispering what-if's into my ear without giving the angel a chance to land on the other side of my mind and tell me go for it. You can do it. What have you got to lose? Go say hi to him. Go ask for a promotion. Start your own passion project. Ask and you shall receive. All that inner encouragement drowned out by the white noise of self-apprehension. Senseless fear and fuzziness. A barricade that I have no idea how to disassemble because Shy fixed it up good and tight, tossing out the instruction manual early on.  

When I was drifting into my late teens, there was so much that I wanted to change about myself. Physical things, mostly. I hated my feet. My knees. My bow legs. My boobs. My ears. My hair. My skin (never my skin color, though). I thought I was corny. Unpopular. A nerd. An oreo. A late bloomer. Luckily I did a lot of growing since then and eventually a lot of loving. I'm very happy with how I turned out and appreciative of the quirks God gave me. 

Except. Being. Shy.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Forget The Kim K Part: The New 'Vogue' Cover Teaches Us About The Power Of Persistence

Nine times out of ten, the consumer reaction upon seeing Kanye West and Kim Kardashian cuddled in bridal wear on the cover of Vogue (aside from awww, eye rolls or sucking of teeth) was, "FINALLY!"

For a steady couple years, one of the ongoing jokes of the internet was when the stoic Anna Wintour would honor Kanye's request to put the mother of his child on the cover of American Vogue. It was the stuff of comedy because nobody expected that day to come. No one expected the revered Artistic Director of one of the biggest media companies to honor the seemingly trivial request. To "cave." But she did, and for the month of April we will be staring KimYe in the face every time we run to our local CVS for a toiletry run.

The tweets collected under the cumbersome #WorldsMostTalkedAboutCouple hashtag have echoed everything from disappointment in Ms. Wintour to utter shock to shaming the publication for pandering to social media gimmicks.


Now, whether or not Kim Kardashian deserved her cover spot is neither here nor there (she's already solidified in ink, so you will have to deal). What's really worth noting here is Kanye West and the $5 proof of the power of persistence.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Escape to NOLA: My First Mardi Gras

MY FIRST TIME ON AMTRAK was more or less painless. I'd done some train travel from NY to Connecticut before, but nothing like this. Nothing like 30 hours across cityscapes, woods and open pastures en route from the heart of Manhattan to New Orleans, Louisiana. To most, the very idea of being train-bound for more than a couple hours is the stuff of nightmares (my friends are still questioning my sanity for doing it), but to me, it was a well-deserved dose of uninterrupted serenity. Observance. A clear mind. Engagement of all the senses. I hear the tinkering of loose gears and panels of the overhead luggage compartments. The crinkling of an aluminum snack bag giving way to a hungry set of hands. The blaring of the vessel's horns piercing the quiet of midnight and dispensing itself across the outskirts of Virginia. The stale and loaded coughs of the woman in the next row with the overly active polyphonic ringtone. Her voice is husky and weary with age. "I'm trying to get some sleep, but you guys won't let me," she groans into the phone after what feels like her 15th incoming call of the day.


I take a bite of the second half of my cold-ish Subway sandwich and a swig of the smoothie I prepared before I left my house nearly nine hours ago. As I dine by myself (my two travel mates are asleep now), I can hear the shuffling of feet down the aisle on the way to the restroom, then back to their seats. And soon the sleepy silence of the night coupled with the scattered fluorescent white glow of entertainment devices -- phones, iPads, laptops, kindles -- trying their best to amuse the night owls and folks unable to slip into their second nap time. 

I wake up early enough to see everyone else wake up. Groggy, lining up to the restroom to brush their teeth, staring out the windows idly. The woman in front of me has on blue footie pajamas and was rolling up a joint in plain sight yesterday. She and her two excited (and shoeless) comrades speak in the sort of slanted banter that makes me want to travel more. And farther. I can see a burgundy passport resting on the other woman's lap. England, I believe. Her boyfriend nearly stumbled over backwards when we passed the Lincoln Memorial riding out of D.C., eyes wide, grin wider as he took in the sight of the statues glowing in majesty. I barely looked over. I'd seen it before. D.C. was my backyard for four years and I barely cared about the monuments. But to see this foreigner get starry-eyed just to pass stiff presidents at 90 mph… I want that. I want that kind of appreciation for new sights that are old to everyone else. I want for my navy blue passport to be the oddball of the bunch. Instead, I lean back in this American train, stare at folded lawn chairs in the middle of woody American backyards and fields of American cows chowing down on grass. I recline the cushy seat as far back as it can go and stretch my legs, allowing my body to rock with the cradle-like motion of the train, letting my mind drift to non-American places as I wait for us to pull up hours later alongside the Mercedes Benz SuperDome. My time will come, but for now, this trip will do. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

'Oxymoron' Proved That It's Okay To Stan For TDE

I hate Stans, I truly do. If you know me or of me, you know that I tend to retreat from all social media platforms whenever Beyonce so much as breathes publicly because the hive is in full swarm. Obsessing over people never really made any sense to me. The last person I can vividly remember feening for with posters, merch and memorized birthdays was Shad Gregory Moss, BKA Lil Bow Wow. I was 11 when "Take Ya Home" came out and 13 years later, I can still run it line for line, Harlem Shake and all. See how nuts that sounds?

Anyway, you can imagine how off kilter I felt when my appreciation for rap's quietly dominating super crew crept into super-fan territory. Today, if you ask me who my favorite artist is, I'll probably say matter-of-factly, "TDE." Yes, I'm well aware that this isn't a singular person, but the solid group as a whole contributes to a superb listening experience balled into one creative entity. Top Dawg knew what he was doing. 

Kendrick Lamar -- my first entry point into the Left Coast-based crew -- and his good kid, MAAD city registered to me months later than everyone else. Blame it on my deliberate avoidance of "The Bandwagon." I'd vibed with a couple Section.80 snippets from time to time and had heard Overly Dedicated, but after giving GKMC repeated listens, it forced its way onto my daily iTunes queue. Then came my unexplainable Ab-Soul adoration. I dunno. Something about him and his wild mane, introverted, visceral nature and Piscean traits charms me. That and his 2012 project Control System, which I didn't actually listen to until the tail-end of 2013, but only because I didn't know him like that yet. Trust me, I'm thoroughly pissed that I didn't. Something in me clicked when "Book of Soul" started playing. I swear I can remember my eyes watering or some super dramatic ish like that. Yeah, it was like that. Out of sheer curiosity as to who the two non-Cali breeds rolling with a clearly Cali crew were, I listened to SZA's See.SZA.Run and S and Isaiah Rashad's new Cilvia Demo. Loved 'em all, surprisingly. Jay Rock's menacing flow has always intrigued me (I can't help but snarl when I spit his feature verses) and I look forward to when his next project surfaces. 

And then there's ScHoolboy Q, the dopey-energetic hybrid of the crew, and his brilliant new LP, Oxymoron. I knew of Q before I really understood Kendrick. "There He Go" hooked me in immediately without knowing who a damn ScHoolboy and his capital H was. Then I got hip to Black Hippy and Groovy Q's role in the concept troupe. I knew his next work was going to be good. Oxymoron solidified that my closeted Standom for TDE is real and merited. 


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

No, I'm Not "One of the Guys" And I'm Cool With That

I never understood why people underestimated "the girlfriends."

No, I'm not referring to the ladies lovingly slinked over chiseled biceps, consistently posting flicks of her #MCM and with his name saved as a set of the heart eyed emojis in her phone.

I'm talking about the girl-franssss, which nobody wants to proudly claim anymore for some reason. 

Last month, I went to two sleepovers. For the first one, my friend had planned for it to be this big thing with facials, manis and pedis, movies and life planning. There ended up only being 6 of us: her, me, her best friend, her co-worker, and her two overly affectionate tabby cats, Vera and Irve (yes, like the designers). I only really knew her well, but I didn't leave feeling that way. We spent hours watching (and then suffering from soured moods from) Winnie Mandela, starting on Sarafina before pausing the movie midway to vent about ain't-shit men and opening up and closing off and how men really feel about us and dirty secrets and Beyonce and sexual abuse and music and self-confidence and sex appeal and God and husbands and loyalty. It was one open forum that kept flowing as consistently as the wine did. Nothing was withheld from the table, no pages left unturned, no apprehension. No judgement. And it felt amazing to share experiences both surface and impersonal to the innermost gnats of emotions with people whose last names we left never even asking. Cutting up both literally and figuratively, working to assemble our vision boards that we didn't even take home the next morning. But we took home the joy of bonding with our fellow women.

The second was a Grammy watching party, where most of us had to work to cover the event. While glued to our laptops, we screamed to the heavens upon finding out that Macklemore swept all the hip hop categories, critiqued the peaks and shortcomings of Beyonce and Jay Z's half-Drunk in Love performance, twerked to Katy Perry, experienced the holy Ghost during Kendrick Lamar and Imagine Dragons' set, sipped on Mimosas, screwdrivers, and plain juice, shared juicy chicken, ate slightly undercooked rice without judging the cook (LOL, the chicken was seriously delish though!) and stuffed our face with Dunkin' Donuts minis that we KNEW were in violation of our diets and exercise regimens. We drifted into conversation about our journalism futures and where we wanted our careers to go before drifting into slumber.

I was literally overjoyed leaving both get-togethers, excited to have had such candid bonding time with my gal pals. But for some reason unbeknownst to me, that's not all too high on other women's priority lists.  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Fear of Fatherless

I used to think nothing could top my fear of dying. On most nights after I've tucked myself in, I lie awake staring at the shapes on my ceiling, or sometimes I stare into darkness, not being able to differentiate open eyes from closed. Either way, I'm imagining nothingness. Emptiness. Loss of purpose. Loss of presence. Loss of memory. Loss of soul. Loss of thought. What comes after? What if there's nothing? But I can't recall a "before." Reasoning. Rationalizing. Questioning my religion. Terrified. For years, these nightly thoughts shook me to near-tears. Until recently. The fear of my end got bumped down to the second slot. What about my father's? What will I do when... I try not to think about it. But I know one day, he'll have to leave me, and knowing that hurts.

Growing up, all of my closest friends had fathers. Dads. Whether I met them or not, heard fond memories of them or not, the male parents were all there. Between picking us up from school, granting permission for sleepovers and pissing us off daily, they were as normal a part of life as sunlight and breath. 

But each year that we grew older, the fathers were plucked from lives one by one like the petals of a daisy. They became pinned pictures to mirrors and refrigerator doors. Centerpieces for obituaries and church fans. Facebook pictures and In Memoriam statuses. Willingly discarded memories and afterthoughts. Even some who were ghosts from the get-go. 

And there's my dad. Here is my dad. My devoted father, whom I love and know loves me, a fixture in my daily goings on. 

The one who I can count on to tell me I'm holding the camera at the wrong angle. "You're making the subject look too short. You have to crouch," he always says. And other times, the one who takes my portfolio and pulls up my website on his iPhone to show his coworkers and friends the "wicked" photos I took last. 

The one who complains about how little sleep he gets, but stays up into the night hunched over in front of his computer editing photos he took eons ago, that people will probably never see, squinting into the glow of the monitor. The one I hear grumbling about the pain in his eyes, head and heels, but still tells me to call him when I'm out 'til 3 am in Brooklyn on New Year's because he knows I have a slim chance of snagging a cab back to Queens. 

The one who faithfully goes out into the cold to get Chinese food from Kim's even though I nag him about how terrible it is for him. The one who cooks banana fritters, boiled okra, ground beef and chicken soup sometimes when he feels like it, but insists I come watch my mother cook in the kitchen so that I can help out when she's tired instead of just waiting to be fed. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

TV Tragedy Equals Tears. Real Life Equals Blank Stares.

I always found it interesting how much people care for the fictionally wounded on the big screen and shed tears when an actor dies, but when a life is in jeopardy in real life, in real time, nobody knows how to do anything but stand still. I never thought I'd witness that first hand, staring incredulously at onlookers watching a scene straight out of a daytime dramedy. All they needed was the popcorn. 

A convulsing individual is laying right there on the ground on the Broadway Junction Station platform and everyone's standing around watching -- some shocked, some amazed -- wondering what happens next. Folks that just got off the Manhattan bound J train stare at the person on the ground (I couldn't tell if it was a man or a woman), then at each other, their faces all reading: "So... who's gonna move?" 

But the reality is that if anyone moves, they'll miss out on the action. The drama. As if there's a scripted ending prepped and packaged for the moment. An older guy carrying three disheveled boxes of pizza (who admittedly looks slightly off his rocker) is yelling "Police! Police!" as he makes his way down the steep stairs. The down escalator is too packed with stubborn people who probably wouldn't be willing to move to the right and let him pass. He's moving relatively slowly, but it's as swiftly as he can go without tripping. "Police! Police!" he continues yelling, unanswered. Everyone watches him go. You can see the scrunching faces of the people on the up escalator. They're wondering why this crazy old geezer is making all this noise. Wondering why he's the only one yelling so angrily. But nobody really moves or inquires about it. 

I rush past him down the stairs because I realize that really nobody's moving at all, and I can get to the bottom of the stairs faster than he can. When I get to the bottom, there are no blue jackets and badges in sight. A usual Friday night at B-Junc usually promises cops crawling all over the premises, searching for trouble in East New York. But tonight no one is here. I frantically scan the crowd for them, looking past the turnstiles where if I go outside to look, I'd have to pay another $2.50 to go back in. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Love, Hurt, Release: A Short Story From Nowhere

I'm still practicing:


Love, Hurt, Release.

Laura's usual spot was occupied today. The booth directly by the door allowing her to slip out just as quickly and quietly as she crept in was currently filled with a couple and their teething toddler, but the waitress had a better option available for her. "Right this way, Ms. Banks," Bethanny offered. "I think you'll like this spot just as much." Bethanny always waited her table. She was perky, flashing warm grins as she took orders from customers about a tenth as joyful as she was. With a polite smile, she followed her cheery waitress across the old diner -- without admiring the sweeping walls lined with portraits, records and autographed napkins of ritzy clientele per usual -- to a roomy, corner booth. The early afternoon sun bathed the toffee brown leather seats, warming the spot where she sat. She removed her scarf and coat and tossed them on the other side of the marble table. 

"Ooh, I love your jacket!" Bethanny squealed. Laura didn't, but it was the only one she managed to grab while scurrying out of the apartment last weekend. "Thanks. Me too," she lied behind shaded eyes. "Can I have my usual? And a water with two lemons for right now?" 

Bethanny whisked away to put in an order of shrimp Caesar salad with avocados and a side of curly fries. Laura was desperate for some comfort food. More comfort than food. She propped her elbows up on the table and cradled her face with her hands. Sigh. A tear started to form in the corner of her eye, but she quickly pulled a napkin from the dispenser to dab at the droplet threatening to fall. She winced in pain. Still sore. The waitress plopped the icy cup of water on the table top. Laura jumped in surprise, scrambling to readjust her sunglasses and hide the damp napkin from view. "Um… here's your water," she began, noticing the black smears on the crumpled napkin. "Are you o--" 

"Thanks, Bethanny." Laura cut her off, flashing a strained smile. "May I have a straw?" The waitress knew something was up. She wasn't typically this withdrawn, but she nodded obediently, pulled a straw from her apron, set it down and hesitantly backed away to tend to another table. 

Laura knew Bethanny meant well, but now wasn't the time for show and tell. Enough crap was on her mind. Where am I going to go next?  Who can I tell? Should I tell? Is any of this even worth the worry? The throbbing under her right eye answered her last question. Her pain was real and the worry was valid. She wasn't scared, though. It was anger that hovered over her head like a storm cloud waiting to burst. Today was Thursday and she could still feel the white hot anger from Saturday night stinging her face, burning at her. "That bitch..." she mumbled under her breath. 


---

"Can I get a T?" 

Pat Sajak's voice trickled in from the other room. 

"You've got three T's for $1500!"

Laura listened absentmindedly as she sat in front of her vanity, plucking hairpins one by one from her wrapped tresses. 

"Vanna, please reveal the letters from the Prize Puzzle." 

Vanna White sashayed across the floor and touched each screen of the puzzle with gentle, manicured hands. Her draping tinsel gown seemed to help her glide from one side of the screen to the other. 

A laugh escaped Laura's lips as she shook her hair and watched it fall neatly to her shoulders. "Vanna don't have nothin' on me," she told her reflection. Tonight, she had every intent on wowing her coworkers at the company party, but she needed to wow Stephen first. He'd been real crabby towards her lately, and she hoped tonight would change all that. His anticipated reaction played in the back of her mind like a silent film as she delicately applied her makeup.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Yes, I Plan to be Selfish With 2014.

Live. Be. Write. Go. Laugh. Live. See. Smile. Write. Then live again.

That's the rolling agenda for this new year. This 2014 that I'm trying my damnedest not to plan from top to bottom. Because c'mon, we all know that when we swear by resolutions and make sweeping promises to change, things don't always go as planned. I'm not trying to chastise the "New Year, New Me" crew, trust me. I'm learning to just go with the flow with things and let life unfold organically. It's just better that way. Organic. For me at least. And I'm the most important part of this equation.

I've learned that this year. Well, last year now. Just let life happen, and be present to record it as it does. Go with it. Make it work. My happiness was controlled by so many agents. So many hands were in the pot, trying to give order to a life that I haven't even experienced to the fullest yet. And I'll admit, some of that was my doing. I'm a compulsive planner, to-do list writer and write-my-goals-as-I-go-er. Which is fine, because I believe power lies in the pen. But beauty lies in unpredictability. There were so many spin offs to my script, so many life stories I wrote that I didn't plan to. New characters got included. Different genres. I'm at point E, and I didn't even realize when or even if I left point A. My experiences have been all over the place, and for that I'm thankful. Eventually, it'll all make for one hell of a story.