Friday, July 5, 2013

Eff You ‘Merica, You Let Omar Down

Yesterday, millions of inhabitants donned their favorite red, white and blue attire. Star shirts and striped socks. White linen shorts and dresses hugging rolling hills. Red lips puckered to cameras: "Happy Fourth!" Eyes raised to the flag, fingertips to brows, in salute. "From sea to shining sea."

I took no parts in this. My celebration consisted of my allegiance to family and food. I stuffed my face with ribs, burgers, roti, curry, Mac and cheese. White plates, blue drank, red solo cups, my own patriotism. Why show respect to a country that doesn't have its stuff together? One that makes me mourn just a few hours after a day of celebration because our neighborhoods aren't safe enough for our bright young minds to exist in?

I didn't know Omar Sykes personally, but family is family, and I grieve all the same. He was a Bison and I could assume the following: He was a black man defying the odds against him. He gave a damn about his education. He liked to turn up and have fun. He had hopes, dreams and attainable goals. He had friends and family with love in their hearts, who now have tears in their eyes. He was building a legacy. He had places to go. Now the next place he has to go is to the Coroner’s office. And it's your damn fault America.

It's your fault that the fun we all had has to come to a screeching halt because making a city safe is the last thing on your to-do list. It's the one missing thing on your scroll of accomplishments. Roughly 17,186 people have died from guns in the United States since the Newtown shootings, yet gun control is not a big enough topic to get all hands on deck to fix it. Ah, I see. Because figuring how to get the tax figures just so is more important. Because policing how people love each other is more important. Because throwing nails in the President's path to improvement is more important. Because saving George Zimmerman is more important. Because the NRA is more important. The ownership of guns all willy-nilly can wait. Sandy Hook can wait. Chicago can wait. Washington, D.C.—my second home—can wait. Omar Sykes can wait.

And you sit there marveling at the gleam of your own reflection, shining stars and stripes. As idyllic an image as you can muster up. Trickery to the eyes, because only we can see the piles of dirt you swept under the rug in pursuit if trivial novelties. Mounds and mounds of unaccounted for dirt. A tainted name that still resounds across the world as this great nation. Please. You're reaching. And you're still sweeping. America the Great? I'll believe it when I see it.

RIP Omar. I hope things will change.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Writer’s Rant: Committed to the Pen Game

When I brainstorm, it’s as if I’m about to birth a child or something, and I get very particular about my creative tools. I need a clear area, five bright lights, a post it pad, about three notebooks (seriously) and two ballpoint pens. While this makes it harder and harder to shimmy away from my “bag lady” persona. I find that reverting to the pre-technology era leads to more organic (okay, just better) ideas.

I remember when I lost my planner in May of 2012, I was a wreck. For the two years preceding that, I’d been scribing my life to the minute – it was technically an appointment book – and scribbling ideas in the margins. Every time I started a new journalism class or internship, I was gifted a reporter’s notepad. I must have gone through at least seven of those. My life changed when I received a blank, line-less moleskin for graduation. Let me tell you, I was ecstatic. From then on, I decided that I would carry it everywhere, so that if I had a sporadic thought, a pitch, a life goal, a travel plan, some commentary or an affirmation, I would never forget it.

That started a love affair of sorts. There’s gold in that book. And it’s not so much a diary that’s a grand secret. I’m not hiding anything in that book. It’s just what is and what I want. But the family grew and somehow I got my hands on a brand new moleskin. This one, I decided, would be solely for pitches to magazines and online publications, so I could organize my thoughts and see the empty, lined pages, inspired to fill them with profitable prose. More thoughts spilled out the faster I wrote. Enter notebook number three for my musings and ramblings, like this one. Once my fingers cramp up to their peaks and all my inky thoughts have clothed naked pages, I can breathe out a breath of satisfaction and close the book, knowing I can open and revisit the moment anytime I want.

You can’t do that with an iPhone, iPad, Samsung Galaxy or any mobile illuminated screen. People often suggest using the notepad feature on my iPhone for this kind of stuff. I can’t, I just can’t. More than likely I’d have to abbreviate every-damn-thing. My mind moves like a bullet and unfortunately I type (on a touch screen) much slower than I write. The message would end up either butchered or partially forgotten. Also, it would mean I’m unconcerned with what happens to my work and the goings-on of my mind. Putting my trust in a battery-powered device is like sloppily tossing my eggs in one basket. Sure, there’s the convenience factor, but then there are the what ifs. I am SUCH a what if person. What if the screen cracks, the touch screen disengages, the battery dies, the whole crap gets stolen? Then what? It’d be gone and I wouldn't remember what I wrote because I didn't actually write it. All my creative labor would've been for naught. Writing has the power to commit words to memory and turn dreams and desires into destiny. A tablet can’t promise me that. Digital characters get lost in the sea of text messages, emails and bombarding GroupMe debates, none of which help me create. Just blind responding.

Like some meme said, “If you ever wanna know what a creative person’s mind feels like, imagine a browser with 2,857 tabs open. All. The Time.” No truer words spoken. Tabs, spiral notebooks, post-its, napkins, receipts, moleskins and the back of my hands. All in use at the same damn time. And yes, I wrote all of this with my trusty ballpoint pen.