Sunday, November 30, 2008

Excess & Deprivation

In this fairly blessed culture, one's greatest enemy is often ourselves. It's generally something tied to excess of something we like, deprivation of something we need, or both.

I've used this poem as a tool to help others help themselves. It's ideal for people with serious addictions, but nearly everyone has some trap they keep falling into.
Read this carefully:

Chapter 1

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost... I am hopeless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter II

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in this same place.
But it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it there.
I still fall in... it's a habit... but,
my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter IV

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the street.
I walk around it.

Chapter V

I walk down another street.


No, I didn't write that poem. It's titled Autobiography In Five Short Chapters, by Portia Nelson. Amazing, isn't it?

When it comes to the demon you've been wrestling with, if you have one, which chapter are you stuck in?

I thought of waiting until January 1st to write this post, however, since that's the time many of you will be toying with the idea of a New Years Resolutions. However, with more holidays on the way, the opportunity is ripe to start thinking about issues that trip you up.

[Edit, Sunday, 11/30/2008 @ 2:40 PM
It occurred to me that this poem applies to nations too.
Hmmm, usually people and communities are a microcosm of the larger society. This time it's the reverse.]


I'll throw out some ideas in different categories. You'll see issues of people here that affect your life and tempted to say, "Oh, that's so n' so!", but this ain't about them, it's about you and your stuff, so try to focus on that and what you need or would like to do to bring about change that you have control over.


Excess: Knowingly being a sucker in any kind of relationship, reckless promiscuity, love or infatuation addiction, being needlessly critical or argumentative, oppressively dominating another in love, family or work, using anger to control others, being a workaholic to avoid emptiness in your social relationships, wasting time with people who drag you down or things that bring you little satisfaction.

Deprivation: Avoiding face-to-face social connection with others, putting hobbies and pleasurable activities on the back burner, ignoring your loneliness for companionship, sexual starvation, ignoring signs of depression and anxiety.


Excess: Overeating, eating foods you shouldn't if you have a specific health condition, not practicing safe sex to avoid disease or unwanted pregnancies, smoking, abusing alcohol, using hard drugs or steroids, staying so busy that you don't get enough rest or sleeping too much.

Deprivation: Not getting enough exercise, not eating properly or taking vitamins to compensate, not getting help for any kind of addiction or mental health issue that affects your body or mind.


Excess: Buying things you don't really need for yourself or others, gambling to excess.
Deprivation: Ignoring important bills, not saving for something critical, not developing your academic or career options to its fullest.


The burdens we carry with us are like unwelcome baggage... heavy, like a bag of rocks which weighs us down. Sometimes we pick it up luggage by accident, and since we are creatures of habit and like what we like, this can be to our demise.

More frequently the burdens we carry are generational, passed onto us by one or both parents, our extended family, grandparents, or further back on our family tree. It can be barely in our consciousness or unconscious, or, our troubles stem from a social burden and part of our community or culture.

I won't lie and tell you this is always a bad thing, because all sunshine and no rain makes a desert.

Our troubles can give us insight into the human condition and make us stronger, better and more useful people.

Thus, just as the earth needs rain for growth, we need the challenges that comes from problems to become stronger and give us depth. View your issues not as a curse, but possibly a gift, which teaches you how your problem developed, and how to overcome it.

What you learn may apply in different areas, and also be helpful in your relationships with others - and maybe prevent the next generation, i.e., your kids, from picking up your baggage, developing your less functional coping skills in some area, and later falling into their own hole.

As you begin thinking about all of this, by New Years, you might be ready to unload that some or all of that baggage that has been weighing you down.

Proceed slowly because success is a journey and takes time and nurturing. Your problematic habits of excess or depriving yourself probably didn't develop in one day, and they're not likely to disappear as quickly you'd like, so be kind to yourself.

Friday, November 28, 2008

One Nation Under Greed

Don't hate my kid, but she found it hilarious that someone died in a Black Friday stampede at Wal-Mart. I didn't think she was taking this seriously enough, so I quickly found this YouTube video. Someone used their cell phone to film the unfortunate, dying store clerk receiving CPR. You can actually hear them laugh in the background.

This made my nearly 13 year old daughter laugh harder. I was too shocked to even get angry.

"Why is this funny to you?", I asked.

"That's just Americans," she replied, still laughing. "I know my people, and all they care about is a good sale."


"Yeah, think about how excited you got the first time you went to a Wal-Mart."

"You can't compare that to this..."

"Oh yes you can," she shot back quickly. "You were so psyched over those great prices. Now imagine being there Black Friday, where you get 50% off that."

"But they trampled people to bust into the store!"

"Shopping on Black Friday is not for the faint of heart... See, the lady videoing it is even laughing."

"Look at that poor woman... man? I can't tell. That person is dead now."

"Too fat, probably wore glasses and looked like a nerd. Got no respect."


She laughed again.

"That's not funny!," I exclaimed. "Someone should have stopped to help him up!"

"Mom, you're too much of goody-two shoes. That could be you real easy. I can see you now, trying to bend over and help someone, then get knocked down and trampled yourself. Best you can do in one of those situations is jump over the person."

"Cassie, I think I'm starting to get mad at ya..."

She was relentless. She said, "Think about all those folks waiting in line since yesterday evening. They're half crazy by the time the doors open. If they stop to help someone, they'd lose their place and maybe a good deal. I heard the first fifty people got a free IPod at Best Buy."

"Good for them, but at that Wal-Mart, they closed after that."

"They closed? Over that?"

I was confounded by her own "American" attitude of utter non-empathy. How in the hell did my kid get desensitized? And when did this shit happen? Hell, a few days ago I was writing great shit about her. Now I'm wondering what planet she arrived from.

"Yes," I said, "why wouldn't they close? One store clerk dead, a pregnant woman trampled and miscarried... She was real far along and lost her baby."

Cassie looked sad for the first time.

"Several other people were injured too," I said. "This is why they closed the store."

Her mind jumped back into the callous American attitude of it's all about me.

"Wow," she said, "I know those shoppers were mad..."


"The store owner must be upset too," she said. "They needed those sales."

I sucked my teeth. "No excuse for any of it," I said. "What happened to that man was homicide."


"Yes, homicide."

"No, Mom, it was just an accident..."

"Bullshit. Second degree murda. Like killing someone from reckless driving and claiming it was only an accident."

This word slowly sank in her mind. I could see it in her eyes. She understands murder. She understands shopper mania. Her mind was now struggling to connect the two. The story was suddenly not funny to her.

She mouthed the word again, murder.

To change the subject, we looked for more YouTube videos under Black Friday. Quite a few folks had the same idea I did last night: they went people-watching at the crowds lined up even though the doors didn't open until 5AM or after.

I live within a five minute walk from a Best Buy. Yesterday, my son Xavier walked the dog and came back in saying he couldn't believe that people were already lined up outside - and it was barely 7PM. I was amazed too; last year I think they didn't do this until after midnight.

Later, about 1 AM today, I took the dog for a stroll over there. I swear, the Asians may end up on top. The first half dozen families led the line, had their tents, and were camped out. I asked the first young lady what she was there to get.

"A TV," she said.

Hmmm. I thought she would say a computer. She looked like a student.

The line wrapped around the side of the building. All races present. Orderly. Chatty. Cold. Over half had tents. A lot of people waited in their cars to stay warm, and would take turns with their family members doing this. I was surprised that the majority said they wanted TV's.

Around 11 AM, I returned and this time entered the store. It was packed. No, I have no money yet to blow on anything non-essential, but I love to watch all things Americana.

Truth be told, there was a neat little video camera, normally for $299, on sale today only for $199. I've never owned one and it would be fun, but I know in my bones that next year will brutal for the economy, so much so that I might find the same thing in the spring for $99. If not, fine. I gotta good digital camera.

As I looked at nearly 100 shopping carts filled with televisions, I was thinking, damn, what am I missing? Programming still sucks. I can't imagine that all those folks have no TV or a broken TV at home.

What struck me today that's different from previous years is that instead of computers selling like hotcakes, TVs were flying on the shelves. I understood computers; they're expensive and students need one for school work, and they are necessity if you want alternative news, not to mention email or taking work home from the office.


Instead of chains, we have wires now and like willing slaves, are willing to be wired at all times.

We are chained to cell phones, text messages, pagers, email, taking home work from the office, and for the kids, TV, movies, music and video games. There's no escape from our masters.

This ain't new; it's been going on since America went online approximately ten years ago. In fact, American Online (AOL) used to be the biggest company. I remember my excitement of getting Internet. You'll find heaven there, but the devil is too, and I ain't talking about pornography. Everything is so instant, but also terribly impersonal.

I truly hate to criticize the younger generation, and y'all please tell me if I'm wrong, but excess technology seems so bonkers that it's impeded the dating and mating ritual.

Guy and girl meet, and do they call one another right away? No. They waste weeks texting and cruising each others Facebook or MySpace to determine if any sexual attraction they may have felt was legit. Then they text rather than talk, build up a whole fantasy about that person's fantasy of themselves, maybe still get rejected for a first date after nurturing a pseudo-relationship in cyberspace, and then start all over again.

And then wonder why it's been two or three months since they've been on a date. Hell, they could've been laid at least 50 times in that amount of time if they had simply exchanged phone numbers, asked the person out the first time they called and nurtured some kind of relationship. All that good sexin', gone to waste because they're wired.

It's a damn shame. Shiiit, wish the hell I was in my 20s again, but that's another story, heh-heh.

Instead, this nation of horny-azzed folks have turned to food - we are a bunch of fatties - and having way too much stuff and getting lost in the fantasy of television, cable, and electronic games to substitute for companionship and sex.

Well, not everyone, of course, but whole lot of folk. We're starting the kids out young too, with this sorta new value system. This evening I read that today, Black Friday, at a Toys R Us, there was a shooting that left two people dead.

How's that for sending the kids the message that entertainment stuff is worth trampling others and even shooting them?

The store and news is trying to spin it like "maybe" it was a personal issue between whoever had the gun(s). Regardless, they were shopping in the damn store on Black Friday and handled their conflict with the ultimate violence available to the ordinary citizen.

I can picture that shit now.

Janie tells her kid: "You want that doll?"

Kid: "Yeah! I gotta have it."

Janie: "Look, there's that bitch that's been hating on me. I'm gonna blast her azz, right now in plain view of all these witnesses."

Kid: "Ma, can't you wait 'till later?"

Janie: "Fuck that. I'm wit 50 Cents, I'm a Termination On Sight kinda mama."

Oh hell no the shit didn't go down like that. I'd bet $20 bucks them women and/or their friends were fighting over some friggin' toys. Who the hell kills in front of 500 witnesses, plus store cameras, and a packed parking lot making a quick escape impossible?

My son walked in a couple hours ago. I asked if he heard about Wal-Mart spectacle.

"Yeah," he said nonchalantly, "at my friend's house."

"What you think about it?"

"It was funny."


He had a slight tone of disgust in his voice when he answered. "Because it's so stupid."

Cassie's laugher and words still ring in my ears: "That's just Americans. I know my people, and all they care about is a good sale."

What she's really saying without knowing she's saying it is that we've become One Nation Under Greed.

God help us all when the economy nose dives harder and food shortages and food rationing lines become the norm.

Seriously, can't you visualize all us well-fed, young and middle-aged Americans fighting in the snack food and soda aisles?

I can hear the intercom now: "There's been a double stabbing in Aisle 13. Avoid that section please, until the medics arrive."

Shiiit, if it's anything like Toys R Us or Wal-Mart today, there will be stampede there to get the victim's share of food rationing.

For a lot of reasons I've written about previously, I believe there's an excellent chance of shortages happening long before next year this time, and I can't help but wonder why God or anyone else would want to help us at all...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving Day Special:
Show Ya Love By Effing Wit Their Heads

Psst. Come here. Ain't nothing more fun than effing with your kids. Wanna do something special to them this Thanksgiving? Plan now, so you'll be ready.

Got no kids? Fine. You got someone. Why spare their minds of your mischief or wait until April Fools Day? This is what I did last year this time. You can do the same thing or something similar. Follow my lead and have a few laughs along the way.


Last November, I rolled my cart down the Snacks aisle at my grocery store and spotted a bag of Simply Enjoy Pina Colada Pecans.

What the heck, I thought. I'll try them.

This is why I try not to shop when hungry. I'm not picky and I'll eat almost any thing. I use this approach to cooking, and quite often, my food tastes weird.

I decided to bake sweet potatoes. Boiled them, sliced them, covered them with warmed butter, brown sugar, and hmmm, wonder how those Pina Colada pecans would taste on them?

I'm a generous person. I generously sprinkled on the nuts, then the marshmallows. Popped it and either a little ham or chicken in oven with it. An hour later me and Cassie, in the 8th grade at the time, sat down to this. My son Xavier was out and that was a good thing.

She took the first bite.

"Hmmm. This is good, Mom," she said.

I glowed with pride.

Then her face changed from sunny to cloudy.

"What is this?", she demanded.

"Uh, um, what is what?"


"This?! What are these crunchy things in it?!"

"It's good, ain't it?"

"No! It's awful! What's this weird taste?"

"Um, I added Pina Colada pecans to it..."

"You ruined them! Who wants crunchy, nutty sweet potatoes? Now I'll have to pick through it! Ugg!"

That's when my wounded pride kicked in... along with my secret, invisible friend, Mischief.

I threw that snotty tone in my voice and said, "You don't what you're talking about. This is a famous recipe and a world class dish. You're just too young to appreciate it. I shoulda served you a hot dog. This is too good for you."

Cassie loves those cooking shows and has oddly been watching them since she was a wee thing, after discovering The Food Channel.

She tried another bite and spit it out. "No," she said, "you just threw these in on a whim. Why? You messed up our dinner!"

I liked the dish myself. Looked my girl dead in the eye and lied my azz off.

"No, it's the truth. I learned how to make this when I worked at a restaurant in New York City."


"That's right. Back in the early 80s..."

"You have never lived in New York City!"

"Oh, you think you know everything about me," I said real snotty. "I lived there the summer before I started college for my master's degree. It was great..."

"You're pulling my leg! You have never..."

"Oh yes I did! I learned how to cook all sorts of wonderful potato dishes."

"And what was the name of restaurant?" she asked skeptically.

Since she nibbled the bait, I didn't bat an eye.

I answered, "La Dancing Potato."

"La Dancing Potato? That's the silliest thing I've heard."

She kept nibbling the bait which is how I knew she was uncertain. I took another big mouthful and was lovin' it.

"It's true," I lied. "Potatoes were their specialty. It was a great place to work..."

She went into her interrogation mode.

"What did this place look like?"

In my mind, I pictured the diner in the old Jerry Seinfield show and described it to her.

Cassie kept trying to trip me up. "What was your boss's name?"

"Max," I said, "he was the owner."

I then went on to describe Max as an older version of Seinfield.

"Mom," she said with exasperation, "you are not a good cook and you fix the same basic two potato dishes. Mashed, or home fried. No way you had a job as a cook at some place called La Dancing Potato."

I shrugged nonchalantly. "Think you what you want. I did and it was a great summer. I'll see if I can get in touch with Max. You'll see."

Heh-heh. I even got my son Xavier in on it, so when she asked him, he had my back.

Cassie still wasn't quite buying the story. I got her lil' azz good when she was four years old and she never forgot it. At that age, she was going through her I'm scared of the dark stage and used to sleep with me.

One night, she said, "Mommy. I can't fall asleep. Can you read me a story?"

"Sure," I replied.

I grabbed one of her books on the table next to the bed, and began telling the story - without turning on the light.

"Mommy! You're reading in the dark!"

"Yeah, so?"

"You can't do that!"

"Sure I can. I'm doing it, ain't I?"

"But you can't see in the dark!"


I watched her in the low glow of light from the window. She went back and forth, struggling with how this could be possible and she was totally perplexed. I nearly died trying not to laugh as she thought out loud.

She mumbled, "No way! For real? No, no one can do that. But you are. How? No. That's cool. But you can't, can you?"


Knowing the same old story nearly by heart and ad libbing when I didn't, I continued "reading".

She continued talking to herself wondering how her mommy could defy the law of physics and biology, even though she didn't know these words. Finally, poor lil' thing turned on the light so she could see my face. Maybe she wanted to look at my eyes.

I couldn't hold back. I cracked up laughing.

"You fooled me!", she said with shock and delight. "But I figured it out!"

"No you didn't. I really can."

"Prove it."

"Nope," I said. "You'll just have to take my word."

She shook her head and laughed. "Nuh uh. You remembered the story."

I laughed again. "You're so sharp. I love it!"

It's one of our fun family memories, a tradition passed onto to me by both parents, but particularly my father who did similar pranks. One of his best was when I was three or four years old. I was pouting over something, and he ran into the bathroom and pretended to flush himself down the toilet, saying I didn't love him anymore, and then hid behind the shower curtain laughing silently while I looked into swirling waters, saying, "Oh Daddy, I do love you! Please come back!"

Seriously, why have kids and not eff with their heads a little bit? is our motto.

So, on Thanksgiving Day last year, we were to have a big family dinner at David's, one of my relatives. He loves to cook and had just bought his first condo. I told him the plan, and whispered it to other relatives.

Cassie wandered into his kitchen and spotted the bag of Pina Colada Pecans, deliberately left next to his baked sweet potatoes.

"David," she said in her you're a suspect voice, "Why do you have these?"

"Oh," he answered, "I had planned to use your mother's recipe and add them to my sweet potatoes, but at the last minute, forgot. It's very good."

"Mom put you up to this, right?"

"No," he said with a straight face. "I learned it from her though, from when she worked as a cook in New York."

Cassie shot a look at me and rolled her eyes.

"You two are in on this joke," she said, but her statement was more like a question.

"Nuh uh," I said. "This may surprise you, but I had a life before you came along that I never mentioned to you."

Thus, the bait had been laid out well, and at dinner I caught the lil' fish.

We were all enjoying the meal, Cassie blurted out, "Did Mom ever work in New York City?"

David's mother answered, "Yes! I had forgotten about that. It was a diner that specialized in potato dishes... what was the name of that place?"

The whole family went down a memory lane that never existed, on my adventures in New York City at La Dancing Potato. Cassie was utterly dumbfounded.

A few days later, she challenged me again. "Why don't you have photos in your album from this?"

"Lost the pics when I moved back."

She bit her lower lip, uncertain.

"You're smiling!", she said. "That's how I know you're lying!"


I milked that prank almost to Christmas. The next time she brought it up, I was ready for her.

"Oh, I'm glad you mentioned this," I said. "My old boss Max returned my email. He's happily retired in Florida. Here's an old photo of him with a dancing potato."

Cassie's mouth dropped open. Once again I heard her internal dialog. Baby girl was talking to herself.

"Oh my God! It's true. No it's not. But there it is. Nuh-uh..."

My lil' fish has been trained well to not believe everything someone tells her when her gut warns her not to. She jumped on the Internet and started googling for images. Took her a couple minutes to find the same pic.

"Busted!", she yelled with glee.

I cracked up laughing.

She was dancing with joy that she solved the mystery of Mama's New York City Adventures at La Dancing Potato.

"I knew it! I knew it!", she exclaimed. "You were lying! But I gotcha!"

She put one hand on her hip, looking like a little mama demanding an explanation. "Now what do you have to say for yourself? Huh? Huh? Go ahead! I wanna hear this."

I lit a cigarette, leaned back in my chair, and smiled.

"But I can still read in the dark."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Passing The Love:
The Brilliante Weblog Award

I love getting awards, and was delighted on Monday after discovering that I received a Brilliante Weblog Award from Angela, the blogger for NuVision For A Nu Day. When I first learned a couple months ago that she can't see, I couldn't fathom her frustration of learning how to use a computer. It seems an impossible task.

It was I who could not see. It was I who lacked the imagination that a serious handicap such as this could be not be overcome. Check out her blog for a dose of inspiration.

The other reason I'm happy this award is that I can pass it along. I'm a double our joy and halve our pain kind of person, and think that when we share our thoughts, opinions, and life experiences, we find commonalities but also have the opportunity to chew on new ideas which push us out of our comfort zone, and this lends itself to personal growth.

So, here are five of the new seven recipients of the Brilliante Blogger Award and two Honorary Mentions, and I hope you visit their blogs and enjoy them as much as I do. They're listed in alphabetical order and you can click on the title to link there:

Black Girl In Maine

Here's a unique sista living up in Maine, where she sees more brown trees in a day than people in a month. I enjoy her take on life and straight forward conversation about personal and political issues many of us think about. Black Girl In Maine was the first person I saw on the entire Internet use this phrase, titled in her blog, Terrorist Is The New N-Word. That post made my Hall of Fame for that.

The Fackin' Truth

Hawa is another sista who has designed a beautiful blog. In one post she said she began it write about work, love, marriage, and relationships, but branched into politics thanks to the exciting O-Man - Hillbilly show. Hey, I can relate that. This year got a bunch of us fired up.

I like her well-written personal and social commentaries. One of my favorite posts has a great deal of depth and insight about conflict when lovers fight: "you've never been passionately in love if you've never fought with passion."

La Bella Vita

La has got to be one of the most talented sistas on the net. Her writing is superb and her creativity is enormous. And no, this isn't a news type political commentary blog. No, her soul shares what our souls go through in the personal realm. Some are quite sensuous, such as this one, simply titled Part 1.

This summer, I discovered one of her other blogs that's been inactive for awhile, and dumb-dumb me didn't notice her other ones until recently. (Look a dust bunny! Oh curses to my mild but annoying ADHD ways!)

As a result, I'm just dipping my feet into the waters of her blog, and discovered her past posts are timeless and great to read through. One category falls under 'Labels' in her right sidebar, called Almost Fiance Fables. Whew!


Siddity, a black woman with a white spouse, nicely covers a varity of topic involving race, and her specialty is discussing interracial dating relationships.

I was never into the IR scene much, but can appreciate someone taking the time to write about the pros and cons of these relationships. She does this well.

We Respectable Negroes

I love this site. Remember when CNN did the Black In America documentary that disappointed or pissed off most black folks because they made us look like such losers? Well, Chauncy wrote a banging post in response titled, White In America: The Never To Be Made TV Documentary.

This made my Hall of Fame, not because I'm a hater and relish in the stupidy of white folks, but because it was funny, and also shows how any group can look like idiots if you focus on the negativity. They've done other great posts over there and the favorites are at the lower right sidebar; check 'em out.

These two bloggers below were not interested in an award, but I'd like to give them an Honorary Mention so you can visit their sites if you haven't already:

Ben Heine Political Art

Ben expresses his thoughts of global injustice via his fabulous artwork. Every now and then this Belgium cartoonist will also select a poem or write a post about something that addresses universal suffering, and he's particularly attuned to the plight of the Palestinian people. In addition to his blog, you can find most of his collection here. If you can't view it all, you'll need to join the Deviant Art site.

I Love You... But, by Ben Heine

Economic Crisis In The U.S., by Ben Heine

The United States of Anthony

Anthony writes first class political and news commentaries that hook you in the first few sentences. He covers a wide range of topics, and his recent post, Whites Buying Guns For A War On Blacks made my Hall of Fame.

On Mondays, he covers drug issues. His focus is on the decriminalization of marijuana. I concur with this for the simple reason that over half of all Americans have used it, including our President Elect and the majority of Congress.

Despite this, it is used as tool of oppression to incarcerate mostly young black and brown males and the white poor. It also enriches the privatized prison industry and makers of alcohol - a more dangerous drug - because they know they'd lose business if weed were legalized. Thus, they have a commercial interest in lobbying for malevolent, harsh laws rather than taking Canada's approach.

I have a couple more awards to pass out; I'll do that around Christmastime.

Winners, you can copy the photo of the award from my right side bar and post it on your site, and can pass along up to seven of these to other bloggers.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Moral Compass, and
Help From The Spirit World

Other than finding a nice frozen Thanksgiving turkey on sale, the best news in my world until yesterday really ain't even in my world, it's in my daughter's world.

Cassie is a 9th grader, an honor's student, and since Saturday, focused on making the school basketball team. She got cold feet and was misty-eyed on the way to the first tryout last Saturday.

"Why are you crying?", I asked. "I thought you wanted this."

"I do," she whined, "but I won't have as much time for studying!"

"Yeah you will."

She described the problem of one friend, also in honor's, whose grades dropped like a rock after joining another sports team.

"Look, you gonna have to make this work," I said firmly. "Unless I find a great full time job, I won't have a nickel for college for you. You have to do everything you can get a full scholarship."

Cassie has heard this before, and sucked up the tears. I felt a twinge of guilt. I loved my TV shows too, at her age. My high school years had little pressure. Most of what I read were paperback sci-fi and horror novels. Higher education was cheaper then, and between my father and government grants, my tuition worries were non-existent.

I considered biting her bait when she said, "Maybe I can wait and try out in 11th grade."

"Nope," I replied, sounding eerily like my father, who'd drive me nuts with that word.

I parked the car.

"Why are you parking?", she asked in dismay.

"So I can watch you not eff up on purpose. I ain't playing about this."

She inhaled deeply and walked ahead of me into the gym. I know she was thinking how embarrassing it would be to have mother watch. Tough.

Once inside, I met the coach.

"She's worried to death about not having enough time to study," I said to him quietly. "She gets a little more homework, I think, 'cause she's in that honors program. Do you find this a problem with the girls?"

He glanced her. She looked down at her feet. Poor kid.

I was feelin' for her, but this was no time to be her friend. At that moment, I had to be her mother.

"Absolutely not," he answered confidently. "It's all about time management. I give them talks about this too. She'll be fine."

I stayed and watched her. She made the hoops easily. Cassie is one of the taller girls, standing at 5'10 and 150 pounds. Like the others trying out for Junior Varsity, she wouldn't have prayer against the more seasoned 11th and 12th graders. Thank God I said nope to waiting two more years.

Then came the drills. Her performance began to drop when her partner would pass her the ball. Five times in a row she missed the hoops. I softly called her name. She looked over at me.

I spoke to her wordlessly, with my eyes.

Her performance improved. Satisfied, I left.

On Sunday evening I took her to a basketball court and played against her. It was cold and dark, but oh hell that was fun. I just knew I was gonna win, but she cheated.

"I did not cheat!", she yelled.

"Yeah you did," I teased. "Ain't nobody tell you to be taller than me."

She laughed. "That ain't cheating, Mama."

"You chose a hoop where the street light was shining in my eyes. You know I hate that."

She laughed again. "That still ain't cheating!"

"Pfft," I replied. "Whatevah."

She stuck out her hand and smirked. "You owe me a dollar. Ha ha."

"Don't cry when I win it back."

This really cracked her up.

We had been home for an hour when she found a handful of ID's belonging to a young lady about 20. She brought them to me.

"I think Xavier robbed somebody," she said.

We've long suspected he's done this before, because he 'finds' more ID's than anyone possibly could. I've seen half a dozen over the years.

I looked at them. A driver's license revealed a pretty white girl, a college ID, and other stuff.

I got on the phone and called the family muscle, a soft-spoken male relative who can take his azz down in seconds. He came over immediately.

My apartment is kind of large, but when the door knocks, everyone comes out. Cassie didn't; she knew the deal.

"Hey, waz up?!", Xavier said, smiling, to Tony.

Tony is cool. Greeted him, had a seat, made small talk. The day before, Tony worked out with him at the gym. This was a treat, because he rarely has time to visit us. The two have a good relationship.

I put the ID's on the coffee table and asked, "You gangbanging again?"

Xavier was fast. "No, I found those."

"I didn't believe you last week when your sister found someone's gym membership. I believe you even less today. Why are you stealing people's wallets?"

"I found that one! I forgot to turn it in!"

Tony and I grit on him.

Rat a tat tat speed, our questions came.

Tony looked at the ones on the coffee table and said, "What happened with these?"

"For real," he insisted, "I found a girl's wallet."

"Where?", I asked.

"What's it matter where?"

"You lying, how'd you get it?"

Lie, lie, lie. We wore him down. Finally, Xavier told what is hopefully something close to the truth.

"I was at a party," he said. "My man stole this girl's purse while I was talking to her. She was freaking out looking for it. It was kinda funny, really. "Where's my pocketbook?!", she was yelling. Oh my God! I can't find it!"

"That shit ain't funny," Tony growled.

I stared hard at Xavier.

"Why you looking at me like that?"

"I'm picturing you with gray hair in jail," I replied. "That's where you gonna get old."

"I didn't do nothing!"

"Then why you got her shit?"

"I forgot about it!"

Xavier does have a fucked up case of ADHD along with some other shit. This makes him an idiot for a criminal, and he cannot cover his trail. He is truly forgetful.

A light bulb went off in my head. "Where's her credit card?"

"We ditched that at Popeyes."

If he were smart, he would have said she didn't have one. I didn't point this out to him.

Tony said, "So y'all treated yourself to a big meal after the party?"

"We were hungry."

"We?", I asked. "How many of y'all were there?"

"I ain't getting into names, and not everyone ate."

"Where's the credit card?"

"I bent it up and threw it away afterwards."

"So," I said, "if you had possession of the credit card, then you stole the purse, 'cause that's what the ring leader wins. Ain't that right?"


"Shut up," I said. "You busted."

"You a bitch," Tony said to him. "Lemme go to your room and see what I can steal."

"No, I'm sorry!," Xavier said.

Tony walked back to his bedroom, with Xavier following. Cassie peaked out of her door.

"Snitch," Xavier growled.

"Ha ha," she laughed, and slammed her door.

"I like these shoes," Tony said, picking up a pair.

"I won't do it again, I swear. We were high."

"Nice excuse," Tony said. "Try that shit on a judge and see how far it gets your black azz."

Tony kicked me out the room so they could have a man to man-child chat. He left with shoes. I imagine he'll give them back the next time he visits, or maybe make Xavier catch that long bus and subway ride to get them.

The next day, I googled the girl's name, found she's in the college like her ID said and got the info for Xavier to mail her stuff back to the authorities there. I explained 'my kid found it', and they didn't ask my name or hers, and said they'd forward it to her.

Initially I thought he was a stupid criminal and still do, but as I looked through her stuff again, I wondered about something. See, this girl had three or four gift cards from various stores.

Xavier was laid off his minimum wage job a few weeks ago, and I've already told the kids don't expect much, if anything, for Christmas beyond the tree, saying Happy Birthday to Jesus, and a spectacular meal.

Last year the gifts were thin, and this year the question has not been what do you want?, but do you want anything?

They each got the message and to my relief, politely said no, they'd be okay.

Suddenly, temptation whispered in my ear.

"Gift cards," the Devil said. "Untraceable. You can keep these and buy stuff for them and you. I'm sure there's some money on them or the girl wouldn't have had them in her wallet, right?"

"Shut up," I whispered back to Satan. "I ain't like that."

He was persistent. "She looks rich. Must be since she lives out of state but attends college here. Pretty too, even got blue eyes. Probably got it made. Lives on campus so you know her folks got money. They might even be one of those Wall Street Wolves who made it so hard for everyone else..."

"Shut up!", my soul whispered back to Temptation.

"Go ahead," he whispered, "keep them. No one will know."

"Fuck you," I hissed. "I'll know."

I called in Xavier. "Why did you keep these, really?"

"I don't know," he said.

I passed them to him. "Look through them one more time," I said.

He did.

"Did you plan to use the gift cards?"

He shrugged.

I passed the envelope to him. He put them in, sealed it, and we walked to the mailbox.

"You can still keep those gift cards, Ma," he said quietly. "They ain't like credit cards, and there's probably not much on them anyway."

My eyes locked with his. "I know," I said, "but it ain't right whether it's $25 or $100. I'm too proud to evah go on welfare, and damn sure too proud to steal, even from a little rich white girl."

"Why you gotta be so perfect?"

"I'm not perfect, and I won't lie to you. It is a little harder to be honest when you're broke, but it's not impossible. I wouldn't want someone doing this shit to me, 'cause what goes around, comes around. Karma, ya dig?"

He looked at me like he was unsure, and this made me feel unsure. After all, a lot of people who've never harmed anyone get hurt. I tried to hide my uncertainty.

"It's a pride thing, too," I added quickly. "Some kinds of pride will bring your downfall, like being too proud to work at McDonalds. Other kinds of pride will keep you honest. Times are a little tough for us right now, but they ain't tough enough for any of us to sell our souls. Some lines you just don't cross. They're like potato chips, where you can't only eat one."

He nodded, and shoved the envelope in the mailbox.

We spoke with our eyes. He was proud of me. This boy, my son, who has always walked a tightrope between Good and Evil which warred for his soul, wouldn't have a prayer if I or the folks in our extended family started slipping in the slime of dishonesty.

That afternoon and the next, Cassie had more basketball tryouts. I didn't embarrass her further by going to see her again, but noted that she was more relaxed and confident when she came home. Her chatter about making new friends among the girls was a good sign, but I know how kids, like adults, lie.

Xavier and I waited excitedly for her to return from school on Wednesday. Her coming in later than usual was a good sign.

Before I could open my mouth, he asked her, "You make it?"

A small smile played on her pretty face and her eyes.

"Yeah! I'm in!"

We cheered and hugged her.

"I'll need new shoes to play," she said. "The coach told me these aren't good."

She must have seen the worried look on my face.

"Don't worry, Mama," she said. "I have $40 from my babysitting money to put toward them."

"It's not a problem," I lied. "I may have a new client this week."

Truth be told, not as many folks are coming in for mental health treatment since the economy crashed. They can't afford the copay. That's the main reason I'm looking for another gig with an agency. This one was great while it lasted, but all things come to an end at some point. I been thinking that if shit gets much worse, I'll be begging Best Buy or Borders Books to hire me.

Xavier and I watched the family hero walk to her room. Normally she turns on the TV. Instead, she dived right into her homework.

Later, I sat back in my comfy chair at my computer. Been wanting to write something good all week, including finishing a post where I'll be passing along another award I was given, but had no time. I thought of how financial worries suck me dry of creativity, but I accomplished some things as a parent.

I thought how I miss my mother. If only she could see how little Cassie is has grown to be so strong, stoic, focused, and blessedly, accepts my guidance, she'd be overjoyed.

Suddenly, an angel whispered in my ear.

She said, "Look for the savings bonds I left you. Remember those?"

"But you cashed them, Ma, didn't you? I remember that. You treated the kids to those great summer camps two years in a row!"

"Look anyway," her angelic voice whispered.

I've never gone over her financial papers after she died. My father's either. It was too painful. Back in 2004, I had tossed them in two separate boxes and shoved them all way back in my closet, next to their cremation urns, never ever planning to touch any of it again unless I moved.

Indeed, the bonds I remembered had been cashed. She'd written a note on the copy, saying so. My shoulders slumped. Oh well, I thought, it was worth a try.

And then suddenly, I could smell her.

Her scent was on her papers. It was heaven. I clutched them, reveling in a primal ecstasy of smelling my mother's aroma once again. It was as though she were alive and in the room with me.

I set them down, finally forcing myself to read through her past bank and other statements. I tried not cry over her life, now gone.

Then, I spotted an insurance policy.

She left me nearly $4,000.

Then, I found more copies of savings bonds I'd never seen before, payable on death to me. I don't know if she cashed them or not. I couldn't find the originals, but it won't be hard finding out if they're good or not.

Then, Daddy's box. His scent was not on the papers, to my disappointment, but then...

Another small insurance policy for me near the top of one stack. Nearly $2,000.

Overwhelmed, I couldn't look no more, and still don't know if any other gifts are in that box.

Gifts... gifts that I wouldn't have found anytime soon, if ever, if I had lost my moral compass and been out shopping with someone's stolen gift cards.


I began weeping.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Know Thy Enemy

Grandma died. I was seven. Suddenly, I had to leave the comfort of living with her Sunday nights through Friday evenings and return home. There, my parents used me as a ping pong ball to carry our their marital warfare. I watched.

"I'm not paying for tuition when there's a public school five blocks away," my father said.

His eyes would not make contact with my mother's; they never did when he was angry. I didn't realize it then, but it probably made her more aggressive.

Her green eyes flashed in anger. "You have to. You must. That school is the pits. She should go to the Catholic school right across the street from there."

"Nope," he said stubbornly. "You can pay for it, but I won't. Waste of money."

He had money to burn. So did she. We were living phat. However, my mother had the notion that my father should foot the bill for things like this. Since he wouldn't, she wouldn't. For her, not conceding to his cheapness was a pride thing.

Thus, I was sent to the wolves as their marital sacrificial lamb on the first day of school. I had ribbons in my long hair and a pretty dress, and probably a brand new lunch box, or at least a nice sandwich in a paper bag.

I was hated from day one by classmates who had worn out clothes and shoes, and were probably hungry. I was shocked some of the girls had on dirty underwear, which I could see when they jumped rope. They never me let join them. I was lonely.

Halfway through the year, one girl, I'll call her Kandi, decided I needed to be beat up. I had never been in a fight. We were on the playground just before lineup that morning, and she started trash-talking, i.e., "You think you so cute."

I didn't know how to respond or what to say, so I said nothing. In seconds a swarm of girls surrounded me, all encouraging Kandi to fight me. Some started shoving me, including her.

I heard one of them yell to Kandi, "Punch her in the nose!"

In a split second, I made my decision. I punched my enemy as hard as I could in her nose.

Blood splattered across her face and dress. The mob was suddenly silent. The girls stared at me with both shock and maybe disgust and disappointment in their eyes. How dare I defeat their leader?

The teacher came out and everyone quietly lined up. Kandi never snitched.

The thing about that 2nd grade incident is that no one still wanted to play with me, except one little boy maybe in the 3rd grade whose idea of playing was trying to shove his hand up my dress during playground time.

I interrupted my teacher who was talking to another.

"That boy keeps trying to touch my privacy," I said.

She looked in his direction.

"Oh, he's just playing."

And this simple minded bitch went back to talking to her friend - another teacher.

The boy laughed. I was totally desolate. She saw him do this several times during the year to me and other girls and looked the other way. In her mind, it just wasn't a big deal. My teacher could not be trusted, and at the same time, I didn't know if she was right or wrong. Maybe it wasn't a big deal, like she said, even though it didn't feel right. Thus, she wasn't a friend, or an enemy. She was a frenemy.

I wanted to learn how to read better than I could. The school had twenty year old Dick and Jane books from the 1940s. Tattered, worn books that offered no challenge and bored me to tears.

I showed one to my dad. He made no criticism but I could see a mild negativity in his face. He loved to read Aesop's Fables to me and show me different countries on a globe he had in college. Sometimes he'd read poetry to me that he had written. I didn't understand it and wish I had his collection; I don't know what became of it.

"Why don't you have a book of these, Daddy?"

"I sold a poem once to white man. He published it under his name. I couldn't find anyone to publish it under mine."

That little fact made me sad when I got older.

He ordered me Dr. Seuss books and Highlights magazine from the dentist's office. I loved the rhymes in the former and the puzzles and stories in the other.

In the following school year, my mother gave up her feud over tuition and coughed up the cash for me to attend Catholic school, not the one closest to us, but a little further away where I didn't know anyone. The thing is, I was so emotionally damaged from an entire school year of being ostracized that I refused to play or talk with anyone. At lunch time, I sat in a corner with a stick, and drew circles in the dirt.

My teacher, a nun, grew concerned. She called my mother for a conference. I could only hear whispers of their conversation.

"She daydreams too much," my teacher said. "On the playground she keeps to herself. It's not good. She's in her own world."

I had come to love that world. It was quiet and devoid of enemies or frenemies. No one there to call me names or try to hurt me.

My mother came from her job to my school to watch me at lunchtime with my stick. Beyond a "hi", I don't remember saying much of anything to her the first time.

She finally realized that I had been slipping away from her in a world of fantasy, so slowly that she didn't notice it until I was poof! Gone. A bad marriage and her mother dying had made me fairly invisible and under her radar.

On her second playground visit, she said, "You need friends."

"I have friends at home," I replied, not looking up.

"You only play with them on weekends," she offered.

I made more circles, and like my father, gave her no eye contact.

"What happened in 2nd grade to make you like this?", she asked.

Oh now she wants to know, I thought angrily.

I said nothing, nothing at all about all the times some girl pulled my hair, how none of them would play with me, the great bloody nose fight that only led to more ostracism, or the non-stop sexual harassment in plain view of the teachers. Or the fact that I knew damn well that both she and my father could have paid for me to go to the school right across the street where my other little neighborhood friends went.

I made more circles. She gave up and returned to work.

On her next school visit, she did something different.

"Guess what?", she said excitedly.

"What?" I said listlessly.

Here she was, interrupting my daydream time to myself, again.

"I'm going to find you some friends, today," she announced, "right here on this playground."


Incredulous, I gave her eye contact. She nodded optimistically.

"That's impossible," I said.

"Watch me."

My mama stood up, with me sitting there in the dirt with my mouth hanging open, and she walked into enemy territory.

At least, that's how my mind saw it.

It couldn't have been more than five or so minutes later when she returned with three little girls.

"They said they want to play with you," she said.

I looked at these girls as though seeing them for the first time. They weren't the mean girls in my 2nd grade year. They looked at me with friendly faces, waiting to see what I would say.

"For real?", I asked.

"Yeah," said one of the girls. "We want to play with you."

The other two smiled and nodded.

In a split second, I knew who the enemy was.


I punched that bitch in the nose and clear out of the 3rd grade.

I smiled at my mother with renewed love, joined my new friends, and never looked back at my stick.


It took me nearly 20 years to learn that the girls in 2nd grade weren't my enemies. Their poverty was.

As a young social worker, I met lots of kids who had numerous complaints about their aggressive behavior. Not all, but many came from poor families that simply had too much stress in the home.

It took me 25 years to learn that those 2nd grade teachers weren't my frenemies. Their ignorance about sexual harassment was.

I don't think the phrase sexual harassment had even been invented until the late 70s. The America I grew up was different; this sort of thing, for the most part, was ignored.

It took me years of raising my first child to identify one of the many enemies of any parent: wishful thinking.

This is when you believe that shit will work out all by itself while you're doing your best juggling other responsibilities and relationships.

I found what I thought was a good school and neighborhood. It sure was beautiful. Like many blacks of that time, I had been mis-educated about what 'good' is, and once I was financially successful, wanted that piece of the American pie and shrugged off concerns that hardly any blacks lived in that area.

In the 1990s, moving into a nearly all-white neighborhood was as big a mistake as if I had moved into any impoverished black inner city area. In either community, the black male has enormous pressure on him to live up to the stereotypes.

My son, like white children all across similar American neighborhoods, got the idea that blackness is what he saw in sports, crime news, and rap videos. That's a pathetically narrow view of what Black America is all about and for a long time, affected his racial identity.

He can't count the number of times in middle school or summer camp where white kids asked him to get drugs for them and how cool it would be if he was their weed connection. Like any kid, he just wanted friends.

I knew he wasn't lying because I became so suspicious of the sudden barrage of phone calls that I started listening to them when he was in 7th grade. I even called the police on an 18 year old who was trying to get my 13 year old son to sell his Ritalin after hearing the plan. Told them if they came right away, they could catch the guy.

Did the cops arrest this young man trying to corrupt my kid? No. They busted my son for leaving it in our mailbox for the guy to pick up. That's a felony. The judge, however, was nice enough to dismiss the charges.

It was too late for Xavier by age 14. Like me in 2nd grade, he slip-slided away, but into serious drug abuse and acting like a damn heathen. You all know that drugs are everywhere, but they're really in those well-to-do suburbs where kids have more money.

When he was 15, I said eff this bubble, and moved where he could live in a cultural melting pot and learn other things that a brotha could be.

It took four years of pain, struggle, and finally, rehab, and then another two years of just growing up, for him to learn who his real enemy is.



I'm not really sure why I wrote this post. Maybe it's for parents who are so caught up in dealing with their enemies of wishful thinking, job stress, financial worries, or their relationship problems that they don't see their kids sliding away slowly.

Or maybe it's for anybody who is hungry for something, or mad about something, and don't quite know who or what the real enemy is.

It might be loneliness.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Is Obama Gonna Pimp Our Ride?

We won. We know that. And if you're like me, you still smile when you think about it.

However, winning this election is like winning a car that's been in a wreck so bad that the insurance company will do a write-off rather than pay for repairs.

This is the dilemma of Obama supporters. We won the "car", which is a metaphor for getting our country back from the Party That Wrecked America.

Barack's role is the Repair Man. He's currently assessing the damage and after January 20th, will look with at us with sympathy as he tells us whether this bitch will ever run again, anything remotely like it did in it's better days.

If he can't fix it, he'll have to be like Xzibit on Pimp My Ride, and he and his crew will have to rebuild it. "It" is the economy and the general way the mega-corporations, banks, defense and government do business.

To use the car metaphor, our economy is running on fumes. The US auto makers are on their knees begging for a rescue. So far, Bush is resistant to Obama's desire to tap into that initial $700 Billion Bailout to save it. There's a good chance the Big Three will be no more by the end of this year.

That's some serious shit, and may be one of Bush's last shit sandwiches served to the people before he says buh-bye to us.

Writer Jim Kunstler says in this week's essay that the car you have now may be the last one you have and you just don't know it yet. This is courtesy of the Great Depression and peak oil. I concur, so stop waiting for a formal announcement and do what you gotta do to prepare for it.

The American people could not have chosen a more level-headed man for the job. Barack's cool is utterly amazing. The story that blows me the most is when Bush met him for the first time at the White House with other new incoming Senators in late 2004 or early 2005.

Bush shook his hand, and immediately used hand sanitizer right in front of him, then smiled and offered him some. Damn! If that ain't in yo face racism, I don't what is.

Barack kept his cool and politely accepted it. I can't imagine being able to do this, but he did, saying later in one of his books, "I accepted because didn't want to appear unhygienic."

Was that smooth or what? He sucked up the put down, but got his payback later by telling this story in The Audacity of Hope. And he told it without appearing bitter, and allowing readers to draw their own conclusion whether George W. Bush behaved like an asshole or not.

Heh-heh. Barack is gonna be a lot of fun to watch.

So will his Cabinet members.

During his acceptance speech, Obama promised his kids a new puppy. Hours later, he selected his own dawg - a real pitbull politician named Rahm Emanuel. This guy will have the fourth most powerful political job as the White House Chief of Staff.

Of the many facts and rumors I've read about him, this one true story stood out the most:

"...[On] the night after [Bill] Clinton was elected, Emanuel was so angry at the president's enemies that he stood up at a celebratory dinner with colleagues from the campaign, grabbed a steak knife and began rattling off a list of betrayers, shouting "Dead! . . . Dead! . . . Dead!" and plunging the knife into the table after every name.

"When he was done, the table looked like a lunar landscape," one campaign veteran recalls. "It was like something out of The Godfather. But that's Rahm for you."

- Rolling Stone article, 10/20/2005

Yo, if that don't put the "G" in gangsta, I don't know what does.

There's a lot of history in Rahmbo's baggage. We'll never know if the rumors about him are true, which I ain't even gonna get into, but since the O-Man has or will soon have full access to the CIA and NSA, I'm sure he will know if he doesn't already.

I'm also betting that what Barack and Emanuel does in 2009 will be extraordinarily interesting and make history, so keep an eye on how they work together.

They appear more comfortable with one another than Barack and Biden ever has, and their relationship goes back to Chicago, and Obama's top advisor, David Axelrod, has a long friendship with him.

While I have reservations about Rahm Emanuel, I assume that Barack, a bonifed political genius, either knew what he was doing when he made his choice, or the choice was one of many compromises he had to make in pursuit of the White House.

My guess is it will prove to be either be utterly disastrous, or amazingly brilliant, and with nothing in between.

Maybe I've been smoking on Barack's Hope bong too long, but I lean toward the latter. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni politely 'warned' Obama less than 48 hours after he was elected to not have talks with Iran. Meanwhile Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad broke a nearly 40 year old tradition of ignoring our new President-Elects; he sent a Obama his congratulations in a fairly long letter sprinkled with advice.

Thus, who better to tell the Israeli government "no" to a pre-emptive nuclear strike on Iran than one of their own, a politically savvy American Jew with close personal ties to the major players and nick-named Rahmbo? Or for Barack to meet next year and listen to what, if any, compromises the Iranians are willing to make?

Soothing the Russian bear may prove hardest. While the world celebrated Barack's election, their President, Dmitri Medvedev ordered missiles deployed next to the Polish border. They had planned to do this anyway in response to Bush's military expansionism near their own border, and are clearly not confident that any President, Barack or otherwise, will change the way business is done in Washington.

I remain cautiously optimistic that he'll shrewdly continue to assemble the best team to pimp our ride.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Passing The Love:
Four Kick Ass Blogger Awards

On August 18th, I was thrilled to receive a Kick Ass Blogger award, compliments of Kelso of the The Brimstone-Daily Pitchfork.

As an awardee, I am to pass along five of these to other bloggers, who in turn may do the same. I have many favorites, and tend to mull over things if I'm worried someone's feelings will be hurt, so choosing was hard. Enough of the procrastination.

In general, I looked for some combination of originality, creativity, the ability to synthesize information, decent writing, depth, and/or making a post or story entertaining or thought-provoking. I need not agree with all their opinions, either, as I wouldn't expect readers and other bloggers to agree with all of mine.

I like it when someone writes something that does a little risk-taking, and teachers something new, or challenges me and anyone else to look at an issue from a different perspective. Make me smile or laugh once in awhile, and that's a plus.

This covers a lot of blogs! Seriously, we do a bangin' job here in cyberspace, and hit or miss, I appreciate all that we try to do collectively. Also, to my knowledge, I didn't chose one that had already won an award; I like to give someone else a chance.

Here they are, a nice cross-section of blogs, which you are bound to find at least one you'll enjoy, in alphabetical order. Click on the name of the blog and it will link you there:

Daddy B Strong

MacDaddy is a gatekeeper of black culture. He writes about musicians, poets, literature and photography of people, many whom I never heard of, or barely remember. One of my favorite posts by him is James Baldwin To White Racists - Know Your History: The Pain You've Brought To Others And Yourselves.

I think of his extraordinarily unique blog as an appetizer. It whets the palate and brings to life the creativity and accomplishments of those who came before our generation, and how fantastically and soulfully blacks entertained each other and when possible, the world.

Raving Black Lunatic

In his non-cyber life, Big Man is a New Orleans journalist with a love for politics. His writing flows and his ideas suck you in. I like his use of humor, too; for example, on this post two days after the Election, he titled it, Afterglow, and began it with, "Somebody pass me a cigarette. And I don't even smoke."

He has so many good posts. If you're still floating on an Obama high and want to relive that day, read, I Baracked That Bitch, where he shared his experience waiting in line to vote.

The Intersection of Madness & Reality

Laughter is one of the keys to my heart, and each day I need something funny. Rippa is one of those bloggers I turn to. Many of his posts are social or political commentaries loaded with urban humor, that is raw and at times raunchy.

Fine with me; I have many happy memories listening to the men and women folk in my fam poke fun at everyone and had a took no prisoners approach to laughter.

Stuff White People Do
(Not to be confused with Stuff White People Like)

Macon D. is a man who thoroughly explores the Achilles heel of white attitudes and their behavior patterns, both historically and in the present. What makes him unique is that he himself is white, yet he digs deep enough to be a college professor of African American studies.

He catalogues his experiences as a white man, analyzes the role of racism in politics and social trends, and writes or shares book reviews. He titles his posts in a unique way, so that at first glance it may appear odd, but if you add the words, Stuff white people do in front of it, bingo!

Macon also wrote one of the best articles I have ever read on the irony of affirmative action and despite the racist-based myth many whites hold, it benefits them more than minorities.

Awardees, email me and I'll give you the specifics of registering and posting your award on your site if you'd like.

Addendum - I planned to pass out one to Adam (below), but since he never got back to me after nearly two weeks, I can only assume he wasn't interested in his award. I've since discovered that not every blogger is, and I'm okay with that; I'll pass it along in the future to someone else who will like it. Here's a shout out to Adam:

Honorary Mention: Adam's Weblog

I stumbled across him while looking through the black weblog categories, where he had been nominated in the LBGT category. He didn't win this year, but I found Adam to be a highly entertaining young brotha. He shares his personal, well-written stories of gay, black culture in New York City, and be warned, some of them are not for the squeamishly homophobic.

His favorite recent post of mine was around Halloween, titled, Now That's Scary, which straights and gays alike will enjoy. He is currently writing a book.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Proposition 8 Ban On Gay Marriage:
When The Yes We Can Crowd
Said No You Can't

As a straight black woman who has always had a variety of friends from different cultures and lifestyles, I was saddened and embarrassed for my people after learning that on the day Barack Obama won a landslide victory, 70% of black California voters chose Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage in their state.

How fucking ironic and hypocritical that nearly that many heterosexual blacks have never even had the courage to speak the words "I do," yet had the nerve to deny marriage to gays and lesbians who want it.

We can fault homophobia on the influence of the black Church, where pastors preach the evils and sins of homosexuality knowing damn well that a bunch of the brothas in the choir are gay.

It's also not like the majority of unmarried black people are intentionally living a life of abstinence:

- About 70% of black children are born to unmarried mothers.

- While heart disease remains the #1 killer of black women and AIDS isn't even in the top 10 according to the latest 2004 CDC report, stats from other sources in 2006 show that 66% of young black women who were infected with HIV acquired the disease through heterosexual contact. Per 100,000 people in the population, 55.7 black women were infected compared to 14.4 Latino women and 3.8 white women.

- The abortion rate for black women is nearly five times that of white women.

Yeah, we have our problems, and this includes talking two sides out of the mouth, i.e., faking at the voting both that you're so Christian and living quite differently; and voting Yes We Can, but at the same time, pulling the No You Can't lever to another disenfranchised group.

What went down was the height of religious-based hypocrisy, and blacks weren't the only group who did this. I still don't understand how Proposition 8 made the ballot, since "the California Supreme Court agreed in a 4 to 3 ruling in May, essentially asserting that civil unions were the equivalent of "separate but equal."

En masse, enough of us, along with our white and Latino counterparts, and especially the Mormon Church, helped rob gays & lesbians of the freedom to love each other within the framework of marriage the way we can, when we choose to do so.

Thousands of gays did yesterday what we have done in the past to overcome discrimination: protest. Frederick Douglass said in 1857, "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."

From a legal standpoint, marriage is a civil union and legal contract of commitment. From a traditional Christian, Jewish, and Islamic standpoint, it's a promise to God for a man and a woman to stick by one another 'till do us part with no adultery in between.

And there lies the challenge: to dare to allow others who cannot be heterosexual for whatever reason, to create their own tradition and enjoy the benefits and pain that comes with a lifetime commitment.

One prevailing belief is that gay marriage would threaten the institution of marriage.

Over of my one my favorite blogs, Big Man addressed this with a profound response: "...if I've learned one thing, it's that the biggest threats to my marriage are me and my wife."

I couldn't agree more. Marriage is deeply personal. It requires courage, sacrifice, and commitment. It takes only one to person in the couple to destroy it, but it takes both to make it work, and work well.

Then there's the argument that it would be a bad influence on children. Pfft. The majority of gay people had straight parents. I have also worked with a number of teens who had a gay parent. All but one were straight.

Then there's the conversation of homosexuality being a choice rather than a natural attraction to the same sex. I think this reflects a lack of interaction beyond the superficial with gays or a dismissive attitude of their experiences. For example, you know how many of us straights feel a sense of revulsion at the idea of out having sex with someone of the same sex?

This is how they react to having sex with the opposite sex. It was shocking the first time I saw this gut reaction in a gay guy when I was in my early 20s. I couldn't believe it. I had been trying to talk him out of his gayness because I thought he was hot and his 'problem' could be corrected.

I said, "Try to imagine the lower body parts of a beautiful woman. Imagine how soft and wonderful she would feel to you."

He visibly looked like he was gonna puke.

"Oh God," he said, "I think I'm gonna be ill."

Then he said, "You don't have a dick, so try imagine going down on the prettiest girl you know. Go ahead, imagine it."

I felt a wave of revulsion, and suddenly, I understood.

"What made you like this?", I demanded. "Were you molested?"

"No. I have no idea why I'm gay. I gave up long ago trying to figure out why. I just know I've always had girlish ways. I honestly tried to have a relationship with girl at 17, but it didn't work out. I was too attracted to guys. I gave up. I am what I am."

I felt sad for him. This was ignorance on my part. I've since learned to feel sad for those who fail to understand that we are all different, in appearance, temperament, intellectual and creative abilities, in right or left handedness, and gender orientation.

It is the mystery of life that makes us all as unique as snowflakes. Despite this, some of us are mean toward those who are little 'too unique'. History is full of the cruel acts by the majority in power, from genocide, slavery, witch hunts, lynchings, and right up to modern day, routine ostracism, bullying and discrimination. It especially happens in many families of gay persons.

In response to bigotry, some gays have tried to become straight. The few who claim success are paraded around as examples for others, the same way that pathetic black man 'begging' McCain at a rally was wildly applauded like a mascot, and how Fox News shows off their few well paid, token Negroes who are too confused to know they are aiding and abetting racism.

I have a middle aged relative who was 'saved' in the Church at age 16. I'll call him Dennis. He's hardly ever misses showing up to church on Sunday. Does Bible studies from time to time, and is obsessed with going to Jesus when he dies. As I see it, he hides behind his idea of what God wants. He's keeps his sex drive under tight wrap, and clings to the idea that he's straight - yet in his 40s, he's still a virgin. He'll die a virgin, because he cannot come to grips with his underlying homosexuality.

How do I know he's not straight? Dennis has feminine ways, and I've seen the excitement in his eyes and heard it in voice when he gets around a man he's attracted to. One of my gay friends met him once. I asked him later what he thought.

He snapped his fingers. "He's a fat queen if ever I saw one. I don't even know why he tries to hide it."

I've confronted Dennis with this. He throws on a fake smile and denies it and then starts talking about God. Everyone in the family assumes he's in the closet; even his father told him if he is gay, it's okay because he wants to see his son get more out of life. More denial. Why? His mother.

His mother's brother, I'll call him Maurice, hid his homosexuality until around the age of 30. They had been raised in the Church. Of the five kids, she was closest to him. Maurice is a funny guy and fun to be with. When he broke the news to the family, back in the late 70s that he's gay, she rejected him, totally and completely. She stopped seeing him or speaking to him. She said she was devastated by the news and couldn't get over it.

Her son, then around 12, was old enough to understand what was going on. One of the most painful things that can happen to a person is to be rejected by a parent, particularly their mother. She instilled a deep fear of loss of love in him, and he's never been able to cut that umbilical cord. Is it no wonder he's still a virgin in his 40s? And how tragic to be so old and never enjoyed the affection and touch of another human being. He's a kind but odd person, and it's a wonder he's not insane.

I am not 'pro-gay'. I am pro-humanity. Like racism, this denial of our own hypocrisy and denying others of the right to live happily ever after - or suffer in a miserable marriage the way everyone else can - is reprehensible and inexcusable.

I have to struggle to not be too self-righteous on this issue, and to remind myself that progress comes in baby steps. As a nation, we proved on Election Day that we've come a long way in joining hands together to make this a happier, more inclusive world... while at the same time, shooting our gay brethren in the foot.

We still have miles to go.