Banter on Tulips and a Tribe Called Quest, Jay-Z and John Coltrane, Outkast and Othello.


Mahogany on Montel

Posted by Hello

Now playing: "Four Leaf Clover" - Erykah Badu.
"Like the wind/ I am free / Going places, being things I wanna be."

So, Montel dropped by my crib the other day and we had a heart-to-heart chat. Turns out that he and a she-who-shall-not-be-named talk show diva are vying for the rights to interview me (Sniffle, I knew the day would come when the bell would ringeth pour moi. *Getting out a pen and paper to write my thank you speech*). Monty thought that if we leaked this a little early on said blog, it might pre-empt said broadcast diva. And not to undermine a woman *cough Oprah* who I much admire, but payolla talks in mysterious ways. *Raising hands upward* Hashonda!!* Ahem, so as DJ Hi-TEK says, peep game...

Where did you get your name, Mahogany Elle?
Well, Montel it's a nod to a diva who exemplifies style and class, wit and sass. Lauryn Hill, in my opinion, made it cool for brown skinded girls to be beautiful. Growing up in a family where my parents were caramel and my grandmother and aunts were very fair skinned, I wondered what was nice about my skin tone. But, when Lauryn came out and got so much love, I knew there was hope lying in the wings for the chocolate chicas. In the remix of the "Sweetest Thing," dudes chant "Oh Mahogany, Mahogany. Oh Mahogany L!" This being one of my favorite songs, the phrase stuck with me. So I've claimed it, albeit with a francais twist.

Interesting, interesting. So, tell us why do you write?
It's like breathing to me, I can't imagine moving through this portion of time and space without it. Growing up, my parents exposed my siblings and I to alot of things. But the thing that stuck with me most, besides listening to all kinds of music with my dad, was listening to Nikki Giovanni's "Truth is on the Way", a collection of poems she recorded with a gospel choir. Her wordplay, her emotion, her honesty struck me as amazing even at a young age. I didn't really plan on it, but I knew that sort of reflection was going to be a part of my life at some point.

You just mentioned music a little bit. What kind of influence does it have on you?
Wow. Too much to talk about. My father was an audiophile. Every Saturday night, he would come home, go into a room downstairs, put on his headphones and work with his reel-to-reel machine. He had tons of records. Tons. Everything from Earth, Wind and Fire (who I love to this day) to his favorites, the Temptations (I still hear him exclaiming, "David Ruffin with a tuffin!"). There was also the Jackson Five, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder... even a little Crosby, Stills and Nash for good measure (smile). Those nights were sort of his "dad" time. He would obviously be tired from a long week of work, but he always let me come sit and listen with him, or watch him make mix tapes (some of his friends would ask him to do the music at their parties). To this day, music is very much a part of how I think, what I write and who I am.

What's in your disk changer now?
The Brand New Heavies, Grover Washington, Jr., Curtis Mayfield, Van Hunt and Stevie Wonder

Okay, sounds sort of retro. We're going to get you a shag rug and lava lamp. Hahaha. Okay, Mahogany are you reading anything now?
"Dreams of My Father" by Barack Obama. The man is a genius. Great writer. Great thinker. Great heart. I felt like I wanted to cry when I saw him give that now-famous speech at the DNC last summer. And now, for him to be the third black senator since Reconstruction...that makes us all so proud. *Getting choked up* Don't let nobody turn you 'round Obama!!

Okay, a few more questions if you'll indulge us

Other influences from growing up?
Watching the NBA was definitely something my dad and I did.

Really? Who was your favorite player?
#32, Magic Johnson. To this day, I still believe that my childlike faith in the old Lakers willed them to a back-to-back championship. (smile) But now, I don't watch the NBA so much...especially not Fro'-be and the Fakers. Too many big babies. Too much crying. Mahogany's a busy girl. She doesn't have time for that. LOL. I favor college hoops now. But, just to pre-empt you, we won't be discussing the team won the tourney this year.

You mean UNC?

Okay, moving on. Game for a little rapid fire?
[Still a little salty from the last question] Bring it Monty.

Quick -- favorite city?
Philly -- lovely energy and home to Jill Scott and the Roots. Do You Want More?

Best song?
"Keep Your Head to the Sky" by Earth, Wind and Fire

Top three dislikes?
Slaveship tight subway cars, hip hop's slow decline into chatter and bling, getting hollered at by dudes with gold fronts

You can interview two people living or dead, who are they?
John Coltrane, the best saxophonist ever, and the unmatchable Langston Hughes...who inspired me at young age with "Simple's Uncle Sam."

Okay, now Dr. Montel's going to test your music reflexes: Nice and...?

"We Got the...?

*Montel's sings* "Luuuuuuuuuuuuuuv..."
"them and lea-eave them. That's what I used to do-oo-ooo"

My, Mahogany. You're impressive.
Thanks. I try Monty, I try. Okay, ANTM and my Bloomie's catalog are beckoning, are we done here?

*looks to the side before exclaiming* Supercala
fredjalisticexpealadocious *Now looking at Montel with eyes askew*

*smiles sheepishly*. I had to try to throw you a curve...But you're matchless!
Thanks, and psst... don't sweat the technique.

Set lights dim.



They've got five on it Posted by Hello

Watching Jerry Maguire this weekend, I realized that there are lots of movies with lines trumping the oft-repeated "show me the money". So, I've taken the liberty of going through my little black cinema vault, in the hopes of finding a few spottieottiequotaliscious moments. Share the popcorn with your neighbor and don't forget to pass the jujubees. *Singing OutKast* "Let's go to da mooooovies..."

-Eddie, the substance abusing lead singer of the Motown-era singing group the Five Hearbeats knows that Flash, the leader of a rival group, is gunning for his spot. Eddie is backstage in a drunken stupor and tries to get all up in his face.

Eddie: "You wanna be me?! Hmm? You wanna be me? Well, you caint get it. Cause YOU AIN'T GOT IT!!!" [pounding the door like the po-po]

And caint nobody sang like Eddie Kang

-Then, there is the art that is School Daze. In Spike Lee's classic tale of life on a black college campus, Julian, president of Gamma Phi Gamma, a fictionalized black fraternity, dislikes Dap, the militant Huey P. Newton-meets-H. Rap Brown cousin of one of his pledges, Half Pint. Dap gives the hataration right back. But they come face-to-face one day and Julian (i.e. "Dean Big Brother Almighty") decides to get on a soap box of his own, albeit a very shaky one, to teach him a lesson about black history.

Julian: "YOU do not know a thing about Africa ... I am from Detroit -- Motown. So you can Watutsi yo' monkey a#$ back to Africa if you want to!"

I so love intelligent black people. Really, I do. LOL

-What I wanna do now is go back. Waaay back. Back into time. *Mahogany wipes the dust off this attic find and sings with Rose Royce* "You might not ever get an itch, but lemme tell ya it's better than digging a ditch ... It's always cool and the boss don't mind sometimes if ya act a fool, at the Car Wash!!!" This movie, with Richard Pryor, Bill Duke and a host of other legends, tells a tale of working all day at a dead-end job. One car wash employee, T.C. , wants to be a cartoon character and shares his musings with friends. He's kind of like that dude from around your way who keeps trying to convince you that he's "bout ta blow up as a rapper"/ "just got signed"... Yeah, you know the type. Anyways, this guy is just as convincing.

T.C.: Yeah, man I would be able to walk up buildings. I would be sharp, sharp, sharp. Cause I would be the FLY!"

-And, not to let him hog the moments or anything, but one more nod to Spike. In my book, Crooklyn was a much slept on jewel. (I can see you smirking now) Furreeall though... I luv-did-did that movie. True, it has no real point, only tells the story of a middle class family in Brooklyn in the 70s. But I'm sold cause it shows in a cute and funny way that real, normal, non-magical black people exist in real families who a) do not have side jobs as hustlas and b) have more than a basic mastery of English. LOL ... Anyways, at one moment in the movie, Troy and the other young girls on the block are chillin' on her stoop, making observations about the people around them, when two of her friends share their thoughts on the silky tresses of one of their friends.

First girl: Ooooh, she got good hurr!
Second girl: (Correcting her friend) She got PETER RICAN hurr.

Later, Troy goes down south to visit her Aunt Song and a cousin who's about her age. Aunt Song is kinda crazy, but in a good (your great aunt Willie Mae might be a little like her) way. She loves her midget dog, Queenie and her chile "with good hair". Troy, whose hair she attempts to comb out and press, is another story.

Aunt Song: What you call these -- beads, shells and things?
Troy: They're called braids...(the comb pulls her hair) Ouch!
Aunt Song: You got nerve to be tenderheaded? With all these naps?!!

LOL. Classic, just classic.

Ahh... Koolaid -- 5 for $1 ... Now & Laters -- 10 cents ... Hug juices -- 25 cents ... Growing up young, gifted and black? Priceless. *smile*

Stay tuned. More spottieottiequotalisciousness in the coming weeks...


Coming soon...

Diana sang famously, "Do you know where you're going to? Do you like the things that life is showing you? Where are you going to? Do you know?" Just a little contemplation to kick off the new week. *smile* Stay tuned for more cinematic thought from the vault... Posted by Hello


Goings on About Town

I'm sitting by my window with Fertile Ground's "Colors of the Night" on. The breeze is delicious. So is this group's jazzy, mellow, neo-souly style. So, anyways, like them girls on 'Kast's Stankonia say, "It's awwwl good."

Went to a party Wednesday night downtown. It was cool enough to make me not regret missing ANTM, which I've been known to work my schedule around. LOL. Will not disclose the name of the magazine that was hosting it, for fear of negatively blowuptuating a publication that's trying to be on the up and up. That said, a few comments if I may. Don't worry, I'll tread lightly. Cool? Okay, on we go...

Um, the editor, an older woman, looked nothing short of a hag on wheels. It wasn't because of her age (my 84-year-old grandmother is the flyest woman I know), but because she had an ill-fitting strapless dress on with the accessory of fatback hanging out over the edge. She was also sporting a two-toned weave that looked like it was the remnant of a non-road savvy raccoon and his brother. On top of that she had the sheer audacity to get up on a stage, shake her tailfeather and hike up her dress displaying her legs as the syncophantic audience clapped their approval. *Jaw dropped here* Perhaps I am naive, a little classic and conservative at times, but I have never with mine own eyes seen such a display. LOL It was, as that 80's group sang, "more than words."

Anyway, moving on past the shock of the hour, I watched with amusement as B-list celebs made their entrance and posed for photos (spotted Bokeem Woodbine and Camille from the season before last's ANTM sans her drawn-on clown brows). But the two who made the night truly worth it were Shirley Murdock and Kelly Price, who appeared on stage about an hour after the EIC's display. Together, they sang an acapella snippet of the classic, "As We Lay". I, taking a break from playing it cool on the dance floor, had been sitting away from the stage, resting the camel Nine West heels and the feet therein. That was, until I realized who was on stage. At that point, said fatigue was forgotten and I jumped up.


At that moment, I was in chuch y'all. She took it to town, that's all I can say. Kelly even expressed her awe at being next to the gospel/R&B diva, simply saying, "I'm a groupie right now." She, of course, held her own too.

*Mahogany lends her alto here, you know, in the case they need my help* "In the second, in the minute, in the owwww-rrrrrah!! Hey, hey, hey. As we lay!" LOL

The piece de resistance was when Shirley offered a little bit of a remix at the end, singing "And, before you lay, you-you-you betta pray". Lowering her voice into the mike, "Cause God aint gon' give ya somebody else's huzzzband." I was too through.

Turn to ya neighbor and if ya can't say amen, say ouch.


Res Ipsa Loquitur

now playing: "Dust" - Van Hunt
"It's just another day, another episode. I'm hiding under the world."

So, a friend reminded me that I never commented on the outcome between me and said roomie. (I'm sorry, it's gotta be that happy-feels-like-spring-crack I'm still on. Plain forgot.) Luckily all's square. We chatted and it's now back to the Peaceable Kingdom...the Niagara Convention...the Rainbow Coalition, well you get it. All's gravy. The agreement we reached is no surprise parties for her and Aquanetta -- with her multicolored rollers, store-sported houseshoes and parole violations -- stays at bay. Fair enough. LOL

In other news, I went to a branch of the city public library today to do some research for a project. First, let me say that it was Africa-hot up in that piece! I felt like I had just crossed the Mason-Dixon sans my freedom papers and da man was in steady pursuit...Um, so here's a thought. Do we not pay taxes in the big apple so we can get some A/C circulating? Geez Louise. Then, on top of that, a gentleman sitting next to me at the public computer desk was so aromatic that I had to vacate the premises with a haste rivaling Clarence Thomas spotting Angela Davis in the skreet. Lawd, lawd.

But my real point in writing is to ponder the crossroads at which I find myself currently. I was recently informed that I have the chance to go back to school (for journalism), at great cost, but still at great opportunity. At issue is the fact that I also have the inclination (it began as a whisper and now reaches L'il Jon-esque volume) to abandon the less traveled road of poetic lore altogether, and leave my down-for-the-people inclinations and notebooks to gather dust. This of course would free me for more nefarious pursuits (*cough* law school... next year) with the mission of obtaining the burgundy Land Rover and summer home on the Vineyard. Then, will come my ensuing disaffection to the Republican party. LOL


Why couldn't I have just been a rapper? If I could make beats like Kanye, I'd be ballin' right about now. If I had the flow of say, Jigga, I'd be chillin and could retire to write without regard for filthy lucre. But alas, blessed only with a predilection for gab, and sans the raw lyricism of the aforementioned, I'm left without the famed "Jesus piece", and instead with the "piece(s) of paper bearing my name." As I came to no conclusion/decision by the time the sun set, I looked to the election of the Pope as inspiration (shout out to Benedict XVI). This man, the leader of 1.1 billion Catholics, declared publicly that he was but a "humble servant". I thought to myself, wow, he's been in this for the love. Sure, he's big pimpin' now, but how many years was he toiling namelessly in pursuit of a seemingly elusive dream? In that instant, as the crimson curtains pulled back at the Vatican window where he addressed the faithful, I was reminded by old dude (and Mariah... cause "Make it Happen" plays now) to keep pushing. Someday, the bell will toll for me too -- Mahogany Ellus, the first. *smile*


The Soundtrack of Love

L-o-v-e is in the air. Ahem, not for me, yet, but apparently for everyone else on God’s green earth. So, as I frantically figure out what to buy my two cousins who are getting hitched in May and June, respectively, I log on to theknot.com and browse their gift registries. Crystal salt shakers, silverware and candlesticks galore, oh my! Not to throw the slightest bit of hatarade on the nuptials’ parade (*Smirking* never that), but when I make that move, me thinketh salt shakers will be the farthest thing from my mind. I mean, come now, I’ve lasted 25 years, without a set of my own and I still manage to throw down (*giggling* Okay, (whispering) once in a blue moon.) But really, all of this prompts me to wonder, how come no one asks for the necessary stuff of life? Like a year's supply of Koolaid for the newlyweds, for instance? To cite "The Wiz," one simply “can’t be caught dead without red”. And, how about a barbecue grill? (The best wedding gift for a cullud man, one would think.) Or, how about (*drumroll please*) the favorite music of the couple in question? I for one, could imagine myself -- after listening to the endless bloviation of the officiant and the “Akunamatata” of an old guest who decides to catch the Holy Ghost and fall out on my Vera Wang train -- just wanting to cool out to my fave music en route to the private “after-party”. What’s that you say, you too? Well, not to fret, I’ve made it easy for you. Here’s a list of nine songs that don’t normally make these kind of lists, but that I know would keep it quite the crunk, as Luthuh sings… for ever, for always, for luv

“All About Love” Earth Wind and Fire: When Maurice White starts out singing “Paint a pretty smile each day / Lovin’ is a blessing, yeah / Never let it fade away / It’s all about love, yeah,” that’s really all that needs to be said. EWF has a way with words that only they can truly embody with their music. Like their other love song jewels, “Reasons”, “Imagination” and “I’ll Write a Song For You”, this one is just perfection.

“Golden Lady” Stevie Wonder: Part of one of his most complete and introspective albums, “Innervisions”, the song begins with a short piano solo. Then, drums and organ kick in. Soon we hear Stevie singing as if in a dream, “Looking in your eyes / Kind of heaven eyes / Closing both my eyes / Waiting for surprise.” The amazing thing about this piece is the visual element. I swear the man sees more than I can and all the elements flow together very nicely. I guess that’s why I love dear Stevie so.

“The Makings of You” Curtis Mayfield: The “gentle genius” who gave us “Freddie’s Dead” and “Pusherman” from his “Superfly” soundtrack, was no less adept at the whimsical renderings of the woman in his life. Truth be told, the beloved writer and guitarist had me at the first words. “Add a little sugar, honeysuckle and a great big expression of happiness / Boy, you couldn’t miss, with a dozen roses / Such would astound you / The joy of children laughing around you/ These are the makings of you.” (Sniffle.) Gets me teary every time.

“Everlasting Love” Rufus featuring Chaka Khan: Quite possibly one of the greatest voices like freakin’ ever (when I was little, I was convinced that she and Patti Labelle were sisters), Chaka breaks it down like she’s singing alone in her bathroom and thinks no one’s listening. Except the difference with her and the rest of us is that the chick kills it. When she sings at her lowest register, “All ya need is an everlasting love. All ya want is, a satisfying love,” you believe that maybe, just maybe, that’s true.

“Hello, It’s Me” The Isley Brothers: Maybe it’s because I spent a lot of time as a little girl at my father’s knee reading liner notes from the records in his extensive collection. Maybe it’s because deep down inside, I always wanted a gold crusted cane like Rudolph. But, I have always loved me some Isleys...Ron, O’Kelly, Ernie, Rudolph and Marvin...*Stomping the “stage” in my room.* (You know, Fitty sing-rhymes about being a "p.i.m.p.", but has not one thing one these brothas.) This song is a departure from their trademark guitar-heavy funk, but shows why they’ll always have a place in our black classic lexicon.

“Another Star” Stevie Wonder: Though he’s better recognized for “Ribbon in the Sky” (also a great song) and “As” (which runs a close-second in my book), this song is love at it's best and worst-- the height of passion, heartbreak, and just pure … (wrinkling my nose because words escape me here)… I just don’t know what. But listen to it and you'll see what I mean. The first time I heard it, about three years ago, I was driving home and almost had to pull over. Drums? Check. A ridiculously tight flute solo? Check. Stevie in rare from? Check. George Benson singing backup? Check. Whew, it’s just like that. Best line: “For you there might be a brighter star, but in my eyes, the light of you is all I see.”

“Love Saw It” Karyn White and Babyface: No one can koo-kah-kah-koo like Karyn White. And, Babyface put it on you, like no other singer in his late eighties/early nineties heyday. (I think I was in middle school when this came out, but I knew this was hype even way back then.) The best lines speak volumes: “Love called my name / Love saw me change / Love rescued me from the danger of pain.” One day, says I, one day.

“For the Lover in You” Shalamar: I have a confession to make…I used to think Howard Hewett was cool as all get out. Shielding my face as you laugh. Okay, I admit, he’s about knee-high to uh... Jermaine Dupri. Yada. Yada. And I’ll grant you that the whole black man’s mullet thing he had going on never was a good look. But, his falsetto on this song was incredible. I still hear him now, *singing* “With this ring, I’ll show you, there ain’t no may-bay! This is for lovah in you And this ti-i-i-i-ime we’re gonna last forevah” My lawd!

And the crown jewel…

"Ain’t No Mountain High Enough" Diana Ross: *Hair blowing in the wind as she greets her fans who have braved the rain for an encore performance in Central Park*. Stage lights dim. Spotlight on Mahogany Elle...I mean Diana... sing-whispering, “If you need me call me / No matter where you are / No matter how far/ Just call my name / I’ll be there in a hurry/ On that you can depend and never worry/ No wind. (No wind)/ No rain. (No ra-yeen)/ Or winter’s cold (who-oo-oo-oo) /Can stop me baby (oh babe)/ Baby (baby)/ if you’re my goal! As much as I know the story of how she earned her way to the top via Berry Gordy’s couch, of how she knocked her fellow Supremes in the knees to be Queen Bee, of how Emmanuel Lewis has secretly made his home in her 8 foot weave for the last twenty years…LOL (okay, just kidding about the last part) … All of that -- all of it -- is lost to me when she sings defiantly over the swelling strings, “Ain’t no mountain high enough, nothin’ can keep me, keep me from you-ou-ou!” This may be more to the credit of Ashford and Simpson’s production expertise, than her canary-like voice, but whatever it was, it worked. It's a classic.

And there we have it, friends, brothers (or sisters), countrymen… the end. So, when it’s announced that Mahogany Elle has been swept away by some New York Times-reading, spade-and-dominoes-playing, Tribe Called Quest-and-Five Heartbeats-loving, Snoop-and-Smokey-Robinson-quoting, can-get-down-on-some-crème-brulee, but not-too-boogie-for-chicken-wangs-type-of-brotha, and is headed down that road to forever, please refer to this list. And, no crystal salt shakers please. In the spirit of that dude from Amistad, just give us us music. e


Attitude of Gratitude

(now playing: "Be Thankful", William DeVaughn / "Aint No Stoppin Us Now", McFadden and Whitehead)

In case you're wondering, the situation with my roommate is pending. She's away. Back at the ranch, analytic me and Aquanetta me are in a conclave deciding how to phrase my words for the uh... "Welcome Back Kotter" party. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I thought I'd file with some lighter thoughts. I'd have to credit William DeVaughn's "Be Thankful" which just came on, with putting me into the mood of gratitude. (You know, the seventies ode to the streets, "Though you may not drive a great big Cadillac / Gangsta whitewalls, T.V. antennas in the back /You may not haaaaave a car at all / But remember brothers and sisters, you can still stand tall / Just be thankful for what you got ... Diamond in the back, sunroof top, dig in the scene with a gangsta lean, whoo-hoo-hoo!") Cat daddy! LOL

Anyways, nice anthem for a nice Sunday. Actually got to church on time (I think C.P.T me can record that one in the history books). Nice sermon, on living as an example, courtesy of Rev. Calvin Butts. Nice array of negro spirituals. Nice hanging out with friends after. Nice food. Nice nap. LOL

So, don't really have a point today. I'm confident that things will work themselves out as my great-grandmother used to say, "Lawd willing and the creek don' rise." And due to Willie DeVaughn, I'm now thankful too. *Popping the proverbial collar*...Diamond in the back, sunroof top, dig in the scene with a gangsta lean, whoo-hoo-hoo!")



Culture Conundrum

(soundtrack: "Afro Blue", John Coltrane / "Exodus", Eddie Harris)

For nearly four months, my roommate and I have co-existed like Edward Hicks' classic American oil painting, "The Peaceable Kingdom." You know, the one where the lion kicks it with the lamb and the other creation of the earth in a magical scene? No lamb chops or wool sweaters for the lion. Just peace. Well, anyway living here in this slice of New York City has been something like that. Sort of refreshing, in fact. We've gotten along well. I put up with her cat. She, an Italian American, tries in her own special way, to understand how natural-hair-me can go from past-her-shoulders bone straight (press and curl, I explain) one week to curly 'fro (add water = instant negro, I offer) the next. We talk politics. Music even (we're both big O'Jays fans.) We don't get in each other's way. And we both chose careers sort of off the beaten path (me as a writer, she as a Ph.D. candidate who speaks and reads Latin fluently). All in all, it's been great. Something like the Niagara Convention must have been like in 1910 when W.E.B. Du Bois was surrounded by the great white folks (totally serious about this statement) who helped him start the N.A.A.C.P. We're different in color but similar in motivation and ethos. Anyway, even with all of this, the skeptic in me knew that something had to eventually give. One day, someday...

Yep. No day like the present.

I got home from a fabulous N'Awlins style dinner with some of my writer friends around 9:30 p.m. Talked on the phone with my momma for a while about the impending wedding of a cousin in June and assorted colorful family tales. Settled down to listen to a few notes from the genius from Hamlet, North Carolina (John Coltrane for the agnostics out there). Was feeling like just being. That was until my roommate stumbled into my room drunk at 11:30 p.m. (*Ding* First clue that this wasn't going to be a good night.)

roommate -- "Oh [Mahogany], I thought you were going home for the weekend."
me -- *blank look* (Momma still on the phone)
roommate -- "I just thought I'd have a few friends over. For a party. Now."
me -- "Oh?" (looking out into the living room at what looks like the entire Classics department at a school that shall remain nameless). "A few?"
roommate -- repeating "I thought you were going home."
me -- "Uh ... please ... shut my door."

At that very moment I felt like I, the only black girl of about 12 people in the apartment, was caught in some sort of out take from Chapelle's "When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong." I was no longer the happy-go-smiley Mahogany of springtime lore (see "Happy People"). No. I was now stuck in a vortex that morphed me into "non-smiling/ violating her parole/ wears curlers and houseshoes to the grocery store" Aquanetta. Suddenly, I knew not which path to take. Should I bust up in there and pull a Ron Artest, jumping into the crowd, my pink cardigan flapping in the wind, my arms flailing? Should I pull my roommate aside and explain in the best "non offensive negro" voice I could muster why this was not exactly acceptable? Or, should I draw some inspiration from J.C. and chill out a sec? I'm guessing you know which one I chose. Sigh.

And now that 15 minutes have passed since I started typing, listening to "Afro Blue" three times over has mellowed me out a little. So has playing it at a volume loud enough for me to summon both the Zulu ancestors and the seen-everything-before pigeons who chill on the roof across the way... A few more minutes go by and I have now come to a truce with my passive aggresive other self. Eventually, I'll have to talk with her about this. And I'll need to find away to get my point across with the clarity of theatre, but without the pathos of chitlin' circuit church plays (i.e: "Madea's [add anything here]", "Arms Too Short to Box with God", "Momma Done Burnt Da Chicken", etc.). And, without reinforcing the stereotypes her left-leaning friends still have about the more melanin endowed who walk the earth. It's times like these that I long for the wisdom of W.E.B. and his contemporaries. The brilliant man talked about the two masks that African Americans wear, that of our public/mainstream selves and our real ones. Yeah, I wish he was still around.

He might have advised me on which one to pick up for my performance.


Happy People

("Do I Do" by Stevie Wonder. Heavy Horns. Spring music. Fits today.)

The weather was so nice late this afternoon that I decided to go for a nice stroll in Midtown. On my way to the subway, I passed students sitting placidly on university steps. Tiny kids playing jump rope on the green. Flip flops back on frat boys. Students, people were awake and fresh it seemed, after a long urban hibernation. Even on the train. A duo, sort of a B-list version of Sam and Dave, came aboard the "1/9" from another car and instead of the inaudible groans one normally senses from passengers, people actually seemed to await what clever song/jokes/cut-rate batteries they would offer their captive audience.

They chose "This Little Light of Mine". My headphones and I were deep in love, concentrating on OutKast's "West Savannah". So beyond the first note, I couldn't initially gage the strength of their performance. But glancing at the older Asian lady sitting across from me, it seemed they were making their mark. She, in fact smiled. Igniting the smiles of her neighbors to her right and left. Which caused the performers to smile. Which caused me to smile. (Funny how that works, right?) *Smile*

I guess spring does that to you. Everyone was freer, happier. Seemingly less aggressive. Oddly, no one tried to bumrush the train as the doors closed. I heard no dude get clean cussed out for pushing up on someone's ample posterior. Even the folks at Ray's Pizza (shout out to Ray's) seemed as if they'd snacked on some of that "happy crackety crack." It was surreal...in a good way. Anyways, I, having caught the jovial mood as I walked, decided to make a day of the smiles. I ventured out with a friend to see the 7 p.m. show "Guess Who". Distracted by the funny tag team of Bernie and Ashton, I watched the racial card being thrown back and forth at me like I was caught in a some sort of hyper-version of "monkey in the middle". Except none of the tosses went over my head. Luckily for me, my earlier spring-sprung smile wasn't misplaced watching the screen duo singing to "You'll Never Find," by Lou Rawls, the epitome of laughable machismo. But as the lights turned up and we headed back uptown, the cynic in me prompted myself for some day spoiler.

None to be had.

Once home, I even found the antics of my roommate's cat (which I normally find to be one of the devil's chulren) amusing. And then there was Charles Barkley on Letterman, talking about why people are scared of large Negroes. LOL. I so love that man! ... And, there he was, cracking me up from the T.V. Maybe there was really joy in the New York City air. Or maybe it was just the wise words of a great poet of our time, Ice Cube -- "I have to say it was a good day."