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


St. Elsewhere

Way over yonder there's a new frontier.
Would it be so hard for you to come and visit me here?
I understand...
Would you send me a message in a bottle then baby?

~Gnarls Barkley

I listen to "St. Elsewhere" and feel like they know what I'm thinking these days. It's a New Year, but there are so many things from the past year to carry forward. Blessings to be grateful for. Loss to incorporate.

I haven't written in a while not because I haven't had the material, but because the past month has left me at a loss. My father, at the age of 56, passed away after a long battle with heart disease and a host of other ailments. I got the call one early morning in late November. From my brother's voice -- a measured combination of cool and detached sorrow -- I knew something wasn't right. My father's spirit had taken flight earlier that morning.

Like many parents and their children, our relationship was nuanced. I loved and respected him. We debated at times. Argued in others. He taught me how to think. Showed me the example of working hard for what you want. Was a walking collection of quotes, each of which he would tell us as if it was the first time. "There are no shortcuts to any place worth going", "The sky is the limit", "You stand on the shoulders of your ancestors" and perhaps the most resplendent, "Daddy loves you."

He's the reason I love Stevie Wonder. Gladys Knight. The O'Jays. He's the reason that I skip church most Sundays and instead opt for Sunday Morning or Face the Nation. Or sleep. He's the reason I try to think deeply about issues. (On car rides to school he'd catch me quietly staring out the window and say, "A penny for your thoughts. What are you pondering?") He's the reason I decided to go to law school. (Once when I was about eight or so, he told me I was good at playing semantics but to save my word-bending for a judge. Lol.)

He was fashionably unfashionable. He wore the same pair of British Knights hightops from like '89 to '96, with those old school white tube socks pulled all the way up his knees. (You know those socks.) "Daddy," I would say, "can you please get some new sneakers?" He'd earnestly reply, "Nuthin's wrong with these. I have one pair of sneakers and they're going to last me six years." I would look at him and sigh in reply. He was the grand champion of trash talking while doing everything from playing me in checkers to battling my brother in H-O-R-S-E in the backyard. He taught me how to ride a bike. And parallel park. We watched NBA basketball and he proceeded to tell me everything he knew about every player. Kareem invented the Sky Hook, Wilt Chamberlain scored the most points in a game, Julius "Dr. J" Erving and Moses Malone were the best thing to ever happen to the Philadelphia 76ers. He introduced me to The Temptations ("David Ruffin with a Tuffin"), the Jackson Five, Earth Wind and Fire (my fave group to date) & Parliament Funkadelic. The music was mine because it was his.

He was a man of contradictions. Strong and fearless but yet vulnerable. Serious but charmingly funny. I really can't encapsulate all of things he meant to me. He gave me the task of writing his obit a long time ago when my sister passed. I tried to pull it off. But written words don't really do it. How do write down a life when the real meaning is in the advice given. The song sung. The hopes birthed. The prom date he once threatened. ( Sorry J.) Lol.

Perhaps for now, while the tears still flow liberally at any slight reminder of the man that was, it's best to use something I learned the first time we watched "The Godfather" -- one of his favorites -- together.

Omerta. Silence.

~M. Elle