Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Its That Time of the Year Again

I'm sick with some weird sore throat that I developed after cleaning my bedroom. That could mean several things:
  1. I need to clean my room more often.
  2. I need to pay someone to clean my room for me.
  3. I collect too much crap.
  4. I get too much crap in the mail.
  5. Newspapers and napkins should be tossed after a few days.
  6. I still can't find my Beatles CD.
  7. I don't know how I slept in a full size bed with another person for the past five years.
  8. I really don't read in bed, so I shouldn't act like I will by stashing books on the side.
  9. The queen bed takes up only a little more space than the full bed did.
  10. If the delivery guy was sick like he said he was, then I got this from him.

Since I'm making lists of things, I need to add that I couldn't think of a single thing I want for Christmas or my birthday this year. So instead of material things, I am going to ask God to bless me with some focus so that I can write more consistently. Well, maybe a laptop...


Monday, November 13, 2006

Random Observations About Misplaced Priorities

This is not to make light or make fun of all the people who are mourning the death of R&B singer Gerald Levert. After all, it was shocking to learn last Friday that Levert had died of an apparent heart attack at the age of 40.

40 years old. Seven years older than I will be in less than three weeks (God willing). Three years older than my husband. Too young to leave this world.

Yet, in my shock, I have put this in perspective, the same way that I put every sudden death in perspective. It is tragic because he had children who will now grow up without a father. Sad because his own father is still alive and must deal with having to bury a child. Ironic because he was reportedly working on a reality show about his efforts to lose weight.

But to all of the people who are acting like this is the end of the world--GET REAL.

Why is it that every time a black musician or performer dies, we act like someone has just slapped our mammas? I knew to expect tributes this morning all over black radio because the news came well after most of morning shows had aired last Friday. But, I was not expecting what I have witnessed in the last 72 hours.

The weekend tributes were actually sane, but it it all got out of control this morning. One woman wrote into the Steve Harvey Show to share her grief over the news, which was okay until she mentioned her "full-length" Gerald Levert tattoo and how happy she was that he got to see it... Then there was the conversation on the Tom Joyner Show in which Jacque Reid (former serious news anchor on BET) suggested that this was a really big deal and that she was disappointed that the mainstream media had not caught on and given this top-notch coverage.

Of course, all of this was going on at the same time that people were gathering on the National Mall to break ground for the Martin Luther King Jr., National Memorial. You remember Dr. King, the civil rights martyr who was killed because of his dedication to equality?

So not to take anything away from those who are truly mourning the passing of Gerald Levert, but just out of curiosity, have you donated to the King Memorial Fund yet? I ask because the effort to raise money for this memorial has been underway for at least five years, and I was wondering--just suppose we had channeled that same amount of energy towards building the King Memorial. It would be built by now.

Think of all of the money that was spent on Gerald Levert CDs and concerts and such...and then realize that it took major corporations to kick in enough money to finally dedicate the King Memorial ten years after President Clinton signed the legislation. Ten years after Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. began to solicit money.

Comparatively speaking, if this effort had to wait on us, it would have taken another 20 years.

And I am not dissing your love of Gerald Levert. Your money is yours to spend on whomever and whatever you want. But I just think that we need to realign some of our priorities. It should not be left up to corporations (who want their names etched in stone and receive the residual benefits of goodwill advertising) to build our memorials for us. Black people should feel just as compelled to remember and honor the legacy of Dr. King and the many others who sacrificed for equality as fervently as they mourn the death of a singer. For most of us working black folks, a commitment of $50 would not break our budgets. So what are you waiting for?

Somehow I get the feeling that there will be a lot more Gerald Levert CDs sold in the coming weeks than donations to the King Memorial. And that is just as tragic, sad and ironic.

I want to acknowledge "60 minutes" and "The Larry King Show" for devoting their entire programs to remembering the life of Ed Bradley, who also passed away suddenly last week due to complications from leukemia. It was very touching to see his colleagues remember someone whom they truly admired and who seemingly had such a profound effect on so many people. Twenty-five years ago when Bradley made history as the only black anchor on 60 minutes, I doubt that any other black journalist would have been similarly remembered.

I mention this because I wanted to correct an assertion I heard this morning that the mainstream media often fails to acknowledge the lives prominent of African Americans. The complainers then suggested that attention to these issues usually comes from black media, black radio in particular. Perhaps...

But are we that shallow? Doesn't it make more sense that black radio is the venue for honoring Gerald Levert's career since radio was his primary medium? Ed Bradley had been on TV for nearly 30 years, so maybe it was just more appropriate that the tributes to his career took place on that medium.

Let's not lose perspective on this because in the grand scheme of things, we must recognize our own shortcomings when it comes to setting priorities for the future. Does it matter whether the mainstream media responds if we fail to place a priority on remembering our own?

The best tribute we can make to each of of these men--Ed Bradley, Gerald Levert, Martin Luther King and every other great African American pioneer, legend, crusader, etc.--is to invest in efforts that ensure that they will not be forgotten. Give to the King Memorial fund, to HBCUs (both King and Bradley were graduates) or join one of those campaigns to Save the Music in public schools. Or maybe become a mentor to a young black male so that his life will be worth something.

Just a thought...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Streaming Consciousness

I know what I need to do, yet I can't get myself together to just do it.

I want to write my book. I've started on a few chapters, but I can't seem to keep my focus. The husband says that I need to take a writing class. He thinks it will keep me centered.

I think it will drive me bonkers. But I admit that having writing responsibilities might actually be a blessing in disguise. I might actually succeed without realizing it.

My problem is that I am an unrepentant procrastinator. I've been writing this book for years. And now that it is November and I got the NaNoWriMo email reminder, there is the temptation to just spout on for the next few weeks until I finish something.

Except I don't want to waste the effort on a crappy book. I want to write a good book that will get me started on a career as a writer.

Ok, in reading that sentence back, I almost believed that statement.

I already have a career as a writer. I write. I publish. I'm just an obscure, undiscovered talent.

I'm also tired because I've been up with the husband while he waits for election results. Somewhere along the line, he and I switched places. He is now the political junkie and I could not be bothered this time around. (Actually that is not true...I really did care, but I chose not to do anything special this year).

I'm more focused on my teaching. It keeps me grounded.

I really should go to bed now since I am supposed to be switching mattresses before the new mattress arrives. I am also supposed to be moving the bed frames around. All of this and cleaning up the house (which clearly is not going to happen by 2pm tomorrow afternoon). I'll be lucky if I wake up by 10am.


Friday, November 03, 2006

Why I Hate My Life

I don't have any readers anyway, so I'm entitled to a little self-indulgence every now and then...

I hate my life. I hate the fact that I never have any money. I hate the fact that I never have enought time to devote to my own projects. I hate the fact that I never have anyone around when I want to do something other than work. I hate that I spend 70% of my time alone. I hate that 20% is commandeered by my husband. I hate that the other 10% is commandeered by others who never seem to have any time for me.

I hate my life.

I got the bright idea that my best friend and I should go to Atlantic City this weekend. It was a spur of the moment type of impulse, and when I called her to see what she thought, she said no, then she said that she would think about it. I thought it was a perfect idea, since today is her birthday, and her big plan was to spend the time in Baltimore. I'm thinking, we can go to Baltimore anytime since it is just 30 minutes away.

But she blows me off. I call her back to see if she's changed her mind, and she already left for B-more. I call her cell phone and I had to leave a message. And now I'm peeved and terribly disappointed because now since I already promised that I would, I'm going to have to drive to Baltimore tonight instead of spending the evening pulling the levers on a slot machine and getting a small break from my pathetic life.

Yes, I know that I am being selfish. It is not my birthday, and she has a right to want to spend it as she pleases.

But dammit, why can't I ever get a break? I just wanted one night away from this sh**ty life I have. I wanted one night away from my boring husband and his annoying habits. One night! I just needed one lousy damn night away from it all.

I am not going to have any chance to do something like this again. As of next week, my every weekend from now until January is jammed with other people's projects and needs. There is not another moment free for me to do anything other than what I normally do. I just wanted to be spontaneous, but over the next few weeks, that will mean that get to spend more time alone in a restaurant somewhere with my head in a book. I can't seem to buy a decent time anymore.

I no longer have co-workers. I have very few friends. I have no money. And the only semblance of a life I seem to manage these days is my daily game of spider solitaire and my twice weekly visits to Starbucks. Oh, and dance classes every week, which now take up any additional moment of free time.

This is so pathetic. I thought life was supposed to get better. My life seems to have gotten worse with each year. And no, I don't want to count any blessings right now, because to do so would make me feel worse than I already do. I don't want to look around me and see that other people have worse lots than boredom and solitude. I don't want to even think about it.

I f**king hate my f**king life.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

You Are Not Where You Eat

I laughed when I saw Chris Rock’s mother on TV with Al Sharpton a few days ago. I thought it was one of his jokes, but apparently she was really complaining about the racist treatment she received at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in South Carolina. And Brother Al took his usual place beside another so-called victim crying over spilled milk.

I mean, if she went to the Cracker Barrel expecting first class service, then she is clearly delusional.

Cracker Barrel is one of several southern style restaurants whose ‘aw shucks’ theme evokes images of Andy Griffith’s Mayberry. The exterior resembles a typical southern style home and its most inviting feature is the wrap-around porch cluttered with a row of rocking chairs that entice visitors to take a load off and enjoy the scenery (usually the parking lot). There is a general store attached, with such southern knick-knacks as checker boards, peach preserves, and "homemade" lap blankets. They also serve that most southern of refreshments, sweet iced tea, something that people north of Richmond just would not understand. When I ate there for the first time four years ago, I distinctly remember that our waitress sent us on our way with the most southern of dismissals, “Ya’ll come back now, ya hear?”

All of this “southern hospitality” is available for a modest price, just a few dollars more than the cost of a value meal at McDonald’s. It is a very quaint, but very cheap place to eat. I do not recall if the service was particularly good or bad--it was adequate for the type of place one finds in the parking lot of an outlet mall.

As welcoming as the Cracker Barrel appears, Mrs. Rock is not the first person to complain about poor treatment there. A few years ago, Cracker Barrel was on one of those hastily arranged “do-not-patronize” lists that floated around in cyberspace because someone’s mother’s best friend’s cousin got treated shabbily there. It took the spot formerly occupied by Denny’s in the early 90s when black folks still couldn’t buy decent service at that establishment (yet, many continued to patronize it). In a few years, I suspect that the Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, Applebee’s and other major chains will also have their turn on the list.

The alleged victims of are always these self-proclaimed affluent, well-educated black people. Despite the fact that the word has been out about racial bias at the Cracker Barrel for years, why do these people--my people--continue to frequent these places? If you are what you claim to be, then (a) you can certainly afford better, and (b) you should definitely know better. Damn, black people, raise your standards!

When did respect become measured by the courtesy extended from a waitress who earns less per hour than the cost of a hamburger and fries? If you really want respect at a restaurant, go somewhere with a white linen tablecloth and a wine list. As long as your Visa bill is current, no one would dare treat you shabbily at a place like that.

Of course, when allegations of bias are levied against one of these chain eateries, the common refrain is that complaints to the manager yielded no improvement in service, so it follows that the only way to regain one’s dignity from such an affront is to file a lawsuit claiming emotional distress and humiliation. The aggrieved parties then hire a lawyer and then make the obligatory media rounds. Frankly, I am unsure which is more humiliating—the treatment suffered at the Cracker Barrel or going on CNN to complain about the treatment suffered at the Cracker Barrel… That other intangible damage "principle" gets mentioned a lot, since no one ever pursues these cases for generous payday (mind you, there is no real money at stake since most meals at the Cracker Barrel cost about $7.95). I’m still trying to understand what great personal principles are at stake since there are plenty of other places along the interstate that serve hamburgers.

Forgive me for sounding snobbish, but common sense would dictate that if I enter an establishment and do not feel welcomed or appreciated, then I would leave. I do not need to waste my valuable time or spend my hard earned money somewhere it is unwanted. And with all of that hard earned money Chris Rock has, he could squash this whole thing by just buying that Cracker Barrel in South Carolina for his mother. Or he could invest some of that money in a chain of fast food diner-style restaurants where black people can go and not feel discriminated against…you know, like McDonald’s.