Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Band Called Nigger Lover?

Who names their band Nigger Lover? My good friend, Donny, that's who! If you knew Donny you'd understand he means that he loves black folks, many of us whom use the word "nigger" liberally as in "my nigga!" I don't, but then I'm 57 and Donny is at least 25 years younger than me. See, Donny used to be an actor in my brother James' troupe, now called Flow Theater. Donny is used to having frank and open discussions about things like race, sexuality, and gender equality. He defies Attorney Genral Holder's pronoucement that we are cowards when it comes to talking about race, but he is one of the few who does. I applaud Donny's selection of a band name, not because I like the name (I'm actually neutral on the "n" word because it won't go away even if I get upset about it!), but becauce it's provocative and will get him a lot of free advertising.

I really did the same thing myself when I chose the title of a novel I wanted to write some day. That was twenty plus years ago when I was a fulltime teacher and a parttime dramatist who knew I'd never have time to write a novel until I retired. Well, I retired from fulltime employment last year (as well as a partttime job as a newspaper reporter) and I wrote that novel that I decided 'back in the day' to name "They Just Be Killing White Folks." Actually, the full name is "They Just Be Killing White Folks (A Vampire Tale of Bloodlust, Terror, and Horror)." I chose that title for the same reason Donny chose the name of his band: it gets people's attention. A blurb describing the book explains the name:

"A black farmer takes his sons on an adventure to see a silent horror film showing at the new theater on Halloween night in 1930, in central Texas. There were nearly 500 black people lynched in Texas that year, so a movie about a vampire hardly seemed frightening except to the youngest son, Lijah, who consoles himself with his father's assurance that in the silent film, 'they just be killing white folks.'"

Twenty years of thinking about the book and I wrote it in four days. That's how I spent New Year's. Not exactly a celebratory event, but the completion of a goal that I'd set so long ago. While eschewing the usual New Year's festivities this year, I remembered a New Year's weekend fourteen years ago when the only objective was to party. I went to New York to a party for large women and their admirers and there I met Brad. We were together from the time I got in line wearing my black velvet, sequined jacket and mini skirt until "the last dance" of the last party that weekend. Brad is from New York, but he lives in Texas now.

My novel is set in Texas in the rural community where I grew up and that provides its setting. Many of the characters are based on members of my family at the ages they were in 1930, including my great-grandfather who I never knew; my father, who I barely knew; and my grandparents, who were the most important people in my life as a child; and my mother, who was born in 1930. My mother just turned 79 this year and she has been telling me stories about the family and her life in central Texas. I've made a concerted effort to record those stories. One of them is in the novel and is one of the unrecorded lynchings that took place in central Texas. I also recount one recorded lynching and two that were created as part of the novel's plot.

If you're a fan of the Vampire Lestat and "Twilight" books, you probably won't like my vampire. He's not a romantic hero. He's a vicious serial killer who provides a vessel for an evil demon. By the way, my great-grandfather and my father were both Baptist preachers - I attended the church my great-grandfather founded when I was a child and it is mentioned in the novel - so, there is a spiritual "experience" in the novel. My great-grandmother was half Cherokee, so I also included a Cherokee ritual as part of the novel, as well. In addition to providing historical accounts of actual lynchings (a goal of mine since the "noose" incident in Jena, Louisiana), spiritual and Native mysticism, and characters based on my own family tree, the novel is first and foremost a horror novel.

I have loved horror novels since I first read Bram Stoker's "Dracula" and convinced my siblings that I was a vampire when I was a young teen. Later, I read the hardcover versions of every Stephen King novel until the earl 1980s, later turning to Anne Rice for my horror fix. I love being frightened out of my wits and do a pretty good job of doing the same thing to others. I don't know how scary my novel is, but it does tell a horrifying story. I have been writing stories of all kinds for over thirty years, starting with those I wrote for the stage, thean moving on to writing stories for local weekly newspapers in Toledo, Ohio. I've also written volumes of poetry.

Speaking of titles that get attention, try these: one of my poetry books is titled "I Never Met a Staple I Could Stomach and Other Fat Poems"; some of my play titles are "Fat Ladies Ain't All in the Circus" and "A Marvel, A Miracle, America" - both musicals with original music by me - "I Ain't Cha' Mama" (also the tile of a song I wrote), and "Casting Stones," which is a dark comedy about a wannabe female serial killer who's set her sights on black Baptist preachers who cheat on their wives (I was working out some Daddy issues!) and which I may enter in the Reader's Theatre competition of the National Black Theatre Festival this year.

Anyway, there are titles that spark controversy while getting attention, but often aren't nearly as controversial as the titles imply. I know that's true of my novel and I'm sure it's true of my friend Donny's band. It's a cliche, but you really can't judge a book by it's cover. Speaking of which, I wanted to put this vampire on the cover of my book (which I self-published on Lulu.com using a pen name), but I couldn't download it for some reason - didn't have any trouble downloading it here. Anyway, I chose an appropriately gothic looking cover. If you do decide to check out the book, don't be disappointed in the "author photo" on the back cover. It's not a head shot. It's a candid shot by my brother James who captured me doing what I seem to alwasys be doing this days since I became semi-retirmed: typing on my computer.

Author tags: nigger lover, vampires, Stephen King, Anne Rice, Vampire Lestat, Twilight, lynchings, nooses, Jena Louisiana, central Texas

Media Got It Wrong About Rev. Jeremiah Wright

While in Columbus, Ohio, on business (and to sneak in some "family time" with my mother, two brothers, and sister who live there!), I heard Rev. Jeremiah Wright speak at Ascension UCC, Sunday, March 22, 2009, at 8:30 am.

It was a beautiful, sunny spring day with a crisp morning chill and the promise of warmth later on and I was sharing an experience with my sister, D'Ebrar who has followed in my Baptist father's footsteps and become a minister.

Our father died eight years ago and I recall him saying things as provocative and stinging as the statements made by President Obama's former pastor in those much-played video clips.

Actually, when I was in college serving as editor-in-chief of the newspaper at a state-supported black college that Hugh Downs correctly stated was once called "the Uncle Tom College" when he interviewed its President, I wrote things far more revolutionary than anything said by Rev. Wright or my father in the underground newspaper I published in retaliation for not being able to quote The Last Poets in the school paper.

I wanted to hear and see Rev. Wright in person to affirm what I believed and what the media missed: Jeremiah Wright is no less anti-American than those of us who have believed in and fostered dissent since the birth of this nation.

Was Thomas Payne unpatriotic when he wrote "SOME writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness POSITIVELY by uniting our affections, the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher"? (Payne, Common Sense, 1776)

While Wright's language was strong and considered excessive by many in those video-clips, it was not as strong as the language used by Frederick Douglass in his Fourth of July Speech.

"This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, lowering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrecoverable ruin!"(Douglass, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?", July 5, 1852).

Now, if that was all of the speech, I doubt that there would be schools named for this great American. However, these words were also spoken that day eleven years before the start of the Civil War: "Pride and patriotism, not less than gratitude, prompt you to celebrate and to hold it in perpetual remembrance. I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation's destiny; so, indeed, I regard it. The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost" (Douglass).

Fortunately, this historical speech was recorded in its entirety and those passages that some might find offensive weren't be taken out of context. My task when I went to see Jeremiah Wright was to put into context what the media effectively sliced and diced to create the biggest sensation.

What I saw was a classic black preacher at his finest. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is noted for his oratorical skill as well as his actvism; however, I heard orators as great as Dr. King every time I walked through the doors of a church growing up, especially when I heard my father.

Rev. Wright, who many will always regard as unpatriotic because of one or two statements made to emphasize the "wickedness" of government that used fear to push an agenda that was not necessarily in the best interests of the people, preached a sermon in Columbus. He didn't deliver a revolutionary manifesto or scream hatred from the pulpit as so many believe he does.

His sermon was brief and effective, demonstrating that he is not only a good orator, but a theologian. His text was Isaiah 43:1-5, and he talked about the warnings given by the prophets before the fall of Babylon.

I really believe that regardless of how he may say it, Rev. Wright is only trying to warn us about the dangers of power and corruption - not because he hates his country; but because he loves it.

I am a strong believer in the dissent that I as an American am allowed to express with my government as a constitutional right. Only when such dissent is expressed can we break with policies like the ones put forth by the last administration, which though once popular, were rejected by the majority of American people eventually when it was revealed they were not in the best interest of the people.

Actually, the most unpatriotic statement I've heard anyone make in recent memory was the one made when told that the majority of Americans did not support the war in Iraq, former Vice-President Dick Chaney said, "So?"

Friday, March 13, 2009

Columbus Journal, Part Deux of Part Deux

Tonight's my last night in the state capitol. I'll be returning back to Toledo tomorrow to rest on the sabbath before returning back to work Monday. I don't normally work on Mondays, but I have a meeting first thing Monday morning and an engagement Monday night, so in between the two, I'm going to go to work. I've been working while I've been here: writing proposals, making phone calls, and investigating this home care business. There's another workshop on the 24th, so I'm coming back next week. James's group, Flow Theater, is performing at a conference sponsored by UT in Toledo on the 19th and I'm going out to see the show, then coming back to Columbus with the actors, which include my baby sister, D'Ebrar.

Speaking of baby sis, I think she's still celebrating her birthday! She started celebrating a week ago with her girlfriends at a Mexican restaurant (poor child had a margarita and realized she doesn't like tequila - I love it and I love margaritas, but I've been staying away from them while I've been here; they make me act naughty!) Then Saturday, I took her shopping at our favorite discount clothing store, Simply Fashions. She got two dresses, two tops, a denim jacket with a sexy, cutout back that I picked out for her, about six pair of shoes, and a bagful of jewelry. I found myself a skirt and a jacket and two tops that matched it plus a couple of pair of shoes.

On the way out of the store, we saw this red outfit that looked like something our Mother would love. I wanted to take my sister out to Zanzibar, a coffee house that our brother, James, enjoys, but she is taking a class for ministers and had a paper due. So, she went home to work on her paper and I went over to spend a couple of nights with her and Mom. We got to see KiKi and Joe and smothered them with kisses and hugs because KiKi got accepted in the gifted program and Joe's reading is improving. I slept with the lights on because I kept hearing mice. I recognized the sound because I've had my own problem with the little vermin this year after a couple of years of no mice (I am relentless with the D-Con!).

Sunday, I went to church with Mom and sang one of her favorite songs, "Even Me," after the sermon. James picked me up from church so he and Leslie (Joe's significant other and my "sis-in-law") could have lunch at Schmidts. Leslie brought a new contract for me to sign and an envelope full of cash because she and Joe bought out my share of the house due to the seemingly neverending costs of the rehab. I needed the money, so I didn't mind. Sunday afternoon, James and I went to see D'Ebrar's production, "Gates Ajar." It was an excellent choir program with different characters on their way to the pearly gates singing their praises and shouting as they entered.

Late Sunday afternoon, D'Ebrar had class, then went out to dinner with her gentelman friend to celebrate her birthday which was actually Sunday. She's 46; and so is Joe. He'll be 47 April 16. They were born eleven months apart. James will be 49 April 7, the same day as my sister-in-law, Lisa's birthday. Sunday morning, my brother, Greg, the pastor, called and talked to Mom and me. He told me all about the things I wrote in Part I of this journal to let me know he reads everything I send him. I'm going to have to go to Mississippi and visit him one day soon. Wonder how far Mississippi is from North Carolina?

James will know if Wimmin With Wings was accepted for a mainstage performance at the National Black Theatre Festival, which is in North Carolina, next month. I can't imagine it not being included. What a wonderful birthday present tjat would be for James! I'm still trying to decide which of my one acts to submit for the Readers' Theatre, so I'm going to send three of them to anyone interested so you can read them and tell me know which one you think I should submit. I'm still leaning toward Casting Stones, the dark comedy about the female serial killer because it's the kind of play that comes out of the festival, but I'm also considering Ruthless Bonds (that one got Lori's vote) and Picnics and Pits.

Monday, I came back to James' and got rested so I could go to the home health care workshop. I went to the workshop Tuesday morning and was befuddled by an overload of information on billing. However, I made some valuable contacts with some people who work for the Ohio Council of Home Care and joined the organization, trying to get a discount on the workshop taking place on the 24th. That one's called Home Health Care 101 and it lasts all day, so, hopefully, I won't be totally confused when I leave like I was Tuesday. I gave James his present early, some of the money Joe and Lesie gave me when they bought my share of the house, and it was just enough to close the deal for his new house. God is good.

James took me by PJ's to get fish and chicken wings and stopped by Family Dollar to get poison for the mice and skins, ginger snaps, and Lemon Berry Hawaiiaan Punch for me. I got fish and wings for Mom, too, and we went over there to put out the poison and eat. Mom's home health aide, Conia (the star of "Gates Ajar" and an original member of James theater group - she was in B.R.AIDS!) was there with her little ones, Reggie and Solomon. I love those boys! They are little monsters, always into everything. I also love Mom and D'Ebrar's dog, Bear, who thinks I'm another dog and always wants to bite me and wrestle with me. He really needs obedience training and I wish I had time to do it, but I'm never here long enough. I also saw my ex sister-in-law, Valerie, who looked fabulous in her business suit and stilletos.

Tuesday night I finally got to take my sister out for her birthday after she got off work. James and I met her at The Monk, the fabulous restaurant James took me to when I arrived a week ago. D'Ebrar's friend, Kim, who is a hoot, also came, and so did one of James' best friends, Arnie. We had a great meal and, of course, I had my Madras before dinner, wine with dinner, and Kaluah and coffee after dinner. One of James' actors, Amber, sings with a band and they were performing in the bar area. Amber really belted out "Respect" (I was singing along!), then later came over to the restaurant and talked to us between sets. Arnie invited everyone to come to James Piano Bar Thursday for open mic night. I said "yes," forgetting that Leslie, James, and I were supposed to go to a movie.

Wednesday was the day we celebrated Mom's birthday. While we were at her house Tuesday afternoon, she asked James to get her some glazed donuts to take to Bible study. He told her he would, exchanging a knowing look with me. He and D'Ebrar ordered ribs and chicken from Smokey Bones (believe me, the one in Columbus is MUCH better than the ones in Toledo!) while we were there. That's Mom's favorite restaurant and one of the few places she'll it out. D'Ebrar had already ordered a cake and after dinner Tuesday, James went to Krogers and got potato salad and fixings for baked beans, as well as utensils, plates, cups, napkins, and a red and white gingham tablecloth. In case you haven't guessed, we were going for a barbecue theme. Next time, I'm going to have to get my friend Melvin's poem about barbecue to read!

Everything went as planned Wednesday morning. James and I went over and set everything up while Bible study was going on and D'Ebrar picked up the cake and the ribs and chicken. After Bible study, everyone came back into the church's social area with Mom bringing up the rear! She was in total shock. There were butterfly shaped balloons over her cake and "Happy Birthday" balloon on the buffet table. James had made a nice punch in the church's punch bowl, but bought a two litter of Diet Coke for Mom (it doesn't help her memory, but she enjoys it - what can I say!). Everyone enjoyed the food and the fellowship. Mom and D'Ebrar's pastor showed me around the sanctuary so I could see the chandeliers they'd put in since Sunday. He's really a great young pastor.

Afterwards, my sister and I took our mother to Simply Fashions to look at that red outfit. I found some earrings and D'Ebrar found another pair of shoes - no flats this time, girfriend got some stilletos! She also kept asking me if I liked different tops (she had two waiting on my bed when I arrived Saturday). I should have known something was up - she bought the tops for me, but didn't want to buy the purse that matched her shoes, so I bought it for her along withe the red outfite for Mom and the earrings for myself. Mom's birthday isn't actually until next week, on St. Patrick's Day, but she enjoyed being queen for a day. She got some lovely gifts: a plant and a memory box full of stationery and keepsakes. I bought her a yellow suit to wear on Easter and it wasn't due until Monday, but it came yesterday. She loves it! I also ordered her an Obama album.

Thursday, I worked all day making phone calls and typing up proposal after proposal and checking in with my boss. On the way back from shopping Wednesday, we passed by my favorite theater, the Drexel, and Slumdog Millionaire was on the marquee, so I talked to Leslie and James via email about going. Leslie found out the show times because we were hoping for an early show so we could meet Arnie later at the piano bar. Leslie had work to do and couldn't attend the early show, so we went to the 7:45 one and James had to postpone a videotaping he was doing of Joe. Afterwards, we got some food in the coffee house that's attached to the theater and owned by the folks that own the Drexel. We got some lentil soup to take home, along with quesadillas, and the best little hamburgers.

That is the best movie I've seen in a while. If you haven't seen it, you must. It has great pathos, hilarious comedy, intense drama, and heartfelt romance all rolled up into one film. However, if your stomach tends to be a little queasy, I advise you not to eat before you go or during the first part of the movie. I was eating popcorn and peanut M&Ms and drinking root beer when Jamal ran through the crowd to get the autograph, but luckily I've worked in places that would turn one's stomach, often having to eat lunch while working. I already warned my sister not to eat before or during the movie because her stomach will do flip flops.

I hear her and her girlfriends downstairs. They have dinner at James' once a month and I forgot tonight was the night. I'm sitting in the dark at my computer wearing my flannel nightgown, so I guess I won't be going down. We didn't make it to the piano bar last night and flirted with the idea of going tonight. I was about to take a nap two hours ago, so I could go out later when Arnie called and said he'd planned to go out early tonight. When I told him I'll be back next week, he said we'll do it then. I love Arnie. He's classy, funny, and a good friend to my brother.

Another of James' friends, Lee, was here from Cleveland Wednesday and Thursday. He came right after I left the last time and rearranged the furniture in James' living and dining room, transforming them into perfection. That fool woke me up Wednesday afternoon when he came in and again this morning, except this morning he brought me breakfast and coffee from MacDonald's. I don't know how he knew I liked the bacon and egg biscuits and cream AND sugar in my coffee, but he knew. That's Lee. I threatened to take him back to Toledo with me and he retorted, "You better have a man waiting for me!" I told him there are plenty of gay men there, but most of them are on the down low. He came up and hugged me before he left this afternoon. He'll be back next week, too.

Leslie told me I might as well move back to Columbus. It's tempting, but I have roots in Toledo after 21 years. James says when I get the money to have the knee replacement surgery, I can come convalesce in Columbus because even after he buys another house once he's solvent again, he'll keep the little cottage he just bought for me. How sweet. Well, I'll be here a lot because if I ever have the money, I'm replacing knees, hips, teeth, and whatever else is not working! Dolly Parton says anything that's sagging, dragging, and bagging gets nipped, tucked, and sucked. Well, I won't be having cosmetic surgery, but hip replacement sounds real good right now!

Thanks to everyone who let me enjoy my time with my family this week and didn't call me. (I did have one call from Toledo today while I was trying to nap, but my phone was off, as usual). I did finally talk to my high school classmate today who told me that a total of six of my classmates have now died. The last one died in 2008. His name was W.C. Anderson and he was the sweetest, quietest boy. I always liked him. Another one, Evelyn (can't remember her last name right now) also died; she was a quiet, sweet girl in school. I still don't remember who Carolyn Johnson (the one who contacted me) is. I thought she was Carolyn Jones, but she said her name is Johnson. She's going to send me photos after the class reunion, so maybe I'll figure it out then.

Despite the social whirl I've been in while visiting Columbus, that will all end when I return to Toledo. I have a lot of work to do, including some massive spring cleaning, so I will not be going out to eat, going to the movies, or any of the other fun things I did while here. Maybe Columbus will become my place to relax and socialize since Toledo is where I work and get down to business. I am probably not going to be flitting around like a social butterfly when I come back next week - all that was because of my mother and sister's birthdays.

Although, I will go to the piano bar and I hope to go and hear Rev. Jeremiah Wright with my own ears when I come back, I probably will spend most of the time working like I did today and yesterday. D'Ebrar are going to the 8:00 service at James' church to hear Rev. Wright on the 22nd (she goes to hear him every time he's in Columbus and says he's nothing like he's depicted in the media). Then, I'll be going to church with my mother. So, I'll be staying with Mom and D'Ebrar Saturday and Sunday night again. But I'll be coming back to my home away from home at James' on Monday. I'm going to miss this house when he moves.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Columbus Journal, Part Deux

I'm back in Columbus for another meeting and get to spend time with my family. The meeting is not until Tuesday, but I left Toledo after an 8 am meeting yesterday at work and lunch with my neighbor and her stepdaughter who was home from school with a slight fever. Then, after riding in a cramped bus seat for three hours, I arrived here and James took me to the nicest restaurant located in Bexeley, where he lived when he attended the Lutheran Seminary.

We had a full course meal, starting with hummus for him and crab cakes for me, all of which was boxed up to go into the refrigerator in my room at his house for later; then we had our main course - James had Duck L'Orange and I had wood-baked salmon with mushrooms, sliced baked potatoes, and steamed asparagus; finally, we had sorbet - raspberry for James and strawberry for me, which neither of us could finish because we were so full. Add to that the Madras, white wine, and Kahula and coffee I had before, during, and after my meal; the two sausage biscuits and coffee I had for breakfast, half a chicken salad I had at Al Smith's (it's the best in Toledo!), the BLT I bought at Al Smith's to take on the bus with me and the honey bun I took from our meeting and also ate on the bus and I had a colossal tummy ache last night.

I usually eat two meals a day and yesterday I had four! But I had a great time at the restaurant and enjoyed the meal immensely. Fine dining is one of the many things James and I have in common. We're going back to "the Monk" Tuesday for live music (there was some in the bar last night). Tonight I'm going out with my sister to a local coffee house that also has live music after we go shopping for her birthday present. D'Ebrar's birthday is tomorrow and I'm going to go to "Gates Ajar," a Christian play she re-wrote and is providing musical accompaniment for in the afternoon. I'm also staying with her and Mom tonight and tomorrow night and coming back to James' Monday.

My mother cleaned the guest room to make it ready for me, although I didn't spend one night with her and my sister when I was here in January. James said it's her way of saying she wants me to spend the night there. He and Debbie and I all agree that Mom can say so much without saying anything. Unfortunately, when I was a young woman and didn't know my parents very well because I hadn't lived with them since I was seven, I was home between colleges and got a very unpleasant taste of my mother's non-verbal communication. I made a dress successfully for the one and only time in my life. I was so proud of my "little black dress," I

wore it to church; however, the dress was designed to emphasize my "decollete" and I guess my father wasn't pleased that his daughter showed off her cleavage at the church he pastored at the time. Well, Daddy had a way of telling Mom when he was upset with me instead of talking to me (the only time he did was when he saw my college boyfriend, Robert, and I making out in the living room of the parsonage through an outside window). My perfectly made dress just disappeared and so did my interest in sewing. Although it was a minor event in my life, I was traumatized by it and am starting an autobiographical novel about by life as a young adult with that incident, which for many years affected my relationship with my parents.

However, all is forgiven now and I'm going to be spending some time with my mom this weekend. I have to leave Monday because I can't stand those judge shows Mom watches all day during the week. At least on the weekend, she watches the news and "60 Minutes." Years ago, after my father retired from fulltime ministry, Mom gave up her soap operas. Now, she's replaced them with real life soap operas. I was at my neighbor's house Thursday morning after sleeping on their couch following my weekly "movie night" with the kids (I saw "Akeelah and the Bee" and it's fantastic!) and my neighbor's wife was watching "Judge Mathis" while I was getting ready for work. There was some guy on there who's been married NINE times!

Speaking of human oddities, I heard on the the news while I was at the bus station waiting for my bus yesterday that an 83 year old Alzheimer's patient in a nursing home body slammed a 97-year old and killed him. I immediatley called my mother and had her cracking up because I told her about the incident, then said, "No nursing homes for you! Even if you have to live in my basement, you will never go to a nursing home!" Mom laughed because she already knows James, Joseph, and D'Ebrar will move heaven and earth to keep her at home where she belongs. We're having a surprise birthday party for her after her Bible Study Class at the church Wednesday morning. Mom's birthday is St. Patrick's Day (fitting since her father may be a descendant of Sally Hemmings and Thomas Jefferson, which would explain my mother's natural auburn hair color!) I bought her a yellot suit for her birthday present this year, because she's been wanting one. She didn't want the hat though because she's wearing her hair down.

I love my mom; she's such a lady. Actually, my mother, her sister, Martha, and this four foot tall, four foot wide elegant woman named Fannie Diggs were my "lady" role models as a child. Mom and Mrs. Diggs are the reason I've always felt confident as a large woman. My mother was the most beautiful woman I knew and Mrs. Diggs was the most elegant (my grandmother fixed up nice, but she was so rugged most of the time). My grandmother's twin sisters, Jessie and Ruby, dressed up nice, too, and were much more feminine than Joanna (Grandma). I am adding an "afterword" to my recent book, Finding God's Secret Place: A Spiritual Journey at www.$cribd.com because of something I just learned this week about how Aunt J (Jessie) died. She was everyone's favorite aunt, especially my mother's. However, I had a love-hate relationship with her, which I'll explain in the book. James and I talked about how much Mom is like Aunt J last night at dinner; she even looks like her, she definitely has Aunt J's sweet disposition.

James did find a smaller house and he's trying to buy it and sell Joseph this one. He thinks he's slick, but he's buying the house in both our names and it's all on one level (I have trouble climbing stairs because of my arthritis and tend to stay upstairs in his house once I'm up here). He says once his finances improve and he is able to buy a really nice house, he wants to keep the tiny one that has one bedroom and one bath and a full basement. I said, "Oh, you think I'll move here some day." He tries to plead innocent, but I know he and Joseph and D'Ebrar want me to move back to Columbus as I get older because they're concerned about my health; and I may if I ever decide to stop working and spend all my time writing.

I figured out why I like going to the hotel to write other than the quiet. I love living in one room! Maybe I should get a studio apartment. I only spent one night at my house in the last two weeks. When I got home, I had 58 messages; one was from my cousin, Dawn, in Texas, telling me that an old high school classmate was trying to reach me about our upcoming 40 year reunion. My classmate told Dawn she'd reached everyone but me - that's cause no one else had enough courage to leave Texas! I was in Texas when they had the tenth and my grandmother told me about it. I didn't go because I didn't like those people because they tormented me for being a "teacher's kid" until my senior year when they decided I wasn't so bad after all. By then I didn't care and wanted no part of any of them, although I tried to make the best of it when several of us attended the same college.

So, it's been 40 years and all those old hurts and resentments are gone, so when I heard the two messages from "Carolyn Johnson" (who is that?), I tried to call her back, but we keep missing each other. I think Caroly Johnson must be Carolyn Jones, who was part of the "popular" cliche, along with her cousin, Bobby Jones, a cheerleader. The only one I've seen since high school is Evelyn "Baby Faye" Williams who had this high-pitched, squeaky voice. I was at the annual "homecoming" event in my rural community which is held at the black cemetery (I'll explain later) and saw someone who looked like a Ebony Fashion Fair model. She saw me and said, "Geneva!" in that squeaky voice and I knew it was "Baby Faye." She was there for the tenth reunion and asked if I was coming. I told her I didn't know, but I did. I didn't want to go.

However, now I'm kind of interested in seeing my old classmates again and this may be the last chance some of us have to see each other. One of my classmates, Alonzo Chopps, who was a bit of a "gangsta" in school, was killed in his twenties. The rest, as far as I know, are still alive and well. I'm going to try to call Carolyn today to see if I can get some information about when and where, so I may be going "home" in May (that's when we graduated, so I'm assuming that's when we'll be reunioning). The Parish family reunion is scheduled for next year and my grandmother's family is pretty large, so that should be fun. I hope they have it the same weekend as the Cemetery Working so I can attend both.

Oh, the Cemetery Working was an example of collective work and responsibility (all of the Kwanzaa principles were practiced in my community and I'm writing a little book about that later this year and how we can bring that spirit of community back by releasing Kwanzaa from ritual to reality); the black cemetery association didn't have the money to pay anyone to maintain the cemetery, so everyone would clean their families' graves in the summer, usually around Memorial Day weekend and help clean other parts of the cemetery, which is located next to the Colored Methodist Episcopalian (CME) church. Then, either the third or fourth Saturday of July (I think it's changed over the years), we'd all get together and do a final cleaning of any areas that had not been cleaned; it was a huge celebration: the association bought a pig and it was roasted in a pit (usually by my Uncle Calvin, the chef) and each family brought a box of food to share.

Every family got their share of the roasted pig and then people took their plates and went to each family and got some of their food - vegetables, salads, chicken, and desserts - and it was really a lot of fun. You got to see people you hadn't seen in years or at least since the last celebration. After the grave-cleaning and eating, there was a church service with a minister who either grew up in the area or was married to someone who did preached a sermon (my uncles and father preached several times). I really looked forward to the cemetery working every year. It was the highlight of the summer, which. James and D'Ebrar have told me they still remember going to it every year. By best memories are going back as an adult and doing some harmless flirting with my childhood crush, who was married, but still flirted back, harmlessly. I also remembered when he stopped flirting back: when his son was born and he made the decision to stay in his marriage. (I recently saw him at my Uncle Calvin's funeral and, since he's seven years older than me, he looks like an old man now and the thrill is finally gone).

To fully enjoy my time with my family, including my sister's birthday, I'll be offline a couple of days and my cell phone will be off the whole week (although I doubt anyone would call me while I'm in Columbus, knowing I'm with my family!) - leave a voice mail! So, I'll continue this journal at then end of the week before I come back to Toledo.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Winter's End Means No More S.A.D.ness For Me!

Yes, I'm back! S.A.D.(seasonal affective disorder) has been defeated and I'm on that manic high that people with bipolar disorder don't want to give up and will often refuse to take medication for because they are willing to risk suicidal depression just to experience this...I don't know if you are familiar with stream of consciousness, but you are about to experience one long train of thought...before I continue, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, here's a definition: read it and get ready for a roller coaster ride (those of you who are prone to nausea, light-headedness, or who fear heights might want to skip this email and read those I send you after I come down weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!) -

"The term “stream of consciousness” was first used in psychology, to convey what was taken to be the flow of conscious experience, of what William James called “mind stuff”, in the brain. The term was introduced in James’s The Principles of Psychology (1890) to denote the continuous flow of thoughts, feelings and impressions which, he believed, is what makes up our inner lives. James was aware of the complexity of this “stream”. It does not consist of a single stream of consecutive items; many items may coexist" (John Mepham, Kingston University).

I realize I'm probably borderline bi-polar - either that or I really am as crazy as I sometime think I am - because since I've been an adult, I have had this mania from time to time in which I was so "high" mentally, spiritually, and emotionally that I literally went through life at warp speed for a time, writing like crazy, drinking copious amounts of wine in my mispent youth, and engaging in sexual promiscuity during my late twenties (briefly before being celibate for nearly eleven years) and early forties ( for two-and-a-half years! I attribute these sexcapades to my confused hormones that didn't seem to be aware that I am unable to have children and were on a mission to give me every chance to become a mother); and when I look back, these manic periods usually followed winters and the ensuing S.A.D. and the illness that resulted at the end of February or the first of March: well, I didn't get ill and probably would have been on this "high" a week ago when my friend Lori's prayer was answered and she emailed me the 'cure' that was revealed to her for what ailed me (which I immediately accepted and initiated - taking Vitamin D, getting out in the sunshine and fresh air, and finding a way in my sorry state to praise God by going to my favorite Psalms and, as Rolita directed, repeating the two verses I most cherish from the 91st Psalms, 1&2, twelve times) and it would have worked but I was attacked - and I do mean attacked - by allergies that caused my nose to run constantly and my head to throb, then went into my chest causing me to cough up vile, yellow mucuous, and, finally, resulted in me having red, puss-filled sores under my nose from blowing it so much; but when I had a similar attack last fall, I ended up with a giant sinus infection that sent me weak-kneed and nearly crawling to my doctor because I had a hard time standing up (I was that sick) and taking antibiotics for a week...now, I probably sound like a crazy Christian, but I believe all these little germs, bacteria, and viruses that attack us are demons - how else would thousands of angels fit on the head of a pin unless they were microscopic and, remember, demons were once angels...all that's evil, that makes us sick or causes us grief and pain comes from Satan, I believe...the good bacteria that's in all our bodies are the angels God sends to fight those demons!...look, I know this sounds bizarre coming from someone who has a minor in biology and social sciences, but I believe God is the supreme scientist, something I was taught by this wonderful woman named Sylvia Pennington, who is now deceased and who I only heard once at OSU when she came there to discuss biblical interpretations and posited that God not only has an all-knowing mind, but a logical one, as well...that makes sense to me seeing the science that is involved in the mechanizations of the universe...the only reason many scientists don't believe in God (some do, particularly many astronomers who have seen the far reaches of the universe), but rather science, I believe, is because science hasn't caught up to God yet...when it does, if it ever does, I think science will be practiced in churches, synagogues, buddhist temples, and mosques and scientists will be the new priests, summoning us all to worship at the altar and lifting up praises to the First Scientist...I addressed this email to God because I wanted to make a point about talking to God...looking up God's email address, I shunned the ones given by those who took themselves a little too seriously (especially one in Westerville, Ohio, the area where I lived when I was in Columbus) and decided to use the one given out by someone with a little sense of humor, albeit, slightly irreverent, because I think God accepts irreverence, understanding that humans use it as a defense mechanism...O.K., so what do I do with this manic energy...I already went to the hotel lobby, two steps from my room, made a waffle and ate it and two "sausage?" patties from one of those microwave sausage biscuit duos and had a cup of coffee and was back in my room in 19 minutes with a cup of coffee...walked from the door across the room to the computer table in six strides, pausing long enough to get the three French Vanilla creamers I've been hoarding and a packet of Splenda and dropping the napkin and box of Mini Frosted Shredded Wheat cereal with one hand in one swift motion while carrying a hot cup of coffe with the other hand (when not manic, had I not put down the cup of coffee and done each of the other tasks carefully, I'd have spilled the coffee because my borderline dyslexia makes me do the opposite of what I intend to do unless I'm focused, so I would have tried to pick up the creamer and Splenda with the hand I had the coffee in had I not focused); then back across the room to get tissue for my nose with the red, puss-filled patch underneath, and back to the computer...I usually keep my hotel room uncharacteristically neat (I'm a terrible housekeeper, one of the many reasons I don't want to get married) not because I want to but because I have to so I can keep my belongings organized and make packing up to leave easier; however, since I've been in the S.A.D. mode, I've noticed each time I come here, my hotel room has taken on the more familiar persona of my house: books, papers, clothes everywhere, everything in disarray... a real mess, but I know when I get off the computer, I'll be cleaning this room up and it will be as neat as a pin in about ten minutes (unfortunately, this doesn't always happen at home when I'm manic, instead of cleaning, I write)...I've already been writing like a maniac (maniac comes from the word 'mania' so I guess I am as crazy as I think I am!) since I stopped working fulltime last year, so if mania affects my writing, I may finish a novel by morning!...seriously, I do have an outline for another curriculum guide and I could write it this weekend, but I received "word" in prayer to hold off on writing it because it gives too much information about my new "revolutionary" day hab model and I don't want to publish that information just yet - first, I have to get the day hab up and running before I share this concept...so, I could write a novel or an epic poem or a play or a book of short stories or re-write the one act plays I lost when my other laptop crashed or a musical or another curriculum guide with activities that I outlined yesterday or I could...do almost anything right now...mania is not just a "high," I think it's a spiritual state those with bi-polar go into temporarily because Satan is so twisted, he sends those he seeks to destroy by their own hand soaring before bringing them down to that place where death is the only out...I lived in that place as a teenager, there were no highs...it wasn't a sad place, necessarily, just a dark place...I would be a "goth" today if I were a teen because I was fascinated by death and the "undead" (vampires) then, reading Bram Stoker's Dracula over and over until I knew every plot twist, character, and much of the dialog from memory and convincingly told my younger siblings that I was a vampire...later, studying adolescent psychology, I learned that teens actually lose their minds due to hormonal changes, which explained a lot...so, as an adult, I thought everything would be o.k. because I no longer was deeply depressed and suicidal, but I would get these episodes of mania that resulted in me talking at light speed, doing fifty things at once (I actually worked eight hours a day, then volunteered another eight at night and on the weekends in a theatre for nearly two years) until I burned out like a candle...I left my teaching career after two years of teaching all day and doing theatre all night...my life was pretty much the same way last year when I worked seven days a week, which I'd done for six years, since The Sojourner's Truth was first published (and six years before that when I was doing theatrical productions with Da Coloured Gurlz and six years before that when I was singing with SPECTRUM - for a couple of years, I was singing and acting and working fulltime- whew!)), but last year was different because I worked a lot harder as a supervisor than I ever did as a behavior specialist, SBH teacher, or a habilitation specialist; so leaving both jobs was really a matter of survival for me...mania can kill you!... actually, the only time I actually enjoyed being manic was in my early forties when my alter ego "LOVEhandles" was in charge of my life (I'm also borderline Multiple Personality Disorder or whatever they're calling it these days!) - as LOVEhandles, I placed a provocative ad in The Detroit News seeking male companionship and got nearly 500 responses, including two from vice cops who thought I was a 'pro' since my ad seemed to promise sex; it didn't really, it just talked about fulfilling men's fantasies of being with a large women (I guess that was promising sex, now that I think about it - what can I say: I was named after my father's mother who was a 'pro' and who my father despised, yet named me for, then would never call me by my first name!)...a lot of men in the Detroit area had that fantasy and I met about twenty men of nearly every ethnicity (no Asians, but Hispanic, German, Arab, Polish, Russian, French, Irish, English, India, Pakistani, Jewish, and, of course, African-American), age (from early 20s to mid-60s), profession (doctors, lawyers, scientists, teachers, computer experts, students, construction workers, an EMT, accountants, bankers, a process server, dentists, you name it), and interest (including heterosexual cross-dressers)...most were just first dates and didn't go any farther, but I did have 'affairs' with three of the guys I met: one German-Polish engineer, one Jewish process server, and one 27 year old black stud muffin...although I am reallly a one-man woman and have never had much luck juggling two or more men, I did it for almost a year, then my young stud insisted I give up the other two who were getting on my nerves because they were so clingy (my engineer was even making hints about settling down), so I kicked them to the curb and let youngblood show his true colors; turns out his best friend was dating an older woman who'd turned him into a gigolo, showering him with gifts and money and he expected the same from me...that ended that relationship because, as I told the vice cops, I don't charge for sex - and I don't get charged for it either (I actually met an incredibly handsome Hindu from India who has a Ph.D. in Computer Science and had a contract with a well-known Toledo company who made me a proposition that didn't involve sex - well, not actual sex because he had a fiancee he'd been promised to in an arranged marriage contract in India and he could not have sex until he married her - when he decided to move to San Francisco where he started his own company: he wanted to buy me a row house where he'd set up a state-of-the-art computer system for me to write if I'd let him come over once a week and performed duties as a dominatrix (no sex, just dressing provocatively and barking orders at him - I know, weird); I told him there are people who get paid to things like that and I'm not one of them (I used to fear I was destined to become my father's mother and turn into 'a whore for hire' because he'd given me her name, and I have endeavored not to realize that fear); oddly, I was not seuxally active until I was 23, when I had my first 'affair,' while I working on my master's at Wichita State; I was an 'intern' teacher, meaning I went to school several days during the week and actually worked in schools the rest of the time, as well as did "community service"...I was on campus one day (our professors came out to our base school the other days) and would have lunch with a professor from the Black Studies Department, a beautiful young woman a few years older than me who complained about her filandering husband, swearing she'd never marry another black man...meanwhile, having never had consentual sex (I was the victim of acquaintance rape when I was sixteen while out of my grandmother's sight one summer when I lived and worked with my uncle in Houston who was the supervisor of housekeeping in a medical building where I cleaned office and was dumb enough to sneak a 23year-old guy who buffed the floors into the locked medical offices I cleaned so we could 'make out'...of course, he tried to go farther and I always said 'no,' but one time he didn't stop and I got the shock of my life because I had no idea that sex involved penetration...a voodoo woman who kept putting hexes on my uncle that he laughed at so me leave the office and told my uncle that 'something happened to me,' but I would not admit it because I knew my grandmother would make a federal case of it due to what happened a few years earlier when I was in eighth grade...I had a huge crush on one of my classmate's older brothers and was always smiling at him when he would walk by with his friends...well, one of them thought I was smiling at him...he lived across the street from the school and my grandmother and I were always half an hour early - she'd go to her sixth grade classroom and I'd go to the junior high building to my homeroom...one day, this guy "BeBe" (not his real nickname) came in and attempted to rape me, but stopped when one of my classmates, a girl named Sylvia I'd thrown into a wall in the girl's restroom when we were in fifth grade because she kept picking on me came in and saw what was happening and ran and got my grandmother...of course, BeBe left and went to his own homeroom, but my grandmother went and got him and dragged him to the principal's office in front of the whole school where he was beaten with a board and screamed so loudly everyone could hear him...after that, people would tease me by calling me BeBe, especially a boy in my class named Louis, who I beat up one day, knocking him down and banging his head on the sidewalk...so, not wanting to go through that again, I never said anything, although my grandmother 'knew' and I wasn't allowed to go back to Houston to work again, but I had residual effects and in the 'date rape culture' that persisted in both Texas and Oklahoma, the two states where I did my undergraduate studies, I beat the crap out of every college student, G.I., or any other many who tried to rape me (I'm going to write about those guys one day - I gave one a concusssion!)...anyway, I finally consented to having sex with this handsome older guy who a former roommate fixed me up with when I moved out of our apartment into a duplex near the school (all of the interns were supposed to live in the community, but only two of us did)...she was white and, although she dated men of different nationalities, she didn't date black men and like me, she was a big, beautiful woman, which this guy was attracted to, it turned out...so, we got together and it was lust at first sight...he told me his name was 'Ted' and after a few encounters asked me if I knew the Black History professor I had lunch with every week...I was suspicious, so I asked her about him and she said his name sounded familiar...now, the chair of her department was a good friend of mind and directed the theatre company, One People, I was in...I kind of had a crush on him, but he was married, so off limits...anyway, our 'affair' ended after about six months since it was just about sex a little more, but he did tell me he had not been totally honest with me and told me where he actually worked, for the Post Office (not really, but I don't want to say where he really works in case his wife should see this on my blog some day)...anyway, I was having lunch with my professor friend and she mentioned that her husband worked at the Post Office...I asked her to describe him, then she told me his name was 'Tad'...it was the same guy!...I'd had an affair with a married man...I was really angry and hoped I'd see him again and have a chance to tell him what I thought of him, but I never did...I did see her on an infomercial after I moved to Ohio that she was hosting...my friends all marveled that he had the nerve to get involved with someone who knew his wife, but I think that was a turn-on for that snake...later, having done the unthinkable, having an affair with a married man, I knowingly had a very brief affair with an Ethiopian grad student whose wife was still in Africa, but it was unsatisfying in every since of the word, mostly I think because I could never resolve myself to sleeping with someone else's husband...I have a friend whose husband made passes at me a while back and I refused to 'bite' and I'm so glad i did because I can look her in the eye without any guilt...I've never understood how women can betray other women this way and not seem to be bothered by it...there are many married men I find attractive and would love to date if they were single, but even if I don't know their wives, I respect them and refuse to disrespect another woman's marriage again...I was talked into getting involved with someone who was married once who told me the marriage was 'open' and it was, but the 'openness,' as usally happens I found out in 'open' marriages was one-sided: the husband was the only one allowed to have affairs, although the wife was allowed to in 'theory,' when she actually had one, they ended up getting a divorce...my twenties were full of sexual drama, so I took a break from sex in my thirties and hung out with gay men, then that hormonal surge took over in my early forties and I turned into LOVEhandles and was a very bad girl!- well, for a couple of years, anyway...no drama, no complications, just fun and games...however, my sexcapades ended when my best friend, who was the co-chair of the Toledo AIDS Task Force, asked me to be on the task force, along with a gay male friend, then when we showed up, she introduced him as the representative of the black, gay male population and me as representative of the black at-risk female population...at risk? for what? AIDS....whoa!...talk about facing reality...that plus starting peri-menopause (you guys don't want to know the details, believe me, all the women over forty know and those of you who don't, you soon will and for all that they say about menopause, peri-menopause is MUCH worse; it's just not something you can talk about publicly as easily as you can mention a hot flash or irritable mood...if men went through this, the retirement age would be moved up to forty; if men and women's body functions were reversed, I also believe they'd have a week off each month, a three-year maternity leave, and the government would pay homemakers for serving their country!)...I hate sexism as much as I do racism...did anyone see the picture of the White House with a watermelon patch in the front yard that some mayor of a city in California was using as a screen saver claiming he didn't know this was a racial stereotypes?...yet, people got upset about Eric Holder saying we are a nation of cowards when it comes to talking about race...why else woud Klan members wear hoods, people like Imus, that New York Post cartoonist, and the California mayor not own up to their racism if they're not cowards?...one of the reasons I'm so open about my past experiences (well, most of them, anyway; believe it or not, I do have a couple of things I keep secret, not because I want to - they are just things I haven't resolved quite yet, therefore, cannot share) is because I have to be honest and open up in order to write and to act...when one is not authentic, it shows up onstage and on paper; my role model for this kind of bare-it-all honesty is my brother, James, who's first play, "Our Young Black Men Are Dying and Nobody Seems to Care" started out as a suicide note; in the play, James exposes himself, completely, giving all the raw emotions and deep abiding pain that he's suffered voice...I love my siblings, every single one of them, including the one whose calls I've blocked from my phone...Ruth, who is scheming and conniving to try to come to Columbus to live with my mother, who lives with my sister DE'brar, who Ruth has hated since the day she was born and took Ruth's place as the baby girl, at least she's always acted as if she's hated our baby sister...I have finallly forgiven Ruth for her email rantings sent to many of you when I was asking for your prayers of support for James...I was incensed, not because of what she said, as evil and untrue as most of it was, but because of her motive: to divert attention from James who was in the fight of his life, to her...so, she came up with a story that was supposed to get the kind of sympathy James was getting...remember when I told you she moved out of her rent-controlled apartment due to the neighbors putting wires in the wall and sending rays to drive her crazy, none of which was mentioned in the email she sent out to my email lists, which is why I now "BCC" my lists, then she told my mother who she calls sometimes half a dozen times a day, that she was living in her van and that men would rape her while she was asleep (translation, she was having consentual sex with men which in her warped mind is always rape) and even went to the doctor to make sure she wasn't pregnant, and occasionally lived with a friend who she'd fall out with, then moved to a shelter after she claimed she called the police because she had nowhere to go and Mom told her to go to a shelter; there, she said everyone was talking about her...anyway, turns out she never left her apartment...all of this was a ploy to get my mother to make DE'brar let Ruth live in her house, which is where my mother lives...this can't happen for two reasons: number one, Ruth has no respect for DE'brar and would not respect her in her own home and number two, my mother is at peace and lives in a state of constant joy and contentment and none of us wants that to change, except maybe Ruth...she can't help it, if she came to Columubus, it would be like the serpent in the Garden because she would disrupt the lives of all four of my family members that live there, create havoc in their friends' lives, have everyone in Columbus wanting her to leave after a few months and be ready to move to Toledo to do the same thing here: I will stop her in Findlay if she tries to come this way because the last time I let Ruth come stay with me, my roommate at the time, Dana, who was a nursing student at Wichita State and the German fiance of my Hispanic friend, Joe, was ready to move out of our apartment after Ruth was there for a week; I had to ask her to leave, not knowing she was pregnant and had run away from home because our parents had always been clear about us not getting pregnant while in school (she was a senior and only six weeks away from graduation and later returned and took two tests to graduate, only missing one question - she's really a genius); while in Wichita, she went to the Lutheran Social Services and made arrangements to have an abortion...I personally refuse to take a stand on this issue since I can't have children, but I don't think I would have an aboriton, although I don't know since I've never faced that particular circumstance; however, I thank God that Ruth never had a child...I didn't want to have children because I'm afraid I'd mimick the child-rearing style I was exposed to most, my grandmother's, and never wanted to inflict that kind of verbal abuse on anyone else plus I'm just not maternal...I did consider adopting some children and homeschooling, but I was looking at the whole thing from an educational perspective, not as a parent...however, I do love children; Ruth hates them - the only partner she was ever with for any length of time was a beautiful Jewish woman (in spirit, I never met her in person, but she had to be a saint to live with Ruth!) who artificially inseminated herself with the sperm of a black male so she and Ruth could have a bi-racial child...they broke up because Ruth was jealous of the attention her partner gave the baby: the woman is the most narcissistic person I have ever known and I've known a lot of narcissists because I've worked with actors for over thirty years plus I have borderline Narcisssistic Behavior Disorder (many artists do because we are so self-absorbed with our craft and with our thoughts and constant self-examination)...so, my sister, who really is losing it, has started to unravel and forgets occasionally that she told Mom she's homeless and mentions her landlord or something about her apartment, then in the next conversation, she'll talk about living in the shelter...she's also tried to enlist Joseph and James to help her get DE'brar to let her live in her house, but the one person in Columbus she hasn't talked to directly is DE'brar; she's left her long, rambling voice mails, but she won't talk to her...I love Ruth, I love the beautiful music she's written and the way she plays instruments, but I can truly say without any reservation, if I never see my sister again, I will be o.k....I pray for her and I will continue to try to understand the mental illness that has gripped her mind and turned her into someone so contemptuous of those who love her most, but I don't want to be around her for any reason...I do want to be around the rest of my siblings, not that we don't all have our issues, but we all have one thing in common: our love for our mother and our family...I miss John, so I hope he gets to visit us this year like he wants to and that I get to go to California before "the big one" (earthquake) takes it off the map in September 2010 (the latest prophecy from a number of religious prophets)...the rest of that prophecy is that when the country becomes vulnerable, Russia will attack the east coast and China will attack the west coast of the United States; people have actually had visions of Americans being transported to concentration camps in boxcars and people being shot down in the street for resisting...supposedly the safe places to go are in the middle of the country to Missouri and Kansas (the state I moved from when I came to Ohio 25 years ago!); then another prophet had a vision of Wichita being hit with a nuclear bomb - I had a similar 'feeling' years ago that Wichita was going to be destroyed, prompting me to order extra copies of my transcript from Wichita State...however, the thing I believe about prophecies and visions and predictions is that they show 'possibilities' and 'probabilities,' not 'actualities' and inevitabilities'...meaning, this can all be changed...and how can it be changed?...through prayer, of course....actually, not just prayer: fasting and praying...these are the two most powerful weapons we have on earth, which practiced while reading scripture arms us for any battle with evil...maybe that's what I'll do while I'm riding high...I have actually been on the verge of this high since I left fulltime employment last year because I would just stop at times and realize that I was happy and that joy was a state I was living in for the first time in a long time...then winter came and brought S.A.D. and my joy diminished (it didn't completely go away, I just lost touch with it because had I not had a little joy in my life, I'd have a fierce upper respiratory infection right now that would end up as bronchitis, what I used to get at the end of winter from 1993)...but even in the midst of despair, sometimes there's hope...I'll never forget 16 years ago, the first week of March when I was sick after going through a particularly bad case of S.A.D., I became so ill, I had a fever that made me delirious and bed-ridden for a week...during the worst part of that week, when my fever was up to about 103 degrees, I had a vision...now, I NEVER see things or hear things; whatever powers I have are all through my feelings - I felt the presence of the demons that possessed my friend, Russell's brother, who later told Russell that the reason he kept standing by me was because the demons were quiet in my presence (God and I had a long talk about that one and I was disturbed about it until I remembered that when my mother visited John and he took her to a friend's house where they were channeling spirits, he was asked to take her and leave because the spirits wouldn't come while she was there and later my mother told me that there were two women in our rural community in central Texas - the setting for my novel - who were "possessed" and would strip and do vile and disgusting things and who would only calm down when my grandmother came to 'heal' them - she and this phenomenon are also mentioned in the novel- I realized then that this power over demons is a generational blessing just as the depression, which is a personal demonic attack, in my opinion, is a generational curse probably designed to destroy us since we have the power to destroy the demons that are part of our DNA when we evoke the name of Jesus)...anyway, I did have a vision during my delirium for three consecutive nights; I watched tens of thousands of clouds move rapidly past my bedroom window and finally it registered that they were angels and they were a sign from God that I was going to be all right...I might add, just before the vision, I placed that ad in The Detroit News, so don't go thinking I'm all "holier than thou" because I'm not...I showed someone my "pin-up" shot recently after I re-ordered the Dimensions magazine in which it was published along with my article about being "smart and sexy" because my ex-boyfriend refuses to return the only copy I had; and she said, "You did that before you were saved," and I said, "No, I did it afterwards and God and I talked about it" because I wrestle with being a single Christian and what to do about my sexuality all the time...another generational curse my family has is sexual addiction and we've all wrestled with it, each of us in his/her own ways, but I usually go through long, long, long periods of celibacy - not because I'm good, but because sex for me is like alcohol to an alcoholic: one drink is too many and a thousand is not enough; which is why I became promiscuous 16 years ago after having a heavenly vision...no, I'm nowhere near holy, but I am a Christian: a very imperfect one and God and I have an understanding that when menopause is over, all bets are off on the celibacy - look out!... but I'll try to do things according to his will, meaning if I have to legitimize sex (get married), I will, as much as I personally don't believe in marriage (for me)...I'll probably draw up a partnership agreement and have a "holy union" (a religious ceremony with no marriage license) because I think marriage as defined by the state leaves to many loopholes...now, they could be wrong about post-menopausal sex drive (I sure hope so because God knows I do not need to be married to anyone - I'll need to borrow Michelle Obama's "Black Widow" dress - the black one with the red markings - she wore Election Night because I think given the opportunity, I would literally devour any man who was unfortuante enough to live with me; sorry, guys, but ya'll get on my last nerve and I keep attracting all these men who want to be 'punished' and, although I am a latent dominatrix, I really don't want to go there and neither does any man who thinks he wants me to because if I go there, it will take me to depths I never want to go to: I met this guy from New York once who wanted me to come there and put on some black leggings and a bustier and go to this club called The Dungeon where he said men lie on the floor naked and beg women with my ASSets to beat them for large amounts of money - I couldn't do it because I'd still be there whipping men's behinds FOR FREE!)...but with all these women in their sixties getting AIDS, I think there may be some truth to that post-menopausal hormonal surge...whatever happens, God and I will be talking and I'll be sharing our conversations with you because I plan to find a way to stay just shy of mania and at that place I was last summer and fall...in the secret place of the Most High...the thing about being there is you don't realize that's where you are because it feels so familiar, so natural, so real, you don't think of it as a special place because it's not...I didn't think about why I had so much joy and peace, I just enjoyed having it, although I knew it all came from God...that much I knew...I also knew I was abiding under God's shadow...that's why verse 2 of Psalms 91 talks about God being the place of refuge and a fortress because that's what happens when you live (dwell) in that place of peace and joy and stand (abide) under God's shadow...it's not this mania that is nothing more than a chemical reaction caused by the same microscopic demons that cause you to be depressed; mania is artificial joy that though spiritual (we are dealing with powers and principalities that are in the spiritual, as well as the physical) is not real joy; it's the same 'high' you get from taking amphetamines (I know because I used to take diet pills and wash them down with a fifth of cheap wine when I was in my second undergraduate college - the one in Oklahoma, not the one in Texas where I was a model student labeled as a 'militant' - and wanted to stay up all night cramming for an exam or writing my column for the college newspaper - some of those columns I wrote when I was "high" make Rev. Jeremiah Wright look conservative!) or smoking a joint (something else I tried in college, although I could never inhale except by contact- I am physically unable to suck smoke down my throat, which is why I never learned to smoke cigarettes, although I did try!)...I'm feeling the same way I did then now, except my heart is not pounding in my chest like it did when I took those diet pills and I'm not getting sleepy or hungry for sweets like I did when I got those contact marijuana highs...so, I know this is artificial and won't last, but when it's over I'll already be back in that secret place (not 'secret' because it's unaccessible but because the way there is so discreet and ethereal, you can't explain how you got there, you just go) where I'll dwell, abiding under God's protection...of course, winter will return again and with it, S.A.D., but this time, I'll be taking Vitamin D, getting out in the sun and fresh air (even if it's frigid outside), and reading verses 1&2 of Psalms 91 twelve times every day; I don't think S.A.D. will be able to interrupt my joy and peace again...I've already broken the cycle of illness that always followed it, nearly killing me 16 years ago until God sent angels to remind me that I was protected and I haven't been sick after having S.A.D. since except for some minor problems like having an allergy flare-up this year, but no fever, no infections, no visits to the doctor...next winter, I'll be ready for S.A.D., armed and read and will I beat it? - of course, the answer can only be YES! (This begins and ends with the word "yes" in homage to James Joyce, who writes a 'stream of consciousness' monologue for one of the characters in his novel, Ulyssess that also begins and ends with the word "yes" and has no punctuation...I did use some - it's the English major in me, I guess!)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Winter's Tale That Has S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder), Hope, and An Epiphany

I took some time to relax tonight, watching the Oscars. I've been suffering with S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder) and wanting winter to just be over. No more gray skies, cold nights, and snow and ice please. I used to get sick at the end of winter every year, really sick with upper respiratory infections. It was during one of those episodes in 1992, the first week in March, when I was delirious from fever and saw thousands of angels fly by my window in the shape of clouds for three nights in a row. That was the last time I got a post-winter illness. Since then, I've managed to overcome the "sick" part of S.A.D., but still have all of the other "affects." The following symptoms of S.A.D. are listed on the Mayo Clinic's website:

Fall and winter SAD (winter depression)
Symptoms of winter-onset seasonal affective disorder include:

Loss of energy
Social withdrawal
Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
Weight gain
Difficulty concentrating and processing information
My problem is that this used to be how I felt year round, especially during adolescence. So, having S.A.D. is like reliving the worst moments of my life every year for a few months; however, I don't usually have the worst symptoms until February. My worst day ever was 2/2/2002. Now, for those of you who are into astrology (not me, although I was born on the cusp of Virgo and Libra since my birthday is September 23, and I do vacillate between being a reclusive, shy perfectionist with deep-seated, hidden passions and an indecisive, creative, and socially outgoing bohemian constantly seeking balance), numerology knocks those stars out the sky when it comes to accuracy. The day I was the most depressed I've ever been in my life was all two's, the number of depression. I know it's not scientific, but it's fun - well it wasn't 2/2/2002, but other times, I've had a lot of fun with numerology, mostly having to do with birth dates, addresses, and names (each letter in the alphabet has a numerical value).

Anyway, I actually sat down twice this weekend in the obligatory rocker that's in every hotel room and enjoyed some of my time away from home for once. I haven't enjoyed visiting my favorite hotel since I started coming here to write last year. Now, two books later, I'm trying to juggle numerous projects and deal with the lethargy and exhaustion of S.A.D. at the same time. I did try to enjoy my four free nights last month, but then depression set in (this doesn't usually happen so early, but that was when temperatures were ten below) and all I could hold onto was being thankful I wasn't out in the cold. Everything else seemed hopeless. I can't wait for spring to get here!

Meanwhile, I did relax and watch a movie yesterday after writing my response to that political cartoon published in The New York Post for that other blog I do on political matters. Then, tonight I sat in the recliner nearly an hour during the Academy Awards. Everyone I wanted to see win did except for "Best Actor." I haven't like Sean Penn since he took exception to some joke Chris Rock made about Jude Law; I think this guy takes himself way too seriously. I was rooting for Mickey Rourke, the comeback kid in "The Wrestler." But I was happy Kate Winslet won; if Angelina Jolie had won, I swore I'd never watch the show again (my brother, James, stopped watching when "The Color Purple" didn't win any awards!).

"Slumdog Millionaire" cleaned up, as did "Milk," the film Sean Penn starred in; the only movies nominated that I've seen are "Wall-e" and "Happy Go Lucky," an offbeat British film I went to with James and Leslie when I was in Columbus during the Thanksgiving holiday. I took Pajil's three kids to "Wall-e" last summer to give "Mom" a day off and watched it again with my niece and nephew, KiKi and Joe, in Columbus, after buying the DVD for them. "Wall-e" won one award (I was a little upset when it didn't win "Best Song"). Hugh Jackman was a good host and his number with Beyonce Knowles was quite entertaining.

I just love seeing someone who is not the size of a toothpick doing a song and dance number! Go girl! Speaking of big girls, Queen Latifah did her star turn singing during a tribute to the film industry's deceased members. But what was with her dress. I'm no "Mr. Blackwell," but did she really need a bow right in front above her belly? Kate Winselet's a big girl, too, by Hollywood standards and she looked great; so did now zaftig Whoppi Goldberg who joined four other former "Best Supporting Actress" winners to announce this year's nominees. I liked that format. The only category that didn't include a former African-American winner was the one that has had the most: Best Actor. They couldn't get Denzel Washington, Jamie Fox, or Forrest Whittakier to attend? Surely, one of them was available!

My favorite award show is The Tonys (I don't watch The Emmys or The Grammys) because it celebrates Broadway shows. Speaking of theatre, I'm trying to decide which of my plays to submit in the National Black Theatre's Reader's Theatre competition. James' play, "Wimmin with Wings" will most likely be on the main stage (his play, "Black Man Rising" was featured during the last festival and has since had a run off-Broadway in New York; this is James' second time having a play off-Broadway: his first was "Our Young Black Men Are Dying and Nobody Seems to Care" in the 1990s).

I may need your help. My sister, DE'brar thinks I should enter "Casting Stones," my dark one-act about a psychopathic serial killer who is targeting black Baptist preacher's who commit adultery (I was working out some father issues). I'm very tempted to enter "Ruthless Bonds," my one-act about the abuse African-American hitters have faced when they got close to breaking Babe Ruth's record. I originally planned to enter B.R.AIDS (Black Response to AIDS), but it is a full-length play with a cast of thousands. Any suggestions?

Anyway, enough about art....despite S.A.D., I saw signs of hope this winter: first, there was President Obama's response to Henrietta Hughes, the Florida woman who was living in her truck with her son who made an impassioned plea for help when the President visited there (a Florida elected official later provided Ms. Hughes with a rent free residence); then there was "The Miracle on the Hudson" that gave America a needed hero during economic hard times; and, finally, my curriculum guide is starting to sell!

I got two orders this month after flooding the state's day habs with promotional emails at the end of last year - I also sent a few to some other states. One was for the $65 bound copy and the other was for the $40 email version. I'm still waiting for to approve the cover of my novel and once that's done, it will be available at amazon.com. I'll let you know. Meanwhile, I hope to get more orders for the curriculum guide and when I get back my energy, I'll start working on my next novel and finish my second curriculum guide.

Oh, I had an epiphany the other night on the way to a black history program. My neighbor's wife and kids picked me up at the hotel after I invited them to attend the event and on the way to the church, my neighbor's 13 year-old daughter asked her stepmother if there was enough left on the food stamp card to get some snacks to take to her mother's house for her 11 year old twin brothers' birthday party sleepover. Her stepmother told her that they needed what was left on the card to get through the last week of the month. At that moment I realized that these people who've lived next door to me for the past ten years have been going through what most of the rest of the country is just now experiencing all this time.

Last week, while driving me to work, my neighbor mentioned that he doesn't charge my neighbors on the other side of my house to give them rides to the store and various places because neither of them is working right now. I thought that was nice of him. Then I realized that he is using some of the money he charges me to transport me to and from work to provide free transportation for someone else. I was pleased because I realized he's finally starting to get what I've been telling him all along about giving to other people without expecting anything in return. I was rather proud of him, even if he does charge me way too much; at least I have some comfort in knowing that he's "spreading the wealth," so to speak.

When they first picked me up to go to the program Friday, I mentioned to his wife and kids that I needed to go to Krogers after we left the church to get some food to take back to the hotel but would probably be too tired. After finding out that they didn't have the money to get snacks for the sleepover, I told the 13 year-old not to worry about it because I had to get some food, too, and we'd get their snacks when we got mine. After church, we stopped at MacDonald's and got hamburgers for everyone, but as predicted, I was too tired to go to Krogers (S.A.D. strikes again!); so I gave the 13 year-old a list of the three things I wanted (Pringles, Mi-Del's Natural Ginger Snap cookies, and Lemon-Berry Hawaiian Punch) and enough money to get my items and the snacks she wanted.

Sure, I'd paid my neighbor sixty dollar for transporting me to work three days last week and had just given his wife another ten dollars for picking me up at the hotel and taking me to the church for the program; but the money I spent at MacDonald's and at Krogers was about the 13 year old and her 9 year old brother. I realize that in all his hustling and overcharging do to the least little thing, whether it's shoveling my steps, cutting my grass, or taking me to work, my neighbor is just trying to provide for his family.

His disability (heart disease) prevents him from working for more than a few hours at a time for more than a few days a week, but he does the best he can. At least he puts forth the effort. I still think $20 a day to take me to and from work is too much, but at least I know he's learned to not charge those who can't pay; and I've learned that some time paying too much is giving just enough.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


I just woke up from an actor’s nightmare! I was a playing a soldier in a play; it was almost time to go on stage and I could not get my lines. I kept reading them and saying them over and over and even rehearsed backstage and I couldn’t remember the name of the officer I was addressing and the various references or the message I was delivering.

I woke up in a cold sweat!

Now, I’ve never had trouble remembering lines. Delivering them believably, yes – remembering them, no. Don’t ask me to recite anything I’ve ever said onstage now, because once the show is over, my mind becomes a clean slate; but I can remember large amounts of dialog in short periods of time. I have a technique that allows me to do this and a brain that has cooperated in the past (I don’t know if the Lipitor changed all that or not).

When I was a senior in high school, my favorite teacher, Mrs. Amanda Ealleam, my English teacher, assigned poems to each person in my class to memorize. She gave the assignments from the poetry section of our literature textbook, going down the roll alphabetically. When she got to my name, the next poem was four lines. When she got to the name of the slowest learner in our class, Charles Jones, the next poem was eight lines. (I was Charles “date” for an athletic banquet once – meaning we sat together – so he bought me a beautiful sweater for Christmas and last I heard he was a mortician in Fort Worth were legend has it, he built a beautiful home for him and me!)

Anyway, the day before we were to recite our poems, Mrs. Ealleam had Charles and I trade poems. I learned an eight-page poem overnight. I recently looked up the poem, “Death of a Hired Man,” and did not remember any of it. I also learned 66 pages of dialog that included four monologues (one of them was two and a half pages long) in four weeks when I performed in New Works Writers Series “Yellow Man,” directed Dr. Imelda Hunt. The problem was not remembering the lines. The problem Dr. Hunt had was getting me to perform. (I am very hard to direct because I just say lines unless given direction; I truly believe a play is completely under the control of the director and if the director makes no demands of me, I have nothing.)

The point of all this preamble is that I DON’T HAVE TROUBLE REMEMBER LINES! So, why was I having a nightmare about forgetting lines? And why was I playing a soldier? It all made perfect sense in the dream and since dreams are not about what they seem, I will figure all this out. Anyway, I woke up and there was some infomercial on, so I switched to CNN to behold a different kind of Obama B(l)acklash. A former KKK member was apologizing as one of the African-American members of Congress listened.

This man, a Mr. Wilson, seemed sincere and the Congressman accepted his apology with grace and dignity, saying that it was given in the true spirit of non-violence and accepted with that same spirit of forgiveness as demonstrated by its progenitors, Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The scene reminded me of the story of “The Night the Stars Fell” told in a genealogy account:

“Anyone who has studied the history of American slaves in 1800's is familiar with the incident in the early part of the century, known as 'The Night the Stars Fell.'

"Many of the interviews with ex-slaves taken in the 1930's often spoke about ‘Night the Starts Fell’ and this story is also part of my own family's Oral History. Fortunately, for me, while on a trip to Chicago, I met and visited with an elderly cousin, Frances Swader. As a girl, cousin Frances heard the family matriarch, my gr. great grandmother, Amanda Young, speak about this same event--when the stars fell. Cousin Frances, told this story to me and I place it here for further generations to read about and to know of as a pivotal event in the lives of many 19th century slaves.

"Since Gr. Gr. Grandmother Amanda continually told this story, I have, as a result, been able to make a more accurate guess of her birth year. Born a slave in Maury County, Tennessee, Amanda said she was a small girl, when one night while sleeping in the quarters, someone started screaming outside. Her story continues in the manner in which she told it:

‘Somebody in the quarters started yellin' in the middle of the night to come out and to look up at the sky. We went outside and there they was a fallin' everywhere! Big stars coming down real close to the groun' and just before they hit the ground they would burn up! We was all scared. Some o' the folks was screamin', and some was prayin'. We all made so much noise, the white folks came out to see what was happenin'. They looked up and then they got scared, too.

‘But then the white folks started callin' all the slaves together, and for no reason, they started tellin' some of the slaves who their mothers and fathers was, and who they'd been sold to and where. The old folks was so glad to hear where their people went. They made sure we all knew what happened.........you see, they thought it was Judgment Day.’

"Unfortunately, it would be many years before Amanda would be free from enslavement, and she and her parents remained slaves until the Civil War ended. She was fortunate to have been with her family, and her children had not been sold from her. But this incident stayed with her.

"Only a few years ago, while reading a book of African American quilt makers, I learned about a slave woman called Harriet Powers who made some of the most unusual quilts. This lady's quilts now hang in the Smithsonian. One of the panels of her quilts described in the book, told the story of the Night the Stars Fell. I was immediately excited to see this referenced. I quickly took note of the footnotes that gave a detailed description of the Leonid Meteor shower of 1833, and thus the real date of this event was learned. Between November 10th & 12th in 1833, for 3 consecutive nights, North America was witness to this dramatic shower of stars from the heavens. Amanda was only a child in the fall of that year. Her exact birth date has never surfaced in any records, but this historic reference to a spectacular astronomical event, in addition to our oral history of the Night the Stars Fell, somehow made an estimate of the time of her birth more realistic. Since she was a young girl when this event occurred, I have approximated her age to have been between 7 & 8 years. This would put her year of birth to be approximately 1826. The Leonid Meteor event of the 19th century has been recorded in many astronomy journals as the most spectacular meteor shower to have been recorded over North America to this date. It was also the most vivid memory of Amanda's childhood, which she spoke of, over and over till her death, in 1920.

"Every year on the evening of November 12, in honor of my ancestors I drink a special toast to Amanda and to her family, and to her spirit that continues in our family today, and then I go outside, and watch the stars.”

The event, as chronicled here, was confirmed by a family’s oral history, as well as in the fabric of a quilt. I mention “the night the stars fell” as a story handed down by a slave ancestor of one of the characters in my novel They Just be Killin White Folks (A Vampire Tale of Bloodlust, Terror, and Horror) written uner a pen name. There’s also a “KKK rally” in the novel that’s actually a ploy by some vampires to try to scare the black folks in the small community where it’s set into leaving the area. However, the lynching violence in the novel is real. I cite two recorded lynchings and one that was never recorded that happened in the community where I was born and where I attended school. My mother told me about it. (I also created two fictitious lynchings in the novel as part of the development of one of the characters who is “the embodiment of evil.”)

I don’t know what my dream means quite yet (I’ll figure it out; I’m good at interpreting dreams, as long as I know the person having the dream – so it won’t take me long to figure this one out!); but I am glad that I woke up in time to hear that apology and to see one of the many positive effects of America’s election of its first black President.

FOOTNOTE: I did figure out that dream! It means I have trouble "falling in line" with a regimented "script" for my life and will probably panic and be unable to cope if I'm ever put into a situation where I have to do any of the above - so no more working fulltime for me!

Monday, February 2, 2009

My Columbus Journal

Saturday, January 31st:
I’ve been in Columbus nearly a week now. I arrived last Sunday morning a few minutes past midnight and went to church later that day at 8:00 am to hear my sister, DE’braR, preach for the first time. I was both proud and sad: proud because my baby sister inspired and moved me; sad because her sermon preparation and organization so much reminded me of my father who died eight short years ago.
After a short church service, we went to breakfast during Reverend DE’braR’s break between services. She is a church musician at her home church, Liberty Hill Baptist, and her other home church, St. Mark’s AME, playing alternate Sundays at both churches and rehearsing with choirs from both churches during the week. This is in addition to having a fulltime as manager of Macy’s Playaway (day care) at Easton Mall and performing in our brother James’ spoken word theatrical company, FLOW Theatre. Whew! Sounds like my former life.
James, who is an absolutely fabulous gourmet chef, had a wonderful dinner ready for us after church, featuring my favorite vegetable, cabbage, and a “dump cake” in order of my deceased former best friend, Dr. Karen Flowers who loved making this dessert. James is not just a great chef, he is a consummate baker (I think he’s channeling both our grandmother who made the world’s best sweet potato pie and our Uncle Calvin who was a chef extraordinaire).
Monday I attended a certification class for instructors for PATHS (Professional Advancement through Training and education in Human Services) – the reason for my trip to the state capitol where I lived for five years before moving to Toledo. The class was fantastic with a teacher that should teach ALL would-be teachers how to teach. He's also a mentor and gave me some useful information about upcoming opportunities to write curriculum for some of PATHS specialized training.
I made a new friend among my “classmates,” a fellow Toledoan who, of course, has a friend in common with me who just happens to be a former hab tech of mine (my only male hab tech and the best one I ever had). My new friend, Fern, and I had lunch together at a great Mexican restaurant (Columbus is full of great restaurants, the city’s ONLY redeeming quality for me, aside from being the home for two-thirds of my immediate family!). Monday night, James, DE’braR, and I were treated to an amazing “organic” meal prepared by my brother Joseph and hosted by him, his partner, Leslie, and Joseph’s two wunderkinds, Kiana and Joe.
At the end of the delicious meal, James outed me for wanting to bring my own food – hey, I went on a healthy eating kick back in the mid-1970s and after being a vegetarian, then trying a macrobiotic diet, and taking as many as 20 health supplements daily, I concluded that I would never eat another thing that tasted like cardboard, twigs, or tofu. Well, I was pleasantly surprised by how good organic food tastes now. Joe made a salad that had a variety of organic vegetables, fruit, and nuts in it and that reminded me of a salad bar I frequented as a grad student and during my health food kick where you could eat all the salad you wanted for sixty-nine cents.
The rest of the meal consisted of stuffed pasta (with cheese for everyone but me – I had squash), chicken sausage, and the piece de resistance, a delectable bean stew that we could not get enough of. Leslie made coffee for us afterwards and we relaxed, talking, and eating almonds and some great tasting pita chips.
It was such a great evening and a real treat to my siblings and I that we so rarely share. Of course, I stopped by next door to say “hello” to Mom (who I sat next to at the 8:00 Sunday service) and made sure she was all right. She opted out of coming to dinner (she doesn’t have much of an appetite these days), but was overjoyed that her “kids” were hanging out together.
After dinner, I went back home with James, my host for the week. The next morning, my new “little brother,” Kunta served me breakfast in bed, spoiling me for good. I took up residence in James’ upstairs den/guest room which had everything I needed in it: a daybed (I hate conventional beds), a massive low table in front of the day bed that served as my dining table, laptop desk, and make up table; a large console that served as a stand for the TV; a writing desk with a nice, comfortable leather chair with a printer nearby; and a closet that held a microwave and a fridge where I kept my new favorite drink – Lemon Berry Hawaiian Punch.
Aesthetics were also taken care of with James’ distinctive flair for decorating. One large portrait flanked by portraiture, landscapes, and a still life hang above the daybed and an adjoining wall holds numerous proclamations given to James by various municipalities and framed theatre posters of James his play, “Our Young Black Men Are Dying And Nobody Seems To Care,” celebrating the play’s New York debut over a decade ago.
There nestled in the corner are also posters of two double features of my plays that James directed and produced: “I Ain’t Ja’ Mama” and “Fat Ladies Ain’t All in The Circus” (which I performed as a one-woman show) at Aldersgate United Methodist Church September 26, 27, and 28, 1986; and S.K.AIDS (School Kids with AIDS) and B.R.AIDS (Black Response to AIDS) performed at Columbus’ MLK Center, April 28-May 1, 1988.
Over the desk are creative displays of theatre posters from past performances, including one of “Black Man Rising,” James’ latest play to be performed in New York after being featured at the 2007 National Black Theatre Festival in North Carolina; photos of actors (and one of me performing in a video-tapped production of a play by Da Coloured Gurlz Collective) and a very modern graffiti painting that I’ve always liked. The TV wall is actually a large window covered with wood blinds with limited wall space, but there is a framed photo of a crowd gathered at the nation’s capitol.
A pair of red leather armchairs with nail head trim sits underneath the theatre posters with a low chest between them and an ornate brown leather armchair sits on the opposite wall next to the TV console. Wooden tables flank the daybed with huge lamps, a collection of trophies, sculpted figures and a photo of the two foster sons James had planned to adopt decorating them. Other features of the well-decorated room include a wooded pedestal holding a white ceramic arm and hand holding a golden belt between the desk and the door; a milk can holding a bowl and a tree stump in a corner right outside the closet and next to the TV console, and my two sentinels: five foot tall wooden African statues, male and female, sitting on stools on either side of the daybed, standing between tables and chairs reminding me that history is always with us.
However, my favorite items, which I offered to, buy when James said he was selling them on Ebay, are the woven cases stacked underneath the TV console. There are four of them and a collection of nesting baskets. James gave them to me and told me I could take them home with me, but Kunta stores his clothes in them, so I can wait until he gets a chest or dresser. I described this room in such great detail because I rarely left it from Tuesday until Friday, when I went to spend the day with my mother while Kunta fixed some plumbing for her and DE’braR and then went with James to tape this year’s entry in the National Black Theatre Festival.
I spent Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday doing about an hour of work a day on a final edit of my novel (a copy of the book was sent to me for final approval but I wasn’t able to read it while I was in Columbus, so I edited my computer copy). The rest of the time, I waited out the winter storm relaxing, watching cable TV and actually paying attention to what was on the screen, looking at James’ decorator magazines, enjoying his cooking, answering numerous emails, and doing a little laundry. I also slept A LOT!
I didn’t realize how tired I was until I stopped to rest. Had it not been for the over a million people left without power, I would have considered the storm a blessing. My sister’s sermon Sunday helped me realize that I have been trying too hard to do things that will get done and relying on myself rather than trusting God and letting the power given to me by the Greatest Power loose to effortlessly do the things I need to do to be successful.
Realizing that, I was able to relax and to handle the rejection emails I started to receive from my queries of agents and publishers with a positive attitude. In the past, I have not sent out my work due to the devastation of rejection letters I received, some of which have been brutal. It was a great three day reprieve from my frenetic nearly round the clock writing schedule.
Thursday night, I treated Kunta, James’ houseguest, also named James, and a friend, K.C., to pizza.
Kunta and James (who I secretly nicknamed salt and pepper because Kunta is black and prefers blondes and country music and James is white and prefers black women and rap music) brought the daybed that was my place of repose for an entire week up from the first floor, navigating up a steep staircase and around a sharp corner into “my room.” They also had to take the leather sofa which had been in the den downstairs. Kunta gave up sleeping in the den and slept downstairs in James’ on the leather couch now in James’ dining room during my stay, as well. He’s also been doing the repairs on the house I bought with Joseph and Leslie. And I got breakfast in bed again Saturday morning, so I felt buying pizza was the least I could do. Friday, I spent most of the day with Mom, watching TV, talking, and doing laundry (mine and some towels and rugs from DE’braR’s basement bathroom that got soaked from a busted pipe upstairs in Mom’s bathroom). I also got to eat some collard greens, cornbread, and baked chicken Mom cooked earlier in the week and a piece of fruitcake leftover from the holidays (I swear fruitcakes could last a hundred years!).
Friday night, Kunta, James, James, and I watched the video before James mailed it. I saw my baby sister and another actor, Amber, performing excerpts from James’ play “Womyn With Wings” that was written for my best friend, Pajil who never got the chance to perform it. However, she will be performing it in North Carolina next summer if it’s accepted by the festival judges.
DE’braR, Amber, and the other members of James’ company, Jeffro and Ron will also perform. The video was quite stunning. DE’braR’s acting and singing is better than ever and Amber is a gifted actress and singer, as well. The play has evolved since I saw it nearly twenty years ago and now includes a tribute to Michelle Obama, our new First Lady. “Black Man Rising” is also being submitted again by the New York company.
I plan to enter B.R.AIDS as a readers’ theatre, as well, so my last task before I leave Columbus is to do a FINAL edit of the play. Then, tomorrow, hopefully, I’ll be returning home to resume working and writing, with just as much zeal and determination, but less self-imposed anxiety and frustration. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be working just as hard and still won't be available for chit-chat except for my column by that name or much socializing of any kind (sorry, friends!), but it won’t be frenetic. It will be far more relaxed and enjoyable.
My trip to Columbus has really helped me put things into perspective. Actually, I was tempted to move into James’ guest room when Kunta said he was going to move into the basement, but I realize, as much as I love this room – and I do love this room – and as much as I have ALWAYS just wanted to lock myself in a room with books, paper, pen, a TV, and, now, a laptop, I can’t: not even if the room is as beautiful as James’ den/guestroom where I know I’ll always be welcome and can come here and re-group anytime I want.

Monday, February 2nd:
Since I stayed an extra day in Columbus, I have more to share! I attended James' church, Advent UCC, yesterday and had Communion for the first time this year. I used to have issues with drinking Christ's blood symbolically until Kenneth Copeland, a fellow Texan, explained why blood is a necessary component to the spiritual salvation of humankind - it has to do with mankind's history of blood sacrifice and I suspect an event that pre-dated religious ritual which I explore in a novel I am developing that gives my view of creation. Anyway, we had to leave early due to a sewage problem that had to be fixed as soon as possible (sewage was seeping into James' basement after all of the moisture from last week's storm).
Once the plumber finished snaking the sewage line, James and I went to lunch at my favorite Columbus restaurant, Schmidt's in German Village, my favorite area of the city (James lived there briefly a few years ago). We got turned around on our way to the restaurant and I saw a house I want to buy! It's gorgeous, but a little large for German Village where the houses are small brick edifices patterned after real German residences.
We got to Schmidt's before the lunch rush and I had my favorite Bahama Mama sausage and James had a Reuben. We also had ham and bean soup (it's better at Al Smith's and the Glendale Garden Cafe in Toledo!) and I had a really good Riesling wine. Riesling is a white grape that originates in Germany and is not too sweet and not too dry for me. I prefer it to the popular white Zinfandel (Schmidt's other house wine) which I find to be a little bitter in taste. I actually prefer red wine to white and my favorite wine, believe it or not, is Reunite Lambrusco. Cheap, but good!
For dessert, I had to forego my favorite, banana cream pie after having had excessive diarrhea from the cheese on the pizza we ate Thursday night. Instead, I had apple strudel with ice cream. I know I shouldn't have had the lactose, but apple strudel is just not the same without the ice cream and Schmidt's apple strudel is not as good as the apple fritter I had at Shorty's in Toledo which I vowed to never go back to after the treatment Diane Gordon and I received there when she took me to Shorty's to celebrate my birthday last fall - I knew we should have gone to Ruby's Kitchen!
Speaking of Ruby's Kitchen, James offered to drive me back to Toledo today and save my boss' brother a trip here to pick the PATHS kit and me up until I told him Ruby's Kitchen is closed on Mondays. I also think the trip would be hard on his Kia Sportage which already has 50,000 miles on it - hey, he bought it for $200 and it's great for driving around Columbus.
I wore my Christmas present from Mom and Debbie (my baby sister who stopped being Debbie a long time ago, but will never stopped being "the baby" in the family). It's a black velvet dress with a high split in the back and a low neck in the front, and a lovely camel-colored fleece jacket with black piping, plus an embellished black chiffon scarf. I'm wearing the dress typing on the computer in one of the photos I posted to my page at Myblackgirlsite.com this morning. Well, I got some attention from a couple of men at Schmidt's who kept staring at my decolletage (boobs). Since we were the only blacks there who weren't working, all of this attention was coming from white males.
I wasn't put off by it; I've dated a few white guys and, besides, ever since Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton did the nasty (and I do mean nasty) in "Monster's Ball," I've noted heightened interest in black women by white men. This was noted in articles written during the whole Duke rape scandal by black college co-eds who complained that white guys would come up to them at parties and grab their butts or make sexually suggestive remarks to them. Well, I haven't experienced anything that blatant, just a lot of staring and friendly chit-chat - in Toledo, it's always men who look older than my mother.
One young man who was dining with what appeared to be his parents kept staring at me and when they got up to leave, his father patted James' shoulder in a very fatherly manner, as if giving his approval of his son's interest? in a black woman. My brother, author of "Our Young Black Men Are Dying And Nobody Seems to Care," "Black Men Rising," "One Race, One People, One Peace," and "Martin and Me" said quietly, but loud enough for the departing family to hear, and I quote:
"Don't be touching me, m-fer! My name ain't Obama." I nearly fell out of my chair! The poor white guy looked wounded, but the look on James' face was one of incredulity. His attitude was classic John Henry Chapman, Sr. - our father!
My father's grandfather was a sharecropper who had an account at the "company" store which was never paid off no matter how much he worked. Every week he'd go to get his pay and his boss would add up what he owed and the store, which was always just a little bit more than he made working in the fields. "You almost made it this time," the boss would say with a smile. So, my father grew up, left Texas and while pastoring a church in Oklahoma, returned home and went to that "company" store where he saw that same man, now old and half-blind. He bought a pack of gum and paid for it with a fifty dollar bill. When the "boss man" gave him back his change, he said, "Ain't you John Henry?" My father replied, "Yes, and I made it this time!"
Now that man at Schmidt's had nothing to do with any of the oppression my father's family suffered in Texas and is probably the descendant of immigrants who didn't own slaves or force black folks to sharecrop for them. However, people who come here to benefit from all the good that American has to offer must understand that once they become American citizens, they inherit America's legacy which includes slavery and the oppression of not just African-Americans, but Native Americans, Jewish Americans, Irish Americans, Italian Americans, and many others.
I actually felt a little sorry for the man who thought he was being magnanimous and accepting only to be shot down. What he didn't understand was that his gesture was one that was often used by slaveowners and condescending whites after slavery to infantilize black men, treating them like little children or worse, pets. James statement "I ain't Obama" symbolically reflects the difference between our black President and those of us who are descendants of slaves and slavery.
I only wished I'd captured the expression on James' face with my camera phone. It was priceless. Aside from being a bit patronizing, I don't think the gentleman meant any harm, but my brother had a flashback. Some psychologists call this Post-Traumatic Slave Disorder. I wrote about it in a series I did for Sojourner's Truth that was nominated for a Toledo Press Club Award. (I was beat out by the guys at The Blade who did the expose about Vietnam and the ones at the Toledo City Paper who covered the Jeep shooting.) Unlike President Obama, who would have accepted the gesture, James saw red. He also saw white and we might have all seen blue had the man said anything in response.
Speaking of our new President, James, a true Obamaphile, made five beautiful shadow boxes featuring the President that he attempted to sell at the church's bookstore. However, probably due to the economic crisis, they didn't sell. So, I offered to buy them from him. Of course, he gave them to me. And I plan to give four of them to my favorite Toledo Obamaphiles: Denise, who campaigned for Obama; my present and former bosses, Michael Zeigler (actually, I'll give it to his wife, Reba to make sure it gets home!) and Gary Easterly; and chairman of Zeigler's board, Rev. Alexander Sheares. I think
I'll give the fifth one to a manager that I worked with at the board who is leaving the facility where we worked together to work at another facility. She was an Obama supporter from the beginning, so I think she should have one of the shadow boxes to put on her desk in her new office. Our old management team, which has since been dissolved by the board's HR department, is getting together Friday night to give her a send off; however, I'm so busy, I may not make it. I didn't get a lot done this week due to taking some needed time off to rest, so I've got to get busy when I get back. I have to get started finding writing assignments for my new online freelance writing business that I just started yesterday.
I return home today, but I have really enjoyed the last eight days. Columbus is not a place I ever want to live again, but I did pause when James offered to sell me his house, complete with furniture. The pause was because the house is fabulously decorated. I described the guest room where I spent most of my time the past week, but the rest of the house is equally elegant. First, there's a painting on the porch, which is also decorated with African masks. Walking into the living room, a small room with a staircase wall painted orange (I love that wall!) and a small table and four chairs for playing card games in the center, you feel cozy and welcome.
There's a Victorian sofa on the wall beside the door that I want when James gets a new one and two antique looking chairs on the opposite wall. A huge entertainment center on the wall opposite the staircase houses the television and stereo. Of course, there is art on all the walls, including the window wall above the sofa: actually, it's a hanging sculpture of different facial expressions painted a bronzey gold that I've always loved. Past the living room is a dining room that now has the leather sofa that used to be upstairs and more chairs, tables, and art. Then there's the kitchen which I think James should put on HGTV's "Rate My Space." It's a galley kitchen and the ceiling, walls, floor, and appliances are all black.
I hate kitchens (hate is not a strong enough word, believe me!), but this is one of only maybe two or three kitchens I've ever loved. Upstairs is a similarly shaped bathroom that has a wood-topped table that holds the sink, and a tub with black leather on the side and a clear shower curtain that makes the room look larger. The only window is covered with mudcloth. Even the toilet paper holder, a chrome spindle attached to the wall like a sconce, is elegant. There's also a stacked washer and dryer just inside the door for convenience.
James' room is smaller than the guest room, but he made the most of the space by taking the doors off the closet and putting the headboard of his bed in the alcove that was created. He has a beautiful antique bed that belonged to our grandmother's sister, Jessie, who we all called Aunt J. James also has other antique pieces in the room and more art. James home is exquisite and the idea of buying it and the furnishings was tempting, even if it means living in a city I detest. Maybe I could learn to love Columbus? No, I still have nightmares about the five years I lived there, stuck in a suburb with no way to get out - it's a nice place to visit, but...
Driving around the city with James and looking at all of the houses for sale (not as many as in Toledo!), I thought wouldn't it be great to have enough money to buy some of them, let James live in them for a few months - just long enough to decorate them and make them into homes - then sell them to people who want homes but can't get a mortgage and can't afford a large monthly payment. The Murphys do this in Toledo with rental property. Something to consider if I ever write that best-selling novel or get a play produced on Broadway! Actually, James may be headed to Broadway; for the second time, he's entering a play in the National Black Theatre Festival. The last time, his play, "Black Man Rising," was staged in New York. Who knows? "Womyn With Wings" could very well make it all the way to Broadway!
When I return home today, I'll miss my little piece of heaven (James' guest room) as I look around at my house that is falling apart around me because my landlord won't spend the money needed to renovate it and refuses to lower the price so that I can buy it and give it the love and care it needs. I love my Toledo residence because of its history (the Gladieux family started their catering business there, selling box lunches at the old Jeep plant) and its "bones." It has a spectacular stone fireplace, beamed ceilings downstairs, nine foot high ceiclings and gold-leafed valances downstairs, a black tub and sink and mosaic over the tub in the bathroom upstairs, and an enclosed porch with seventeen five-foot windows.
However, it needs new plumbing, new wiring, new flooring, new appliances, new ceilings due to water damage, and will soon need a new roof because the landlord won't trim the two large trees in the front yard or put new gutters on the house (the last ones were removed to put a new roof on the house about five or six years ago). Plus there's a hole behind the house where an attached garage which collapsed and had to be removed once stood. Instead of clearing the area, the landlord just had some trucks come out with loads of dirt and dump the dirt on top of the remains of the foundation, creating a rats' nest. The only repairs done to the house are superficial ones that the city requires my landlord to do.
I could move and I may if the owner of the house my realtor brother John bid on for me in the LaGrange area accepts my offer. However, I love the house I've lived in for nearly twenty years and really hate to give up on a great old house that I know if I leave, my landlord will do the minimum repairs to, slap on some paint, and raise the rent. I want to make my historical house a place befitting its history. I hope I get that chance. Until then, I'll keep returning to Columbus to bask in James' decor, as well as my mother's and Debbie's (she just redid their kitchen area). I also like the way Joseph and Leslie have re-done their home and felt very comfortable there when they invited us all to dinner.
O.K., so Columbus will be my second home.