Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Clubdate Singer Speaks! Chapter 1: Plantation Life



Disclaimer: The following story is an actual event, as all of the vignettes in the 'Clubdate Singer Speaks' series are. For 8 years, I was a member of one of the top Orchestras in the nation. Though it was an enjoyable time, it was also at times, quite painful. I took to writing initially to assuage my distress, and this is one of those times when the pen (or keyboard) proved to be a healing tool. I have considered publishing this series, and would appreciate your thoughts...

Chapter 1: “Plantatation life”  - New York City 2001


The old black man in the starched white jacket stands in the cold washroom, towel neatly folded in and by gnarled arthritic hands.
The young white man stands at the sink, washing his hands, appreciating his image in the mirror.

Self-consciously, I fumble with my zipper, as I listen to the exchange between the old man and the young man.

False pleasantries and polite ‘sir’s ring off the white tiles. hitting my ears like jagged shards of broken glass. I am disgusted, yet fascinated.

The towel and the dollar change places. Transaction complete, an uncomfortable silence replaces the uncomfortable conversation.

It is not Mississippi 1957, it is New York City 2001.

I am upset, angry, embarrassed, and not sure why.
I shiver slightly from the cold, (or is it the cold sweat that has beaded on my head) and step towards the sink.

I make eye contact with the old man in the mirror and nod.

Turning towards him, I begin to feel bad because I have no money, and there is no paper towel dispenser, or hand dryer. I reach for, and take the towel extended towards me by the gnarled hand. Embarrassed, I mumble thanks.

I think that it is embarrassment that initially focuses me on the hand. It is old, bent, and I know it must be painful in this cold cold washroom. The old man turns from me, and begins to straighten out the sundry items on the counter, then reaches slowly into the neatly starched white jacket pocket and….
PULLS OUT A ROLL THE SIZE OF MY FIST!

Instantly everything is put in a different context for me, and I stride out of the washroom head high, knowing that he’s doing ok on his plantation, and I head downstairs to mine.

The Clubdate Singer Speaks! Chapter 18: Rockin' The RNC!

Disclaimer: The following story is an actual event, as all of the vignettes in the 'Clubdate Singer Speaks' series are. For 8 years, I was a member of one of the top Orchestras in the nation. Though it was an enjoyable time, it was also at times, quite painful. I took to writing initially to assuage my distress, and this is one of those times when the pen (or keyboard) proved to be a healing tool. I have considered publishing this series, and would appreciate your thoughts... 

(Late Summer 2004)  S'up to all... I will dispense with the usual "Gee. I haven't updated this blog in a while..." type stuff, and get to the meat. As many of you know, I had a unique opportunity recently. My Band, the "Manhattan Rhythm Machine" was the House band for the Republican National Convention. here in New York City. It was an incredible experience.

I am sure that it came as a shock to many of my colleagues when I 'came out' at the Convention. It's true. I am a Conservative. In fact, A Black Conservative Futilitarian... With earrings yet...

 For some of you, it might be wise to stop reading here.

Click here to skip the uncomfortable truth, and go to the Convention analysis. The fact is that I agree with Shelby Steele, Larry Elder, John Mcwhorter, Armstrong Williams and Michael Steele .
Black people are living in the post Civil Rights Movement funk, amidst a plethora of social programs brought on by liberal guilt.
This had led to a level of mental and societal decay that is frightening in both scope and long-term implications. Our community sits bloated, lethargic, apathetic, and largely anesthetized by having everything given to us. We show no initiative, have no drive, and in fact are becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. The caricature of the lazy shiftless Negro is fast becoming a reality.

Our priorities, especially those of our youth, are woefully skewed, and we have become the kings and queens of the depreciating asset. (A quick glance at the type of vehicles parked outside any urban housing project will confirm this) In my younger, more cerebral, pseudo-intellectual days, I preferred the writings of Dubois and scorned Booker T. Washington as an Uncle Tom.

This was fashionable at the time. But as I matured, I came to a point where I found that I agreed with Washington more. What changed me? I took look a long look at, and made an honest evaluation of my circumstances. I discovered that what we thought was meant to help us, has in fact crippled us. We have learned the Pavlovian response. Tell us where the free stuff is, so we can go stand in line.

But The Bible says, " If a man doesn't work, he shouldn't eat."

So last year, I took my 7 year old daughter to the  Booker T. Washington National Monument
in Piedmont VA.
  Here is a link to a page from the excellent Booker T. Washington National Monument in Piedmont VA. The monument is the plantation where Washington was born. It is kept the way it was during slavery and shortly thereafter. Shacks, smokehouses, animal pens (with farm animals), and other small drafty and uncomfortable spaces abound (for the other animals). It is easy to get a feel for the difficulty of that life. I took her there so that she could see a little of what slave life was like, and what obstacles Mr. Washington and others had to overcome in order for us to have the opportunity to achieve. Opportunities that we by and large seem to squander routinely, while blaming others for our conditions.

Am I being to hard on my people, I dare say not!
Here are just a few scenarios that I have noticed in my travels:

According to a study done by the census bureau in 2002, only 56% of eligible blacks voted in the 2000 election. For all the talk about black voter disenfranchisement in Florida, hanging, dimpled and other chads, the fact is that 44% of the blacks in this country that could vote, some 11.3 MILLION, simply didn't. This cannot be blamed on George W. Bush or anyone else.

 There is a woman on my street with many children. She has no husband. The children do not have the same father. I know this because I see one of the fathers when he comes to take his kids on the weekend.
She does not work. I know this because when I leave for work in the morning, she is on the stoop. When I come home from work in the evening, she is on the stoop. I have no qualms with her, and do not mean to demean her. My problem is that in my community, she is the rule, not the exception.

 When I was 18, a friend of mine told me that her Mom said that she was due to have a baby. She was not pregnant; her mother was expressing her expectation. You see, in those days, if you were on welfare, and your underage child had a child, your welfare payments doubled. This was because your child now got payments as a parent, and you still got payments for her as a child. My friend was almost 16. So she had a baby. The baby made the fourth generation of that family on welfare. But I digress......

 How was the Convention? Fun actually. Madison Square Garden looked like Stepford. There was a scary sameness to 90% of the women, and 95% of the men. But I had a good time... In fact, if you're interested there are links to the band's performances elsewhere on this blog, & 'you can find 'em if you try' (Sorry, Sly)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Observation:


The struggle that many of us face is the inability to do all that we would like to (particularly financially/materially) for our families and loved ones, and the accompanying feelings of inability and failure.
 Yes, part of it can be attributed to the sub-conscious comparing with others that we tend to do. Part of it is also the standards that we hold ourselves to, based on how we tend to measure/define ‘success’.
These measures/definitions  are entirely arbitrary, yes, but nonetheless real.
The lines of demarcation are ethereal to be sure, but at times the reality of our situations can be as confining as titanium bars.
I wish that I could provide such that my wife and daughter lacked nothing, and could obtain, even on a whim, whatsoever they desired. I cannot.
I wish that money was not an issue, a confinement that weighs into nearly every decision that must be made. But it is. C’est la vie, c’est le guerre.
There are times when I look about me, and I cannot see what I have, for what I need, and secondarily what I want.  Normally on the periphery, at times the needs & wants seem to grow, and consume the entire scope of my vision, much like when the shadows overtake the fading light.
Certainly, these days are few and far between, for I am well aware that in many ways I am blessed and I am totally grateful. I cannot, for example, imagine the utter despair of watching helpless while your child starves to death in front of you, or the horror of being unable to afford medication for your sick wife, and watching her die from an entirely preventable, and easily curable illness.
But some days…

Ok, pity party over. Back to work.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Option you choose makes ALL the difference

 We as a culture value our opinions over the truth. That is because we are taught that truth is in fact relative, and subjective. The problem is that when this ideology is applied to the scripture, mayhem ensues, because the Word of God is just what it is: The Word of God, and when we run into things which are uncomfortable or in disagreement with our held views, we have three options:

    a)    Bring our views in line with, and bow to, the Scripture
    b)    Ignore the passage
    c)    Change its meaning

    The Option you choose makes ALL the difference.

    Is your soul worth your momentary pleasure or comfort?