Monthly Archives: April 2012
I’d like to thank those who frequented my archives section during my absence last week. I still get a kick out of the image that I put up. It’s from Gremlins 2 for those who don’t get out much. Why do I find it funny? Because it scared the living hell out of me when I first saw it, but not the way that you’re probably thinking.
Anyone who’s followed this blog long enough remembers a story about someone running up in the drug store with a gun when I was eight and me being trampled as all the adults ran to save their own lives. You might also remember another story about someone pulling a gun in the theater during Another 48 Hours. Well, those two stories happened a week apart and the drug store episode happened the same day I saw Gremlins 2.
So what’s the point?
Do the psych profile for an eight year old who has two perceived “near death” experiences within a seven day period. Even the most hardened projectytes have to be tempered into that life. I wasn’t from the projects, just some shitty neighborhoods on occasion. Somebody pulling a gun in a movie theater and then a week later finding yourself starring in your own movie while walking around a store alone while some fool is in the front with a gun can mess you up for a few days.
There was no grief counseling. The most my mother said to me was, “If the police ask you anything, you tell them you didn’t see nothing. You don’t somebody coming after you because people are crazy.” That just made the shit worse. LOL It never entered my mind that I might run into the guy again. After that I guess she figured I needed a pick me up so we went to see Gremlins 2…in the exact same theater we’d just run out of the week before.
I spent the entire movie looking over my shoulder checking out the facial expressions of the people behind us. Does anyone look disgruntled? Anyone looking like they’re reaching for a gun? When I wasn’t doing that I was sinking down in the chair hoping that the seat-back would somehow stop (or at least slow down) a bullet.
I couldn’t wait to get outta there and then they did that $@##@ scene where the gremlins “take over” the theater. All I saw was the film cut off and a white screen. My heart jumped outta my chest as I dove to the floor waiting for someone to start shooting. It wasn’t until I realized people were laughing and not screaming that I got up and told my mother I’d dropped my Raisinettes on the floor. ‘Yeah, uh, I, uh, yelled because I really liked those Raisinettes and uh mama you work so hard to provide candy for me that I just couldn’t bear to see them hit the ground.”
Ah, good old Metro. You never know what the day will bring. Your bus may have a delay, you might be exposed to viral meningitis. You just never know. Unlike the entitled bourgeoisie of MD and VA, we DC-bred kids didn’t have a yellow stretch limo come take us to school everyday. Well, that’s not fair to MD and VA kids, they didn’t get dropped off everyday. Whenever the wind would blow too hard, their school would be closed while we’d still be standing outside in the cold waiting for the Amistad bus to shuttle us across the city like some type of modern-day Middle Passage.
This might be going off on a tangent, but there’s a reason that so many people from DC take offense when people use “DC” as a blanket term for where they’re from instead of just saying they’re from Maryland or Virginia. The lack of a school bus to take you to and from school everyday is part of that reason. I hold no animosity toward the good folks from PG County. Some of my best friends are from PG (haha). The fact remains however, that being from MD or VA means that you didn’t have to wake up on a zero degree day and look at sixteen feet of snow piled up to your third floor window and then turn on the TV and wait for the words to scroll across the bottom of the screen as slow as humanly possible (and in no logical order): Federal Gov’t Closed, Anne Arundel County Closed, PG County Closed, Loudon County Closed, Hell Closed, Antarctica Closed, Winter Closed, DC Public Schools Open On Time.
I remember the Metrobus electric sliding across the 11th Street Bridge and me making sure I was sitting next to one of those emergency windows with the red latch release lever in case we ended up in the river or, if I wasn’t, trying to read the emergency instructions on the little hatch on the ceiling. So yeah…you my good Temple Hills friend are from PG…not DC.
Anyway, getting back to my original point: The metrobus is full of wonder so I’m not surprised at the news over the last two weeks about the driver who had meningitis, the 90 or so buses they had to take offline due to them randomly bursting into flames nor the bus driver who got in a fistfight with a passenger over a fare dispute. I’ve seen bus drivers kicked, spit on, beat up and actually was on a 32 bus when someone started shooting at the bus driver when he pulled up to the stop.
Went to sleep next to the wife last night. Had a dream that I was walking down the street shortly after dawn. I looked up at this high rise building and saw two kids staring out the window at me. I returned my gaze to the street ahead of me and a monarch butterfly started flying off a flower and towards me. As the butterfly drew closer I did that thing that I guess everyone does where you assess whether or not to dodge something coming toward you or just stand there and let it go around. In my dream state I deduced that a butterfly weighs next to nothing so even if it hit me it wouldn’t hurt me in anyway.
I continued on my collision course with the butterfly and as it got closer to my face I closed my eyes in anticipation of the small fluttering of its feather-like wings on my face. Instead it hit me with the force of a brick duct taped to the end of a sledgehammer. I awoke immediately and grabbed the bridge of my nose and detected the faint yet distinct smell of a Pampers overnight diaper and Johnson and Johnson’s Baby Lotion. My daughter must’ve gotten in the bed at some point while I was asleep and proceeded to Hurricane Kick me in the face in the spirit of Ryu or Ken from Streetfighter.
Realizing that it was her, I did what any other parent does in that situation. I rolled over and went back to sleep.
I wonder how old my daughter will be when she’s five. I didn’t turn five until I was about eight when all the restaurants upped their “kids eat free” meals to five. I’m trying to set small attainable goals as part of my “stop worrying about everything” campaign. It would be nice to be so well off financially that I’m willing to pay for my kid to eat out. See, small attainable goal. Considering how few places actually let kids eat free these days, I technically have already accomplished it. Like Chris Rock’s dad on the show, I watched her waste $3.23 worth of breakfast last weekend at the Silver Diner.
I remember my mother asking me what I wanted for my eighth birthday. I told her that I wanted to go to Chesapeake Bay Seafood House and that I didn’t want to have to pretend to be five. I got tired of eating those baby gulf shrimp that came on the “free” menu. I wanted grown up shrimp. Growing up I was so short and my voice was so high pitched that I was somehow frozen in time as a five year old. Now for those who have seen me in person, yestechnically I am still short BUT if the light hits me at a certain angle and the observer has a blood-alcohol level of at least .26 or sober and standing at least 7.5 feet away then an optical illusion is created whereby I appear to be six foot one…and that’s good enough for me!
Anyway, back then I used to treat going out to eat like a Broadway performance. I knew my character’s history: I was four and a half years old in Ms Dixon’s Pre-K class at Maury Elementary. I enjoyed big wheeling, watching Transformers and more than anything I wanted to see the South of Sesame Street before I died. I even went to the trouble of dumbing down my vocabulary and diction to lend authenticity to the role. In reality however, the waitress didn’t care. “He’s four” always seemed to steal my spotlight and ruin hours of preparation.
Like in gymnastics, puberty can kill the careers of a lot of aspiring restaurant actors like myself. Around nine or ten I started growing a mustache and went from a baby-faced cherub to Hoggle from Labyrinth. It was a good run though.
I was watching a movie called Heist with Gene Hackman and Delroy Lindo. Lindo’s character said something along the lines of “You’re asking for me to freely share the wealth of knowledge that comes from a lifetime of experience.” I may be getting the quote wrong, but the overall gist of it sticks with me when I think about my role as a parent.
Ideally, parents are supposed to be venture capitalists in their kid’s development. Our role is to freely give the wealth of knowledge that we acquired over a lifetime of experiences. No more clearly is this evident to me than when I think about my own relationship with my parents. My mother was fifteen and it wasn’t until I was about twenty that I realized that that fact is the explanation for a lot of our bumping heads when I was growing up. There isn’t so much you can teach when you’re so close to the beginning of the learning phase yourself.
Being that young and having a kid at home precludes you from going out and gaining the same life experience that someone without children gets. I’m 29 and my daughter is 2. When my mother was 29, I was 14. I don’t know what the hell I’d do with a 14 year old and she didn’t either. So there’s that perspective, the one that finds me constantly learning and experiencing things that my friends (whose parents were well over 30 when they were born) got back when they were still in elementary school. To put it plainly, I’m trying to learn and experience as much as I can now so that I can process it and share it with my daughter as she grows older.
That isn’t to say that this venture capitalist is metaphorically broke. I think that my upbringing actually gave me a lot of resources to work with. I had to teach myself a lot of things and that self reliance made me one hell of a force to be reckoned with. I find myself analyzing the most mundane memories and experiences like a prospector with a wash pan in a stream looking for gold.
I’m data mining. I’m looking for anything that may prove useful to give my daughter the upper hand or at least a fighting chance in this rat race. I’ve stumbled a lot and I hope that I went through it so that she won’t have to. Still there’s that delicate balance between preparing and sheltering. Unlike me, I want her to know how to navigate college and how to network and build relationships. I don’t want her to have to work two part time jobs and try to do school full time. But at the same time I don’t want to raise an entitled, inexperienced brat who is overly reliant on us and lacks the self confidence that I got by doing damn near everything on my own.
It’s a pickle.
Whenever a parent fails to lynch their child in public or caves to their demands there is always that person who says something along the lines of, “You act like you’re afraid of that child. You’re the parent.” That irks me because some of these people fail to realize that…well this is better explained with an analogy.
Kids are like guns. I’m not afraid of a gun, rather I fear the bullet that comes out of it. I’m not afraid of my daughter, I’m afraid of what comes out of her. There’s an invisible force called stress that erupts from her on a daily basis disrupting the natural order of things. I was alive 28 years before she was born. That’s a long time to get used to things and set in one’s ways. I had this false notion that I’d always have some impact on the daily flow of events as they pertained to my life. Then came the baby.
Suddenly simple tasks like going to the mall became advanced level routines that required military grade preparation.Do I have enough food for the trip, did I pack a bottle, is there a snack in the stroller, do I have her toys, is there an extra set of clothes, can the stroller fit through that aisle, what’s the backup plan in case the elevator takes too long, do we chance it on the escalator, is it almost her nap time, don’t let her fall asleep in the car because she’ll be up all night, how am I gonna carry all the stuff in the house along with her and so on.
My brain is like a computer and right now I have too many programs open at once. Over time you get used to thinking like this and things become second nature, but you first have to survive initiation. You’re stressed out over all of this stuff and the child is still in a good mood. Imagine what happens when the child has a Jack-Jack moment and turns into a hell spawn in the middle of a crowded store.
You go through the motions of trying to remember your training. The authors of all of those parenting books are secretly off somewhere laughing their asses off as you try to remain calm and “subvert your child’s tantrum.” The kid wants the Elmo doll that costs too much and you try to hand em an Elmo Graham Cracker outta your bag. They don’t tell you that subversion only pisses the kid off more. The five-point harnesses installed in most strollers was not designed with the child’s safety in mind. It’s to stop the kid from climbing out the stroller, breaking that graham cracker into a shiv and repeatedly stabbing your lifeless body with it.
Then to make things worse, the kid will ask for stuff that it doesn’t want. For some reason their brains operate like time-lock safes. If you miss that window to give them a nap, they lose grasp on all cognitive functions of logic. They ask for a toy then cry when you hand it to them. The kid asks for water. I pull an ice cold bottle of water out of the little travel freeze bag. She takes a sip and throws it on the ground screaming in protest. I don’t know if she’s doing her Mister impression from The Color Purple (Ain’t cold enough) or what, but she just doesn’t know how close she is to being safe dropped at the police station.
Over time you not only get used to it, but you start to recognize the signs. There will be moments when you can avoid it. You see the nap time counter winding down and you get em to sleep just in the nick of time. Maybe you just say the hell with it and leave the mall early. Other times you have no choice. You’re in a restaurant, you already ordered and the food just came out. The kid’s eyes roll up in her head and you realize that Regan is gone. You’re now “speaking to the person inside of Regan.” The kid wants to play with your $700 iPhone so to have just one meal in peace you give it to em and pray they don’t levitate away still strapped to the highchair. Someone somewhere will look at you and judge you. “They’re scared of that child.” No I’m not, I’m scared of what will happen if all these programs inside my head crash at one time under the weight of the stress.
No spoilers, I promise.
I went to see The Cabin In The Woods over the weekend and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Somehow I missed every trailer and article about the film so I had zero clue what it was about. I only looked it up because Parris and Jay on the Remember When podcast suggested it. My enjoyment is the synergy that resulted from two factors: It was a decent B-movie and (most importantly) I only paid $6 to see it.
I didn’t even know they still did matinees in DC under ten bucks. Of course you have to go before noon to get that price and most theaters try to be slick and show the first film at 12:05. Since I can’t have my way and return to the glory days when a movie ticket and a McDonald’s Extra Value Meal cost the same price, I’m gonna try and overthrow the system by going completely left field with something.
What if all movies fell under a fee schedule? I mean think about it, there is no reason that I have to pay the same $16 bucks to see Mission Impossible 4 and Chronicle. One cost $145 million to make while the other had a scant $12 million budget. I wouldn’t pay the same for a stuffed chicken breast from Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse as I would a spicy chicken breast from Popeyes. I think the cost of the ticket should be proportional to the budget. The Cabin In The Woods cost $30 million so $6 seems about right.
Like I said, I enjoyed the movie. I got my six bucks worth and then some, so they should have a tip jar near the exit. I’d drop an extra two bucks in there. That could go to the gaffers, key grips, foley artists and all of the other random technicians who don’t get any recognition until the bottom of the credits when everyone is walking out. Maybe ticket sales wouldn’t be declining so badly if they had a realistic grip on demand side economics.
That will never happen, so until then I’ll just wait for everything to go to Redbox. Every movie is good when it only costs $1.59.
This random memory just popped in my head.
Back in high school I went on a ski trip to Killington, Vermont. I’m proud to say that I’m one of the Snowy Seventeen. That’s the name I just made up for the me and the other sixteen Black people in America that can ski. So anyway, our bus stopped at Walmart one night on our way back to the lodge.
I was excited, I’d never been to a Walmart before. DC didn’t have one yet so I wanted to see if the store lived up to the hype from all those whistling smiley face commercials. “Wow, they have a seven hundred ounce box of Froot Loops for three dollars. This place is amazing.” I started making my way back to the front with my wheelbarrow of cereal when I had a horror movie moment. There before me at the end of the aisle was this little six year old White girl in a ballerina outfit.
I don’t know where she came from, she kinda just appeared out of thin air like an apparition or something. She was standing completely still and staring at me, like the possessed kids in horror movies always do. There was no one else on the aisle, just me and her. I walked by her, said in my nice nonthreatening voice, “Hello” and kept it moving. She got really wide eyed and took off running to the next aisle. As I was walking I heard her yell, “Mommy, mommy! Guess what, a BLACK man spoke to me!”
The mother saw me walking by and said, “Be quiet Emily!” “No mommy, I saw one for real. He spoke to me. A BLACK MAN spoke to me! What language do they speak?” The mother looked totally embarrassed and even though I tried to look upset like a racism PSA, I was actually laughing inside. I thought it was funny. I couldn’t blame that little girl. I was in Killington, Vermont. There weren’t any other Black people there…or so I thought.
The next day we went to the movies after the slopes closed. A couple of us hit up the bathroom first and while I was washing my hands, I heard a toilet flush in one of the stalls and I looked up in the mirror just as the stall door was opening. You know how people freeze when they see a loose dog or a bear or something in the woods? This Black dude came out the stall and just froze when he saw us. He didn’t say anything for a good five seconds. The next thing I know he just got excited as hell.
“Oh my God! Where are y’all from? Where y’all live at? My girl is not gonna believe this! I haven’t seen any other Black people since I moved up here man! Y’all trying to hang out or something?” I got all of that in about ten seconds. He was so excited to see us you would’ve thought we’d rescued him off an island or something. His excitement was equally matched by his disappointment when we told him we were just visiting. He said he’d been there for six months and wished he’d seen us sooner as we could’ve all hung out. I’ve never seen someone that desperate before. It wasn’t even creepy. I could tell he generally felt out of place.
Some things should just remain a memory in your head.
All week I’ve been forcing myself to go outside after my wife gets home to “take advantage of living in the city.” When we lived in NC I used to complain that there was nothing to do so this week I dedicated my life to finding “man stuff” to do after she gets off. Yesterday the mentally challenged idea popped into my head that I should go back down memory lane and hit up the carnival over at Capital Plaza. What the hell was I thinking?
Even as a teenager I stayed away from DC carnivals at night unless I was just looking to play the Matrix. (You’re telling me I can dodge bullets? No, when you’re ready… you won’t have to.) It was fifty degrees last night and, like roaches, I figured that was about ten degrees colder than most of these bad ass kids are willing to tolerate. I was right. The place was deserted. I felt bad for the carnival people though.
The saddest sight in the world is an empty carnival. It was like watching the tears of a clown with all those people sitting on their own rides and games staring at me like “play me!” I would’ve if that place didn’t look so damned dirty. I didn’t even trust the canned sodas. Then I felt old as hell because I couldn’t bring myself to get on a ride. Tickets were a $1.25 a piece and the cheapest ride was the swings for four tickets. I’m not paying $5 to let a giant centrifuge fling me to my death. Those raggedy ass chains holding that thing up looked like a bike lock chain and the fact that it looked like it was made out Lego and Duplo blocks didn’t help sway my opinion either.
There were two guys working on one of the ferris wheel gondolas with a crowbar. They saw me and said, “We’re open buddy!” Umm, no the hell you aren’t. I decided to leave after one time around but in order to get out I had to walk past all the games. That’s the most desperate part of the carnival. They’re like washed up hookers trying to solicit a john. “Look man, I’m thirty years old. I don’t wanna play no damn duck game. Get away from me.” For a brief (and I do mean brief) moment I considered winning something to take home to my daughter, but every prize looked like something you’d buy in a crack house garage sale. Nothing was completely inflated, everything was dirty and they had this balloon hammer that, because it wasn’t inflated all the way, looked like a crack pipe.
I left and went to the Walmart a few feet away. 75 angry black people standing in five open lines while the “team leader” was telling two of them to shut down their registers and clock out…now that was an adventure.