Monthly Archives: July 2012
*Got a break from the kid and the Hobbled One. Quick post!*
A friend of mine posted a status on Facebook talking about how she hates to ask someone for help, especially when there’s a possibility of the person throwing it back in her face. She concluded by saying that pride is her own worst enemy. I feel ya, sista. I feel ya. Reminds me of one of my favorite Jay-Z verses from The Black Album…
I don’t ask for nothin I don’t demand of myself:
Honesty, loyalty, friends and then wealth
Death before dishonor
and I’ll tell you what else…
I’ll tighten my belt before I beg for help
Foolish pride is what held me together through the years I wasn’t felt
Which is why I aint never played myself
I just play the hand I’m dealt
I can’t say I never knelt before God
and asked for better cards
sometimes to no avail
But I never sat back feeling sorry for myself
If you don’t give me heaven
I’ll raise hell… til it’s heaven.
My pride has toned down drastically over the years, but back in the day…Whew!
When I was little, my grandmother used to share her Yoda-like views on life. “Trust them new niggas over there, don’t you!” “Hold things over your head, they will.” I grew up afraid to take rides home from school from my friends’ parents because my grandmother basically likened it to accepting a vial of crack from the dope man.
Over the years I tested her theory and 90% of the time she was right. Sometimes foolish pride is fueled by jackasses who use your moment of vulnerability to see if they can break you. Case in point: Remember the story about me almost winning the track race only to end up on crutches? If you don’t here it is: Click Me. At the end of that story I needed a way home because I was in an insane amount of pain and needed a ride either to the emergency room or home so that someone there could take me to the emergency room. None of the coaches would take me home. The only reason given was that I lived too far away and they didn’t want to get stuck in traffic.
I remember losing my bus token and the metrobus driver putting me off. I walked back to the school to see if a teacher would loan me a dollar and the sea urchin who ran the office wouldn’t even let me back in the building despite me telling her what happened. So I ended up walking the four miles to my house. Then there was the time I found myself actually accepting a ride that a friend’s mom offered. Immediately it turned into a 15 minute lecture on me inconveniencing her and her only offering the ride because it was late. “Where are your parents? Why didn’t they come pick you up?”
Eventually you get to the point where you don’t even bother to ask for help. You assume the worst of people and even when someone nice comes along, you just assume they’re gonna turn out to be an asshole too. So when I was 16 and found myself stuck at Pentagon City Mall one night because I couldn’t find my money or my farecard, I didn’t even bother asking a stranger for help. I considered it, I won’t lie. I stood outside the gate at the subway station for a good ten minutes trying to coax myself to explain my situation to the station manager with the hope that he’d see I was a minor and let me in for free. I even considered asking a passerby to loan me one dollar, but every crackhead in DC uses the “I lost my money and need to get home” excuse.
There was one woman who looked like she might believe me. She looked like a Sunday School teacher, but as soon as she laid eyes on me, she clutched her purse and that was it for me. I felt so bad to be helpless in the first place and I didn’t think I could keep it together if someone cursed me out of accused me of lying or something, so I walked up the escalator, went down the street and didn’t stop until I got to the 6th Street Exit.
Yep, I walked across 395 at 11:30 at night by my 16 year old self. People threw stuff at me, people swerved over onto the shoulder like they were gonna hit me and surprisingly about 5 different cops passed me without so much as slowing down. I could’ve gotten off as soon as I got to the DC side, but I was so pissed that I became defiant and said, “I’m gonna walk all the way to my exit.” 5.2 miles later, I was off the highway and another hour or so after that I was home.
Foolish Pride, but pride nonetheless. Still beats low self esteem.
There won’t be a post today. The lady that I married fell and sprained her ankle, so I’m Stay at Home Dad and Stay at Home Husband today. There’s no hour of solitude (escape from the baby) because a hobbled woman is no match for my daughter. She had her leg elevated on the ottoman and my daughter began the first wave of her attack by picking up the bag of frozen peas on her ankle and dropping it back down from various heights. Wave Two was the old “climb up on mommy, starting with her ankle” routine. Finally, she just stopped being discreet and picked up one of the crutches and started banging her in the ankle with it (Tonya Harding in the making).
I won’t lie and say that I’m not worn out and completely spent, but I’m gonna do for her what I wish had been done for me. I already wrote about my family’s views on illness and injury: Unless it’s something that won’t grow back or heal before you die…keep it movin! I’m trying to get away from the old Allen remedies of baking soda, epsom salt and green menthol alcohol. Instead, I’m trying some of this fancy 21st century stuff like icing, bandaging, elevating and staying off the injured ankle. If that means that I have to wait on her hand and foot then so be it.
I was telling her how I sprained my ankle about a mile away from my house in high school and still had to go to the Safeway to pick up some stuff for my grandmother. I used the fences along the way to support my weight (and the two bags I was carrying) as I hopped all the way home. So please understand that when Kerri Strugg landed on one foot during the vault, I didn’t see the big deal. My grandmother would’ve made her go do a floor exercise right after.
So, no post…Hopefully we’ll resume tomorrow.
Okay so there was the shooting in Colorado last week and then today the cops raided a guy’s house in MD who threatened to shoot up his office. They found 20 guns including a few rifles and assault weapons. This really makes me rethink those phone conversations back as a customer service rep.
No one ever calls a health insurance company when they’re happy. In training they’d play calls but it was always to show us how fast we needed to be in locating information on the computer. Even when they played a “problem” call it was someone who sounded slightly annoyed. “Well gosh darn it, I just think this is unacceptable.” I sat in training like, “I got this in the bag.”
I quit after just three hours on the phone. My first call was that “gosh darn it” call and that was the nicest person I talked to the entire time I worked there. Every call after that was, “You stupid sons of b*tches!” After about 30 of those, I grabbed my coat, took my lunch out the drawer, logged out the computer and left my badge on the desk. I went outside and got in my car and just as I was about to pull off I thought about the fact that our fridge was empty and my wife was unemployed. I hung my head, grabbed my keys out of the ignition and went back inside.
I didn’t get my first death threat until maybe day 4 or 5. The guy was mad because his policy was canceled after 4 months of nonpayment. He “ordered” me to reinstate his policy and when I told I couldn’t he told me he was on his way up with a gun and was gonna blow my brains out. It was my first non-hood death threat, so I was a little nervous. I asked my cubemate if I should notify someone and she shrugged it off with, “They always say that.” Just in case, I developed an exit strategy of tossing the computer monitor and chair out the picture window next to me and jumping into the tree outside the window. I even started parking my car underneath so that I could land on/fall through the roof.
By the end of my three years I probably got about a hundred subsequent death threats. As much as I wanted to, I never said, “You do know that we record these calls right? You also should know that all of the information that you put on your file is on my screen right now. So, John Smith of 123 Paper Street with wife Jane Smith who works at 111 Main street and has a daughter Jill who goes to ABC University are you really threatening me when all you know is my first name?” I never said it because I like having a job. Considering what I’ve seen on the news lately, I think I might have taken the people a little more seriously.
It’s getting harder and harder to go a full week without a gap in posts. I urge you guys to send complaints to the person in charge of programming:
4228 Wisconsin Ave NW
Washington, DC 20016
Some of you may have met her. If you’ve been in Giant, Safeway, Wheaton Mall, The Smithsonian or Wholefoods and you heard a child screaming at the top of their lungs and saw a handsome chocolatey short guy pushing a stroller with a twinkle of hope in his eye slowly fading away then that was her. She says Hi!
I’ve heard about terrible twos but goddamn. This girl has literally changed overnight. I wrote a post a long time ago about her having a meltdown in Nordstrom and me being confronted by the expectations of black and white individuals to pull a pot of soil out of the diaper bag, plant a tree, wait for it to grow, grab a switch from it and then beat the hell out of her. The black ones were cheering me on like the background people on the Streetfighter II game. The white ones had child protective services on speed dial. All were disappointed, because I used my Sesame Street voice to feign concern for her temper tantrum. Well that’s become an everyday occurrence now.
Me: You want an apple? Here you go!
Her: F@#% you son of a b$&# I’ll kill you!!!
Surprisingly, she’s still alive. I’m trying to give these parenting books the benefit of the doubt. She has my wife to thank for that. It’s only because I had to live with the warlock that my wife became during pregnancy that I’m able to tolerate my daughter during these trying times. Back then I’d just draw a pentacle on the floor, encircle it with some candles and sit in the middle to protect myself from her. I got a lot of reading done in those circles and the parenting books would tell me that my wife was hormonal and unable to control her desire for blood sacrifices. Maybe the same is going on with my daughter.
She’s freaking out for no reason because the hormones of her growth spurt are screwing up her wiring. Beating her with a tree trunk would only jostle that wiring even more. And if you think I’m wrong or have some science to prove that it’s not hormones then just keep that to yourself. If there’s anything I’ve learned from watching Batman it’s this: Sometimes people deserve better than the truth. They deserve to have their faith rewarded. I’m the Daddy that she needs right now, but not the one that she deserves. I’m a silent partner, a watchful guardian…a Dark Knight.
I just put my daughter down for a nap and judging by the condition of the house and how tired I am, you would think I just finished the Battle for Middle Earth. She doesn’t do that heavy-eyed blink that normal kids do when they’re tired. She’s like a candle whose flame burns brightest near the end. You’ll know that she’s tired when she starts doing wind sprints in the living room while spinning in a circle like the Tazmanian Devil.
Maybe I’m getting payback from when I was a kid. When I look back at Head Start and Pre-School I realize that my teacher probably hated my ass. She didn’t show it then, but, when I think about how my ONE child drives me up a wall, I can imagine that the thirty minutes that the 15-20 of us were supposed to sleep was like oxygen to that woman. My not going to sleep and constantly getting up to ask her what she was doing was my way of asphyxiating that poor woman. Just lie there and pretend you’re sleep!
My kindergarten teacher, Ms Foushee (Foo-shay), didn’t take any shit off us. This was back in the 80s when teachers used to beat kids in the classroom. Ms Foushee was quick to open up her drawer and look for an imaginary piece of paper as she said, And Ordale, your grandmother gave me written permission to beat your behind if you act up! That’s all it took. We’d all sit there with the lights off and our heads on our desks as she pulled her little portable TV out of her cabinet. Then as the piano intro started to The Young and the Restless we knew we were supposed to stay still until the saxophone came on for the intro to The Bold and the Beautiful.
Of course, being the mastermind that I am, I came up with a new plan. Now this goes to show just how engulfed she was in that show, because she didn’t notice that me and the other four kids at my table would slip down to the floor and crawl to the coatroom where our backpacks were. We started bringing toys for the exact purpose of playing during that hour. I brought a flashlight from home and we’d sit in the dark playing with our stuff like we were running some kind of underground casino.
Then one day in the midst of us playing with the new Muppet Babies Happy Meal toys, that coatroom door flung open. As the light flickered on the first thing I noticed was that brownish yellow yard stick in her hand. In a raspy, church bulletin reading, old woman voice she said, I-I-I know y’all haven’t lost your everlasting minds! The look on her face was what you’d expect if you caught teenage boys and girls in a closet together. We were five and innocently playing Muppet Babies. I was Gonzo. It didn’t matter though. She beat the hell outta us, enough to the point that for the rest of the year I just kept my head on the table and tried to picture Victor telling Nicky he loved her, Cricket talking to Nina about Danny and Ms Chancellor being a wench. Then I’d go home and tell my mother what she missed on the stories while she was at work.
Join us again for The Young and the Restless
Yesterday’s post reminded me of something…I’ve been on my own for almost ten years now. I got my first apartment on August 2, 2002. I was twenty years old and realized that under no circumstances would I roll the dice again at a North Carolina Central University dorm. Part of my decision (but not all of it) was based on my luck with roommates.
I had four roommates in two years. Two weren’t that bad, we just had lifestyle differences. One was just a blunt away from full glaucoma immunity. He smoked weed 12 hours a day in the closet by himself. Too many close calls with campus police forced me to move on. The other guy was like The Odd Couple. I sneezed and he’d scorch the earth with Lysol. He offered to teach me how to make up my bed because my corners aren’t sharp. We split amicably to keep from killing each other. But…
I had a crazy roommate freshman year who was probably the sweetest and kindest guy in the world, and that made him public enemy number one as far as I’m concerned. When you’re in the trenches of war the last person you want covering your back is a bright eyed bushy tailed pacifist. In his mind, our dorm was the Hamptons. In my mind we were in The Bronx. You don’t leave your dorm room unlocked to go to the cafeteria in The Bronx. You don’t fall for the “Your roommate said I could borrow his VCR” in The Bronx. He had to go. We can still be friends (Hell, in the future you’re gonna be the best man at my wedding), but I’m getting a different roommate.
Sophomore year I had a roommate who started off okay for about a week. Then I woke up one morning and he was sitting half naked at his desk sweating up a storm and chanting something like Rafiki from The Lion King. He had put a red light bulb in his lamp and was bopping up and down holding a cross. I’d been around plenty of crackheads in DC, but this was new. I grabbed a pair of those sharp metal scissors off my desk and put them under my pillow. He didn’t seem violent, but just in case his God had a plan that involved me, I had a sharp metal object that involved him.
Things kinda went south after that. I guess during one of his seances to bring The Mummy back to life he was given a vision that girls shouldn’t be in our room. It wasn’t like I was running a brothel or anything. To be fair, I offered to keep them out when he was there, but he felt that it tainted the sanctity of our room to have them there at all. I countered with a very effective Last Dragon Sho ‘Nuff, the Shogun of Harlem, ‘NIG-GA PLEASE’ stare. We made it a whole semester.
Finally, I got my own place. The roommates didn’t scare me away. It was something else. I’ll talk about that tomorrow.
In an effort to depress myself I just googled tuition at random colleges. I was trying to get an idea of how much my rates should be when I prostitute myself to send my daughter to college. It depressed me, but for the wrong reasons. I was looking at the dorm rooms and the meal plans and I really wished I could drop out of this adult thing for a bit and go back to school.
I don’t mean to finish my degree. I mean go back just to live there. I went to a small underfunded HBCU and my college experience sucked. I moved off campus my junior year, not because I wanted to join the exciting and fast growing field of paying bills, but because I got fed up with campus life. The funny thing is that my school wasn’t bad per se, but I just had a string of bad luck that went on and on and on.
I have college stories that still give me night terrors. I could talk about the time someone went around peeing in the dryers or the time I got burned because the plumbing got screwed up and boiling hot water was flowing to the toilets. I could talk about how I had a crazy roommate who was borderline narcoleptic and used to fall asleep mid-sentence, drool like a heroine addict for twenty minutes and then wake up and keep talking. The next year I thought I’d do better and ended up with a roommate who used to get up at 5 in the morning, screw a red light bulb into his lamp and then start chanting and convulsing at his desk with a cross in his hand.
Those are the light stories, the ones that aren’t worthy of a full blog post. I’ve seen some things man. I just wonder what it’d be like to go back to college now with the wisdom and pain that comes from paying bills for the last ten years. Also, I’d know not to pick a dorm on Skid Row. It’s too late for me. My daughter is up to bat and while I want to be happy knowing that she’ll get to have a better college experience than I did because she’ll have two parents who actually went to college, I also remember some other things that happened in those dorm rooms. She may just be living at home…forever.
I have absolutely nothing to write about today. I’m tired and that seems to be my default setting these days. It’s hard to believe that people used to tell me “Get some rest. You’re running yourself ragged.” Maybe that’s it. I used up all of my energy in my teens.
In high school I’d get up around 7 in the morning. I had five minutes to get ready and then I’d be out the house so that I could play tag with the driver of the 7:06 bus. That bastard would see me running and speed up so that he could beat me to (and drive past) the bus stop. This was back in my track days, so I won most of the time.
One hour and one bus transfer later, I’d be at school. That’s when I’d finish the rest of my homework that the concentration camp leaders gave us to do and then I’d give my blood offering to the education process for six and a half hours. Then I’d go to track practice for 90 minutes and then change into my work clothes. Forty Five minutes, one bus and one subway ride later, I’d be at the movie theater in Pentagon City where my job was to waste away my youth.
I worked from 5:30 to 11:30 and then I’d scramble to get to the subway before the last train. I’d get to my stop around midnight and then walk another mile to my house. I’d get in the house and make myself something to eat for dinner. Nine times out of ten it was a hot dog, oodles of noodles, a can of Bruce’s Yams and some grape Kool-Aid. I know that’s random, but we seemed to have an abundance of those.
Around 1 in the morning I’d make a half-ass attempt to do some homework. My school prided itself on giving out 2-3 hours of homework a night. I prided myself on not caring so they got about an hour of homework out of me. At 2 in the morning I’d usually start counting on my fingers the number of hours I had left to sleep. I’d end up talking to some girl on the phone for a half hour (Uh uh, no I’m not sleep) and then I’d go to sleep.
If I have any former high school teachers reading this, now you know why I kept falling asleep in your class. The weekends were no better. I just went to two jobs instead of one. I remember one teacher in twelfth grade came upon this profound idea: Why don’t you just quit your job!? She then gave me the After School Special speech about how I was smart and had a future and I could be on the honor roll like so and so if only I applied myself and quit my job.
I can’t remember exactly what I said, but it had a lot of words that you’re not supposed to say to teachers. Something along the lines of:
Do you know how much bus tokens cost? College applications? How about deodorant, lunch money, laundry money, class dues? Then I pulled out my pocket organizer and showed her my list of expenses for the month. Do you really think I’m killing myself doing this because I WANT to? I don’t have a choice.
She never brought it up again. Strangely enough, she talked to one of the administrators and got me a job at the school stamping textbooks, cleaning out lockers and organizing the files in the office. That just added another thing I had to do during my day.
I was going to write my review of The Dark Knight Rises until I saw what happened in Colorado. Now, my critique on a movie seems somewhat insignificant. Before my movie started a guy came in dressed up like Bane. His costume was authentic enough that people in the theater wondered if he was a fan or someone sent by the studio. Some people cheered as he walked in, but I immediately started counting the number of stairs to the exit.
Back in 1990 when The Godfather Part III came out there was a string of incidents where people were opening fire inside movie theaters. It happened three or four times, so at eight years old I added “getting shot” to my list of things that could happen at the movies.
When I got home and saw what happened in Colorado I was saddened by it for a number of reasons, some less obvious than others. I’ve always acknowledged that maybe I’m a bit paranoid when it comes to the amount of thought I put into personal safety, but I took it in good humor. An overzealous fan comes into a theater dressed like a movie character and I just naturally assume he’s a lunatic who could shoot up the place at any minute. Yeah, I’m nuts.
But when I turn on the television and see that a man came in through the emergency exits with a gas mask on and tossed tear gas into the crowd and pulled out an assault rifle and a lot of people just thought it was part of the show…I don’t get that sensation of vindication. I don’t feel any of the joy that’s supposed to come with See, I told you so! Instead I feel deeply disturbed that my most outlandish fears are grounded in reality. I’m saddened that the nightmares of my childhood are real.
It was 100 degrees yesterday. The windows of my car melted back down into sand. Still, you don’t hear me complaining about it. I grew up in a special forces training camp not too far from RFK Stadium. I was part of a top secret program called The Poverty Initiative. My recruiter, Agent Grandma, saw to it that I was prepared to handle anything Mother Nature could throw at me.
Our outpost wasn’t fitted with those fancy A/C units that you see in houses nowadays. No, our base was designed with the specific intention of being the world’s largest heat sink, absorbing every single one of the Lord’s bountiful sun rays. Agent Grandma was old school and believed that opening a window was beneath us. Instead she put up drapes…long dark drapes that were like giant runway lights directing even more radiation toward our home.
This was a woman who, to this very day, believes that microwave ovens cause cancer and thus refuses to allow one in her home. It’s above my pay grade to know exactly what it was she saw during the war to make her distrust air conditioners, but to prevent old Charlie from sneaking one in the house she had all the electrical sockets specially designed to only have two prongs. In case someone did manage to sneak one in and find a Radio Shack that actually carried a three-to-two prong adapter, the security system would cause the Thomas Edison era fuse box to kill the power to the house. She was thorough.
Now that isn’t to say that we didn’t have some last resort cooling systems. She authorized the use of a fan for the downstairs area. That’s fan (singular). One fan to rule them all. Whenever company came over I was proud to push the round thingy on the back to make it oscillate and share the gift of the arctic with everyone. Also, to celebrate my tenth anniversary with the agency she bought me a window fan for my room. Words fail to capture the way I felt when I first pumped 100 degree air from outside into my 115 degree room. It was like biting into a York Peppermint Patty (or sitting inside a convection oven).
I’ve seen things, boy. Things that would make a lesser man cry. I’ve seen ice cubes boil inside glasses of Kool-Aid and a pack of Skittles melt down into a simple syrup. So don’t talk to me about hot. You lack the training and the qualifications to make that assessment. It’s gonna be 95 degrees today. I think I might just put on a jacket.