Labeled

I often think about all the labels I wear, or have worn, over the years. First there was “son,” a dubious one indeed because I had no control over it. Indeed, I didn’t even really know it existed on a conscious level until I had been one for quite some time. I remember my mother leaning over me to tuck me into bed one time, and thinking: I’m her son.

Then there was “brother,” which has been with me just as long as son. I don’t know my life in any kind of context when I wasn’t a brother, when I didn’t have someone else who shared my experience growing up in that house. And we were close at times, while not at others. We battled for space, for time, for pretty much whatever spoils could have existed. That was the life of being a brother.

Next I guess you could add “neighbor” to the list, though I was a poor one. We lived a pretty sheltered existence, but there were others on the block who I connected with from time to time (large expanses of time between the connections). These boys and girls always seemed alien to me, like some kind of extra-terrestrials who lived completely different lives even though we lived right next door. Continue reading “Labeled”

Internet-Only

“Ayo! I’m tired of using technology. I need you right in front of me” ~50 Cent

I don’t always use air quotes when I speak of my internet-only friends. Sometimes I say it straight, as if they were my regular friends, as if we met at the bar every Friday night for a shot, or a beer, or both, or many. Sometimes I imagine what it would be like if we swapped recipes in my kitchen, or played Madden together like everyone did in the ’90’s. Sometimes I wonder if we would even be friends if we talked all the time, if our kids would hate each other on sight.

There was no way I could have imagined this world when I was a kid. If you knew people they were your parents’ friends, or they went to church with you, or they were both. Their kids were your de facto friends, but that was it. That was your sphere, and you never had any occasion to step outside of it, like the metaphorical box we are always begging people to think outside of these days. Back then, though, we weren’t supposed to embrace new people from far away.

Those were the days of “stranger danger,” which is funny because most people get hurt by those they know. But we were told to steer clear of the windowless van, the man with the mustache who looked just a little bit off, anyone who lived more than a block away, or didn’t know your first name. That was the age of not too many strangers, and when they were around we knew them. It was like the red-suited crewmen on Star Trek. You knew them because they weren’t household names. You knew when you saw them that they would be dying on the away mission because they were different, because they were “strangers.” Continue reading “Internet-Only”

Where Are You Now?

“Where are you now? As I’m swimming through this stereo, I’m writing you a symphony of sound.” ~Jack’s Mannequin [“The Mixed Tape”] Do you ever wonder where they are? I mean all the people you’ve left behind, or the ones who’ve left you behind? I sometimes do. In the darkest shadows of the night, when I … Continue reading Where Are You Now?

Learning to Listen

“Listening is an art that requires attention over talent, spirit over ego, others over self.” ~Dean Jackson Listening is a lost art. Believe it. There’s something to be said for sitting still, giving eye contact, and nodding along, not because you’re waiting for a chance to speak, but because you care enough to be there. … Continue reading Learning to Listen

Nineteen Blackbirds

Atop a razor thin wire thirty feet above my head, nineteen blackbirds are perched, resolutely, zombie-like, side by side by side, as if waiting for the bus. Their balance is perfect, so self-assured that most appear to be asleep standing up, the skimpy thread bowing under their combined weight but under no threat of ripping. … Continue reading Nineteen Blackbirds

Black Friends

“It’s hard for me to make black friends.” I saw this on my Facebook newsfeed today, but it’s always been just as true for me. For those of you who don’t know me, who are reading my blog for the first time, I am black. I say this because I think it matters in the … Continue reading Black Friends