Keeping Up with the Jonzee still at the right spot.

Friday, February 20, 2009

My Tee Tee

I have not been inspired to write here as of late because I have been too busy writing here and here. But this morning, I was reading a post from my girl La and got inspired. (IOW, decided to jack her idea).

You see this Valentine's Day, I had this plan to do something special for Big T, the 60-minute massage, nice dinner out on the town, and breakfast in bed. Why? Because I know that I am special--and I don't mean like 'Aw, she's mad cool' special, I mean like 'pain in the ass' special. See, I make a huge deal about certain holidays-the gift giving holidays. Now before y'all kill me, I know better (I'm a brat. I am working on it). One should give because they want to give, not because they expect something in return. Hence, the reason I wanted to do something for him--'cause I know he be racking his brain trying to do something good and make me happy.

So, here, just in case he didn't know, is 10 things to know (and I love) about his bald-headed ass:

1. He is the most giving person I have ever known T will give you the shirt off his back even if he doesn't have it to give. It frustrates me sometimes, but I love that he believes in sharing.

2. He's sensitive He does not believe in hurting other peoples feelings and is tactful and empathetic when it comes to having to give someone the business but...

3. He ain't no punk He is very calm. He does not believe in flying off the handle and deals with conflict with a smooth hand. But if you push him? God be with you. You should see him when it comes to boys and his baby sister...I pray for whoever the boy is.

4. He's smarter than he thinks he is He tells folks that I am smarter than him. I would say I might be more knowledgeable about certain things...but smarter, nah.

5. He is meant to be a teacher One day he will figure that out.

6. Hands down, best lover ever No need to say more, but lets just say I am more satisfied than not...especially when he takes his time.

7. That man can burn My grandfather will be proud to know that I will be left in capable cooking hands. The lamb with the Dijon peppercorn sauce he made for Christmas dinner...slap somebodies mama!

8. He knows me...almost too well I don't if this is good or bad, but he is very perceptive. He can ask me what's wrong, I can say nothing, and then he, often times, can vocalize it. It's annoying. But I love it.

9. He's old school He believes that a man should take care of his woman--in some of the most old school ways, like walk on the outside near the curb, standing up when you leave the table, opening your door. But also, I know (he won't admit it) that he hates when I pay for stuff. (I didn't get to treat for V-day) I love it. Screw it. Some of y'all ladies will just have to give me the gas face for this one.

10. He makes me slow down Like that song "Green Light", I am always ready to go. I like change--sometimes to my detriment. He has shown me that sitting still( both literally and figuritively) sometimes is important and necessary. And I am grateful for it.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Come Tuesday

I have listened time and time again to the stories from my grandparents (who are still alive and good health) being my age during the time of Jim Crow. My grandparents were among the "talented tenth" who went on to get not only a college education but a Masters. Their life was fascinating and some of the things they were able to accomplish, under what many would view as extreme duress, is impressive.

My grandmother was riveter like Rosie in WWII. She left the factory and moved to Atlanta--by herself--while my grandfather was at War to pursue her Master of Social Work. She is demure, my grandmother, and if you are familiar with the history of the black middle class--she may falsely appear more socialite than independent woman, and more wife and mother from the times of the "best generation", then capable equal partner. But perserverance is her middle name.

My grandfather was a talented print man, who because of his color, had limited opportunity to make a career in printing and instead taught it as a vocation in the public school system. Like many other black folks, teaching was one of the few ways to have a white collar job and secure a future staunchly in the middle class, running the printing press at the Call and Post in the evenings. He has a sharp-tongued wit at times. And from some of his stories, it seems his relative fair skin is what kept him from ending up in a tree somewhere.

It is from my grandparents purview of American history, that I see the world. It is from their vivid portrayl of the decline of the American dream--first begun in the demise of our urban centers at the precipise of "white flight" and "desegregation", and further solidified by deindustrialization, that I dedicate my personal and professional time to revitalizing communities. And it is from this purview, that the last 10 years have made me rethink this personal calling on many an occassion.

When a former community organizer first decided to run for US president, I thought him delusional. When he exceeded expectations in Iowa, I began to listen. And as I listened, he talked about the importance of our urban centers and creating a poilcy arm that would focus on urban policy. He seemed to understand that the health and wealth of this nation hinged in large part on addressing many of our failures in domestic issues--health care, encouraging small business, and revitalizing a viable manufacturing base that might actually allow blue collar folks who's mothers and fathers once were "company men" in factories like Westinghouse and GM an opportunity to use their skilled labor to reach the American dream. It is then that I began to work for him with "cautious optimism".

Then he won the primary.

Then he won the presidency.

And now, come Tuesday, the sun might cautiously shine again.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Life Isn't

For over a month, me and many of my colleagues have been waiting around for the hatchet to drop. The lead up to actual D-day has been long and torturous. We were told back in November that it would be announced the first week in December. Of course, rumours abound. As did speculations, about who amongst us would get the ax.

My dad works for IBM, I have lived through many a reorg—and this was the worst handled one ever. Now, I understand why, as the company has never had to do this before—but really? About a week ago, I started getting sick of my friends and fam emailing and texting to find out if I still had a gig.

Well, the news is—I do. And I while I am blessed to have continuous income, I feel guilty as hell. Why? Because daily it becomes more apparent that I want to go home. And everybody here knows it.

So, not sure why I am still here and others who were just as talented and probably have greater technical skills aren’t beats me.

As usual, I’m waiting on the Creator to make it plain.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Facing Changes

November 4th, Way too early in the morning...

I awoke at 4:30am-- bleary eyed and exhausted. I could not sleep the night before. I was anxious. I was nervous, and even though I truly believed that the change, I and millions of others had worked on, donated to, and prayed for, was on its way, the idea that we might lose would not let me sleep.

I sat on the edge of my bed and prayed. Then, I put on my objective election judge hat and walked in silence to the polling place—my polling place—to do my day long civic duty of working the polls. The silence was nearly deafening and I wanted to cry, but I did not. However, unbeknownst to me, this same feeling would return several times through out the day.

5:30 AM

I arrive on time, but it feels like I am late. There is a buzz about the place as the chief judge directs the technician, and other judges to set up certain stations to count and keep record of every single supply we have been given. She also reiterates the importance of the integrity of our polling place. All eyes are on us she says, more than anytime in the 7 years she has been a chief. Nervous looks abound, and back to business we go.

Although, the polls do not open until 7 am, and our 1400 people district in a neighborhood is one of the smallest in the city (and in a transitioning neighborhood on the edge of gentrification with historically low turnout at 30%), our first voter is already in the building, and had been since 5 am. She is a middle aged black woman who has arrived prepared to wait with a folding chair, newspaper, coffee, and breakfast in hand.

7:00 AM

My fears that people would stay home because they believed the election was already in the bag combined with the intermittent nasty rain falling outside, made for an interesting morning. As we were opening the doors—more than 100 people were already in line. My eyes swelled, but no tears.

8:00 AM

I am stationed at the provisional ballot station. Here, people who for one reason or another are not in the ballot book, or who registered within 7 days prior to the election, must fill out a paper ballot. My first “customers” are three black men—two of them, both middle aged, had never voted. Both of them were quite knowledgeable about how the election process worked and what their rights were. The other, was an older man, and a life long Republican. Each of them was proudly wearing a “change you can believe in” button—and none of them knew each other.

On the way out of the door, the two men who voted for the first time shared the news with the ballot desk—and a spontaneous cheer broke out. From that point forward, every first timer got a little cheer from the judges.

10:30 AM

An elderly woman walking gingerly with one hand on her cane and the other wrapped in the arms of a young woman in her 30’s. The elderly woman informs us that she is here to help her oldest grandchild vote for the first time. The grandmother has already voted on the other side of town.

A couple arrives right behind them—clearly high and drunk—barely able to communicate anything clearly—accept that they have arrived to vote.

12:00 PM

A young black family with three children under the age of 5 and one newborn arrive. Each parent brings two of the children up to the voting machine and explains the voting process. They even let them press the buttons.

2:00 PM

The line has stopped. Forty percent of our precinct has already voted, and we have 6 more hours left to remain open.

A young white family arrives—dressed in all of the Obama regalia they could find—including the dog. They tell us they just returned from early morning volunteering in Alexandria, VA. The wait when they left was 2.5 hours long.

3:45 PM

Several young men, who I often see hanging on the corner, and I have long suspected of (and have seen) selling drugs arrive in a group to vote. Nearly half of them have voted before. Two tell me they never miss an election—even if it’s just local. One apologizes for handling his business in front of my house.

I meet people I have never seen on my block before, and see folks I often see, but have never introduced myself too. Now, I know them all and they know me.

5:30 PM

Voting is now down to a trickle. Some of the judges are spending the downtime calling up relatives and friends making sure they went to vote. One judge in particular is harassing his 18 year old cousin who just arrived to vote. She is telling his cousin to go back home and get his friends—all who were personally registered by the judge. Fifty-eight percent of our precinct has voted.

7:57 PM

All day, we have braced ourselves for the call, which would inform us that our polling place had extended voting hours. Three minutes to go, and no call. As I prepare to break down the ballot booth station, a man clearly out of breath from running is walking as quickly as he can down the hall.

I tell him that he has gotten to me in the nick of time. However, he was in the wrong polling place, which means if he votes here, it will have to be on paper, and it may very well not count.

He says in return, “M’am, I just want to know that I filled in that circle. I took two buses and ran here to just get in the door. I can not vote—even if it may not amount to anything.”

This time, I cried!

Friday, October 31, 2008

No Doubt

I grew up going to Church--even though often one or both of my parents often did not go. They would straight drop us off for Sunday school (which we looked forward to--it was really about hanging out...)

When I reached my hateful teenage years, I stopped believing. I was angry. IBM was laying off 10k people in my little 35k town. Parents--fighting like hell. Excuse my French, but I said the "heck with 'em".

Until, a summer in Alabama, in which my favorite cousin Erma watched her husband and youngest child drown in the river, while her oldest struggled back to shore. My family and I were late getting to 'bama...and me and my brother probably would have been in that water too.

The day before they were buried she found out she was pregnant. I will never forget watching my cousins and uncles and father carrying Erma out of that Church screaming, crying for God, repeatedly saying she knows He will protect her.

If she could hold on to that, even in a time of so much pain and anguish. How could I be so pissed off and angry and doubtful about some small stuff like the 'Rents not getting along?

I have been a believer ever since. And that belief--that every challenge is a blessing on the back end has never failed me.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

D'Angelo, baby. Come home

I been waiting for you. I know that naked photo shit really drove you off the deep end. All them fawning chicks (and dudes...but never mind) obsession with your Adonis-like figure made you, a sensitive introvert, incredibly uncomfortable.

Especially since you are such an incredibly gifted musician and want to be respected for that more than anything.

Now, let me be perfectly honest. I, too, stared gap-mouthed at that video on more than one occassion. And you looking all fine and chocolately was definetely a plus. But, honey, I and many chicks like me are straight audiophiles and it was definetely more because the ease of which that incredibly intimately composed, intricately layered song comes forth.

Matter of fact, after seeing the video three times, I never cared to watch it again. The master songwriting in someways, felt cheapened by the video.

Honestly, I could give a good got-damn if you ever looked like that again. No offense.

Where you at son? I find myself searching the archives of iTunes and Soul Sanctuary looking for songs with your voice on them. Like that Rh Factor song called I'll Stay, my man, is one beautifully written, way-down-deep in the soul song.

Look, Broheim, there are mad people in the world making bank right now writing bullshit and passing it off as some sort of musical craft. You always struck me as more of a Common-type dude--as in you did it your way and knew you were going to get paid. So come on, folks are feenin for real music('specially us over 30 types who are coming to grips with the fact that clubbing these days in generally at the over 30 joints.)

Maybe the video thing in the end felt like to much soul-selling for you. Don't know. But I do know one thing, that a God-fearing dude like you should remember. Nothing can happen that is too much for you to handle. So suck it up and get it together.

There is no excuse for wallowing in the liquor-fueled self-pity, Bruh. You got a gift to share.

If it will make you feel better, keep your damn clothes on this time.

Just a little tough love from one audiophile to another.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

My Two Gay Uncles

My grandparents have four children—three boys and a girl. One of the sons is my father, married for over 32 years one year to the day I was born. The other two sons were gay.

As a little girl, I guess I knew that my uncles were different. My oldest uncle (May he rest in peace) never had a girlfriend I can remember. He had a friend. Growing up with a middle class African American family from the Midwest, "friend" was always what someone you were dating was called. I never really thought about it one way or the other. And as my great granny would say, "it made me no never mind".

My family never made a big deal out of it. My uncle’s “friends”, were no different than my auntie’s “friends” of the opposite sex. His friends were treated like family. Even after one serious relationship ended amicably, the friend still often came to Sunday dinner. The “friends” called my grandparents "Mom and Pops" like they were their parents, and never missed a birthday or anniversary.

My uncle is gone now. My father lost his best friend and I lost my hero. But his closest friend will be at Thanksgiving dinner with some delicious dessert in hand.

Being out was not as, or at least as it appeared, simple for my younger uncle. He got married. Got cheated on badly and got a divorce all within a year. And then he found his voice. After that he entered into a serious relationship with a couple people, who were embraced as family just as well. The family of the man from his first serious relationship still sends letters and cards from Germany on holidays and birthdays. Just like his older brother he loves deeply and has a special place in his heart for his nieces and nephews.

Now, he is getting older, his embers have become a nice glow and he is with the man I think he will be with for the rest of his life. And Michael is family too. I hope one day, that I will get to see that commitment ceremony.

I am sure my grandfather and grandmother as well as my aunt and father struggled a great deal with the idea that both of my uncles were gay. But love was the key to dismissing any hard feelings or thoughts of putting them out of their lives. The strength it takes to not pay attention to what many in the world would say is a sickness, or the hatred and animosity the world may throw your way for having gay children is undeniably difficult. After all, my grandparents grew up in the Great Depression and raised a family during the height of the civil rights movement. To be a black man and make it through those times you had to be tough. But my grandparents raised three intellectually tough, free-spirited, big hearted men—two gay and one straight—and they love them all the same.

What I realized today, is that we have never differentiated my Uncles' pursuit of "finding the right one", from any of our straight family members. To this day, I don't think I have ever heard anyone make a differentiation between them being gay and us being straight. I don’t even think we think about it. It is what it is.

And in the end, what it is, is love.