I think one of the biggest torments of severe depression- or any bout with any debilitating mental health issue- is the absolute solitude nature of its torture. The anger, sadness, and frustration intensifies inside you without anywhere to go becoming a venomous arrow paralyzing you to the world outside of your own thoughts. You become a volcano whose eruption only blows up itself- it’s lava pouring back inside the earth leaving the ground trembling with flaming fears. Such intense self-reflection leads to at times periods where our lenses to life are skewed to reality. Self-absorption becomes our sin because connection to others seems so far away- a distant land too many miles to seek out alone. When you are in the midst of a depressive bout the ability to actively connect with others is a foreign language. Spoken words are never understood anyway when you yourself have lost your voice. So you turn even more inwards losing your connection to the outside world.
For me that loss can plummet to even greater depths where death seems like the best option available. When life is strangling you slowly then suicide seems the comforting solution over that ever present drudgery; that is a life that seems to be rather a slow death suffocating all glimpses of hope, love, and life out of it-dooming you to a life lived cursed as a hollow tomb- a Monet to the outside world- but strictly walking dead inside. It’s not that suicide is ever truly appealing- it’s thought of peace it brings that becomes so alluring.
Thinking back to the past seems more like a vivid nightmare than real life-years either seem closer to the past, or, further from the future then they actually are. A kaleidoscope calendar fills out the remnants of my memories of these fractured times.
Back in those dark days gratitude lists got me by. I learned that when your brain is fighting itself you have to become like the dirtiest player in the game, Ric Flair, and use any tactic at hand to win. The brain can’t think of two things at once- so no matter how bad your depression, sadness, anger, fear, or any of the smorgasbord of emotions that are occurring at the time are- you can always mindfully take a moment to barrage it with some goodwill. Because at the times when you are feeling that low it’s those bright moments you can always cling to as you struggle to climb forward. So use gratitude like Omar used his shotgun and leave your brain shook shouting, “Gratitude Coming” across all hemispheres.
Using gratitude is one of the simplest tools you have at your disposal in battling these ailments. Whether it’s starting each day by listing five things on paper, keeping a gratitude journal, or just focusing on a tiny comfort in life like fresh socks and underwear will guarantee your first thoughts each waking morning will be full of positivity, hope, and thankfulness. With practice those peaceful moments can expand to peaceful mornings, afternoons, and beyond. Remember the practice of gratitude is just like lifting weights- the more you work at it the stronger you become. And with that strength comes a better connection to oneself and the world around it. Gratitude started me on my journey to wellness, and you best believe it is indeed part of my “code to living” till this day.
It’s just over 365 days since my last sip of the devil’s elixir. That’s one year alcohol free-it’s got me feeling like I am CM Punk. It’s funny it probably took me about eight years just for this one year to happen. The amount of time I spent in the ring boxing with the legends of depression, ptsd, anxiety, and booze earned me a PHD in getting my ass whipped. In those early fights I hadn’t learned yet not to lead with my chin-or leave my body exposed for those breath crunching kidney shots that will have you pissing a red amber color witnessed only by fisherman on nights when the sea turn angry. Over the years those rounds left me bruised, beating, and frozen with scars of failure. I couldn’t properly fight back because I had grown accustomed to the misery- that misery seemed the lesser of the two evils- the latter being honestly and truly exploring my emotions to find the root cause of my pain, and engaging in a plan of action to overcome it. I began to be more comfortable living in the misery of the terror- than in the thought of embracing the horror of what was to come. Some rounds I become so intoxicated with hate and anger I would just take an old school beating like Rocky Balboa-just to feel the pain. Other times I would come out swinging- knocking down some of these foes- but always eventually forgetting my way- and getting knocked out once again. Eventually I learned to slip a punch or two, and jab when needed. I learned I could take a punch, and punch right back- till eventually I learned my own unique fighting style and began knocking out these demons one by one.
My loyal readers will know that this blog started out as an outlet to try to find some clarity- well let’s be fucking honest- it was so I wouldn’t kill myself. I was at a point where my head was slowly convincing me that death was a good idea- and I knew if I wrote about it honestly it would be out there- a reality because it was typed. I couldn’t pretend everything was all right if the internet already knew the truth. So began my long complicated journey for mental health clarity, and I knew the only way to get there was to eliminate alcohol. It was the one x-factor that clouded all judgement- and conveniently also been my most effective and best developed coping mechanism since graduating college. Alcohol by the end only brought out the ugly in me. All my self hatred came out through vicious words and thoughtless actions. I still feel the sting of this in wondering if some friendships just became lost due to time and miles away- or did my years living in between blackouts destroy it. Those things still haunt me. Choosing alcohol over love that still haunts me. But alcohol, itself, that shit doesn’t haunt me anymore.
For I learned it never really held any power over me- rather I allowed it to be all powerful over me because it seemed the most endurable terror at the time. Luckily I found you don’t have to endure terror if you are willing to grind for mental peace instead. So grind I did, and one year later I am booze free. And now mostly demon free. Still a work in progress- but now a much less haunted one.
And thanks for all those that been reading from the start- I promise I will post more from now on.
I was lost in thought the other day- half way between meditating and thinking of new ideas- when I had this moment where I realized my life was no longer consumed by my previous PTSD/Depression. No longer did my identity revolve around the murders, or the harmful ways I attempted to address that pain. For the longest time I didn’t even realize I was living this way. PTSD and the depression that sprung forth stripped away so many things I loved. I even stopped enjoying djing for awhile. My heart wasn’t into it, and the fact that not having that love didn’t even feel off to me- looking back at those times I didn’t fathom why I no longer cared that something I loved so much I could brush aside so easily. Or why I would get soul crushing anxiety anytime I would have to play out in public. Thats the real crime of depression is it robs you from experiencing the things you love to the point you can’t even remember why they gave you joy in the first place. It was so bad that I didn’t even make a dj mix for over five years. Music become a chore- something to be endured not enjoyed. So in the past year being able to experience the joy of djing brought me all the way back to my teenage years in my basement mixing records. Having that passion rekindled in me has been beyond a blessing, and a blessing I will soon be able to share with you with a new mix in the coming weeks.
But before that glorious day my hours passed in a fog of frozen hell. I had no idea all those years later that the despair I fled in the wake of the deaths would eventually wreak so much havoc in my subconscious, and subtlety weave it’s way into my whole view of the world. It was as if I was wearing those Roddy Roddy Piper glasses in They Live- but instead of seeing aliens my eyes were clouded lenses of tragedy and fear.
Thinking back the dogma of AA prayed upon and played into those fears for many years. I was indoctrinated that I drank- not because I hadn’t properly dealt with some serious emotional pain I was suppressing- because all my pain was just resentments that the fourth step would cure with the turnarounds. For those not aware there are 12 steps in AA. The first three are basically saying you are powerless to alcohol and only god(higher power- something greater than yourself can save you from your drinking.) Alcohol is this big boogeyman in AA always in the parking lot doing push ups, and other body focused isometric exercises. Alcoholics do some terrible shit while drinking so AA professes that deep down all alcoholics are selfish and resentful at their core, and thus it’s not really your fault since you just never were were not giving a proper design for living(aka Big Book and 12 steps)before to deal with these bedevilments. So the fourth step is where you first write out all your resentments to the world- so anyone, or anything you felt has wronged you during your entire life. This is also the step where you have to to do a turnaround on said resentment- which is where you show the role you played in the resentment. For example the resentment of my brother murdering my sister, niece, and nephew was my fault because my reaction to the trauma was to drink to avoid it. Never mind the batshit logic of having to explain where your at fault for a murder is fucking nuts. Even worst AA loved when I said that. Real taking of accountability the old timers would snarl- but if you look at this beyond the surface why the fuck I am exploring such a deep and nuanced subject based on anecdotal science from a hundred years ago with a sponsor(for god bless their souls and my past ones were the best people!) whose only qualification for exploring this process with you is they themselves completed the steps. These are not licensed counselors you deal with- just normal people. So imagine the type of harm that can happen from these types of exercises even if the outright intention is not malicious. After completing the steps, sponsoring others (three of which who were in their early twenties who passed on), going to multiple meetings daily, and running a sober house I still wanted to drink. No matter how much I prayed I was still miserable. So I would drink again and then have to go back to AA and grab a newcomers white chip and start all over. And have to lie when I shared that I didn’t trust god with all my heart enough as the reason for my drinking again- not the mental anguish and toil going on from unstable brain chemistry mixed with unresolved emotional trauma. Nope just not being 100 with GOD. Or I drank because I didn’t pray hard enough, or I just didn’t want it enough- because AA is not for people who need it, it’s for people who want it. Looking back the whole process makes me want to puke.
In AA everything centers around alcohol- and the program becomes all consuming in your life where meetings serve as your new addiction. I know today I can not drink- I ruined that ability in the midst of trying to avoid my emotions. I abused this liquid escape to a point my body can no longer consume without being a total asshole that you don’t want around, who will sabotage anything good in his life. I am at peace with not drinking- plus drinking makes me fat. At my peak depression about five years ago I weighed 280 pounds-this morning I weighed in at 221(more nutrition posts to come I am into overnight oats now) But just losing the weight didn’t make me happy either. Long story short what made me happy was a long and arduous journey of self-discovery full of too many failures to count. Being able to write while feeling joy is something I feared I would never be able to experience. If I followed AA’s path I would still be stuck in that purgatory pain fog which was a living death. But as a part of my journey I am thankful for the lessons I learned along the way in AA, and the amazing people who came into my life because of it. I am not here to destroy AA- because for those it works for it is a beautiful thing. But for the others struggling today to I want them to realize there are different paths to happiness, and to keep searching to you find the right one.
All right readers I been having a bit of the old writer’s block. It’s not that I didn’t have any ideas to write about, but when I started to write the faucet I had hoped would be spewing forth tsunamis of words did not open, rather, like most middle schooler’s cameras during a zoom class, my faucet was definitely turned the fuck off.
So to engage this glacier of the mind I figured I think about what has often been the most popular content on this often malnourished of new content blog. Then it hit me: people love reading about anything promoting a healthy lifestyle, and it’s New Years so soon to be broken resolutions are in full effect. So for the past week I been getting my ITF 16-8 on! Ohh word you ain’t down win with the lingo? Well fear not for that’s why I am here to break it all down to you in it’s glory. ITF is the Poochie way of saying Intermittent Fasting- a hip now eating pattern designed to ideally make you feel better, lose weight, improve brain activity, and all that cross fit Jesus mindful commandments that are promised to you when you start praying to the kale god.
I chose the 16-8 method because I am not a sadist. This method involves eating for 8 hours and fasting for the other 16. There are other versions of fasting such as the eat-stop-eat method- where two times a week you don’t eat after dinner for 24 hours. And the 5-2 week- where two days a week you only eat 500-600 calories. But fuck those versions- we doing the 16-8!
I started this past Monday, and because I am bad at math my first two days was more of 14-10 breakdown. For two days I really thought there was only 8 hours between 11-9. Now this mistake happened because I teach individual math to two students. And these two students always make the same mistake when doing double digit subtraction of not regrouping, and just subtracting 9 from 1 as 8, when 1 is on top of 9 and thus needs help from his left side number friend to be properly subtracted. Anyway that blunder aside those days went by pretty smoothly since my lunch at work is at 11, and all I had to do was not drink my TB protein smoothie till later in the day instead of on my way to work. But alas by Wednesday I had discovered my mistake and ate my first meal at 1. Wednesday went easy- Thursday and Friday a bit of the hangry definitely arouse during the morning- had me feeling a bit on edge like a tween wearing her first pair of Vans to school, and then coming home to listen to Billie Eilish records on a turntable- all the while smugly mocking U2 for losing its edge even though they kept their guitarist. ( washed references are in full effect today.) As you can see by the now onslaught of words I am bombarding you with that by the end of weekend I awoke feeling full, and with the extra energy of the my pillow guy when he used to sleep on a pillow of crack each night. So I am going to keep it up the fasting for the next-week- see how my body reacts as I kneel at the altar of the kale god once more.
Speaking of my body this is where we talk about being washed. For being washed I use the example my man Desus put forth stating, “Being washed is a state of matter much like solid or liquid or plasma. Anything or anyone can be washed. The only known Law of the Washed Universe is that it happens to everyone.”
Embracing my washedness is a key on my journey to enlightenment. But sometimes you got to show yourself you still got it. So I found myself in race against time- aka my sixth grade student. As we turned for the homestretch of that basketball gym floor homeboy was right next to me-cue ‘Chariots of Fire’ music in the background- so I sprinted as hard as I could to barely beat him to the finish line. But washed or not I still had to prove I could still go when needed. Speaking of washed I just spent ten minutes trying to remember that Chariots of Fire was the name of that movie. A reference so old it came out a year before I was born.
So if you are wondering embrace being washed. Enjoy that gray in your beard, warm yourself with a cozy bathrobe and black tea, and come to terms that all your witty references will now go over anyone’s head who is old enough to be on the TikTok. But remember like Gucci Mane preaches continue to embrace your inner greatness and destroy all completion. If you see a sixth grader you race that student. And well- you beat that student. You embrace your inner Cobra Kai- no mercy.
Also shout out to Tom Brady for getting to the NFC finals, and proving he was an ideal choice for guidance to lead to me to a better self. And like that hunk I am drinking a lot of water. At least 16 glasses a day. It’s great. I feel hydrated as polar bear chillin under a waterfall in the Lazy River at Water Country.
The last couple posts I been talking about failure a lot, and one thing I am glad I failed at was committing suicide. I am not going to lie, I kinda half assed it. I didn’t follow any of the the Gravediggaz advice from “1-800-Suicide.”
I didn’t run to the zoo and lock myself in a lion’s den, didn’t confront an alligator and let it eat me raw, or even just hang myself with a fucking barbed wire. Nor did I even follow the plan I had thought of before. To be honest it just kinda happened- it was very passive. I just got to the point where I didn’t want to feel, and didn’t care if that meant not waking up the next day. It started with mixing Ativan and a pint of vodka. That combo proved too weak- it just left me feeling sober. My existence was still on fire- my skin a vampire in the sun. So I added a big bottle of wine to the mix. And still nothing. My brain was still firing missiles in all directions; a kamikaze bombing of my consciousness creating a maze out of doubt, fear, and self-hatred. I was blinded, lost, and just wanted out so next I found an almost full bottle of gabapentin and those easily found their way down my neck into my belly. And finally a handful of sleeping pills to blot out the rest of my existence. Then I found the peace of my bed. I laid down and enjoyed the high I was finally feeling. I had no fear left. I was weirdly at peace that maybe the next morning I wouldn’t wake up; a feeling I wish to never have ever again. The morning did come and I was grateful as hell to see that sun. You see I don’t want to die, and I sure as hell don’t want to live in a world of numbness. My brain loves to trick me into that existence, but today I fight it with the guerrilla warfare that is mindfulness. It is with ruthless aggression I fight for my existence. I am dropping nuclear bombs on the tricks my mind uses to play on me, and embracing the love that surrounds me. Today I want to fucking live, and that feels pretty damn good.
For my loyal readers sorry for the lack of writing. I am trying to clear my overloaded platter of prescription drugs and dropping them down until I can be on one or two that truly address my needs. A basic detox or prescription meds and alcohol ain’t ideal. I have felt like a kid on a backyard trampoline without that net fence. Some weeks I am jumping higher than I can imagine kissing the clouds with no worry. Then the next week I jump the clouds are too high, and fall onto the freshly mowed grass with a thud- my body imprinted into the land forever. Last night was the worst I mixed Ativan and a full bottle of wine and two beers. For some reason that was not enough to shutter out the suicidal thoughts I was having. So I decided to drown those feelings with a little less than three fourths of a bottle of gabapentin, and baker’s dozens of trazadone. And I honestly at the time wouldn’t have minded staying in a slumber forever. Luckily I awoke- still messed up a bit- but alive. I am headed to the hospital for an inpatient stay. But I will have a lot more writing coming when I get out. And most importantly if you need help for suicidal or harmful thoughts reach out!!! Reach the fuck out!!! Because I really wished I had.
Saturday my mind played one of the greatest tricks on me yet. It’s terrifying what lengths it will go to give me an excuse to drink. I was doing my morning meditation which was a focused hypnosis on clearing subconscious negativity. However, I allowed it to imprint a false so-called repressed memory to throw off my whole balance and well-being. As soon as I latched onto this awful thought it became for that moment real, and the only way to get rid of it was to drink it away. My brain was a terrorist who hijacked my common sense, and knocked down my defense system as easily as if it was a tall tower in the N.Y. skyline.
What followed was a drunken stupor of a maze of falsehoods that I tangled myself up in as if it was a comforting cloak of barbwire. Fallacy turning into fact. Hope trampled beneath granite boulders busting my spine. Leaving me paralyzed in thought with hopes there was a dagger resting on my heart. Or an ice pick to silence my brain. Luckily neither was close by.
I wonder how long I am going to stay on this path of reacting and writing versus writing then reacting. There is a big difference between knowing and understanding. Knowing means you can decipher the proper course of action for prevention. Understanding means that a course of action is in use prior to stop the maladaptive behavior before it occurs. It’s why some of the smartest people in the world can be so goddamn dumb sometimes.
This distorted logic is like seeing a chess board two steps ahead of your opponent, but moving your pieces one step behind. It’s ludicrous yet I do it; staying a pawn instead of the goddamn queen. It’s not fate because my own actions cause it to occur. My mind might be playing tricks on me, but I am supplying the ammo to make sure the shots stick. A country rube in a world full of carnies. Allowing myself to be conned every step of the way.
Monday night was brutal. I was at true lost; I finally succumbed that I had lost the ability to be truly honest with myself. I had once again invited in the poison that is the numbness of alcohol, and my brain was debating whether it was a wise choice to end it all. I woke up Tuesday angry. A righteous anger at myself for not doing enough to get myself out of this situation. Yes I suffer from severe depression, alcohol abuse, and mood swings, but I wasn’t even getting out of the corner to box it anymore. I had a game plan in place, but I was abandoning it as soon as I got hit. And when I felt good I wasn’t doing enough reps to maintain it. I was the boxer who got fat and lazy after his first championship, and didn’t train hard enough for his next defense. I don’t want momentary wins anymore- I want to put a full nelson on success. Gripping it as tight as possible as it tries to struggle out of my grasp. So to do this I have developed a stringent new routine for the summer. Simple ideas that have created success for me in the past, and a rugged routine to keep me focused and not swimming in the Dead Sea of emotions in my mind. This will be my bootcamp for the summer, and if anyone sees me slacking call me the hell out on it.
First thing I am doing is remixing the Miracle Morning(use the google machine to look it up.) Basically the premise of the book is to start each morning off with a six pack of mindful activities. So today I put this plan in action. I first woke up and immediately picked up a pen and in my journal wrote ten things I was grateful for. Gratitude lists are the foreign object I like to punch my depression in the face with. It immediately always knocks them back because it forces the power of positivity to the forefront. I feel if I start everyday with a sucker punch to negativity my brain will thank me.
Next is mediation. I used to meditate first thing in the morning in my bed, but now I lie on the floor. It changes my perspective, and signals to my brain the day is beginning. Mediation is a way to calm and workout my brain. I am trying to create new pathways to positive and productive thinking. This eventually leads to my brain’s ability to be more abstract and elastic to complex thinking of consequences and long-term rewards, rather than the monkey brain desiring immediate pleasure.
Next we get to affirmations. Those reps for achieving your goals. Self sabotage has always been an Achilles heel in my life. It stems from a combination of self loathing, fear, and loss of confidence. To counteract those bullshit voices in my head that fear success I combat them with simple phrases that push forward my goals in life, and mental health. It’s definitely corny as hell, but truly effective. Sometimes I just need to remind myself that I love myself, I will write my book, and I will fight forever.
After that we get good ol’ fashioned prayer. Now prayer to me has nothing to do with organized religion, but rather setting out intentions into the big blue sky above me asking for help, and promising to take that aid and use it to assist others in need. By praying it makes these desires and intentions real to my world. For this I humble myself on my knees each day, and ask simply to become a better human being.
Now we get active with some exercise. That way we get the dopamine up and running before we start our day. That little boost is the coffee my body needs. Today I did some push-ups, and tomorrow will be a quick ten minute yoga session with my home girl Adrienne. I like doing ten minutes because it gets a little kick of adrenaline in, and it’s just a warm up for the exercise I will be doing later today.
And finally I make the bed, and read. Making the bed is always important because it gives you a sense of accomplishment that is simple and easy to do. It corrects one potential messy thing in order to kickstart your day to accomplish overcoming the obstacles that will face you in your day ahead. Reading comes at the end as a quick way to wind down and get focused for the day. I like reading at the end as a way to bookend my last activity of the night of reading before I zoom to the slumber of the stars.
Boom the first hour of my day is complete, and I already feel energized and ready to go. A half hour later from 9-12 I am in IOP connecting, sharing, and empathizing with others; all why reviewing and building up my skills of combat against negative and destructive thinking. Then I take an hour to decompress and eat lunch.
From there I will dedicate 1-3 daily to write whether I want to or not. This post itself is being written during that time. I been searching for what the fuck purpose do I have right now, and decided that all signs lead to writing a book so I am going to put the bullshit aside and go with it. I think the fear has always been in the way, and feeling pretentious for saying that’s what I am working on, or is my goal in life. But fuck that I am a damn good writer with a story to tell, and I might as well go all in while I have the time. And this ain’t going to be no self-published vanity book either because I am shooting for whatever fictional planet Space Jam was on.
From 4-6 will be my exercise time- get my Keith Sweat on. That way I can be as much as hunk as he was to the ladies.
Exercise also comes with my lifestyle of good food choices cause you are going to need both for success. Around 7 or 8 I will have my accountability call with a friend. It’s a way for myself to stay accountable, honest, connect with a human, and learn to reach out early before it’s too late. And finally before slumber I get to educate my eye lids with some words in a book.
So my loyal readers if you are wondering what I am doing all day now you know. A bootcamp for my non-disciplined, lazy ass to finally get back into fighting shape. After awhile you just get sick of being knocked down all the time, and you realize instead of complaining or drowning in excuses you just need to punch that motherfucker right back in the mouth knowing both sides are going to bleed, but that you damn sure know you ain’t going to end up on your back anymore.
Today I am going to let go of the self-hatred that consumes and binds to my existence. Instead of focusing on the atrocious abyss albatross hanging from my soul; a necklace designed as ghouls forever on a cursed pirate ship that will never find gold. I will search rather for the beauty deep within the hallows of my bones. Celebrate my successes and not my woes. Applaud my empathy not the sorrow I once behold. Clutching as tightly to the joy as I once did the darkness that wanted my extinguished existence. Turn my thinking into an oasis where fear becomes my tool for a challenge. Embracing failure as the fuel for my ability for perseverance . While enduring the pain for that is the only way to grow. Knowing in the end self-hatred is just a signal for much needed change in this man’s existence.
Chapter 6 – What’s An Adjective- an excerpt from my novel from 2008 discussing race, white privilege, and being a white lover of rap music since birth. A man who grew up surrounded by whiteness, trying to write about race. I just tried to be honest- please let me know where I failed.
Like Eggers’ before me I can guarantee to you that when I see a young black man holding a baby I will smile. I tell you this for a few reasons. First so you like me. I really need you to like me so I can be completely honest with you readers. I mean, sure, I am full of anger and prone to drunken bouts of pure asshole, but for the most part I am a good guy. In fact I am pretty color-blind as well. Well, not the bullshit liberal sense of not being able to see color, which in itself is racist as fuck and puts a blind eye to the challenges people of color endure, but in the sense of not basing judgements based off of it.
But I am not going to lie because I make judgments of people every day based on their appearance. It’s why we use adjectives. Us writers love them because they not only put things into cute categories; but they are also a good for use with people. That’s why when I was asked by a black man named D, “What’s an adjective?” It struck me as this could be the beginning of a story. Actually I did not think that at all but we can pretend that right? So let us start over with a story about an adjective. And you are probably wondering the time frame of this is and well we are in spring 2007 now.
This adjective question would be asked by D, a musician from the Marcy Ave Projects, whom I had just met outside a bodega where I had purchased a 40-ounce beer for seven dollars. I would have haggled over the price, but the place had the feel of a storefront where they move drugs, and well, I didn’t need an ass whooping over a couple bucks and I was thirsty after all. (Side note look at my subtle racism believing a bodega was a drug front.) I was at this bodega because my girlfriend Tiffany and I had got off on the wrong subway stop in our search to see the Bonde Do Role show in Brooklyn. Outside of the store we asked a black dude if he knew where Studio B was and he tried to direct us into the Marcy Ave. Projects a couple blocks down. D, who overheard this, jumped in the conversation.
“Yo, you’re saying there is a new club in the projects? I have to see this.”
Now I was talking to, and smiling at two black men, neither of which held babies. D was holding a Styrofoam cup with beer in it, and when he noticed my own brown paper bag gave me a pound.
“Ha-ha, my man knows the deal, brown paper bag and everything.”
After some discussion we figured out the club was not in the projects, but rather toward Williamsburg, and the hipster section of the borough.
D, with no other plans for the night, decided to tag along with us and thus became our tour guide. As we walked the city the landscape transformed. The cleanest projects in the land according to D vanished, “I mean we don’t have any shit or piss in the hallways, or anything like that,” The bodegas had instead been replaced by a Parisian style cafe filled with white faces enjoying wine and large meals.
“So where you two from?” D asked.
”Right outside Boston in Manchester, NH. Tiff is from New Jersey, but we both live in Boston now.”
”Manchester? I have a bunch of boys who moved out there and love it. They were saying it’s cheap as hell, and you don’t have to worry all the time. Around here you want to act tough, you have to be on guard, because people will test you on that and if you’re fronting they will fuck you up. But I am done with all that bullshit. I used to slang, and what not, but now I just concentrate on music. I am bringing rock straight out the projects with my band.”
”You’re in a band?”
”Yeah, I play guitar, rap, and sing. I mean, I never been trained to play the guitar or anything like that, but I picked it up on my own from listening to the radio. The only problem is my band never wants to practice and really get down to work. They just want to get high and jam out, and never want to put in work on songs with hooks and shit like that. I mean no rock band has really came from the projects, and that’s a gimmick we can use to get noticed.”
So, here I am walking the streets of Brooklyn with my girlfriend and a black dude from the projects. I am drinking a 40, and D has some sort of drank in his cup, and we are talking about rock music on the way to a show from a group from Brazil that does their take on booty music.
Only in America.
Now here is the important adjective question that D will ask.
“Yo, do either of you know what exactly is an adjective? Is it like an adverb or something?”
”Nah, man it’s just a word used to describe something else. Like that car over there is red. Red is the adjective because it describes what the car looks like,” I said.
”All right, I get it, but yo, that’s kind of messed up. Why don’t they just call it what it is, like a describing word, or some shit then, instead of confusing people and calling it something weird like an adjective?”
I never thought of like that, but D had because he knew he had to look at all the angles if he wanted to get out of his situation he was in. He knew that he needed to use whatever advantages he had going for him. If this advantage was the stereotype that black guys from the projects were not supposed to make rock music then why the hell shouldn’t he use that novelty to get him in the door? He made this even clearer when I told him I booked bands back home.
”You should have me come play a show, and you can promote the fact I am a black guy from projects playing guitar in New Hampshire. Hell I don’t care how you want to use me just as long as I can get some money out of it. We both can get paid, you feel me?” D said and then laughed and gave me a pound.
”You know I am right because ain’t nobody doing what I am doing yet.”
As we passed the cafe we came up to an art show flushed with skinny faces wearing angular haircuts, skintight t-shirts, and jeans that seemed to be painted on. Each outfit was put together with meticulous care to ensure the image portrayed would actually show how little they cared about how they were dressed. It was absurd, and they used this seeming aloof nature in order to hide their own vanity. Because the only thing worse than not being hip was to admit that you actually cared about being hip.
Of course I was also dressed hip; but I was hip just cause I was a naturally fly motherfucker, and I knew by rocking a Big L t-shirt, a dead rapper who is adored and loved in some circles more than 2Pac himself, yet unknown by many of the kids in skinny jeans, would prove just how much hipper I was than everyone else. But it’s not like I cared about anything like that, or would even think about what my t-shirt would represent to others. Hell, let’s just say it was the only clean one I had, so I can continue this story with disdain for those who care how they look but pretend they don’t.
”How the hell do you white people wear jeans so tight? You’re nuts must not have any room to breathe.”
”I don’t get it either. White folks are strange,” I said.
It was funny as I interacted with D we were able to bond over the fact that we didn’t pretend the notion of race didn’t exist, and instead embraced and made fun of it. I was a white boy from New Hampshire, and he was black kid from the projects, and we understood it was a strange relationship but also one that we could use to our advantage. It was like the Dave Chappelle routine where he tells the audience, “Every group of black dudes should least one white guy in it for safety. I am serious, because when the cops come around, someone has to talk to the police, and that’s when that white friend Ernie comes in handy.”
From the art crowd we were able to find a threesome of hipsters who knew where Studio B was, and even happened to be headed in that direction. We followed them as my girlfriend chatted up front with the two girls, while I lurked in the back with D and cracked jokes about how the one guy with them was probably nervous that we were going to try to jump him, and steal the bicycle he walked with.
They led us to the club and we stood in line and waited to get in as D told us his theory on why rock music wasn’t as good as it used to be.
”Man, nobody writes with metaphors and shit any more. I want to be able to think about a song and what the singer is trying to say. All these new bands just come out and say it. I get it you are angry, but find some other way to say that shit other than ‘I am so angry. That’s why I love Nirvana and Kurt Cobain. Think about it-when he was talking about Polly wanting a cracker you had to think about it? And you knew he sure as hell wasn’t talking about a pet parrot of his.”
”He wasn’t?” I said with a grin.
”Ahh, fuck you, man, but you get what I am saying though. That’s why I don’t listen to any of that new shit.”
”What do you listen to then?”
”Shit from the same time as Nirvana, you know, like Stone Temple Pilots, Green Day, and Tool. The good shit.”
I cringed at the last three bands he mentioned. First because I am an asshole when it comes to music, and those bands to me represent all the shitty people from my hometown that hated rap, and still listened to hair bands without shame. Well, not Nirvana, I liked Nirvana, but those other bands sucked. But then I realized he had probably never been exposed to any rock other than what was played on the radio (and of course I assumed this because it was an easy assumption, because black people from the projects could not ever want to listen to rock, and yes, I am that dumb sometimes). Cobain to me was a voice for mostly bored and jaded middle-class white kids, and it was odd that he had been able to penetrate into D’s world and impact him much in the same way. And then I cringed at my own thought and realized that growing up I had rejected those bands, and instead listened to rap music which impacted and spoke to me in a way rock never could. Growing up I had always hated when people would ask me why I listened to black music; instead of white music like rock. Even worse were those who had no idea about what rap music was, and would dismiss it as not music because they didn’t play instruments, or even worse as nothing more than just “niggers talking.”
The line crawled forward and D bounced around with nervous energy.
”So who exactly is playing tonight?” D asked.
“It’s a Mad Decent show with Diplo, Bonde Do Role, and Blaqstarr. Diplo is this dope ass dj and Mad Decent is his label. Bonde Do Role is this Brazilian group that does favela funk, which in English basically means ghetto funk, or booty music. They are like 2 Live Crew and raunchy as hell and use beats that sample everything from Alice in Chains to that ‘Final Countdown’ song from the ‘80’s. And Blaqstarr is from Baltimore and does b-more club which is like a cross between house and rap music. It will be a real hype show. “
”I am guessing it will be if y’all came all the way out for it.”
”Yeah, plus my man Chris Lemon-Red works for Mad Decent, and I used to dj with him before he moved here.”
”Then why we standing here in line? Go talk to your man and get us in.”
”Nah, waiting builds character.”
”Fuck character, I just want to get in there get me a drink, and start dancing with one of these fine white girls,” D said with a laugh.
As we headed to the front, D seemed worried when he finds out there is $12 cover to get in.
“I don’t think I can afford this. My budget is kind of tight.”
”Fuck it, you helped us find the place, so I’ll take care of it as a way to say thanks.”
After I paid I couldn’t help but think of William Baldwin’s Another Country, and the relationship between the black musician Rufus, and his white friend Vivaldo. Rufus always despised it when Vivaldo would try to help him, and would interpret this as not a simple act of kindness between friends, but rather, a paternal nature that made him think Vivaldo was doing this so he could feel good about helping out the poor black man who would be so helpless without him. Which left me wondering, would I have paid for D had he been a white guy instead? And I realized then, had he been a poor white guy from the projects, I would have been less likely to trust him at all, and even less likely to pay to get him into the club.
But I soon forgot all those worries as the music rained down, and the bass cleansed me free. The dance floor was a Where’s-Waldo picture of gangly white flesh, and then in the whitewash a black face, D, fearless and with no shame, could be found walking up to any girl on the dance floor.
I saw Lemon-Red at the merchandize booth and headed over to say what’s up. He was surprised I had made it out the show, and then introduced me to Diplo.
”New Hampshire, huh,” Diplo said, “That’s the, ummm, shit. I know nothing about New Hampshire at all. “
”Don’t worry, most people don’t.”
I told Lemon Red I would catch up with him later and went back to find Tiffany and D. Tiffany asked me if that was Diplo, and I told her yeah.
”He is not as cute as he was in the pictures I saw of him, but then again he was doing Zoolander poses in those.” She then left to take more pictures of the folks at the party for a project for a class she was basing on the NYC club scene. Most of the people she took pictures of had no problem mugging for the camera with their practiced look of disinterest.
Over the course of the night we lost D, and the next day I would find out from a message he left on my cell phone, where he first apologized for bouncing without saying goodbye, and that he had drank too much and needed to leave before he acted a fool and got himself in trouble.
By 4 am the show was over. Tiffany and I left the club and grabbed a couple slices of pizza, and then headed for the subway. Our subway car was pretty much empty except for us, two girls coming back from the club, and a passed-out black man. As we rode through the tunnels of a sleeping city I noticed the girls were snapping pictures of the passed out man and laughing. To them this man was nothing but someone to mock so they could laugh when they showed the pictures to their friends, and put them up on their MySpace and Facebook pages. As we rode they grew bolder and posed with him, mean-mugging and crossing their arms, as if in modern black face; Amos and Andy would have been proud.
And then I went home and instead of using pictures of me smiling with the black man, I wrote a story where the whole world could see just how much more enlightened I am by my thoughts of race, and how I would never exploit it for someone else’s entertainment, and that I was so much better than those girls at the end who took pictures with the sleeping man. But you, reader, you know better than that. And you are probably thinking of a few adjectives you can call me, and I would agree.
But I think D was right in the end-let’s stop hiding behind vague descriptions, and just say it how it is from now on. But then again wouldn’t that mean Polly really just wanted a cracker? I am all confused now. How about you just take whatever you want out of this story, and hopefully you were entertained, because this was just an interlude in tragedy, a chance to make you laugh for a moment, and hopefully help you understand the narrator outside the context of dealing with tragedy.
I am a human you know, which I think is an adjective for person. Plus, as a young kid, I grew up wishing D’s life was mine, while never realizing he probably grew up wishing he had my life. And in the end, regardless of the bullshit, I can’t blame him. But I do thank him for making me realize the true meaning of adjectives.
Reflecting on what I wrote over 12 years ago I am not mad overall. I rejoice in the reality I was able to recognize my white privilege and not be a slave to it either. What I feel I failed on was my silence. At the end of this story I mocked and judged those white girls for their actions, and took a bullshit moral high ground. It was my unique privilege as a white male to feel superior without having to act. My silence to their acts made me complicit. I too was mocking this man by staying silent and judging those who mocked him. By letting it happen I was just like a cop who lets his partner stand on the neck of a man who can’t breathe. I know I personally need to get better. And I will continue to strive for that. In the meantime I won’t hesitate to call out bullshit behavior- it’s the subtle racism that is prevalent where I am from. When you don’t have to deal with black men in your daily life it’s funny how easily racism pervades. When you can’t be checked for saying the n word in a rap song you won’t be surprised how many white folks say it. I was taught at an early age by Wu Tang to always say nuh instead of that word. It was ideal because it always reminded me I had no reason to utter that world-it was never my right and thus nuh right in saying it. Radio edit for the win.