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Despite the Economy

Happy Friday!!! It's been a great couple of weeks despite the economic death spiral (as John Stewart described the current state of affairs on last night's Daily Show). A lot has happened on the national front and I'm getting quite a few things moving on the personal front. So I celebrate this with a picture of my daughter's idol, Dora The Explorer, saying one of her favorite words, "Vaminos!"--- Let's go!

Today, I'm spending the morning in Wisconsin to attend my uncle's funeral. Then from here I'll head down to Chicago to spend the weekend with the folks and hopefully catch up with some cousins. I wish all of you a Happy Friday and a great weekend.

Thanks for the love you give MakesMeWannaHoller.com. I'll catch up with you next week.


Date Night With The Wife

Last Friday, I decided to take the wife out for dinner without any prompting from her. She's been under a lot of stress at work lately. But do I really need a reason (should I have to have a reason) to do something special for my wife?

I took care of everything --- set my son up for the night with a few of his friends and got our babysitter to spend the night to look after babygirl. My wife told me earlier in the week, "I wanna see a grown up movie...a movie my son can't see and doesn't want to see."

"There's Notorious?" I suggested, joking.

To which she gave me that, "Are you kidding me?" look.

We agreed to see Slumdog Millionaire and in keeping the theme of the evening the same, I suggested Indian for dinner.

This is where things went south.

Our favorite Indian restaurant is located in a little enclave of restaurants off Fort Washington up near Fort Tryon Park in Manhattan. But based on the movie times, we wouldn't be able to eat there. So we opted for a local spot she discovered about month into our marriage. We went there once. She had a great time. I left the restaurant with the shakes and about a half-mile away wound up projectile vomiting all over the dashboard of my truck while driving. To this day I don't believe my vehicle has ever gotten over this traumatic event.

I threw up because I have a peanut allergy and allergies to every other nut on Earth. We think that something she ate did it to me, as we make a practice of sampling one another's foods. Not willing to make the same mistake twice she asked the waiter, the hostess and the owner several questions and she told me with fork in hand and pointed my way, "You're not ruining my date. I'm going to see my movie!"

I had no intention of ruining anything.

I began the evening with some delicious Naan bread with pieces of lamb baked into it. And I should've stopped there because as soon as I bit down into my entree that feeling came over me. The Mr. Hyde transformation that comes over me when I eat something with nuts in it as Dr. Jekyll.

My wife took one look at me and knew. But I insisted I was fine. I drank some water, took a deep breath and cleared my tightening throat. A few more minutes of feeling my breath becoming more labored and my eyes swelling and I was done. I excused myself from the table, calmly walked to the men's room, found a nice quiet stall and shoved my index and middle fingers as far down my throat as possible.

In the time it takes a man to pee, I returned to the table all smiles and told my wife, "Let's go. We're gonna be late for the movie."

"You sure you're alright?"

"Yeah," I said, shrugging my shoulders. "I'm good."

"Your eyes are blood red, liar," she said with a smile. "You're on a model's diet, huh?"

All I would say is that the sewer system got some good-ass lamb bread. My wife laughed, she packed up all the food as her leftovers and I wished I had just stuck with my appetizer which had me full anyway. The restaurant had no explanation, given that they were aware of my "condition" and fully catered to it. But I am allergic to coconut too. We did forget to mention that and coconut milk is a common ingredient in Indian rice dishes.

Slumdog Millionaire was excellent and I do hope it wins an Oscar. It definitely deserves one. I was riveted for the entire 122 minutes. We went home happy. So I give our first date night of the year a four out of five stars.

Conversation: Great

Appetizers: Great

Movie: Excellent

Throwing up all my food in the bathroom of the restaurant: Not So Great

Knowing my wife had a nice night out: Worth every minute of the rest of it.

Are You Equally Yoked?

Over the past couple of weeks I, along with my blogging buddy, Brookey, have been talking relationships, Black Love and so on. As I live with a woman myself, my wife, I'm forced to have daily intense interactions with another person --- for better or worse, and reflect on them.

What does it take to love a black woman? Do black men deserve to be loved? Are Barack & Michelle the quintessential of black love, and so on. At the center of these questions is the question of love. Love period. Color, class or creed be damned.

For all of us love takes different forms, as it lies in the eye of the beholder. And trust me, as a semi-hopeless romantic, it is very easy to fall in love. The problem is being "in love" in that spontaneous, uncontrollable way passes very quickly. Prior to my wife, none of my relationships worked because I simply wasn't interested after that "in love" feeling passed and was emotionally incapable of making love work. Plus, when I wasn't walking away, I was getting dissed and cheated on (probably because many of my relationships began with me helping them cheat on someone else), so I didn't get the chance to find out what my emotional stamina was even when I did want to stick around.

But what about that spiritual component? Yes, I'm going there. I've watched so many friends get divorced and I've even found myself a bit bewildered in the midst of arguments I have with my wife. Would these things happen to the degree that they do if everyone...if I, were equally yoked?

I believe they would, but maybe not with the intensity that they do.

The terminology being equally yoked is specific to the Christian faith, but I'm sure most religious beliefs have some passage or clause that warns about becoming one with someone who doesn't share your beliefs. On its face it can be a source of strife. No different than a boss who has a staff who doesn't share his/her goals. No matter how hard you try, you'll always go in different directions.

I'm sorry to say that when I've specifically heard the term, "being equally yoked" it's usually coming from a friend who's lamenting that some woman he's dating who's a born-again Christian with 3 kids by 4 different men is telling him he's going to Hell for not going to church with her. Clearly this is wrong and does more to chase people away from Christianity than embrace it.

But what about being equally yoked? If, by your faith, it's easy to forgive, easy to move with the ebb and flow of life, you try to keep love at the forefront of your thoughts, you chose to stay away from things that poison your mind, you don't gossip or you're just very thankful. What if the person you're with is on their own program? They act out of their own strength, they are easily angered, they always find some reason not to trust or believe in anything or anyone, or they seem lost in this life. Not can't-find-a-job lost, but just LOST, hopping around life making a mess of theirs and anyone's they come into contact with.

My twist on this is that you can be equally yoked and not necessarily be of the same faith or same devoutness. I don't believe God is this rigid and if this were the case then like peoples would only marry each other (making for a very dull planet). But I do believe you have to be on the same page with your partner. Being on the same page opens the door to understanding one another and encourages the pursuit of that understanding if it doesn't exist from the very beginning. The one thing I will say in support of being equally yoked: when two are equally yoked it is slightly easier to discern one's actions from oneself. So when things do go wrong you're fighting the wrong and not each other. The Bible says, "Hate the sin, not the sinner."

So are you equally yoked with your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/partner? Are you not? Do you feel you have to be? Does it even matter? Does your love (or like) work? Could it be stronger? Whatever your pleasure, please share with in a Holler Back.


How To Use MakesMeWannaHoller.com

This is the first month my hits have exceeded a thousand and my page views are barreling quickly to two thousand. This is a small number considering the hits that most blogs get, but given my specific subject matter: being an African American dad and husband and other random thoughts and given I'm not showcasing buffoonery on a daily basis and given the fact that the blog is barely a year old yet (it will be next month), I'm definitely pleased with these results.

But I'd be lying if I said I didn't think I could do better or I didn't want to do better.

If you happen to be a casual visitor to MakesMeWannaHoller.com, and you're not a commitment-phobe why don't you make your commitment to my ramblings official? There's a variety of ways you can do this. You can:

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Otherwise, happy humpday. If you're in New York, stay dry. It's a snowy and wet one out there.

Thanks for the love, so far. Peace.


They're Joking, Right?

I originally saw this madness on Latinegro's blog. Please, just click play.

They aren't joking at all. In fact, if you don't believe it's showing at Sundance this year, click here.

I love Blaxploitation flicks and completely understand the era from whence they came. But why?! Why now?!

(Huge sigh.)

I know I'm going to go see it. But I may have to sneak out of the house to do it.

My Favorite Things

I love water and I love parks (old parks with character, that is). Fort Tryon Park, a.k.a. The Cloisters, in Upper Manhattan provides the best of both worlds with amazing terraced parkland and an incredible view of the Hudson River. As a side note, all the Law & Order franchises love to shoot up there.

I've contemplated many things staring out onto the Hudson from Fort Tryon's vantage points. I've held hands with my wife there, taken my little dachshund on long walks (begrudgingly because he's easily distracted), played catch and Frisbee with my son, and this past summer shared an ice cream cone and played "kickety-kick ball" there with my daughter.

At the beginning of the month I had a photo shoot and needed a location. What better place than one of my favorite places in Manhattan? The good people over at Judith Filgueiras Weinberg Photography took care of me that day. Below are some of my favorite shots from the shoot. I figured I'd post these to show a man can and should have a few positive escapes. And if you're stuck at your desk as you look at these pics and regret being there, then try to get out more.



Franklin Delano Payne: 1934-2009

A High School Yearbook Pic

This past Saturday my mother sent me a text message notifying me that my Uncle Frank was admitted to the ICU at some hospital in Racine, Wisconsin and that she'd give me details later. When I spoke to her later, she told me he wasn't doing well, but for some strange reason couldn't tell me what was wrong with him. But my mother can't give me any amount of information when I ask for it so I wasn't too surprised. Despite his prognosis, whatever that was, she prayed over him and remained optimistic. And so did I.

My father, ever the stoic, didn't share my mother's optimism.

The next morning my mother called me in as chipper a voice as she could manage then told me Uncle Frank (Franklin Delano Payne - named after the President) passed away at 3 a.m. in the morning after succumbing to colon cancer. I can't say we had a relationship and as what often occurs upon the death of a distant loved one, I was quiet for most of the day regretting that we did not. He was younger than my own father by one year (my father was long in the tooth before having me), and leaves behind a wife and three daughters. He was one of my father's six brothers and two sisters. Now, only four brothers remain.

I'm very proud of both sides of my family, but I am particularly proud of my father's side. Products of Mississippi (I can say the "M-I-crook'd letter, crook'd letter I...." thing really fast --- you have to be REAL country to know this, let alone say it without pausing or blinking).

Dating back to the mid-1800s, there hasn't been a single head of household on my father's side who was not a landowner. The earliest record I could find on Ancestry.com to substantiate this was my great grandmother --- a woman who was born in 1852 and died in 1968.

Yeah...they stick around on my father's side.

Growing up in Chicago, I would visit my own grandmother in Wisconsin every summer. Only in my college years did I realize she owned the entire corner of the street where she lived. Retired from a career spent cleaning white folks' homes, once a month she would go door to door to the two other homes on her plot, collect checks and come back home to watch the soaps. Talk about gangsta? That was real gangster. Or rather, true entrepreneurship understood long before it was en vogue to package it in classes, books, tapes and CDs.

Economy be damned, this year will be the year I own land. I've owned a co-op but a co-op is merely four walls inside a building you share with many. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just not what I want. For the sake of my own family and to continue in the tradition of my own lineage I will have a homestead.

I take solace in the fact that Uncle Frank was a witness to history last week. Many that have come before him were not, at least not in physical form (for those of us who believe in an afterlife). I appreciate him. I honor him. I salute him.



Happy Friday: The Close of ObamaWeek

This amazing week is finally coming to a close. Usually the days fly by for me, but each day has been different and unique during this special week of January 2009. One of the fantastic things about personal blogging is you can look back over time and literally read about your own growth and development. By clicking my Barack Obama tag you can see my evolution from mild skeptic to true believer.

Yesterday I broke down watching the above video of President Obama addressing the State Department (I spared you the whole 11+ minutes with the above clip). Watching him there talking, saying nothing other than what he was supposed to say (but oh, so eloquently) as the President of the United States just made ALL OF THIS so very real.

And there's no turning back now.

"Forwards ever, backwards never," as the saying goes in my fraternity.

Happy Friday, y'all. What a wonderful week.

PS - Check out Brookey's Blogspot. Today, I'm blogging about President Barack Obama's charge to all of us.


Bush Has Hurts & Feelings

On Tuesday night at MTV's Youth Inaugural Ball Kanye West made some comments about Bush.

What I managed to take from this showcase of jumbled thoughts is that Kanye suddenly realized that Bush, despite himself, was a human being. Following on the general emotive train he's been on since his new album dropped, Mr. West seemed to genuinely lament that this man did not do more or didn't do enough to secure a positive legacy as the now previous most powerful man in the world.

But just to showcase how human "W" was please view below:

I nearly fall out of my seat every time I see this.


PS - What's up with dude's shag?


A Great Day In Harlem

There were several mistakes I readily admit regarding my uselessness role in the Obama candidacy for President:

  • When asked several times by several people to get involved - people who are aware of my qualifications and ability to organize and mobilize, I didn't. I had my reasons back in 2007 that reached all the way into the middle of 2008. But I can't tell right now what they were. Not even if I tried hard. Translation: I had no excuse. Who knows what doors I could have opened by building relationships with people from all over this nation (or at least the state of New York)? Now, I'll never know. Or rather, I'll have to wait until a similar opportunity comes around. If it comes around.
  • On the night of his historic election, my wife and I began planning how to get involved; how to get down to D.C. to be a witness to history. Fast forward to last week when nearly everyone we know began their exodus from New York to D.C. we sat by in a morass of indecision and inaction rooted in the fact that the Inauguration on it's face didn't seem very kid-friendly (at least not in the baby department). I'm sure had we tried hard enough we could've found a way around this and several other minor bumps in our quest to be an eyewitness to history. But we did not. We settled for nothing.
Stewing in a funk of my own creation I lamented over this debacle I brought on myself and decided that somehow, no matter what, I was not going to sit on a couch by myself watching a television on Inauguration Day. I set my Facebook status offering (begging) to connect with friends. I sent a text message out to as many people as I could to see if they'd be willing to indulge in a day of history and camaraderie.

To spare you the responses I got, everyone said no. As I struggled with the reality that I was going to spend yet another momentous occasion alone, I began to think of my family. I didn't want my son sitting up in a classroom with a teacher I really don't know explaining to him what was going on. I not only wanted him to be amongst people who represent the spectrum of ethnicities that represent America, but I really wanted him to be around men that look like his father and himself. I wanted him to see and feel the power of that collective body en masse as I have at various points in my own life.

My wife was convinced our daughter would be oblivious, and besides, she contended, it was too cold. Our daughter has been calling Obama's name since before we ever mentioned it to her. She runs to his picture on the television and recognizes his voice on the radio. As we were discussing it babygirl screamed, "Pres-dent Barrack OOhbama!" There was no way I wasn't taking her with me.

So with no real plan, I kept my son home from school and my daughter home from daycare and headed down to Harlem. I was intent on experiencing something.

I landed on 125th Street at 11:30 in the morning with my daughter riding piggyback and joined the crowd at the State Building on Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard.

We remained here until President Barack Hussein Obama (#44) was sworn in.

The next stop was Amy Ruth's, a few blocks away, for some soul food. I met up with friends and their family. My baby --- after being angelic at the swearing in --- decided to go through personality 1 - 13 at the table. But I was happy to see my too-cool son being social.

Our last stop on this historic day was the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. All six of us and my daughter, now asleep after her wild lunch, walked the exhibition hall looking at a collection a great photos covering the President's historic run from the time that he announced his candidacy, through to November 4, 2008.

By night's end my children and I enjoyed a great day in Harlem soaking up the history of this Presidential Inauguration and the culture of the community. I repeatedly told my children I loved them. My daughter told me she loved me back. My son just looked at me. But that's okay. I did the same thing when I was his age.

My one regret was not being able to share the day with my wife, especially since I had our kids with me. She had to work and couldn't get uptown in time to meet me. I tried to meet her after work and that didn't go well either, so apparently it wasn't meant to be. I visited my mother-in-law, since I couldn't visit my own in Chicago, hugged and kissed her, watched some of the parade, and chatted with her briefly about the future before heading home.

At the end of the night, my daughter, pigtails fried and frazzled after a day out with daddy, summed it up best (without too much coaching) on my grainy, awful webcam:

Enough said.


Happy MLK Day!

If you're on Twitter or Facebook, it would seem as if the entire nation is in D.C. right now. But for those of us who aren't there, today is a day off from work. It's a great day to clean up the house, watch your favorite DVDs, shovel snow, watch CNN (for what's going on in D.C.), go to the mall for one of those infuriating MLK sales that just can't be beat or just simply be a bum.

But seriously, on the day that is national recognized as the King Holiday and on the eve of one of the most significant Inaugurations in history and clearly the most exciting one in decades, President-Elect Obama has asked that renew our nation, by making "enduring commitments to our neighborhoods" through service. This is something that is very close to my heart that began for me when I was a little boy attending a little Methodist Church in Chicago.

To sweeten the deal, President-Elect Obama's taken most of the guesswork out of his challenge by launching: USAService.org. Here you can find where, when and and how to donate your time, talents, goods and sweat-equity. Or you can host an event yourself. I love it!

Check it out: USAService.org



Happy Friday!

At 4 o'clock?! Yeah, I've been real busy today and blew my normal blogging window. So instead of talking up all the stuff I had planned, I'm going to keep it simple.

I've met a new friend in cyberspace and she's got a really great blog. When I first stumbled upon it, I said to myself, "Another, random blog." Of course I can say this now because I'm no longer random like I used to be in the past I am A DADDY/HUBBY BLOGGER!


But after taking the time to read Brookey's Blogspot I discovered it's a really cool spot to read and share. When I read it I feel like I should be in a lounge somewhere chillin' with a drink. I'm not exactly sure why. Maybe it's because she has the kinds of discussions I'd probably have with a woman or group were I to strike up a conversation at a lounge. Maybe I just need to go out more. I don't really think she's going for this effect, but it's definitely working. She covers everything from relationships to the current NFL rivalries.

She's cool. Check her out...Brookey's Blogspot.


Black Male Misunderstood?

This will be the third day in a row I've written about race and relationships. For a blog that has at its essence self-deprecating humor, I haven't really been any fun this week. And this may be more serious than most stuff I've posted, period.

I've been celebrating the sistas for the past couple days, but now I'm going to throw the ball back into my own court.

I blog about being a dad and a husband and a dude living in New York City trying to keep my wits about me when it seems as if everyone around me is losing theirs (Invictus, y'all). There's absolutely nothing special about this and I shouldn't be celebrated for it. It's my job and the role I must maintain based on the choices I've made. I'm just a regular guy. But there are many days when I wish I had the abilities of the comic book heroes I've grown up on. There are days when I wish I was merely more than I am. I have goals of being well-off/rich and maybe famous, but as a pastor of mine once stated, in order to be great one must come to serve many --- McDonald's is a perfect example of this. And because this passion hasn't yet collided with my reality, I find myself in a bit of a quandary on a daily basis.

I know when my parents had me it was because they wanted a child. Because of their faith they wanted this child to be a gift from God, but a gift unto Him as well, and the world. They filled me with as much as they could for the eighteen years I was with them before I high-tailed it off to college on the East Coast, never to return home. I struggle with being away from home. Especially when I read or watch the news about everybody and their mother getting murdered in Chi-Town. But I also shake my head that the state is currently being run by a crazy man named Blagojevich. Additionally, I struggle with the reality that I am me, not happy with what the world dishes out, sometimes introspective and sensitive to a fault, constantly in pursuit of more than what I can see with my eyes, rarely satisfied, tough to please and often wondering: why was I put on this earth to be these particular people's son, and these other people's father and this other person's husband? What is my role in the bigger scheme of things? Do I even have a role in them?

Over the past several years and especially since getting married, the friends I once called friends are few and far between. Some are busy with their own lives, some have fallen by the wayside and I owe them phone calls, the rest I've kicked the hell out of my life.

I'm a father to a thirteen year old boy and as of today a three year old girl. I strive to do right by them and am tortured with guilt when I feel that I'm falling short of this. This includes everything from picking a kid up late to being impatient with them when I know patience is what they need.

As soon as I leave my house I'm faced with the world, one that doesn't understand me and often attempts to size me up because of my permanent tan. Sometimes on the train, white women look at me as if I want to rob and brutalize them, no matter how well I'm dressed (and how much I'm ignoring them). Many white men for the most part don't even acknowledge my presence unless they slam into me while walking, and are taken aback that my body didn't give when they sought to barge through the space containing me.

In the work place I'm an anomaly. I went to Cornell for my Bachelor's degree and I got my Master's Degree by the age of twenty-three. Because both my parents are educators (mom - public elementary school, dad - med school) being able to put a sentence together both orally and written was an unspoken must. I see the eyes around me widen when I include ten-dollar words in three dollar sentences. I pick up on the palpable shock and occasional disdain that comes from my boss when I question her. Although it's the very strange to me, considering that one of the reasons I was supposedly hired was to bring new ideas to the table.

Starting with the beginning of my day and continuing almost to its end, being misunderstood is about as everyday to me as the sun rising and setting. And I do believe that this is many African American men's dilemma. How do you fit in when you don't fit in? How do you get people to believe in you when they are too busy trying to categorize you or they just straight up fear or dismiss you?

In my mind this is what I see when I look in the mirror:

  1. A Man
  2. A Black Man
  3. A Child of God
  4. A decent looking guy
  5. Someone who needs to hit the gym
  6. Everything else
Although a Child of God should be first on this list, I've gone a bit off course in my Walk (for those of you in the know about these things) and am doing my best to get back there. And let me clarify, when I put Man at the top of my list I mean literally a man, a.k.a a person who is male. Meaning I am a person.

It is person-hood that I believe most (women) who view men (of all nationalities and ethnicities) overlook or don't bother to consider because, why would you? He's a guy! And guys don't...

Don't what?

  • Have feelings?
  • Have dreams?
  • Have expectations?
  • Have fears?
  • Need a damn hug every once in a while?
Now we men don't exactly help matters by perpetrating like we're invulnerable. I'm sure this list could go longer, but I've said enough to make my point. Any real man (or a seriously drunk one) will confess the same. Out in the world I'm constantly on guard and standing as tall as possible because of all the stuff I just detailed --- for better or worse. So when I come home, it would be nice to be taken as I am: a person with a lot of shit on my plate. And some days it is exactly that: a lot of shit.

The other day --- the same day I wrote about loving my Black woman --- my Black woman came home and thought I was in a bad mood. I'm not sure why when all I was doing was having an in depth conversation with babygirl about Dora the Explorer. This impression I gave off apparently set the tone so that when I eventually did ask her a question and didn't get an answer I wanted, she was loaded up and ready to shoot me down and shut me down before I could even get started.

But here's the thing: I wasn't trying to get started. At the start and in the end it was a misunderstanding where no understanding was sought. I still don't know what I did to warrant the reaction I got and because she hasn't discussed it with me, I suppose she still feels the same as she did then. Being misunderstood in the world, at work and at home doesn't leave a man with many options. No matter who he is. No matter how many responsibilities he has. I've listened to crumpled men talk about how lonely they are and how there's no one to talk to --- especially their wives. This isn't to justify infidelity or even promote it, but to point out that when someone feels they have nowhere to turn, they forcibly and sometimes brazenly create a comfort zone. This can take the form of a wall, depression, infidelity, drugs, even suicide.

I would imagine now would be the time for someone only glossing over what I'm writing to sharpen their claws and dig in. "Men are this and that..." "Men don't get this and that..." "I'm sure whatever you did..."

No, not really. Seriously.

A man like Michael Baisden will never go out of business talking about black love because too often black love is too concerned about who's wrong, what's wrong and never being wronged again versus just doing right --- in spite of wrong. During a very chaotic moment prior to my wedding a cousin-in-law(?) told me that when things are going wrong there's always an opportunity to do right. The Bible teaches, "Hate the sin, not the sinner." But let's be real, it's easier to hate the face, the name, and the physical embodiment than actually address the cause of the problem: tension on the job, financial problems, a bad report from the doctor, general fear about this life? Who knows? Does anyone bother to really ask in a form other than "What's your problem?" or "What's wrong with you?"

More times that not when I'm arguing, I'm not arguing about being right, I'm arguing about the fact that I'm arguing. Because in my mind if we're arguing, both of us are wrong. I'm not suggesting that I or anyone else, man or woman, get off the hook from being wrong when wrong. To err($5) is human. And some wrongs are dealbreakers, plain and simple. I'm just saying there's gotta be a better way to get to a resolution.

So what options do men as well as men who are black have? What does a man who is very flawed do? Should he suck up going home to hear about everything he probably knows about himself in the name of love? What does a man who spends his day getting a chip knocked into his shoulder do when he comes home with a fresh wound in need of salve? Does he have to get it together and put on the best face he can cuz he knows wifey don't play? What does a man do when he's a little to a lot off center from the day because he's spent all day fighting for his place in it and rushes home hoping wifey can take the edge off? What does he do when all wifey sees is that edge?

If I had an answer to these questions and any other ones regarding this conundrum($10) I wouldn't have written any of this.

Any suggestions, ladies?

And please, no men ain't s%^ rants. There's plenty of other places on the Internet for that. It's a new year and we're days away from celebrating history. Let's celebrate ourselves as well. I'm not saying men are perfect or martyrs/victims or even victims of their own decisions. But isn't everyone?

Sistas? Ladies?

How To Love A Black Woman -- Part II

How To Love A Black Woman -- Makes Me Wanna Holler - Man, Dad, Husband...

A random passing thought motivated me to write the above piece and I got (and hope to continue to get) some great comments out of it.

One in particular went like this:

"What has a woman's attitude got to do with her race/nationality or even culture? Why is there a need to categorize?

You may like an individual and you may not like the other. That really has nothing to do with 'black women' in particular.

I wonder when are we going to stop thinking conveniently with our narrow minds."

I agree with the sentiment and maybe a better way to classify "attitude" is "swagger." I do believe different ethnic groups, nationalities or whatever have ways of carrying themselves that are unique to them. However, I don't believe these ways (culture) carry the negative connotations that they do for both men and women in the African American community. As painfully denoted in the Yahoo poll that was taken in the weeks before the recent Presidential election, there is a negative national consensus on the way African Americans conduct themselves and who we are. The tragedy is that from within the microcosm (African Americans) the sentiment of the macrocosm is frequently echoed. It's something no one really likes to talk about anymore and maybe I shouldn't have brought it up. But it was on my mind, and it's my blog so I figured I share. As an anonymous commenter stated:

"Unfortunately we as a race still need to mature in how we deal with one another...

Fight the Good Fight - It's called LOVE!"

My bigger point is that real love is powerful enough to cut through all the b.s. and turn the most formidable woman --- black, white, purple, pink or polka dot --- into a giggling schoolgirl. If the loving is real.


How To Love A Black Woman

Many, many years ago a fraternity brother of mine bitterly confessed that he couldn't deal with black women. He is of African-American descent and although I couldn't say I had never heard that sentiment before, I was intrigued to hear it from someone so close to me.

He told me black women had too much attitude --- on the bus, at work, in any given situation --- they were just difficult and mean for no reason, especially the ugly ones.

He went on to marry a brown-skinned Dominican woman a few years later.

For all four of you out there reading this I should explain, he was referring to culture and not complexion, just in case you don't happen to be black/African American and have no idea what I'm talking about.

I've watched many boys with my skin grow into to men and exclusively date or marry whites, Asians, etc. Sometimes they were athletes, sometimes artsy-fartsy creatives that couldn't be tied down to race and culture, and sometimes (more times than most) they were outcasts, not cool enough, not cute enough, too fat, too ugly, "too busted". For these guys, I guess they feel they had the last laugh with the dearth of available "good black men" as occasionally written about in Essence and talked about on Oprah.

I was one of those outcast boys as I've said again and again - a lopsided fro, coke bottle glasses, crooked teeth, doofy smile, pin head on an even skinnier body. This was my life until junior year of high school and some black girl somewhere, be it in a hallway, a staircase or lunchroom was always around to remind me just how effed up I looked and how I unworthy I was of their empty acquaintance. I never was on the short or long list of guys to get in good with before a dance. I didn't go to my junior prom and my senior prom was such a catastrophe it is the stuff of legend (I'll share another time). One of the popular girls who befriended me our senior year told me on the last day of class, "You know, you're a really nice guy. I wish I had gotten to know you sooner." Our lockers had been next to each other for our entire four years of high school. Until then, I don't think I had ever been so hurt.

Water under the bridge. Time caused me to shed all that awkwardness as I grew into a man and the insanity that is New York City made me sharp. And although at one point in my life I had every intention of traveling the world and sampling the world's women I never stopped loving what I've always loved: black women.

I genuinely believe love is blind, so I'm not frowning on interracial relationships. Close friends are black and Chinese, black and Japanese, etc. etc. Our next president refers to himself as a "mutt". He wouldn't have existed were it not for interracial love. Who am I to judge if the love is real. But I stress the if.

Are black women difficult? Of course they are. In my experiences, they've take very little crap off of anyone (including me). Do many have attitudes? Sure. But that's what distinguishes a black woman from every other woman walking this planet. And there's nothing wrong with a little attitude if there's something there backing it up. Again I stress the if.

Some men feel that in order to love a black woman they must be broken. If you break their strength and crush their sense of self, they'll give you their love because they're too insecure and weak to go anywhere else. My only problem with this that a woman should know it's better at home because of what a man brings to the table, not what he takes away from it.

And then there's other black men who choose to live out their days with women of other nationalities, just so they don't have to "deal" because they think women of other nationalities are "easier." O. J. Simpson is one of these men.

So here's my solution: How do I love my black woman, one who's picture is next to the word "difficult" in the dictionary?

Constantly and fervently. And it's been working out so far so good.


Beautiful Family: The Facebook Phenomenon

Although I've shed the awkward shyness of my past and abandoned my childhood in Chicago, geographically, mentally and physically, I have been discovered in my little, bitty corner of New York, not by a who, but rather a what.


I am a member of this virtual community that seemingly has taken over the world and recruited legions worlwide to be its acolytes, save but for a mere few. This demon-god seems to show no signs of slowing down or crashing like so many before it.

In the beginning, I maintained a low profile, having only a handful of friends and mostly using it to play Scrabulous (my life darkened the day this game was yanked for legal reasons). But now, an additional hundred friends later, I've been discovered by my past. An awful place I like to call high school (too long a story to tell in this post). I've friended people I can remember (yes, I blacked out 4 years of my life) and the rest, I'm waiting for the memory to return.

The funniest thing about this is that most, including my NY people who I've lost touch with all say the same thing. Something along the lines of:

"What's up?! How's life? Looks like life's been treating you well. Your family is beautiful."

I'm appreciate the sentiment, but at the same time it is a thoughtless one. And here's why.

Maybe my family is beautiful, aesthetically speaking, and I appreciate the compliment. But it's my family, so it is beautiful no matter what. When my daughter was first born, my mother kept telling me these horror stories about children born with defects until finally I had to stop her. I told her that even if my child had a birth defect she'd be perfect because she was mine.

My mother's stories stopped.

So back to the Facebookers:
  • "You look great." Thanks, but was I supposed to look like a leper because I haven't been seen in a while? Here's a little known secret: life isn't something that's supposed to make you worse off in the long run, although unfortunately this often happens.
  • "Your wife is beautiful how did you manage that?" By bringing to the table what I expected in return. And even if she wasn't beautiful by the world's standards, she had to be beautiful by my own (whatever those are) in order for me to marry her.
  • "You have a beautiful family." Thanks again, but my family is beautiful no matter what, just as I hope everyone's is to them.


What Was in the Kool Aid?

New Year's Eve went off without a hitch. The family and I and a close friend went to Amy Ruth's down in Harlem for some end of the year, soul food gluttony and then we retreated to my mother-in-law's where there was plenty of space for several of us to stretch out. It was nice and hot as hell there. Wednesday was a particularly cold day here in New York --- Chicago cold. My drafty little apartment wasn't up for the wind that began howling through New York that afternoon and kept on for the rest of the night. So all was well except...

Upon arriving at my mother-in-law's we unpacked my daughter's toys so that she could be entertained like the rest of us. My daughter, dressed in pigtails, polka dot tights, a dress and sweater was walking along when she saw her mother putting her new Leap Pad from Christmas together (Baby Girl had dismantled it the day before). As she passed the dining room table where we were sitting, she did a double take, looked over her shoulder at her mother and her Leap Pad and said, "Mommy, what tha f#&* are you doing to my Leap Pad?"

It wasn't clearly enunciated, but it was clear enough. My mouth fell open. My wife's eyes widened. Our close family friend screamed from behind the hallway bathroom door.

"What did you say?" asked my wife. I turned and began to burn a hole in my wife's head with my eyes. Baby Girl backed up a bit and let her mouth hang open a bit as if to say, "I know I'm wrong, but I'm not coppin' to it." At this point our friend fell out of the bathroom laughing hysterically. My daughter sort of copped to it by saying, "What the eff," when pressed again.

My wife insisted it wasn't her fault, but what my wife doesn't realize is that as a potty mouth (I am not) she's not aware of when she's cursing. So while she may be conscious of how she speaks in our daughter's presence, she's completely unaware of what she's saying when she's on the phone with friends.

We impressed upon this precious and very innocent looking child that she must not talk that way. I cracked open one of the bottles of Riesling I bought for the night and began drinking. My wife sat there, shellshocked, and rubbed her temples for a good ten minutes.

Fast forward twenty hours to yesterday. My wife, sister-in-law, and son went to visit one of her grandmother's who is currently in the hospital. When it was time to leave my wife told her not to throw any wild parties after they left.

My son, who is at that stage where he insists on being involved in grown folks business, jumped in and said he wanted to go to whatever party his great grandmother was throwing. To which she replied, no grandson of hers was coming to any party she threw (she's a classy woman who turned Harlem on it's ear back her heyday).

It was all fun and games...

Until, according to my wife, my son said: "I can wear a thong and come in a fireman's outfit. I'll knock on the door and say there's a fire in my pants." He then proceeded to thrust his hips, swing an imaginary fire hose and hum out techno music sounds.

Again, mouths fell open before he was dragged from his great grandmother's hospital room.

Is it too much sugar or too much Family Guy (a cartoon that makes me cringe)? I need to add a New Year's promise to my list. One that goes something like: put my kids in church.

Kids...gotta love 'em.