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Thursday

Shoeless Joe Jackson

Hole in My ShoeI had a great conversation with a man I met yesterday. While we were talking he suddenly felt he knew me. I told him I wasn't from New York and then he suggested I might be someone "popular".

"Montel?" I asked, referring to Montel Williams. He immediately began to nod.

I don't look like no Montel.

I looked at the ground and noticed he had holes along the seams in the tops of his dress shoes, otherwise known as leather uppers. His blue socks were exposed. He told me he was a handyman and that he had just finished a job, appeared as if he had showered wherever he had been working and was on his way to the next gig --- "Whatever finds me," were his exact words. He had his work boots and clothes and his tools in a pushcart that he was preparing to wheel down the street. I smiled, shared a couple of laughs with the man. Before walking away, I introduced myself, shook his hand and wished him a great day. He returned the sentiment in-kind. It's on these days that I really wish I was rich. That way I could just drop a few hundred, or thousand, bucks without a thought to hopefully make someone else's life a little better.

Be blessed, all of you, who read this blog. You probably have a whole lot more than you realize. Take a moment to think about it. If you can't come up with anything, then have someone you know point out all that you have going for you.

By the time most of you read this I'll be in Atlanta for the rest of the week. Hit me up on Twitter @MakesMeHoller if you're in ATL and show me some love. And help me with directions. I'll be by myself and fully expect to get lost during my stay.

Sometimes it all just Makes Me Wanna Holler...

Photo Source: Flickr

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Wednesday

My Fight With the Tooth Fairy

Tooth Zombie Pillow

Two Fridays ago the Tooth Fairy paid me a visit

But I'm grown, so of course, I wasn't with it.

She was pretty with long hair and these eerie light eyes.

She spoke with an accent and her voice had a smile.

She told her assistant to take a mold of this one particular tooth

In it was my very first cavity, discovered well beyond my youth.

But this one tooth, the only one of it's kind,

Has gotten worse and worse and become a thorn in my side.

I didn't know anything was wrong, you see very little hurts me,

But my tooth fairy said, "You haven't noticed it turning gray? Look, see?"

And so I relented and I gave up my fight,

I came back a week later, pissed off and tight.

They strapped me down and made me watch Madagascar 2

They shot me up with Novocaine and hammered away at that tooth,

And hammer they did, so ungodly and inhumane,

Surely man could invent something better than this --- this is insane!

I laughed at the lion, the giraffe, Chris Rock and Moto Moto,

I wondered quietly, "Is there anything left, or is my tooth gone in total?"

My tooth fairy, so sweet, so fair and so vicious,

Told me she was done and leaving me with her assistant.

I refused to move my tongue to feel the contours of the stump,

Then she stuffed my mouth with nasty gum and I drooled and drooled and drooled.

Dignity be damned, dignity be gone I wondered how much longer,

I did not want to hang on.

I couldn't feel the left side of my face,

And from the sounds of it my tooth had been disgraced.

But one, two, three, and few quick presses and a snap,

I had a brand new tooth called a temporary as a matter of fact.

Hollywood, here I come, I believe I just got my first veneer.

And 2 weeks from now it will be permanent, made of porcelain, I hear.

I walked out of the office violated and handled,

My tooth fairy waved goodbye, winked and smiled at me in shambles.

And I thought to myself...That monster is kinda fine.

Photo Source: Flickr

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Dads Get Love Too...Sometimes

Happy Husband

A couple hours after our son graduated from 8th grade. A congratulatory kiss for a job well done.

Now, on to high school...

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Tuesday

But I Don't Have Breasts... (ode to Foot Doctor)

Elephant Feet

I went to the foot doctor so he could see what he could see

I was caught off guard when the he was actually a she.

Shy I became and caught up with emotion,

Regretting leaving the house without using any lotion.

She had me walk around a bit without shoes and socks,

I said, "God, please no bad news," as I looked up at the clock.

We did a quick ultrasound, like the one the mommies get,

Except there was no heartbeat in my foot, no squiggling and no kick.

"You have some torn tissue, just below your heel."

"Do you have to amputate, Doc?" She laughed and said, "Get real."

But before my foot doctor visit was through,

...I learned some things about me, brand new

My arches reach skyward trying to kiss the heavens above,

Making my feet fall wrong and crash with a thud.

She measured me for high-tech inserts, the ones you can't get in stores.

"Once you're wearing these," she said, "Your feet will never be sore."

"But my left foot don't hurt," I began to protest.

"That's cuz your left leg is shorter," is what she said next.

"Whaaaaat?!!! I exclaimed while trying to catch my breath.

"It's no biggie, just like a woman who has 2 different sized breasts."

"But I don't have breasts...so what happens next?"

"Oh, you're fine Mr. Payne, please do not fret.

I'm also prescribing Athlete's Foot cream, everyday between your toes."

"Good lord, is there anything else? Is there something wrong with my nose?"

"You're funny, Mr. Payne...Very funny indeed."

I didn't even get around to mention the issue with my knee.

I left with my prescriptions, exercises and return appointment card,

Thinking, What tha Hell? I should'a never got outta my car!


A true story, told as a poem... and those are elephant's feet, not mine...

Photo Source: Flickr


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Monday

Your Life Plan



Yesterday, a bicyclist passed me wearing a jersey with all kinds of advertisers on it. It was obvious he rides professionally, but when he passed me as I was waiting to cross the street it seemed as if he was out for a leisurely Sunday morning ride.

I thought to myself: How did he get into that?

It's not a job you'd find on Monster or Hotjobs? It's not even the first thing you'd think to Google. But there he was, chillin'...doing something he enjoyed and from outward appearances, excelled in.

My wife likes to plan. "Next steps, next steps, next steps," is all I hear sometimes. Before her, the kids and marriage I kept a journal. Contained within it were the schematics for my life. Goals, desires, financial aspirations, project "me" due dates, etc. I wasn't a slave to the book, but I did keep tabs on it. Interestingly enough, my life followed the course I charted for it on those pages.

When that bicyclist passed me yesterday, I realized I have plenty of stuff in my head, but nothing written down in any tangible fashion that I can review, edit, tailor, contemplate, or even remember for more than a few days. For a long time, I've lamented, offline, that I've lost sight of what it means to be me --- the things I enjoy, things that make me laugh, where I see myself several years from now, etc., etc. Other than acknowledging the general rigors of fatherhood and family, I haven't sought to blame anyone or anything for this. Instead I've been stumped --- I have no idea when this happened or how I let it creep up on me.

Besides kick starting my metabolism, running has plugged me back into one of the major components of my personal well-being --- being physically active. The bicyclist reminded me that I used to have a schematic. Like the floor plan pictured above, it allowed me to see what I was working with, what I wanted to do, and what I might want to change if things weren't working.

If you're like me and need a "list" or a "plan", then there's a great set of questions to get you on your way over Inc.com. It's called the Life Plan Worksheet. It's a few years old and at a glance the questions might seem elementary. But isn't it always the simplest of things that elude us in this life?

Photo Source: Photobucket

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Friday

We Are People, After All

makesmewannaholler_community


Last week, I went to dinner with @NYCityMama and her husband, @AlpahMom, @OutNumberedIsMe, and @TooFat2Serve. In the world of Twitter, I go by the handle @MakesMeHoller. NYCityMama is my Dominican/Puerto Rican sister from another mother. We've been cool since we first "met" in the blogosphere and just before Father's Day we got to hang. The wife and family met her and her family. We talked shop for a few minutes and they are a truly a lovely bunch. I wasn't worried about seeing her. The rest I wasn't so sure about...

But as it turns out they were a really cool group of people, all doing great things in their individual neck of the woods --- on their blogs and in their lives. Why? Because they were people, after all. Just like me.

It's been an interesting week. The previous post alone speaks to the comedy that can arise in very ordinary settings. Now that I've accumulated a combined 1,000+ subscribers/followers/friends across various social media, I wanted to once again thank you all for your patronage, encourage those of you who haven't yet joined in to do so, and to say we are all a community.

In accordance with the analogy and the photo above, I'm the Master of Ceremonies and this is my show, but it was never my desire for it to be solely about me. My initial desire was simply to vent. Showing the world or the 12 readers I had at the time that good black men exist arose out of my venting. Ultimately, this is your place to discuss, debate (lightly), and exhort and dish on what makes this whole life thing so great...us.

If you're here, it's because you can relate to some of this stuff in one way or another. Let your voice be heard, interact with the other people on the blog. Out of 1,000+ people, surely two people can begin a dialogue and learn a little bit more than they knew yesterday.

If you prefer the Facebook environment to this one, I'm over there. Just type in the name of the blog in the search window.

If you're a Twitter fiend, I'm over there as well. Check me and my friends out at @MakesMeHoller.

If you're a visual type and photography is your thing, I've over at Flickr building my network and my library of shots is growing on a weekly basis.

This is all about family... The same way a musician can unite, my aim is to unite all of you out there under the notion that love does still exist, good men (particularly good black men) are alive and well, and that we can all find the humor in the littlest to the largest of things. For example, the tight-ass pants I was wearing on Wednesday.

People comment to me online and off about the depth of my commentary. Thanks, I really do appreciate it. But I want to hear from you too. If any of you out there is interested in guest blogging and can put a sentence together, I'd love to hear from you (only serious inquiries only, please). It doesn't matter to me if you're black, white, purple, pink or polka dot. The content of a person's heart is not based on their skin color. I'm going to be out of town for the latter part of next week, so a guest would be a godsend.

Enjoy the weekend folks. I just came from the podiatrist and I'm off to the dentist where I get to be reminded once more in the span of ten days that I'm not the invulnerable, spring chicken I once was.

Peace out. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Photo Credit: Photobucket

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Tight Pants-Tight Pants



Remember singing, "Roxanne-Roxanne!" Now, do the same thing but sing, "Tight Pants-Tight Pants!"

Apparently, I wasn't the only one doing the spotting at Wednesday's Maxwell Concert...

I spent most of my evening in a great looking outfit that will eventually be a great fitting outfit as I continue my campaign to shed pounds (I'll post an update on my progress in about a week).

But the pants don't fit. And they didn't fit 2 or 3 months ago when my wife first bought them for me. Based on my target weight of 175 pounds they'll probably be falling off of me, but right now I have too much thigh, butt and other stuff for them. Back in the day, one of my college buddies called it the "Black Man's Disease."

But due to some wardrobe malfunctions at home and items that have gone missing from my closet (stuff was dirty, other stuff is somewhere in winter storage) I decided to venture out in these tight ass pants that I couldn't even close two months ago. This past Wednesday, I was happy to be able to close them, but the seams were being put to the test with every step I took. I kept telling my wife they were too tight and she kept telling me I looked fine.

Two days later and to my absolute horror...SOMEONE I DON'T KNOW RECOGNIZED ME BECAUSE OF THIS DAMN BLOG!!!!

Black_Husband_Wife
The wife and I at NJPAC, taken by a friend who bumped into us.
I'm just as happy and fat as I want to be. At least the shirt fit.


A friend just called to let me know that some loyal readers recognized me and my wife, but were a bit perplexed by the "grab" that my pants had on front parts.

Best believe ladies, I was too, more like horrified. Especially when I went to the restroom and had to push in the bulge. If I could've torn those joints off and sat in the audience in just my shirt and my boxer briefs, I would've in a heartbeat.

Sigh.

Happy Friday.


Photo Source: Photobucket

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Thursday

Making 'Em Wanna Holler: Maxwell


There's something to be said about a man who can go on for 5-6 minutes with dead certainty about all the things he wants do to a woman to leave her twisted out, begging for more. There's even more to be said when a sold out crowd comprised of mostly women of every shade and ethnicity (my wife included) is letting out blood curdling screams to affirm every word he says. Even more when a woman in the second row of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center stands up out of her seat, reaches beneath her dress, takes off her blue panties (yeah, I was watching from not too far behind) and throws throws them on stage at the man.

[Interesting to note: I knew a few people there - a college buddy who recently proclaimed herself a "Maxwell Groupie" didn't have a ticket but somehow managed to get a seat closer to the stage than I did. I just learned the panty-tosser was someone I happen to know also through the blogosphere. Several of my wife's friends were scattered throughout the theater going crazy, as well. This world is just too damn small.]


That was my night last night at NJPAC's Maxwell concert.

If you've never heard the man sing, well he can sing his a#$ off. I remember when he first hit the scene, my best friend remarked, "Why's he rollin' all around on the floor like that? He's a freak!" referring to the video for his song Ascension. I think she was in love with him two days later and has been ever since. A breakout artist from the mid-90's I've been to all his concerts and although last night was really, really good, nothing beats his first tour when I saw him at Radio City Music Hall. The show opened with Zhane (pronounced "jah-nay") and he had this staircase stage thingy going on. He began his show silhouetted with his back to the audience. I thought I was going to pass out. Not because I was in love with him (although I'm not above the occasional man-crush) but because the energy that emanated from this man before his show even began was immeasurable. Plus, the white, Paul Smith suit he was wearing was bananas, meaning insane, meaning on point, meaning if you had the balls to rock a tailored white suit, that was it.

Last night Maxwell did a couple of things that stayed with me. He kept telling everyone he loved them. He encouraged anyone in the audience who's trying to accomplish their dreams to keep trying. He also thanked everyone for being so receptive to his passion for making good music. He went on to thank us for allowing him to share it with us.

How inspiring is that?

These last few days have been very tough for me. My battle with the unemployment blues has turned ugly as this monster that faces me everyday has gotten considerably stronger and merciless in his dealings with me. It's not about money (it is, but it isn't). I'm fending off self-destructive thoughts that are beginning to tear down my self-esteem brick by brick and keep my frozen in my tracks --- depressed and unable to do any of the things I want and need to do.

Even though I wrote about Maxwell in the post, 'Til The Cops Come Knockin' over at BlackAndMarriedWithKids.com today, I decided to write about Maxwell here because about an hour ago the desire to write overcame me. My writing has never been about me. I sit down in front of a piece of paper or a keyboard and minutes later something's is down for me to edit. Beyond the physical I can't take credit for my words, the inspiration comes so fast and intense that it can only be the hand of God, my higher power, resting on my shoulder (or my bald head). There are days that I grumble that I don't make a thin dime or even a red penny off these posts that I churn out like pastries in a bakery. But it's not about me. I'm not even sure if it's about you the reader. This is one of the gifts God has given me, so while I have it, I'm honoring him by putting my best out there in this thing that I do.

I want to thank all of you who read here. Thank you for subscribing (if you subscribe here). Thank you for your comments. Thank you for allowing me to share my occasional two cents with you. I also want to encourage you. If there's something that you love to do, and even the things you don't...do it to the best of your ability and with all your strength. There's really no reason not to. It's not about that boss, coworker or ungrateful client. It's about you and what you're putting into the universe.

You're guaranteed to go nowhere half-stepping it through life, but sky's the limit when you choose otherwise.

By the way, check out some of Maxwell's music below. If you've never heard of him and crooning is your thing, you'll love this guy.

Again, thank you.


BLACKsummersnight


Maxwells Urban Hang Suite



Picture Source: Denver Post

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Wednesday

Jesus, Help Me Bowl!

Pins


Over the weekend, I was out on Long Island (Mineola) for a frat brother's 40th birthday party. His wife had it at a bowling alley in an effort to make the event as kid friendly as possible. They have a beautiful 18-month old boy who is going to be killing the ladies probably as soon as he can walk for more than twenty feet.

Still childless because our kids are still on vacation with relatives, the wife and I got there before most of the folks showed up and got in a quick practice game. Of course I went to find the heaviest ball I could find remembering my earlier days of combining brute strength with a twelve-pound ball to slaughter pins.

On my first roll, it felt like the ball was going to take me down the lane with it. I think I knocked down one pin. My wife got a few strikes and was doing the cabbage patch the running man and all kind of annoying acrobatics each time she left the lane. By the end of our game I hadn't even managed to break 100 points.

And all the women in attendance were laughing at me. I remember hearing, "Eric, she's kicking your ass."

She was. But it was just a warm up. I knew she wasn't going to last.

As more people (men) flooded in we got a larger group in our lane and I turned on the sauce, leaving my wife in the dust and going head to head with an old friend. The kids were in one lane bowling looking as precious as ever. There was a party going on in the lane beside me, everyone was screaming whether it was a strike or a gutter ball. By the end of the game I was on fire, ready for the next one.

My wife lost interest, preferring to talk with the women about houses, jobs and everything else I don't like to talk about in the heat of competition. She also got her hands on a baby and kept looking over at me. The look I gave her said, "Look away and put that baby down."

My frat brother and I were going head to head with strikes and spares in that third game until about the 5th frame when I began to feel something in my elbow...

...then my wrist...

...then my right knee...

...then my left knee...

...then my lower back...

"Am I getting old, Lord? Jesus are you there?" I asked in quiet desperation as I began to develop a limp over the rest of the game. I won, but neither me nor my fraternity brother finished strong. We were happy to stop to sing Happy Birthday and cut cake. I told him if I had known I was going to get old during the past three years I hadn't worked out I wouldn't have ever stopped. He laughed, then agreed solemnly.

I was happy to wake up the next day, neither stiff nor sore. I'm getting back in shape, but I'm not there yet.

Work it out, y'all. Here are some foods that help you lose fat.



Photo Source: Flickr

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Monday

The Back-To-Me Challenge: UPDATE

Photobucket


UPDATE:

After the original writing of this post I suffered a number of foot and knee ailments that probably came with going too much too soon with more lard than I anticipated. I spent a couple of months recuperating and doing nothing until I got some new running shoes and added water to my diet.

I've been every other day for the past month and I have to say it feels great! I began feeling like a lumbering old man dragging two bowling balls behind me, one attached to each ankle. Now, I'm holding my own, running with a solid pace and a strong stride. The initial aches and pains have passed and I'm beginning to feel a little bit lighter on my feet. I want to be able to play all day with my daughter and go head to head with my son without needing an ice bath afterward. It's my two part commitment to myself and my family. So far so good. I'm going to add weights and exercises as soon as I feel comfortable and confident in my aerobic endurance.

I ran across this article on MSN the other day and thought it would be a great read for anybody out there who needs a little guidance on what to eat and how to eat it. I don't agree with everything written in the piece, but all of it is worth taking a look at.

Check it out here: 20 Superfoods for Weight Loss

Enjoy.

---------------------

My wife is disgusted by me. As much as she's been teasing me about my weight she simply doesn't understand how I could not work out for 3 years (since the birth of my daughter) and only gain 24 pounds. She it would only take her 3 months to do the same.

Who cares? I've gained 24 pounds! As subtle as the weight gain has been, I feel it and although no one else claims they notice, I can see it as clear as day. If my boot camp instructor (a crazy Panamanian who turned me into a machine in the months before my daughter's birth) saw me on the street he would probably beat me, set me on fire, call me all kinds of girlie names, make me do a hundred push-ups and crunches (while punching me the entire time), and make me run a five minute mile (to put out the flames). Just as any good trainer should. And now you know why my wife doesn't like working out with me.

My self-challenge began a while ago but now that the weather has gotten a little better I can begin to put the outdoor parts of it in motion. My Back-To-Me Challenge is to:Photobucket
  • get back into peak physical condition
  • get back into the things that made me me such as church, foreign films, and indulging in perfect, time-consuming shaves
  • get back into reading for the love of it
  • get back into learning what my likes are and pursuing my goals as if there's no tomorrow
  • get back to being in tune with my spirit and allowing myself to be guided by it versus the foolishness of this society
  • get back to the place where I never settled and rarely took "no" for an answer
Today, not tomorrow - not next week, is the best day to begin turning things around. What do you need to do to get back to you?


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Friday

If This Were Your Kid...



...what would you do?

I don't know what I'd do after I calmed down, but upon seeing my child's tears inflicted by an adult I'd probably ask someone I know to keep me restrained to a chair with duct tape and a piece placed over my mouth to keep me from going off half cocked. I'd also ask them to shoot my wife with a tranquilizer dart, strength set to elephant.

But seriously, beyond the reporting, the political weigh-ins, the personal beliefs, what is or is not true, etc., etc., this child had no control over what the adults were doing or any say in his summer plans. He simply thought he was going for a swim and now he has the words of those adults he overheard and the memory of his tears to carry FOREVER.

The little boy in this clip may wake up one day and realize he's over it. As a man, he may even forgive them for their ignorance. But he'll never forget. No different than my not being able to forget being around his age in Chicago on 95th street, coming from Jewel's (a grocery store) when a white T-top Firebird Trans Am (with a black and gold Firebird decal on the hood) pulled up alongside us while my father was driving his silver Buick Skylark with its God-awful burgundy interior. The two women inside gleefully shouted the "n-word" at us for the length of the block before speeding through the intersection when the light turned red. And why?

Because my father took too long to make a left turn. Really?

I'll never forget sinking into the backseat of the car, or how my heart was racing or how I looked up through the bottom of my window at the women with their stringy unnatural blond hair, complete with black roots, flying in the wind, without a care in the world. I'll never forget that it was a Sunday and we had just come from church before going grocery shopping. I also remember wanting my father to run them off the road. Damn the car. But I was a kid back then, and even then I knew why he wouldn't...or couldn't.

When kids say hateful things to one another, kids know in the back of their minds that other kid is trying to hurt them, so they take it in stride (or not) and hurt back. But when coming from an adult, a child believes the adult truly believes what they're saying and believes it about them. Those beliefs become scars. Then it is the child's burden for an untold amount of time.

Our children, no matter the race or class, are our most vulnerable citizens. We have to do better by them. Even the ones we don't own.

Next week I promise to attempt to return to my humorous self. It's just been one of those weeks. Last week was one of those weeks, too.

Hmmm...


Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs
Click the button and stay for a while.


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Thursday

Today's Man

   Limerick poem


Today's man isn't much different than biblical man when it comes to affairs of the heart and extramarital affairs. The difference today is that technology has all but obliterated his ability to live a double life. This isn't to paint all men with one broad stroke, but just to say for example the actions of Steve McNair weren't very out of place with every other man we've known about through history who has cheated. I think that in the aftermath of a string of celebrity deaths all swallowed up and overshadowed by the hole that Michael Jackson left when he passed, to learn about McNair's circumstances --- love affair with a young'n/married father of four/murder-suicide/taking trips with the woman on the side without a care in the world --- made the court of public opinion, particularly the women judges, view him as an exception and not the norm for his type. But in truth he's no different than any other married man who has been unfaithful. Even the murder-suicide part is nothing new, although I believe the tragedy of such a thing never gets old, especially when kids are involved and must suffer for the sins of the father.

A couple days ago, I received an email from a reader expressing her concerns about this whole can't-find-a-good-man syndrome:

I am 25 single and really losing a lot of faith in the men out there... I grew up in Toronto with my mom and my dad lives in Shanghai. I never really understood what it is like to have a father as a role model around on a day to day basis. It's a huge void in my life that I did not realize until later now in my adult life. I think that the biggest effect it had on me is that I don't understand boundaries and [and setting them]. This has led me into relationships [with] older guys of course (not more than 10 years older!) [and] now married guys. Yikes. I don't want to be the loop hole anymore in someone's unfulfilled marriage. I don't understand why I cannot find any decent guys who are not married. Married men who holler at single girls are actually disappointing 2 women simultaneously.


This time around I want to do things a little different (especially since I'll be off the grid most of the day)... I want your two cents... Ladies? Fellas? What's up? Where are all the good men? What drives a married man to look outside his relationship? Are these married guys 100% to blame for looking outside, or is the woman who entertains him just as much to blame?

I will also post this as a discussion on this blog's Facebook Page.

Photo Source: Flickr

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Wednesday

10 Days Left to Vote!


Vote Now!


My site was nominated for a Black Weblog Award!


If you like what you read (and see) here at MakesMeWannaHoller.com, then please click on the button directly above this sentence and vote for this blog to be a 2009 Weblog Award winner.

Voting ends on 7/25. That's exactly 10 days from today.

Remember, click the button at the top of the post to vote. Thank you.

E.Payne


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HarlemWorld



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Tuesday

A Dream Deferred

Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

Langston Hughes
Source: PoemHunter.com


Being Man, Dad, & Husband has many perks,

but some days...

you have to make tough calls,

and not worry about the feelings you hurt,

and put hopes and dreams on hold,

in the name of adding clarity

with hope for a better day

to do the same and even more

even if it causes the one who loves you to cry

even if it makes you the bad guy

in spite of all the good you want

as the servant of all in your home...

...yesterday was one of those days.



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Friday

Michael Jackson, 1958-2009: The Man In the Mirror

This one is going to be long. I wanted to post yesterday, but my Internet was down after my neighborhood was hit the day before by some kind of tornado, hailstorm, monsoon that flooded my house and had me convinced I was going to wake up in the land of Oz.

Let us begin…




Growing up I had a list of people I wanted to meet. Like many childhood daydreams, my list became one of the many bricks that was to be the foundation for my desire to be great, or at least not go by unnoticed.

Michael Jackson was in the top 5 on my list.

Now I’ll never meet him, except maybe in the afterlife. And that all depends on where I’m headed when I close my eyes for the last time.

Two weeks ago yesterday Michael Jackson was called Home rather abruptly. Abrupt only because humanity wasn’t prepared, as if we’re ever prepared for anyone’s death. God knew all along what the day, time and circumstances would be.

Initially, I had no reaction. I was at my son’s 8th grade graduation dinner and couldn’t be bothered with some unsubstantiated news about a man who wasn’t paying my rent.

But before dinner was over, the rumor was fact.

A brief note about the manner of his death: If the coroner’s report does in fact determine that MJ suffered from an accidental overdose, then much like Heath Ledger I won’t pity him (he was an adult after all) but only wish he hadn’t turned to the very things he once declared no one should ever touch. But I won’t judge, none of us know his personal demons, most of us barely know our own.

Everyone around me and this globe called Earth collapsed into a state of mourning I don’t believe any of us ever thought was possible. But still I remained distant, unable to acknowledge it, unable to used past tense verbs for a man who has been a part of my life all my life --- for the last thirty-two years considering my earliest memory, after the one where I woke up behind a wall of wooden bars, was nursery school --- naptime, tap dance classes, being scared to death by a puppet for my class photo, jelly sandwiches and French fries, Bert and Ernie, Chico and the Man, Mary Tyler Moore, Tom & Jerry, Mighty Mouse, Mickey Mouse, Puff the Magic Dragon and Michael Jackson.

As a young’n I didn’t understand why Michael was singing about a rat named Ben. My mother explained that it was from a movie. I spent a good amount of time singing along with ABC after that. I distinctly remember the FM transistor radio sitting (a ridiculous contraption by today’s standards) in the front of my 2nd grade class blasting This Place Is (Heartbreak Hotel). Billie Jean and MTV. There were so many songs, they just kept coming out. Say, Say, Say with Paul McCartney. I was at an aunt’s house in Midlothian (somewhere in the Midwest) when Thriller debuted as primetime feature on CBS. I didn’t get it. Why did dude make a mini-horror movie for a dance tune? At the time I wasn’t aware that creativity meant doing different things, doing new things, being a pioneer. I never got into the red zippered jacket, but I wanted that white suit he was wearing on the cover and I also wanted a baby tiger. My parents said no to both. I had to sing We Are the World (sigh) with my class at my 8th grade graduation. Man in the Mirror drove me absolutely insane. I hated that song with all my heart, probably because my church and every other Methodist church in Illinois embraced it as an anthem an bludgeoned me over the head with it for a year in church plays, on church retreats, everywhere I turned. But like all things, my interest began to fade for pop music as my interest in hip hop grew. But I always listened when a Michael Jackson song came on the radio or debuted. I marveled at the strength of his singing voice considering the timidity of his speaking one. Oh yes, and probably to the horror of many of you I didn’t and still don’t like Smooth Criminal. I was a junior in college when Remember The Time blasted its way into the mainstream. I was a new fraternity man, I was dating a Puerto Rican girl/devil spawn siren (didn’t know it at the time) at another school and I remember going with her to a party at a club that DJ Spinna was hosting with my frat. As he put Remember The Time on the wheels of steel the video came on simultaneous on a wall of televisions off from the bar. I remember dancing like there was no tomorrow that night. It just didn’t get any better than that and I remember thinking, Micheal is the f$%#'n man! Michael Jackson was there, just like he had been everywhere else at memorable points in my life. My interest truly waned as he explored different styles and formats and I turned into a complete hip hop junkie for the rest of the nineties. The easiest way to clear a dance floor back then was to put on Thriller after Biggie. When I met my wife, MJ resurfaced again in the Jackson 5 Christmas album she plays every year. A Bing Crosby-Nat King Cole type, I hated it, but eventually it grew on me especially after watching the boy who would become my son sing along gleefully with the words.

My heart progressively grew heavier in the days that led up to Michael Jackson’s memorial service this past Tuesday while become more agog over the reality that everyone on the planet Earth knew the man --- whether they loved or hated him. I began to think to myself, How is this worldwide outpouring of grief even possible? He was just a man. He wasn't Jesus.

I got my answer four days ago when I overheard an old interview with MJ where he stated his contempt with having to put his name on his music despite the fact that he did EVERYTHING to create it, arrangement, vocals, melody, etc. He went on to explain that he was merely a medium and he didn’t want to take credit for God’s work.

This drove me to the music, the source of his gifting. Past the undeniable grooves, slick moves, the grunts and unintelligible shrieks and occasional to frequent crotch grabbing, the majority of the man’s music preached love for one another, love between man and woman, working together as one, healing the world through music, giving love and care to the children of the world and above all hope for a better day.

I always knew this of course, but I don’t think I ever realized it until a few days ago. His international appeal began to crystallize for me. Where hope and opportunity is not as easily grasped as it is here in the U.S. I can only imagine what the words of his songs have done to revolutionize the hearts and minds of the downtrodden, overlooked and unloved.

A biblical figure, David, was a man who had God’s favor. He slew a giant as a boy, and he grew up to be a king despite repeated attempts against his life along the way. As a warrior he slew tens of thousands of enemies…he was essentially The Man. In the midst of all of David’s successes however he was a certifiable mess. He had a thing for the women, namely Bathsheba, and a whole other host of issues, but he loved God and every time he did wrong he went running through the streets of Israel screaming, dancing and ripping up his clothes in repentance. When called a fool by his wife he basically told her he’d be a fool for God any day of the week. Until his end she and every force that rose up against David met an awful end. God had His hand on him just like he did Michael Jackson. Like David, God was in his works, not his flesh.

Who among us doesn’t have demons that we wrestle with? Michael clearly had his. His overlooked and untreated sensitivity as a child evolved into a psychosis that doesn’t make any sense to most of us and makes it easier than not for the average schmuck to label him, “freak.” Through the fruits of his labor, Michael had the means and opportunity to feed his demons, most notably his body dysmorphic disorder. The only opinion I will levy is that it’s too bad that people around him enabled this because despite his manager-father chiding him about his looks, he was hands-down the best looking of the Jackson brothers and in my opinion his original looks matched his gifting in music (I truly hope he’s singing and dancing in heaven as his original self). But in 1979 he broke his nose and got corrective/cosmetic surgery and got on the sauce. In 1995 I scorched my right hand all the way down to the muscle during a cooking disaster (grease fire) and practically had to have it rebuilt. In 2001, I had a bout with eczema that turned my nose beige (I’m not beige). For weeks I walked around in dark shades with a baseball cap pulled down past my eyebrows and kept my head down or covered with a sheet of paper at work. I ignored the doctor’s measured prescription for a powerful cortisone cream and was almost drinking it. In 2005, I went under the knife again after discovering I had benign polyps in my sinuses and a nose-bone that was so crooked it was preventing me from breathing properly. It was otherwise masked by an outwardly appearing straight nose. Best believe, being a beneficiary of medical science causes you to contemplate all the other stuff you can or should “have done.” No different than one might rehab a classic car or a house.



I thought Michael was bugging out when he started his vitiligo talk, especially since my best man from my wedding has it from head to toe to the point that even his hair is white. But then I saw MJ's hands and recognized the pigmentation and splotches as being similar to that of my friend’s. Then the glove made sense and so did the bleaching to blend, but then it continued and continued and continued until masking what is a horrific skin condition for a person of color became something damn near frightening to behold.

A note on the state of Michael Jackson's blackness (whatever that means): Do I think he had a problem with being black or black people? His songs and his charitable giving suggests otherwise. Do I believe in his mind he had a problem with his personal appearance as a black man? Most definitely.

Over the years I never judged Michael, although I did laugh at the SNL skit of his hair catching on fire. And I hollered when Dave Chappelle, on his show, pretended to be a witness in the Michael Jackson trial. When the media was having a field day with him, I didn’t understand why he was reacting to it --- why he granted that Bashir interview, why he stood up on top of the limo before going into court, why he showed up to court in pajamas, why he briefly felt the need to prove to the world that he wasn't gay. To me it was obvious he wasn’t. What was equally obvious was that he didn’t want to grow up. Messing around with women, getting married and having kids is a sure sign of maturity and getting old before it’s some proof of manhood. Why have kids when you haven’t had a childhood of your own? Seems pretty straightforward to me. I occasionally ask the same of myself and did so as recently as this past July 4th. Despite the joys, marriage and family grounds and ages you, if not physically, definitely mentally and spiritually. If someone isn’t ready for that (man or woman) they shouldn’t be faulted for it. What the finger pointers should do is worry about themselves.

It’s easy to ignore MJ’s acquittal (especially since “not-guilty” doesn't exist in the court of public opinion), it’s easy to name call, it’s easy to hate. To do so means you don’t have to focus on your own flaw-filled life. Michael Jackson was a gentle, na├»ve soul that loved everyone and sometimes didn’t seem to understand why that love wasn’t returned in kind. His naivety and sensitivity didn’t seem to allow him to ignore jealousy and those who pass judgment from their crystal castles simply for the sake of it. Like my mother, he hurt when he saw other people hurt. As one who preached love, he lashed out, most powerfully in song and dance and most tragically in the media where his every insecurity and eccentricity was turned into fodder.

A brief note about the molestation charges: God forbid my son or daughter was ever molested by a grown man. They would find that man's body minus his head (or at least unrecognizable) and his male parts. No amount of money would suffice. I’d clear out my savings and move to Costa Rica. Not being graphic, just being honest. Oh, and I wouldn't have let my child spend the night in the first place.

As a father who drinks from the cup of joy my kids fill for me everyday I won’t join the legion of bloggers and reporter who labeled MJ unhappy. I know his kids gave him joy he so desperately called out for before their arrival in this life, just like I know without knowing the joy all fathers (who are real fathers) receive from helming the position of Dad.

The frenzy continues in his death. Power plays are being made for the estate. There are actually talking-head laden panel discussions on the 24/7 news outlets discussing the paternity of his children (like it would even matter if he had really been white and his kids were black), AEG and the state of California are fighting in the press. And Joe Jackson is launching a record label (I wish him well in his illustrious, upcoming two and a half-year career). Despite all this foolishness Michael's daughter, Paris, shut it all down for me when she laid more claim to him more than anyone of us fans ever can or will by simply calling him, “Daddy.”

Just as in my childhood, I still do wish I could’ve met him. I think I would’ve been better for the experience even if it was only a brief 5-minute chat. But I didn’t so I’ll just take solace in the fact that the world became a better place because of him just like it has because of anyone who pours their heart and soul into whatever it is that they do --- from collecting trash as a garbage man to filling an entire world with song, after song, after song and a whole lot of dancing as the most influential music man there ever was and arguably will ever be.







R.I.P., Micheal Jackson, and Thank You. I’ll always Remember The Time.

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Wednesday

Website In Focus: Back2Yourself.com

None of us are getting any younger, right? And for those of us in the married with kids lane, or just the with kids lane, picking these little people up and down, day in and day out can begin to wreak havoc on your frame, especially your back. If you’re like me you might entertain going to a chiropractor but then you change your mind until the next time you lift something or someone the wrong way. Back2Yourself.com provides easy-to-follow back exercises delivered to your computer. Back Pain doesn't have to be in charge. Get on track to a healthier you right now. Better safe than sorry.

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Lounging

Dad_Daughter


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Tuesday

I Miss The Single Life...Sometimes

Fridgescape, a.k.a. The Single Life
Source: Flickr


Over the past few days Death has grabbed hold of me and kept me close to its bosom.

Is that dramatic enough for you?

In truth, the recent and seemingly continuing outbreak of celebrity deaths has left me a bit shell-shocked, not because I was ever lulled into the belief that these persons were above death, but some hit very, very close to home. Unlike Ed McMahon who lived a long life and seemed to be in decline the longer he stuck around, and unlike Farrah whose demise had essentially been televised and documented such that the day of her passing seemed almost been foretold by the media, the deaths of Michael Jackson, who is now being revered simply as "MJ" --- a man only 13 years older than me, and then Steve McNair --- a man 1 year younger than me --- have both left me speechless, unable to write and reflective.

I still haven't gotten around to putting together what I want to elaborate for Michael Jackson, but I will say this there has not been a week of my life since gaining self-awareness (somewhere around six or seven years old) that I haven't heard a Michael Jackson song, a Michael Jackson reference, or had some random Michael Jackson thought tap dance across my mind. Let me repeat: not a single week of my life has passed without him. The reality that this man had that much of an impact, be subtle, obvious or outrageous, is almost debilitating to fathom. Steve McNair...poor guy --- I know he didn't see that one coming. Dude was still a young'n by old man standards. Damn.

The day before Michael Jackson left this life I watched a woman clad in sweats walk into a neighborhood diner alone. I was across the street at a pizzeria ordering a pizza for my brood and my parents. We both left our respective establishments at the same time, I, with my 18-inch pie and bag of sodas and she, with a tidy little meal wrapped tidily in a brown paper bag. As I walked to my truck she stayed in my periphery for about a minute before disappearing into her building down the block. I felt envy creep over me.

When you're single...

  • you don't have to answer to anyone.
  • you don't have to argue with anyone.
  • you don't have anyone to argue with you.
  • you can sleep as late as you want.
  • you don't have to stay up to make sure no one is up past their bedtime.
  • you don't have to consider anyone other than yourself.
  • you only have to clean up after yourself (if you clean up).
  • you are the only one who suffers from your mistakes.
  • you are the only one to blame when things go wrong.
  • you don't tire as easily.
  • your spirit of adventure is self-perpetuating, or at least it should be.
  • you have the time and opportunity to learn the full ins and outs of the man or woman in the mirror.
  • life is what you and you alone make it.
  • you can save a lot of money, or you can spend a lot on yourself.
  • going to church, working out, having hobbies, reading a good book, truly maintaining friendships are all things you can fully devote yourself to.

Of course this list can go on, covering topics from the gravely real to the completely absurd. My point is that life as a married person is just different than that as a single one.

But should it be? If there's anything to be learned from the deaths of these very human, but larger than life individuals that have recently passed, it's that the dash --- that little (or long if you hit return in Microsoft Word) mark between your start date and your end date, the bookends of your destiny on this planet, is what really matters.

  • As a parent, you love your children unconditionally, but do you love your fellow man?
  • As a husband or wife, you pledge for better or worse, but when things get worse do you get better?
  • When life has you beat down telling you you can't, do you fight back, or do you lie down and accept the fate someone else has put on you? Because barring sickness (and sometimes even then) it's always someone else (PS - the insecure you is someone else, too).
  • When you look in the mirror (beyond how fine you might think you are) is the face looking back at you yours? Do you even know who you're looking at?
  • When you go to bed at night do you sleep heavily because you're exhausted from pouring your blood, sweat and tears into the day?
  • When you're not satisfied with your life do you sketch out a game plan for success or do you resort to complaining?
  • When you just can't do it anymore, do you fall down on your knees and ask God for His strength to flow through you (for those of you who believe)?

Many of the above positives were the life rules of these recent "great ones" who now precede us in death. They were blessed and gifted, but they were also very much in tune with a) the fact that they were mere vessels of a higher power, and b) their limitations --- none.

I miss the single life...from time to time. This doesn't make me a bad man or husband. It makes me human. I know the grass isn't greener on the other side. It's just different. There's definitely more time to mow the lawn over there than over here, but I still have a lawn. And as long as I do, it's mine to make as healthy, green and lush as I want to. If it ends up a field of rocks and weeds, that's on me.

Get it?

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Saturday

Oftentimes, Things Don't Go As Planned

The title says it all. I think we've all experienced this --- from the silliest to the most serious of situations.

Have a happy, healthy and safe Fourth of July!

R.I.P. Steve McNair...

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Wednesday

Dads And Daughters

Black_Father_Daughter
Taken yesterday, two hours before my daughter left with my folks to Chicago, my birthplace. My son was upstairs drooling with excitement over not having a baby sister for month.


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Gettin' Over the Hump

Around 8 a.m. this past Saturday morning somebody drove past my bedroom window blasting Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough. The music trailed off as the car continued down the street leaving me wide awake.



I wasn't upset by the disturbance. I smiled and took in the blue sky outside my window.

Happy Hump-Day.

PS - I still have no words about Michael...

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