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Fall

Sun shines through gray, hazy clouds and slants gold off slats of old siding.  Old siding with new paint.  Moving vans park under mottled shadows from the canopy of my tree-colonnaded street.  Fewer children, fewer families every year.  Only expectations high off fantasies of the adventure of city memories trapped in amber, the color of rusty pine needles on the ground.  New faces, none that resemble yours, plant desert shrubs in gentrified gardens. Both plant and planter seem out of place until, one day, ever spreading, they aren’t and you are.  Your leaves on the ground, dry and brown, dead, dying, quickly.
      But you digress.
      You walk past a door hung with a wreath of autumn roses, orange and gold.  Pretty, plastic, fake.  A synthetic thing that looks good, mimicking the organic but void of life.  Never dying, sure, but never living.  A metaphor, perhaps, for this new created place being built around you.  While the place you once lived falls in dead husks around you.  You…

Lupe Fiasco's DROGAS Wave

Lupe Fiasco is one of the few rap artists in active dialogue with his own catalogue.  This, in many ways, makes his work some of the most literary in the genre.  His newest album, DROGAS Wave, is an example of this.  It presents the urban Black American experience through allegory no less effectively than its spiritual successor, 2007’s The Cool. The Coolwas a novel – the story of a zombified young Black man murdered by the very streets he pledged himself to -  complete with its own Grim Reaper-style villain.  DROGAS Waveis a short story collection.  Every song is an episodic tale, each connected thematically to the sinking of a slave ship in the Caribbean.  Many songs reference drowning and the metaphorical fight to keep one’s head above water.  Also like The Cool, Lupe has not allowed himself to be constrained by the concept album.  DROGAS Wave is less saddled with this thematic story than enlivened by it, allowing Lupe to play within the imaginary, creating fantasy audi…

Durag: A Short Personal History

The first time I ever wore a durag, my cousin tied it on my head and said, “You look like a gangbanger.” It was a compliment.  His sister agreed and they laughed because I was the baby of the family and the softest by a mile.  I ran to the bathroom and found in the mirror there a boy looking back who did look tougher, meaner; his soft, curly hair covered by the black flap of polyester.  As children, we’d already been taught to understand that something as simple as a tie-cap was a symbol of thuggishness.  Someone, somewhere, had already stigmatized the durag for us.  We’d already bought into the criminalization of a simple hair accessory for no other reason than it was a Black hair accessory. And since we were proud of our Blackness, in our childish logic, we aspired to this equated thuggishness, too. I practiced my mean mug in that very mirror with my cousin’s durag on my head, cape out.             The first stigmatization, of course, came not from the accessory, but the hair itsel…

Landing at Cancún International Airport

Finding the Unexpected in Solo: A Star Wars Story

Opening weekend, I saw Solo: A Star Wars Story twice.  This wasn’t something I expected to do.  Like many, I expected to be underwhelmed by a movie about young Han Solo.  We all know the narrative: it’s an “unnecessary” film – a cash grab by money-hungry Disney dead-set on pimping out a galaxy far, far away until we all scream like a Wookie.  The evidence stacked up against it.  Solo is a film no one asked for starring an unknown with a nigh-unpronounceable name (Alden Ehrenreich) that suffered from well-publicized behind-the-scenes problems resulting in a complete midcourse change-up of the creative team.  It was expected to be dead-on-arrival.
Of course, I was going to see it… eventually.  I’m an 80s kid who grew up playing with Star Wars action figures and swinging my mother’s dowel rods around like a lightsaber, breaking anything in reach.  Complain as I might, seeing the movie was a foregone conclusion.  At best, I assumed, Solo couldn’t disappoint me any worse than what I felt at…

Olivia's Recital

The following six pieces of micro-fiction/essay served as spoken word interstitials for a cello recital recently performed by my sister.  Each piece was read before a thematically-connected piece of music.  Hope you enjoy...
Intro You are someone’s daughter, someone’s mother, someone’s lover, someone’s sister.You are all these things. (Feel free to flip the gender, if you prefer.) What more besides? You are friend and enemy.You are mentor and mentee.You are collaborator and competitor.You are believer and believed. Artist and audience. You give and give and give.Then, having given so much, you wonder why you have not taken.So you do. You love unconditionally until you remember that there are conditions.You hate uncontrollably for want of control. You are what you are, yes.But you are, also, what they see. Most often, you are a chorus.At times, though - when the world quiets - you’re a soloist holding onto one clear note rising above all else. Moments like this seem to make the most sense to y…