The Artist and The Living Wage … (yup we actually need money.)


I’m about a year and a half into my grand decision to abandon my solid career for my dreams. Everyone loves a dreamer, right? And because of this I have the pleasure of reveling in and mentally supporting myself with, atta-girls, “likes”, favorites and retweets, and the affirmations of minor/major accomplishments. Since none of the aforementioned goods are legal tender in these United States, I’ve dived into the bottomless abyss of student loan debt. Now, the end is in sight. The end meaning my ability to live off college loans (which has been FAR from ideal) and be as ambitious as I wanna be in my artistic endeavors. In short. Shit is about to get real and I’m about to have to hustle in ways I hadn’t even began to imagine. I am fucking terrified.

I’d watched the artistic hustle of friends over the years as I nestled securely in the bosom of my bi-weekly paycheck and did theatre as my low/no paying side gig. I admired my friends who were full time artists greatly, supported them (with actual spendable money) when I could, and doubted my ability to support myself in the same way.  After all, how could one endure the constant disappointment and inconsistency that comes with being an artist trying to make a living wage? Even Oprah supposedly has a tough time paying artists :/. This could be because despite our undeniable contribution to the culture and day to day life in this country, artists in American society are greatly undervalued. Art programming is often the first to be cut when it’s time to tighten the old proverbial belt, ironic considering  the presence of thriving artists is a key indicator of a civilized society ( … wait, now it makes sense). Nonetheless, my admiration morphed into inspiration and I eventually moved forward into a life as a full time writer.

Though I leapt into the safety net of a grad program (an opportunity not afforded to or affordable for most artists … even me). I have made a few forays into marketing my art and myself for profit. The results have ranged from moderately successful to dismal failure. The plain truth is, I’m not good at it, at least I don’t think I am. It takes a great deal of tenacity (which I have) and the ability to endure humiliation (which I don’t have … yet). Case in point:

I was visiting my old job (a place I love/d) to visit and to rally the troops for what was at the time my second crowd funding campaign (*gag*). I felt safe enough in this environment to solicit because I knew these folks, while not rich they had fairly stable sustainable income, and I knew they believed in me. All was well and I was about the business of rounding up folks interested in donating when one person, who shall remain nameless but he knows who he is, chirped in the most insidiously shady of manners …

“Oh, you’re here collecting money again.”

I immediately felt like a cheap, worthless, moocher which I know on the conscious level of “his shit not mine” was a “choice”, but nonetheless it was incredibly hard to move on through the campaign after that. Every time I’d post or talk about it I heard him in the back of my mind.

“Oh, you’re here collecting money again.”

It was excruciating fucktard macabre dance in my mind to the tune of …


I got through it, and have since done yet another crowd funding campaign (*gag*). I’m learning the business of being an independent artist, which there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of forgiveness or support for in this crazy crazy world, but what’s my other choice? Quitting? Well fuck that. I was born to do this thing I do with words and it took me too long to figure out that it was my talent to hightail it away now. I’ll look for support where I can find it (while trying to keep a modicum of self respect). I’ll engage in employment that keeps me knee deep in what I love, and for what it’s worth I’m a pretty beastly grant writer. In short, to Mr. “Oh, you’re here collecting money again.”, your living and psychological manifestation, and any subsidiaries that may exist: Fuck you. I’m a writer. I deserve to be one, and I deserve a living wage because what I do matters. Try watching tv, movies, the news and any of the mundane activities of your everyday life in a world without us.

Ok, that was harsh. But seriously, if you don’t “get” artists being paid, it’s fine. You have a right to not care/contribute to their success, but at the very least, don’t shit on them with words or deeds. If you love artists and want to see them succeed SUPPORT them … with money. If my broke ass can do it, there’s a good chance you can too. It’s pretty easy set aside a tolerable amount of cash you can live without each week (it can seriously just be $5) take that money and donate it to a crowd funding campaign or buy an artist you know a meal or help pay for printing for a writer, buy a gift card to an art store for a painter. Little things mean ALOT and really fuel the fire when doubt enters to drain the creative process.

To those who actively support independent artist or the arts in general. THANK YOU. You make grace, beauty, and the artistic process possible.

Welp, I’m done. I hope you’ve been afforded a little understanding of what it’s really like to be on my side of the creative world and if you’re here with me: Rock On!!!

Below is a film that is essentially this post acted out in the world. It was directed by classmate and sisterfriend Carol Garlick. She’s an amazing screenwriter and human being. You will know her name. Oh yes, you will know her name 🙂


Year One: Thank you. Thank you.

At approximately 3:05 pm on this day I completed my first year of graduate studies at NYU Tisch School of the Arts.  Almost immediately I began to feel this huge sense of gratitude  for the road that got me here and the road ahead.  I wept on the train for happy reasons this time (v.s. my in ability to tolerate one more round of “show time” on the 2 train). None of this was on the trajectory for me even 3 years ago, and even when the blips did start to show, I was very doubtful of my ability to get accepted to a “reputable program” and excel in any way.  The truth is I wouldn’t be here had I not had the kind words, good deeds, financial support, and sweeping generosity of others.

To my family: You’re the greatest. Thanks for supporting me even when you didn’t quite understand what it is I’m going after. One day it’ll all make sense.

To my friends: Your love, light and laughter keep me going on sooooo many days.  You have no idea how many times I look back on our text conversations/emails or listen to voice mails just to feel connected when I feel like an idiot or like I’m all alone in this thing (yes, this makes me weird … and a little stalkish, but you knew this about me already.)

To my classmates: My special group of comrades in the trenches, who get how emotionally crippling it can be when plot lines don’t make sense, or your protag doesn’t have a proper antagonist, or when your story doesn’t have a dramatic arc, but by god is it fucking funny. Thank you for the time spent looking at my work and sharing your opinions in an effort to help me make it better.

(and to my Tisch Asia crew … YOU MADE IT MUPHUCKAS!!!! Party up!   I look forward to growing long friendships with you all that with any luck leads to us swimming in a sickening amount of cash … that we can then hand over to the government for our student loans.)

Ok, this is getting longer than I wanted it to be and I don’t want it to come off like some douchey acceptance speech, but I do think it’s proper to stop, observe, and give thanks because I definitely didn’t make it this far on my own.



p.s. If you’ve stumbled upon this blog at a point in your life when your deciding whether or not you’re good enough for … whatever … fuck that. You are. Just do it. You never know where it might take you.

and this … cause dammit it’s inspiring

Judgement Day.

I was struck by this bit of Divine insight while journalling about my meditation today and thought it could be helpful to other creatives or just human beings:

When taking critiques of our work (whatever your work is) it might be helpful to think of yourself as being an observer from the inside of your house during a powerful storm. You see and hear things you think are “good”.  You see and hear things that you think are “bad” but overall you won’t be consumed by them.  When the “storm” is gone and the notes/recommendations are given. You allow yourself time to recover from what you heard and saw, then open the door, go outside, and start cleaning. Consider the notes/recommendations as you clean and hold on to those things that you feel in your gut to be truth of your work regardless of what the notes/recommendations are. Let go and follow the bits of advice you know to be true even when your ego is telling you otherwise.

All right.  I’m done channeling.  Happy working y’all.


It’s Oscar season.

9/18/2013 I am not sure if I have ever been this moved to anger by anything.  I didn’t just see Oscar Grant on that screen.  I saw my brother, my nephews, [my ex-boyfriend], every black man that I have loved or thought to love.  My heart is broken into a million pieces about the cheapness of a black life.  It isn’t right.  It’s far from just and it was never meant for us … this American life.  It has served us in no tangible way.  We remain entangled, snared in our own weaknesses and short comings.  Constantly kicked in the stomach, but told to get up.  I am [resentful] at and for black men everywhere and I am choking on the words.  My fingers can’t write them and my mouth can’t speak them.  I am burning with anger.  God please help me find a way to express this to the goal of healing rather than self destruction.

I wrote that on the subway ride home the night after I’d seen Fruitvale Station.  I have not ever in my life reacted so strongly to a film.  From the opening scene, footage of the actual murder of Oscar Grant, to the last moments of the dramatic re-enactment on film I was destroyed.  I sobbed openly and out loud as if I’d seen my own son murdered. I exited the theatre and walked Third Avenue mad enough to strangle someone.  Not a White person, not the Police … anyone. Even the next morning, when I looked back on it, I still harbored residual anger.  How could any human life be so worthless? Why are incidents like this treated so nonchalantly?

These questions danced around in my head for the proceeding days. People were talking about this film everywhere.  I didn’t run across one person who’d seen it and not walked away feeling gut punched.  This is what I want my work as an artist to do, I thought, rattle the consciousness of people, and maybe … just maybe … affect change.  Surely, most people speculated, This film will do well in award season.  Even I, knowing better, allowed myself to dwell in the illusion that the power of this film and the issues it raises would have to be acknowledge by the artistic higher ups.

As we know, and should not be too shocked by, Fruitvale was summarily snubbed by the more illustrious award granting bodies (Oscars/Globes).  I could spend the remainder of this post bitching about that, citing my issues with films of inferior quality/content that were nominated, but I would be missing the point.  The lesson or I should say the reminder, at least for me,  is this: Film is film, a  subjective art form made by an endless variety of creators for an endless variety of reasons.  There are a million and two reasons why certain films, actors, and directors are (or are not) chosen for esteemed awards.  I’d lay the cost of my Tisch tuition on some of the reasons having little to do with the quality of the work. That’s neither here nor there.  What I need to remember is that if I choose to participate in this industry (and it is a choice) I must lay to the side any expectation of glory and tell stories because I want to or because on some cellular level I  need to.

Most of the time I try to tell stories that set me on fire. After all, I am a Black female writer and mother of a Black Son.  I am creating during Oscar season, and I speak not of the award, but a time when it appears to be open season on young Black Men like Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis … etc. etc. It is imperative that these stories are told and retold as America has a nasty tendency to forget what she looks like and needs to be reminded every now and again, by bold artist unthreatened by the withholding of “head-pats” and “atta-boys”. (See: Spike Lee)

Now, I know, every film can’t be Fruitvale or Milk or a political diatribe meant to raise awareness about x to y so that z can be forced to change its evil imperialist ways, nor should it be.  I mean where the fuck would I be without Pee Wee’s Big Adventure or Dumb and Dumber ( especially the scene where Jim Carey slaps dude in the legs with the cane)  to rescue me from the madhouse between my ears and the debacle of George Zimmerman’s budding art career.  What I do want us to remember as we huddle around the television and pick apart red carpet fashion do’s and don’t this evening is that film has greater power than any one evening of pomp and circumstance can contain.  It sent me out of a theatre a screaming crying mess ready to write all that was wrong with the world.    That’s great shit.


Unrequired Love.


10:35 on a lonely Friday night. Why? Because stories about love have to begin with lonesomeness, that’s why. LOIS, lonely Lois, slightly older than 30, looks like’s she’s 40. Sits at a table for two in a Chinese restaurant that’s about the size of a closet in the east village. It is Valentine’s Day, and she’s trying really hard not to give a fuck. She busies herself with things she brought along to busy herself. In walks LESTER a strapping young man, of 39. He walks over to the counter and without waiting for anyone to show up he starts viciously ringing the bell on the counter. A young but tired looking Asian man named JIN walks out. He knows this fucker.

JIN:  Udon and ox tail.

LESTER:  Indeed.

Jin disappears to the back. Lester meanders around as if he hadn’t been there a thousand times. He decides on the seat directly by Lois at her table. He makes himself comfortable by moving her shit.

LOIS: There’s another table over there.

LESTER: I know.

Lester goes in his man bag and takes out a disreputable news paper. Probably the New York Post.

LOIS: So why don’t you go sit at it.

LESTER: Because I don’t want to.

Lois watches him read for a spell then …

LOIS: I don’t want any shit outta you. I know what this is. It’s Valentine’s day, we’re in this intimate place and you are trying to strike up some convo and maybe make some type of connection. Hell, maybe I’ll take you home and fuck you on the sofa real quiet like as to not wake Mother out of her opioid coma. You’ll make promises in hushed tones about calling me the following Friday only you won’t, I’ll have to spend the evening watching Wheel of Fortune with Mother and her group of degenerate Senior Citizens. So save your rap buddy. I don’t wish to connect with you or any one else with a penis or a vagina for that matter. I’d like it very much if you would take yourself and your trashy fucking newspaper and relocate to the table that is sitting in dire need of someone to occupy it.

Lester turns the page in his newspaper.

LOIS: Now!

Lester folds his paper up and sits it on his lap.

LESTER: I don’t want to. There is a large disgusting garbage can directly to the right of that table. The thought of a discarded bit of typhoid leaping from the trash in to my Udon is simply too much to bear. If you’d like, you can displace yourself over in yon sewer, but I, don’t intend to move.

Lester unfolds the paper as Jin arrives with Lois’s order. Jin, btw, does not have an obnoxious Asian accent. He was raised in East Orange, NJ.

JIN: Shrimp fried rice, with a side of tartar sauce. Enjoy. Let me know if you need anything else. Your udon will be out in a sec.

LESTER: Fantastic.

Lois organizes herself before she begins. This is pure OCD ritual. Fork cleaned and organized, rice arranged around the plate, shrimp plucked out and set neatly on the side, the whole nine. Lester lowers his paper and watches. He’s captivated by this shit and when she’s done, right before she takes the first bite …

LESTER: That’s why.

He lifts his paper again to read. Lois sits her fork down.

LOIS: That’s why … what? From behind the paper.

LESTER: You’re single.

Lois sits her fork down.

LOIS: Excuse me?

LESTER: I mean you’re not terrible looking, a little fleshy, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem for most men these days.

LOIS: You’re a real bastard. I suppose you know that though.

LESTER: I do, and I also know the reason why you’re single is your freakish habits.

LOIS: No freakier than you sitting down next to a complete stranger when it’s clear that they don’t want you there.

LESTER: Good. We’re both weirdos with freakish habits.

Jin enters. He sits Lester’s food down with far less costumer service zest he offers him not a damn thing else and is trying to walk away when.


JIN: Jin. My name is Jin.

LESTER: Right. Jin. Jin, can you please get me those nice plastic chopsticks that you have?

JIN: We’re out of them.

LESTER: Well that’s awful.

JIN: I guess so.

Jin attempts exit again.

LESTER: Jin, I’ll take a diet cola.

JIN: Sure.

Jin exits. Lester puts his paper away, grabs one of the napkins Jin gave him, places his hands in his lap on top of the napkin and watches Lois eat. Her eating is laced with as much ritual as the set up for her meal. This goes on until Lois chooses to notice him watching.

LOIS: Fuck off.

LESTER: Language.

LOIS: Move then.

LESTER: We both know I’m not.

Jin comes back out.

JIN: We’re actually out of diet cola.

LESTER: Really? That’s unfortunate. Water will do then. Bottled water.

Jin exits again.

LOIS: What do you do?

LESTER: I do a lot of things.

LOIS: Your work.

LESTER: I’m independently wealthy. I don’t work. My job is to observe and participate in life.

LOIS: Hmn.


LOIS: Yes … Hmn.

LESTER: My name is Lester … should you care to know.

LOIS: I shouldn’t. I could have died without knowing actually.

LESTER: And you are?

LOIS: None of your business.

LESTER: Suit yourself.

Jin comes out and sits a bottle of water on the table.

JIN: Are you still working on that?

Lois looks down at the plate of neatly dissected food and decides she wants to go a couple more rounds.

LOIS: I am.

Jin exits then re-enters.

JIN: Oh, we’re gonna be closing in the next 10 minutes. Don’t rush, but I’m just gonna be locking the door then … the holiday.

Jin doesn’t wait for a reaction, he’s out.

LESTER: It’s funny what constitutes a holiday for some people.

LOIS: I told you, no Valentines Day talk. If you’re looking to “hook up”.

LESTER: Madame, even if I wanted to hook up, you would be the last person on earth that would happen with.

LOIS: Gee thanks.

LESTER: This is not to insult you it’s just that I’m a homosexual and therefore have no interest in you sexually, although I do find your meticulous habits fascinating.

Lester finally starts to eat.

LOIS: You’re queer?

LESTER: No, I’m a homosexual.

LOIS: There’s a difference?

LESTER: There is for me. Being homosexual means that when I am sexually aroused there is a 99.9% chance that attraction to a man caused it. Queer is an identity, a political one used to seek a certain status within society. All the labels are Black, White …, I choose to not identify in that way. I seek no level of status in society. I choose to merely exist. Exist and observe.

LOIS: Aren’t you fancy.

LESTER: No, but I am at peace which is more than I can say for you. I’m not the one sitting in a hole in the wall Chinese joint on Valentine’s Day night trying to forget the fact that there’s no one who is going to have meaningless sex with me and give me a card.

LOIS: But you’re here, just as here as me. Why come out at all on a Valentine’s day night? Why not order in and find a hot twink on Grinder.

Lester pushes out a minor giggle.

LESTER: Where do you get this stuff, reality television?

LOIS: I have gay friends, I know how this works.

LESTER: I don’t dabble in Grinders or twinks. I am for lack of better wording asexual. Anal sex is a messy affair that I want nothing to do with, and love is far worse than that. A human being needs only food and shelter to survive. Nature vs. Nurture is a myth.

LOIS: And this is why you’re single.

LESTER: By choice. By a very deliberate choice. One I don’t think you’re making right now. You have friends? Why aren’t you out with them empowering your singleness.

Lois drops her gaze. You already know what it is.

LESTER:  They’re all out on dates aren’t they?

Lois sits down her fork, picks up her purse.

LOIS: Sir!? Jin!?

LESTER: I’m not picking on you.

LOIS: Of course you’re not. Jin enters.

Lois fumbles through her bag and reaches a credit card to Jin. In her haste, she drops it. Lester picks it up, looks at it and hands it to Jin.

LESTER: Lois. That’s an interesting name.

LOIS: Are you gonna tell me that’s the other reason why I’m single?

LESTER: No, I’m not. Actually I was going to tell you that there is no need to feel … down or anything about today or any of supposed things that are supposed to go along with it.

LOIS: You’re just on top of it all aren’t you? You float just above the level of feeling and look down on those who have the audacity to want anything. Like your ability to “choose” to be and stay single is something that makes you a superior breed of human. You’re just a pathetic as I am only you don’t know it. The day will come when you are old and all you will want is someone to hold your hand while you’re dying. Not only will you not have someone to hold your hand, you won’t so much as have a name to call out when you draw your last breath. I’d rather be in shitty relationships for all eternity than to be like you …

Jin enters with her credit card receipt. Lois signs it with the quickness.

LOIS:  … at least  I’m alive.  At least I’m living.

Lois slams all her shit in her bag and heads out the door. Lester watches. A long while passes as he pics over then abandons his food. Jin enters.

JIN: I need to … I need to ring you up. I gotta get out of here.

LESTER: I see.

JIN: Uh … You want a box?

LESTER: No. No, I’m good.

Lester goes in his wallet and leaves exact change on the table. Jin disposes of his plate and disappears to the back. Lester rises and stares through the front door of the shop. Jin comes back out with a dozen roses and a gift bag.

JIN: I’ll … I’ll be here later tomorrow. It’s just today —

LESTER: I understand.

There’s an awkward moment when Jin does everything but tell Lester to get the fuck out.

LESTER: I understand.

Lester steps out and takes off to the left. Jin heads off in the opposite direction.


Right? Write.

My time at Tisch and NYC in general, thus far has lead me to some realizations, startling and otherwise. Once the apartment hunting was done (The Bronx … who knew), the classes were paid for, and the first day had, it dawned on me that I had in no real way prepared for getting what I wanted. That’s right, I’d thrown so much energy into the fight to get here that I’d invested essentially none on what I would do once I was doing what I came here to do.  Hence, I have  spent the last four weeks flopping around like an epileptic at a performance of River Dance (I’m sorry, that was horrible). Moving on.

The first startling realization was that I was the only Black one in my graduating class. (Ok, so it wasn’t that startling. I sat down the first day, looked around, I was it.) I spent the first week and a half feeling like I, as one of my friends so aptly put it ,”the future of Black playwriting was on my shoulders.” This thought served to simultaneously stroke my ego; as I pictured myself doing battle with a hyper-villainous Tyler Perry driving my mighty quill through  his coonish heart, and scare the beloved shit outta me.  “Everything I say has to be so carefully laid out, my message clear and concise.  It’s so important.”  I thought as I lay around and wrote not a fuckin’ THING. I was stuck. This lead me to my second startling realization.

I had no CLUE what I wanted to write about.  I had a million lofty ideas that seem to do nothing but dance around in my skull 24hrs a day when was in Charlotte. In New York, I dunno, I think they were chased out by the sounds of trains, screaming vagrants, and  cholo cart bells (alas coconut icee, I shall miss you this winter).  The scrap of sanity I felt I had left lead me to seek refuge in my usual avenues. I met good people, did grounding things, got sound advice, and pulled my head just far enough out of my ass to have a moment of clarity which lead me to my third realization (or I should say re-realization because it always comes back to this for me).

Nobody gives a shit. I don’t mean this in that too-cool-for-school Bronx Tale kinda way, but rather people are far too busy worrying about their own real lives  to give a shit about whether I can generate words for this outrageously expensive graduate program I chose to attend.  This is my “dream car”.  I have to drive it.  I have to provide the fuel that determines the type of exhaust I put out. I use regular gas. I’mma get regular assed exhaust, the kind people choke on and does the world little good. However, if I use the brain between my ears and keep the pen moving in my hand, I might be able to produce something I can be proud of whatever or whoever it’s about.*

The ideas have slowly but surely began to repopulate. This New York life has started to feel more like mine despite the people and places I miss back in Charlotte.  I can make a go of this I think. Right? Write.


*where the hell did that car analogy come from tho?

PE: The Unseen Enema!

I’m not sure if I ever feel “special” or “wanted”. I have determined the reason for this is an undiscovered birth defect that children in the future will be tested for.  They may even develop a vaccine.  It’d play out something like this:

(A happy couple with their new baby in tow, walks into a pediatrician’s office for baby’s first appointment. The doctor sits behind the desk, shuffles mindlessly through papers. It is apparent that all tests and labs are normal. Then he stumbles upon a piece of paper that causes him to stop and furrow his Andy Rooney like brow.)

Doctor:  Mr. and Mrs. Happy?

The Happies: (anxious) Yes?

Doctor:  I’ve got some difficult news.

Mr. Happy: What is it?

Doctor:  There is something terribly wrong with little Johnny.

Mrs. Happy:  Oh no!  But I did all the right things during my pregnancy! I exercised, ate the right foods, kept my pot smoking to a minimum, and refrained from contact with undesirable societal elements.

(Mrs. Happy dissolves into tears.)

Mr. Happy: (stiff upper lip) Alright doc.  Lay it on us.

Doctor: Little Johnny has PE.

Mrs Happy:  Oh My God No!!! No no no no no no no nonononononono! aaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!!!

(Mr. Happy slaps the shit out of Mrs. Happy)

Mrs. Happy: (to Mr. Happy) Thanks Honey. (to Doctor) Um, what’s PE?

Doctor: Perpetual Emptiness. No matter how much or how little love and affection you shower that little sonnovabitch with, he’ll still feel like a useless sack of shit, and act accordingly.

Mr. Happy: So, there’s a name for that now?  Thanks modern science!

Doctor: Yes, there is a name, and we are mere decades away from a cure!  Aboriginal children at a camp in a remote area of New Zealand are currently being used to test the vaccine.  When those little bastards stop bouncing off walls and spontaneously combusting we’ll know we’re almost there.

Mrs. Happy:  What do we do in the mean time?

Doctor: (ponders) Well it’s too late too abort.  There’s always abandonment or general disinterest in his life.

Mr. Happy:  Does that work?

Doctor:   I don’t know.  Go ask your father.

(Mr. and Mrs. Happy share a puzzled look.)

Doctor: Go on, get him out of here. There’s nothing else I can do for him.

(Mr. and Mrs. Happy leave with Little Johnny in hand.  Three months later, they divorce.  Six months later, Ms. Happy, under the assumed name of “Thunder Clap”, begins a lucrative career in striptease.  Little Johnny?  I’m not sure, but it is likely that he’s well on his way to becoming the savior or condemnation of modern society.)

The End.

(Cue Cape Fear theme music.)

I may suffer with PE, and we may be saying hello to my son’s great-grandchildren before there’s a cure, but dammit I know you like me! You really like me! (Please say you like me 😦 … and want me :/ .)

Alright I’m done being a jackass.  Happy Valentine’s Day to the all the lonely hearts!


A moment: At Caribou.

Setting: Caribou Coffee – Park Road Shopping Center – Charlotte, NC

Time:  December 18, 2102 9:15 am

Lights Up. 

(I’m sitting in Caribou coffee, paying my cell bill before they cut me off, arranging my oatmeal, coffee, and water.  I take out my journal to write when a group of children enter followed by their doting teachers.  I try not to look. In short order they begin to sing a song that I am not familiar with about cultural unity followed by a traditional Christmas carol which I can’t remember because by this time I have dissolved into tears. Across from me sits a woman and her baby who is no older than about 9 months.  She sees me.)

Woman:  Oh my God, are you okay?

Me:  I can’t … it’s just … just.  The kids you know?

(She turns to the children and quickly turns back.)

Woman:  Yeah. (pause) I can’t even watch the news.

Me: Me either.

(I cry a little more.  She squeezes what looks like pudding into the baby’s mouth.  She … I think it was a she … she has chubby rosy cheeks and is adorable.)

Me: (still slightly distraught) This is the kind of stuff they were probably doing.

Woman:(sighs) Yeah.

(We both pause.  The children finish their song.  We look at one another and we clap for them. She goes back to tending to the baby.  The two of them play and laugh.  The children have exited.  I have put my headphones back in.  Mo’ Betta Blues plays. I go back to my journaling and glance up just in time to see the woman leaving. We mime:

Woman:  Have a good day.

Me:  You too.  Happy Holidays … Have a happy …

(She’s gone. Back to my journal.)

Lights Out.

Stardust Melody


“Yes, Nana?”

“Did I ever tell you about the time yo grandpa played clarinet with Glen Miller.”

“Only about a thousand times.”

“Glenn Miller said that your grandpa …”

“…blew that clarinet like nobody he’d ever heard before. One minute it’s Glenn Miller, the next Count Bassie, Louis Armstrong. Nana, are you okay?”

“What you mean am I ‘ok’?  I’m fine.  I’m trynna tell you somethin’ and you keep …”

“You need to eat.”

“Go in the top drawer over there and fetch me out that box of pictures.”

“Nana, you have to eat.  I’ve been here two days and you haven’t eaten more than a cup of ice cream.”

“I like ice cream.”

“Can you please just eat this applesauce? Please?!”

“I’ll eat every mouthful if you go over there and get my box of pictures out that drawer.”

She goes to get the pictures for her grandmother


The old woman fumbled through the box of photographs and pulls out the one she’s been looking for.

“There he is!”

“That’s grandpa?”

“Yeah! He was just a youngin’ here.  Handsome.  This couldn’ta been too much more before I met him. I sure loved him in that uniform.”

“I …”

“You look jus like ‘im. ‘Specially when he was young.”

The two stare at the photograph, lost in their own thoughts.  Her grandmother begins to sing.

“ ‘Sometimes I wonder why I spend such lonely nights …

“I got the pictures. Now we eat. That was the deal.”

“ ‘The melody haunts my reverie. And I am once again with you.’ ”


“Come on sing wit me Baby.  I know you know the words. ‘When our love was new–”

“ ‘Each kiss an inspiration.’ ”

They both sing.

“  ‘But that was long ago, now my consolation
Is in the stardust of a song
Beside a garden wall
When stars are bright!
And you are in my arms
The nightingale tells his fairy tale
A paradise where roses bloom’ ”

Now there is only one voice.

“ ‘Though I dream in’ … come on Nana this is the best … Nana?”


“No. No. No No No No No. No. Nana wake up please. Please wake up.”


“Baby. Finish the song.”

“I can’t. Don’t leave me, not now, I need you.”

“I ain’t neva goin’ nowhere. I’m gone always be here.  Now finish it.”


“ ‘Though I dream in vain
in my heart it will remain
My stardust melody
The melody of love’s refrain’ “

They are together. Now one life.


Gorgeous 🙂

Beach Boys

“Man to hell wit what you talkin’ bout!”
“I’m serious now.  I tell you there ain’t nothing like a woman with great big legs.”

“Oh yeah, Lena Mae got great big legs, and a great big ole ass, and stomach.”

“Big women treat you good Marsh, and they cook!”

“I ain’t nevah met nobody fulla more horse shit than you Octavius Greene. I declare. If you wanna talk to her friend, go on over there and talk to her and leave me out of it.”

“Women team up.  I ain’t gonna get two words outta that gal unless I bring you with me to keep Lena busy, you know that.”

“Take a sandwich over there.  That’ll keep her busy.”

“You ain’t worth a damn. What you got against Lena anyway?  Seem like I can recollect last summer you ain’t have a problem with Lena being plump at all. Seem like what I remember is you liked that a whole lot.”

“Man hush.”

“She put you down didn’t she?!”

“Get on away from me Octavius.”

“Marshall Chesterfield let a woman put him down! LAWD have mercy! The dignified educated nigger himself!”

“I said be quiet you red sonofabitch!”

“Marshall, what’s the matter with you man?! I was just joshin’ with you.”

“She said I was too black.”

“Lena Mae?”

“Yeah, said we could fool around however much we wanted to, but she couldn’t marry me.”

“You wanted to marry Lena Mae Taylor?!”

“Shit yeah man, the Taylors are a good family.”

“That why you wanted to marry her?”

“Yeah! Her father could get me a real good job when I get outta school. I had it planned out.  After you left last summer.  I courted her … boy I tell you, I bought that broad flowers, took her to the pictures, we was gettin’ pretty hot and heavy, then she laid it on me: “I like you a lot Marsh, but my daddy won’t let me be with nobody near as dark as you, plus you don’t really come from nothin’ ”

“Marsh, you know them Taylors.”

“Yeah, I know em. Hell with ’em.  I’ll make it just fine on my own. High yella niggas.”

“I ain’t gonna hear too much more a that.”

“What you gone do yella?”

“I’ma beat yo black ass is what I’m gone do, but I gotta do it before sun down else I won’t be able to see you.”

“You a fool Octavius.”

“Yep, a fool looking for a good time.  Now you gone go over there with me so I can get the first shot at this fine new gal or what?”

“I s’pose so.  Lena always up for a good time.”

“You rascal!  Look they wavin’ at us. Lena even got a camera. She gone take our picture.”

“I sure hope you show up in it.  It is daytime you know.”