Crunch Theory

image

Herbert: This world is going to Hell.

Captain: No kidding. So much tragedy in the world, and if we ain’t careful, Donald Trump will be the one regulating all of it.

Herbert: Yeah. Can’t say the writing wasn’t on the walls, though. Our elders warned us. Shoot, it’s right there in the Bible. I mean, not about Trump, but the rest of it.

Captain: Wait. What?

Herbert: The Bible? The most famous Book in the entire world? Didn’t you have a grandma?

Captain: I know what the Bible is and I know what it says. But how do you know what the Bible says?

Herbert: Why can’t I know what’s in the Bible?

Captain: You can absolutely know. I just think it’s funny you bring it up, because I can’t help but think about the revolving door of women going in and out of your bedroom.

Herbert: God knows my heart.

Captain: That’s not how it works, Herb. You can’t just–

Herbert: Anywho, you don’t even have to look in The Good Book to see what I’m talking about. The evidence is all around us. Just go to your local grocery store.

Captain: I don’t follow.

Herbert: Oreos got different flavors, dude. Oreo used to be the flavor. When I go get ice cream, I get Oreo flavor. But now they got mixed berry, peanut butter, birthday cake, punkin’ spice–

Captain: What about mint?

Herbert: Mint’s cool.

Captain: Okay, ’cause mint’s my jam.

Herbert: No doubt. But it’s just a matter of time before they got a two-dollar mixed berry, pumpkin spice, Oreo shake at Sonic.

Captain: That’s gross.

Herbert: Before you know it, there’ll only be the marshmallows in Lucky Charms.

Captain: Now you’re just being ridiculous.

Herbert: You sure about that? You see what happened to Cap’n Crunch.

Captain: Hey, now. That’s literally my cereal. Don’t talk about my cereal.

Herbert: Your cereal also has a version that’s just berries, no crunch. What you say about that, Cap’n?

Captain: Watch your mouth.

Herbert: I’m simply saying that these things going on in the world were revealing themselves in some of the other areas of our lives. All you have to do is pay attention.

Captain: I refuse to argue with you about the flavor of my cereal being comparable to ISIS attacks in Paris; violent unrest in various parts of Africa; Greek economy; continued turmoil in the Middle East; violence on college campuses; planes falling out the sky inexplicably then possibly explicably; police killing black folks left and right; children targeted in gang violence; social media done somehow turned into racial media… .

Herbert: You’re not understanding me. That’s not what I’m saying but it’s okay. The world is going to Hell in a hand basket. In this case, I’m merely drawing attention to the basket.

Captain: I couldn’t agree more. You are a basket case.

image

Call Back to Color

“Hey, Herb. Have you read this?” Captain held a copy of The Beautiful Struggle as he watched his roommate and best friend sip a concoction of various light liquors and bitters. He swished the fluid around in his mouth for a moment, let it rest for a moment, then spit messily into a kitchen sink full of dishes. Captain hated when Herb spent the week prepping for one of their bi-monthly parties. Daily chores would build up and near a tipping point, leaving Captain with the hefty task of cleaning the apartment, while Herb creates and forgets cocktail recipes.

Herb wiped his hands on his pants and took the book. “What is it? One of those Black Erotica books? Look, I told you, the woman at the booth told me it was like if Harry Potter was black, lost his powers, and ended up going to college at Howard.” He turned it over to read the back cover.

“I literally don’t know why I talk to you sometimes. Nevermind, dude. Give it.” Captain reached out to grab his book, but Herb swatted the hand away with a stinging slap.

“What are you reading this for? He a famous actor or something?”

“Nah, man. He just got the MacArthur Genius Grant and I wanted to check him out. Also, Kweli’s named some of his mixtapes the same thing.”

“Hm.” Many of the pages were dogeared and the would-be mixologist opened the book randomly and read aloud:

Girlfriend: Ta-Nehisi, what sort of girls do you like?
Ta-Nehisi: I like light-skin girls.

       There must have been a gasp, but I was young and must have missed it, because my next image is postconversation, sitting in the car with my mother staring at me, the car unstarted. Her eyes were power drills, and though she herself was a shade from yellow, she was a patriot of a broader Africa.
       Little Boy, don’t you ever say anything like that again. You can have your little eyes on whoever you want, for whatever you want. But you remember that these little black girls are somebody’s daughter, somebody’s sister–your sister, and someday, somebody’s mother, and when it comes down, the white man won’t take time to make distinctions. You need to check yourself, little boy.*

“That’s funny to me.”

“In what way?”

“Him and his mother having that conversation in the car. The passenger seat can be a throne in the right circumstance. It can also be a witness stand, interrogation chair, the Pastor’s right hand, or a mother’s chair of reprimand. Looks like this was that and the electric chair all in one.” Herb handed the book back to Captain and began mixing another series of liquors.

“Yeah, I remember my brother looking at my red, crying face and shaking his head at me because I let an older kid take my bookbag in fifth grade. I was so embarrassed. He didn’t let up on me either.” Captain flipped aimlessly through the book as he reminisced. “That was the day he took me to the baseball field to show me how to throw a punch.”

“I thought you were a black belt…” said Herb, as he continued to practice shaking some kind of martini in two glasses held rim to rim. Most of the liquid only splashed onto his shirt.

“That happened later. The first punch I ever learned was from him. While I was sitting in that car, balling my eyes out, he asked me if the kid was black. I told him ‘yes’ through a series of hiccups and coughs. I didn’t know why it mattered, but I answered him ’cause he asked. But he said that if it was a white kid, then he would come with me to tell Mom and Dad so they could go up to the school. But when he found out it was another black boy, I had to set that kid straight myself.”

“He’s right. If word got out in the locker room that you soft, you’d still be running for your life.”

“You ain’t lyin’. Shame how we treat each other so different. White kid take my candy, I gotta snitch. Black kid take my candy, I gotta rock him to make sure everybody knows what’s up.”

“That’s how we’re brought up, homie. Prison mentality.” Herbert cuts a wedge of lime squeezes it onto his tongue, then drops the entire slice into his mouth; rind and all.

image

*excerpt from The Beautiful Struggle: A Memoir by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Red Flags: Volume One

Red Flags: a series of anecdon’ts–stories, both nonfictional and fictional, about the ways that relationships can NOT come to fruition. Each story is a collection of moments that exist at the meeting point of ‘sweet’ and ‘sour’.

“What was that look?”

Conversations that take this turn rarely end well. Looking back, I should have known the relationship would ultimately end at the foot of the Springfield escalator to nowhere.

image

It was the first of few lunch-date thingies. We sat next to a bone-dry fountain in the Chicago Place food court, downtown. As she spoke, I had a mouthful of food — chicken tenders, probably. She’d been telling me about her stint as a bartender and that her high cheekbones and generous bustline helped her take home addictive amounts of cash in tips. Apparently, I made a face. She thought I had a problem with this; that I thought she was vain. The only problem was, I’d made no face. Not on purpose, anyway. Why would I? What she said made sense: (pretty smile) + (ample bosom) x (often) = attention at bars. In fact, the next ten minutes that followed were her trying to convince me of how I felt about her based on a face she thought she saw me make. She spent most of that time arguing with herself, and when it was said and done, I’m pretty sure I’d lost the argument.

We worked together. She — I’ll call her Nadine — was in a different department so we had very little work-related interaction. We eventually became friendly, but lunch plans turned into a weekly dance. Schedules were tough to sync because she was helping catch up on accounts of the payable type; my personal accounts, of the receivable type, limited my participation in the lunch-date thingies, for I was but a lowly intern. And perhaps a fitting title. I pitched my decision to pursue a relationship, right past ‘unwise’ and over the plate into the catcher’s mitt of ‘stupid’. A true professional would have known better than dating someone at the office, especially an office of less than 20 employees, where gossip is a second language. It became theater. We had next to no chance in such an unforgiving environment: a PR and advertising firm where everything and everyone is judged quickly and harshly. Coworkers told Shakespearean stories about other coworkers bustin’ down interns of varying age differences on grossly stained couches and how it ends well for no one, but my stubbornness made me push past all of the signs that read, “Ixnay on the upidstay!” I was determined to find lunch-hour love, so I put myself out there. I would either find myself a girlfriend, make a new friend, or be no worse off than when I first saw her. Oh, if it were only that simple.

Nadine became neither a girlfriend nor a friend.

There was definitely potential for a relationship, be it friend or more, however, I think she just wasn’t digging me, when it got right down to it. Her initial interest in me came in the form of curiosity. I was told she thought I was “mysterious.” Believe me; mysterious I am not. It wasn’t until Nadine and I were able to spend some real time together that I learned what she really wanted. Unfortunately, it wasn’t me. The mystery became the mundane. She came to my house and lay on my couch while I told her stories of my childhood. We talked for hours. We walked to the chicken joint down the block (wings this time) where, along the way, an older guy complimented me on how happy my “wife” and I looked together. We ate and I took her home. No kiss, no cuddle, just a hug goodbye. But at that point I thought we’d slid into the first level of courtship. It was maybe a week before she dropped that other shoe: she had an ex. I mean, people have exes, but he was in and out of her life in a way that I didn’t think was healthy and he was working his way back in. Sure we could have had fun just dating, but she would have bounced as soon as dude pulled up outside, Keyser Soze style.

image

She really wanted things to work out with the ex. She even told me this on one of our lunch-date thingies. The news prompted me to write her a letter expressing my intentions to not come between her and what she really wants. I stated this explicitly in the letter. The next day at work, I dropped it in her purse expecting her to read it on the way home or something. She came to me later that day and thanked me for being so forthcoming. Essentially, we decided we would keep it platonic. They got back together. Not long (maybe a few days?) after that she called me crying. The ex found my letter. He called the whole thing off. I didn’t understand why she still had the letter, nor did I get why he broke up with her. He couldn’t have read it. Not one word. Unless he was just pissed that she entertained the idea of spending time with another guy, he totally missed that I knew she wanted him and thought they should be together. But I guess he couldn’t see past the letter’s existence.

I vowed to stay away from Nadine after that. No lunch. No nothing. Nothing more than hellos and goodbyes. That lasted for a while — I’m not sure of this timeline, either. Then one day she comes to me and asks me to lunch. Really? Yes, really. She insisted. Even offered to pay (remember: lowly intern). I figured there was some explanation she wanted to give me, or maybe that’s just what I wanted. I didn’t like that things ended sourly, even though I was fine with not dating. If nothing else, we could clear the air. As it turned out, her morning got busy and she couldn’t make it to lunch, but as I got ready to head out, she came up behind me and slid a ten-dollar bill in my pocket. I felt uncomfortable with the gesture. I was Marcus the morning after Jacqueline stood him up for the play, pulling the sheets up to my chin. (cue Ertha Kit’s gravelly voice calling out to me from a distance) It may have been a sign that she wanted to be forward and honest with me. She said she’d pay for lunch; even if she wasn’t there. I thanked her and got me some food — chicken tenders, probably.

image

When I left the office that day (or some day…Valentine’s Day, maybe?), I saw Nadine standing with a bouquet of flowers and a card. He no longer held the title of “ex.” We chatted as she waited for her boyfriend to pick her up. I wished Nadine luck. She seemed happy with her decision and that’s all I could ask for. No joke. But I made sure to skidaddle before he pulled up. You know…what with her being Keyser Soze, and all.

Although there were other elements that helped stifle this almost-but-never-was relationship, there was a part of me that was disappointed. I’d had my heart broken a few years before, but I thought I was ready to date. Legitimately date. That just-want-to-meet-new-folks-and-have-a-good-time kind of dating. Apparently, I would need to search outside the convenience of the workplace to find love…

…but not before spending a little time with a fellow intern.

I know. I know. Stubbornness is a dish best served twice.

Be good.

Faux Pas Film

image

Some friends and I made a short film. You should watch it and then tell other friends to watch it. See it here:

Faux Pas Film

To check out more info on the cast, crew, process, etc. peep the official film website here: http://www.fauxpasfilm.com/index2.html.

image

Not to brag or anything but this little gem was the official selection for the following film festivals:

Blackstar Film Festival 2013
Gene Siskel’s Black Harvest Film Festival 2013
Hollywood Black Film Festival 2013
San Diego Black Film Festival
2013 Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival 2013 as an HBO award finalist

PS–I wrote it.

image

Be good.

Bitter Thorns

image

Our friends departed with smiles burning on their lips and alcohol burning in their chests. The evidence they left behind of the party sprawled throughout Herb’s entire place. As the organizer, it was only fair that I clean up his warzone of a kitchen as my final contribution to his birthday, but I’d lost my helper, Selena, to another party up north. She insisted we join her and her girlfriends, later; All the motivation I needed. If I could keep my energy up–and make sure Herb didn’t fall asleep–it wouldn’t be long before I met up with her and went into full cakin’ mode. Until then, I had to concentrate on not spilling booze and backwash on my Steve Maddens.

“This man should’ve been a mathematician.” My best friend–who had woken up officially in his mid-thirties that morning–sat at the table of his small, eat-in kitchen peering into his phone.

“What are you talking about, Herb?”

“Oh, Captain. My Captain. D. Rose done sat out more games than the Bulls have actually played. That’s some amazing math. I’m glad I dropped that ninety million dollar sack of bricks from my fantasy team.”

After a series of touchscreen finger-tapping, Herb sat his phone on the table and flicked it into a spin. It stopped, one end pointing directly at his chest, the other end pointing to the empty chair across from him. I thought back to our college version of Spin the Bottle where the winner was awarded a shot of Cuervo before the kiss. Janice Linden leaned into the circle to kiss me for the fourth time that night, intent on padding my college stats, as it were. She’d told me later of her intentions, and that it was all in the wrist. Janice’s lips and the strength of her wrists would eventually bring me back to thoughts of Selena so I refocused on Herb’s griping and the precariousness of the over-stretched garbage bag I was handling. I tied it closed and gingerly set it to the side for someone other than me to deal with.

“I hear you. The nine consecutive games he’s played so far–averaging seventeen points and a little over five assists overall–he’s the worst.” I shook my head and scanned the kitchen. Discerning party remnants from the general messiness of the apartment took skill. Picking out Harold’s Chicken bags from the party versus Harold’s Chicken bags from Herb’s dinner earlier that week proved a challenge worthy of a true master. Living together our last couple of years in college was training, it seemed, for the day he turned thirty five.

“You obviously didn’t see their home game against the Nets or the mega game he had battling Lillard in Portland. Thirty-one points, 5 assists, and a steal. Better than your best intramural numbers, Herbert.” I washed my hands and took out my phone. A few swipes and I was looking at my fantasy basketball roster. Sure enough, a little plus sign floated above Derrick Rose’s headshot, letting me know I could swap out one of my current point guards. I hadn’t had time to check any league changes with all the preparation for the party. I considered having Rondo pack his bags.

“Not before twisting his ankles, Captain. Plural. Then coming back and leaving a game early and sitting out the next one because of the Ghost of Hamstring Future. He wearing a promise ring around his neck or something? Who is he saving himself for? If he ain’t careful, Scarecrow will be playing for another team.” Herb stood up and wandered toward the back door. I thought he might take the trash out and winced in anticipation of the cheap plastic tearing free and spilling everything across the floor. But this is Herb; chores aren’t his thing. Instead, he pulled the door’s curtain back to peek out the window Malcolm style, minus the weaponry. He seemed dissatisfied with the darkness.

“This coming from the guy who preemptively took Monday off for birthday recupe time.” I turned to rinse only the dishes used for the party and load the washer. The amount of barbecue sauce and cake icing that swirled down the drain was enough for a second party.

“My one off day ain’t got nothing to do with Rose’s lack of heart out there. Besides, do you know how old I am? I’m goin’ in. I fully plan on being useless on Monday.” This dude is a supreme lightweight when it comes to libations. The night Janice Linden tried to call me up from the Minors, Herb was a heap of thick belches and phlegmy snores before the clock struck twelve. The next day he didn’t make it to the brunch event for newbie minority students, either. But Janice did. She sipped her cranberry juice with a wry smile as she played footsie with me under the table. Big Leagues.

“You’re sitting there questioning his commitment like he didn’t suffer two consecutive, season-ending injuries. Plural. Like he didn’t add several inches to his vertical, despite. That’s not heart, huh? You took a day off last week because you had a migraine. That’s two off days, homie. Driver’s license renewal, picking your nephew up from the airport, a spa day…” I ticked each excuse off on my fingers.

“How is that even the same? I ain’t getting paid ninety million dollars to sit on the sidelines and neither should he.” Herb was back in his chair thumbing his phone. “Curry is kicking ass now, anyway, so I’ll keep him as my primary and see what Conley can do to back him up.”

image

“Your job does pay, though, right? Plus, the Bulls organization will make his salary and endorsement monies back almost instantly. How much money have you made your employer in a week?”

I had done as much cleaning as I could without needing a union rep. The kitchen was mostly clean, except the scuff marks from the impromptu steppers set that erupted after we cut the cake. After wiping down all the  counter and table tops, I needed to play a bit of refrigerator Tetris. I snapped a can of beer off of the remaining six-pack and handed it out to Herb before trying to make room for the aluminum trays of leftovers. He reached for the beer without even looking up.

“Look, Cap. Rose was supposed to come roaring back to take the East by storm after that first tendon snapped. His fragile, little body couldn’t last a good month before, boom, down again. Now he’s being too timid. Coach got him on a leash. I just can’t trust him.”

Smog from the party hung low in the air. A not-so-unusual 60 degree October night insulated the body heat generated from the 1990’s party mix. DJ Nostalgic had West siders challenging South siders to footwork battles. Someone pulled a muscle doing the butterfly… We done got old. I opened the back door and stepped into the night. From the fourth floor balcony, I looked out over the Bronzeville landscape of similar apartment courtyards and vacant plots. The Green Line train clacked and rattled some distance behind me as a teenager bopped on the sidewalk below, rapping his playlist for me, his only audience member.

A chill bit through my thin sweater as the temperature dropped another couple of degrees. Herb yelled something else through a yawn about Rose’s career being a sham. Something something pampered professionals something vagina, followed by more expletives then names of other players who have had success after horrific injuries. I let him argue with the back of my head.

D. Wade, Kobe, and even Adrian Petersen exist. I’ll give him that. But they’re freaks of nature. Mamba had to sleep with a harem of German vampires to get back right. I was convinced Wade was a cyborg after his post-surgery return, but now he can’t play in back-to-back games. And Adrian sounds an awul lot like alien, doesn’t it? The other side of the injury coin shows face-up much more often. And pampered? No one mentions weakness when Popovich has Parker and Duncan in street clothes, do they? Nah. D. Rose can take his time.

My phone buzzed in my pocket before I said: a reminder to call mom. I swiped to the next application and was looking at my fantasy line-up, again. I selected Rose for my starting guard just as the night turned its thermostat down another tick. I moved closer to the door but still looked out across the street. It appeared one of Herb’s neighbors was having a party, too. Had nerve to have a strobe light spinning. I blinked at the flashing lights as I finally responded.

“You may remember, Herbius Corpus, that Brandon Roy was cleared to play. Now that fella is playin’ in somebody’s fantasy basketball league just like us. It’s easy for you to say Rose is a punk for not doing what you want him to do because you have no stakes. Those aren’t your knees out there on that court.” I traced black streaks of burnt ash where courteous party guests stubbed out their cigarettes on brick. Herb probably doesn’t think I know he’s fallen off the Newport wagon, but I saw him sneak out to borrow a puff from someone. “By the way, earlier you said, Scarecrow, I imagine alluding to Diana Ross’s cowardly companion. Well, the Scarecrow needed a brain. It was the Lion who needed the heart, in which case you’re still wrong.

“I have no explanation why I feel so strongly about this kid. After he hit that last second shot where he beats his chest afterward, that showed me something. He was beginning to believe that he deserved his place in the arena. I bought in even more. Then after that comeback commercial when he kinda smiled at the end? Psh. Almost bought me a jersey. Still might. You seen that commercial with him and Duncan?” I flicked a filter over the edge of the balcony and into the grass below before heading back inside.

There was no telling when Herb fell asleep. The party across the way was at full steam, but Herb’s head rested on his outstretched arm on the table. The phlegmy snores had begun, low at first, but would no doubt crescendo before I made it to my car. I closed the door and locked it before surveying the land for any last-minute cleaning tasks. I decided against it and instead shot a text to Selena to let her know I was on my way. The last clean red Solo cup sat on the table in front of Herb next to his unopened can of beer. I filled it halfway with ice water and balanced it between his back and the back of his chair. When he woke up and leaned back in his chair to stretch, he would feel a freezing wet surprise that would count for about three of the thirty five birthday licks I still owed him. With my boobytrap firmly set, I left my friend behind, knowing the chill and the darkness were waiting and would ride with me as I made my way north.

image

The Head-Nod Effect

headnod

The rumble from a Jolly-Rancher-blue Charger traveled its way along the asphalt of 79th Street and up the base of my spine from a block away. When the driver pulled up to the red light, I saw it was my friend, Herb, who had apparently gotten himself a new car. If it weren’t for the electric paint job and his HEMI engine, I — and probably every cop car in the neighborhood — might not have noticed him. Then again, Herb was not known for his subtlety.

“Hey, Captain! Need a ride?” he called out.

“Yes, sir!” I said.

I made my way to the passenger side and climbed into his monster of a car. Everything was leather except the windows. I tucked my bag between my feet and buckled up just as the light turned green. He pressed the gas and the engine roared triumphantly like the T-Rex at the end of Jurassic Park, only triumphantlier. The noise made conversation difficult, but I’m no quitter.

“How can you hear ambulance sirens in this thing?” I asked.

“Nah, man. They let me test it out for a week to see if I want to lease. Nice, right?”

Much of what Herb said was eaten by the Tyrannosaurus but I got the gist of it, plus I can read lips, some. He couldn’t hear a word I yelled.

“I knew that was you at the bus stop. Always bobbing your head like you’re rockin’ out at a concert. Just like at school.”

Herb reached over and pressed one of the black and creamy leather buttons on the stereo. Lights flashed, a screen flipped out of nowhere that read, Hello, Herbee Luvbugz, and then music began pouring from speakers all over the interior of the car. My seat had sub-woofers, and they were playing “Bombs Over Baghdad”. That’s when we became adolescents.

headnod2When I hear music, I move. Period. If it’s loud enough, it doesn’t even have to be music I like. So much of rap’s Casio, minimalist production from the early 2000’s I find atrocious, but if it’s cranked up, I gets ta movin’ — sometimes much to my chagrin. I’ve always been this way. Whether it comes from a DJ in a nightclub or a department store’s muzak or my own “Random Dope” playlist; just about any music will get my shoulders rolling, a la Michael Jackson versus his claymation bunny self. Often music is my fortress of solitude, so I’ll put in my earbuds and tuck myself into a corner of R&B, jazz, or hip hop to pop and lock my way through the jostling world around me.

The head-nod effect, as I like to call it, is quite contagious. Stand in line at the post office (maybe not the DMV) rocking your head back and forth to the heavy bass of a 90’s Timbaland production or one of those victorious-sounding Just Blaze beats and see if you don’t see smiles creep across the faces of the people behind you. Once, I witnessed responses from people on the bus, earphone cords hanging from their heads, who saw me moving my fingers like I was standing behind invisible turn tables. The way I ficky ficky‘ed those 1’s and 2’s made the folks within eye-shot a little less self-conscious. By the time I reached the second hook in the song, at least three others were bobbing to their own bass lines. When someone around you seems to have no inhibitions about how they look chair-dancing on public transpo, you can feel your own guard start to slowly erode. You find yourself moving to a rhythm borne from something deeper; something that the music merely rests upon.

Herb was harkening back to a time when our posse kicked it in the laundry room ’til the wee hours, listening to underground hip hop. All of us were dining service employees who worked in our dorm’s cafeteria for lunch and/or dinner. One night I ran into the rest of the crew when I went to wash my pajama pants and work uniforms, which were just camp-counselor-grade polo shirts, and after that, the hangouts became ritual. Clothing theft and stupid washing machine pranks (drop a couple of jumbo Crayolas in there and see what happens) were prevalent in our tower of undergraduate miscreants, so we would hang out in that muggy basement to keep a close eye through the wash, rinse, and dry cycles. But after a while, our meetings became less about cleaning hopelessly itchy shirts and all about fellowship.

GriotOur little clique vastly expanded my musical horizons. Herb brought his mini boombox down and we each brought CDs of who we thought was dope from our neck of the woods. I still listen to the music they prescribed all those years ago. It was this passing around of music that solidified the group, especially me and Herb’s relationship. It reminded me of ancestors who sat around telling stories, passing down knowledge, culture, and history. Coming through the speakers were the tinny voices of the rappers — the griots engaging listeners with their words and passion. The rhythmic sound of the washing and drying machine cylinders tumbling surrounded us — tom toms keeping the pace of the tales told. Our individual histories were being shared through music. Urban folktales. Herb put me on to one dude, Wallabee Chukk, who was from the southern parts of Illinois. His cadence was unlike anything I’d ever heard. I learned a lot about music from both Herb and Wallabee. What I remember most, was his style, but I’ll save the “At the Lyric Tree with Aesop” stories for another time.

Because I’ve fallen out of the habit of seeking out new tunes to listen to and learn from, I’m left with only my current playlists and the popular music of today. In other words, 60 or so gigs of music plus the 20 or so songs in radio rotation at any one time. Technology has made it easier to share music, but its also significantly less personal. The energy and excitement of being in line with my friends waiting on a midnight release at the record store, then running home to listen to a new single or album for the first time is incomparable. But now, at least for me, because everything is a media file download away, the allure has waned considerably. The closest to the share circle experience these days is the random, annoying teenager forcing me and the entire train car to listen to his favorite trap music through the speakers of his phone. So I guess I stand corrected. There is an instance in which music does not make me shimmy against my will. Again, it boils down to fellowship. At the club, everyone present has signed up to be at the musical mercy of the DJ for the night. Rolling to work in a street dinosaur, dancing along to our own, personal Outkast earthquake, we were traveling through time. On the Red Line train with that teenager, it’s an imposition. It isn’t an agreed upon exchange of stories and experiences and preferences; it feels more like a rebellious kid daring the people in his proximity to challenge his self-proclaimed authority. A stand-off that, unless I become confrontational, I’m a part of until I reach my 79th street stop.

I doubt I’ll ever tire of the nostalgia that accompanies my music. Every song brings the time, the people, and the emotion with it to the present for three to four minutes until the track changes; the next quantum leap. Herb must have felt the same way, despite how much his boombox may have changed. So even though my friend’s relentless sound system made Big Boi and Andre 3000 sound as if I were listening to them from the bottom of a pool, I kept nodding my head and couldn’t help but feel that my shirt was becoming a bit itchy.

headnodlast