Thursday, December 30, 2010

I'm Gonna Need Some Serious Ujamaa Up In Here

Hey Y'all,

I write to you in my final hours in Detroit. I worked hard to make the best of it, but this city refuses work with a blacktress. Yesterday's foolery was manifold:

1. I wanted to go to the gym real bad, because I feel like I've been eating hypertension and type-2 diabetes ever since I got here. My cousin's a member of LA Fitness, a national gym chain that she joined in the ATL. We found the location nearby and when we got to the front desk we were told we had to pay because: 1) her membership wasn't valid in this state; 2) I couldn't use a guest pass unless I lived within 20 miles of the gym.
What kind of fuckery??????? I mean, who joins a national chain and doesn't think they can use it anywhere in the nation? They give out guest passes like they're candy, yet I can't, as a visitor, get my treadmill on if I come in with a member who pays a monthly fee? And why on earth would you a member pay an additional usage fee each time she visits the chain instead of just transferring the account to Michigan?
To top it all off, when my cousin asked to cancel her membership, the girl behind the desk printed out a form that had to be mailed in--stamp not included!! Since when is an in-person cancellation not valid? I can't even cope with this madness.

2. After the gym was a bust, we headed to the nearest Payless so that I could return the cheap gym shoes I purchased. With box and receipt in hand, I waited in line at the Payless in the Northland Mall. I did my best to be patient and pleasant as the tweens in front of me had all sorts of issues. When I finally got to the register, the woman sank her head in her hands and said, "Please don't tell me you're doing a return."
"Um....ok. I'm not doing a return. Here are the shoes and receipt. Can I have my money now?"
"I been doin' returns all day, I can't do no more," she said. I assumed this meant she was fatigued, or maybe her manager wasn't around to punch in the proper return codes, but she certainly couldn't have been serious.
"We don't got no more money," she said as she chewed on her acrylic nail.
So.....what am I supposed to do? Grammar aside, how on earth does a store in a mall run out of money? And, if that was really the case, couldn't she have said that to me during the 10 minutes I waited in line so that I could have been on my merry way? (#whyblackbusinessesdon'tthrive)
"There's another Payless down the road you can try."
Okay, fine. I leave without an attitude and have my cousin drive me to the next Payless a few minutes away.

It didn't bode well from the moment we pulled up, as the lights were on, but no one appeared to be home. Good lord--they didn't close for another 2 hours. Look alive, people!
I walk in and call out to someone. A woman in the back of the store says, "Hey," like we're old friends.
"Um, I have a return." I yell to her from the front, near the register.
"We been doin' returns all day; we don't got no more money," she says without moving a centimeter closer.

The worst of it is that such shady business operations are completely against yesterday's principle, Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Payless was certainly refusing to economically cooperate with a blacktress, instead sending her on a wild goose chase for some basic funds. I can't build, maintain, or profit from a damn thing if you don't have at least 18 dollars and 1 cent in your registers!
As we drove to the third Payless (I kid you not), I wondered when Detroit became the streets of Calcutta. I felt like a slumdog millionaire without the millions. I was about ready to cut a bitch.

I was finally given my $18.01 at the third Payless, and vowed to destroy Cuntinental Airlines once and for all (it has officially replaced Delta as the worst airline ever) for leaving me here.

As we commiserated in the car, my cousin told me about this "music video" called "It's So Cold In the D," which is all about Detroit. "Nay Nay, it's kinda Antoine Dodson-style, but kinda sad-funny" she explained, referencing the "Bed Intruder" jam I introduced her to on Christmas. Of course, after a long day of foolery, I had to see it.

What I witnessed on her laptop was unlike anything I've ever seen. It really encapsulates Detroit--and clearly struck a chord, based on the more than 2 million YouTube views. From the lead singer's neon-orange braids (that match her hoodie--um, if it's "so cold in the D," why isn't anyone wearing a coat?) to the still photos of slain family and friends to the crew walking through the graveyard, it reminds me of how my cousins and I would spend our summers "making movies" (I'm trying to find the footage of "Life in the Ghetto" so that it can be burned before my bio-pic).

OK, enough explaining. Let me just embed it. This, gentle readers, is where I've been for the last 5 days:

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Detroit is Deadly

What up, gang! It's another dysfunctional day in Detroit. My cousin, who works in auto insurance, just came in from work to visit my grandmother. He immediately goes into the kitchen and begins frying chicken (I swear, I'm not being racist). As his chicken fries, he sits down and takes off his sweatshirt (my grandmother keeps her house a cozy, menopausal 80 degrees). A turn to the left reveals the gun on his right hip. I have to share the following exchange:

Mom: Jay, you got yo' gun on you today?
Jay: Yeah, auntie. I had to go to the bank.

Um, are we in the wild wild West? Why on earth would you need a gun to go to the bank unless you're about to rob it? I didn't see a red kerchief, so I assume he was making a routine deposit. When his sister comments on the foolery of this, he replies:

Jay: It's not loaded like that.

"Loaded like that"? What does that mean? It's either loaded, or it's not. My fear mounts as I realize that anyone who has their own rules of what qualifies as "loaded" probably shouldn't own a firearm.

Jay [in a condescending tone]: To actually shoot, the gun has to be engaged.

OK, so what he's saying is that there are bullets in the gun, but the safety's on. I think that qualifies as "loaded."

I have no idea how Detroit expects to engage in Ujamaa* when a routine trip to the bank requires "back up."

Y'all, I still have another 24 hours here. Meanwhile, my mother is angry at me for a facebook post that my cousin mentioned (family has officially put on the limited view), and is not speaking to me. I need a kwanzaa prayer for patience.

*Ujamaa: Cooperative Economics-- To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Oppressed During Kwanzaa

Habari Gani, gentle readers!! That means 'What's the news?' in Swahili, and is used as the traditional greeting each of the 7 days of Kwanzaa. As you all know, "Kwanzaa" means "After Christmas Sales," and was invented in 1967. I won't bore you with all the Kwanzaa details, seeing as it's basically a remix of Hannukah, and I don't think we can get too wrapped up in any holiday invented after TVs came in color. The gist of it is that there are seven principles, one for each day. They are as follows:
12/26 - Umoja - Unity
12/27 - Kujichagulia - Self-Determination
12/28 - Ujima - Collective Work and Responsibility (who knew one little word could mean so much?!)
12/29 - Ujamaa - Cooperative Economics
12/30 - Nia - Purpose (not to be confused with blacktress Nia Long, for whom I have always had a Love Jones)
12/31 - Kuumba - Creativity (not to be confused with the fellow who went to White Castle with Harold)
1/1 - Imani - Faith (not to be confused with the supermodel and miscegenator)

Today, I am seriously running on Kujichagulia, y'all. I am in Detroit visiting the G-unit (you know you gotta holla at your granny when she's 94.5!) with mamadukes, and it has all gone horribly, horribly wrong. What was supposed to be a 56-hour visit is now a 5-day campout, as the blizzard of 2010 has NY airports closed and our flight postponed for three days!!!
Al was right when he called it an inconvenient truth.

As I was kept on hold by CUNTinental Airlines for 2 hours and 34 minutes, after which point their automated machine got tired of replaying itself and they hung up, I tried to be positive. Yeah, delays suck, and yeah, it's better that we weren't stuck in the airport, but the facts remain:
- I packed only 2 pair of underwear.
- My mother and I are stuck in Michigan without a car.
- My mother and I can only interact in 3-hour increments before we start to hate each other.
- I have heaps of work to do, but all of it is in NYC.
- We are stuck in Detroit, Michigan, for three extra days.

I don't know if you guys have been following me on the Twitter lately, but you might want to look for the hash tag ChristmasInDetroit. Everyone's been in top crazy form, with my aunt asking me to "get the voices back on the computer" (it's my fault for answering her initial question "do you know how to use a computer?" with a yes), and my cousin giving me a "grab bag" for Christmas. Its contents: slipper-socks, a $15 Pier 1 Imports gift card, and a 6-pack sampler of KY warming lubricant.
'Tis the season, y'all.

Last night, we went to a family gathering held by the folks on the other side of the family (my aunt's husband's crew), and as I ate a bit of type-2 diabetes-inducing peach cobbler, I watched some of the older folks dance. I was a bit alarmed when I noticed that a 50-something-year-old gentleman had a gun clipped to his hip.
Yes, y'all--he was ready to bust a cap in someone's ass.
When I pointed it out to my mom and we laughed, my aunt told us that it's legal to carry a gun in Detroit (#whyblackpeoplecan'thavenicethings), and my cousin told me that he and his wife also keep guns. When I asked him where his was he said, "Mine in the car, it's family time." Good to know.

The evening culminated in a "dance contest" in which all children under the age of 14 had to participate. We were urged to put in a dollar for the "winning pot." As children popped, locked, and flipped as the adults urged them on, I admired the ingenuity--with the kids dancing, we had the music, entertainment, and family bonding in one fell swoop. As Aunt Hannah counted out singles to make sure there were enough for every kid to get some, I worried: were we creating a new generation of strippers, children eager for dollar bills that signified acceptance?

Tonight, as I was driven back home after picking up food (everything in my grandmother's house is salt-free and doesn't require chewing), we passed "D&L Market," a grocery store. Along the side, however, it advertised Check Cashing - Beer & Wine - Lotto - Pawn - Poultry

Oh, Detroit..... You are what keeps Tyler Perry rich. How on earth could one shop offer so much? Something's obviously getting short shrift (my guess is the poultry).

According to Wikipedia (my source for all things ethnic and newfangled), the self-determination of kujichagulia means 'to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.'

As my mother gets angry at me for eating too long (her exact words were, "you been at the table damn near an hour!") I am working to define myself as someone who can process her anger in a healthy manner, instead of lashing out at the woman who birthed me. I am naming myself as a strong black woman, instead of "the cause of her mother's hot flashes." And, since mamadukes is looking at me with a sideways glance every time I breathe with conviction, I am taking to my blog so that I can speak for myself.

All right, y'all, I've officially been out of my grandmother's sight for 20 minutes, and she's starting to yell. Luckily, I can use the fact that the thermostat is set at 82 degrees (I kid you not) as an explanation for why I had to step outside.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday (Lack of) Focus

Hey y'all,

I'm a total bum today. I got all of 5 hours of sleep, after a night that was a mixture of shock, awe, and aaawwww. There were laughter, tears, and plenty of self-loathing. Let me explain:

So, Jewboo and I hadn't seen each other since Sunday, which ended in a terrible fight (basically, I'm a mentally unstable biatch--think Halle Berry in Introducing Dorothy Dandridge). I was seriously in the dog house, and after some brief phone chats during the week--and more than one visit to the Italian restaurant next to my job for eggplant parmesan sandwiches (food = love)--I was scared I was on relationship probation.

I was so scared, in fact, that I was nervous to see him. Add to that the fact that I was doing a set that night, and I had more butterfly in my stomach than Mariah Carey's 15th album. We met up around 6:30pm, and parted after seeing a mutual friend's show. The plan was for him to come stay at my place after my show--yay! Jewboo sleepover on a weeknight!

We held hands during the show, and I felt heartened. I went to my set downtown and in walked BCB, who was visiting from Sydney town--and she brought a Hollywood agent TO SEE ME!!
Seriously. She talked me up and dragged him downtown! He represents many famous actors and produces films--they met on a set where she was the stylist. He was really nice and thought I was funny, and even quoted one of my jokes back to me later in the evening!! I was having a total Sally Field moment.

The set went well, but the club was sparsely populated. I had a good time, though, and stayed afterwards to schmooze with the agent (obvi--gotta work it). I ended up staying out a bit too long, and jumped in a cab so that Jewboo wouldn't be waiting.

At 11:45 pm, while sitting in traffic on the West Side Highway and damn-near hyperventilating, I got a text from Jewboo. "I'm here, where are you?"

I was on Little West 12th street. For those of you outside of NYC, I live approximately 135 blocks away from 12th Street. We had quite a ways to go. For those of you not on the east coast or Midwest, it's currently 23 degrees in New York City. Needless to say, if I wasn't in the dog house already, I was certainly in it now.

I was in the cab freaking out--so much so that the taxi driver closed the partition to separate himself from the awkwardness. When we finally arrived at my place 20 minutes later, Jewboo limped up the block. He had gone to wait in the subway station, and his feet were so cold that they hurt. I tried not to make it about me--you know, looking to him to tell me it was okay. After all, it wasn't.

I simply opened the door, went up to get a hot bath going, and mellowed out.

You know how I know I want to marry him? He just looked at me as he sat on the bed and said, "I'm not mad. I'm just cold." And he meant it. And the fact is, if it had been me, he would have been dead to me. Like, done and done. The fact that he's so patient and understanding is a god send. I can't wait for him to put a ring on it.

Of course, I can't say this. So, instead, I made him an ecard:

They say an e-card is worth a thousand words. Is that true even when you have an 80-character limit?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Step Up 4 Realz

Happy Friday, Y’alls!

So, this past Tuesday was my berfday, and I am starting to feel the effects of another year. I had a decent day, primarily because I didn’t go to work. I woke up early, did some exercise, went to get my hair did, met mamadukes for lunch, and then we went to get our nails and toes done (like rapper Nelly, I too am a sucker for cornrows and manicured toes). I planned to share my beautification with Jewboo, with whom I was going to see Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson on the great Broadway! We were going with a really cute couple, Steven and Dan. Steven and I share the same bday, and he’s one of those ethnically ambiguous-looking Jews, which I heart (I love when people come up to them speaking Spanish).

The show was good (primarily because it starred Jeff Hiller, my spirit animal--who was kind enough to take us onto the set post-show!), but I was less then enthused by the time the lights went down. Before meeting up with Steven and Dan, Jewboo gave me my birthday present. He had been excited about it for several weeks, priding himself on ordering it early. Although I’d kept my excitement at a minimum, it kept all my blackting skills to act gracious when I unwrapped the package.

He’d bought me a copy of The Walking Dead Compendium. You know, the first 48 issues of the comic book--oh, I’m sorry, graphic novel--on which the series is based. I do love me some zombies, and I’ve been really into the tv show, so I sorta get where he was coming from with the gift idea.

The thing is, I do not like comic books. I have had no penchant for picture books since the age of 7. I have nothing against them, and I am aware that many adults read them, and they’ve apparently grown quite sophisticated and complex since Sojourner was a young truth-teller. Since dating Jewboo I have made more than a few trips to Midtown Comics so he could scope out the latest releases, and I found myself able to overlook the scent of Dr. Pepper and low self esteem and really see the patrons around me. They’re people, too.

But I simply don’t get comics. I never know what order in which I’m supposed to read the talk bubbles, and I get all confused. I just don’t know if I’m a visual thinker, because I see the pictures, and it’s like, “Ok. I guess that means he’s walking far.” It just doesn’t resonate.

I have often said this, which is why a 20-pound, 350 page comic as a gift was not only shocking, but mildly worrisome. Does he not know who I am? It’s not even that I wanted any particular thing. I would have greatly appreciated a free hot meal and a cupcake. I mean, I know he knows me, because he printed out and taped the following e-card to the front of the box:

(Yeah, we’ve been through a lot.)

So why the comic, y’all? Of course, it’s not even about the gift. I realized that I’ve been holding on to a lot of residual resentment, and when he couldn’t even Step Up for my birthday, it all came out. He got a job at Columbia, only 20 minutes away from where I live, and yet he hasn’t spent the night at my home since 10/23, often using the excuse that he doesn’t “have his stuff.”

Okay, now I get that we all have our routines, but as I stood in the drugstore buying products for him after 9 months of dating, I wondered if I should even be doing this. If he wants to stay with me, shouldn’t he get his own products?
I live alone, in a very nice place, with tons of on-demand channels, and yet I trek to Greenpoint more often than a Polish immigrant trying to get her paperwork translated. The only time he’s come over to my place since 10/23 is when he wanted to use my kitchen to shoot a web video. He, along with 6 other folks came over to my house on a Sunday night, took twice as long as was scheduled, and when he was leaving, all he had to say was “thanks,” after telling me that he had been upset with me for telling them to utilize the extras sooner rather than later.

I get that he’s busy, and I’ve been trying to be supportive, but as it gets colder and I try to walk the 20 minutes from the train to his house as quickly as possible, with every step I wonder why Jewboo won’t Step Up 2 Da Streets (of Harlem). Add to that the fact that I spent 8 months paying for things and have yet to be treated to anything since he got a job, and, you know, blacktress was about to get ghetto up in here.

So, after talking to everyone but him, we met for dinner and had a talk last night. I know he loves me, and perhaps I haven’t been as clear as I think (because it seems to obvious to me what he should do, I almost feel crazy having to break it down). I explained that I was disappointed in his lack of initiative, and had been trying not to fight, but was just not living up to my TRUTH. I told him that I understand he’s a procrastinator and has trouble making plans, but I needed him to Step Up 3-D —you feel me, ladies?

He took it well, and had a good think while we ate. It helped that I not only made a list of grievances, but the fancy-ass face wash I had to order online for him had arrived that day, and I had the UPS package in my purse. When he asked what it was, I quickly displayed my effort/his products. I had also visited good ol' Wikipedia and looked up the definition of “empiricism,” because my former-philosophy-professor of a Jewboo often responds to my emotional reactions with, “I just don’t think like that, because I’m an empirical guy.” So, with a firm definition of empiricism as a theory of knowledge which asserts the idea that knowledge arises via sense experience; the belief theories must be tested against observations of the natural world, rather than resting solely on a priori reasoning, intuition, or revelation, I explained not simply the way things made me feel, but the observations of his actions in the "natural world" of our REALationship.
I had to go deep into the male mind for this one, y'all. It required internet-study.

I explained the facts, and basically asked him if he felt my grievances were out of line. Honestly, if you can’t stand Sojourner’s truths, get out of the relationship kitchen!

He said they weren’t, and really felt bad about some behaviors. He also came at me with some of my own truths, noting that I tend to plan things to avoid disappointment, but as a result don’t give him the opportunity to take the reigns. So he hangs back, and then I feel like he’s not active. He had me there, y'all--with default emotions of sadness, anger, and fear, I can't help by try to control everything in an attempt to avoid those emotions. I love a man who can dish up a steaming hot bowl of TRUTH.

Okay, I’m done now. How y’all doing?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Guess Who's ENJOYING Dinner?!

Hey Guys,

Sorry for the delay. The slavedriver is cray cray this week, and I've been balls deep in work. For those who want to know, mom liked Jewboo!!

Yes, y'all! He had her cracking up the whole time, but wasn't being showy. He was being his weird, random self--you know, like referring to his delayed reaction to burning his mouth on a scallion pancake as similar to that of a brontosaurus (it takes a long time for signals to travel down its long neck)--and she actually thought he was, "cute, funny, and clearly intelligent, even though he's a bit quirky."


When we talked hours later, she was still chuckling to herself thinking of his pun--DILBERT & Sullivan.

I kid you not. He stopped in the middle of dinner to break out his notepad and jot down the gem.

He was funny and nice and interested and managed to avoid political talk, yet openly asked me if I'd go to the comic book store with him after dinner, as though he had no reason to be ashamed of such an endeavor at the age of 31. I think his self-acceptance and honesty makes it so that you sorta have to roll with it, and the neurotic jewyness of it all makes you love it and want to feed a potato latke.

I think my mom is really excited that I have a boyfriend, especially now that he's gainfully employed. I also think she was a little jealous that I'd been to his parents' house twice, but I'd been keeping him away, because at the end of dinner she pulled out a wrapped Hannukah present! Yes, y'all. He unwrapped the blue-and-silver paper (natch) and laughed when he saw this:

"Do you get it?" my mother asked.
Yes, yes he did.

I really was quite impressed, seeing as the humor works on many levels. Former Daily Show correspondent Lewis Black is an angry ranting Jewish comic, much like Jewboo himself. Jewboo also loves The Daily Show, and said he'd never want a Christmas tree in his house (not even if I decorated it with blue and silver ornaments--I asked). He also loves to read because he's all former-adjunct-professor smarty-pants.

At the end of the night, I was so happy, it was Chronicles of Riddickulous! Not only did Andy think my mom was "funny and cool," and she thought he was "a good guy--but I don't know how long you can keep going to the comic store," but I think madukes and I are just a tad closer, now that I've let her in to my interracial love.

Okay, y'all, that's it for now. Gotta go back to pretending like I care about my job.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Interview With a Blacktress

Guys, this is my favorite time of the year. No, not because we’re supposed to make the yuletide homosexual, or because I actually have a winter spoon this winter. It’s the best because we’re starting on a new financial year, which means we are ready to hire a new intern.

“But blacktress, aren’t interns annoying and over-eager?” you may be asking. “Doesn’t the hope and optimism in their eyes as they relish the ‘opportunity’ to photocopy remind you of your own lost innocence and drive?”

Yes, yes gentle reader, you are correct. But the best part of this whole process is that I GET TO INTERVIEW THEM!

As you all know, I relish power in all its forms, as I do not exist until you recognize my prowess. I also love young people, because my desire to be a mother without actually being a mother can be fulfilled by ordering them around and guiding them through the workplace as though it were life. The interview is the first time I’m able to assert my dominance, and I like to set them up for the beginning of the day so that I start off with a boost of confidence.

Unfortunately, I am co-interviewing with the other associate editor, who’s a real buzz-kill of a guy. He’s monotone, second-guesses everything I do (which really pisses me off, because he came into his post as my replacement), and doesn’t know how to kick back. In the interviews we pretty much take do the Good Cop-Bad Cop routine, with him asking hard-hitting questions, and me trying to take the pressure off and see into the applicant’s soul.

Before Thanksgiving, we interviewed one candidate, a plucky young grad who, after 2 years of Teach for America, is ready to be done with the illiterati (h/t Scribe) and pursue his editorial dreams. My coworker went in with this:

Can you tell us of a time when you spearheaded a project, in or out of the workplace?

YAAAWWWNNNNN. Homey’s gonna be answering phones, faxing, photocopying, and copyediting for at least the first 6 months. He learns on the job, and if he’s got an interest and ¾ of a brain, he can do this. I don’t really need to know if he spearheaded anything. Let’s get to the real questions.

Me: Where do you see yourself in 5 years, and am I there with you?

That’s the kind of stuff we need to know! Tell me your dreams, tell me how much you love me, tell me what’s going on behind the button-down, sir!

Buzzkill: Do you have any interest or knowledge of contemporary realist art?

Ugh, WHO CARES?! I didn’t know Rembrandt from Remington Steele when I came in here—and I still don’t! What I do know is how to write, and how to use the Dictionary of Art Terms, and I sound super smarty-pants, and the readers are none the wiser. I am not tripping over this stuff, and I’ve been here 3 years and have actual responsibility! I don’t care if the whole magazine is printed in Wingdings, as long as my check clears!

This office is broke and busted, with one bathroom for 8 people, stacks of boxes lining the hallway (because we don’t have sufficient storage space), and a “doorman” named Manny who leans against the door all day (well, actually, only until 2pm, cause Manny got thangs to do) talking to the guy wearing a sandwich board sign advertising CHEAP PASSPORT PHOTOS. Every time I come into the office, I feel like I’m walking into a bodega.

In other words—this ain’t that deep, and we need to not get it twisted up in here. You’re asking an educated individual to spend 40 hours a week making sure “Antwerp blue” is spelled properly, and take calls from crazy elderly people who believe that all of their opinions should be heard. I need him/her to be smart, cool, and fearful of me—that’s all.

So now I’ve got a stack of resumes and cover letters, and I’m enjoying the judging process. I want to hire a cute, dorky boy who tells me I’m pretty and offers to run personal errands.