Friday, November 05, 2004

comments enabled... hmm... i wonder if "I" can make commentary here..

heh... i'm so mischievous..

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Here we go.
... I truly debated in myself who to vote for.. I didn't want to vote for Bush.. But I didn't really love John Kerry, either.. I wasn't familiar with most of the other names... Nader I knew of, but I knew he had no chance, as did the others.. So I went with a 'protest' vote to clearly be against Bush, and have some substantive impact-- So I voted for Kerry.

**** my luck. Bush won again. Four more years of stupidity to come. Probably war in Iran within 14 months, and likely North Korea. The military will be stretched to its limits. A real, new draft will start. More terror attacks overseas. Hopefully none here. More job outsourcing. Economy will tumble further. Federal bankruptcy? The cynical and anarchistic side of me hopes so. I hope that religious conservatives get their comeuppance. Sweating over stupid things while real chaos reigns. Too many of these clowns—the black ones and the white ones—are too Armageddon-minded and looking for The Rapture to think rationally about these events. I hope they’re happy when more jobs leave and people get even more desperate. Desperate as in crime. Social Security’s getting hacked up. Federal Head Start funding’s getting the axe. Even less affirmative action than before. White entitlement and jackass ‘colorblind’ ethos will abound.

I could never be president. My views are too out of the mainstream to be even remotely accepted by most people. For one thing, I really don’t give a damn about gay marriage—which torches my credibility with roughly 80% of people out there from jump street. For what it’s worth, why deny gay people the opportunity to have their money wasted by wedding planners, photographers, caterers and dining halls, most of whom can be counted on to charge exorbitant fees for minor returns? Why cut out such a potentially lucrative source of income and maybe give the economy a minor boost?
My other issues- Affirmative action? More of it. Reparations should be more federal minority scholarships to college & trade schools. More money into job training programs. Cut 50% of the military budget and put the money into that. $70 billion can be better spent on domestic development rather than learning how to blow up stuff better. I’m no war hawk, and it’s time people wised up to all of this ‘fighting in remote Asia and Arabia for corporate interests equals freedom on American soil’ BS.
Cuba- lift sanctions, restore normal relations. Nationalized health care- yes. Put a cap on corporate salaries for health-related industries. Regulate tobacco. Legalize marijuana and tax it heavily. Legalize prostitution and tax that heavily.
Stop the world, I want to get off!

Thursday, September 09, 2004 has started back this semester. I haven't.. I dunno if i'm going to start back this semester.. again.. after problems early on this semester..

Thursday, July 22, 2004

So what’s going on with michael jackson?  Shortly after the raid at the Neverland ranch, NBC set up a ‘Dateline’ special about the situation, barely days after his property was raided and the arrest warrant issued.  Talk show hosts speculate on what will or would happen should he be convicted.  60 Minutes’ Ed Bradley did an interview with him, and it was only vaguely revelatory at best.
Is it a set-up? If so, by whom?  The family of the child has hired the same lawyer that represented the child in the first case 10 years ago.  Supposedly, this evidence was revealed in psychotherapy, allegedly involving seduction by pills and drink.
I always admired (and when I was younger, idolized) the man, and his family’s music, especially knowing they were from my hometown.  It was kind of like, you could be from small-town indiana and make it, too.
I always enjoyed watching him on tv, in the videos and occasional concert footage.  I never got to see him live in person.  I remember when the Victory tour was announced, tickets were sold out in hours.  I was truly disappointed.  During the Bad tour circa 1988, I was out of town when a pair of tickets were wrangled through a family friend.  So, I never got to see him.  Now, it is increasingly doubtful if I ever will.
Despite my admiration for his music and influence, his extracurricular activities have often been puzzling.  Early on it was the zoo menagerie, which was innocent enough.  The seemingly relentless costume-wearing, including masks and such, was arguably odd but not morally dubious.  There was the hyperbaric chamber stunt, which he later admitted to doing just to see how people would react.  Then, there was the hanging out with youthful stars like Emmanuel Lewis, Alfonso Ribiero, and later, Macauley Culkin.  Pre-1993, it was dismissed as unpredatory.  The skin lightening came gradually, and was a source of much controversy.  He was definitely deep brown during Off the Wall, then he turned lighter by the time Bad came out; he was even lighter when Dangerous came out.  Was it chemical bleaching, or an aggravated case of vitiligo?  I guess only the family knows for sure.
Then, the plastic surgery.  I guess adults can do what they want to do with their bodies, to an extent.  But to me, it  can only go so far before it quickly becomes ridiculous.  I feel that the doctors who worked on him over the years should be sued.  There should be a point when such a doctor must clearly see the subject has already had a certain amount of work done, and altering one’s features even further is too long-term to do on a whim, regardless of money.  And who knows- maybe a few did turn him down.   But eventually, somebody couldn’t say no to that loot.
Having that type of money affords you an inner circle that apparently only that type of money gets you.  And in Mike’s case, his management/advisers seemed to become increasingly whiter as his solo career took off.  The documentary by Martin Bashir was revelatory in that it exposed a side of Michael that is apparently not shown when he’ not on stage—maybe.  Throughout his conversations with Bashir, he displays an almost childlike naïveté about how the public perceives his behavior, which is unfortunate.  There was one exchange while walking out in Neverland, and Michael takes to climbing a tree—Bashir asks if there are other things he could see himself doing—making love, perhaps?  “I like to climb trees.”  Indeed.  There was finally a more intimate interview when Bashir asks Michael about his plastic surgery.  Michael clearly becomes upset at this, as does when Bashir asks about the parentage of his three children:  Prince Michael, Paris, and Prince Michael II-- why? Why give your child the same name as a sibling?  All the children are blondish and, to the casual eye, Caucasian-looking.  The children are seen wearing elaborate masks around the house—on camera, at least, as well as in public.   Hopefully the children have playmates, and are not of the impression that people are supposed to wear masks and such every day. 
The parentage of Prince Michael II, aka ‘blanket’, is said by Michael to be a black woman.  As the child gets older, this may or may not be made apparent.  In any case, the dangling from a hotel window was a near disastrous blunder on his part.  There was also an incident where Michael and the older children visited a zoo, and were nearly mobbed by onlookers.  As his entourage picks up the pace to get to their limousine, Michael seems to get a little giddy, despite the fact that the young kids, on foot, can clearly not keep up.  Bashir grabs one of the children and helps out, and they finally make it to the car to leave.  From this, it is clear that there is still a portion of Michael that lives for the attention and desires it, despite his isolation. 
In the aftermath of Bashir’s program, Michael supposedly fired several people early in 2003, and is now managed by some German fellow, reputedly influential.  Shortly afterwards, Michael issued a rebuttal of sorts, selling an assortment of his own family home videos to Fox TV to air his own special, which he narrated.  They ran the gamut from the 70’s to the early 90’s, and contained nothing of questionable behavior.  Later that year, there was a music award show where Britney Spears jokingly referred to a stage prop as an ‘artist of the millennium’ award.  Michael, who was scheduled to present, apparently thought this was for real, and stumbled through a brief acceptance speech before being alerted to the truth and the show continued.
To me, he should hire some honest and savvy black folks who have his back, instead of these sometimey white folks.  I wonder what the celebrity fallout from this will be.  Will Steven Spielberg and David Geffen distance themselves again?  How about others?  Like his close friendships with Liz Taylor, Liza Minelli, these are upper/middle-class whites who, good intentions aside, just don’t relate to the urban black experience, and the politics that follow you regardless of whatever money you make.   Johnnie Cochran has backed off from criminal trials, so he’s out.  What other prominent black lawyers are out there?
Who gets the kids?  If social services decides to temporarily revoke custody pending a verdict, they’ll hopefully go to relatives. Debbie Rowe has no comment.  With her situation, it is entirely possible that Rowe was a paid surrogate, and is not the biological mother of either of the older children, with the egg donated from elsewhere.  Which could explain how she was so apparently willing to ‘abdicate’ custody.  The third child, as awkwardly revealed in that interview, was apparently done that way, by a woman that remains anonymous.  And now there are allegations that yet another woman has been impregnated, with quadruplets this time.  It has been denied by Jackson’s spokesperson, but if true, the children are due in December.
Supposedly, there’s evidence that the first case was spawned when Mike rebuffed the first child’s father (a dentist) who approached him with a movie script, and the child was coached with a cooperative psychologist to reach a predetermined conclusion.  If true, this latest case could be a repeat performance.  But the added criminal investigation has consequences more dire than a multi-million dollar lawsuit.  Which if he fights it, he may very well lose, regardless of how the criminal trial goes.  In the court of public opinion, at least 50% of people feel that he is guilty, and it only takes, what, 9 of 12 jurors in a civil trial to decide? Look out:  $$$$$$$$$
As for his security detail, looks like he’s abandoned the Fruit of Islam, the security offshoot of the Nation of Islam, which supposedly came at the suggestion of Jermaine.  Too bad.  Maybe they would have made him get rid of the makeup and weird disguises.  Supposedly Debbie Rowe objected to their potential ‘influence’ on the children.  I doubt anything like that was on their agenda, but I actually find it hilarious the thought of a couple of blond, blue-eyed children at an NOI function-- I remember the sequence in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, when ex- revolutionary Clarence Williams III brings out his wife and children- Eve ‘Jan’ Plumb from The Brady Bunch and a pair of blond moppets, who recite a school report excoriating Abraham Lincoln.
His current attorney, Thomas Mesereau, replaces Mark Geragos.  Geragos also happens to be the counselor of Brendon Peterson, accused of killing his pregnant wife—and possibly the unborn child, as she was near term.  The ugliness of the Peterson case cast a rather dark shadow over Michael’s own ugly case, as Geragos is looked upon by many as being very flamboyant and insincere.  Michael was late for his first arraignment, and was wearing a typically costume-ish outfit.  He was admonished for lateness by the judge, and after it was over, he then gave an impromptu dance on the roof of his limousine as onlookers crowded outside the court.  Shortly after this, Jackson separated from Geragos, who allegedly was not his first choice of lawyer. 
It’s probably for the best that Michael not be ‘associated’ with that case, since most people in the public tend to think of Peterson as clearly guilty.  Mesereau has helped build his reputation by doing pro bono cases, especially in the African-American community.  Mesereau had just recently quit as the counselor for Robert Blake, on trial for murder.  Reportedly, it was due to a clashing in vision strategy between Mesereau and Blake’s other advisers.  His involvement with Jackson has produced at least a cosmetic change in the singer.  At his most recent court date, for a formal reading of the final charges, Michael wore a conservative black suit, and simple wire-rimmed clear glasses.  His makeup seemed minimal.  Mesereau read a brief statement to the press but did not stand around to pose for photos, and neither did Michael.  The trial is set to begin in September.  Mesereau issued a disagreement with this, but the decision apparently stands.  As of right now, it is not only the child abuse charges he faces, but also conspiracy charges, alleging that he tried to hide evidence of this.
Even if he is acquitted in the criminal trial, any civil suit is bound to cost him dearly.  To prevent total bankruptcy, he’ll probably have to sell Neverland and the trappings within.  Which is just as well, since being anywhere near the company of children besides blood relations should be avoided from now on.  Moving back into the family mansion, or a smaller, low-key estate, is probably best.
This was his last album for Epic/Sony, so it’s doubtful they’re looking to re-sign him.  At this point, of course, no other major labels are going to want to be bothered, either.  Which, in some sense, could work to his benefit.  He could easily self-finance all future recordings, and then license them to a distributor.  He may not sell multi-millions anymore (forget about beating Thriller!), but he’d have his master tapes and probably more satisfying royalties.  If he doesn’t have to sell his other music publishing holdings (Beatles, etc.), he should be okay, as long as he doesn’t keep living like he’s got unlimited credit anymore.  All of which is moot if he is convicted.  The jokes are already long-standing relating to how a man like Mike would be treated in prison, not the least of which is that jail culture frowns on child predators-- inmates routinely mark such convicts for harassment.  We’ll see what happens.  I hope the real truth, whatever it is, comes out.  I hope for the best, but i’m prepared for the worst.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

It's going to take time for me to get over this.. in a major way.. i just don't know.. i hope all his property ends up intact.. for his kids, if nothing else.. i want to explore the music he collected.. that's probably still going to be worth something in the future...
having graduated from Berklee college of music in boston, he was always working part-time as a producer, with local acts.. he never got his 'break', alas..

I'm slowly going nuts.. the weekend of June 26 my older brother Jeff died from a heart attack.. he was going to get married to his girlfriend this September-- and she's 6 months pregnant.. he's got two older children from previous relationships.. ..what's more, i've got two other brothers that have cut themselves off from us, I don't hear from them at all and nobody knows where to find them.. ... so at this point, my sister and I are the only "active" siblings (out of 5) left in my immediate family... and here i am with busted bank account, i don't know how i'm gonna help out with the arrangements.. my own mortality has become even more glaring.. and i don't see that great of a life for myself in the future.. the funeral will likely be on the holiday weekend, friday, saturday.. I don't think i'll ever celebrate the fourth of July again..
.. just getting back from the funeral and the aftermath.. caught up with some family I hadn't seen in a good while... ...still unfinished business where my bro is concerned... business interests of his are now snafu'd.. his (now ex-) partner is turning out to be a louse..southern cracker type.. there may be a court battle ahead, have to fly down to Atlanta to deal with this.. sigh.....i've skipped out on my last two therapy sessions.. and with the money its costing me i don't really feel like going back right away..

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

well, i got harassed by General Collections Corp. this past week, ended up paying over $350 in back payments on some old college loans.. plus my $150 payment to Greenpath to split between four sources, and now I'm $14 in the hole as of today.. **** it.. I really don't feel like paying these vultures any more money.. I didn't graduate then, so as far as i'm concerned, it shouldn't count until I graduate.. **** that.. I have to earn a living and I'm not paying them anymore.. I'm really considering doing something criminal, if I can figure a way to get away with it.. my thoughts are becoming more violent.. I can't go to see my therapist this week; i can't afford the $50 co-pay, and I also missed another appointment to see whether or not medication is an option for me for my depression and anxiety.. no girlfriend, no money, lame job, not finished in school.. such loser-ism is too much for a man to take.. I'd commit suicide but I'm not sure I'd succeed.. I'd leave town and start anonymous, if only I knew where to go to make sure it'd work.. maybe that's the next thing..

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

here at school.. campus that is.. the library, computer lab.. all my posts made here so far.. i've gotta read a whole book by tomorrow, finish doing ****** homework (again), and stay sane enough to get up tomorrow.. these damned college loan people locked another $189 out of me monday, and another due this friday.. **** it, i'm giving up all my money to **** vultures.. i hate the way my life has gone.. dang, this is just ****ing loony.. i'm so out of it.. i really hope to get all of this over with by this week.. and tonight's the pistons game vs. the lakers.. maybe the last game.. detroit's up 3-1.. i have no ticket, i'm hungry, no girlfriend, and i'm frequently horny and there's nothing i can do about it.. what's a guy to do..

Thursday, June 03, 2004

anybody been stymied by food allergies?

my allergies:

eggs (i don't dare try substitutes; if they taste "like" eggs, then...)

tree nuts (almonds, walnuts, macademias, cashews, pistachios, coconut, etc.; everything except peanuts, which technically are legumes..) at least i get to enjoy peanut butter..

99% of fish (except, for whatever reason, pollock.. even then, i tend to only eat the frozen sticks/filets; i don't try eating fish at restaurants at all...); i can't even stand to smell it cooking..

soy (including the milk & other derivatives)

the mild allergies (eggs, soy) make my tongue itch really badly, slightly aggravate my windpipe and give me monster cramps.. after which I have to recline in the restroom for a while..

the extreme allergies (fish, nuts) go even further, contracting my windpipe so severely i can't breathe..

the allergy extends to any recipe that involves any of the above.. which by and large make most pastries and baked goods off-limits for me.. also, many ice cream brands-- especially Haagen-Dahs.. gag..

alas, i've never been able to enjoy birthday cake, twinkies, or ho-ho's without having to throw up..

by default, I usually enjoy a slice of pie for my birthday (making sure that no eggs were used in the crust)..

this tends to make social gatherings with food awkward, as I don't want to appear ungrateful, but I have to tread carefully; often I don't bother asking what the ingredients are in something like a pastry, I just assume it probably involves eggs and I avoid it..

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

The saga of the 18th Letter:

I can remember when R. Kelly first came out—spring of 1992 (Born Into the 90's), I remember seeing him appear with Donnie Simpson on BET’s Video Soul (Donnie, where ya at?); I liked the “She’s got that vibe” single, so I picked up the cassette at a local store. Good stuff overall, and clearly influenced by Teddy Riley’s then-ubiquitous New Jack Swing sound. I was more into the uptempo tunes, where Kelly actually rapped on several cuts. His MC skills were adequate, though not spectacular. But I’m thinking that “Dedicated” and “Slow Jam” became the big hits off that LP, so 1993’s 12-Play became almost exclusively ballad-driven (feh!). “Your Body’s Callin’” was cool, though. his 1995 self-titled LP continued the trend, and he seemed to settle into his own sound that didn’t sound like a Guy clone. “You remind me” voiced some weird metaphors “you remind me of my jeep…. You remind me of my credit card/I wanna spend you baby..”
The whole Aaliyah debacle was loony. Her first album was good, though.. And I didn’t know until his indictment that he had quietly gotten married to someone else. At least she’s a grown-up. Kelly’s ‘R” LP from ’97 was pretty good, though as a double CD, it was kind of filler-heavy. 1999’s was a more cohesive effort (featuring, of course, “Feelin’ on yo Booty”; I can only imagine what radio stations went through fielding those requests), and I’m thinking this is when he started doing the album with Jay-Z. the scandal torched sales for that one. I haven’t peeped that one yet, but I’ll get around to it, there are bound to be copies on Ebay and other used CD sites.
When he came out with “I Believe I Can Fly” and the song with Celine Dion, I thought he might be going in a more ‘mature’ soul/pop direction, like Lionel Richie, but it seems right after that was when he started getting heavy into hip-hop collaborations. It’s kind of like what Priest said about Whitney Houston—the desire for ‘street credibility’ often overwhelms business sense for contemporary R&B performers.
What I’m really surprised at is the fact that Kelly has chosen to maintain a relatively high profile throughout this situation. Still doing colorful, flamboyant videos, performing at spot dates, each of which have to be cleared by the presiding judge in the case. He’s certainly he’s not lacking work as a producer and songwriter; he did the whole last LP by the Isley Bros. (why do they insist on being billed as ‘The Isley Bros. featuring Ron Isley.. I mean, there’s only two of them left!). He should be more low-key. But apparently, Kelly’s lawyer(s) must have little influence on him, and/or are content to just accept checks; I mean, while facing the charges he’s facing, how can he come out with songs about “girl you wanna come to my hotel.. we got room keys” (with rapper Cassidy), or “I’m a gigolo, spendin’ lots of dough..” (with actor/teen idol Nick Cannon).
At least Thomas Mesereau seems to have had a good talk with Mike Jax about no more lateness to hearings and impromptu dance shows afterwards; and hopefully the trend of wearing conservative suits in public will continue.. ditch the costumes! I guess we’ll have until September to see the drama unfold; I wonder if the TV rights have been sold yet?
Even aside from this forthcoming LP, Kelly apparently plans on doing another collaborative hip-hop album, this time with metal-mouthed (I can’t tell if its steel or platinum) New Orleans rapper/CEO Brian ‘Baby-Birdman’ Williams of Cash Money Records.. I wonder what those awful metal caps looks like when somebody gets old… But at least the guy did have the sense to sign Teena Marie to a deal; her new song, “Still in Love” is pretty tight, and the LP’s gotten good reviews… I think she’s on tour with Cameo, the Isleys, and Rick James.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Comic Book History- The Hypestyle Universe
I have always enjoyed reading comic books, even before I could ‘read’, as per the term. Being the youngest out of five—more specifically, having three older brothers- I got ahold of their cast-offs in various capacities- including whatever comic books they had. Combined with the various animated adventure shows on television, my taste for superhero fiction was stoked like a furnace. My earliest interests in drawing and relateds artwork tended to revolve around super-characters. In terms of collecting comic books on my own, that didn’t happen for several years. You see, for a long time I didn’t have an allowance, per se’. I received spending money on a sporadic basis, and usually outside the context of where comic books were available. Also, my mother (indeed, all the elders in my family) had grown up in poor backgrounds, and when they were kids, comic books were still 10 cents. By the time I was 10 years old, the average price had risen to roughly 60 cents- which to them, was outrageous. Usually, I had to wait until I could find one of those 3-comics-for-a-dollar (well, technically 99 cents) packages that certain stores sold from time to time. Comic book specialty stores were a relatively new phenomenon in the early 80’s, but they just didn’t exist in my town—though I remember there was a store that kept its surplus warehouse in a storefront along Broadway. The public wasn’t allowed to enter. Periodically, they would change the promotional posters in the windows that were sent to them by various comics publishers. But the main store itself was in a neighboring town, so I just didn’t have access.
It wasn’t until I hit middle-school age when my lingering comics desires would finally find fulfillment. I was in the 7th grade, when my family had to move out of the house we were renting. The house we moved to was across town from where we were. Totally different layout, landmarks, etc. One of my older brothers, who had left for college a year or two ago had recently come back to stay. He came across a pharmacy within walking distance (well, a good 25 minutes walking distance). They had a newsstand and sold an assortment of comic books. For me, it was like Mohammed finding Mecca.
By that time, the school I attended had inaugurated a hot-sandwich program, and I got maybe $1.50 a day spending money to buy something. Shortly after I discovered the pharmacy, I started saving money from that to buy comics. The average price had risen to $.75, so saving 3 quarters out of the week wasn’t too hard. I finally started carrying a wallet now—and, coincidentally, was given spending money more often now. My entertainment priorities centered around comics, video (arcade) games, and blank tape cassettes to record songs off the radio. When high school came around, and I got slightly more money to buy hot food every day- hence, more spending money to save.
Due to obvious ‘budget restrictions’, I couldn’t buy every comic that came out every month- or rather, every comic that I wanted. So, from month to month, I would prioritize: Depending on whether or not I liked the art, Spider-Man and X-Men came first. After that came the various other Marvel stalwarts at the time- Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, etc. My brother stayed with us for about another year or so. During that time, he bought comics, too. That helped out for the titles that I missed.
I had an unusual prejudice against DC comics at that time. In my elementary-school years, I appreciated any comic book I could get ahold of. But as time went on, in my adolescent mind, the DC standards just seemed to pale in comparison to my Marvel champions, so I virtually ignored everything they were putting out at the time- even though much of the DC product at the time ended up being influential- Frank Miller’s Batman: Dark Knight and Year One mini-series, the death of Robin II, and John Byrne’s Superman relaunch, among other events.
I would pick up titles as I became interested in them, and then abandon them when I lost interest- usually because of the artwork. Mom wasn’t happy with my comics collecting, but she wasn’t strident about it. I would periodically come up to Detroit on assorted school vacations and holidays; while there, I had, for the first time, occasional access to a comics store. It was during one of these vacations when I also had my first access to a comics convention—imagine- seemingly all the comics in the world at your disposal. For me, it was the equivalent to Disneyland- all my favorite characters just waiting for me.
My collection grew and grew and grew—I would occasionally come across people that claimed to have thousands—I had a few hundred by the time I graduated high school. In college, I continued my comics fervor. There was a comics store on campus, and I would visit it every week- sometimes more often. Comics were also sold in a variety of other stores as well, to my delight. By this time, I had mellowed toward buying DC titles- the Batman movie started my re-appreciation for that character, and I would occasionally buy other DC books on a case-by-case basis. During this time was also my first exposure to ‘adult’ (as in, rated R) comics. A lot of the stuff was very edgy with hyper-violent and sexual acts graphically depicted. It wasn’t for me. Besides, if the wrong person found it…
And so, my collection just continued to get larger. In the back of my mind, my fantasy was to pass them along to my children when they came ‘of age’. Imagine, comic books as family heirlooms. Well, I figure someone’s probably done it before. Anyway, as the collection grew, space in the house got less. Meanwhile, prices kept increasing, at a rate that I didn’t like. I also started to feel less satisfied in general with some of the titles I was keeping up with. The stories didn’t have the same meaning for me as they did ‘back in the days’. One evening, I think I got overcharged a few bucks, but I let it slide—it really kicked in that I was spending money on stuff that didn’t really matter any more. It was almost instinctual, going to the comics stores now. And so, I decided, that was it. No more. I stopped. I actually stopped. Since then, I have bought a few reprint magazines, and I still buy Wizard, which is a magazine covering the industry. I have now begun strategically organizing my old comics by their particular title (or main character). I am trying to sell them off as entire collections, as opposed to individual comics or in smaller increments. I really don’t have the ‘time’ to be meticulous with the arrangements, as I’m really trying to get rid of them as fast as possible.
My first collection, consisting of 90% of my Spider-Man and X-Men comics, I took to a comics dealer in an attempt to get some dough. In the end, what I ended up doing was trading them for a used (but still functional) Playstation 1 system and several games. It was my choice to do it, but I learned in the meanwhile that comics collecting for my generation ain’t like it was for the distant past. Most comics from the 80’s and 90’s tend to be in higher proliferation. Hence, the general demand is lower to find those issues, unless they are of extreme rarity. Incidentally, I only got rid of 90% of my Spidey & X-Men books because I didn’t know I had another boxful of comics containing some more issues, that I hadn’t looked at before. Ah well—more to sell later, I guess. I don’t have a car, so I can’t get out to comics stores like I would want to, to get some assessments.
Selling on the internet is a slow go—Even though I start the bidding prices low (idiotically low), the ‘bites’ tend to be few and far between. Right now, I’m just set up at Ebay—there are many more auction sites to choose from- Thus, I’ll have to just explore what’s out there and hope for the best.
The other option is to actually set up a table at a convention. It costs X amount of money to do that, plus of course, you need a car to get out there. I dunno. I might just do it if it’s not too expensive for a table. Then, I need lots of money for change, etc. Not to mention a strategy for prices—should I sell them for cover price? Or for ‘mark-up’ value? I guess maybe a combination of both.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Rap concerts in Gary were few and far between, though.. in suburban Merrillville and beyond, certain theaters like the Holiday Star would advertise mainstream pop and country acts-- Toto, Kansas, Mickey Gilley, Starship, Gladys Knight, Patti Labelle.. but forget about rap, really.. and the Jacksons never, I mean NEVER, came back to Gary for any kind of homecoming concert-- the closest they came was Chicago during the Victory tour, and that sold out in like 3 hours.. but like a good soldier, I kept my Mike Jax posters on the wall... "He'll come back someday.. Just you wait and see..." whoo-boy... well-- Jermaine did once do an impromptu visit to their old family house, which caused a minor stampede, but I digress... Whenever I got to hear about some show, I either didn't have the money, didn't have a ride (mom went through about 4 hooptie cars between 6th grade and 9th.. the last of which sat rusting in the driveway until well into my senior year when she finally sold it as is to someone..), or both..

The first music concert I was, well, exposed to was in the summer of 1988, spending the summer vacation in Detroit.. Scott's church, which was United Methodist affiliated, was participating in the UMC's "Youth 88" convention summit, on the campus of Eastern Illinois university-- it was mostly us kids, with maybe 1/3rd grownups with us.. on the bus ride there, which started at midnight, one girl threw up barely an hour into the ride.. several hours later, we actually ended up bypassing the University by accident, going across the Miss. River into Iowa.. Stopped at a restaurant, it was like 7 in the morning.. Half of us bum-rushed a nearby Burger King and started ordering Whoppers and orange juice.. We finally turned around and made it back to the University.. Staying on the campus.. Crazy girls there from all over, but alas, none meant for me.. there was this fine-assed girl named Heaven (!), and she swore she'd send her photo to me when I gave her my address.. Anyway, The dorms we stayed in had this fucked up system where when you get on the elevator, you had to have a key to get to a specific floor.. each of us kids only got the key to our own floor.. we were going nuts calling each other on phones-- "Press the elevator button on your floor! I'm comin' up!"..
Oh, i did mention there was a concert here? Well, the first day consisted of different workshops of nice, but vaguely boring interaction with each other, bible study and more.. but at the end of the day, our first special guest arrived, as we had all gathered in the university's basketball stadium.. All to witness the coming of..



the show was still on the air then, and she was still a "star", more or less.. she proceeded to talk to us about her career and her faith life... and the fact that she doesn't go see R rated movies.. she even did a skit in character as Blair, and sang some maudlin Christian pop..

At least, on the second night, the special guest was Deneice Williams; she mostly did gospel selections, but she finally did "Let's Hear it For the Boy" at the end..
Hype’s History with Hip-Hop:
I was 5 years old when I first heard “Rapper’s Delight”. To me, of course, it was just another record. Growing up in Gary, Indiana, I was as far from the ghetto boroughs of New York as you could get, so there was no one hipping me to the ‘phenomenon’ of hip-hop culture. The first rap song I really got interested in was the B-side to ‘delight’, “Apache”. My cousin Scott had the 45, and we played it at 33 so we could understand the lyrics and write them down. In my youngest days, I was listening to whatever happened to be on the radio, so if it was rock, r&b, or even country, then that’s what I was tuned into. Being as I was perpetually outside of the popular kids’ clique, I always seemed to be behind in knowing whatever was the latest record on the streets. Scott always seemed to be in the know about what records were out and who the performers were. Given that rap at that time was primarily singles-driven, and rap videos were few and far between (especially since I didn’t have cable at home), I didn’t always immediately recognize folks. I remember when Run DMC’s “It’s Like That” was on the radio. Scott and I kinda laughed at the part where they said “huuh!!” (I guess even back then, the whole ‘being hard’ thing occasionally came off forced).
My favorite rap performers for several years were the Fat Boys. I guess, being a big kid, I kind of related in a big way. None of my classmates were even concerned that I listened to rap just like they did; as far as they knew, whatever I listened to had to be corny- like Barry Manilow or something (not that there’s anything really wrong with Barry. But I digress..)
Anyway, as I became more exposed to hip-hop, my consciousness of it grew. Thanks in part to skimming through magazines like Black Beat, Right On, and eventually those like Word Up, Rap Masters. I didn’t have the money to buy them most of the time, but I’d memorize as much stuff as I could.
I remember the spring of ’88, I had bought a copy of Word Up with Run DMC on the cover. It had a picture in there of Professor Griff of Public Enemy. The caption beneath said “flavor flav”, but I would eventually find out who was really who. Griff’s paramilitary outfit had fascinated me, and I found myself drawing lots of pictures of it. I still had no idea what songs this guy did, though. Early on during summer vacation, I asked Scott who Flav was. He played me “Rebel Without a Pause”. From that point, it was on for life.
Hip hop is in a different place, socially, than it was when I started high school. It was 87, and at that point, you only had a handful of acts that had just broken through to achieve mainstream prominence- Run DMC’s Raising Hell, Beastie Boys’ License to Ill, LL Cool J’s Bigger & Deffer, & the Fat Boys’ Crushin. For the most part, that was all that most of my white classmates were familiar with. Most didn’t know about any earlier records, like when a few of these artists first came out. During every school year, there were maybe two or so acts that would become known to the white kids, either from the mtv-friendly standpoint (Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince, Tone Loc, Hammer), or from a controversy-friendly angle, (P.E., NWA, 2 Live Crew). Even so, most still weren’t up on stuff that by comparison, was “in between” at that time, like Ice T, BDP, or Eric B & Rakim, who were all popular in their own right, but at the time didn’t have the pop airplay or any media firestorms to blow them up in the mainstream consciousness.
Nowadays, hip-hop, collectively, is fairly mainstream business. It’s big enough to warrant its own section at the music stores (urban and suburban)—though it would be interesting to see it combined in the general pop/rock shelves. Videos are seen regularly on all video-playing networks. Even hardcore-leaning artists have become genuine pop stars, like Jay Z, Busta Rhymes, and Snoop Dogg. Regional scenes for rap have become more prominent, especially in those areas historically devoid of one. There is often more than one rap act seen during the run of a music award show now. Rappers present awards and they host the shows as well. It’s not a rarity anymore to see a rap act on one of the late night or daytime talk shows. These are good things.
Some disappointing things have occurred as well, though. Pop-leaning rap acts occasionally bypass (or are bypassed by) Urban radio. So you have situations where you’ll hear a rap song (often, the artist is not black) on a pop station but not anywhere else. Unfortunately, most current white rap artists do not have a sizable black following. Eminem is the exception that proves the rule, because no other Caucasian rap acts are heard on Urban radio at all. Sure enough, there are plenty of hardcore-leaning and non-radio-friendly white rap acts who aren’t on radio in general. Yet the attendance at their shows (and by extension, sales) are almost exclusively white. Some operate websites, where cds, t-shirts and other merchandise can be purchased. Thus, these performers have been able to sustain careers autonomous from a relationship with black fans. Conversely, black rap acts, even ‘underground’ types, can still count on a sizable white audience at various shows, and if they desire mainstream acceptance, a relationship with white consumers is inevitable. If you look at it in a certain way, ‘white hip-hop’ becoming almost a sub-genre unto itself. Which is a not so ‘good’ thing, if only because a segment of rappers are virtually invisible to the audience that birthed the genre.
On another level, street-hustling-centered hip-hop has become the default thematic bent for most new artists. Specifically, songs that revolve around the lifestyle associated with the inner-city underworld: drug sales/use, gunfights, confronting rival hustlers, pimping/prostitution, heavy drinking, dive strip bars, and the like. By comparison, rap that does not engage in this general worldview is a relative rarity now. Further, politically-leaning rap has scarce presence on shelves, and scarcer presence on radio—Top 40 or Urban. Some current “conscious rap” practitioners are ambivalent to the term, if only to avoid being pigeonholed. Still, despite their efforts, most have yet to achieve the same audience share as most other rappers.

How can a man like me/ be walking around in a world of misery/ and if women want a man with a body, it’s not mine/ ‘cause they be walking past me like I was a stop sign… I go to the clubs, they wanna baseball-bat me/ I go to the mall, they throw their walkmans at me/…I’m so horny/ and every girl I know be like “he’s so corny”…
“You think you know me.. But you don’t.. not in the least..” ‘Be yourself and people will like you’- that is the worst lie that you can tell someone, especially a child; because humanity being the species that it is, often times, it just doesn’t work out that way. No matter how ‘yourself’ you may be, there will always be adversaries for you to contend with; perceived differences breed misunderstanding; misunderstanding breeds contempt and hatred; and hatred often leads to violence. We are all conditioned to be skeptical and wary, supposedly for our own protection- I’ve been a ‘nice guy’ for the better part of 25 years, and what has it gotten me, besides being rejected, humiliated and ignored…? I am both abhorrent of humanity and yet lonely at the same time- People look at me, they either see the silent ogre to keep your distance from; or the gentle-giant/manageable negro/helpful doormat/’all-around nice guy’, who should be above petty concerns of whether or not people, especially women, find favor with him. Ah, being a “sweet guy” does have its perks- then again, I wouldn’t know. The women who say that, “but let’s just be friends” are really just giving verbal novocaine before they start up the drill- BUZZZZZ!!! Once again, either you’re simply dealing with a case of sincere platonic appreciation, or someone who feels you aren’t what she’s looking for at all, but figures she’ll let you down easy (but don’t call back…really). Well I’m sick of always settling for friends when I want more; getting the virtual shaft, and not being able to give my ‘shaft’ to anyone. Any attempt I make at humor is met with thinly-veiled apathy, so the “guy who knows how to make me laugh” angle means nothing, really. Heck, even in most of my nighttime dreams, women will run from me, once I become ‘aware’ of them.
Except for the Freshmen, (whose elections were held in late September), class elections were held during the second semester. The titles would be in effect next school year. So I made my speech as a sophomore, running for Junior class treasurer- and I won! Incidentally, my speech was the most that many of my classmates had heard me speak at all. I felt good. But when Junior year came into effect, I started to wonder what all I exactly had to do. Purportedly, each class had a budget of money that could/would be used to help pay for things they wanted, like class trips, dances, etc. I remember Ben Rizzo, who for the 2nd year running was class prez, asked me to call up the Chicago Blackhawks to find out what their group rate for hockey tickets were. I did- but from there, your guess is as good as mine what all money ‘we’ technically had. I never got to see any books or records of any kind. We never had a class trip exclusively for us that year. Call me jaded, but I was pretty ticked that I didn’t get to do anything. Given that the elections were kind of school-sanctioned popularity contests, empty titles may have been the unspoken norm. Of course, given that I was the only person of color elected, it kind of smacked of tokenism the more I thought about it. Still, I was un-fazed enough to run for class office again, this time for president. The first time, I was very solemn in my approach- I put up a few homemade posters, and my speech was fairly serious. This time, I figured I might as well go all out, and play the game like everyone else- flashy & shallow. I put up lots of posters, involving pictures of hip-hop personalities and cartoon characters, with catchy sloganeering. My speech was geared to be uptempo, and full of bluster- “Fight the power, and vote for me!”. What with the response I got, I just knew I had a great chance of winning. This time around, though, one key rule had been changed by the administration- Students were now technically not running for one specific office- everyone now simply ran as an ‘undetermined’ candidate. The top four vote-getters would get the four ranking titles, respectively- President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer. As it so happens, pretty much all of the black kids in class were pulling for me, and quite a lot of the white kids; I had become somewhat popular in the intellectual sense. Percy and Jay were on my side; my fellow candidate Goran Melmen was also pretty popular, and more of an all-American “most likely to succeed” type. Goran and I were cordial, but didn’t know each other well. However, he was especially good friends with Ben Rizzo, who had opted not to run for Senior office. At one point during a class meeting, Ben pulled me aside and suggested I run for president “You really have a great rapport with them!” he said, ingratiatingly. Now Ben, whom I had known since Freshman year, was a well-practiced jokester/comedian, the type to lay it on thick whenever he spoke to you. Depending on how well you knew him, you either found him contemptuously amusing, or you couldn’t stand him. I remember the speeches for election all took place on a Tuesday. The elections took place on a Wednesday. Results were to be announced Friday. As it so happened, both sophomore and junior class officer announcements were made. As for us- the forthcoming seniors- results were delayed!! I was shocked- “now what?” Needless to say, ‘conspiracy!’ was the collective sentiment for my black classmates. And yet, were they really that far from the truth? I would never know for sure- several students revealed that they had seen Ben counting results by himself (without our faculty Sponsor) during their homeroom session- with ballots allegedly being stuffed in favor of Goran. As this scandalous scuttlebutt shot through our ranks, it eventually got back to Mr. Zotski, our Sponsor. At the time, I was initially unaware of the reason for delay, and asked him what was wrong. He admitted that there were “a number of rumors” floating about, and that he was going to be re-counting the results himself. But by then, the damage may have already been done. Taking student absences into account- even if Mr. Zotski made sure there was no surplus of ballots that superceded our class size, there was no way to determine who really voted for whom, since the ballots were not personalized. Personally, I would have preferred an all new ballot- But as it stood, the established votes were counted. Once again, I was a ‘sole brother’, but technically #2, not #1. I came in second place (exactly by how many was never revealed). And so, I was now class Vice-President Hypestyle. By then, my lingering resentment of the way things went at that school was really coming to a head. When senior year rolled around, I found that, my duties, once again, were in theory only. What makes things worse, is that, in my senior yearbook, published after I graduated, I am identified as class SECRETARY! Probably cheated in one instance, and retroactively demoted in another! Typical… My sports career in school was short lived. I briefly tried out for the basketball team my Freshman year, but got cut after one day. I let it discourage me, and Sophomore year didn’t even bother. But, fatefully, Percy Shapiro, who was in my homeroom, invited me to come with him to videotape the games. He and I got to travel with the team to all the away games, and got in free to all home games. He and I had a great friendship through that time we spent. As time went on it seemed to matter less that I was not on the floor, getting the glory and the girls. On the flip side, by Junior year I was antsy to at least get involved with something. I briefly mulled wrestling, but decided not to do it. Finally, I submitted my name & phone number for training camp for football. It was going to be Senior year, and I was trying out for football for the first time. People had always been remarking at my size, and how I might be good at it. I wasn’t a pro, that’s for sure. I had to get used to all the regular exercises and routines, that other guys had been doing since freshman year. I was so bad, I even got hassled by the underclassmen, most of which were on the Junior Varsity team. But eventually, I persevered, and got my uniform. I was a bencher, but the one time I got let on the field was cool. I was offensive tackle, by the way. We were playing Chesterton High. When I slammed into my opponent, I was dreading doing something stupid. But it went by pretty okay. I missed out on our sectional victory that year- a bout with asthma laid me out for a week. After that, we lost our regional game, to Hobart High. Many in the region felt we could’ve gone all the way that year. It didn’t help that we lost a few of our starting people- ‘Jerry Cruz’ had grade problems; ‘Ed Vaughn’ had a broken arm; ‘Ferris Dice’, a busted leg. I wish I would have ordered our season video that the Coach put together. And I got a (second) letter to put on my jacket. So, at least for a limited time, I was my own football hero. For the most part, I internalized feelings- the negative things said to and done to me- as I had done throughout most of my grade school years. My exasperation with it all just seethed, without exploding. At one point during sophomore year, I threw my art supply box at one (black) clown; senior year I almost got into a fight with two (white) others; both times, I felt my rage intensify to the breaking point- but I couldn’t help but think of the consequences. I was still on the school bus when I tossed my art box- part of me wanted to tear the guy apart, another part of me knew that a cramped bus wasn’t the best place to start a brawl; and if Mr. Atkinson kicked me off the route, that would have meant me having to walk to school every morning- from 47th to 59th avenue, but the block lengths were hardly consistent. If I walked non-stop, it took me about 45 minutes. Like I said earlier, Mom’s car was burnt out; and dad stopped driving altogether after his back surgery in ’85, when I was in 6th grade. Senior year, I was in a classroom when my ire was struck, I struck a few brief blows against my antagonizers, but both times, the donnybrooks were cut off prematurely. I knew that if I had fully given in to my anger, I was capable of maiming, or worse. And with college around the corner, I knew that I didn’t want an expulsion on my record. Overall: Freshman year was a nuisance, sophomore year was horrible, junior year things eased back, and senior year, finally, the drama that headed my way was minimized. So, if I had to do it all over, I probably wouldn’t go to Andrean again, if only just to have an alternative experience. Of course, hindsight being 20/20- Maybe I would have been popular. Maybe I would have made the basketball team; maybe I would have met a special girl. Maybe not. I never would have gotten to know Percy- I probably wouldn’t have even thought about being a videotaper. I’m sure I would have been keeping in touch with Jay, in letters and by phone, but I would have rarely gotten to see him again face-to-face during that time. Looking at what happened in Colorado- I hardly condone what those kids did, yet I can understand the concept of feeling alienated from almost everyone around you. The immediate future seems dismal, and, for the moment, there doesn’t seem to be much you can do but take it. I fantasized about getting physical revenge on people many times during those years. But it never went beyond the thought level- On one hand, I didn’t even remotely have the access to the things that those kids did- through the internet and otherwise. On another level, I know that my conscience would never let me follow through with any such deeds. And just the fact that these kids were Aryan sympathizers, makes my blood boil- I definitely wouldn’t have been a trench-coater.

My High School Hell- I was in 8th grade when I chose to go to Andrean. I did it because I wanted friends; I knew that a few of my classmates at St. Mary’s Elementary would be going there. As it stood, there was a public high school closer to me- Lew Wallace- but I knew that I wouldn’t know anyone there. I had grown up downtown, and by mid-7th grade I was living in Glen Park. In both cases, I was essentially on the opposite end of town from from my elementary school- St. Mary’s was far northeast, in the Miller district. Most of my St. Mary’s classmates were going to either Wirt High or Emerson, both also in Miller. While L.W. (long-nicknamed ‘El Dubb’ by the student population) was in Glen Park, there was the vague spectre of its reputation as a roughneck haven. This is before gangster rap, by the way. Incidentally, two of my brothers and my sister went there, and my oldest brother to Andrean. Andrean is in Merrillville, a suburban town just outside of Gary. Little did I know that my four years as a ‘59er would be more (and less) than I expected. I had been going to Catholic schools all of my life, so I figured, “how could it be all that outrageously different”? Oy vey. I happened to ride a private bus service from the inner-city; the kids on my bus were all black. Not that I had an inherently easier time on the bus because of the ethnic homogeneity. As somewhat of a continuation of my years in grade school, I caught grief from the loudmouths once again; whether it was smart-aleck remarks (out loud or under their breath) or jackass antics like throwing paper wads/other small objects. I thought I could have a fresh start there; no one knew me, so I could at least get the benefit of the doubt as to be considered ‘cool’, and accepted. But as usual, I had another think coming. The ethnic makeup of the school was a total flip flop from my elementary school days; during that time, the white students (as well as others) drifted out of my class slowly every year- My eighth grade class had 16 kids total, including me. But at Andrean, I now had roughly 200 new classmates, of about 1,000 students overall. The vast majority of the student body was Caucasian, roughly 60-70%. Beneath that, maybe 10-15% Asian, 10% Latino and 10% Black. Given the comparatively expensive tuition, most students happened to be from middle class & suburban lifestyles. Base tuition was roughly $1,800 a year; needless to say, that didn’t include books- and for the fact that I tended to be late starting every year, meant that most of mine had to be bought new, rather than used. my parents made it work somehow, but it wasn’t easy. Not to say that I was a starving kid (I wasn’t); but I definitely knew of cheese blocks and food stamps. Dad had retired from the steel mill in ’85, after his back problems ended up with an emergency trip to the hospital to treat a slipped disc. After that, he stopped driving altogether. At the time, Mom was earning SS/disability from a leg injury from some time back. By the beginning of my sophomore year, her car had burnt out, and just sat dead in the driveway for a couple of years until she was able to sell it. Both before, during, and after this, I was a bus-catcher and a walker; over the years, tales of seeing me trek down Broadway became semi-legendary. Socializing outside of school was often difficult- As far as Mom was concerned, most places in the city were virtual shooting galleries; yet, even the safer teen hang-out spots in the area (malls, restaurants, etc.) became fairly inaccessible by default, rather than parental mandate. The bus system in the city was terrible- all routes cut off after 11 p.m., no routes went into the surrounding towns/suburbs, and there was no service at all on Sundays. Most of my Saturday nights were spent at home, watching TV and listening to the hip-hop radio shows. I knew that most of the incidental perks that some kids took for granted- including class photos and field trips- always had a stop sign in front for me. I remember when the school would have food drives, everybody would bring non-perishables, which would be given out to low-income families. In everyone’s homeroom, there was a box up front that the food was placed in. One year, one of the nuns pulled me aside, and brought me to where the boxes of food were being collected. They gave me about three boxes worth, and did the same thing next year. Sophomore year, class rings were being sold- at roughly $150. I brought the brochure home to Mom, and to say that she balked was an understatement; Junior and Senior year, I didn’t even bother asking- I just didn’t want to hear a lecture that I knew was sure to come. An annual fund-raiser had us selling calendars, which had pictures of us students. They went for $25 apiece; not that they were really worth that- it was one of those ‘support knowledge’ type of deals- In any case, for every calendar a student sold, they could potentially get back the same amount of money in cash. There was this bingo-style name pull with all the student names; I remember, throughout the campaign, my name turned up twice- and I had sold nada. Mom wasn’t about to shell out $25 for one calendar, let alone $100 for 4 of them, and none of my other relatives were really hip to it either. Not that I could really blame them- Nonetheless, whenever events/situations would come up that cost something, I was always self-conscious about it- Getting a part-time job would have helped- but with all of the afterschool activities I ended up participating in (science club, math club, et al), I guess it hadn’t even occurred to me. Effectively, they didn’t cost anything to join, and they helped to bring me some semblance of self-worth that was lacking. At any predominantly white-run and/or white-populated institution, there’s bound to be social tensions, certainly from the standpoint of the minority students. Generally, the pre-existing cliques were exacerbated by ethnic self-grouping; white with white, black with black, latino with latino, etc. Given that my two best friends there were white, I managed to clear through some of the typecasting that people probably did. On the flip side, I learned that not everybody there was meant to be your friend. It wasn’t so much a matter of coping with blatant bigots- there were a few fools that just seemed to give sullen stares, and never associated with minorities- at least you knew where you stood in their (twisted) mind. From my view it was worse dealing with the hypocrites. Certain guys that would be cordial with you- shake your hand, smile, talk with you during class, lunchtime, etc. But in other circumstances- you could come up on them when they’ve got their back turned to you (or otherwise not noticing you), talking to some other white guys, and hear some repulsive comments: “Dumb n****rs” this-and-that, straight up cracker-isms. And I’d be like “what the fu*k?!?” I really can’t say that I trust the so-called “white liberal” any more than the “white conservative”. It was a challenge to cope with the cultural hegemony at the school- trying to socially navigate among the ‘white privilege’ that I was thrust into. Grades were even more of an issue now- It wasn’t just 15 other kids in my class anymore, but 200+. My mother, naturally, would sweat me, constantly stressing the angle that it takes twice the effort for “us” to get noticed, in the mainstream. And after graduation, scholarships were going to be a must, not just a blessing. I guess on a basic level, I understood, but that didn’t make accepting it any easier. From my standpoint, the political worldviews I held were vastly different from not only the administration, but also many of my peers. At school, it was a very pro-Reagan/Bush, pro-military, right-wing sympathetic atmosphere. At home, let me put it like this- my mother wouldn’t have shot at President Reagan, but she wasn’t upset when John Hinckley did the deed. Maybe its was the typical “faculty is the enemy” ethic that a lot of teens have, but I tended to keep my distance from the faculty, personally and emotionally. Privately, I never really bought into many of the political comments people would express, and my mild-manneredness tended to obscure the frustrations within me. When it was announced that class elections would be held soon, I figured this is a chance to have some impact here. I wanted to be a class officer for my sophomore class. At the time, the setup was, students would run for a specific office. Every student representing each category- treasurer, secretary, vice-president, president- would make their speeches. Ballots were checked off on slips of paper, and counted under supervision of the teacher who was the class Sponsor (faculty member delegated to be the supervisor for all class-wide activities). Freshman year I wasn’t interested. I knew almost no one, except the St. Mary’s alumni I had hooked back up with; I figured I couldn’t get elected for class janitor (if they even had such a title). To get officially nominated, kids had to get all of their teachers to sign an ‘endorsement’ form. But I ended up turning in my form in a day late after the deadline, and lost out due to my own carelessness. Maybe, psychologically, I wanted myself to fail, because I was used to it, socially. But I did turn the form in on time the next year.
I guess this is part of the reason that I’m kind of hesitant to pursue relationships- none that I grew up seeing were all that positive. It’s probably not too far fetched to say that I’m somewhat bitter about my long-standing solo status. The way my peers often rejected me, combined with the twisted home situation, has led me to be apprehensive about pursuing new acquaintances, especially romantic ones. Given my inexperience at having relationships, I’m afraid that I’d just end up doing something dumb and blow it before I realize what’s going on. That’s one thing about being alone- It’s been an integral part of my existence for so long, I almost can’t relate to the ramifications of being close to someone. What’s close enough? How much is too close? In modern-day pop psychology, much ado has been made about people who are ‘clingy & needy’; I don’t want to be perceived as a social vulture. Even if I was lucky enough to meet someone special- I’m so sexually repressed, I can just see myself going overboard, trying to make up for every aborted adolescent fantasy I’ve had. Whenever I’m around attractive women, my subconscious is virtually screaming. My eyes start roving, and I have to keep from being obvious about it. Any moment of physical intimacy I may have is going to be like lighting the fuse for a bomb. Part of me is going to say “take it easy & slow, she’s not going anywhere”, but the flip side says “Nail her! Smother it! Get rowdy! This could be your only lifetime chance!” Certainly, most women appreciate a man who can be ‘aggressive’ (at the right times), but if and when ‘the dark side’ is released, would that ruin her respect for me? Would I lose respect for myself? Maybe it’s just too late for me to even bother trying.
“It’s such a beautiful night for a date rape/ A beautiful night for a kill…/ It’s such a beautiful night for a homicide…/ A beautiful night, let’s go steal…/ It’s such a beautiful night to kill crackers/… A beautiful night, all around../ It’s a beautiful night for being anti-social,/ let’s have a night on the town…” Personal Mantra (by way of Prince Paul’s Psychoanalysis).
It’s like that: Home life? Ah, okay. I survived it, but unscathed? I think not. After we moved from downtown to Glen Park, I never got to know any of the kids in the area. On my block There wasn’t a proliferation of any my age. I wasn’t riding my bike much anymore, so I didn’t get out much, in general. What made it worse was that the block became less inviting as time passed. The house immediately to the right of us was abandoned- an eyesore, to be sure. At one point, workers from the city bulldozed its front yard, but why they didn’t knock down the house was unknown. In the house immediately further down was a young white couple who moved out maybe a year after we got there. An extended black family moved in- I never really got to know them, never really had much to say to them- of course, part of that was that they turned it into a dope spot. They were unapologetically sullen; after I graduated school & left town, mom told me of a time that one of them tried to steal Dad’s bicycle, among other confrontations. There was a kid, two years behind me in school, that lived straight across the street from us. I forget his name, but his folks were nice enough- once, they drove me to school when I had missed the bus. As it so happens, though, they too, were rolling on the down-low. All types of different people would be showing up at the house, throughout the day and evening- white black, latin, rich-looking, poor-looking… I remember one time, a police car pulled up. One cop went inside, while his partner waited in the car. A little while later they left. What all it was about, I don’t know, but it probably wasn’t just to say ‘hi’. Their son ended up at Andrean, but we didn’t share any classes- the two-year difference certainly played a part in that- but I wish I had gotten to know him a little better, though; in the year after I graduated, I found out he had died- apparently one night, these white biker cats had beef from a deal gone bad, and there was a shootout of some sort on the house grounds; a homemade bomb was also thrown on the side of the house. I don’t know if it was a stray bullet or the shrapnel, but the young fellow was killed that night.
Saga of hip-hop and mass media.
To me, part of the problem is not with Puffy, Missy, Funkmaster Flex, sampling, or the Beasties’ seeming lack of props from blacks. Rather, it often the self-congratulatory nature and general cluelessness of the mainstream pop culture media. More often than not, the press will fawn over a white rap act’s success in the pop field. But given certain historical parallels, this is really nothing new.

Back in the 1950’s, black rhythm & blues artists were regularly ripped off by record labels through shady accounting, and the free reign given to White artists to do cover versions. Many of which were often lame- how in the heck did Pat Boone and Bobby Vee get over? More often than not, no royalty money was paid to the original composer. By default, the ‘real’ money black acts made was from touring, not record sales. Then, there is the mega-phenomenon of the King himself, Elvis Presley. Despite the excesses he indulged in later in life, most people generally do not dispute his stature as “the Greatest”. Even Chuck D of Public Enemy admits that his often quoted line from “Fight the Power” was not so much a dis towards Elvis, whom he considered talented, but a dis towards the bigoted culture that boosted him but downplayed the efforts of the black artists who were Elvis’ predecessors and peers…

In the early 60’s, there was a gentle wave of black pop music from the likes of the Ronettes, Aretha Franklin, Ben E. King, and the Motown stars. But in 1964, the U.S. was bum rushed by a quartet of mop-topped fellows from Liverpool, England. The breakthrough of the Beatles, along with the swiftly following ‘British Invastion’ (the Stones, Cream, etc.), all but overshadowed the careers of the black American acts, while changing forever the atmosphere of the infant rock world. In retrospect, many people would postulate that the Beatles ‘saved rock & roll’. But from whom?

In the 1970’s, disco took a lot of flak from the (mostly White) hard rock element. But when rock acts like the Bee Gees, Rolling Stones, & Rod Stewart appropriated the genre, they reaped the full benefits of pop success with no lasting backlash- we see them on ‘Legends’ on VH-1, right, now?

Fast forward to the early 80’s- Blondie’s “Rapture” was a big hit- some journalists would go so far to say Ms. Deborah Harry & co. ‘jumpstarted’, even created, hip hop with this record. It was a new wave song that incorporated elements of the nascent New York rap scene. Her rapping was awkward, but the song was considered hip enough to go platinum. This totally ignores the fact that the culture of DJs, MCs, breaking & graf artists had been going on for years before then. A guy like Keith Haring (RIP) got more props and money for doing graffiti inspired art than the people who started it off.

In the mid 80’s- heavy metal fans and bands (Motley Crue, Ratt, Poison) had no problems railing against all things rap., But when Run DMC and Aerosmith collaborated, it was not looked at as the band being creative unto themselves, but rather Run DMC upgrading/elevating their standards by working with the then-languishing Aerosmith- and look at them now. In my opinion, Aerosmith disrespected Run DMC by not inviting them on tour at the time.

It is disturbing, that certain white critics & fans, seem to want to draw intellectual lines in sand, trumpeting these acts as ‘theirs’. In regards to House of Pain & Beasties, when their 1992 albums came out, they indirectly rode the bandwagon of post-Nirvana ‘alternative music’. Subsequently, they are adulated as being “among rock’s finest”; they become labeled as frat-boy-rap, or alternative-rock/rap; now they are above being ‘just rappers’ (i.e. Negro imitators) anymore. The same designation is not given to black/latino rap; pop/rock magazines will regularly give accolades to white acts on the periphery of the genre like DJ Shadow, Beck, and The Chemical Bros; but not, say, Prince Paul, DJ Premier, or EPMD. Who’s to say what’s more ‘progressive’, Pete Rock, DJ Quik , Gang Starr, or House of Pain? And don’t even talk about who gets on the cover first.

Another example is the Insane Clown Posse. A duo who hail from as they tell it, a fairly integrated Detroit neighborhood. They themselves admit to pretending to be gangbangers early on but got beat up by the real gangs. To listen to their style, it’s clearly gangsta influenced (ice cube 1992). Combined with punk/metal music and horror-show imagery, it’s like pro-wresting meets the Geto Boys. Which is a ‘striking’ image, but no more shocking than digital underground’s antics. The dedicated among their fans casually refer to each other as ‘ninja’, a corny code word for you-know-what. As it so happens, their records appeal primarily to the citizens of trailer parks and suburban townhouses, rather than the inner-city dwellers that they partially swipe their image from (who’s goin’ chicken huntin? We’s goin chicken huntin!) When their major label debut was pulled in 1997, they got all types of free publicity, and became free speech rap rebels of the moment. But I wonder, how many rap albums by people of color, before and after the ‘Cop Killer’ scandal, got the same treatment, only it didn’t make Time, People, Entertainment Weekly, or MTV?

The ‘hair metal’ crowd isn’t as vocal anymore; but you still have more than enough young rock fans willing to voice their venom at hip hop (rap sucks! It’s not music! It’s all sampling/negative!) I find it amazing that so many of these kids can say that, but are clearly fascinated by 90’s rock bands, Limp Bizkit, Korn, Rage, 311, who clearly have a hip-hop influence. but same white kid fans say they hate ‘rap/hiphop’.

Recent chart favorite Eminem has been touted, not so subtly, as rap’ s ‘great White hope’, to ‘fill the void’ of a perceived dearth of White rap performers. What with the 5 major music labels being White-run and/or owned, there could certainly be more White rappers out there if it were perceived as a profitable effort (but, as it stands, they’re already making much loot off the backs of Black performers). Much ado has been made of his rhyme-battling ethic, and the years of dues-paying obscurity that he went through. Which, essentially, doesn’t make him much different from other performers who did the same; but of course, his being White (in the mostly Black/Latino social subcultures of hip hop) makes it look all the more courageous- the presumption is, as a white kid, he has/had a vast assortment of options in front of him besides trying to be a rapper. His penchant for dirty punchlines has earned him the tag of ‘witty satirist’, and in one journalist’s assessment, “(he’s a necessary) counterpoint to the progressive styles of The Roots, Lauryn Hill, and Erykah Badu, (who themselves were) reactionary counterpoints to the ubiquitous gangster style”. His endorsement by label mentor Dr. Dre’ is considered the highest validation of his talents. In one sense, his trench-mouthed extremism could be compared to that of Kool Keith or Redman (but neither of them have been as quickly embraced by the rock intelligentsia and gotten a Rolling Stone cover shoot less than 2 months after their debut). His music does not particularly have a rock n’ roll bent, but he gets regular rotations on alternative-rock radio. Why is it that white performers doing this somehow get treated as if their creative ethic is somehow more sophisticated?

When I listen to Alternative radio, almost the only rap I hear is the Beastie Boys (or Everlast), which is a group I happen to like. But it’s as if performers like Public Enemy, De la Soul, Tribe Called Quest, even LL & Snoop, couldn’t get arrested. Supposedly, there is no color barrier. In my opinion, if the designation ‘alternative music’ supposedly embraces everything that didn’t get the wealth of radio accolades in the 80’s (like so-called ‘college rock’, i.e. punk, ska, avant-garde), then rap should be a part of that mix.

Ultimately, I don’t hate white rappers, and I don’t believe they are unqualified from making a contribution to the hip-hop atmosphere; but it irks me when I see Mark Wahlberg debut with one hit to his name (“Good Vibrations”), then get fashion model gigs & acting jobs straight out the box. At the same time, hip hop veterans like Will Smith, Queen Latifah, Ice Cube, and LL Cool J have to ‘prove’ their acting credentials whenever their projects come out, to the same mainstream critics, who don’t give a hang about rap, but apparently are willing to give ‘certain’ people the benefit of the doubt.
Saga of ‘sexual awareness’ discussion in 8th grade. Oh, yeah. There was this one particular day that apparently was designated as the ‘Sex Ed’ day by the school. Since there were only 16 of us in the whole class, Mrs. Olberg and the 4 girls went down the hallway to another room to talk; and us guys stayed in the classroom while Mrs. Mervin came in to talk to us. As one might have expected, her talk was theology-centered, based in Scripture; however, things got off track really fast, thanks to the ‘devil’s advocates’ in the class. I think we started off with Adam and Eve, but then we ended up discussing Jesus and the miracle of the fish & bread (be fruitful & multiply?). In any case, any type of real-life issues were not even touched upon. That didn’t happen until our session with Mrs. Mervin was over and Mrs. Olberg came in; she was roped into talking with us. It was a much less contentious chat; among the topics touched on were physical urges, dating issues, how far to go, etc. Even wet dreams. Ah, I remember my first—It had something to do with Sheila E (remember her, from Prince’s band?). At the end of it all, she did an anonymous survey among us, asking whether or not we were still virgins. As the results tallied, 7 of us had said ‘yes’, while 5 of us had said ‘no’. Of course, I was among the sterile seven; who was among the fertile five? Well, strictly speaking, it wasn’t revealed, but I’d bet any money that it was, well, the guys in the class who actually talked about sex with regularity. Yes, I know, outrageous for some to believe that anyone not even in high school could lose the Big V. But by now it’s happening at younger and younger ages. Even though the median age for guys is 15 and 16 ½ for girls, there are still bound to be scores of exceptions to the rule. Young girls have been found to be starting puberty at younger ages now; and it has been a quiet scientific curiosity that many pre-pubescent boys, as young as 5, are technically fertile enough to impregnate a woman.
Man, am I out of it. So many things to think about now; it’s almost mind-boggling. And since my own socialization skills were effectively stunted, I’m bound to be perceived as a strange weirdo if I was remotely lucky enough to get a ‘date’. No circle of friends at all, acquaintances are all distant- all of my hobbies are solitary by default- comic books, going to movies, computer games, internet surfing. I’m not into going overboard to get to know someone, and I’m dead-set against being ‘absorbed’ into someone else’s clique. There’s no point in being a social vulture, constantly hanging around others and their friends- they’ll get wise to you before long.. I’m into rap, but I’m not a thugged-out ghetto-club hopper; I like some rock, but I’m not a frat-boy wannabe; I like to dance, but I’m no raver; I don’t drink, or smoke, or take drugs. I do have a spiritual side, but I’m no holy roller. I feel so alone in my comic-toon-sci fi hobby; I see other brothers in these stores regularly; I’m not acquainted with any of them; often times I feel as if I’m being stared at by them, as if to say, “whoah, there’s something different about this guy”. Maybe they can tell I’m one of the ‘obsessionists’, with no life outside of the realm. Maybe it’s an aura that I can’t detect for myself. I could introduce myself, but to what avail? My depressive state would eventually show, and they’d come to just disregard me as some knucklehead. It’s like I can walk into these places that are traditional havens for us ‘geeks’, and still feel out of place.
The (depressing) Life, (unrequited) Love, and (mis) Adventures of Broke Man. I first met ***** during my stint here at 4C. She originally worked out of an agency branch office, and would come over for staff meetings. I thought she was pretty (she was), and she occasionally made valentine presents that I bought from her, through *****. Eventually, she apparently left 4C, then came back-- and she came back here at the administrative office. She started off being situated in the cubicle next to me. She’s very gregarious, and likes to talk-- a lot. Since i’m the affable listening type, I suppose she grew to feel close to me. I didn’t mind looking at her at all, especially when she would wear small clothing. she’s very religious, and generally only listens to gospel performers on the radio and CDs. She regularly listens to Christian music radio stations. Well, I needn’t go into my apprehension towards people who are ultra- spiritual-minded. It’s like an ironic curse-- people who are so “into God”, but have some obvious hang-ups (at least to me) that make my life relatively miserable in some way. What do you do when you are attracted to a woman who is married, not to mention working closely with her every day? This past year, I’ve been lending her money on a regular basis in various ways. I have bought her lunch almost literally every work day, five days out of the week, from month to month. Her tastes border on the expensive side of things, and it doesn’t help that the local establishments that I can walk to tend to be on the higher end of prices-- even though they’re “fast food”. But such is the way of downtown Detroit. I end up spending roughly $5 or better every day, just for her own food. If I buy myself something, then I can count on doubling the price, roughly. That totals roughly $100 per month, money that I could otherwise have for myself or paying other bills. Her now ex-husband lives and works in GA. I’ve met him once, at one of these Tahitian Noni meetings (more on that later), and he works for Bell South, the telephone utility. I don’t know exactly what his job title is, but apparently it is enough to support a family with, and in an office setting. Apparently-- and I didn’t realize it at first-- but there is/was some estrangement between them. A house was already purchased by her husband for well over a year now-- She left 4C in October 2000, only to come right back roughly a month or so later. As she later related to me, her fear is being ‘left’ to care for their son alone, and thus she’s trying to establish her own independent identity-- at the extreme rate of apparently refusing and/or not pursuing child/spousal support monies, neither on an informal nor formal basis. Another point of contention is ‘emergencies’. The most damning circumstances have been her car note and insurance note-- both totaling over 200 dollars each, I have ended up borrowing cash from my credit cards just to accommodate her. At first, I figured that I was just being neighborly, and she would get me my money back soon enough. But then, it kept happening. And happening again. And again. Even aside from buying her lunch, almost a week did not go by without me giving her some money for something-- even if it wasn’t for her car bills, it was something in relation to her son-- books, an educational toy, little league football registration, a cake for a school party, etc. Her son is on friendly terms with me, which I don’t mind-- but it also leads to another frustration for me-- If I were to ‘blow up’ at *****, what would that mean to her son? Strange, that I would fear the child’s reaction more so than *****’s. Perhaps because he’s had nothing to do with the predicament I’m in. Also, there were expenses regarding her gift baskets. She wanted to do it on a professional basis. She has a gift for making creative baskets, but it takes money to make them, obviously. But along the way she started asking me to go in with her to buy the supplies-- with the agreement that we split the profits. However, as would be my luck, she didn’t sell too many these past couple of times around, and I ended up just losing that money I spent--- not to mention the money I paid buying baskets as gifts for relatives. There’s another ‘season’ coming around now, and she ‘expects’ me to help her buy stuff again-- i’ve already given her $60 thus far this time. Whether that’s enough and I’ll have to pay out ‘more’ for my own baskets remains to be seen. If it’s a gas emergency, it’s 10 here, 5 there-- and if I’m with her, I can count on probably picking up a soda and/or chips. Even shortly after pay days, she’s asking for assistance-- $20 here, $30 there. She ‘discovered’ my feelings about her around the middle of the year-- Peg asked us about something or other, and me about whether I had plans for a ‘special someone’. I ended up giving ***** my ‘platonic friend’ letter and she hugged me. She wasn’t offended at all, apparently. When it comes to entertainment, she apparently enjoys going places-- but often, it ends up being on my tab. Not that I have a problem with treating someone, but it has gotten beyond being taken for granted. She’s an impulsive shopper, as i’ve come to learn, regrettably. She has such a casual way of asking for money, it is becoming increasingly frustrating to deal with her. I dread calling her out of fear that some ‘new’ idea will pop into her head that will end up costing me money. Both of my credit cards are on the verge of being maxed out, and i’m barely paying $100 per month to pay it off. I’ve got at least one old student loan that I’m stuck with paying off at $175 per month. I’ve got another one that I’ve only made a few payments on thus far. Plus, other bills come periodically, so I have to pay them, as well. Now, I’m back in school, I’m paying for tuition and books. I wanted to get a car/truck this year, but my involvement with ***** just totally threw a monkeywrench into that. I have no idea when I’ll be able to save enough money to buy something now. And then, there are ‘other guys’. She has friendships with plenty of men-- which, in and of itself, is innocent enough. Though, I think that several of them used to date her years ago-- and she speaks about them at varying lengths. Part of me doesn’t want to hear about it-- vague jealousy-- and part of me simply enjoys the fact that there is somebody else who has to foot some tabs besides me-- though I really have no idea whether or not she gets cash ‘loans’ from them or not-- certainly, she gets gifts-- which, again, is fine. Dwayne is aware of her ‘high maintenance’ status, but I have yet to tell him about the depths that I have plunged for her. I certainly don’t want to tell him just to rant-- but it’s really eating at me inside, and becoming frustrating, and depressing. In some bizarre, twisted way, I can only suppose she means well, and is a product of her socialization. Once she mentioned to me that she had a Hudson credit card when she was in high school, and ended up maxing it out. From there, to eventually living an arguably middle-class existence with her husband, with little or no money worries. But i’m getting sick of it. I alternate between wanting to yell at her to wanting to kiss her and make out with her. If I could do the latter, i’d probably be more forgiving for all of this bilking that’s going on. But of course, that’s not an option. I feel as if I have been carrying the financial burden that her husband should be taking care of-- and i’ve been going without any of the ‘husbandly’ benefits. I know that sounds bad-- I mean, I guess i’ve noticed plenty of pretty married women-- just none that i’ve had this regular contact with. She’s so petite and curvy, and I would love to just. Well, you know. She says she plans to go back to living with her husband in January. Originally, that was to be back this August, but those plans were scuttled. Currently, she has bought a bedding set through me, and is ‘looking’ for a house/apartment to move into. I guess this all fits into the “just in case” category. If and when January does come, she is allegedly going to move down there with her son. Of course, her son will have to enroll in a different school. She will allegedly continue school, and get another job. Will this happen? I sure as heck hope so. I stopped keeping general track of how much money she owed me after it swelled up beyond $1500. I don’t know, I might just tell her to ‘cut it in half’, if-- a big IF-- she actually starts paying me back consistently. And even then, she couldn’t hardly pay me back all at once-- I’d estimate it to be over 3K and counting-- so, can I look forward to getting maybe $100 a month in the mail next year? $200? I don’t know. I hope so. I really hope that she finds the happiness she wants, and deserves-- and I really hope that involves staying with her husband! Addendum: 10/24/03- Well, I sent her a letter today explaining all of my current feelings, wrapped in a bow. Who knows how she’s going to react, but I don’t care. I’m keeping my money with me from now on. She was mad, at least for a week, maybe. But now she’s back to the same attitude, only it hasn’t involved money—yet. Sigh. 3/1/04: And now more craziness. She’s still taking this correspondence course in Business, and has to complete this battery of tests with each subject book she receives. I guess she’s expected to finish them once every six weeks, roughly. Now this latest one is science. Easier than accounting. But there are still two problems from that book she didn’t finish as well. This is getting worse all the time. I can’t concentrate, I don’t feel like reading, things just start falling apart for me every time I try to get ahead.
Tonya (not her real name) ( & the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship)- I encountered this young lady in a dorm bible study my 2nd year at University of Michigan. She was pretty, and cordial, so I casually figured it might be worth giving a try. Fates above, I thought I might actually get a girlfriend out of this.. But, at one point, she casually mentioned to the group that she’d like to get married to someone who would teach Bible study classes with her. What with my love of arguably violent video games, action movies, comic books, and rap music, I quickly realized that I would probably not make her ideal partner. My relationship with the “campus crusaders” contributed to my anxiousness. Here I was, thinking that I’d be free and clear to become the semi-hedonist that I had always dreamed of (since puberty, at least) after spending all of my formative years in Catholic school; I had every intention of partying with cool people, and finally meeting someone special; I had no intentions of spending my time in prayer groups and debating scriptures; as it so happened, Freshman year, my dorm room was next to two guys who ran the hall bible study (divine providence? Or just God’s sense of humor?). Being the affable chap that I am (for better or worse), I agreed to participate. Individually, and as a group, they were all nice enough; but socially, I felt our worldviews were often different- Most of them were white, and they had apparently spent a good deal of time being either ‘born-again’ or came from neo-fundamentalist aesthetics (example: some were firm Creationists), in small towns and suburbia. Me, I came from “the hood”; knowing nothing but Catholic dogma; part of the Gen X age-group saturated with pop-culture; even more specifially, hip-hop. A conscientious Christian on the outside, angry revolutionary on the inside. These kids tended to be fairly conservative politically (i.e. pro-life, “family values”), and some were fairly critical of secular society (MTV, etc.). The ‘hardest’ rock music they were into was stuff like BRYAN ADAMS & EDDIE MONEY; whoo-boy; and of course, many were into Christian pop, like Amy Grant or Michael W. Smith. I wonder what they would have said about my collection of Public Enemy, Ice Cube, and the Beastie Boys, which I never bothered to tell them about.
On one hand, I was truly fascinated by the level of apparent fervor that these people my age presented, which I had never seen in my collective elementary years & high school. Back then, even though catechism was part of our daily curriculum, most of the attitudes outwardly expressed by my classmates was that “I’m learning this just to take the test”. plenty people were still engaged in the typical teen rituals of smoking, drinking and screwing with abandon. I considered joining the priesthood every Friday night when I didn't have any parties to go to.. On the flip side, the particular kids that I now met seemed to really walk the Christian walk that they talked; and boy, did they talk it up. Up until then, I thought I was the only cat my age lobbying for sainthood (if only by default). After being with them for a length of time, you sensed that their spiritual shtick wasn’t just a hustle, to get you to join so-and-so’s ministry or buy a book not worth the paper it’s printed on. Unlike some of the guys I grew up around, these kids never asked me for any money, never swiped anything from me, never insulted me, never declined my company, and never told me a blatant lie. As it so happens, a few of the kids in the group had been overseas on behalf of varying missionary organizations, and some others definitely wanted to go. Me, personally, I couldn’t see it- Go to Japan or Israel or Haiti to teach kids English for the rest of my life? Hell, no…. Um, unless they could hook me up through one of those “mail-order-bride” agencies (with scores of beautiful-but-blissfully-ignorant native babes to choose from. Man, I’d be getting a divorce every two weeks.) I spent my sophomore year in a solo dorm room, vaguely thinking in the back of my mind that I could finally ‘get my mack on’. Of course, it never happened. During my brief flirtation with a fraternity, I thought it might help me score; but that just washed out after the frat bros. started acting flaky. I didn’t know that they treated you like jerks for weeks on end before you get to become one of the family. I’d had my fill of people like that, even if it was just an act, in the name of ‘paying dues’.
The Bible-study kids did like clean-cut fun, though- I spent a week with a bunch of them at a camp up in the upper peninsula of Michigan. I couldn’t afford the regular fee, so I volunteered to help with the maintenance crew during the day, for 1/3 of the cost. Ethnically speaking, except for one counselor (a gentleman that happened to be from Nigeria), it was like being a brown fly in a bowl of rice. I remember also getting into a square dance (for the second time in my life). One particular evening though, was not as lighthearted- I had been invited to go square dancing (again!), but the dance was canceled (hooray!); we ended up heading back to one fellow’s house, and somehow, amidst sharing popcorn, the conversation drifted into discussing demonology and possession. Apparently, everybody I was there with really believed in it, and some told of their own ‘experiences’, either with themselves or with other people. The weirdness factor cranked up like a Kenwood speaker. One felllow spoke on how an alleged demon ‘held’ him in his bed, for several minutes one night when he suddenly awoke from a dream. They were all rather calm and matter-of-fact about it, and were quite articulate in how to ‘bind’ (reject) demons, by reciting scriptures & so forth. I was pretty quiet throughout the discussion. Part of me was freaking out, while the other half was silently chuckling. I mean, I had come to know some ‘devilish characters’ in my time, but I never encountered anything that I would qualify as full-blown headspinning stuff. If I remember right, in modern times, the Catholic Church has officially eased back from the work of exorcism: From being rampant in the middle ages, to being a relatively hush-hush topic now. In retrospect, there was probably a lot of misuse of power going on, particularly against people with physical and/or mental illness. So we were never really taught the particulars of that discipline in our Religion History classes. Everything I knew about so-called ‘exorcism’ came from hokey TV & movies, and Dr. Strange comics. I was definitely turned off to square dancing after that.
I ended up distancing myself from the “campus crusaders”- skipping meetings and general ducking out. The last time I spent any time with them was towards the end of the second semester- a small concert given by some of the students- one group was a band that did classic rock covers (“Joy to the World”, “Turn, Turn, Turn”, “Bye-Bye Miss American Pie”) with the twist that they also discussed the Christian context and/or message within them. I’m glad they didn’t take requests- I might have suggested Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” out of sheer apathy. Then there was another, acappela group of kids. I forget the exact routine, but at one point, one of the girls attempted a brief beat-box impression; a cute display, no doubt, but I had to rein in the laughter that wanted to escape. I felt both badly and relieved that I had cut myself off from them- They were, for all intents and purposes, sincere folk- unlike some of the knuckleheads I had grown up knowing, I didn’t have to worry about them swiping my things or freeloading. They didn’t care that I wasn’t a jock. But, like many young people, I was having my own version of an identity crisis. I had become weary with having a social circle that was almost exclusively White- or at least, that which didn’t really reflect most of the issues & interests that I was into- I had spent my years in high school being ‘absorbed’ into the subculture of my white peers; other than after-school ‘hanging out’, there was no formal fellowship among the black students. That was something that was important to me that I felt I was missing out on- having only, at best, marginal friendships with all of the black kids I became acquainted with. It had built up within me for some time, but I suppose after that, I simply became disgusted with humanity, or at least the element of it that I seemed to constantly come in contact with. I became resigned to the notion that the vast majority of people I came across were put here by God to ignore me or humiliate me. I ended up getting sick and dropping out later in the second semester.. I still owed the school money, so I couldn't go back the next year-- and I haven't been back since.. and the bastards still won't release my transcripts (it's over $10,000), so I'm going to Wayne State U. starting off as a freshman instead of a junior.. which only contributes to my bitterness...