Saturday, June 28, 2008

About Men

Whenever I've been away from blogging for a while, I always find it difficult to pick one thing to write about out of all the stuff that has caught my attention during my hiatus. This entry has been buzzing in my head for the past two days.

I got off work early this past Thursday; it was only 8:00 pm. I decided to take advantage of my early release by stopping at the CVS on my way home to spend a lot of money picking up necessary (soap, shampoo, body lotion,hand lotion etc. ) and unnecessary items (new foundation and concealer which I didn't really need at this time but I had coupon for $3.00 off on Revlon products). I tend to wander through the entire drug store just to see if there are any items that I don't need that I can add to my shopping cart. Yes, I use a full size cart at the drug store; I never know how much stuff I may not need.

So as I wandered among the cotton balls and lip glosses, I made eye contact with a gentleman who appeared to be also shopping in the CVS. Southern courtesy means that you don't just pass someone without acknowledging that person's presence, so I smiled and said hello and he did the same. I continued on my journey, managing to walk past the entire selection of L'Oreal nail polish that was on sale without buying a single bottle. I passed the same gentleman a few more times, and each time we nodded and smiled and continued on (once you've spoken the first time, subsequent passes only require a nod and a smile). When I got to the checkout counter, there was one person, a woman, at the counter but the gentleman with whom I had a nodding acquaintance was standing off to the side. Not wanting to be rude, I asked if he was in line to checkout.

"No, I've got a little problem. Could you let me have twenty cents?"

I'm not going to deny anyone twenty cents, so I reached in my wallet and handed him two dimes.

"Thank you, miss."

I smiled and turned, intending to place my many items on the counter, when it hit me that it was likely that he had only one item as I didn't see a cart of any sort.

"You can go ahead, I've got a lot of stuff."

"Thank you, I hope that you don't mind, but I needed the money so I could buy a beer."

Up until that moment, I hadn't notice the 40 ounce bottle of beer in his hand. I'm not certain what he expected that I would do, perhaps insist that he return the twenty cents and give him a lecture on temperance?

Instead, I laughed, and said,"Sir, who am I to judge you?"

He paid for his beer, and stood by as I began loading all my goods onto the counter.

"Miss, can I ask you something?"

Whenever a person asks this type of rhetorical question, I always wonder what he or she would do if the response was, "Hell to the no." (I learned that little phrase from Whitney Houston. She used it on she and Bobby Brown's reality show.)


"Are you married?"

Fortunately, I was not drinking any sort of beverage or I would have certainly spewed it all over anything and anyone within ten feet of me. As it was, my laughter just sort of bellowed throughout the store. When I got myself under control, I was able to muster a response.

"No, I'm not married, nor do I want to be."

He shook his head ruefully, and turned to go out the door, then he paused, lifted his beer in salute and exited.

One of the things about men that fascinates me is that it is rare to meet a man who doesn't believe that he has something to offer to any woman. Woman are born with an insecurity gene. My friends that are beautiful women by anyone's standards, fret about the size of their thighs, jeans that make their butts look too big, breasts that are too small or too big; in the words of Gilda Radner's Saturday Night Live persona, Roseanne Rosannadanna, "It's always something." It's rare that women are ever convinced of their own attractiveness.

On the other hand, none of my male friends have ever asked me, "Does this outfit make me look fat?" Do men ever ask each other, "Do you think that my gut is too big to wear my speedos at the beach or would a hair transplant make me look younger?" Is it arrogance or just healthy self-esteem that allows men to more easily assume that they are desirable no matter what? I know, some of you are thinking that I'm generalizing way too much, that men have their insecurities too. I'll concede that but even at their most insecure, most men still have more self-esteem than women.

When I was on e-harmony, there were the guys with the movie star good looks who didn't bother to even address their looks in their profile, their pictures said it all. However, more likely was a profile in which the guy identified himself as attractive, good-looking, a nice looking guy, above average in looks--terms that didn't necessarily match the photograph that accompanied the profile by any stretch of the imagination. I never based my decision as to whether or not to favorably respond to a potential suitor on his appearance because in my experience, a man's physical attractiveness grows on me as I get to know him. If he's warm, funny, and kind, then I will come to find him attractive.

I've had it on reliable authority from my male friends that this isn't typically true for men. Attraction is either there from the start or it never develops. I don't know if this is an absolute or not, what do y'all think?

Perhaps I'm just too demanding. The guy in the CVS who didn't have any obvious means of transportation and lacked enough money to buy a two dollar bottle of beer, had enough chutzpah to inquire as to my availability. Of course, I can't help but think that what he really wanted was a source with more beer money for the evening.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Napoleon Dad

I've been fixin' to write a post all day but I'm just getting around to it. By the way, "fixin'" is southern for "having something to do but delaying getting it done while you distract yourself with doing other things." You can see why we use "fixin'," it's a lot shorter to say. I feel down right multilingual. I speak passable French, a modicum of Spanish, and fluent Southern, Ebonics, and standard English.

A few months ago, my sister and I commissioned Marc Olmsted to create a special picture for our father's birthday. Regular readers are familiar with Marc's Hy-Art in which he combines one or more classic works of art into an original interpretive work of art. Check the Hy-Art logo in my sidebar for a link to Marc's Etsy site where he sells his art. However, the birthday present for my dad is another of Marc's original creations, aptly named "Thou Art," or "you in art" in which Marc inserts you into a classic work of art. I've been the subject of a Thou Art by Marc on more than one occasion. Each time, I loved the results, so I asked him to create a Thou Art of my father.

My mother is the big talker in our family. She is one of the most entertaining gossips that I know, mainly because when she's telling us about the shenanigans of one of her many siblings, she does spot on imitations of not only their voices but their mannerisms. She doesn't just tell me about Aunt Dorothy's worries that her old boyfriend may think that she is still lusting after him if she moves from New York back to North Carolina, she becomes my slightly daft aunt, caught up in worries about a man that she dated some fifty years ago and hasn't seen since.

In comparison, my dad is a quiet man, although he rouses himself if the discussion is about politics or world affairs, subjects that don't interest my mother nearly as much as the continual doings of her siblings. Years ago a good friend told me that my father resembled the actor, Richard Roundtree. I reported her comment to my father and he literally beamed. My dad is still a handsome man, proud of the fact that he is as trim as he was as a 17 year old when he lied about his age to enlist in the military. In addition to being a vet, my dad is also a retired police officer; he served as a police officer on the Wilson police force for 25 years, retiring with the rank of captain. I'm proud of him. He was one of four black men who integrated the Wilson police department. He is featured in a local museum, the Oliver Nestus Freeman Round House Museum, covering the history of African-Americans in Wilson County; when he was asked to provide materials for the museum, including a biographical sketch, he asked me to write it for him. I was proud to do so and I confess that I take delight in visiting the museum and seeing my words about my father on its walls.

I sent Marc a photograph of my father taken 20 years ago. In the picture, he is beaming as he holds his grandson, my nephew, in his arms. I love the smile on his face. Marc selected a setting for dad that delighted me and my sister, and her husband Bob. (Bob likes it when I mention his name in my blog.) He appropriately named it Napoleon Dad.
I framed the image and my sister, Bob, and I presented it to my dad for his birthday on May 27. He was totally delighted, immediately recognizing that the original image was of Napoleon Bonaparte and thrilled with seeing himself sitting astride Napoleon's magnificent steed. He immediately announced his plan to carry the picture (a framed 8 by 10) with him on his walk the next day to show to his buddies. Both of my parents are avid walkers, however my mother walks with a group of mall walkers at the local shopping mall; my dad prefers walking the sidewalks of Wilson that used to be his beat when he was a foot patrolmen, new to the police force. The picture now graces a shelf on the built in bookcases in my parents' living room.

My thanks to Marc for helping us provide my father with such a unique present and one that brought that same wonderful smile to his face.

If you are interested in commissioning Marc to create a one-of-a-kind picture of you or a loved one, click here to see more of his "you in art" creations or email him ( directly.

Friday, June 13, 2008

My Vice Presidential Aspirations

I've decided to help my country. I was inspired by my blogami, Marc, to engage in my patriotic duty and offer myself as Barack Obama's running mate. Of course, I have some strong competition from Marc. Before you go any further with reading about my qualifications, mosey over to Marc's blog and read his entry for today, Pros and Ex-Cons. I'm still recovering from the time that I spent rolling on the floor and laughing after reading it. He challenges his readers to also complete his meme on the pros and cons of your qualifications to be the Democratic vice-presidential candidate. After you check out Marc's list, complete the meme by writing your own list of the pros and cons of your qualifications to be VP and be certain to leave a link letting Marc know about your entry. Oh, and don't forget to come back and read my list.

1. I've never been a stripper. No one will be crawling out of the woodwork with video of me doing the full monty. (Can women do a full monty or do you call it something else?)

2. I've also never hired the services of a prostitute. I have gone across state lines with men but I've never paid them to come with me. Double entendre intended.

3. My friend Marc is willing to sleep with any gay Republican who agrees to vote Democratic. He said so in his blog. He also said that I would sleep with any straight Republican who agrees to vote Democratic, but I have my standards. Only if he's tall, good looking, and hot will I sacrifice myself. However, no money will exchange hands. See pro #2.

4. I can deliver the southern vote. I've read Gone With the Wind multiple times; not only do I want to be Scarlett O'Hara, hell, sometimes I am Scarlett. I know all the ways to use y'all in a sentence and I know exactly where "down the road a fur piece" is, and I can locate "over yonder" on a map. In addition, I've drunk many an RC Cola after placing peanuts in the bottle.

5. I like to wear red. Red is a power color; it also photographs well. I will be prepared for the many photographic opportunities that are an ongoing part of the VP's job. It will also make it easier for the Secret Service agents to keep track of me in a crowd, although it could be a negative if I have to dodge any sniper fire in Bosnia.

1. I sort of stalked a man when I was in college. Oh come on, don't tell me that you and your best friend have never staked out some guy's room to see if he's seeing that slut who came on to him at the floor party last night?

2. I once wrote erotica for the enjoyment of a man with whom I was in a relationship. (I was following in the footsteps of Anais Nin.) He may still have copies of it and for all I know, by now, he could be a McCain supporter.

3. Back in the 1980s, I had a membership in a video club. I can't recall the name, but it had a wide collection of foreign films and art house stuff that was somewhat adult in nature. I've seen the unexpurgated version of Guccione's Caligula.

4. I am not a morning person. No breakfast meetings with foreign dignitaries before 10:00 am.

5. I don't play golf. I can see no point in trudging around in the sun trying to hit a little white ball into a little hole. I totally don't get the traps. Someone should smack the architects who build sand traps and water holes into the golf course; they should know better!

Of course, every candidate needs a theme song. Inspired by a recent post by Marc, I've selected Whitney Houston's version of "I'm Every Woman." It's not a political song, but it's got a great beat. I figure that I could start each campaign appearance with a few dance moves.

Don't forget to do your own meme with your five reasons why you should be vice president and five reasons against the idea. Y'all drop by Marc's place and leave him a link.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Embracing Hope

The world of my youth was a world of separation. The railroad tracks separated our town into black and white. There were two libraries, the Wilson County Public Library and the Wilson County Negro Library. Everyone ate barbecue from Parker's but my mother had to go to the back door to pick up our order; only white people were allowed to enter the front door and sit in the dining room and eat. The train station had two waiting rooms, one for whites and one for coloreds. The one for whites was bigger, brighter, and cleaner. In facilities where there was no separate area for us, the signs read, "no colored allowed," or "white only." There were even two hospitals. I don't recall the name for the white hospital but the colored hospital was called Mercy. These are my memories of growing up as a colored child in Wilson, North Carolina.

I was born in 1955; I turned eighteen in March 1973. The public school system in Wilson ignored the court ordered integration that came from the Brown decision in 1954, and it was 1971 before the school system fully integrated. I was in tenth grade. My dad, who had been one of four black men who integrated the Wilson police force in the 1960s, worked a detail at the only high school in the city of Wilson, Fike Senior High. The KKK had set up camp across the street from the Fike to make their opposition to the presence of Negro students at the school perfectly clear. The police were there to maintain order. My dad says that when he first joined the police force, the black officers weren't allowed to drive patrol cars. He was on the force when Dr. King and then Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. I remember him wearing his riot gear as he went to work. I was thirteen.

Darden, which had been the black high school before integration in 1971, became a school for tenth grade only. All sophomores, Negro and white, attended Darden; all juniors and seniors attended Fike. Darden lost its status as a high school for participation in sports, choral competitions, drama competitions, and all other extracurricular activities. When I began my junior year at Fike, I signed up for chorus. The chorus teacher commented that she had noticed that the Negro students all had a lot of vibrato in their voices and asked us why we sang that way. At Darden, we had sung spirituals, jazz, and R&B as well as some classical pieces. At Fike, the spirituals, jazz, and R&B were not regarded as appropriate music for choral presentations. I dropped chorus and took art instead.

A new employee at my office is also from Wilson. She is my sister's age, two years younger than I am. She is white. She doesn't remember any of this. She says that her year at Darden was a lot of fun. She has asked me if my class ever has a reunion. I didn't have the energy to explain to her why there is no class to have a reunion. There are the black students who attended Darden when it was a high school and the white students who attended Fike. When we integrated, all it really meant was that we attended school in the same buildings.

We never became a class. When we got to Fike for our junior and senior, we were still separate, just in the same buildings. Fike was on the white side of town and the KKK felt that it was on its home turf. It was difficult to build bridges among the students when grown men in white robes and hoods were standing across the street shouting epithets at us every day. It was also common knowledge that some of the armed police officers who were supposed to protect us had white robes and hoods in their closets at home.

I had thought that I was done writing about race. Friends whose opinions I value, have cautioned me that I only upset myself when I write of these things. I had decided to move on to other matters and let it be. However, I've come to realize that although they are well meaning, they don't get it at all. Writing about my experiences, what I know to be true, doesn't upset me. What upsets me is that so many people want to pretend that these things never happened, that they are some distant echo of reality, that what I know to be true is insignificant. That's upsetting and something that I refuse to accept.

Why am I thinking of these things now, at this time? Because I am witnessing an amazing revolution, a revolution of heart and mind that I never believed that I would see in my lifetime. I am filled with a deep joy as I contemplate the very real possibility that a man, who has brown skin like mine, may well be the next president of this country, my country that for so long has rejected me and my people. I had long ago accepted that there were wounds to my soul that could not be fully healed, wounds made by bigotry and hate, by an unrelenting message that because of the color of my skin, of the skin of my people, we were inferior. Don't misunderstand, I never believed that we were inferior but it was far too daunting a task to have to constantly fight against the belief by the larger culture that we were, a belief bolstered by pseudo-scientific claptrap like The Bell Curve.

I've been working over time to refrain from admitting to anyone, least of all to myself that at least part of the reason that I support Barack Obama is because he looks like me. I'm done with that. I admire Hillary's strong female base who have not shied away from admitting that they rallied around her in part because she is a woman, and they identified with her accomplishments as a woman in a male dominated world.

What Barack Obama has done is astounding, in a culture that is in its infancy of letting go of the racial apartheid of a less than 50 years ago, the culture of my youth, a culture that I know not through history but because I lived it. I get misty eyed and I have a lump in my throat just thinking about it. Every time I hear Barack Obama speak, I feel a sense of pride and joy that is intoxicating, and I shed all of those scars born of bigotry and I feel newly born into a world of promise. Finally, I can say with no irony, no sense of fabrication, to a little black baby, "Someday, you may be president."

I make no apologies for my unabashed support of Barack Obama. I have no more tolerance for those who profess that he scares them, that they worry that he's going to sell out this country. That's total nonsense and you're too ignorant for words to even believe it. If I hear or read one more person assert that he's a Muslim and that he's going to help the terrorists destroy the United States, I'm going to scream. And so help me, if I read or hear one more white person say that he is a reverse racist, I'm going to forget that I believe in nonviolence and slap somebody up side the head. By the way, my head was wagging when I wrote that last line.

Barack Obama is a man of principle. He is a man of intelligence. He is the man to lead this country forward on this journey of healing and I'm proud to claim him as my candidate of choice.

As a seventeen year old, I dragged around my guitar in a battered case with peace signs all over it, and sang songs about peace and love, but I was filled with the despair of youth, that the world in which I lived would never "give peace a chance," nor ever find those "answers blowin' in the wind." I thought that the racial division that filled my world would outlast my lifetime. My heart cried for the ongoing list of martyrs--Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, Jonathan M. Daniels, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, King, JFK, Bobby....

The Civil Rights Memorial that stands in front of the Southern Law Poverty Center includes the names of many of the people who risked and lost their lives in the pursuit of justice. I visited the memorial in August 1993. I recall my visit very clearly, because it was on that trip that I decided to go to law school. The memorial is black granite. It bears the names of the martyrs on a large disc in front of a curved wall that bears a favorite line of Dr. King's, "Until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." A steady stream of water bubbles out of the disc and washes over its surface, and water cascades down the curved wall. When I visited the memorial back in 1993, I sat and stared at it for a long time and I cried, not so much for the dead, but for the living because I had no hope that we were going forward and I feared that their deaths had been in vain. I am allowing myself to believe that I was wrong. I am engaging in the audacity of hope, and it feels really good. Below is a poem that I wrote after viewing the civil rights memorial in Montgomery, Alabama.

Memorial in Montgomery
casting long shadows in the afternoon sun
the wall is smooth, black
warm to the touch

the water falls down like healing rain
slides, swirls
drains away
washes clean…

close by, rising from the earth
stands the remembrance of struggle
a litany of the martyred
finite circle of sorrow and joy

cross over the river Jordan
fall down, fall down
like the walls of Jericho
like the walls of Jericho

dark mirror of tears take me home
wash my heart in justice
bathe my soul in peace
fall down, fall down
like healing rain

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Caffeine Entry

Imagine if you will, a short, pleasingly plump, female hamster with adorable curly twists, running non-stop on a wheel for two weeks straight. Imagine that said hamster, having jumped off the treadmill for a brief respite, is now doing a happy dance and singing "Hallelujah."

Let me be clear about something; I am very lucky to have a job that I find exciting, never boring, and intellectually stimulating; however, that doesn't mean that on occasion I don't want to scream poor, poor pitiful me as I slog through 50-plus hour work weeks when the state legislature is in session. North Carolina has a biennial legislature, so the current session is the 2007-2009 session. Every other year is a short session to make needed adjustments to the two-year budget passed in the previous year. This year is the short session which means that it did not begin until May and that the session will most likely end at the end of June or July.

Consequently, all of the legislators have been in a bill filing frenzy and I, and my colleagues, have been running on that little hamster wheel trying to write and publish, on a daily basis, an analysis of each and every bill that is filed. My typical work day has been 11 hours with one exceptionally long day coming in at 12.5 hours.

Okay, enough whining, I have a journal entry to write. The only problem is that so much has happened in the past few weeks that I can't settle down on what topic that I want to address. Of course part of my inability to focus on a topic is that I'm buzzed on caffeine. (My sister reads all of my journal entries so this message is to her: it was an accident!)

I'm supposed to avoid caffeine because I have a wacky heart arrhythmia known as atrial fibrillation. My A-fib is classified as chronic which means that although medication helps, my heart does not stay in a regular sinus rhythm. My cardiologist recommends that I stay away from caffeine, as it is a stimulant. I am pretty diligent about doing so, although I cheat two or three times a year and have a piece of chocolate but I don't drink caffeinated beverages at all.

Last week, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up some decaf coffee beans. Today I had a craving for iced coffee. As I was pouring the beans out of the dark brown bag into my little coffee grinder, I had this nagging feeling that I was missing something but I couldn't figure out what it was. I filled my very large insulated mug halfway with the coffee (made very strong to avoid dilution by the ice of the coffee flavor), added non-dairy creamer and two packs of equal, then added ice.

The first really large cup was so good that I had a second. Then I started feeling weird, little flutters in my chest, slight nausea and some mild dizziness. I decided that I was dehydrated and drank more iced coffee. Finally my brain caught up with that nagging feeling that I had when I was making the coffee.

"Sheria, what color bag does the decaf coffee that you always purchase come in?"

(I often have discussions with myself, doesn't everyone?)

Self, "Green."

Other self, "And what color is the bag that you used to make your coffee today?"

Self, "Brown. Oops!"

So here I sit, having had two and one-half large mugs of iced and highly caffeinated coffee. I promise you that I am not in danger of dying but I will be up until the wee hours of the morning. I'm dosing myself with plain old water in the hope of somehow defusing the caffeine high that I'm currently on, but I'm still buzzing like a bee on steroids.

Consequently, I can't seem to settle on one thing to write about--there's Hillary and Barack, Princess Beatrice and the British tabloids, the emails that I keep getting about French porn, or the advice on bathroom etiquette that my sister sent me earlier this week.

I just paused to read an email from a friend and was inspired by his comparison of Hillary Clinton to Eva Peron to create my own little vision of Hillary channeling Eva Peron. Of course, as I'm high on caffeine and doing the hamster dance, what began as a simple parody of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina," turned into a little video project. The lyrics are pasted below . You'll have to wait until another day for the French porn and the bathroom etiquette tips.

Hillary's Song
Don't cry for me, my America
I'll never, ever leave you
All through Bill's wild days,
and my mad existence
I've kept my promise
To go the distance