Tuesday, January 20, 2009

This Is My Country

I don't know when the snow began, but when I peeked out of my bedroom window around 7:00 a.m. it was snowing. I pulled up the covers and went back to sleep. I hadn't planned to go in to the office today but I took the snow as a sign that perhaps a higher power decided that we should all slow down and bear witness to the rebirth of hope.
Bear with me as my thoughts are moving too rapidly for me to easily sort them out; I've been feeling somewhat hyper for the last few days. I've been thinking a lot about my childhood, the birth of my great nephew three weeks ago, mama's death, and Whoopi Goldberg.

Sometime in the early 1980s, Whoopi Goldberg created a one-woman show called, The Spook Show . It caught the attention of Producer/Director Mike Nichols, and he brought her show to Broadway where it bore the less controversial title, Whoopi Goldberg Live on Broadway. Sometime in the early 1990s, the show made it to television on HBO where I saw it. Goldberg presented a series of character monologues. Developing each persona with only a few physical props, she created each character through her voice, physical demeanor, and her words. It was a show unlike any other, as Ms. Goldberg lulled you into raucous laughter and then hit you up with a sharp slap of reality that moved you to thought and even tears. Laughter and tears is a heady combination.

The Goldberg created character that has stuck with me and been on my mind lately is a child, Little Girl with Blonde Hair. Placing a white shirt on her head, the "little girl" explained that she didn't want to be black any more and that the shirt was her "long blonde hair." Her mother had dismissed her idea as ludicrous but the little girl was convinced that there was something to be gained if she could move from being a little black girl with nappy hair to a little white girl with long blonde hair. The excerpt below is from the monologue Little Girl with Blonde Hair.

LITTLE GIRL: I told my mother I didn't want to be black no more. ... Man, she say even if you sitting in a vat of Clorox till hell freezes over, you ain't gonna be nothing but black. And she was right too, because I sat in the clorox and I got burned. And she say I just got to be happy with what I got, but look. See? It don't do nothing. It don't blow in the wind. And it don't casca--cascadadade down my back. It don't. And I put that bouncing stuff in it and it didn't even lift. And I want some other kind of hair to do something else. I do.

I laughed until I cried. I think of myself as pretty good with words, but I don't know if I have the skill to explain why this performance has stayed with me for all of these years. I think that it is because there was a piece of truth in Goldberg's show that spoke to me. I don't ever recall consciously wanting to be white, but I do recall wanting to be pretty, and pretty meant looking like Shirley Temple or Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet. There were no little black girls starring in movies and being presented as cute, talented, and smart.

The wounds gained from growing up in a culture that continually reinforces your status as a people without value, whose only purpose is to serve, who by virtue of the color of your skin and the texture of your hair are--inferior--other--less than-- do heal, but the scars remain. Ms. Goldberg's brilliant performance spoke to those scars, told me that I wasn't alone, reminded me that I shared an identity with a strong and resilient people who were not afraid to take a look at ourselves and share laughter as we struggled to overcome our adversity.

This morning when I got out of bed, I realized that my great nephew, Donovan Josiah will grow up in an America that offers hope and opportunity for him that I did not expect to see in my lifetime. I thought about my mama who died before she could see Barack Hussein Obama take the oath of office. I thought of the disrespect that she endured in her lifetime, the dignity with which she held her head high in the face of the realities of a society that worked over time to reinforce that black people were inferior. I recalled my father telling me of having to ride in the back of the bus as a boy while German POW's were allowed to ride up front, of his long journey to the west coast after enlisting in the military, again at the back of the bus. Even his uniform, worn in the service of his country wasn't enough to rate him a better seat. I recalled the doors that I could not enter, the signs that made it clear, "No Colored Allowed." I thought of all these things today and tears rolled down my face as Barack Hussein Obama took the oath of office, but the entire time that I was crying, I was laughing out loud with joy and when President Obama intoned "God Bless America," I whispered the words with him.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Venice, Canals, and Birds

I promised to post more pictures from my trip to California. I have a compulsive need to keep my promises. (Don't say it, Marc!)

My trip gave me an opportunity to practice using the digital camera that I purchased back in September. It takes photos and movies. I love technology. Of course, I'm neither Ansel Adams nor Cecile B. Demille but I like to think that I'm a blend of both.

Some people have inquired as to why I haven't posted any pictures of myself. Well, duh, I was behind the camera! However, Marc took a photograph of me which he posted on his blog. He also took a couple of shots of me with my camera at the New Year's Eve party that we attended. I've posted two of the shots for viewing below. I refer to them as "Eyes open, Eyes shut."
I also took a lot of scenic shots of the Venice Canals and a brief video clip.The city was designed to mimic Venice Italy by having a series of interconnecting canals. Alas, most of the canals were filled in during the late 1920s when Venice became a part of Los Angeles. However, a few of the canals remain and my friends Sarah and John just happen to own a house that faces one of them. The pictures of the canal were taken from their upstairs balcony. Then Sarah and I went out on a rather gray day so that I could take artistic shots of the beach.

I became fascinated with birds while on the west coast which is a bit weird as I have a pathological bird phobia. I still don't want to be near them, touch them, or otherwise interact with them, but they make interesting subjects for my fledgling attempts at photography.

I decided to put together my little video clip taken from Sarah's balcony and the still images shot at the beach. Of course, I then needed to add music. I selected a song from a trio of women who live and perform in North Carolina. They are known as Tres Chicas, and I think that they have the prettiest three-part harmony that I've ever heard. I've had the pleasure of hearing them perform live and they are true vocalists, sounding better live than they do on their studio produced albums. (Look to your left and hit pause on the playlist before you watch the video.) The song is 400 Flamingos from their album, Bloom, Red, and the Ordinary Girl.

400 Flamingos
Your heart is 400 flamingos,
pink and preening in the water.
And your heart is seven satin ribbons
on a festooned favored farmer's daughter.

My heart is plain--
and yours (chorus)

We've lived through seven sullen winters,
seven springs and half-a-dozen falls.
But I have stored away provisions
and love enough to last for always.

repeat chorus

You always take me far away from here
You know you'll take me far away
400 hundred flamingos

And there is pain in every season
pain in every heart that's beating,
but I will comfort every sorrow,
and press upon the wound that's bleeding.

repeat chorus

hmm, hmm, hmm...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I'm Home!

Hello y'all. I got back from California last evening around 7:00 p.m. and I'm still adjusting to the time change. I had a fabulous time with my friend Sarah and her husband John (a delightful man). I also had a marvelous time with my blogami, Marc. It was a pleasure to meet him in person. He joined us for a small gathering on New Year's Eve at friends of Sarah and John. where he charmed everyone. (Photo features Marc, Sarah, Gloria, our hostess, Sally, and Patty).

However, the most fun day began with Sarah, Marc and I going to lunch at The Ivy, a very ritzy restaurant where stars are known to dine. (Photo of Marc looking cool at The Ivy.) The food was actually very good. I had fish and chips, Ivy style, which included shrimp, cod fish, scallops, and calamari, plus french fries and a delicious red cabbage coleslaw. My gal pal Sarah had a salad with a host of greens and chunks of turkey, and Marc had Carne Asada, a Mexican dish consisting of a marinated and grilled steak, sliced thin and served on tortillas. Portions were huge but we managed to find room to share a desert, a nice wedge of key lime pie.

(Photo of Sarah looking cool at The Ivy.)

As for the stars, well, the only one that I could identify was Suzanne Somers. She had a gray sweatshirt with a hood which she pulled up over her head. However, she kept adjusting the hood and I suspect that she may have wanted to be noticed. Can't say that I blame her, once you have tasted the thrill of paparazzi chasing you and documenting your every move, it must be hard to go back to being one of the regular folks. Of course I wouldn't know about that; however, if my friend Sarah would have allowed me to hang out at Isaiah Washington's house (former star on Grey's Anatomy who currently resides in Sarah's neighborhood) like I wanted, I could have made the news. The media always covers stalkers of the rich and famous.

After lunch we were off to CBS studios to watch the taping of the Craig Ferguson show. I highly recommend that if you plan to visit the LA area and want something fun and cost free to do, sign up for tickets to one of the many television shows that film in the area. Ferguson's show comes on late night but the taping was at 3:30 p.m. The warm up guy was hilarious, telling a number of blue jokes that were wickedly funny. Ferguson is a witty and charming host and the entire experience was loads of fun. We were not on camera but that's okay; I'll have to get my 15 minutes of fame some other time.

In case you are wondering, yes, Marc is as delightful a conversationalist as he is a writer. Witty, slightly naughty, and always authentic. He is also very thoughtful and surprised me with a gift of some of his Hy-Art images, matted and framed. He also provided our hostess for the New Year's Eve gathering with a lovely decoupaged vase which I neglected to get a photo of!

He also provided me with a sign for my yard or perhaps my office.
I have a few more photos and additional vacation adventures but I'm pooped and must sleep.
BTW, I've missed reading your blogs and plan to catch up on all that I've missed!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Woman Having Fun!

Happy New Year to everyone! I know that I'm a bit late but I've been busy having fun.

Thanks for all the hugs, Marc was an excellent representative and passed them all along.

What can I say about meeting Marc? It really wasn't like meeting someone new; it was like hanging out with an old friend. BTW there are pictures and I will post them when I return home next week. I'm getting together with Marc again on Monday. He has suggested a restaurant called The Ivy where I can star gaze. I am such a tourist. Isaiah Washington (formerly on Grey's Anatomy) lives in my friend Sarah's neighborhood in Venice and I have been staring out of her picture window, hoping to catch a glimpse of him. So far, no luck, but I am persevering. Perhaps I will spot someone famous at The Ivy. We are also going to a live taping of the Craig Ferguson Show. 

Have to go now but just wanted to check in!