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Falling 

I feel bad for not posting more frequently, but as I stated in Relativity, real life takes up real time, so my blogging falls by the wayside. Notice I said blogging and not writing. I’ve been writing in my journal my butt off between kids and gigs. My poetry has hit some high notes as of late. It’s never enough:  thinking about a new paper to publish comparing contemporary rap to 15th century poetry, planning an art exhibition, figuring out the magic tricks of Lightroom, and finishing unfinished blog posts…

I guess I shouldn’t feel bad. I’m doing all this to make my stuff spectacular and moving. The journey is the hard work towards beautiful results. The living in the moment makes the journey interesting. Now that a new season is here, I’m taking a moment to celebrate the art of the blog and two years and twenty days of keeping one. Keep following. Happy autumnal equinox, my friends…

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Relativity

For anyone who’s worked 16 straight days in a row, 12 to 19 hours each day, you know how I’m feeling right about now. I’d say the majority of you who can relate to this kind of fatigue works in either the film industry or nursing. I can relate to both. My mom was a nurse for 40 years before she retired. She became the first black head nurse at California Hospital downtown in 1965. I think she might have been the inspiration behind the 1968 television series Julia, because a lot of Hollywood producers, directors, writers and movie stars were frequently under her care. I can remember her leaving in the day and coming home at night. I never knew how hard she worked, but anyone who dedicates more than half a day to their profession has got to be someone special.

She earned a place in Los Angeles’s Civil Rights history, but there was no Urban Intellectuals headlining her breakthrough promotion, nor did a #blacknursesmatter cause draw attention to the lack of diversity of management in her field. There wasn’t even a mention in LA’s perennial black dispatch The Sentinel at the time, heralding her pioneering role. She just did her thing, and three years later, I was born in that same hospital. At the time, I was the only colored baby in the nursery. I know this because my grandpa told me when he came to see me he couldn’t miss me! (Cuba Gooding, Jr. was born on the same day in the same hospital, but I have a darker complexion) After that, Grandpa flew out to see us from New Orleans every Christmas. I’ve seen photographs of him holding me. I remember at six years old, smoking on one of his cigars when he wasn’t looking, and the intoxicating and nauseous aftermath. I remember his last visit in ’92, the year I flew out to visit him for a change. The following year, he passed away.

I didn’t have a blog then, to exorcise the demon of despair that possessed me. He taught me lot about life in the three months that I stayed with him in the Big Easy. He is the reason I decided to write a memoir, but he knew nothing about this digital world that would one day become the overlay of the analog one he mastered in his ninety years of living. Now I find myself so busy living life by his tenets and instruction, that I don’t really think about taking the time to write about it on social media as much as the next person. I should be writing everyday regardless (see Morning habits). I even installed a digital journal on my phone to record my private thoughts on the go… much easier than taking a backpack with me full of physical journals and books.

Alas, it’s taken a few months, but I’m finding that my Circadian writing rhythm goes a little something like this:

  • Work
  • Kids
  • Sleep
  • Write

Where’s the fun, you ask? Trust me, it’s in every aspect of the above. I love being on a film crew, creating the next new thing; my sons are my joy and inspiration; what more can I say about the joy of sleep than what you don’t already know? And writing is my release and salvation, and that brings a sense of satisfaction and happiness and peace to my soul.

Between the phases of this cycle, I may make a jump onto the digital plane to see what everyone is up to, since we’re all connected on the Matrix. Facebook used to be my thing, but Instagram is now by far my social media app of choice. A picture really does say a thousand words, so why does it matter if I write a blog or not? Pictures can capture and express a moment, but writing captures and expresses a feeling. You can pick out the details in a picture, but words themselves are the details when you’re reading, the pixels in the paragraph. Words are a slowly developing Polaroid picture, compared to an instantly destructible Snapchat.

I have more ways and means to broadcast the events in my life than I can keep up with, a sharp contrast to what my mom and grandfather went through in their days. My mom told me that when she first heard a radio broadcast, she checked behind the massive floor model RCA for the people who were talking through the loudspeaker. As a Gen Xer, I crossed into a digital divide where the people behind a profile may not even really be people, yet I am bound, mind, body and soul, to the technology of the 21st century. I’ve formed for social media a love/hate relationship, much like the one I’ve formed with hip hop culture. It has its strengths, but going back to the old school basics just works better for me sometimes.

I wish I could share more. The digital me has been gone too long between posts I feel, and those who know me outside of this realm wish they could see more. It’s hard for the analog me, with all the new hobbies and adventures and life commitments drawing my attention, to give my online audience a sense of the satisfaction and elation I get from these experiences instantly, if not minutes after the fact.

I’m not one to give up and let the immediacy of social media deter me from mastering this realm, though. I’m just getting started. I’m reading all kinds of online writing books I found on Kindle. (Gotta love all the gratis libri in the Digital Age!) Last month I took a great online course called Cast Your Net: Web Presence and Social Media for Writers, taught by my good friend Brodie Hubbard. It helped me pay more attention to the presentation of my literary self to the online world. I want this blog to be a city within itself eventually, a place you can tour and visit and come away with some memories. I’m learning how to engage y’all and keep you coming back for more! I just wasn’t sure how to separate the personal from the professional, when my personal is such an integral part of my professional. It sounds to me like the life of a celebrity, but hey, when I was a kid, Flip Wilson had somewhat of an influence on my career choices.

Right now though, I’ll take the slow and easy road of observation and report what I see when that phase in my cycle comes around for its turn to play. I feel it’s my best work in the moment. Word by word, the pictures are developing, slowly, like a Polaroid.

YouTube Video courtesy of jayceemediaofficial

“Live for love.” – Prince

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The South-East Bounce

OK… The deadline for the e-book has passed. I’ve only organized the first round of pictures and there a lot more. Cataloging has become the unforeseen monkey wrench in my show. I thought it would be easy, laying out provocactive pictures and justifying them along  with my peppered prose, but the more I looked at each picture, stories emerged that had eluded my original narrative, and took on lives of their own. If I put more time in earlier on pre-production like I do on my filmed narratives, it would have been done on time and hopefully with great fanfare. I’m still pressing forward, though. I’m going to see what kind of help I can get by reaching out to my community of fellow artists, writers and photographers.

Earlier this month, I had a chance to travel away from L.A. for a couple of weeks. The first stop was Todd Mission, TX, where the first Middlelands music festival went down. The venue was the Texas Renaissance Fairgrounds. I was told that at least 60,000 people attended this 3-day event that popped up in a dusty wood, an hour northwest of Houston. There were many people who attended on a day-to-day basis, but a great majority stayed on the campgrounds. Oh yes, there was camping, and with the camping came the night parties til the dawn and brilliant displays of light. Being Loupy D, I had the luxury of a golf cart and an all-access pass. All day I was getting hailed by partygoers who after partying til the breakadawn were making their way from the campgrounds to the stages. I had a couple of interesting offers in the later hours of the fest, but due to the nature of my duties, I had to give every sweet-faced girlie the go-by. Even if I’d listened to that devil in the white nightgown whispering in my left ear, the best accommodation I could offer was the RV space I shared with two roomies. Three funky fellas in a tight quarters over seven days is an acquired aroma, but when one of the ladies from our group poked her head in our space one day, her acquisition couldn’t quite handle our aroma.

Febreze handled it.

Next week, new stop. After a quick repack in L.A. (and a long shower), I boarded United Airlines for a nonstop flight to Washington, D.C. aka Chocolate City with an orange glaze on top… oh well. The occasion for the destination was not to hate, but to celebrate the bestowing of rights and privileges thereof decreed up on my niece… as a PhD recipient! Her dissertation is titled Concussions, The Emerging Public Health Crisis, and Why Media Advocacy Is Needed. Looks to me as like she’s taking up the mantle against the NFL, and anyone else who puts profits as a priority over health. From day one when she learned how to talk she hasn’t been quiet and, I don’t know a bigger sports fanatic than @ProfCDP. As a teenager, I saw her go head-to-head  at a cookout with a grown man over some college sports stats! Christian caught the journalism bug in the heart of my freelance writing days. She began writing articles for the sports section of her high school newspaper and was the sports editor in her senior year. She was accepted to Spelman College and breezed through in three years with a double major in English and Spanish. Without missing a beat, she tackled the cold of upstate New York to get her master’s degree from the Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University. I still see that tough, gangly 9-year old who I took hiking in Kenneth Hahn Park. The end of our hike was a short, steep incline. Poor Christian lost her footing and and took a frightful dive near the bottom. When I checked her out there was no blood, just a few scrapes. “See, if you can walk away from it then your okay,” I reassured her. By the time we made it back to my red Mazda B-2000 pickup, she was already asking, “can we come back tomorrow?” I feel so good that I kept telling her to put the books before the boys, too. It was the most solid piece of advice that I could have given her as a youngster. The reward for having that kind of patience and focus was getting engaged with her sweetheart of seven years, the day after defending her dissertation.There was a lot to celebrate that week!

You never know how the things you say to a person or the way you treat them, will influence them later on in life. I always tried to give my nieces and nephews aspects from my life that I wished I had more of: inspiration and motivation from an adult. A person who gives the go-ahead to try something new and not be afraid to fail is so hard to find in a competition-minded society. I gave them the freedom to be, and they were able to pick up on the pieces of wisdom and understanding I dropped on them at a young age. I had to wait to get it straight from my grandpa down in New Orleans as a wild youth in my 20s, while running with the hip hop crowd in the 90s. I remember always being told what to do, what not to do, what I wanted and what I didn’t want. I did my best to make other people happy, not knowing that I was the source of my own happiness. Like many misguided youth, I rebelled, made lots of mistakes and engaged in shenanigans that would have put me in the hospital, jail or in the ground. I’m here by the blessings from the good Lord above. I’m happy the ones coming up under me didn’t have to experience life the way I did. I’m not saying that life is hard, but it sure ain’t easy. I just had to change if I wanted to raise my own kids one day. Now I have two boys, and it’s the same with them, but different. Time will tell.

These two weeks of travel have sure put me in a reflective state. Life is short and precious and I enjoy the variety that it brings day to day. I’m getting used to the expereinces that will get me through the next phases of life. I don’t need a lot to be happy. I can be lonely in a crowd or at ease in my own company. There’s no use in remembering what I did for others when I’m going to forget it a year later. What you sow is what you reap, and I’m alright with what I’m seeing so far.

 

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Searching for Inspiration

I’m a longhand kind of writer. I love the feel of a pen in my hand, watching my thoughts manifest into ink as it sinks into the paper. The sound of the stroke of the ballpoint that swooshes, and leaves behind a trail words that sum up the feelings and observations of the moment thrills me.

Ever on the quest to digitize my analog life, I’m planning to publish my first e-book near the end of the month. It’s an essay with pictures, or a pictorial essay, if that’s a more marketable term, about my experience during the L.A. Riots, 25 years ago. The other day I was stressed out over formatting the photos, so I left the house with journal in hand and decided to go the beach.

I know that when I get inspired to go the beach, it’s a time for cleansing. Whenever a major change is coming along, I feel I have to count my blessings and clear my thoughts. I wanted to free my mind of the anxiety I was feeling from the pressures of perfection and just write something… anything. I found out that thoughts never come in any specific order unless you force them. They are as random as the waves hitting the shore, yet they do so with an expectant frequency. Here’s a random thought that hit the shores of my mind…

I’m at war with myself again. Trying to regain the sense of reality I sought in my youth. The ways of the world have had their way with me far too long. I felt alone in my quest before, but I’m more alone being a part of the crowd. It’s not easy journeying internally and finding the blocks that bar the way to true freedom, the freedom to live a life in love with myself. The freedom to be fearless in the face of adversity, to take the high road, takes more courage than lying to myself saying I just can’t take it anymore. I am stronger than the weakest perceptions I create, which tell me that this is as far as I’ll ever go. I’ve got to take chances. I’ve got to win this battle…

Someone recently told me that you have to fight for your right to write. I forced myself to come out here just to write this, even though I had no idea that this is what would come out of me. I always feel like these moments of reflection come too late to make any difference, but I’m grateful because it’s like taking a huge stretch before a workout. Here, in this moment, anything can happen, and if I write about it, it must be important, I think, because randomness can inevitably have meaning. Four more motorcycles just zoomed by.  A red Lamborghini. Another motorcycle, no two. A man holding a fake hand in one hand and a fat cigar in the other crosses the street. An airplane disappears into the clouds. What’s the meaning? It happened.

Now, I’m breathing easier.

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I’m having trouble with my computer. I turned it off and now I’m working off the iPhone.

I hear an owl hooting nearby. I remember one another time, years ago. I actually saw it perched in a tree, then it took off and flew towards the hill. It’s wingspan was huge. Owls are big ol monsters of birds.

I’ve decided to make a difference in my life. I will do what needs to be done. That includes taking care of my health. I fell off the exercise plan I was on two years ago, but I’ve got to get in at least 30 minutes a day. Just like I’m doing 15 minutes (which usually turns into an hour) of writing a day, my resolve must be to go to the gym or hit the trail or ride the stationary bike at home.

I’ve been going through pictures. I have two photo albums. They cover the years roughly between my last year at Orville Wright Junior High and 1993 – ten years in photo albums. They brought a lot of recall that will be useful in the current draft of my memoir. The other sets of pictures I went through are from the riots. I’ve been working on a filing system, but I hope one of the homies on my next gig will help me out with that and some editing advice. My hope was to have a pictorial tribute to the 25th anniversary of the 92 LA riots, but the realities of work and family clouded my foresight to get started on this project much sooner than I did. I’ll be blessed and lucky if I get a few weeks in early April to finish the layout of the book. Work has been amazing since the new year got here. 

It feels good to be busy. At the same time, all these production jobs are giving me the motivation to push to get these books out, and living the life of a writer again. I am sacrificing friendships, putting them on hold; relationships are a joke, except the one that I’m developing with my sons. It feels good to be a daddy, and the time I put into it I do so unapologetically, but I realize I gotta work smarter to get everything  – and everyone – back that adds to the richness of my life.

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R.I.P., B.I.G.

20 years ago today we lost one of the most prolific rappers in the history of the genre, Christopher Wallace, aka Notorious B.I.G., aka Biggie Smalls. Three years prior to his untimely demise, I was one of the first journalists to interview him. It went down the night before his debut album Ready To Die hit the charts, hours before his debut performance at Glam Slam West, Prince’s downtown L.A. hotspot in the 90’s.

I’m posting this article in honor and tribute to this fallen soldier. I can easily say that Biggie was the most humble rapper I’ve ever interviewed. After we finished our formal interview session and the recorders were off, Biggie said to me, “I hope people like my album.” I looked him straight in the eye and said “dude, people love you!” “Ain’t no guarantees in life,” he shot back, “if this shit don’t jump off, I’ll be back on the streets hustling tomorrow.”

I think you will see a side of Biggie in this interview that most people didn’t see during his short tenure as the king of rap. That’s the reason why I put up a picture of the brother smiling. He had reason to be mad muggin’ all the time, but he also had reasons to smile.

Wait until you read the article. I’m sharing this remnant of the past, before the Internet forced me to go back and get my hustle on the streets. I hope you enjoy, comment and share. Blessings to you all…

Click below to open the PDF:

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P.S. I know I’ve been off the radar for a while (I was supposed to go to Europe, but the funding didn’t come through), but I’m working on a new project that I pray will be in time to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the L.A. Riots on April 29th. Details coming soon!!!

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Power To The People

I told you I had some news in my last post. The news is that I’ve been asked to go to Europe to represent a film! I never imagined the idea of just packing up and going to Europe unless I had a legitimate and creative reason to go, and here it is. My dream country to visit is France. I want to experience what the Harlem Renaissance writers felt when they went there. I took French in high school and college, but most of it is forgotten because I didn’t have a practice partner. I’d probably be fluent in Spanish if I took as many classes and spoke to every Spanish speaking person in Los Angeles that I encountered living my life here.

The film 41st & Central: The Untold Story Of The LA Black Panthers is being screened in Stockholm and Berlin. I don’t speak Swedish, but I do have German ancestors on both sides of my family, so this trip would be a homecoming too. I won’t have time to go to Hamburg to check the emigration records, but at least I’ll have the chance to make contacts in the country to come back when it’s time. Being there to represent the film is more relevant to what’s going on right now, right now.

2017 marks the 25th anniversary of the LA Riots. Some of the conditions that led to this uprising existed during the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party in Los Angeles: high unemployment and police repression. In these divided times, it’s so important to look back on the history of what causes these divisions and how far we’ve come in our healing. Will we have to deal with the same issues again under our new president, or can we find answers so that we will not have to repeat such a brutal cycle?

This trip is important to me as a survivor of the riots because it’s a chance to see what the Black Experience in LA looks like from a Euopean standpoint and offer my insights and information to their inquiries. The experience woud be great to share in the photo book I plan to publish about the LA Riots in 2017. I’ve started a GoFundMe page to assist with the expenses for the trip, so please donate to the cause and/or pass this information on to someone you know who supports these kinds of efforts.