R.I.P, K & G

There are few celebrity deaths that hit home with me. They hit me deep because I shared a special, personal bond with these great people of talent. The first that comes to mind is Biggie. He was an east coast brotha who died on the streets of LA, in front of the building where I went shopping for school clothes with my mom when I was a kid. Then Tupac, only four short years after we bumped fists in Hollywood when I was a fledging journalist on the hustle. And speaking of hustle, Nipsey bit to the core too, when he got gone. I never met the brotha, but I knew his tags in the hood. They were EVERYWHERE. I would see them and be like, that nigga Nipsey is putting in work!

Today, is a heartbreaker. For all Angelenos who bleed purple and gold, the man named Kobe Bryant was more than a Laker star. He was our favorite son who never left the house. He stayed and played to the pinnacles of his athletic performance so that he and we could enjoy the fruits of his labor: 5 NBA Championships!

I remember when he joined the team in 1996. Me and my roommate Ernest would each buy a BK Double Meal with a Sprite from Burger King, and a pint of Vanilla Fudge Häagen-Dazs on game nights and go home to watch our team go to work. We’d be so pissed if we were down in the third quarter against a team, we knew we should’ve been whooping the whole night. When the fourth quarter would come around, we watched Kobe do his thing: his graceful stride, his arrogant dribble, his powerfully artful finish from any spot on the court, but especially above the rim. No one could match him consistently.

I met Kobe on Wednesday, August 19, 2015. I was on a documentary crew filming Kobe at his office in Newport Beach, CA. After setting up, I went over to Starbucks across the street on a coffee run. I got in line, and who was standing in front of me but Kobe and Gianna? They stepped to the counter and placed their order. None of the employees were fazed by his presence, which told me he frequented that Starbucks often. I placed my order, and as he was about to leave, I got his attention and introduced myself. “I’m Lawrence with the crew that’s shooting you today at your office. Dang dog, I didn’t know you had so much going on!” Kobe had an office with MANY rooms, and in each room, there was a different project going on in some phase of development. “Well you’re going to learn a lot today, but you can’t tell anybody!” He reared his head back slowly and gave me that knowing look coupled with that famous grin. “Let’s go, G,” and he and his daughter walked out the door. Later on after the interview, I wanted to get a picture with him, but since I am always the professional at work, I didn’t press him when he said he had to leave. Now that I think about it, I should’ve hit him up at Starbucks in fan mode, so all I ended up getting were two shots from the balcony of his offices to show for my visit… and a call sheet.

The weather was ugly in LA today for a reason. It was ugly before I got the news about Kobe from a Facebook friend on Messenger. I then told my son and AirDropped the TMZ report from my phone to him. A slow unease gripped me for the rest of day. My sister was hysterical. I didn’t even talk to my mom today. Instead, I carried through with my plan to give my older son his first driving lesson and celebrate with pizza afterwards. I was supposed to watch the Grammys tonight with my girl, but the pizza got the best of me (To get an idea of my relationship with food the past few years, check out the blog posts Hospitalized, Hospitalized – Do, and Hospitalized – Redo) so I stayed home.

And this is what I wrote. Rest in power, KB.

View from Kobe Bryant’s office in Newport Beach, CA

I’m Coming Back

I’ve been living life, and life is good.

I want to share a journal entry from a year ago this very day. I’m in a better space now.

I’m working on an epic piece to share with you all soon that’ll let you know what’s been the focus of my life for the last 12 months. For now, enjoy this past participle…

I feel like I don’t want to talk to anyone anymore.

I mean, what’s the point, unless you’re tryna to communicate something that’s going to make a difference somehow.
I guess I’m tired of everyone’s opinion being right. I’m looking for the truth, not opinions. Is it wrong for people to believe what they want to believe in, even though it goes against what we believe? Who’s right? Who’s telling the truth?
Alternative facts are real. The 7 Chinese Brothers proved that…or was it the 3 Blind Chinamen? The story about some dudes feeling on an elephant, and each one of them describes the body part they’re feeling as if it were something else, like a tail for a rope or a leg as a tree trunk. It’s an elephant, but each one sees what they want to see. How am I different? I can see what they all see, and see why they can see it. There’s not a lot of people I know who can do that. I guess that’s why we stay on the fringe. We be looking at the mayhem. Though we see the whole, we play our part, which means we’re just as much a part of the mess!
My Lord, spare me the retribution of the last days. I can smell the end coming. I’ll do what I can, but forgive me for the rest, okay? And can I have some nice things in my life again? And please don’t let me die lonely and crazy.

How I Shot Tupac

 

April 11, 1992. I was a writer for a magazine called No Sellout: The Tip-Top-Hip-Hop-Raggamuffin-Black-Rock-Mag-Rag. It was the first time I used the Loupy D moniker in print. One day I was walking around Hollywood soliciting “donations” for the publications to make soem extra dollars. As I walked by the Pig and Whistle on Hollywoood Blvd. I look in, and there was Tupac sitting at the bar alone, drinking beer from a mug. I walked in and sat next him. “Check out this magazine ‘Pac. I got the cover story,” I bragged. He reached in his pocket and gave me a couple of dollars. We talked about one article on misogyny in hip hop adn agreed that the community had to come together to stop all the self hatred we were inflicting on one another in the music. After our chat, he invited me to come to the release party for his debut album 2Pacalypse Now. I told him that I was already on the guest list because of the magazine, so we peaced out and I went on my way.

I bought a disposable, black and white 35mm camera from the Thriftys on the corner of La Brea and Rodeo. Later that night I got to Glam Slam, Prince’s old club on Boylston Street downtown. I couldn’t wait to see this brotha perform. I loved the energy he put out on stage as a backup dancer for Digital Underground; the same with his performance in the video when he dropped the verse on Same Song. I knew that he was going to give it up that night for his debut release party. Surprisingly, there weren’t many people at the show: mostly industry execs and a few heads from the underground community.

In 1992, Tupac was another brotha in the game coming up and shining his light. Who knew what he would become in the span of his short career and beyond? For millions, he represented the reawakening of a black activist movement that took a nap during the narcissistic decades of the 70’s and 80’s. He, along with other rappers, writers and influencers of Generation X, was a beacon for a future that has not forgotten the original resolve of the hip hop spirit, which is each one teach one, earn our fair share, and share it with the culture.

You can buy merchandise featuring photos from the night by clicking here.

Still, life.

My writing habit has taken a backseat to my living habit. Three months ago I explained how I have to wait for inspiration. The fact is that I only have to wait for a time when there are no distractions. I have a friend who is going through the same struggles. With two young girls to raise on her own, her writing time has been choked off. Like me, she shares her real life adventures in pictures rather than words via Instagram.

Photography has always been my other love, even before writing came into the picture. Honestly, I should make Instagram my blog. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? If that’s the case, I have more than fulfilled my writing quota for the year, and here we are already in autumn.

Follow me on my Instagram account.

Book update: (The Real Struggle)

I’m here, trying to capture the healing energy of writing. I haven’t taken a chance to blog in a long time, but my journal has been working overtime. Blogs take too long to create, because I get caught up editing them trying to get all the tags and keywords right, in hopes of getting thousands of hits to my site. I’m not a big deal to most people so I chalk up my efforts to wishful viral thinking.

Writing a book is a lot harder than I thought too, especially a memoir. You’d think it would be easy to think of all the memories in your life and put them down on paper. It’s not. There were a lot steps to get from a summer journal, to a full on autobiographical sketch, to a first draft, to a thesis project, to a publication in progress; a lot of tears, a lot of decisions on additions and omissions, and a lot of unblocked memories attest to the effort it takes to accept one’s faults, fates and fears. I’m forcing myself to face down the things that led to this time in my life, and this blog gives my readers some insights on the concurrent circumstances of life I tangle with while dealing with my past in a poetic and literary way.

I can tell you that fatherhood has had a huge impact on my writing habits. Writing is a dream in progress, nebulous and free-flowing, coming to fruition when I least expect it, appreciating the moments when it happens. Fatherhood is a reality in progress, steadfast, uncompromising, something I can expect to face everyday and appreciating it always. I now know how parents can get so wrapped up in their kids’ lives and lose touch with themselves. I have witnessed the power of the attention shifting perils of parenthood!

So the book took a backseat for a while…and the blogging. It’s summertime and I’m feeling ripe to type up some more marvelous stuff, though. A corner is turning as one kid starts kindergarten and the other high school. What a spread, right? I’m going to be young forever! Now I have to bend a corner and get my writing flow on go again.

Send me some encouragement. I need feedback. Are you, or do you know someone who is a parent-writer? I’d love to hear the challenges you go through.

NatGeo’s The Race Issue

I came across this article as I was beginning my home workout regimen from my iPad. It was enough to prompt a much needed blog post.

There’s No Scientific Basis For Race-It’s A Made-Up Label

It’s been used to define and separate people for millennia. But the concept of race is not grounded in genetics.

Around 2000, I did some independent research that led me down a linguistic rabbit hole. I was publishing a book based on the words peace, please and thank you. It was a children’s book, and the writer wanted to translate those words into every language in the world.

After exhausting my 7-language dictionary, we turned to a nascent internet as an additional resource to our faithful trips to the local library. Our research uncovered a map that traced the roots of the first languages, and their transmission throughout the world, from the womb of Africa, to the vast stretches of the Pacific islands. Words have propagated and mutated, like a strand of DNA, adapting to and defining the environment in which they survive.

The article reminded me of that adventure. I learned that language is a tool that can be divisive and unifying, just as a concept like race. When you break words down to their roots, break down the strands and look at their genetics, you see they come from the same source. The same with people, and like DNA strands, each is a little tweaked here and there, but still coming from a common place, no matter how we choose to define ourselves.