JUST MUSING: “Why Jeremy Lin’s story is actually more meaningful…”

Curiously controversy continues to overtly and covertly surround Jeremy Lin’s existence as a member of the National Basketball Association (NBA).  The most recent controversy you ask; Lin’s decision to change his hairstyle.  For the unfamiliar Jeremy Shu-How Lin is one of the few basketball players in the NBA, an American professional basketball association of Asian descent.  Lin’s ethnicity is Taiwanese/Chinese.  Lin entered the Association the hard way, undrafted.  He was not deterred, and maintained a sense-of-self and a belief in his abilities in a profession where those of his ilk are not often seen.  He was cut by a number of teams before receiving a chance to prove his mettle with the New York Knicks in 2012.

Recently, Denise Young Smith, Apple’s Vice President Diversity and Inclusion, an African American female, was quoted as saying:

“There can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blonde men in a room and they’re going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation,” Young Smith said on-stage at the recent One Young World Summit, held in Bogotá, Colombia.

In few words Apple’s representative revealed the multi-talented nature of racism. Words spoken clearly, providing a visible dose of self-hate, laying waste to what she was hired to do, appearing more like mere caretaker for the tech industry’s woeful diversity, done in black, possessing a white-washed mine.  Words spoken clearly making it appear that she occupied the position for window dressing purposes only; speaking honestly when she didn’t realize she was speaking a bit too honestly; telling the world what she really thinks.  One of the problems with racism [or sexism] is sometimes the victims of these social diseases forget that the victims too have to check themselves, because they too are infected by the same disease(s).  Seemingly, I have digressed but I have not.   I hope I am making sense.

Once given a chance, Lin demonstrated he belonged.  Over a twelve game span, the term Linsanity was born.  Linsanity was actually larger than Lin himself, captivating Knicks’ fans, the Asian world, the imagination of those who have been told they too do not belong.   Draining game winning shots, directing the team like the next coming, lifting a moribund Knicks’ franchise for a brief period, while resurrecting – in my mind – the lives and history of the African American athletes who too looked differently when they pleaded, demanded to be given a chance to prove they belonged.  How soon we forget.

Moses Fleetwood Walker, Jackie Robinson, Larry Doby, ghosts of baseball’s past sins, would have never criticized Lin’s role as a first.  Charles Cooper, Nat Clifton, Earl Lloyd former professional basketball players would have likely applauded and extended a hand, recognizing when their color was a barrier to others in joining the NBA before they were given a chance.  Kenny Washington, football’s first, would have blocked for him, shredding criticism, reminding the rest of us you can’t place five white men on the court and call your decision and exercise in diversity, while the Asian ball players sit on the bench looking around, bemoaning never being given the opportunity to show their mettle.

What controversy?  After the twelve game display, comments were leveled at Lin’s way revealing a lack of appreciation for history and why Lin’s dazzlingly display, particularly in a historical context, had meaning beyond the individual himself. 
Waging criticism
of Lin’s rise to fame (his teammate, Carmelo Anthony’s remarks); purporting not having any idea who or what he was (comments by then star in the league, Kobe Bryant); expressing outrage (comments made by multiple athletes in the league at the time) when Lin was offered a contract by the Houston Rockets, even though it seemed Lin’s good fortune would benefit other union members of the Association.

Sure that time has passed.  Lin is no longer with New York or Houston.  He has in fact changed teams on multiple occasions.  Today there is no more Linsanity.  Lin is still in the league however, now on the New Jersey Nets.  One thing seems constant; the diseased mind still continues to lurk, occasionally appearing in the oddest places.

The new criticism is about hair.  Lin has elected to wear his hair in dreadlocks, ropelike strands of hair formed by matting or braiding.  Kenyon Martin, an African American, and former professional basketball player, after he discovered Lin’s choice, did what we tend to do in this age of digital miscommunication – he said what he shouldn’t have.

“Do I need to remind this damn boy his last name Lin?” Martin said (h/t Nets Daily). “Like, come on, man. Let’s stop it with these people. There is no way possible he would’ve made it on one of our teams with that bulls–t on his head. Come on man, somebody need to tell him, like, ‘alright bro, we get it.  You wanna be black.’  Like, we get it. But your last name is Lin.'”

Without engaging in a detailed debate surrounding the origins of civilization, or who did what when, the inherent racism found is Martin’s statement is readily identifiable.  First, he ignores dreadlocks, as a hairstyle, has been documented throughout history.  A quick reference to Wikipedia reveals that during both the Bronze and Iron Age, dreads appeared in “Near EastAsia Minor (considered the western two-thirds of the Asian part of Turkey), Caucasus (located between the border of Europe and Asia, situated between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea), ancient Persia (present day Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan).  Also evidence of dreadlocks was discovered among the ancient Israelites (ancient Israelites are considered to be an outgrowth of the indigenous Canaanite populations that long inhabited the Southern Levant, Syria, ancient Israel and the Transjordan region), in ancient Greece (depicted in frescoes), and  Egypt (seen with mummified remains).  Martin should have done a preliminary search before hitting send.

The charge of cultural misappropriation is dangerous in this context, in that it reaches and grabs a number of different cultures, peoples and religions, all incorporating the same hair style.   By way of example, pray tell which myth survives reality when one group attempts to claim credit for matters as common as dance, bread, alcohol beverages.

I muse because I believe Martin’s sin is not his failure to undertake a modicum of research; instead his is a greater sin, the byproduct of endemic racism.  Seemingly never wanting to give Lin his due, criticizing him for matters unrelated to his professional path.  The same way Jackie Robinson and others were criticized for anything and everything.  The faux argument over hairstyle and choice is no different, more of the same.

The website Root.com wrote about Lin’s hairstyle, missing the mark widely.  Electing to tell a joke of the incident and comments; ignoring history’s wide and encompassing clutch; the act of pretending to support Lin while burying him with faint praise.  Absolutely, Lin has complained of racism – before and after the Linsanity label – however he didn’t this time, instead asking Martin about the tattoos on his arm, which contains Chinese characters – cultural misappropriation I guess.  The same cultural misappropriation I too have engaged in when electing to purchase Chinese artwork over the years, or having bookcases made in Hong Kong years ago, prior to Mainland China opening her doors.  My suggestion – any future references to Jeremy Lin’s hair also include a visit with history’s lessons, of course, after checking our racism at the door.


JUST MUSING: “Mercy, mercy me …”

How I wish I could wax elegantly like Marvin Gayemercy, mercy me … things aren’t what they use to be.   How I wish I could predict the future … I can’t, planning, anticipating notwithstanding, approaching every day as a new adventure.  Remembering the adage, nothing is promised, knowing well, nothing is promised – not today, not tomorrow.  Magical, invisible hands reaching and holding limbs in place, slowing, restricting, bounded closer to earth’s gravitational pull.  Looking in all directions, looking for the binders, seeing what I expected to see, nothing, still convinced of their presence.

I suspect we are not witnessing Armageddon.  A New York Times’ story, reporting on the Mexico City earthquake, quoted a government employee, Jorge Ortiz Diaz, as saying, “It’s like Sodom and Gomorrah, like God is angry at us.”   I possess a contrarian view of the world, of life.   My contrarian view is one formed in part by my maternal grandmother.  Always viewing weather as a gift, no matter the conditions, view in part religious based, in part the slanted view found in a farmer’s eye.  My opinion in nothing Chester Anna Wright told me verbally, instead conveyed by praying; kneeling, persistent rubbing of both hands, looking skyward, lowering herself to the earth, touching the soil.  Similar behavior she engaged in when neighbors, church members, relatives many times removed, came to her home to die.  Praying, bathing their bodies, bending over and downward, listening to voice tones and inflections, accessing when death would arrive.  Likewise, smelling and predicting Mother Nature’s behavior – weeks on end.  No emergency warning systems, no telephones, never a newspaper delivered to the doorstep.  Supplementing her faith with the Farmer’s Almanac, the radio, and A.A. Allen.  No television, no internet, seldom a visit from friends or strangers.  Forever educating – turning to Louis Wright – instructing when to plant, predicting rain, praying for rain; looking outward and over – “Two days, two days … you should secure the animals.”  Watching birds, plants, sky, noticing absences before others; smelling, touching, forever looking for tell-tall signs.  Cherishing rain, looking upward and outward, extending both hands skyward, verbal mouthing a simple and concise, “thank you”; cherishing heat, sweating like the rest of us, never uttering a profane word, even when the unexpected occurred.  Consistent pattern and behavior was hers; possessing a sublime belief in Mother Nature, when all others viewed her conduct as obscene fickleness, mercurial, and unpredictable.

Storms, fires, earthquakes are weather events which are both common and uncommon.  Common when it doesn’t affect us, uncommon when the water laps at our doorway, entering, invading … soiling.  Seeing others in peril is different than when the worry become an everyday reality; worrying about ones future, being displaced in mind, body and thought; listening obliquely while others whisper “we were lucky, we were lucky”.

Pulling possessions out – now nothing more than rubble – through the doorway, into the yard, onto the curve – dealing with the hand fate has dealt to one’s household.  Wanting the world to go back to work, admitting ones good fortune, contending the good fortune is because of God’s blessings, never seeing the corollary meaning in an affected household; common and uncommon tales existing side by side, told by the same untold weather events.

After Hurricane Ike’s landfall in 2008, there was a considerable period of time in which most of us were prevented from coming back onto Galveston Island.  City officials informed the least of us the Island would be closed for an unknown period of time.  Law enforcement was put in place to prevent entry; guarding the roadways, informing the citizenry, in both the print and visual mediums, to be advised to place their children in other school districts, to make other plans.  The officials’ announcement felt like someone was pulling the welcome mat away.  These announcements played hourly, daily; part of the news-feed, playing while the others were permitted to enter, to make repairs, secure property, to check on friends and family.  When the Houston Chronicle reported a seafood fest on the Seawall for recovery workers, I was aghast. Looking from afar, prevented from entering; wondering, wondering, wondering what tomorrow would bring.  I did what I did then for a living.  I studied the legality of the City’s actions and brought suit; something about life, liberty and property rights.  We settled, allowing the rest of us to enter the island to begin the rebuilding process.

Three weeks after Ike’s landing, lights were restored.  Courts in Austin and Houston must have been in communication with the light company, both placing calls within fifteen minutes of the lights and phones becoming operable.

“The temporary injunction hearing is scheduled 1:30 p.m.  The Court wants you here for a docket call at 9:00 a.m., tomorrow morning.”

“I can’t be Austin in the morning.  We had a hurricane on the coast.  We just got lights and phone service minutes ago.”

I learned quickly, our conditions weren’t their conditions.  The plea was refused, never heard.  “No counsel, see you tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.”   My, “but-buts”, meant nothing.

The Houston court demanded my appearance two days later, “docket call and jury selection will start on Monday.”

My, “I don’t know(s)”, were never heard.  I didn’t know where the file was.  I didn’t know if I could find clean suits to wear.  I didn’t know how the client survived the storm.  Things aren’t what they use to be … mercy, mercy, me.

Actually, I knew where one-half of the file was located, in the middle of the floor. A soaked pile of smelly mush rendered unreadable, bound by something other than paper clips, swollen to twice its previous size, expelling invisible fumes which caused ones’ eyes to water.

I ultimately learned neither Austin nor Houston was affected.  Saw something one the television I suspect.  We were removed from their world.  Their courthouses were safe.  The pleas were for naught.

“I don’t have lights at my home as of yet”, Her Honor explained, while dismissively waving the objections to the side, much like a worrisome fly.  Standing, moving away from the bench, exiting, and reminding me of her ruling, “See you Monday morning.”  A surreal experience, cartoonish, as if being pulled across the screen, with blanket in tow, screaming, “Stop, stop, stop … erase and redraw … no one stopped and redrew the sketch.  The ruling was the ruling and remained the ruling.  Pulling on the booth-straps has never been as painful as it was then, standing in the dock of the courtroom, looking around, feeling smallish, lost.

Seeing the water rise during Hurricane Harvey, stopping six inches short, lapping at the door, swaying in the middle of the street, in suspended animation served as a reminder how the common and uncommon plays us.  Seeing the destruction of Rockport, watching the Sabine rise, the freeways in Houston become rivers, seeing people being drug across the screen to safety, while hearing my own whispers, others whispers, “how lucky we were”.  Life must go on, they say.  Yes, they say.

Ah things ain’t what they used to be, no no.

I have seen the feel good stories.  I too have applauded the volunteers’ efforts, wondering still, worrying still, what happens when the cameras move away?  Worrying whether we will remain consistent and recognize the disjointed, dystopian existence storm and earthquake victims are presented; long after the water has receded from yards, streets, bayous, rivers, flowing back to the Gulf; long after the earth has stopped shaking; considerably longer than the time it takes water to dissipate, leaving noticeable reminders of its presence.

Those who are lucky, move on.  Life goes on.  Life goes on.

Food and clothing assistance stops, for those who are not so lucky.  The lenses are put back in place, the cameras lowered into carrying cases, after being put in the off position.  No longer a story; a new story awaits; time to go back to work, while the less fortunate remain in a perpetual state of internal shock; worrying whether, trying to remember how to put one foot in the front of the other, hoping for the best.

I say all of this to say that I hope we remember – even if we were fortunate – the adage “life goes on” sometimes is not a complete and adequate description of life’s circumstances and challenges.  We have to recognize life changes, much a cracked vase, on the verge of fractured, must be helped – held in place – until the glue sets.

The little things, the same hand extended to you in the past.  Doing what you wished others would have done for you, caring.  Some can’t move on, living the nightmare daily; seeing their world turned, inside out, upside down, round and round.

Oh, absolutely, there aren’t enough hours in the day; hurting feet, backs, aching minds remind us of this.  Never ever believe our world is as big they told us in school; a world isolated by time, distance, differences, and languages, no more.  The persistent attempt to resurrect coal is not meaningless, having a profound effect on us, our neighbors to both the North and South.  Dismissing the repetitive five hundred (500) year storms as happenstance is pure folly.

There is no magical formula how long it takes.  Events which are life-altering can change the character and nature of the community, causing a communal migration.  New Orleans is a prime example, a mass migration of peoples into Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston.  The disappearance of next door neighbors, shuttered buildings, and untimely, unexpected deaths.  Mercy, mercy me…  Land grabbers, disinterested government officials with smiles engrafted – practiced, affixed – putting on the best face possible, congratulating each other – banquets, awards – while moving away, in the opposite direction of encased cameras, moving on, moving on.  That’s what we do.  That’s what we do.

Chester Anna Wright lived a simple life, by today’s standards.  Her life examples seemed more complicated by any standard.  Relying on her senses, remaining in tune with nature’s whim, saying thank you no matter what, never whispering her good fortune when other suffered in her farming community; a harder stance, not an impossible stance for any of us, no matter where we are located.


JUST MUSING: “What went right in Charlottesville …”

noI have never been to Charlottesville and without cheating and making a quick reference to a map, I can’t tell you what part of the State of Virginia the city is situated.  Recognizing the city’s name, sitting in a chair, pushing back, readjusting my position, stunned – watching, watching, watching – going silent, moving inward; each passing minute, hour, day.  Witnessing from afar, separated by distance, and time, drawn close by technology.  Seeing the persistent struggle play out; commentary about the south, the Birth of a Nation, statues of horror/of honor, marching/sitting, mouths agape/spewing hate, dogs, guns, jail, confinement, the fraught reality of slavery; love and death.  Wondering what the future may bring, seeing the chasm grow wider; the by-product, the root, southern birth-rights playing out in living color.   Stopping, closing my eyes, wondering to myself – complaining to friends – whether anyone realizes there were actually events which went right in Charlottesville.  Adjust your thought process, wipe your eyes, appreciate for a moment the last statement is somewhat inconsistent with my ingrained minority paranoia.  Please bear with me.

Merriam Webster defines paranoia two ways:   “mental illness characterized by systematized delusions of persecution or grandeur usually without hallucinations” or “a tendency on the part of an individual or group toward excessive or irrational suspiciousness and distrustfulness of others.”  The word, minority, or the term, being in the minority needs no definition when stated in a racial, national origin, religious context – both are self-explanatory.  Merriam Webster contains no definition for minority paranoia.  With that said, viewing the use of the term, minority paranoia, in a negative context shouldn’t be done, contrary to both definitions of paranoia.


Turning off Almeda-Genoa, proceeding eastward initially, turning slightly northward on Telephone Road – at a time before the strange voices occupied our phones, became secreted into our dashboards, telling us which direction to proceed – all to reconnect with Almeda-Genoa.  My memory said it was a Sunday night, nearing one in the morning.  Houston was sleeping.  Crossing the landscape making my way back to the freeway, travelling home, fighting sleep, watching, listening to music – as if the music helped me stay attuned – it didn’t, it didn’t.  Seeing lights enter the cab, flashing, bouncing, an invasion of light; lighting up the surrounding area, enveloping my path, causing sleep to flee, the same effect of being invaded by millions and millions of lighting bugs.

Not knowing what I had done, checking the time, checking my vehicle’s speed, looking ahead, for a place to pull over; changing the radio station – to a gospel station, not for prayer, not that I knew the musical preference of the Houston Police officer instructing me to pull over – none of this, none of that.  Correcting my posture, locking both hands in place, sitting, awaiting – for the officer to arrive to the driver’s side of the vehicle; actions developed of time, now a habit, a routine, designed to survive the interaction.  Having travelled the same road over the years, seeing I was near where I was determined years before, also in the early morning hours; stopped by the same Department, detained for two hours.  Cursed and threatened then; words designed to push both societal and racial buttons; an invitation to react, hoping I would react – until the officers determined I was a lawyer.  Apologizing, hiding their badges, some refusing to give me their badge numbers, calling their supervisors.  An ah-ha moment, a moment Allen Funt would have loved (Smile you are on Candid Camera), an event best expressed in the idioms of a southern Negro (“Oh Lord, Oh Lord”); burdened by history, race, humor, I am, only none of unfolding events were funny at the time.

A thousand thoughts flooded in and out, with each step, with every movement of the officer.  How to survive a simple traffic stop?  Don’t accept the bait, ignore the bait, don’t turn the music down until the he reaches the window.  Oh happy days.  When Jesus Washed … Hands up – breathe, breathe, breathe – remain calm.  Give him your license when asked, respond only to the questions asked.

This was the third time I was stopped by Houston Police on this stretch of isolated roadway within a three year period.  Adapting, changing radio stations, sitting erect, remaining erect (statue like), turning the music down – receiving a warning, thanking the officer, vowing not to travel down the same road again, particularly in the early morning hours.   A vow I have kept, forever seeing the spots where I have been stopped, the faces, ingrained images, time.

Is there a correlation in the stops? – I don’t know.  Was my race a factor? – Maybe – possibly.  What I am clear about?  These events are part of the term I used earlier on – minority paranoia.  Minority paranoia established over time, observing ones environment – someone akin to assure life (read the use of life literally, as in remaining alive), liberty (read this as avoiding jail) and the pursuit of happiness (no explanation needed).  Driving away, extending a self-congratulatory pat, remembering the last stop, hearing the officers threaten arrest, calling me stupid.  “What do you think about being so stupid?  His calling other officers over, had to be at least six officers in and out of the back seat, while I remained cuffed, for two hours.  Awaiting a response, obtaining a response, “I guess I’m stupid.”

Driving farther down the road, seeing the other incident, on the same road; stopping to help another driver after a wreck – helping her, not helping him.  He – a stranger to me – was upset because of he felt she was at fault.  She too was a stranger.

Walking near, seeing the terror in her eyes, sensing fear.  He – this stranger – hovering over her window, screaming, yelling; reaching inside of the passenger compartment.

“It was your fault!  It was your fault! Look what you did to my car!”  He said, bellowing his words while she screamed.

“Hey man, it was a wreck, calm down.”

She leaned back and away, restrained by the seat belt, screaming, dazed – these facts didn’t matter – continuing his rant, “Look what you have done!”

“Hey man, move away from her car!”

Touching her, hearing the screams grow louder, grabbing the stranger by his shirt, obtaining a firm grip, licking my free hand with spit, aiming at the nape of the neck, continuing the attempt to get his attention.

“Hey man!  Come on fool!”

Words accompanied by a popping sound, hand against neck, skin against skin, causing a distinctive sound, indicating I was successful in making contact.  I learned quickly, I was successful in getting his attention.  Spinning in place, much like a bull – he did.  Seeing blood on his forehead, and in his eyes; sweat poured liberally down his face.  He was none too happy.

“I’m going to kill you!”

“No, you’re not” – reaching, extending – striking again for good measure.  Moving away, wondering why I was in the middle of the street boxing a total stranger.

“I am going to kill, your ass” – lunging forward, grasping at air, crying in anger, complaining to himself about “my car.”

“Man it’s a damn car.  You’re alive.  She is alive.  Stop before you get hurt!”

“Nigger, bastard” …

Unwelcome words causing a reaction – for every reaction there is a reaction – extending an obligatory strike, to the festering wound on the left side of his forehead.  Ole!

“You need to calm down!” – moving away, circling, making the stranger chase, only striking thereafter when he got too close.

The police ultimately did arrive.  When I tried to tell the officers what happened, they ignored me.  When I attempted to repeat the story, I was stopped.

“She is in shock.  She is not going to let her window down.  Ma’am it is okay, you can let your window down.”

The white man – stranger one – stood to the side no longer than ten feet away, playing victim.  The white woman – stranger two – sat stunned, ultimately lowering her window, stepping out after persistent persuasion, intruding, trying to explain to the other officer why she was frozen in place.   The lone black soul, my meddling-self, my not-minding-my- business-self, stood in the middle of the roadway listening to the officer’s firm instruction – “Leave before we arrest you!” – No address given to him; no telephone number; no name allowed.  A black Casper the Friendly Ghost I was, invisible, irrelevant; obeying the officer’s instruction, entering my car, wondering why I even bothered to stop.

With the above digression, my definition of minority paranoia seems appropriate at this point:  Minority paranoia is a sense of paranoia, real and imagined, clinical and non-clinical.  A paranoia which is ingrained in the souls of a minority group member, when existing in a hostile environment causing the group member to constantly assess and reassess events, based upon past events, and stimuli.  Minority paranoia oft-times causes the minority group member to view the world differently, seeming irrational, when not irrational – somewhat akin to speaking a foreign tongue to the majority group member; akin to asking the majority group member to accept the impossible, even though the non-acceptance of the minority members view of the world is no different than the majority member’s perception (Elvis is still alive, but Michael Jackson can’t be alive).

I give this detailed definition to explain how minority paranoia affects my view of the events in Charlottesville.  A paranoia invoked when shocking societal events occurs; causing worry and anxiety to return; ghosting, shadowing my every step.   We are the ones who are told to leave.  We are the ones who are arrested.  We are the ones whose rights are affected when we silence our enemies.  This time however something else occurred.

First, those men and women of hate were granted their fundamental right to march.  I know, they are our enemies; purveyors of hate, terrorists in our mist.  I don’t disagree – I’m not stupid.  I told you, didn’t I, that when the officer threatened me with my arrest in the middle of the roadway, I put my finger down, I stopped pointing, walked away, dropping my business card in stranger two’s  hand (if she needed a witness later), and moved off the roadway.  I’m not stupid … but I remain the consistent fool.  The boys and girls of hate live under the protection of the First Amendment (United States Constitution) possess the same protections you and I possess – the right to peacefully assembly to protest, spew their odious messages in and about the public square.

The American Civil Liberties Union was right to remain consistent with its history; litigating the issue in federal court, citing the laws which protect the rest of our rights.  The deprivation and silencing of those men and women of hate, silences you – me – denying us a free and open debate.

Call me a fool next.  I’ll take the compliment.  Thousands appeared to have entered the public square protesting the hate of those men and women of hate.   Screaming, yelling, shouting; protecting their love ones when attacked; protesting the clergy who were there to pray; telling the world, “This is not us.”

Remaining forever angry, refusing to good back to the good-old days, recognizing the historical laden words said by those on the other side; words of hate, oppression, and death.  Of course, one can argue that the deaths of Heather Heyer and the officers did not go exactly right.  Not according to Heyer’s mother, embracing Heather’s courage, her cause.  Not according to Heather’s friends (Marcus Martin), flying to the air like Super Man – hit once – twice – by the terrorist’s car, saving his fiancée (now what was the controversy about the possibility of a black man playing Superman?).  Working against type-cast, visions of the old-Southern dissolving, reminding us, we have changed, even in light of being a society in constant flux.

Removing symbols of hate, taking lifeless stone and metal figures out of the public square, dismantling the supposed statues of honor from the landscape; statues erected during the changes, serving as a reminder of the greatest of the Old South – while we, the minority group members, saw something else.

Ordered to desegregate public schools – “We can’t.”  Ordered to arrest those who attacked, terrorized, murdered in an attempt to ensure the constitution meant what it says – “We won’t.”  The Court affirming the constitution wasn’t applied to us (“The negro had no rights the white man is bound to respect.”).  Preventing minority group members from voting, rigging the voting systems, using judicial and extra-judicial acts, purging voting rolls, cheating, threatening, arresting – refusing to hear, refusing to see, denying there ever existed the speaking of evil.

Jews will not replace us!

This city is run by Jews and criminal niggers!

NiggersJews, Homo-sexuals, Mexican, A-rabs, and all different sorts of Chinks stink, and I hate ’em! … Go back to yer country! White power!”

Okay, I’ll admit, I have gone too far.  The last of the quotations did not come from the events in Charlottesville, but is from Dave Chappelle’s show.  I wanted to see whether you were paying attention.  Matters not, I think you get my point.

If you didn’t notice the crowd howling against my boys and girls of hate was different, the majority of them were white.  Welcome to the new south.  Something has gone right.  Sending their children to the streets, recognizing our long hard struggles and freedoms has freed them – that each of our freedoms is tied to others’ freedoms – even our enemies.

Sitting, watching, thinking; moving uncomfortably away from the monitor.  Escaping to the kitchen, counting eggs, removing butter from the refrigerator, checking the flour, making a list; hearing the President’s voice, astonished by his justifying, unjustifiable conduct, bowing my head, seeing the worse and wondering how far back we are going to move.  Watching, listening for the immediate reactions, seeing and hearing repulsion of the majority.  Racism laid bare, sending the our President scurrying to the sidelines, his words and defense having the opposite effect, convincing some who would have never been convinced – the statues have to come down; we can’t go back.

We will never solve the color-line until we admit there is a color-line.  We will retard the march to equality if we fail to admit there was much which went right in Charlottesville.  Kneading, moving flour from one location to another, blending eggs, tasting – much like the motions of life – smiling, not because of the taste – no, no – because of what I saw, because of what I heard.


JUST MUSING: “The wait staff pretended not be listening, not to be watching…”

The invitation to give a speech at the Baytown Country Club was bittersweet in a number of ways.  From third grade through high school my family lived in the shadows of the country club, a world apart, foreign to our everyday reality.   The invitation came two years after an extended and bitter fight over prayer in school.   The case, Santa Fe School District v. Doe, wound a tortured path through the United States District Court, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court.  My representation of the Doe(s) served as one of the impetus for then federal judge, Samuel B. Kent, personally expressing his intended life’s mission (“I will make the  next forty years of your life miserable” (his actual quote was more profane and colorful – mean-spirited, bordering on bullying.  Absent spelling out the profane words, the descriptive words used above, coupled with one’s imagination should suffice to provide a proper setting)).

I drove that day with the intent to make the luncheon speech on time.  It was now clear to me His Honor had made good on his promise of my intended demise.  He had dismissed 18 out of the 25 cases in which I had in his court.  His Honor crafted three opinions a week, over a six week period, releasing each opinion with great fanfare.  The opinions inferred the plaintiff’s lawyer (interpretation – me/moi/mì) was suffering from drug or alcohol problem(s).  Each opinion contained faint praise – he at one time was an excellent lawyer, but that something was now amiss in his behavior and practice before the Court (please read this with a cultural twist on my part – “He be talking about me”).

His honor, in those 18 orders, directed I forward a copy of the orders to the affected clients.  All of the orders contained an explicit recommendation for plaintiff file a grievance against their lawyer or sue the lawyer (again, me/moi/mi).  Not surprisingly the clients took the Court’s advice, 18 grievances alleging their lawyer violated his obligations to them.  In hindsight I don’t blame the clients.  The cases were now dismissed.  Their only remedy was an appeal.  They didn’t know my history with His Honor.  Not many people would resist an explicit order from a federal judge inferring their lawyer was a drunk, on drugs, or made a mess of their affairs.   Part of me was internally insulted:  never consuming alcohol in my life, refusing to allow any type of drugs/mind or body altering substance to enter my body.  Avoiding advertisement, peer pressures, expected behavior.   I saw too many of my classmates succumb and fall by the wayside because of the use/abuse/addiction to those substances; substances readily available, far more available than say a fresh apple in our neighborhood.  I wonder why?  I wonder why?

His Honor also visited his fellow federal judges and told of his life altering plans for me.   He requested his fellow “his/her honors” become active participants his goal to rid the bar of my presence.  His expressed invitation was extended in a meeting of his fellow judges for the Southern District of Texas.  One of his fellow judges revealed this secret to me, even though the judges’ meetings are confidential.  Her Honor wasn’t the only one who told, another Her Honor spouse revealed the remaining judges’ decision to reject Judge Kent’s invitation to participate in my demise.  The judges directed me to file any new Galveston Division case in the Houston Division.  The remaining judges directed me to file any new case in the Houston Division, assuring me those cases “would not” be transferred back to Judge Kent’s court.    My complying with the other his/her honors’ request did not protect me from the pending grievances, nor shield me from the public relationship war being waged by Samuel B. Kent as he continued to issue opinion after opinion.  The other judges also made clear they had no authority to remove any of the pending cases from Judge Kent’s court.

When Judge Kent issued his weekly opinions, he followed his orders with a phone call to the local print media (Houston Chronicle and Galveston County Daily News).   The reporters would then in turn call me for my response to the latest edict.  I gracefully demurred.  My addressing the press in a state of anger simply didn’t seem to me a likely path for success or survival.  Judge Kent’s initial attacks began in 1997.  The Supreme Court heard the Doe case in 1999 and issued its opinion in 2000.  I was now two years removed from the Supreme Court’s decision; time’s passage did not make my drive any less internally traumatic.

҉            ҉            ҉

The drive from Galveston to Baytown was bittersweet because all which preceded my invitation to speak gnawed at me in the same manner the chemical plants gnawed at Baytown’s harbors.  My office had now been gutted.  Fear of the unknown became the burden imposed on the young lawyers and staff members prior to their fleeing to safer, more reasonable and lucrative harbors.  As they fled, the office became a poor facsimile of our previous self.  His Honor’s much public attacks devastated our federal docket, obliterated the overall caseload and caused our income to plummet.  Samuel B. Kent’s actions mirrored others’ acts which had played out during my existence in Galveston – different actors, a different time.

The trip to Baytown allowed His Honor’s unwanted attention and my childhood memories of a changing/challenging world of a desegregating south to play out.  The landscape was familiar to me, somewhat akin to watching a well-worn movie, listening but not listening, watching but not watching.  However, none of this is why I muse.  I muse because history is a vicious reminder of our past, and a wonderful predictor of our future.  I muse because as I happily now exit the legal stage somewhat similar to the boxing ring, my history tells me that my being excluded, mistakenly being invited or being expelled from the ring were constants of history’s lessons.

I was running a little bit ahead of schedule.  My decision to travel to the speech immediately after my court appearance in Galveston allowed me to save some time.  I left early also because of other obligations, a requirement I appear in federal court in Houston after the speech.  My office had informed the Houston court of the conflict and the possibility of running ten to fifteen minutes late.

When the invitation was extended, I had not been told much about what my host wanted me to speak about.  The only information given was their wanting to hear of my experiences in Santa Fe v. Doe, no other instructions.   My childhood anxieties refused to remain in the car – they walked with me every step of the way – from car, to sidewalk, to door.  The well-appointed room served as a backdrop for my history and anxieties.  I was immediately met by a gentleman.

“I am glad you made it.  I am glad to meet you personally and not just talk with you on the phone.  We were worried whether your hearing in Galveston would go over.  And then the rains came.”

“I finished early and made up some time.  Thank you for the invitation.”

“I am so excited you are here.”  It was at this time I was given a fuller picture of what the host wanted to hear.  “We want to know whether you were disappointed in the Supreme Court’s ruling and if so what do you expect in the future?  … Is there a chance of any additional test cases?  … Prayer in schools is important to our members.  … We request you speak for thirty minutes, leave a little time for questions.”  …

The host left me little time to answer his questions.  He left even less to take in this new information, saying, “Excuse me, I must check with my colleague on something else.”  Walking away, leaving me to my own devices.

Why on earth would I be disappointed with a ruling which was in my clients’ favor?  What test cases was my host referring – I didn’t have a clue.  This smartly dressed business man moved across this once prohibited sanctum to visit with others of like ilk.  I had not moved far from the front door when Wanda Cash, a former Assistant Managing Editor for the Galveston County Daily News, approached and asked whether I remembered her.  I assured her I did.  She now occupied the position of editor and publisher of The Baytown Sun.  Wanda too expressed unbridled excitement with my appearance.  A smile seemed permanently etched on her face.  Wanda appeared to be enjoying herself a little too much.

When Wanda left my presence, I reached for a program on the front desk.  I was now confused.  I was described in the program as the lawyer representing the school district.  “An unfortunate loss” the members were informed, but “optimism for new strategies, new cases all to assure prayer in school.”  The Baytown Rotary Club invited the wrong person.  I wasn’t the other lawyer.  I had no earthly idea how those lawyers felt, and was pretty sure no one was going to inform me of any planned test cases in order to get the question of prayer in public schools back before the United States Supreme Court.

My predicament was not one of “guess who coming to dinner”.  I was already at dinner.  When I looked up from the program my smartly-dressed host was approaching again.

“We are going to do some general business first.  There are some agenda items we need to address before I introduce you.  I say five minutes.”

            “Sir, I have something to tell you.”

“You need something from us?”

“No sir, I’m fine.  The description of me on this program is not me.  I think you invited the wrong person. I represented the children and parents who challenged prayer in the public schools, not the school district.  We won.”

As Ali’s phantom punch of Sonny Liston, in their second fight, was too fast for the human eye to perceive so was the effect of my words on this stranger.  Those words propelled his 165 pound frame across the floor.  The tails of an immaculate grey suit flapped as he approached other similarly attired men.  He may have attempted to mask his horror, he couldn’t.  His hands served as tell-tales, flailing uncontrollably.  His body appeared distended with gas.  He attempted to whisper, but the other men did not.

             “Oh shit!”

Oh shit is right.  I’m hungry.  I did not eat breakfast.  I started my day at 5:00 a.m., prepared for two hearings, spent two hours in the first hearing and traveled here in a driving rain storm for the last hour.  If I don’t find something to eat, I’m not going be able to get anything in my stomach until 4:00 p.m.  The first time my Negro butt gets to go the Baytown Country Club and I am going to get kicked out!  I have seen this dance before –‘no you can’t come in, no don’t use that water fountain.  Why to the back of the bus, are you kidding me.’ It wasn’t my mistake! Oh come on, I’m hungry!

 I immediately identified where the food was coming from and played bird dog and headed in that direction.  I was met by one of the wait staff at the door.  I told her what I perceived, what I expected to happen.  I don’t remember what she looked like.  I only remember her showing all thirty twos when I told her what was going on.

           “Can I get a plate to eat before I get kicked out?”

“Sure baby, absolutely.”

When my food was brought, it appeared the entire kitchen staff came out – all people of color.  They were the most friendly, happy bunch of Black people I have ever seen.  Joy filled the air.  Joyous, joyous people of color; I expected a chorus line to form.  While I ate I noticed the word of the mistake passing from lip to lip, ear to ear.  I noticed Wanda Cash standing and watching – the wait staff – her fellow Rotarians – me.  She was happy, a profane giddy happy; happy, happy.

The food was excellent.  The okra gumbo competed with my mother’s.  I consumed the food as fast as I could – wiping and eating, wiping and eating – as efficiently as a starving man could only achieve.  The same fast when you realize the dad doesn’t like you.  The same fast when you realize you don’t like him.  I knew I had to leave as soon as possible.

“Thank you.  The food was good.”

“I’m glad you enjoyed the food.”

“Did you cook the okra gumbo?”

“I did.”

“Check your foot, one may be missing.”

“Oh baby please, you made all our day.  If you want to take some with you, I will make you a container.”

Their day became more joyous as I approached my hosts, still conversing in the southwest corner of this temple of my anticipated expulsion.

“Sorry, excuse me.   I figured out how we can address the mistake.  You can tell your members, I got sick from the food.   I will gracefully excuse myself and make my court appearance on time.”

I expected my host to accept my proposal, he did not.  The frown gracing his forehead, which first appeared when I told him of my discovery, seemed to have become permanent scarring.  “No we want you to stay.”  I was shock by his stance, shocked enough to accept and begin thinking about what I could possibly say at a luncheon I shouldn’t have ever appeared.

The wait staff pretended not be listening, not to be watching.  I pretended not to be noticing those colored people now lining the walls.  Wanda Garner Cash wasn’t having any of our cultural “not be(s)”, she smiled, bounce in her chair in a perceptible manner.  She enjoyed these events more than anyone should publicly enjoy themselves.  Her public display of joy in all probability could meet the definition of obscenity.

I told the shocked faces I knew of the mistake.  I identified myself.  They didn’t clap.  The … Oh Shit … moment still lingered in the air.  The wait staff was having none of our socially acceptable behavior – clapping, smiling, watching – standing in a row, glued in place, collective humanity holding up the wall.

I explained, “My belief in the Constitution was borne in Goose Creek’s public schools, funded by their tax dollars.  “You have no one to blame but yourselves.”  Visions of years past came back, flooding and clouding my thoughts.  Some in the audience flashed oblique smiles.  The wait staff didn’t care, extending a laugh of appreciation, as if Richard Pryor had healed and was on stage again.

I tried to explain the importance of free speech, why the parents’ complaint was upheld by the Court.  “Thank you for the food.  Thank you for the invitation.”  They remained in their seats – astonished – well, except Wanda and the wait staff; standing, clapping, enjoying life’s contradictions a little too much.

After speaking, I hurriedly made my way through the sea of blues and grays.  I was stopped by Wanda before I could escape.  “Anthony wasn’t this just a great meeting”, all spoken while her body continued to tremble with glee, a giddy glee.  Wanda’s only attempt to control her condition came in the form of wiping her eyes.  We wished each other well as I made by dash for the door to escape   “Wanda, I’m so glad you had such a good time.”



[Author’s note:  The above muse was initially published on November 1, 2014 on Blog.com – thus a throw-back musing.  The musing is the Web-Manager’s favorite musing, and remains so.   It is hoped you enjoyed this version, with slight modifications from the original.]

JUST MUSING: “Yin – yang…”

Last night (July 19, 2017), I went to bed cataloging the things I wanted to accomplish the next day.  Taking to bed with me a newspaper to finish reading an article, completing the task, then sorting through news on the phone, seeing the report of an interview to be published in the next day in the Times.  Shaking my head, mumbling incoherent thoughts, seeing the accomplishments to be achieved the next day, wondering whether the task list was too long, falling off to sleep, believing, convinced all things are possible.

I complained in the last musing [Just Musing:  “I think he died in the zombie apocalypse…”], that my mind had taken an unexpected hiatus.  I sadly must report, after awakening at 3:00 a.m. such is not the case anymore.  An internal awakening, first, a gentle jab, followed by an alarm which refused to stop – ringing, ringing, ringing – malfunctioning in the worse way.  Compelling the body upward, announcing in bold, unmistakable terms – “you didn’t honestly think I was gone forever.”  Causing confusion, fully awaken, finding myself at a computer at 3:30 a.m., typing confessions.

Confession – I didn’t start shaving regularly until nearing the age of thirty – turning left, looking deep into the mirror – turning right.  Feeling for stubble – finding none – moving closer to the mirror, promising to dare not confess to others; as if shaving was part of the rites of passage; a determination of manhood.  Silly, silly man I was.

Confession two – the one time I used a deodorant I burned my underarms.  No older than 13/14 standing in front of Mamma showing, complaining; inflamed, reddened, painful unarms – watching her touch, smile, smell – “as only a mother can” – before speaking, “you’re lucky”.  Telling me not to bother, using logic, inquiring, awaiting an answer, walking away requiring me to figure out the rest.  Never imposing a male standard, what boys should do, what boys need to do, preaching against stereotypes.  No, that wasn’t Georgia way.

“Do you smell anything?”


“Did you smell anything?”


“You’re lucky, you don’t need a deodorant.  Also your skin is too sensitive.”

In an abstract written by Yutaka Nishiyama, the author postures Asian cultures prefer odd numbers, Westerner cultures prefer even numbers.  Quoting from the abstract seems appropriate:

Abstract: Japanese prefer odd numbers, while Westerners prefer even numbers. This is clear from the distribution of number-related words in Japanese and English dictionaries. This paper explains the reason for this cultural difference by surveying the history of numbers, Yin-Yang thought from ancient China, ancient Greek philosophy, and modern European mathematics.

The concept of numbers is seen in other aspects of our lives; in design, in the art of placement (feng shui), and even in storytelling.  Whether two examples are sufficient, or whether three examples have a different meaning in other cultures, I am going to play it safe and side with the rule of three and provide one more confession.   Confession three:  I didn’t start drinking coffee until the age of sixty (if you can call my habit “as drinking coffee” – a (as in one) cup in the morning).

The repairman was making a second – third – visit, in only a month.  Wondering out-loud why the coffee machine (a fancy relic of the law practice) was now deciding not to malfunction.

“The counter says you barely use the machine.”

“The counter is right.”

He fixed the machine, at a considerable price. Before leaving he gave me some advice, “If you don’t use it, it will continue to break down.”  To comply, I decided to make a cup a week, discarding the contents in the sink.  Something in the back of my head realized how wasteful this practice was, seeing my grandmother chastising me, standing over my shoulder, instructing me “not to waste food.”  Seeing images of years past, peeling potatoes, remembering her instructions, “it is not properly done until you can see through the potato hull.”  Watching her take the potato away and show me, wondering whether I could ever move as fast as she.

Telling the story of the machine to a friend, who came over to talk food, and continue the lesson on making Korean Seaweed and Rice rolls.  After making her a cup of coffee, Sue smiled, went over the coffee machine and retrieved a bean and bit, consuming the entire bean.

“Good for you.  Good for you.”

Extending a hand, handing the other bean she held to me (“bite it”); smiling, letting me figure out for myself, laughing at my silliness, discussing the origins of coffee, suggesting I drink a cup a day, or get rid of the machine.  Moderating behavior thereafter, consuming one cup a day when in place, seldom consuming coffee when on the road; don’t ask me why not on the road – I have not earthly idea.  But I digress; this musing has little or nothing to do with coffee, but more to do with the confusion which remains from reading what I read prior to going to sleep the night before.

My mother was a master of watching, listening and injecting at the right time.  When I was deciding on a major in college, she asked, “What is your decision?”  Never demanding; always stated in the question form; watching, waiting for an answer.

“Political science or religion…,” was my response.

“Why religion?” … “Do you have plans to teach?” … “Do you intend to open a church”, said with a smile.  I answered “no” to each question.  Mamma knew the answer was no.  I probably went through some long explanation of religious conflicts, wars, doctrines of various faiths around the world, world peace.  Mamma listened from afar, extended a spoon in the pot, tasting, turning, smile askance, before advising, “You needed to consider whether the School of Religion is a debating society, willing to debate faith.”  So political science it was, the study of culture and politics. I say the above to say, everything I has learned over the years has been turned on its head.   Perhaps I made the wrong choice.  Perhaps I need faith.  Confused … lost … bewildered … what is occurring?

It is now 4:41 a.m. in the morning.  I have not read today’s (July 20, 2017), New York Times’ story wherein our President admits he would not have appointed Attorney General Sessions if he knew Session was going to recuse himself from the Russian investigation.

No, I am not fan of Attorney General Sessions.  I didn’t think he was qualified to be a United States District Judge and was happy the Senate denied the attempt to promote him years ago; finding explicitly he wasn’t qualified to make decisions on others rights.  When the President-elect identified Sessions as a possible choice for Attorney General, the shudder returned.  This time no matter how reasoned the argument Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions was appointed to the highest law enforcement office in the land.  The plans of mice and men … maybe the mice will survive … I digressed again.  I’m sorry.

The reason I am confused:  I have never seen in my life someone, anyone, a President, continue to insist other constitutional office holders owe him a duty.  That shouldn’t be the role of the Attorney General.  He/she is not the personal lawyer for the President, if so the rule of law will always be subverted, no matter who the President.  Hoping against hope, not seeing the sun, wishing I knew an appropriate prayer, chewing on coffee beans, seeing the time (5:01 a.m.), having rushes of anxiety come in odd numbers, then even, flowing over and out, feeling for stubble, smelling, smelling, smelling the foulness of the his statement, wishing to see a day someone pulls the Constitution in one of his interviews with the alleged fake press, and use the document when questioning him about his continual assaults, which are nothing than fundamental attacks on the rule of law.

JUST MUSING: “I think he died during the zombie apocalypse…”

The well-known term, writer’s block, needs little explanation; the inability to think about what to write, or how to proceed with writing.  Merriam-Webster defines the condition as “a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece.”  Others have mused and written on the condition, telling of their frustrations, seeking others’ counsel, admitting inadequacies, shooting blanks (spoken in a literary sense).   I muse to say the purported writer’s block is a writer’s admission of being human, without conceding they are no different than anyone else.

Tossing, turning, awakening, attempting to comprehend, words, images, failing woefully; watching text float, disappearing into the unknown, seemingly propelling me into the same unknown space.  Describing such a condition as writer’s block is too kind, almost dismissive.  A more telling description – The sprinkling of invisible dust – by someone, something – in the cranial cavity, while placing locks on all windows to the world, rendering one a proverbial idiot.  No dictionary definition, my definition.  How about this as an alternative definition? – Gathering collective thoughts, ideas, images (collected over time, stored for prosperity sake, and later use) in a dust-pan, then a wheel-barrow, moving to the edge, dumping all contents into the abyss, rendering the subject, plain, simple, stupid.  With that, my admission – such has been my wont.

The human brain weighs 3.3 pounds (1.5 kilograms) – approximately – making up around 2 percent of our body weight.  The brain operates as the command center for the human nervous system, “receiving input from the sensory organs”, sending “output to the muscles.”  This rudimentary explanation of brain function is to make clear the later part worked, sending output to muscles, compelling functions; the former did not.  World and local events have meant nothing.  Seeing, reading about matters which normally serve as an insult to my understanding of history of the world, politics, religion have had no effect; frozen, seized in time and place, caring little of events, war, famine, crime, deceit – so be it.

The bane of the medical profession is not single-payer health insurance.  The health care industry represents 17.8 percent of the American economy.  Even in my current condition (feeling as if I have been handed a dumb-down membership card from the Zombie Apocalypse Club), I have figured out the profession/industry’s greatest threat – internet research.    Giving us too little information, and even that information over our heads because our lack of knowledge base, assuming we can become competent by reading an incomplete explanation of terms, concepts and conditions someone has spent years studying, causing us to become dangers to ourselves.  I muse to say, I am no different.  In searching for answers, I read, “Memory loss that disrupts daily life may be a symptom of Alzheimer’s or another dementia.  Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that causes a slow in memory, thinking and reasoning skills.  There are 10 warning signs and symptoms.  Every individual may experience one or more of these signs in different degrees.”  Moving back, away from the computer, grasping the chair, holding my breath, thinking, not thinking, counting signs, diagnosing, self-diagnosing, dismissing the notion of a temporary condition, jumping logical chains, assessing my condition.   My, my, my, I knew I should have eaten more spinach!

Years ago, I was requested to take on a death penalty case in which the condemned man’s lawyer had just died.  The State of Texas in its good wisdom thought it wouldn’t look good to execute a man just after his lawyer died.   In this void I received a call from a local district judge (I. A. Lerner).  Judge Lerner informed me that an execution date was pending (“you can probably get the date moved”, as if this information was comforting), that the Court of Criminal Appeals had just recently affirmed the sentence of death (something I had read about in the newspaper), and that the condemned man needed a new lawyer (I remember His Honor inserting the word, “immediately”).  My mental synapses were sharp enough to know there was no mystery as to whom he (the good judge) thought the new lawyer should was going to be.  Before terminating the conversation, “His Honor” informed me the county had no money to pay for my anticipated good favor.  Tendering the man’s name, providing a case number and his location in the prison system, thanking me, terminating the conversation; I thanked him (for what I don’t know) (maybe this was the first sign of early Alzheimer’s).

Working under an impossible timeline, rifling through thousands of pages, grading another lawyer’s trial and appeal work, looking for any error which would stop the execution – was my task.  Day and night, day and night, day and night – three weeks with little or no sleep; travelling from court to court, preparing hundreds of pages of briefing, counting the time – the days, hours – before the execution.  Ignoring all signs of trouble, speech, balance, the loss of fine motor skills; incessantly talking, taking a seat on the floor, recounting what had to be done next, never seeing the Gods reach and turn off the lights, falling fast asleep in mid-sentence, never completing the thought, being stripped of every sign of life, save a deep sleep – out cold.  Told later, not remembering any of events leading to the mind shutting all impulses, shutting down, refusing to further participate in the body’s demise.

So maybe my current condition is a temporary one, which has lingered for two/three weeks; maybe it is not.  Life has a funny way of letting us know – when the internal insult returns, becoming too much; words, images, events causing one to protest internally, then verbally, or even by the use of the written word; telling the good story, the colorful tale, or to participating in resisting when the synapses can take no more.  We’ll see.

JUST MUSING: “You got me going in circles…”

The conversation deviated unexpectedly, bounding off topic – television shows, movies, topical news, diet – an unexpected exit, moving from one lane to another, crossing lines, without regard, moving the discussion to the forbidden.  The frustrations of life sometimes unexpectedly become unbearable.  She detoured to one of those occasions.  Movement across terrain reminding me of the age-old myth, the non-recommended method of teaching a non-swimmer to swim – toss them in the deep end, emit a hearty laugh and walk away.

Life is transitional, moving, rising, ebbing mimicking the Mother Nature’s moods – the ocean, the wind, the earth under our feet – deceptive, imperceptible movements, explosive at times, forming mountains, gorges, redirecting rivers – gifting us the unexpected, the richness of living.  No matter how much we plan, how we plan, the known and unknown contingencies, life can still be full of surprises, causing our best laid plans to go asunder.  The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry – indeed they do.  Unpredictable forces, blowing, gusting, disheveling, cooling, calming, welcoming, causing movement back and around, leading to frustrations and loss of hope, albeit, even if just temporary.  Sometimes jagged, other times unhindered,  movements – through measurements of time – opposites indeed – representing life’s contrasting, predictable and unpredictable challenges; rising east, descending westward, sustaining dreams, concreting failures, fears – outward – upward – inward.

Moving in another direction she did.  Ignoring societal rules – determined to say what she was saying.  Casting me forward, from one level to another, slouching no more, upward, rocking side to side, before straightening, stiffening the spine, freeing myself of the excessive body movement; changing the slight line, no longer looking upward – staring at nothing in particularly – to the right of me, to the left of me, locking into her stare instead.  Staring at nothing in particular, not that I can tell; seeing slight, barely perceptible movements – much like the earth – eyes, lips, forehead, layered with moisture.  Seeing, feeling a cloud move overhead, staying put.  Her appearance could well be contrasted with Mother Nature’s dabbling; sprinkling, moving gently over the contours of her face, reddening, applying moisture to eyes, lips, forehead, painting a distinctive plum-like line on her bottom-eyelid.    Trance like, having to say what she wanted to say.  Ignoring the normal rules of the path well-trodden; spilling secrets, careening rapidly downward, spilling words as she spoke; exiting the pavement, in control, out of the control, toward the exit, seeming oblivious, spilling more – admitting, admitting, admitting – settling in life’s intersecting roads, silencing any contribution to the conversation, causing me to re-position both hands, shifting my body weight, becoming more a part of the couch; gripping, holding, staring.

“I contemplated suicide that day.  Everything came down on me while parked on the seawall, staring out at the Gulf, listening to the wind, birds circling, watching the few people who remained pass; like life… like life.  Seeing my children, wondering whether I was going make it through the divorce, worrying about money, thinking how unfair life is.”

My words – silence [                      ].

“Crying, crying harder, barely able to contain myself, feeling the Gulf winds, seeing the sun set, seeing myself move out-of-body – you know – not actually exiting but exiting – out-of-body, walking down the steps onto the beach, actually down the street from you …”

I didn’t see any of this coming.  Uncomfortably readjusting my posture, feeling and seeing the power of the Gulf; the changing contours of the coast, pushing, shoving, welcoming, sustaining; providing life’s substance.  Wondering how far did she go?  Filling every second with thousands of thoughts; each millisecond with almost as many questions; counting to myself, hoping she couldn’t hear me count.

“Down the street …?”   Repeating what she had already said, followed by involuntary grinding – teeth, feet, hands.  Slowly time, attempting to focus, watching, concentrating, seeing the plum lines in her face grow more intense, seeing the mist covering her face grown thicker.

“I never left the car.  I lost track of time.  I ran out of tissues, blowing, wiping, blowing; using my dress when I had no more.  Raising it up, blowing more … then he came up on one of those things.”

“What thing?”

“That thing, where the traffic cops stand up while riding, on two wheels…”


“I guess so.  …. Out of nowhere, telling me, ‘you have been here for a while Ma’am, you will need to put some money in the meter.’  He moved back, forward, back, forward, balancing, repositioning, “You need to pay or move on.”

I expected her to end the story, wipe the tears away, permit the blood in her face to settle, relax her shoulders, she did neither.  The shoulders remained tight, the stare positioned elsewhere; reliving the moment, telling the moment.

“‘Pay or move on!  Are you kidding me!  I am sitting here contemplating killing myself, getting ready to walk in the Gulf and you want me to pay money.  What else you folks want from me. After I kill myself are you going to send me a bill?  What else?  What else?  Damn you and your damn meter!’  I screamed at him as loud as I could.  He began spinning on that thing, in circles – clockwise – counter-clockwise, clockwise – round and round he went, within a few feet of my window.   ‘Damn you, damn you, damn you’, I screamed.   Back, forward, back, forward he went.  His thing …”


“Yeah, that thing … appeared to have a mind of its own, moving about, not permitting him to talk, settling suddenly, allowing him to talk, ‘Ma’am, ma’am, ma’am, never mind you can sit here as long as you like!’  After speaking, the young man moved backward, his eyes bulging, not because he was nearing the edge – ‘I’m sure’.   Instantly correcting his position he did – on that thing – moving away, down the seawall, disappearing, into the horizon.”

Her last words were followed by rapt-laughter.  She wiped her face, replaced the previous intense creases with different creases, emitting the welcoming laugh.  Almost as if she was honoring Adam West’s Batman – P-O-W … Z-I-N-G  … Z-A-P … To the Bat Mobile Robin!  Her laughter was unlike the traffic cop’s reaction, moving backward shocked by her screams.  Hearing a scream he had never heard before, the scream of life’s frustrations.  Unlike the scream he heard when he entered his parents’ bedroom without knocking, seeing what he didn’t want to see.  Different than scream he emitted that day, himself, when he was showing off for the attractive life-guard, coming too close to the edge, tilting over before being grabbed by a co-worker.  Not knowing his age, but see the circumstances she described vividly, screams unlike the screams of remembrance the crowd screams – knowing screams – when the Friends of Distinction stood on the edge of the stage, years hence, singing, reminding of loss loves, hurting loves, “You got me going in circles”.

Turning, turning, turning, he did, before fleeing.

Her scream was the scream he emitted internally when he unknowingly crossed the thin-line – we all walk – interfering, bringing her back from the edge she had been pushed by the challenges, and pressures of life, all becoming too much.  A simple act – doing his job, reminding her that she couldn’t park free; a simple act of interfering, pushing her back from the edge, stopping the tears, capturing her mind, breaking the hold of the Gulf – circling, circling, circling- followed by laughter he never heard, now too intent never to interfere again, blending with the crowd, moving eastward, while the sun continued her track westward.