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Just Another Typical New York Evening with Dave Chappelle (And Special Guests)

15 Sep

Watching the young Asian man set up his 4 track sampler gave me the feeling that it was going to be one of those nights. The young man started beat-boxing and looping his vocal riffs on top of each other to make beats, vocally sampling Eminem’s lyrics from Forgot about Dre.

For being such a raw production it kind of knocked. The aesthetic was so purely hip hop (and New York) that you had to respect it. He was just a dude with a sampler, making live beats down in the Times Square subway stop. I was only able to see one song before catching the next uptown train to 59th street, but this was a good start. I could just feel it.

I got to Radio City Music Hall early–hoping to receive a “free gift” for being one of the first 100 patrons to get into the building. My math must have  been off by about 15 people because I did not get a “Chappelle at Radio City Music Hall” trucker hat. I did however get into the building right before I shat myself, so that was a huge win (But I guess if you think about it, any day that you don’t shit on yourself should be considered a good day –unless you’re an infant or elderly–but I digress).

I’ve never been the type to get caught up in the glitz and glamour of Manhattan. I yawn at the mere mention of Broadway plays (sorry Daveed) , and I initially dismissed any idea of going to Radio City Music Hall when I first heard Chappelle was working the theater (ticket prices seemed a little steep at 100 dollars but more on that later) for a two-week run.

All it took was for me to walk through the venue doors to understand why everyone was making such a big deal about it. It is a classy joint done up in Art Deco and high marble columns and ceilings. Instead of having restrooms, they have lady and gentleman lounges, and even the urinals look too nice to be pissed in. It looked like the kind of place that black people couldn’t frequent too often until about 50 years ago, and I would’ve never thought to ever come to a show there until Chappelle booked it.

Of course, no swanky party is complete without a jazz band, and we were greeted in the lobby by a Brooklyn jazz quartet covering hip hop tunes by such juggernauts as Pete Rock and Kendrick Lamar. A small crowd gathered near the stairwell leading to the first balcony. I noticed just how many people were dressed up for the affair which hinted to be less of a comedy show and more of an event. I grew excited with each tune, and spent an hour listening to the band while chopping it up with various other jazz aficionados until about 7:45 (I was mistaken for Seahawks football player Michael Bennett more than a couple of times).

Music from inside the theater bled through to the lobby whenever patrons entered and exited the theater area. I finally meandered to my seat to see none other than DJ and comedian, Cipha Sounds (the original DJ on the Chappelle Show) engaging in a beat battle with a DJ from Toronto (still unnamed as of this post). For old school fans of hip hop, they hit the intended nerve, but these weren’t the deepest of cuts. You could almost anticipate which albums they’d throw on next to entice the crowd.

I sat down in my seat and took in the ambiance. There were so many kinds of people in the crowd: white people, black people, Latin people, Asian people, fat people, skinny people, ugly people dressed up, attractive people dressed down, well endowed, buxom women, skinny women with big booties. It was a people watching extravaganza–even for New York City. The theater itself was as nice as any venue I’ve ever been in. It was the kind of place you take a significant other in anticipation of something bigger than a night of coitus.

The opening comic, Ashley Barnhill, went on at almost exactly 8:00. Surprisingly she was from Texas (she claimed San Antonio), but what was even more surprising was that she wasn’t that funny. Her jokes were kinda hacky. Her shock humor and “edginess” that seemed more at home at an open mic or small showcase. They were objectively good jokes, but they came off a bit too mechanical, and predictable.

It was disappointing to hear her trot out such material. It wasn’t necessarily bad, but wasn’t the type of humor one expected to hear for such a monumental gig. You figured that if Chappelle tabbed her to get on that she had to be funny. Unfortunately, most of her jokes fell flat on the mixed crowd, and it was a relief when she finally exited the stage.

Donnell AKA “Ashy Larry” Rawlings saved the evening’s vibe with a solid 15-20 minutes of bawdy humor. If you’ve been fortunate enough to see him do stand up, Rawlings is a lesson in the difference between writing jokes and being funny. Nothing Rawlings said on stage was overly thoughtful, but the man was hilarious.

His comic timing was perfect, as he used his whole body to tell jokes–from the arching of his eyebrows to a change in his vocal intonation. Barnhill was telling jokes, but Rawlings was being funny,and he set the tone for the rest of the night. He killed the crowd and had me in tears with jokes about people who are way more particular about “who made the potato salad” at a barbecue than who they perform cunnilingus on.

Things really took off from there as Yasiin Bey AKA “Mos Def” took the stage. Of Chappelle’s sixteen show run, this was the bill that intrigued me the most (the Chris Rock/Chappelle show was out of the question with lowest ticket prices at 500 dollars to start). Bey had been away some time, and it had been forever since the last time I’d seen him live.

Seeing him onstage again, flanked by two DJ’s, an old school, scraper convertible car (Chevy I think?), and an endless sea of balloons, I suddenly remembered why I unequivocally loved this man. He exudes nothing but love and compassion, while at the same time demanding social fairness and critical thought. If there were ever a human being whose success I could get behind, it was Yasiin Bey. He was the tipping point in my buying a ticket for the 8/23 show, and two songs into his set affirmed every single summer decision I’d made around this night–especially considering that he was reportedly retiring from music this year, making the matter all the more special.

I was just happy to be in the building and I’d never even considered the potential setlist that he would roll out on a night like this. It didn’t even occur to me that there could be a possible “Rick the Ruler” sighting during the evening’s rendition of “Auditorium” until the end of Bey’s verse on the song.

Bey looked to stage left  for half a second, and what do you know? Slick Rick rolls out spitting his verse. The crowd lost its fucking mind–me included. It was here that things took on the element of the surreal. Of course New York and hip hop legend Slick Rick would be available to do a cameo, he from here.

That song ended and before the crowd had even had a chance to gather themselves, Talib Kweli joined the stage for a few songs, as Black Star treated the crowd to a mini-reunion show. Suddenly I was transported to a New York of a different time. Brooklyn got a shout out between each song, and every query in regards to the location of the Brooklynites was greeted by raucous yelling and screaming.

It was like it was 1998 again, but I wasn’t watching the BET or Source Awards on television, I was seeing it in person. Cipha Sounds was just as hype anyone else, dancing along to this music near the side of that stage. I thought that was pretty cool to see. This New York only existed in oral histories and podcasts. The magic was briefly back.

It was only slightly surprising that Common didn’t come out on stage when Bey and Kweli performed  “Respiration” . The opening bars of the song put chills up my spine upon hearing “We New York the Narcotic”, again when Kweli hit the ” I take the L, transfer to the 2, head to the gates” line.

Other highlights from the set were the Biggie/Prodigy/Phife Dawg medley tribute that filled my heart with warmth, and  Yasiin closed the set with a moving rendition of “Umi Says” that almost put me in tears. By the time Yasiin Bey’s set was finished, I’d felt that I’d gotten my money’s worth, and everything else was gravy. I went into intermission thinking my night could end right then and things would be fine.

The fun was just beginning. Bill Bellamy of Def Comedy fame, came out onto the stage and hit us with ten minutes of shit talking. You could tell he was just happy to be hanging out and partying with the fellas (he was constantly interrupted with the sounds of loud popping backstage–which could’ve been champagne OR balloons), and he wasn’t trying to do too much. He threw a few jabs at the audience and warmed the crowd back up.  The highlight of his set was a series of “Head Day” jokes which though were funny, alienated about a 1/4 of the crowd. I liked it though, because I’ve been rocking with Bellamy since before “How to Be a Player” came out. I was just bugging that he was even out there.

As Bellamy walked off, Dave Chappelle’s voice came onto the PA and introduced his “very good friend” Chris Tucker out onto the stage. The audience exploded into applause and then Chris Tucker proceeded to do about 15 minutes of impressions of all of his famous friends. He wasn’t the heavyweight champion that he once was, but he was still Chris Tucker, and I couldn’t believe I was watching him doing a live set.

Just as I wrapping my head around this fact, Chappelle’s voice was back on the PA announcing the comedy legend Jerry Seinfeld. PAN-DE-MONIUM. Of all the performers you would expect to a drop in set anywhere, Jerry Seinfeld was not a name that would come to mind. Chappelle may as well have said Larry David had dropped by to do short set. No one could believe it. I just kept screaming “WHAT?!” over and over again until an usher slapped me back into my body.

Go figure that Seinfeld would end up doing the tightest set of the night. A slightly buzzed, casually slurring Seinfeld did one of the funniest 20 minutes of stand up I’d ever seen. At 63, Seinfeld’s repertoire has not only reached a Carlin-esque level of immortality, but even his examination of linguistics have taken on a professor’s red penned level critique. His observational insights are still clever, but his use of the English language sets him apart from almost 95 % of comics I’ve ever seen perform. Most importantly, he doesn’t give a fuck anymore. He threw nothing but heat at the audience as he got belly laughs, with jokes that somehow managed to offend not a single soul. That in itself is an extremely difficult accomplishment for a comedian. I’ve always been more a fan of Seinfeld the actor than the comic, but seeing this older, slightly unhinged Seinfeld was utterly remarkable.

By the time Seinfeld’s set was over, it was 10:15 and the night was rapidly approaching “best night of my life” status (and easily the most unbelievable). A$AP Ferg came out to the DJ booth and gave a quick shout out, before the opening riff to A Tribe Called Quest’s “We The People” blared on the loud speakers. No fucking way? Is Q-Tip about to play this motherfucker? 

No. Just Dave Chappelle doing and hour and a half set. Dave had a good set. He told cautionary tales of celebrity, lamented the demise of originality and courage in comedy, addressed the backlash to his Netflix specials. It was a typical Dave mixture of cerebral and sophomoric, and it was awesome. I wasn’t even mad that I’d already heard about half of the jokes he told that night. His set felt like a really funny Ted Talk lecture. I felt fortunate just being there. Dave had created an event so unique and special that it was hard to imagine anything remotely as cool going on in New York. This was the place to be. Anyone who has been to New York know this is a feat hard to pull off.

After a series of curveballs and surprises, it was hard to believe that the night was over. But it was 12:45 in the morning, and Chappelle’s “dick was not going to suck itself”, so patrons were sent back into the summer night, taking selfies with the marquee as a backdrop.

Many people walked out of the theater wearing the same shell-shocked glazed look in heir pupils. For the price of a festival ticket, I had just seen Dave Chappelle, Mos Def, Black Star, Bill Bellamy, Jerry Seinfeld, and Chris Tucker. It would cost a hundred bucks (if you were lucky) to see Seinfeld by himself. I would’ve never in my life thought I’d watch him perform live. The same can be said of Chris Tucker. Not only had Chappelle thrown a hell of a party, but we’d gotten more than our money’s worth.

I tried texting my brother about it, and after a certain point he stopped believing me. He thought I was just making shit up. I didn’t blame him though. I sat on the 3 train buzzing from the improbability of the entire evening. It reminded me of the feeling I had when I saw Randy Johnson pitch a perfect game back in college. I was hesitant to even go to sleep later that night. This was a tough high to top, and I was in no hurry to interrupt it. I may have even been slightly afraid that I would wake up and realize it was just one of those long, weird ass dreams I sometimes have. But that is just New York for you. Just one of those rare places where the surreal becomes the real.

 

BM

 

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @goodassgame. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

 

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Shake it Up

25 Mar

Somewhere between wandering the streets of Paris’ Latin Quarter and getting lost in Barcelona’s La Rambla neighborhood, I realized that I had become a gluten intolerant replica of my dead grandpa. I couldn’t pinpoint when it had happened, but some time ago, I’d fallen asleep as 14 year old fun loving black kid in a baseball cap, and woken up a cheap, joyless, crotchety old man.

 

What tipped me off?

 

My penchant for inwardly vomiting at excessive displays of public affection. Every storefront felt like a tourist trap, and I found myself shaking my head at anything that cost more than 10 Euro. I’d worked, saved and done all kinds of legwork just so I could not spend my hard earned ducats.

I don’t mind spending money, but I want to feel like I got value for my dollar. There are not many places in Paris that make you feel like you’ve gotten equal value. The Euro in Spain didn’t take you much further, but you at least could walk away from a transaction with your pants still on and your rectum intact.

 

I doubt I will ever go to France again, and if I do it certainly will not be on my own dime. It is a shame that such a beautiful city like Paris is wasted on such lifeless, vapid,xenophobic malcontents like Parisians. I’m afraid that this is the city that New York City will turn into after all the young artists and brown and black people are pushed out—you know the people that make New York poppin’.

Give it 5-10 years. The wheels are already in motion.

Anyway the last memory I’ll have of Paris is seeing a white guy get pimpslapped by an Arab man. I had stopped long enough to consider getting closer to the show, when I saw the white man reach for something along the small of his back. I suddenly remembered that train I had to catch. Dude got smacked hard though. What a way to start the day.

 

I’m fascinated by Spain’s bizarre and violent history. As a city they’ve survived Moorish and Arab occupation, dictators, and ethnic cleansing to become the place it is today. Barcelona is a very beautiful city. Its clean (one of the cleanest cities I’ve ever been to), and the metro system is pretty straight forward.The food is fantastic and its easy to navigate.  You can seen the Spanish influence on american cities such as Mexico City, San Francisco, and New Orleans. And the abundance of beautiful women would give NYC a run for its money.

There is no way I’d live in Spain as an African,, Muslim, or Jew. Spaniards may have calmed down, but these are people who used to quarter people  and decapitate dogs. That kind of behavior just doesn’t dissipate into thin air. Historically, Spain is like the Boston Celtics of Imperialism. Their influence is far reaching when you think about how many countries in the world speak Spanish.

The French were either rude, or inconsiderate, but I found Spanish people to be  cold  and dismissive. Often times i’d make eye contact with a citizen and hold it, waiting for a nod or a hello. Often times, neither came. This started to become unnerving by  the 34rd or 4th time this happneed. Where i’m from, if you stare at a person longer than a couple of seconds, then its usually an act of agression or seduction. It put me on edge, and Spain’s attitude towards Africans became increasingly clear (God they must HATE the Moors). After a while i started mean mugging these staring people, my eyes screaming Buenos Fucking Tardes mufucka!

 

I have to say though, any place with late night eateries and cafes is in theory, alright with me. It was nice to not have to rush out my room at 22:30 in hopes of catching some tapas and espresso. There was one spot I walked into about an hour to midnight, and had one of the best meals I’d had that whole week; a plate of goat cheese covered in sliced veal that was so delicious that I got an erection from every bite.

Other notable things:

  •  Saw a bunch of grown ass men in full FC Barcelona garb throughout my stay in Spain. Interesting how fandom is so different over there. If a man over 21 is wearing a jersey with someone’s name on it, its considered kind of busterish (unless you are autistic of course). I mean you would have thought these cats were equipment managers the way they rock the FC Barcelona gear.
  • I went to the Picasso museum in both Barcelona and in Paris, and the one in Barcelona though slightly cheaper by a Euro; was far superior. There were 3600 pieces in the Spanish location. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me since the man was from Spain, but I was disappointed to find that the infamous Blue period( my favorite Picasso era) was not in the Paris collection. Something I realized though is my dude Picasso was a savage. I hadn’t seen that many uncircumcised penises since my YMCA membership was canceled.
  • The contemporary museum in Barcelona was a nice surprise (I did a bang-bang–going immediately there after seeing the Picasso exhibit). It was relatively inexpensive, but for every cool installation piece, there was some indulgent student art experiment that was supposed to be edgy and provocative, but ultimately could’ve been done by anyone (like a room full TV’s with live static). There were a lot of provocative pieces there that captured or mirrored the politics of the Franco regime .Made me realize that war doesn’t kill creativity, and that although art isn’t a high priority during times of war, there is a place for it. There is still an importance in someone keeping record of whatever is going on in society.
  • New York City has become the standard I judge other cities on. Though world class cities like Barcelona, Paris, Amsterdam, and Montreal may be socially more progressive, the diversity and culture in NYC is unlike anywhere else. New York is not only the epicenter of America’s pulse, but also of the world’s. I still haven’t been to a place that is as poppin’ as New York (not to mention it is the birthplace of Hip Hop).  It makes you understand why everyone wants to live there (despite the miserable winters and ridiculous rent). Probably the only place in the states worth living for my money.

 

BM

 

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

Can’t Spell “Lesson” without a Big L

14 Mar

I’ve been on a losing streak ever since my excursion to Chapel Hill a couple of weeks ago, when I broke out from head to toe in hives 45 minutes before tip-off of the UNC-Duke game. Unless you’re balling on a “I can leave for the Super Bowl on short notice” status, you agree to take an L the minute you book a ticket to Europe.

One of the few good things to come out of the U.K.’s exit from the E.U. was the weakening of the Euro, which is only 20 cents stronger than the U.S. dollar (as of last Saturday). If one were ever to take an L to visit Europe then this is the time to do it.

I lost a whole weekend getting to Paris, dropping 85 dollars in baggage fees between Austin and Lisbon. I finally got to Paris late Saturday night with enough time to grab some Halal food from a spot about 20 minutes from the hostel I’m crashing in. But only after spendng 50 Euro on a cab because the train wasn’t running.

About the hostel: I was too lazy to really research neighborhoods so I picked the one that had the best ratings for cleanliness. Its nice enough, but there is no kitchen to make your own food and other than a Metro stop (Max Dormoy), there is little to do other than buy unhealthy food. It reminds me a little of the HI-Hostel in Harlem, on Amsterdam Avenue.

I’ve never been to Paris and knew nothing about it before coming here, but I definitely recognize a gentrifying neighborhood when I see one. The process has begun here and the hostel is just one of the more immediate signs. New condos, hipster bars and expensive restaurants stick out like sore thumbs among the older buildings,store fronts, and Africans. #samegamedifferentlanguage 

I must say that I’m a little shocked that no one working at the hostel speaks English. NO ONE!!!!

I fucking hate Paris. Its true I could have studied my French a little more, and done more research on the city before my arrival, but this place reminds me of all the reasons I hated San Francisco. The night life is dull and is totally dependent on tourists and outside acts. The food is absurdly expensive for the amount of portions that you get. I’m serious. This city makes NEw York seem like an affordable place to be. Much like San Francisco, Paris is living off its reputation from the turbulent 60’s. and swinging 70’s. Maybe they were interesting places then, but now. Both are just well designed cities with beautiful buildings and tourist traps. I can’t completely hate on this city though. The subway system is incredibly easy to navigate for such a large city, easily the coolest looking airport I ever been in, and the museums here are dope. So its not a wasted trip.

The best meal I had was a tempura shrimp burger (on bread so that’s an L) that was delicious, but I started feeling a little funny after I finished it. I called the waiter over, “Hey man. Just out of curiosity, what did you fry this in?”

“Sunflower oil.” Fuck. Sunflower seeds happens to be one of the things I’m allergic to (and I suspect that Sunflower oil was a culprit in my  hive reaction back in Chapel Hill) so I made my way back to my dorm to take Benadryl and lie down.

Which brings me to my last misadventure: the fucboi dormmate. I got in late Saturday night and had yet to meet either of the other 3 guys in the room before lights out. I came in and instead of making a whole bunch of noise (I desperately needed a shower), I went to bed.

I was awakened not once, not twice, but three times by the person in the bed next time. Every time I felt close to getting into REM sleep, this jackoff kept hitting the wall and waking me up. I figured either this motherfucker was having night terrors, or he was reacting to my snoring. I let it slide because if this fuckface was ballsy enough to do some shit like this, then he must either have some hands or he was swoll as fuck. It was too dark to correctly gauge at this hour of the night and I had to be up early to catch the train to Honfleur for a day trip. I did get my revenge at 6:00 in the morning. I made a lot of noise getting ready and when he started saying shit to me in French, I just looked at his dumb ass.

The entire day was a bust. I spent all day in the rain and cold because there isn’t a train that goes all the way to Honfluer. I got stuck in the neighboring town, Pont Lameck (a town reminiscent of the werewolf town in American Werewolf in London, or the setting for Hot Fuzz) missing two consecutive buses that would take me to my destination. In the states we call places like these sundown towns as in “get your black ass out of town before the sun goes down.” Because I missed the first two buses to Honfluer, it was going to be tough to hit up the Maison de Satie and still make my train back to Paris.

This all happened hours before my Ebi burger cooked in sunflower oil, and I hadn’t taken my herbal medicine supplements since I’d left home, so I was really feeling some type of way. At 23:00 hours I laid down and had just drifted off to sleep (the guys were already sleep this time as well) when I hear something hit the wall.

“Say man. I’m for that fuck shit tonight. Just tap me on the foot if I start snoring. If its that big of a deal you should have gotten a private room. Just cuz you can’t sleep doesn’t mean no one else shouldn’t be able to.”

Things are Gucci at this point, or so I thought. Because at 1:00 this motherfucker bangs the wall again. In a measured but low tone I said, “Look goddamnit. Cut the shit. We about to have some problems. I’m for’real. You pushing it.” Silence. Somewhere in my head I wondered if he was the kind of dude to throw something at somebody while they were sleep. I knew that if this happened I would have to certainly fight him. I went downstairs and filled my canteen up with water so I could use it as a weapon if I needed to.

Not even 15 minutes later I’m awakened by a loud banging against the wall, and I fucking lose it. For those of you who know me imagine the maddest you’ve ever seen me and multiply that by 10. Before I could raise completely up from bed, words were flying from my mouth at the top of my lungs.

“MUTHAFUCKA! I TRIED TO BE POLITE BUT I GUESS I”M A HAFTA CATCH A CASE UP IN THIS BITCH! YOU LUCKY WE NOT IN THE STATES BECAUSE YOU”D HAVE ALREADY GOTTEN FUCKED UP ON PRINCIPLE! I”M FINNA GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO HELP YOU SLEEP TONIGHT. ITS CALLED MY LEFT AND MY RIGHT HANDS BITCH.” 

A beat skips, then another before I say. “Yeah I said that shit.” I laid on the bed for a minute before I got up and put my clothes on.  “Fuck it. I better go down and talk to the front desk before I end up in French prison.”

I complained to the front desk as best as I could. He didn’t speak English and I didn’t know the French word for snoring. He said he couldn’t do anything until 7:00 when his relief. “May not be anything to deal with by then.” I mentally prepared for dude to ambush me when I opened the door. Of course when I got to the room his bitch ass was asleep. I suddenly remembered all the pussy ass French dudes I’d met back at university. Of course he was a bitch. I was still too heated to chill so I went back downstairs. “Rest up bitch cuz I’m a be back at 7:00. What you gotta say about that?”

There were no further incidents that night, but I woke up at 9:00 to see this skinny white boy hurriedly packing his shit from the bed in question. It was hard to believe this frail pussy looking dude had the gall to get buck like that to a stranger he couldn’t even see. I was prepared to fight this skinny fuck with the might of 1500 pound gorilla. It would have been overkill. Best believe  he’d have gotten that work because if I ever go to jail for beating someone’s ass, I’m going to get my money’s worth. Its not going to be some Draymond Green getting suspended for slapping balls shit. If I’m going to jail for fighting I want people to look at the other guy’s face and say “Damn. Bmick definitely needs to go to jail for that shit. Look at that poor dude’s face. He must’ve really did something to piss Bobby off.”

But this story pretty much encapsulates my trip. Parisians are rude, they have no sense of spatial awareness. No one says “excuse me” when they bump into you. Needless to say I’m looking forward to my flight to Barcelona in a few hours.  Lastly, if  France was a legit cool country, then they’d legalize weed in this country. I’m glad Paris St.-Germain got beat.

Fuck Paris.

 

BM

 

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

 

 

 

 

Mexico City Revisited and Other Thoughts

3 Jan

My visit to Mexico was a very educational one. I do believe I saw the future of the United States hidden somewhere down there. The wealth disparity between rich and poor, educated and uneducated hints at what is to come here in the states. I remember reading back in the year 2000 that the election of Bush (among other lame brain decisions) signaled a decline within the middle class. 15 years later we are seeing the effects, including the anger and frustration for middle to lower class whites that resulted in the election of Donald Trump.

You can check out my photos from my trip here on Flikr.

  • Mexico is an interesting and massive country (imagine if California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado and Texas were still owned by them). There is so much to see.
  • Christmas in Oaxaca was a very festive one. The parade and fireworks showed me a side to the holidays that I’d never associated with this time of year. I really dug it.
  • Colima  was pretty awesome and very beautiful. Mountains and fresh air were the most memorable parts for me.
  • The food in Mexico City paled in comparison to the Oaxacan and Colima cuisine. As a matter of fact, I doubt I will ever go back to the old D.F. A lot of people like it, but I’m cool on Mexico City. Too big. It reminded me of all the worst parts of Manhattan, my least favorite borough in New York City.
  • I may have seen exactly four black people the whole time I was in Mexico. When I was flying out to Oaxaca out of Benito Juarez Airport I was into a guy in a Yankees hat. WE were in line for Starbucks and once we figured out the other spoke English, we had a great conversation. “Ease back bruv, I’m from London.” He told me when I struggled to engage him en Espanol.  Anyway he said he had been living in Mexico City for 2 years and had seen MAYBE 25 black people in that time period. He also said that every interaction pretty much mirrored the one we had at the airport. On an unrelated note, he had a pretty cute Paraguayan girlfriend (totally my type too) that he was going out of town with. She was really friendly and made me consider how long I plan to be single (and consequently celibate).
  • Seeing so much of Mexico these past 2 years makes me want to see what the deal is with Spain. I’m especially interested in the Moorish architecture in Spain. The Spaniards were some bad mufuckas back in the day, and everyone felt their presence back when they reigned. I need to see what is up out there. From what I hear though they do not care for people of my complexion. Will they run me out like they did the Moors and Jews? Stay Tuned….

 

2016 was a super rough year for a lot of people. In the midst of all the chaos I somehow let myself go. Over the break I looked into the mirror and saw a shirtless flabby middle aged dude who at best would be rated a 6 on a 1-10 scale. When I graduated high school I was a 9 (in my mind), trim and confident. 20 years can’t feel any further away.

The bar has been set low enough that 2017 HAS to be a better year. I gotta lose weight and get back in shape. In addition to that I’ve got enough unfinished projects to keep me awake for the next six months. In a way the current political and social climate has given me a better perspective because now I really am forced to live every day as if it could be my last.

It makes sense that Buddhism was such a popular philosophy back when the life expectancy was so low. Today we have enough modern day conveniences to distract us from just how flimsy life is. Back then you couldn’t ignore it. People could be more barbaric without consequence, diseases were less treatable and there was very little escape from the elements.

We might be at that place in our society again. It doesn’t mean we should be capricious and irresponsible, in fact; just the opposite. I plan to live each and every day with attention and intention. Small goals will signal daily wins, and if I’m lucky enough to be standing at the end of the year, I will celebrate like I won an NBA championship. Perhaps life has always been this fragile, but for better or worse, it is a fact that is impossible to ignore today.

 

BM

Still Chasing…….

25 Jul

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This summer was supposed to be a chill one. I had a wedding on the east coast, but other than that, my plan was to read books and lay up under the air conditioning all summer. Much like my 2006 plans, things took on a life of their own, and I found myself criss-crossing the country again.

2016 Summer Observations:

  1. Now that Mommy jeans are in full effect, it may be smart to re-invest in Fanny packs. Young hipsters have brought back something so puzzling, that I can’t help but think this is backlash against the increasing creepiness of men’s boorish behavior. It is the only rational explanation I can think of. Why else would young women purposely wear jeans that make them appear bloated and unattractive? Has the buffoonery of our catcalling, drink spiking, leg grinding, and upskirting finally worn away the magic of women leaving their homes feeling beautiful? Is this a retort to the victim blaming laden statement “Well she had it coming, look how she was dressed.”? I hope this isn’t the case, but I also hope it isn’t women being ironic. Not all women age as fine as wine,  and there will come a day when Mommy jeans will be a necessity, not an option. Those wasted days of beauty will be missed down the road ladies.
  2. Seattle is still extremely white. Seattle is so white that it feels like a foreign country. Seattle is so white that when black people see other black people, they not only introduce themselves to each other, they also get invited to dinner and church services. “Come out to Colombia City and fellowship with us. The whole congregation will be there. All ten of us.” One day when I was walking around downtown, I saw a well dressed white man with a cast on his right arm. It took everything I had not to yell out “Ted Bundy” the same way someone yells out “Kobe” when shooting paper into a wastebasket.
  3. I feel sorry for anyone who sits near me on a bus or an airplane. I feel like handing them a card before I fall asleep that reads,” 1-800 How’s My Snoring?” I should just carry a mouth guard with me at all times when I travel, because its inevitable I’m going to konk out as soon as we take off for our destination.
  4. As much as I miss my Okie friends, I do not miss Oklahoma–especially now that its vogue again to be openly bigoted. You will hear some people brag about Oklahoma being the first state to send a man into outer space. I don’t see how this is flattering. I think it displays the extremes people will go to get away from the God forsaken state. The moon suddenly isn’t far enough away from a state that says if a person puts their penis inside another person’s mouth while they are unconscious it isn’t rape. Ironically, sodomy laws are still in effect there. No wonder Oklahoma is 49th in education in the United States.
  5. My top four favorite cities in North America:   1) Montreal Pound for pound the most dime pieces per capita in any city I’ve ever been. Great food. Well designed layout. Reliable transportation and diverse. Tons of street art, and affordable rent. I could tell who the Americans were in the city by their Valley Girl speak. It was rare that I heard people say the words, “Like, you know, and whatever.” Montreal is a world class city. 2) New York, but more specifically Queens. Brooklyn is too trendy to me. Manhattan just feels like white noise. I know very little about Staten Island and the Bronx. Queens though may be the most diverse of all the boroughs. The food is phenomenal. It is a good place to live whether you have a family or you are single. Taking the N,Q, or 7 trains is a convenient way to travel to the other four boroughs. Plus the Mets play there. I do wonder how long it will be cool though. Its becoming harder and harder to live in New York if you aren’t rich. 3) Portland. I forgot how much I love this city–especially during the summer time. I love the heady highs, and the high trees. Now that legislature has caught up with the times, it has become an even more enjoyable place to visit. Even though the town has more happy hours than black people, and buying a house there has become almost impossible for people not making six figures, it is still an extremely fun place. The women aren’t quite as “hot” as the ones in Texas, but they score well because there are an abundance of cuties living there. If hot women were a currency, then Portland would be the Uruguay among North American cities. There is a thriving middle class of cuties who happen to be pretty chill. I dig it. 4) Austin. Of course. Austin is douchier than it was 10 years ago when I first left, but it is also more going on there than 10 years ago. The food is better. There are more places to eat and drink, and its more diverse. Yes its getting “whiter” by the day, but its not all the same kind of white people–at least for now. Much like New York, it may not be as cool of a place 10 years from now.
  6. I left Texas ten years ago hoping to find a new place to settle into–a new career in a new town in a new region. Much of this journey was captured in my collection of poems, Chasing Kerouac with my Credit Card. The trip that I embarked on during the summer of 2006 was a means to explore parts of the United States, and then plop my ass down somewhere.My criteria eventually became: a) A city near the water–namely the Pacific Ocean. b) A city where I wouldn’t be entirely dependent upon driving a car.c) A racially tolerant city where I could at least feel safe as a black man.

    Many people have wondered why I move around so much, and it is because C) has been an elusive find. Some cities are safer than others for black men, but this summer (and the frankly the last 5 years) has proven that nowhere in America is a minority safe–especially blacks. Now that we are on the heels of a Trump presidency, what once felt like paranoia (to other people) is soon to be a reality. To spare us all the unnecessary bloodshed, I just wish all the whites in America who don’t want to interact with gays, blacks, Muslims, Jews, Arabs, Asians, Mexicans, and anyone else not straight, white and conservative, would map out a place in the Midwest (we could call it Bigotopia) where they can live with all their distorted beliefs, and not bother (or be bothered by) anyone different from them. The government should just give everybody relocation grants and call it “The Mulligan Act of 2017.” Everyone wins.

  7. Its crazy how fast ten years just flew by. In some ways this summer paralleled summer of 2006. Moving out of town and being technically homeless for two months was again a theme. The World Cup was the social milieu back in 2006 (where France lost in penalty kicks just like this year’s Eurocup), while the Copa America and Eurocup were going on while I was on the road this year. Though this summer wasn’t nearly as messy as 2006, there were certainly some curveballs that have forced me to stay on my toes. Of course this year’s travels wouldn’t have gone nearly as smoothly without all the people I managed to meet and befriend in the last ten years. My Texas, California and Oregon connections have taken me to some cool places that would have been almost impossible to know without them. I can’t imagine my life had things gone the way I had originally planned back in 2004–before my first visit to the Pacific Northwest. Had you asked me what I thought my life would be like at 37, I would have probably said a wife and kids, teaching at a school in Fort Worth; owning two cars and paying on a mortgage. None of that sounds bad, but I can’t believe I would have been successful at that lifestyle at that time.I would have spent all my free time staring out the window wondering WHAT IF? I can’t say that these things won’t eventually happen (probably not the part about living in Dallas), but I can say that I’m at least a couple of years away from that being my reality. We still have a lot to accomplish before that happens. I’m still chasing……….

 

Ciao,

BM

 

 

Getting What You Pay For

31 Mar

South By Southwest jumped the shark years ago, but now it has come to the point where if you don’t have access to a badge (good luck tryna buy one. You better start saving up now), then you can almost forget about seeing half the acts that you like.

The festival has become a bigger deal each year since I started going back in 2006. There was still a fringe element to it back then, where things were clogged, but the streets were still fairly navigable. I could not buy a wristband or badge, and still see plenty of the shows from anywhere in town. Now the major acts almost triple the unsigned ones, and you have to venture east of Red River to see anything resembling a DIY artist.

What is crazy to me is how much you must think ahead for everything during SXSW week (month?)–needing just as much of a game plan for avoiding the cluster as you’ll need for joining the fray.

Lines for every popular coffee shop, or food haunt become longer, and trying to hit up the famed BBQ spots is almost unthinkable. So imagine my surprise when a friend and I were able to just pull up to Micklethwait Craft Meats, ten minutes before they opened, and just get in line. We were fifth to get our order taken when things popped off, and let me tell you, it was legit.

The analogy I like to make about barbecue is along the lines of being an herbal connoisseur. Growing up, I smoked a lot swag because it was all I knew. occasionally, a friend would luck into some White Widow, and it wasn’t until I smoked that where I learned the difference in quality of buds.

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BBQ is similar in that regard. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, places like Hardeman’s, Rudy’s, Poke Jo’s, Sonny Bryant’s, Gates, and Dickey’s were considered to be really good. Nowadays these chains are like the swag of good barbecue. They’ll do in a pinch, but once you’ve had the really good stuff, it is difficult to not think about what you could be consuming.

Places like Salt Lick, Kansas City Joe’s (formerly Oklahoma Joe’s), and Micklewait are what my college friends would refer to as “BC Nugs.” Pretty good quality, but ultimately mid-grade stuff.

I actually really liked Micklewait. I’d rate it as a high quality mid grade–the 2015-16 Cleveland Cavaliers of Austin barbecue. Their beef rib (18 dollars a pop) are as good of a beef rib as I have ever had. It came right off the bone (a big ass bone at that–probably half of what you pay for when you are paying by the lb.) and was tender and delicious. I just salivated thinking about it.

The jalapeno cheese grits (yeah I know that I don’t normally fuck with side dishes) are otherworldly. I wouldn’t call myself a grits fan at all, but I don’t see anyway that you could improve the taste of these grits.

Their sausage is on point as well. It has just as much flavor as Smitty’s sausage, but not nearly as greasy. My only real complaint was that the brisket was a little salty. That being said, it was extremely tender. Apparently they also offer goat on Saturdays, which is something I love eating. I’m certainly going to back on a Saturday and give it a run.

There aren’t too many bells and whistles at Mickelwait. It’s just a trailer over in east Austin that is right down the street from East Side Pies. But I’ll vouch for it. If you don’t feel like hitting up the long ass lines at La Barbecue or Franklin’s (spare me), and you’re not in the mood to drive out to Lockhart, then this is your spot.

It is getting increasingly hard to rate all these bbq joints. When you start getting top-tier quality meats from places like Franklin’s, La Barbecue, and Smitty’s, it all tastes the same in its own wonderful way. Anyone who has been to a weed dispensary on the west coast, or in Amsterdam, can relate. Its only when you get the lower grade stuff that you can actually tell the difference. I guess what I’m saying is that Texas is quickly becoming the Amsterdam of barbecue, and that ain’t a bad thing.

 

 

 

An American Werewolf Screening in Tulsa

16 Mar

When I texted my mother that I’d be taking in a screening of the 1981 classic, “An American Werewolf in London”, she texted me to “stick to the roads, be aware of the moon, and stay off the Moors.” No I’m just kidding. She told me that it was the first movie she and my dad had ever taken me to.

This text revealed to me what all the sessions of therapy had not, and I finally understood why shadows and werewolves scared me so much growing up. I still to this day can’t be in the same room if the Thriller video is on television (the Vincent Price part especially creeps me out).

I hadn’t seen “Werewolf” since I was a kid, and hadn’t even thought about it, until I saw an advertisement for it on Facebook somewhere (Actually thats a lie. This chick and I rented it from Blockbuster one night after our shift at Red lobster. But she thought it was cheesy, so we mugged down instead of watching it.). I figured if there was a movie that was made to be seen on the big screen, then this was it.

If you ever have the chance to see it at the theaters, you should do it. It is hilarious, it is spooky, and it is in a way sad.

For those of you who’ve never seen it, it is about two American college students from New York, Jack and David, who are  backpacking across Europe. They start in England with the intention of finishing up in Italy.

Jack starts the movie off stating his reservations about being in a cold, and spooky part of England, when they could be in warmer weather with better chances of meeting women. Jack,a smart aleck, with a typical New York sense of humor is both easy to like and loathe. His inability to pick up on social cues indirectly causes the two of them to be forced out into the moors, on a wet and chilly night.

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It is only after they hear the howling of a wild animal, that they realize that they didn’t heed the advice of the local townspeople, and see they did not keep to the road, and that there is a full moon.

The results are disastrous and David wakes up to find that he was in a coma for 3 weeks, his best friend Jack was “killed by a madman” (as David may or may not have been running away from–leaving Jack behind), and that he is in London, having bad dreams about Nazi monsters killing his Jewish family (scenes which are both terrifying and darkly humorous)

There is a heartbreaking scene of the main character, David going into a phone booth, and calling his little sister in New York to tell her that he loves her before he tries to unsuccessfully off himself. It sets up an epicly weird scene that turns into an unforgettable 25 minutes of cinema.

For such a hokie movie, it really forces the audience to feel an assortment of emotions. The gags are really dark, but extremely funny. The dialogue is loaded with Jewish humor that can be easy to miss if you know nothing about the culture. There is even a classic Knock Knock joke sprinkled in the script for good measure.

I don’t think a movie like this would see the light of day in this era. The 80’s were a riskier time for movie making. People were not afraid of making bad movies where the mistakes could be just as fun as the highlights. Gore and humor aren’t exactly synonymous in this day and age. There is a self awareness about this film that isn’t around in a lot of “scary” movies.

The final scene in the movie is the biggest payoff, and when the credits roll, you don’t really know what to feel like. It was so good, I went back the next night; knowing I wouldn’t have a chance to sit in a theater and see it on the big screen again. Believe it or not, it was just as good the second time around.

Thanks Mom and Dad for hipping me to this film so early in life. The therapy, high electric bills, and sleepless nights finally paid off. This might be my new favorite movie. Now if I can somehow talk the Circle Cinema into screening the Warriors movie…..