Friday, November 26, 2010

Going Thanksgiving Alone: Heroine, Gorillas, & Mixtapes

“Yeah she prolly put in work, then go to sleep with that heroine”- “Seriously though, tell me the last time you met a ho that was smart? It just don’t make no got damn sense… see some women want to be treated like a ho, and man… I just don’t got it in me to do it”. The barber shop was less than asocial this particular Black Friday. Freshly jacked of a giant flat screen tv, all their entertainment, and a gumball machine, somehow the brave barbers of Nicollet Ave. manage smiles and conversation about ho’s and heroine.

When my mother snatched my sister and I, up and took off for Minneapolis, we stayed at my grandmother’s for a year or two until she got on her feet again. Possibly get on her feet for the 2nd time in her life, the woman had dropped out of the U of MN in the worst way, wandered the Twin Cities, and finally found her niche in politics. Ran for governor, garnered over 10,000 votes, didn’t win (in the subversive sense as we know it to be), and moved to New Orleans to work with the Socialist Activist Worker’s Union. Moving back, things were Up In The Air like George Clooney coming to find out his pseudo-girlfriend was married with kids (which btw, absolutely blew my mind when I saw it. If you saw it too, you can’t say you were surprised, but damn were you disappointed.) Mom didn’t get hit with it as bad as Clooney, but nonetheless, things were in the air. Out in Richfield living with the grandparents, my mother didn’t know a f’ng thing about black people’s hair, let alone what to expect from the skulls of two bi-racial kids. My hair was curly, then straigh, then started to curl again. Annie’s was still growing, so God knows what was coming from that girl. Mom played it safe and took me to a nearby barber shop where my grandfather would get his hair cut, Ray’s Barbershop.

Framed Norman Rockwells, old bottles of lather and after shave, and again a Norman Rockwell calendar decked the walls of the strip mall hair cut store. Ray’s Barbershop was a stomping ground for old white men all across the 1st and 2nd ring burbs. Enter 4 year old brown kid, fro down to his ears, walking hand in hand with a tall white graying jazz musician. Doc, my grandfather, would always take me to Ray’s. Mom would partake sometimes, but there she goes again, off to school, clinicals, work, one of the several institutions feeding her resume and bank account for fam survival. Mom had more hustle than the average single mother, and somehow above all made time to be a mom. Christ, we wound up on the cover of a magazine for her graduation picture. “Husband crap all over your life? Have two kids that look like you stole them from an adoption agency? Need a graduate degree? Shiiiiit, you can do it too!”. Completely kidding, of course. But yes, we were on the cover of a magazine, Annie wearing mom’s graduation cap, mom smiling bigger than life, and me somewhat hiding behind the grad gown. Twas a shy kid back then, still am.

Either way, Ray’s was always jumpin’... well, in the sense of “how much can four senior citizens get it poppin' in here” jumpin'. Vikings, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Twins (always with the friggin’ Twins), World Series, Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Highways, we discussed the whole lot. Well, they did, not me. I could chat here and there about some of the stuff as I grew up, but usually smiled and watched the arguments and passive debates ensue on what to do with Frank Viola in the 8th inning, how Reagonomics is going to save the middle-class, who the hell is Jesse Jackson, “Michael Jordan’s a free agent next year. The Knicks would be idiots to not pick’em up.”. “Wow, this new gal Oprah’s really cleanin’ up, isn’t she.” and so on.

Always loved the griots-natured cat at the barbershop that felt it necessary to jump on his soap box and tell it like it is. Reality tv shows, movie scenes, entire movies, entire tv shows, entire media displays based around the concept of the African-American Barbershop. Gossip, rants, rambles, debates, everything… f--- the community newspaper, get it all here. To interject the hype, my two cents: the same shit goes down at a white barbershop. Not even just a barbershop that cuts a majority of white people’s hair, a barbershop full of Caucasian geriatrics with nicknames like “Rusty” and “Doc”. Gather a handful of people together that have a basic understanding of the headlines and a bit of the variety section, and boom… it’s on.

If the place where you get your hair cut, did, or done, doesn’t have a good conversation you can observe or participate in, then find another facility. Any place that can hold up to thick small talk, is a happy place. Same for friendships, relationships, and family-time-dinner-table discussion. No one takes it personal, we all walk away from it a bit more understanding of the other, and perspective stretches just that much further to hear someone out.

An old friend of the barber cutting my hair steps into the Nicollet Ave. shop. They burst in laughter, discuss Thanksgiving. My barber, somewhat reserved, “Aww na, man. I didn’t do much for yesterday. Just laid low, had a dinner by myself”.

The friend talks on with another customer. I ask my barber, “Got family out of town?”. “Na, man. See my daughter every now and then. My  mom and sister live way out there, though”. “Like far as Chicago?”, I ask. “Na. Way out in the burbs. I don’t drive though”.

A few moments of necessary silence pass. The mute air explains more than enough history he’d rather not go into. Daughter, doesn’t travel further than a few miles to see his mother and sister, takes Thanksgiving alone… reminds me of my dad. Except this guy is my age. Mom left Ricky around his 35th year, decade older than myself and my barber. However, barber boy sounds like it’s a mutual fault on both sides of the fence his Thanksgiving has gone solo, curse of circumstance, or the way he likes it. I don’t ask. 

Do you wanna go it alone? Better yet, like barber boy here, will we have to go it alone? I’m sure at some point, but for God's sake, any day other than Thanksgiving. 

F---, I’ve gone it alone more than not already. However, I’d rather not wind up referencing my kids as the “now & then”. I’ll sacrifice the last penny in my pocket and grain of sanity for my kids just to be with them (here I am talking about "my" kids...when I don't even have them. Good-Will-Hunting disorder of looking several thousand miles down the road before making a move...diagnose me please). Let’s be realistic, I know absolutely jack shit about having a child or children- but it’s fair for anyone to know what they want. I damn sure know my children would/will be my solar system. Again, the family man declaration. Always wanted to be, still aspiring to be, and when things work out… I will be. Self-Assessing what it takes to be a family man is damn discouraging, butterfly-in-the-gut exciting, and eyes-closed-deep-breath-before-the-marathon calming. Knowing what you want is one thing, acting on it is another. Barber boy’s been caught between the two, rightfully so, as we all have at some point, and perhaps still are.

The silence resumes until a blast of laughter breaks out at the entrance. Again, barbershop totally robbed less than a week ago. Speakers, Tv, remote, cds… gumball machine, all gone. Gumball machine, are you fucking serious? Who the fuck steals a gumball machine. Have mercy on the poor bastard that runs with a barbershop’s gumball machine, and lives to count the cash at the pawn shop. A sense of humor still runs alive in the roots of the building, and gets the best of several small talkers at the entrance. “Hey nigga, who the fuck would win though. I say the fuckin’ gorilla, I say the fuckin’ gorilla”. “Na, nigga you serious!?!? A mufuckin’ bear would rip the shit out of a gorilla”. “Hahaaaaaaa!!!! This nigga say the bear”. Collectively two grown men shout, “Awww HELLLL NAWWW”. (Yes, you are correct, this barbershop IS far from Ray's in Richfield...geographically and culturally).

And we’re back. First it was ho’s and heroine, now we’re on to Bear vs. Gorilla. Personally I’d root for the Gorilla, but deep down inside expect the Bear to shred the poor monkey to pieces.

Sometimes circumstance does us in. Does us in bad. The homelessness, the poverty, the cancer, the untimely death, the arm pit of it all. In a shitty analogous way, perhaps we’re all the gorilla, and it’s absurd to assume we’d ever get the best of a bear. Or, as I’d like to think, we fear success so much that we bet against ourselves to feel comfortable with failure. Excuse the French, but absolutely no-fucking thank you.

Mark it “selfish”, but I left the barbershop counting my next steps away from the circumstance of “now & then” with my future family situation. “Full-time” is the goal, and the next few steps are to my rugged-ass beat-up Honda Civic. In the grand scheme, the next steps are to flier outside of every poppin’ venue tonight and the rest of the weekend for the even bigger procession in December: The Local Mixtape Release Party @ The Triple Rock. It's all part of the plan; future fatherhood, family man, husband, son, business partner, Damaged Goods, call it what you want... as long as you know what you want to call it:) 

You know what you want. Great. Now get out of your own f----ng way and go get it. This is me doing the same.

God willing, I sell out both nights. To better put it, WE sell out both nights. Both nights involve key players to make it do what it has to do.

Have an end in mind. The local release is a small piece of the puzzle, but it still counts.

Friday, Dec. 17th
9pm at The Triple Rock (18+)
$8, free mixtape w/entry

Sunday, Dec. 19th
5pm at The Triple Rock (All Ages)

$8, free mixtape w/entry

Only good ending I can think of at the moment is an excerpt from my grandmother's prayer book she gave me. Handed it over after the first time I joined her for church, just her and I. Notes, pictures, all types of writings fell out. One in particular stuck with me:

Watch your actions; they become your habits
Watch your habits; they become your character
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

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