26 March 2008

Playing Ketchup

A long time away (problems on the home PC! I have NO IDEA what's going on in the world without my usual, semi-obsessive, nightly blogrolling!:) In any case, a couple of quick things I wanted to say....

Got caught in downtown Baltimore on the Sunday of our annual St Patrick's Day Parade. I usually miss this, the 2nd largest parade in the city, after the Preakness Parade, simply because I'm not particularly a fan of being in a crowd of people drunk on green beer (did enough of that in college, thank you very much....) However, as superpacked as it was, and as tied up traffic was, it wasn't too bad. Being Baltimore, it was probably one of the more 'multicultural' St Pats events. Family rumor has it that WE'RE part Irish, on my mother's side ( "Black Irish" ? AfroCelts?), but who knows...

One thing that struck me, however (more on the Friday before the St Pats weekend, when some co-workers and I just happened to stop into a downtown Irish Pub for lunch. Over the bar they have a sign saying "Help Wanted: Irish Need Not Apply" (click on the link to their website to see it). I was reminded that, a little over 100 years ago, discrimination against the Irish was almost as strong as it was against blacks, and their wave of Potato Famine-related immigration to this country was strongly condemmed. In the words of author Noel Ignatiev, the Irish "Became White", and now annually celebrate their heritage.

Hmmm.....Does this mean that, 100 years from now, folks will be wearing "Besa me soy mejicano/Kiss me I'm Mexican" t-shirts on Cinco de Mayo?

Like many, I was also thrilled and astonished by Barack Obama's "Race Speech". If you have not read it or seen him deliver it, PLEASE do so now. IMHO it is an 'instant classic' and one that (I hope) people will read and youngsters will recite portions of for years to come. He said many things a lot of us have always wanted to say, but could not completley articulate.

And as for Rev Wright: Many of my friends and family agree -- he said nothing that many of us have not either said, or heard people say in churches, living rooms, barbershops and beauty salons across black America. Only they have not been snipped and cut, YouTubed and replayed ad nauseam by the media, and used as a club to beat down an uncommonly decent man. As Mr Obama said: Not this time! A national conversation on race is long (LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONGGGG!) overdue. The problem is there are going to be a lot of truths told, and pain dug up that our fake-nostalgia loving but otherwise historically antithetic country would rather not deal with. But if not now, when? If not Obama, who?


Finally, as a follow up to a previous post: I saw this young man again recently, not writing, but sitting on the bus, listening to his I-Pod. However, just the other day I saw ANOTHER young black man, journaling away while in transit. He caught me looking and gave me a half smile and the 'Universal Black Man "Wazzup brotha" Head Nod' (patent pending). I did the same to him, and he went back to writing. TODAY I saw a woman pull out a spiral notebook and begin reading a section of a journal (her own? Someone else's?)

Hmm...Baltimore: The City That Journals......

12 March 2008

O Albany! O Mores!

More on this later...although Salon's Glenn Greenwald captures a lot of my thinking very well... but for now (and to be positive)....Welcome Governor David Paterson!

And why, when thinking of Spitzer, did I think of this?

Well; come to me to-morrow.

[Aside to ISABELLA] Go to; 'tis well; away!

Heaven keep your honour safe!

[Aside] Amen:
For I am that way going to temptation,
Where prayers cross.

At what hour to-morrow
Shall I attend your lordship?

At any time 'fore noon.

'Save your honour!

Exeunt ISABELLA, LUCIO, and Provost

From thee, even from thy virtue!
What's this, what's this? Is this her fault or mine?
The tempter or the tempted, who sins most?
Not she: nor doth she tempt: but it is I
That, lying by the violet in the sun,
Do as the carrion does, not as the flower,
Corrupt with virtuous season. Can it be
That modesty may more betray our sense
Than woman's lightness? Having waste ground enough,
Shall we desire to raze the sanctuary
And pitch our evils there? O, fie, fie, fie!
What dost thou, or what art thou, Angelo?
Dost thou desire her foully for those things
That make her good? O, let her brother live!
Thieves for their robbery have authority
When judges steal themselves. What, do I love her,
That I desire to hear her speak again,
And feast upon her eyes? What is't I dream on?
O cunning enemy, that, to catch a saint,
With saints dost bait thy hook! Most dangerous
Is that temptation that doth goad us on
To sin in loving virtue: never could the strumpet,
With all her double vigour, art and nature,
Once stir my temper; but this virtuous maid
Subdues me quite. Even till now,
When men were fond, I smiled and wonder'd how.

Shakespeare, Measure for Measure (Act 2, scene 2)

05 March 2008

It Was 20 Years Ago Today......

Relationships and trust do not remain constant. They are maintained and deepened only as you actively nurture and build on them with regular acts of kindness, consideration, appreciation and service. I learned that both the quality of our marriage and my own happiness had very little to do with what she was doing for me, and everything to do with whatIwas trying to do everyday to foster her happiness, share her burdens, and partner with her in the things we care most about. I've learned that unity in my relationship with my wife is one of the greatest, enabling sources of power in my life -- not only in our most significant work in the family and community together, but in every area of my life, including professionally. It creates a well of strength, peace, joy, belonging and energy that fuels my best work, creativity and drive to contribute.*

March 1998:I'm sure I was out that night, at some bar or club somewhere, otherwise I doubt that I would have wound up at the after hours club, The Last Stop. A (barely) converted warehouse (someone told me they they made and stored coffins there sometime during the building's history), it was one of the centers of House Music in Baltimore. It was also a place some friends of mine warned me about: dark, smoke-filled (both cigarettes and weed), illegally selling alcohol after hours....'dangerous.' I went anyway. I liked the music, and felt comfortable with the crowd.

Mark was probably in the club that night, and we probably saw each other, but didn't speak. Didn't really meet until after we'd left the club. We talked. We connected. We 'hooked up.' We exchanged phone numbers. And, being 'typical men' we didn't call each other.

A week or so later, I got a phone call from someone I didn't know, who was one of Mark's friends. Apparently he had been talking about me so much his friend, Butch, couldn't take it anymore: If Mark wasn't going to call, he would. Butch invited me over to his place to meet Mark again. (By one of those 'Baltimore is an Overgrown Small Town' coincidences, the home is within walking distance of where we live now). Amazingly, I went over to visit this person who I didn't know, to meet someone I'd only met once. He was lying on the floor in the club basement, watching TV when I arrived. I lay myself down beside him.

We've been together ever since. (Thank you Butch...we miss you and Jayson!)

It has not been easy. I am not the easiest person to get along with. However you feel about astrology, it is unfortunately true that I embody many of the negative features of Cancer the Crab: Moody, mercurial, silent, slow to change. And (to tell tales on myself here)....well, let's just say that over the years there have been occasional flare ups of my family's (apparently genetic) inability to keep our pants on. He's no angel either (although you didn't hear that from me!). Through it all, however, we've managed to hang in there with each other.

Time is a very odd thing, and memory plays tricks. There are things that I remember from before we met that I think he experienced as well. There are also events that we both attended that I sometimes don't remember him being there. Whenever I have to go someplace without him, even though we may not call each other every day, I usually find myself thinking, "Mark should be here to see this," or "We have to come back here together" (at which point I'll call 3 or 4 times, with a step by step description of where I am!:) Our being together just *is* some times, like the air is always there, allowing you to breathe without even thinking about it. He really is my 'Other Half,' my solid foundation, and I'm not entirely sure I'd even be here if it weren't for him to help hold things together.

For various reasons, we didn't do a big blow-out celebration. I took the day off. We sat in the front row for a performance of Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at Center Stage (Mark had seen the film version on cable, and wondered about a possible 'gay subtext'. The local production, using two African American actors, Michael Jean Dozier and Howard W. Overshown, as the title characters (and the only black people on stage; photo above) did little to disabuse him of the notion that R & G were involved in some kind of long-term relationship. The production also starred one of our favorite local actors/characters, Laurence O'Dwyer (photo below), as The Player). We also ran into (the cute) Mr. Dozier outside after the play and congratulated him on his performance. Then it was on to one of our favorite 'hangs' for something to eat between glances at election returns from Texas, Ohio, Vermont and Rhode Island, and then home. "Special," yes, but also 'just another day' in what has felt to us for quite some time as our 'married life' together (even though we took a pass on actually tying the knot on our last visit to Toronto. This year, the Maryland Legislature looks like it's moving toward something vaguely like civil unions even as we speak.)

Just like Charles Barkley, we do not consider ourselves Role Models. We are too imperfect and there have been too many bumps in the road for us to comfortably pass ourselves off as people others should emulate. And we're not unique: another black gay male couple we know (but don't see anywhere nearly enough) will celebrate twenty years together later this year. Don't believe the hype: It happens. But it happens with a lot of communication and a lot of work, day by day, week in, week out. And it's worth it.

(The Other Half points the way to the next 20 years...I love you, boo!:)

Finally, I'm learning that strong relationships require real effort and sacrifice. They require putting someone else's well-being, growth and happiness before your own. And oh, how it's worth it! For such effort is the door to our own happiness. What would we do without the pull of such relationships that help us get outside ourselves and become equal to our potential? -- *Quoted in The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness by Stephen R. Covey

02 March 2008

Baltimore: The City that Writes

One of the many futures of (African) American Literature, hard at (and on the way to) work in Baltimore today