This is for my very very very good friend Kamilah Levens who’s granddaddy, Bill Moss, passed away this week.
Enjoy Mr. Bill Moss and the Celestials performing in 1972 (before Kamilah’s time as well as mine!):
This is going to be a bit strange as I’m supposed to tell you all about how I’m now back in New York, where my heartbeats with more familiarity, but it’s not. Well, it’s kind of not. This is about a John Irving story and me.
The night I found out my father died, I couldn’t sleep. Not because of the obvious reasons, or rather, JUST because of the obvious reasons. I couldn’t sleep because the airlines wouldn’t let me get from LA to Detroit as quickly as possible. There were no flights under a million dollars that would let me get to where I needed to be. So, with true Capricornian furvor, I stayed up trying to find a flight. There were times where I took a break. Yaze was asleep and I was, for once, the night owl.
I am television obsessed. I like the sound of it. I like the inhuman glow it radiates. I am floored by its technology. I will most times always find something that interests me that comes out of that ever changing box of wires and digital spaghetti.
This particular night, a movie came on with a little boy who was handicapped and had a weird voice. I am sucker for things that make my heart sag and I was especially in the mood for that given I had someone very stable suddenly ripped from the fabric of my life. If ever there was a time to be sentimental, this was it. I had intended to cry as much as possible for as many things as I could. I’ve always been a multi-tasker.
The movie was about a little boy who was smaller than most and made an impact on his best friend, his best friend’s mother and all of those around him in this little New Hampshire town. This kid was Owen Meany. He was smart, he was witty, he was a “magical negro” (see my post on that) without being a negro. By accident, Owen hits a baseball that flies through the air and kills his best friend’s beloved mother (Ashley Judd). The scene with Owen apologizing to his best friend was more than sufficient to turn my waterworks up higher. I had, by this time, decided that I didn’t have enough pictures of my father and was tearing through boxes (we’d just moved) and anything that could hold our haphazard organizational system.
This movie stopped me in my tracks. I’ll not ruin the end but Owen has always left an impression on me. It was that night that I firmly decided my father would always talk to me from beyond if I just listened hard enough. I had decided that my father had existed, like Owen, for so many good reasons that I needed to cry out of my own selfishness in wanting him back so he could continue his journey of being a good reason for all of us who loved him.
Flash foward two years. I have decided to leave LA. I am lucky enough to stay with the company I work for and get relocated back to NY. One of my favorite co-workers and fellow chatter-buddy (we can be like church ladies except he’s a guy and I don’t really go to church. I suspect he doesn’t either. But you get it) give me a book and writes an inscription that says, “If you don’t cry over this story, you’re a robot.” I look at it, impressed with its thickness. I am a story snob. My old boss says you don’t have to finish a book if you don’t want to so I am just now learning how to not finish a bad book. This book is on watch.
I take the book on the plane with me to New York. In it are pictures of my love, Yaze, my dad, and the card Jen wrote me. I read Jen’s card first and I cry because it is a true testament to that fact that I am leaving a routine, not just mine, but other people’s routine that involves me. People I love. This is a lot of pressure to decide to leave a place where there are people you will miss (even with technology, sometimes methods of communication change. Everything is change.) and hope that you are doing the right thing. I begin to read the book. The first sentence almost makes me drop it.
“I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice-not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest prson I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I belive in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.”
Need I say more? If you open yourself up, you can feel those who have died. I had decided that was my father. With me. On the plane. I will not pretend that I know what he was saying to me or why. But the very presence is enough for me. That is something I need like blood in my veins. I am not picky about the details.
I have been reading this book for a week and have just finished it. On the train, in the first few days, I noticed little things that clued me into my dad’s presence. Somebody reading an article on the increased risk of heart related deaths (my father died that way). A man with the exact graying temples. Living in the last apartment he ever saw me in that was mine. Older men in Harlem driving in that way of careful regard for their years of saving up to buy proper vehicles that chariot them through the streets. New leather seats, tinted window, shiny exteriors, fingers delicately on the steering wheel, sunglasses shielding them even more than their tinted windows, fresh work uniforms, subtle gold jewelry.
This book, “Prayers for Owen Meany” is one of the best books I’ve ever read (up there with Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”, Thornton Wilder’s “The Eighth Day”, Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon” and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Last Tycoon” — you thought I was going to say “The Great Gatsby” — too obvious). The film does it minor justice and major damage as the film’s ending is not the same as the book. The film doesn’t give Owen Meany a chance to be the man that he becomes.
Now that I finished it, I’m spent. Not a robot at all. But also very inspired. I’m also curious as to why so many story tellers like going with the flow. With so many things changing out there all the time, you can imagine how many stories there are. All we writers, we’re just instruments.
I choose not to say goodbye to LA cause that’s cheesey and when you loose somebody close to you, you don’t really like the whole “goodbye” word anyway. I mean I guess if you break it down, a “good” bye is what you hope for but you’d actually rather not do the bye thing at all if you had your choice. I think the English langauge works very hard on some words to make them sound more appealing than they are. I’ll let you know when me and Yaze get back from Europe on whether or not this theory stands true.
So we are leaving the West for now. Yaze will be staying back for a month or two to creat his masterpiece, his magnum opus to music. I will be back clamoring to get tix to Shakespeare in the Park (it sounds highbrow but dude, those park theater people can run it! A play in the middle of Central Park with moving sets pieces, lights, music is nothing like your boring be quiet high brow, stuff evening clothes, somebody sneezing all the time, expensive Coke and Twizzlers Broadway show). Say goodbye (for REAL) to the damn $60 gas tank we have too. Not a fan. F- on driving in LA. I like CHOOSING when to drive and driving some place fun, other than that, I need to be pedestrian. Snow and all. You ain’t lived unttil you’ve walked to school in Detroit, mid-winter. Everything after that is a jello mold.
I will miss the PCH at dusk. I will miss Jen Andrews and all my friends (especially the TM folks). I will miss really great sushi places. I will miss KCRW on my car radio (that is a tape player too, so you know I kept it real in my 89 Jeep Cherokee). I will miss LA architecture and the rarity of McMansions popping up in LA proper ever seven seconds. I will miss the liberal boehmian wealthy grunge of Silverlake. I love when hippy people who have money pretend not to care about it! I wish I could be that way. I’m a hippy type with no money. I will miss the true hippy types in Venice…while Venice will never be a complete slacker neighborhood (not as long as there are beach rentals there), I love that some people there do what they can to live by a cold water beach. I never got a chance to learn surfing as I figured I would wait after I put my toe in the water here for the first time and got frost bite. In August! It does look fun though…I will miss luxury cocktails at places that normally would treat me as hired help. Sometimes it’s worth it to pay twenty bucks for a mango mojito at the Beverly Hills Hotel when they look at you weird because you don’t quite fit the MO of a guest there. Ha! I will miss open houses to see what people like to spend their change on. And to see how much change they do have. Or don’t! Sometimes your zip code does not mean you will have a banging house. And lastly, I will miss my lovely apartment. It’s all you could dream about. Airy, light, old, elevator.
But time moves on…and so does life so I have a good picture of these things in my head. Now I can write about them since they are moving past me. Hey, we now live in a world where Prince is bigger than Michael Jackson and has a commericial on tv for a cellphone. Now take back to your third grade playground battles on who was better, the Gloved One or the Purple One?? Between you and me, I would’ve lost. I was so in love with that pervy walking wax figure that I was sure my heart would break at the thought of never even meeting him. In a croweded Michigan arena, I could see the sparkles from his jacket during The Victory tour and thought for sure I saw him look at me….in row 47816416789435456. Thank god for small favors. I could’ve been Debbie, his obvious weirdo ex beard. Who picks an unhot beard? I mean if you’re going to pick somebody who is so NOT with you, why not pick the best money can buy? A beard is not something you want to skimp on. It’s like eye surgery. You get what you pay for.
Which brings me to my most favorite Crunkstastical exchange this month. Crunk’s a link on the right and Fresh is the funniest Wilona (Wilona: sassy black woman who obviously shops at the “Boo-tique” often) on the web.
Please see her conversation in the head with baby Daniel of the Knowles clan:
True story. I was standing in the check out line with my nephew at Toys R’ Us last month and Baby Daniel tried to get a sell up out of me. The conversation went something like this:
Baby Daniel: “I got that purp. Fuck with your boy.”
Me: “Kush? I don’t even get down like that, folk.”
Baby Daniel: “Nah, them purple tops.”
Me: “Do I look like Marion Barry to you? Miss me with that.”
Baby Daniel: “Nah nah nah! You got me bent like some elbows. I got that hard. That good. That fire. Flinestone Vitamin Gummies. Girl smell how raw this product is. Meet me at my Caprice if you want to do business.”
Damn shame. I don’t know why he is trying to build his Seasame Street credibility. Lil’ Rock already has the game on lock. Everybody from here to Virgina know that he got that Bobby by the pound and Whitney by the key.