My uncle believes there are people who will, on their judgment day, “burn in a lake of fire.” To be clear we were talking about atheists and not homosexuals, transgenders or any other alternate lifestyle…we didn’t get there in the conversation.
I am pleasantly delighted when I hear Dario Franchitti speak because he’s from Scotland and I thought he was Italian but then he can be Italian from Scotland because that’s what immigration is all about. He lives in Indiana. He won’t be asked for papers there but he could be if enters Arizona. He’s got a “tan”.
I frequently get a heavy heart when I read the news. More so than I did when I grew up in Detroit and read about Malice Green or the Atlanta Child Murders or even reading about American History. I used to look at pictures of lynchings and water hosing and the Holocaust and Japanese camps and think how hard it must have been back then. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized, we are back then.
We have a black president who stepped into poo for a job. Some may agree or disagree with how things are being done there but I have yet to find any of the alternative rational solutions to be plausible or even without partisan motive. It’s as if the alternative to the president is to be angry, mean, disrespectful or unrealistic. I will never forget, during the President Bush years, I had a mini-conversation with a co-worker who was Republican. She was older and she stopped our conversation from getting any where near politics. She said, “I was taught to not criticize the President, to not talk religion or politics when cocktails are involved.” While my actions are so far from that, I could respect what she was saying. It seems that respect is gone now. Even Clinton with the girls and the scandals garnered more respect than the man trying to do the best he can in office now. I only know what it’s like to be American, to be a woman and to be black. I can empathize with other scenarios but I don’t know them intimately so I can imagine the fear that rests on others’ chest at night as they watch the world change from something familiar to something that they cannot control. Yet this world was never ours to control in the first place. We are only here to get to know ourselves so that we may grow, try to end our lives some place further than where we begin, appreciate our moments, and institute some kind of order that is fair and balanced to all. Beyond that, we get into scary territory.
Yesterday I was saying to the BF that the conservative white people who are afraid of how this country is turning out must not remember that this country has always been about cheap labor. That’s how black people got here, that’s how Native Americans almost became extinct, that’s how Latinos are still here en mass though this “here” was their “here” first like the Native Americans, that’s how most every immigrant has gotten here and stayed here. What did you think would happen? They would pick cotton, tobacco, fruit, vegetables, clean houses, water lawns, build houses and then leave? You called in specialists and paid them nothing. Of course this country is becoming more colorful. You asked for help and you got contributors. You thought you got free or cheap labor to build your Shanghri-La. Surprise. Nothing belongs to anyone. You fight for existence, not your right to be a bigot, prejudiced or racist.
I got a petition in my inbox to sign something to prevent a mosque being built near Ground Zero. I am baffled. I don’t understand why we wouldn’t have all places of worship near such a tragic site. I can’t believe that there are religious people sending this petition around. There were muslims in the towers, alongside other religious/nonreligious folk, that had nothing to do with the terrorists. There were Muslim nurses and cops who were trying to help people. Just as there were Muslims, there were Christians, Jews, Hindis, Atheists and Spirtualists. I am unable to understand how we are not able to make the separation of religion from terrorists. Just because a murderer says he does something in the name of God does not mean we have to accept that. We can reject it. We can tell them that they are murderers no matter what their reason. This is what happens in the courtrooms. Why can’t it happen in our minds? When Timothy McVey bombed children, did we care why he did it? Did we look at young white men funnier after that? Were they held in a different light? When Columbine happened, did we outlaw bullying or get scared when we saw kids walking down the street? There are so many instances where we have chosen different paths of reaction whether because of emotion or convenience but we must know that every choice has consequences.
It is very difficult to watch people’s prejudices and anger come out all at once. I am sure my irrational mind would love it if I acted a fool over the Detroit shooting of Aiyana Jones but my rational mind definitely paid attention to what Al Sharpton said about it not just being a police issue but a community issue. Maybe it is maturity or getting further along in age but what I strive for most is compassion and the struggle for peace. Suddenly I really feel like if people aren’t doing all they can for that then they must look internally for the problems they place at the feet of others. My old math teacher, Mr. Cole, used to ask us to ask ourselves this question before we did anything: “Is it kind and is it necessary?” At the time we thought it was corny but now I realize he was asking us to create a thought prior to action. To examine our motivations to the fullest prior to presenting our ideas out to the world. To pray for the death of anyone, including a president (like the ever growing Facebook groups) seems to so anti-human that I feel bad for the karma it will create to those who think it necessary.
This is a soapbox rant and I’m not sure how many agree and I’m not even sure if that matters. I just wanted to lament my heavy heart at watching the world grow. Puberty sucks. I can’t wait until we get to be fine adults.
I had to post this article from Clutch Magazine (if you don’t know them and you got some color, even if its rosy, you need to) because it’s been a long time since somebody really got down to the lovely bones of why Beyonce is either loved or hated.
I personally have ZERO issue with Beyonce, even when others are annoyed by her repetition, the rumors of her song ganking (listen, I only know the music biz from the sidelines and there’s A LOT of that going from a whole lot of folks AND let’s not ever forget the biggest creative rule of all: EVERYTHING THAT’S HERE HAS ALREADY BEEN DONE SOMEHOW!), her secrecy, her ability to use her power without question…none of that bothers me. I am sometime bothered by the fact that she could use a few more words in her vocabulary when talking to the press but I don’t know her personally and, for all I know, she could be Shakespeare with the fam. Who cares? At the end of the day here’s what I know: most of her songs are catchy, she can dance her ass off on screen and in concert, I heard her SING in concert and not mouthed the words, she is not afraid of her thighs like I’m a little shy of mine.
In other words, she gets play on my music player without shame. I’ll not say the same for J. Lo who could learn a few things from B (neither one of them should be acting very much, btw, unless they go hard in acting camp like Marilyn Monroe did) in terms of song selection, being private (dude - Bennifer thoughts still makes me cringe when I listen to that WHOLE album dedicated to a due who’s now married to another Jennifer) and commanding her choreography.
Geneva Thoma’s article goes further:
Step into my office. And just for a second, let’s leave our ultra-feminist/womanist egos at the door. The imagined barriers that separate us from our “other” sisters. The “I graduated from college–she didn’t” wall–you understand. This isn’t another postmodern feminist read. This is rather best received as an unsolicited response. Guns down ladies. I come in peace.
Why does Beyonce get under our skin?
Beyonce presents a hybrid of stan allegiance, angst and utter disgust. And dare I say, closeted envy? She’s pretty dumb, pretty blonde, pretty fake, pretty married, pretty paid and pretty pretty.
Face it, the sista has it all. Or at least all we were sold on having. She has the dream career and the dream marriage (would you have ever thought we’d describe the “Girls, Girls, Girls” Jay Z as such?). But we no longer gag at these classic “I have arrived” formulations. We’re more interested in substance–why do we presume this is the very thing Beyonce lacks?
The singer’s early interviews revealed she wasn’t the smartest chick off the Houston block or the best prepped. She fumbled over words, appeared uneasy, and at times her eyes roamed to the ceiling. Beyonce quickly earned Black music’s airhead title and we’ve given her little room to out grow it. Beyonce’s ‘60 Minutes’ interview however has shut down those staining coming of age moments. Albums later, the strings were seemingly unfastened, a 28-year-old confident and mature Beyonce emerged– in charge of her brand. The superstar declared she puts herself first.
She’s far from the loud mouthed industry prima donna, she saves her “Diva” antics for the stage brilliantly marketing an alter ego Sasha Fierce. The gusty temptress allows space for a more private Beyonce she leaves only to a curious public imagination. We actively wonder what of Beyonce, the woman and Beyonce, the wife.
On Jay: “Make him think he’s in control”
Beyonce gives the Southern Belle makeup able to compliment a larger than life hip hop king’s ego. She stands in demure posture; the 16 Grammy Award winner is a quiet storm who quietly upgrades. Imagine the couple vacationing on a private island (as they probably are right now). In the company other wealthy lads Shawn Carter boasts on a yacht about his latest capitalist venture and his “on to the next one” spend. The men blow out hearty laughs and cigar smokes. Somewhere in a noiseless corner Beyonce sits near a pool smiling on the inside giving only the gracious *sigh*. Nearly 10 years later she epitomizes Destiny’s Child’s chart topping “Independent Women Part 1″ single — she tops the Forbes list and yes she makes more dough than her man. Lest we forget with a pretty crafty prenup in tact.
She simultaneously offers her latest alter ego creation B. B. Homemaker. A stylish 50’s housewife where dusting in 4-inch designer heels is a fashionable inconvenience. Beyonce belts out lyrics Betty Draper could only imagine. A nostalgic symbol of Americana juxtaposed by sassy temper–to many of our counterparts this is a shock factor, but for Black women in America, it’s in our matrilineal blood–audaciousness is what we do.
“You ain’t never seen a nigga like me ever in your life.
And that’s what you can’t understand!” — Diddy, “Hate Me Now”
Beyonce the branded brainless girl is no distinction. The artist has clearly taken cues from her mother. Tina Knowles quietly dismissed herself from a cheating husband, managing to skip Wade-like controversy. Beyonce’s squeaky clean image is perhaps more than due to a PR strong hold, could it be her rearing? Beyonce’s success rivals if not out performs her counterparts. Yet we’ve seen little of a wild party girl. No DUI. No criminal court appearances and no panty-less car exiting. She seems to have mastered old school ‘good girl’ rules — the kind that will make him ‘put a ring on it’ while concocting an unparalleled career arguably unseen in recent memory. Beyonce sells sex and ‘House of Dereon’ sheets. What’s outwardly unusual about it all is that she anchors and sails her own ship.
What’s wrong with being sexy?
Decades after the women’s/feminist movement, some how we still conceptualize the feminist or more liberally, the socially conscious woman as a makeup-less, bra-burning, hair wrap wearing butch. A disregarded or misinterpreted sexual revolution unrealized, today a woman in towering Brian Atwoods and a cute mini is still not taken seriously. Beyonce’s stage costumes and sidewalk paparazzi shows are visual appetizers to men and an eye-rolling, nose-turned up presentation to some women. No doubt some looks and moves are suggestive and we aren’t co-signing ‘Single Ladies’ children. But why can’t a near 30-year-old woman be sexy? Much of her off-stage looks are often casual and understated ensembles, excluding her signature fire-hydrant red lips.
A friend-less Bey?
Notice she never runs in packs. That is outside of her own entourage. Beyonce isn’t spotted conveniently lunching at a California camera hotspot with the coveted Hollywood BFF crew. Her friends much like her image is protected. Entertainment’s female rat packs often appear to be constructed to solicit some kind of media attention. Twitpics of peace sign and kiss throwing images shows industry camaraderie gone fake. Ever since Beyonce tied the knot with Jay Z, she’s rarely seen with anyone else. This is met with relative contention and understandably so. But when you’re on top of the world its presumably hard to have genuine friendships, even with a cousin. Damn.
Beyonce vs. Black Women
Beyonce strikes a strange discord with Black women. We’ve undoubtedly witnessed a decade of Beyonce-over load–making her the woman we love to hate and perhaps the woman we’d like to miss. What really stops the singer from receiving the kind of nobel Alicia Keys praise? Even amid the Swizz Beatz-MaShonda controversy, Alicia Keys escapes the fight nearly blameless. We spare no punches with Beyonce. We deconstruct her every flaw–such is the life of an international celebrity.
But can we stand to consider the things we can learn from her? Is there some concealed part of our collective selves that admires her? Perhaps her pleading vocals in “Why Don’t You Love Me” speaks not only to an ungrateful man but also to her estranged sistas, “why don’t you love me, tell me (sista) why don’t you love me?”
I just I just should own it.
I’m a locs girl.
Here’s my story briefly. I first got locs my first year of grad school. I’d been natural about four years. They were great. Palm rolled and no cares in the world. I did have an addiction to hair color that eventually turned them some kind of only-visible-to-me dark green and then jet black thanks to more hair color. I cut them off after my heart got broken and I was in such a state as I would’ve done anything “reckless” aside from harm myself.
And then I went back to braids. This was TERRIBLY convenient as Wudia, my braider, had a shop right below my apartment and I could literally roll out of bed and be there. No travel time!
And then I was with my buddy Schwellie at Jimmy’s Uptown when it first opened, before the stick ‘em ups and the disappearance of Jimmy, when I saw this older women with the most stunning hair. She had the loveliest little locs I’d ever seen. I HAD to know what she had. She told me they were Sisterlocks (I really hate the name and I don’t care if people chastise me for hating the name…I don’t hate anyone attached to it). I got the number to her stylist and I went to my consultation. Well, mine plus about four other women. We were all packed up in her upper Westside apartment to learn about SLs. I was misunderstood because I thought it would just be me and I had put some money away, not knowing how much it would be, in case she wanted to start then. Oh no. This was the opposite of what I thought. With all my hair, she said it would be 800 bills EASY…my breath left em. I was a just started working woman! Plus, even though I group up in Detroit with its 24 hour hair salons, I was not the one to put hair over rent.
I went back traditional. I went to the same woman who started them before. Roberta in Brooklyn who’s house smelled of all of her Aveda stuff. Heaven. She also died them the loveliest shade of bronze. I’m sure all around me were overjoyed given I let my hair rock a blowout afro for 1.5 days before it deflated and shrank.
The second loc exodus just happened November 2008. I took two days off and, with the help of Jamyla who’d done this before, I armed myself with a spritzer bottle of water and a rattail comb. I undid my locs.
I had dreams of I’m not sure what. I think I thought I’d get my hair pressed, I’d do braidouts, I’d do twistouts…I did no such things. I did buns. For a year. I realized something about myself. I’m not really a DIYer because that implies doing things. What I am is a “I don’t want to deal with it” er. The only hair thing I like doing myself is hair color and even sometimes I don’t mind somebody else doing it.
Through a series of life happenings, I was able to finally afford SLs though not at the 1998 price I was quoted (I guess that’s when they were like Howard Hughes…now they’re a bit more known). I have come to terms that I need to put my big girl pants on and get to know who I really am with my hair. I’m somebody who doesn’t like to do a lot and now I’m somebody who starting to put money aside to get my hair done. My mother used to INSIST she and I get our creamy cracked scalps tended to every two weeks and perhaps I was trying to run from what that felt like - being in the salon for HOURS (because we always had the stylist that EVERYONE went to), not scratching my head, fear of it turning out horrible. But now it doesn’t have to be that way. Now I can consider some necessary me grooming time and even make myself believe I’m a little girly for it.
Anyone who really knows me knows that I have ZERO problem with being addicted to certain reality television shows. If Bravo squats it out of their a-hole, I watch (except for that Nine By Design and that’s just because it sounds boring and like somebody higher up made this show happen against better judgment). Also, there’s a slew of crazy wedding reality shows. Having never been married myself, perhaps I roll around these things like a pig in shit too easily. I don’t know what it’s like to feel pressure to chose a big puffy dress or scream on my bridesmaid friends or rob Sallie Mae to pay a caterer. Maybe I should but I don’t feel the urge to destroy my life so much. I hope when the time comes, it will be lovely and peaceful and without bill collectors.
It’s a psychological study for me to watch these things: Say Yes To The Dress, Bridezilla, etc. To be fair, I also enjoy House Hunters but more so House Hunters International (I am FASCINATED how people “work from home” and then decide they need to relo to Fantasy Island at the ripe age of 40). These people, I guess, are the Bridezillas after?
Back to reality…heh…tv that is. It’s now getting to a point where I know people on these shows are just going on to act a fool to get on television. Even my beloved Say Yes To The Dress, which is relatively mild in comparison to the Springer-like shenanigans on Bridezilla. Say Yes To The Dress is just about a bunch of women trying on dresses at the infamous Kleinfeld’s. Whereas before these were princess from Long Island, it’s now turning into African girls from London who are on holiday in NYC and just so happened to stop in with her fiance to spot a one of a kind tissue paper like thing for the price of a village (this actually happened - I suspect she was an actress because she was stunning and so was the fiance and they never came back to purchase the dress despite a long hemming and hawing). Is reality not even sacred anymore.
This post primarily came about as I was cruising my New York magazine Fashion Trend enewsletter and came about a little Vera Wang tidbit. Here it is:
“I dress a great many rock stars and I’m always surprised when they want the most traditional dresses,” she said. On the wedding gown she designed for Jennifer Lopez: “It took eight months and we made three dresses. It pushed me out of my own box and comfort zone.” Read: Lopez almost pushed her over the edge.”
DELICIOUS…where is THAT show? Jennifer’s career is on the downturn so why not make a show about her being a Lifezilla or something? I mean her back up plan could not be Back Up Plan so she might as well go ahead with it. Why am I not a tv show head? I mean seriously. This also got me wondering which damn dress Vera was talking about. Jenny’s been around the block a few times if you know what I mean.
I am a writer you know…and after my New Yorker rejection email, I figured I could post.
Miracle Debris Lands on the Coast of Connecticut
By t.tara turk
She still has nightmares of sharks swimming around her, dressed in evening attire and salivating over her as if she’s a lobster in a tank. She hears them cackle during her REM sleep even though she is nice and safe inside her expensive bed with the custom linens flown from Egypt and the pillows made seemingly from angel’s wings and butterfly eyelashes (her boyfriend’s words). There is no amount of money that can make her feel rested. In fact, Lily Whitman hasn’t felt rested since she was five years old. She remembers it all as if it happened five minutes ago.
She was on a plane with her parents Sasha and Jeremiah Whitman, headed from Brazil to Paris after an economy vacation where her father monitored traveler’s cheques and ordered one entree for them all to share. This part she remembers because her mother complained at first and then, towards the end of the trip, rebelled completely by not partaking in the one entrée to share and drank coffee, picking fruit from natural habitats wherever they were. She remembers her parents were silently stewing in their anger towards each other when the first large bump on the plane propelled them up and forward despite their seat belts. Lily was injured slightly by the plastic cup of ice she had in front of her (she was practicing “bobbing for apples” with the ice cubes). Sasha and Jeremiah immediately looked at each other in a panic, forgetting their anger for a second. But when the second bump didn’t happen immediately after, they went back to rolling their eyes at each other, focusing on their reading material but darting their eyes carefully at each other when the other wasn’t looking. Lily sat in the middle caught the volley of all of this. Then the second bump lurched the flight attendant down into Jeremiah’s lap. Lily pushed her. The flight attendant leaped up quickly, embarrassed but also concerned. She darted down the row to the cock pit and when she opened the door, to Lily, it seemed as if she opened the door to some sort of hell. There was chaos flying out of the cockpit. The pilots were screaming at each other or at some one on the radio, the buttons were blinking, the knobs made panicked noises. The flight attendant looked out at the passengers and then quickly slammed the door behind her as she went in. They never saw her again.
The other flight attendants painted on frosty smiles, reassuring the businessmen (they were the first to panic) and parents (they were the best at hiding it) that everything would be alright. Lily watched at how people who were seemingly everyday people with barely distinguishing faces, pulled out religious artifacts as if they were weapons. One woman clenched her rosary so hard that the blood had left her pale fingers. Another woman was doing a call to prayer silently and peacefully. Most were screaming. That was their religion. Fear. It did not help that they started to descend…quickly.
Sasha and Jeremiah looked at each other with desperation. Suddenly, Lily couldn’t seen anything else because her parents had their hands all over her, pulling her this and way and that, not knowing where the best place for her would be. Lily wrinkled her nose, suddenly smelling something sour and looked down at her dangling feet. Someone had thrown up behind her. She reached in front of her and threw the paper bag behind her, to help whoever it was.
“What did she say to do when there’s emergency??” Sasha was digging through the materials in the pocket of the seat in front of her for instruction on emergencies. Jeremiah was pulling his seat, trying to get the floating part in his hands but he was pulling at the wrong part. The masks fell from the overhead and Sasha quickly put hers on and shoved Lily’s on soon after, cutting the girl’s ear with her hard diamond wedding ring. When her wrist was near Lily’s face, Lily inhaled her mother’s perfume (she can’t remember what it was – something faint and feminine – something she’s looked for everyday of her life since) before she started to inhale the stale claustrophobic air of the mask. It was tremendous on the girls face, matched in size only by her eyes. The rest becomes blurry for Lily. She knows that the plane started going down faster at this point but she also knows that her parents were crying and kissing each other and her, forming a tight knot of a their arms around Lily’s face. People around them were just about to reach the apex of panic, the point where you think you can run from a crash. The point where you get up to run to the back of the plane, to the front of the plane, to the side, to the luggage compartment, to the bathroom…all of these places were about to be seized with people but they hit the ocean too fast.
It sounded like a bomb. Her parents had taken her to war movie during one of their times of poor judgment (it gave her nightmares) and she saw what bombs did and how loud they could be from the state of the art movie theater they sat in. Lily had been preoccupied with popcorn until she saw a body part fly across the screen. She looked up at her parents who looked at each other like children who’d been caught sneaking candy. Her mother covered her eyes. But she still heard the big boom.
The next thing she remembers is the wave of light. She knows now, as an adult, that it wasn’t really light so much as the impact of the plane meeting the ocean. An aggressive angry hand shake between two polar opposites. People flew back. Some how there was a fire. And, just like in the movie, she saw body parts fly past her doughy face and her eyes followed like she was watching a tennis match. The screams were horrifying. When she watches movies now, and she comes to the part where people scream when they know they are going to die, she is sad for the moviemakers because they will never know that real, guttural torturous sound that someone makes when they are going to die. The last thing she heard her mother say was “See?” or “Sea?” She can never quite tell which one it was and it is something that gnaws at her like a dog and a bone it can’t quite conquer. Her father looked at her, deep into her eyes, stealing glances at Sasha but focusing on Lily. The look of pain washed over his face and then her face was wet.
They know that Lily was in water because when they found her floating on debris, she had sea plant life tangled in her hair and what was later to be found as coral wounds on her pudgy legs. Not deep enough to bite but enough to draw a little blood that had been left in the sea. Somehow, though, in her mind, she made these wounds to be from sharks and never changed the memory. She was either tired or unconscious when the rescue helicopters circled the crash site. Groggily, she remembers holding on to someone in all black who held her tight as she was lifted high, again, into the sky, the ocean rocking beneath them, ready for them to fall. She started to cry only when she was up high enough to see how far the water spread around her. There was no land in sight. The rescuers tried to calm her in a language she didn’t know. It was a beautiful language, soothing under most circumstances except this one. She was tired but still cried. She felt weak and thirsty. The only other time she’d felt like this was when she and her parents spent the whole day at the beach. Her father, a bit too overzealous, made sure they spent every waking minute in the salty water – jumping, diving, running, splashing, treading to the point of exhaustion as her mother looked on over her magazine, pretending interest.
Lily, at five, was mature but really did expect to reach the top of the helicopter to find her mother there, magazine cast aside, reaching for her baby’s soft face and wiping away her tears. Except she wasn’t there. There wasn’t even a woman on board. Lily twisted her head around quickly to see if her father was there, crying for her, his thick eyebrows knit together with concern, his large hands extended to take her by the arms and hold her close into him so she could inhale his peppermint scent. No father. In fact no one she could recognize. Not from the line at the airport, not anyone who ordered from the large metal cart that kept hitting feet, not from the panicked run to the back of the plane. There was no one. She would’ve even been okay with the flight attendant who landed on her father’s lap but she wasn’t there either.
The helicopter whisked her away from the salty water before she could see the bodies floating and sinking around her. The debris she floated on was, ironically, a seat cushion that had been singed by one of the fires but remained in tact enough to carry the five year old, face down and rear up. The sway of the helicopter, the tight arms of the man who held on to her as some one checked her body for signs of trauma, impending death, escaped bones, etc., the salt on her body was all soothing enough to have her fall asleep though she tried to fight it.
Weeks later her face was still on the news of every major market. One country called her “Miracle Debris” though it sounded better in their language. Her grandparents rushed to her side and attempted to shield her from the microphones, the endless flowers, the handwritten prayers in shaky old people writing, the stuffed animals, the crazies who insisted that she was the child of Neptune that was birthed from the sea, the nurse who tried to abduct her, the doctor who sold his story to the tabloids and the families who pleaded with her to remember something, anything, that would give them peace over their deceased loved ones. After all, she was the sole survivor of the plane crash.
She could give them nothing.
It had taken years for her to piece together the chain of events she remembers. Some of the memories came in the middle of the ridiculous nightmares, like the sharks dressed up for the opera. Or the time she dreamed her father had flown away just in time before the plane hit. Or that it was all just a big photo spread in one her mother’s magazines. How disturbed her grandparents had been when she came down and told them she’d better stop reading before bed because she had the strangest nightmare. And then she paused before she lifted up her milky cup of coffee and realized it was not a dream. She went to school in a fog afterwards.
The settlement from the airline ensured that all her basic needs would be met for the rest of her life. Though there was some uncertainty about how accurate the trial would be, there was tons of evidence that there had been faulty wiring here and there, some parts that were supposed to be switched out, a fatigued crew, etc. The money meant nothing though, in the grand scheme of things. It certainly didn’t make her more social, more warm, and more outgoing. She was considered a bitch until someone remembered what had happened to her and informed whatever circle she happened to be around. Then she got sympathy looks over beers, faux concerned touches on the arm from possible suitors for the night and everything else she found unbearable. She respected very few people outside of her grandparents and those were mostly people who considered her bad luck and steered clear. She found those people honest and amusing.
First her grandfather died of a heart attack. Quick and sudden, he’d grabbed his chest and toppled down in a clump on the kitchen floor before Lily could call the emergency. As she waited for the ambulance to arrive, she wondered what he saw when he died. Did he see the light explosion from impact like she did? Her grandmother’s face was worried, concerned and sad but she carried on, putting together an overnight bag, holding his hand and watching the tea kettle all at the same time. His face reminded Lily of pictures she’d seen of herself, emerging from the sea wreckage.
Her grandmother followed her husband soon after and Lily was alone but comforted that she believed her grandmother had died of a broken heart. When standing at the cemetery over the only people she ever trusted (that included her parents since she was not clear on if she trusted them especially given the crash – she felt guilty for acknowledging this but it was true in her heart, despite the imploding feeling of love in her heart for them), she happy because she saw true love, side by side. She felt there was honor in dying of a broken heart, a commitment of joy to life springing eternal so much so that you will die if even one molecule is removed. She does wonder why she didn’t die of heart break at the ripe old age of five.
Years after her grandparents died, Lily went on to become a pilot. There were very few people around to find the irony in this. Every few years, a reporter would pop up with a piece on “Whatever Happened to…” and she, the “Miracle Debris” would be included with minimal detail. It would read something like “Lily Whitman went on to go to Harvard and study science. From all accounts, she was a great student with a creative mind though very much to herself.” They tried hard to make it all sound interesting but it wasn’t. By the time those social cake pieces faded into history, she’d decided to become a pilot. Her Harvard professors were puzzled but then they also rationalized that true genius students generally went on to do the extraordinary even if it wasn’t rational.
Her boyfriend was another Harvard grad but he didn’t appear to be one in person. Scruffy, genius, not from money and generally unimpressed with most social interaction, he went on to start a eco shoe company built from natural remains of the Amazon and sold on the internet. No classmate of theirs thought it would work. He was a millionaire five years after graduation. He adored her flying obsession, even knowing her background. He thought it an unexpected prank on the idea of “fate” and that would amuse him more than any of the reality shows on VH1 (which they loved to watch for various reasons).
Though they lived together in a large loft in Tribeca and their only extravagance were the sheets and bed she insisted on, she appeared to be like every other broke young pilot at the fledgling airline she worked for which specialized in luxury economy trips from the Eastern Seaboard to standard vacation points not too far away. She willingly took the longer trips and was renown for her keen detail of geography and her ability to stay awake for long periods of time. But because she was a she and young, she was only wanted as a co-pilot and therefore rarely got be “captain” which suited her fine. Until February 18th, 2009.
She was at the airport in Puerto Rico, sipping milky coffee and watching the passengers mull around for the flight she was going to co-pilot. She was always early because she generally liked to watch the passengers. Any shrink would say that she was looking to recreate her own experience but then that person would be paid to go deeper in the brain than Lily cared for. She would just generally say that she wanted to feel connected to who flew with her before take off. She wanted to see their eyes, faces, hear their interaction with loved ones, look at the state of their luggage, find out what they did to relax before flying…these things relaxed her.
Her captain was a jolly man who smelled like mouthwash though the rumor was that he was a drunk. Lily knew it was really mouthwash because she’d seen him swig and swish before a few flights. She liked him because he didn’t talk very much about things not related to the flight but also felt bad because he was old, like her grandfather, and was unable to retire because he needed the money. That was the only personal thing she knew about him. Well, that and he had a picture of a King Charles named Tommy on his side of the cockpit.
Take off was smooth except for Lily’s bra itched a bit but that was nothing out of the ordinary. It wasn’t until they were about thirty minutes away from JFK did she notice that something was going to go wrong. Since her accident, she had developed a split second alert that told her when things were not right. Her boyfriend called it her Jungle Bell since it was very animalistic. When she looked over at the captain, his head was resting on his chest as if he were sleeping but she knew he wasn’t sleeping. His arm went dead but he was breathing. Calmly, she got on the radio and let the tower know that there was an issue with the captain and that she’d be taking over. She alerted the lead flight attendant so she wouldn’t worry but she did so with reserve as she never warmed to flight attendants going back to her crash and the woman who landed on her father’s lap. She knew it was irrational but then most things were. The flight attendant responded to her coolly and confirmed the change in captain status.
That was the least of her problems. At the top of her list? Birds.
The plane shook more than usual and the head flight attendant came rushing in to see the problem as the passengers were concerned. Lily didn’t need the flight attendant to tell her that; she felt it. When the flight attendant came in the cockpit, her reflex was to shout for her to leave. She remembered seeing the one disappearing into the cockpit when she was small and she didn’t want to be stuck, in her last moments, with a flight attendant. Irrational but true. Plus this one had perfume that could change a skunk. The flight attendant rushed out of the cockpit as Lily went to work. She told the tower she needed to do an emergency landing. They told her they would clear the JFK runway for her. She told them she couldn’t make it in time. With the quickness and a mindlessness that didn’t belong to her (she doesn’t remember thinking really about anything), she went to work. Her best guess she would be able to land the plane in Delaware but then she realized that was too far. Her pits were sweating. She was chewing her upper lip and trying to digest all of the information the plane was giving her. She was trying to blink away the images of her five year old self, trying to move past the sharks with the evening attire, the fires, the people running. She was blinking fast as if trying to make her eyes swallow those memories whole and ensure it wouldn’t happen again. She smelled that feminine faint smell on her mother’s rest for a moment and she panicked once she realized that it was not the perfume of the flight attendant. Instead, she tried to picture her grandparents’ faces and when that didn’t work, she pictured the darkness she saw when her parents embraced each other, with her in the center before the plane hit the ocean. She felt serene. She felt her hands go into motion. She even closed her eyes.
With the ease of someone far beyond her years, Miracle Debris landed on the coast of Connecticut. Everyone was alive and well.
I get in moods. Sometimes I have this great desire to cut myself and bleed all over this page and then, having been put in really weird positions because of what I say here, I second guess myself. I’m a hesitator! So that’s why I can go long bouts of “I’m not here” and be fine.
Lena Horne just brought me out from my cave.
My first encounter with her was through Fred Sanford (hey, I was a wee kid then so don’t get all hot and bothered about how uncultured I must have been). He loved her so much that every other word was “Lena Horne.” And then the real introduction happened: The Wiz. Her song at the end literally made me cry and I didn’t even really get the whole movie just yet (I was still a kid — I had just enough comprehension to be in my pre-school’s recital to “Brand New Day” - we basically just danced around in a circle but I took it seriously.
Detroit in the 80s and 90s was the best place to grow up. TV 50 played old movies all day on Sunday and my mom would make us omelets while we went from “Abbott and Costello” to “Roman Holiday.” Double feature afternoons were my joy. Every once in a while, they played a great black movie. I do remember “Cabin In The Sky” and being mesmerized by this woman who looked white but surely did not sound white singing.
Later she would have a guest appearance on my other favorite show, “A Different World” playing herself, still beautiful, still high yellow and still sounding like she was one of my distance cousins from Mississippi. No wonder men of my grands age loved her so. She seemed like she would TELL you a thing or two.
In college I researched everything about the then lost age of black film from Oscar Micheaux to Freddie Washington. I devoured Donald Bogle’s Dorothy Dandridge’s bio and ate August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” daily.
There aren’t many Lena Horne-types around anymore and, at 92, her death leaves a gaping hole in our cultural fabric. We are lucky enough that her granddaughter is penning really interesting screenplays right now (”Rachel Getting Married”, etc.) but they don’t come like Lena anymore.
Not sure what box we get to put these losses in: Eartha, Lena…but thank god for celluloid.