Monday, September 22, 2008


I hate calling 911.

It costs extra, for one thing. And it does something weird to my cell phone.

And it’s 5 in the morning. And the operator ACTUALLY asked me if I wanted to leave my name and callback number.

I hate calling them, but I had no choice this time. This shit had been going on for hours. And no sooner than I hang up the call I hear voices outside my window. I live three floors up, and my bedroom faces the wide street. The voices must have moved from one floor down - the central nervous system of drama - and taken to the streets while I was on the phone.

I stand up and discreetly approach my window. Before I peel back the heavy curtain and move aside the blinds, I can hear her. Funny, if I ever did leave a callback number, I wouldn’t ever be able to identify her face in a line up. She’s just a voice to me.

The cops are already here. Three cars lined up at the curb outside the crib, two facing the wrong way on my one-way. One cop doing most of the talking.

“It’s up to you. I told you that before,” he says. “I can walk upstairs with you and get your stuff and you can file a report. You can’t keep going back and being a punching bag.” His words are at once pleading, but mostly exasperated and annoyed. “This is the third time I’ve been called here tonight alone.”

I was late calling because I’m used to their nonsense. My neighbor one floor down is a nutbag. As is the white chick who lives there that he kicks out on average a few times a week.

When I came in this evening I noticed rose petals on the stairs up to the second floor. Weird. it was right in the spot where I almost threw up at the smell and sight of blood, about two weeks ago.

What I know of them is mostly what I piece together from hearing them fight. I gather that she’s from Oklahoma. Maybe a stripper. They share a car. She has a few friends. They smoke a lot of herb. He thinks she’s the “stupidest girl in the entire world. So fucking dumb!”

He’s big and imposing. She’s tiny. I sometimes run into her on my way in or out of the building. We say hello. But I can ever make out her face. The one time I had an extended period to study her – when she knocked on my door to borrow my cellie – a large spreading bruise covered most of her right eye.

Usually they argue, maybe throw some shit around, and then pass out. Tonight they argued, he left for a bit, came back, pounded on the door, and started bitching at her again. “Why the fcuk I gotta knock on my own door, yo?!”

Then he throws her out of the apartment. She’s in the hall quiet. Usually she’s bawling her eyes out and banging on the door, begging him to open it. But this time she’s quiet.

Then he calls to her. “Where the fuck is my [INAUDIBLE]??!!”

“It’s in my black Guess bag.”

“The black one?”


“I don’t see it!”

“Open the door. I got you. I got you. It’s ok.” She’s exhausted. And she’s pleading. But this time it sounds like she’s trying to reassure him. Like she’s talking him down from a ledge. Like he’s forgotten that he can trust her while spiraling in one of his episodes. Cuz it’s obvious that this is what is happening. He's not just a bully. He's a sick (psycho) bully.

“If I you lying to me ima throw your shit out the window."

“Baby, open the door and I’ll find it for you.” I’m thinking, ok weed. He’s looking for his weed and maybe that’ll calm his ass down.

“It’s not in here!”

“Empty out the bag. It’s in there. Open the door so I can show you. Let me help you.”

“It’s not in this fcuking bag and now your shit is going out the window.” And sure enough, I hear debris scraping against the brick outside on its way down past my window.

“Baby, you gave me your shades and I put them in my black Guess bag. Are you looking in the right bag?”

This ngga is flipping out over SHADES. This is when I let my fingers do the dialing.

Outside on the curb in front of my bedroom I look down at the girl talking to the cops. She’s in cuffed jeans and, ironically, a wife beater. She’s barefoot. And from here the tat on her forearm looks like a smudge of dirt. She’s smoothing down her hair, and standing still as she listens. She occasionally fidgets with the large plastic bin with the cracked cover. The one he threw out the window.

I then wonder where dude is. Did he dip out the back fire escape like she did that one time the cops came to their door a few months back?

It’s just past dawn now. The sky is awake, as I imagine is the entire neighborhood. I wonder who else called the cops. I look out at the neighboring windows to see if I’m the only one watching. I’m so sure that the old man in the crib directly across the street – the one who would watch me dress and get fcuked against my window before I got curtains – is up and enjoying the scene below.

But I see only empty windows. Windows that reflect back to me the light of the early morning sun.

“What’s his last name?” the cop asks. I hear her spelling it out. I look down, and then back up. I see a figure in the window across the street. But it’s not the old man. In fact, it’s a young man. Large and imposing. I look closely and through the window across the wide street, I can see the reflection of a man crawling on my roof. I’m on the third floor. The top. I see it clear as day.

This muhfcukas is crawling around on the roof like he’s gotdamn Toby.McGuire with dreads.

He’s laying on his stomach listening, as I am, to the scene below. Within seconds he scales back away from the street like he's in a damn obstacle course and disappears. Then he returns to the front of the roof, this time walking upright. I wish I had spidey sense enough to let the jakes know this loser is up there.

I retire back to bed. The cops are still outside. I can hear them talking. She comes back upstairs. He’s there. They continue arguing, like nothing ever happened. They pass out before I do. I’m up for the day.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I'm not going to go into a retrospective of where I was 7 years ago today (116th Street, Harlem).
Not gonna recall everything I saw and did and smelled and felt. It's far too traumatic, as are the images I've been avoiding from TV and radio.

But my mom called me this morning, as she has on every September 11 since 2002. She wanted to hear my voice, because on that day she couldnt (no phones). And she wanted to tell me she loved me.

That's my tribute.

Carry on.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Editor's Note:
The origin of the title: "Nig, who taught you octagon?" is from Chris Rock. He was joking about slaves being forbidden to read and what a dilemma it must have been to try to hide it. So the joke goes that the slave who's driving cracker's buggy comes up to a stop sign and is scared to stop for fear of incriminating himself as literate. So he explains that he knew to stop because he saw the big red octagon...
Get it? My learning that simultaneously eating and hot combing wasnt normal is akin to learning to read and seeing the world in a new way.

I’ve been going to a black hair salon all my life. Can’t think of any reason why I may have ever been in a white one.

Until television brought me there, of course.

If your life is as pathetic as mine and is predicated by a television schedule you watch cable like me, you’ve probably seen Peter.Perfect on Style network. Ok so the concept is that Petey, who is a renowned Bevvy Hills stylist, goes to struggling salons and basically does a makeover on the shop and the owners.

So it’s just like any good makeover show…first they highlight the foolishness. He runs up and through the shops kicking stuff over, and hollering in amazement that they even have a single client the way they got their shit set up.

So I’ve seen a couple episodes that featured black salons. And they are oddly familiar…

No receptionist.

No separate break area.

Stylists stopping mid-perm to take a personal call.

Plastic lawn chairs in the “waiting area.”

Cushion coming all out of the ripped up dryer chairs and shit.

Stylists balancing a chicken box in one hand and a tail comb in the other.

The Dudley products on display out of a cardboard box.

So Peter goes absolutely bananas when he sees this shit. He simply cannot believe that this is a business, much less a profitable one. He can’t fathom a place where there’s not a person dedicated to answering the phones and taking appointments. It is beyond his realm of possibilities that clients should ever witness their stylists having lunch.

So then he takes the poor saps to his salon. They get there and are immediately greeted by a friendly and trendy receptionist who offers them water and champagne and shit. They walk in and it’s like an oasis of beauty and relaxation. Completely foreign.

So this is the part where I start dreaming about freedom...

So I’m sitting in the salon yesterday getting my locs sexied. My fav neighborhood pal found this place in our hood, and I decided to give them a holler. It’s nice inside. There’s some gospel music blaring, and it’s fairly quiet. Not too much shenanigans. I’m pleased. I don’t sit and wait 100 years before I’m called over. I’m immediately shampooed, albeit half assedly . It was serene and pleasant, and very befitting of the modest digs.

But then suddenly homegirl’s cellie starts singing. She goes ape shit trying to answer it. Says hello loudly no less than seven times before slamming it down in frustration. Then some chick comes in talking and talking and talking. Loud. And I’m zoning out. She asks me if I’m ok, because “I’m really quiet,” and I pause. I’m really quiet because I already told your ass that you parting my damn hair feels like you’re pulling up loc’d hair and you pretty much ignored me. And because ain't nothing to be talking about... I'm reading!

I sink into my book and only partly absorb the words on the pages. My mind is actually wandering back to television. And I’m pissed! I think of every time a stylists has asked me if I wanted to order something from the Chinese takeout spot next door.

Every time I’ve passed the hours counting roaches.

Recalled the countless personal phone conversations I’ve overheard.

The sons and daughters who come in like it’s Take Your Crumbsnatcher to work day. Every day.

Every time I’ve walked out with a style I didn’t ask for.

The treks through town before arriving, looking for an ATM machine because I know they don’t take cards.

The times I've almost tripped on pulled up linoleum on the floor.

The times I've left smelling like hair spray and bbq ribs.

It could very well be that I just havent been to an upscale black establishment. This is true. I have a penchant for the hood since most of the places I've lived have been mostly blue collar towns. But damn, why do I feel real plantation about my experiences? Why do I feel like I've been accepting this nonsense as normal?

Why do I feel like the ngga who just learned to read and sees the world in a whole new way? This some ole bullshit!!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Dear Senator,

Here's what I'ma need you to do.

Make a quick stop in Nashville. There BobbyBrown will great you with a cowboy hat and boots. Photo op at random local bbq joint.

From there you will meet up with six strangers. You will dip into the hot tub and triple kiss with two blonds. Gender breakdown optional. Mediate a fist fight, then run naked to your jet. FlavorFlav will be awaiting your arrival. You will receive a clock and a few dozen suitcases. HowieMandell couldnt make it, but he sent his donation to your campaign.

Next you will give a speech to 75,000 people. You'll be opening for ClayAiken. MarioLopez will introduce you.

Lastly, AccessHollywood will be at your crib, following your taping of Cribs. NeicyNash will be doing a special CleanHouse segment, right before your Young Voters Matter townhall meeting in your back yard, hosted by JustinBobby and Audrina.

I need you to move fast, Senator, because they havent announced it yet, but clearly these damn Republicans are FILMING A MUHFCUKING REALITY SHOW, starring Juno's mom. And if you don't hurry they will soon produce hit spinoffs into the emerging Double Standard genre.


PS...Guard your girl...

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  • So...Wise??

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    Our Nation's (HIV) way of Harlem, NY and Upsteezy NY
    I'm older than I look, and stupider than you think. But I'm quite proud of my sharp eye for The Ridiculous, and by Ridiculous, of course I mean Me.