Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

Jazz Great Freddie Hubbard Dead At 70

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Freddie Hubbard, the Grammy-winning jazz musician whose style influenced a generation of trumpet players and who collaborated with such greats as Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, died Monday, a month after suffering a heart attack. He was 70.

Hubbard died at Sherman Oaks Hospital, said his manager, fellow trumpeter David Weiss of the New Jazz Composers Octet. He had been hospitalized since suffering the heart attack a day before Thanksgiving.

A towering figure in jazz circles, Hubbard played on hundreds of recordings in a career dating to 1958, the year he arrived in New York from his hometown Indianapolis, where he had studied at the Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music and with the Indianapolis Symphony.

Soon he had hooked up with such jazz legends as Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley and Coltrane.

"I met Trane at a jam session at Count Basie's in Harlem in 1958," he told the jazz magazine Down Beat in 1995. "He said, `Why don't you come over and let's try and practice a little bit together.' I almost went crazy. I mean, here is a 20-year-old kid practicing with John Coltrane. He helped me out a lot, and we worked several jobs together."

In his earliest recordings, which included "Open Sesame" and "Goin' Up" for Blue Note in 1960, the influence of Davis and others on Hubbard is obvious, Weiss said. But within a couple years he would develop a style all his own, one that would influence generations of musicians, including Wynton Marsalis.

"He influenced all the trumpet players that came after him," Marsalis told The Associated Press earlier this year. "Certainly I listened to him a lot. ... We all listened to him. He has a big sound and a great sense of rhythm and time and really the hallmark of his playing is an exuberance. His playing is exuberant."

Hubbard played on more than 300 recordings, including his own albums and those of scores of other artists. He won his Grammy in 1972 for best jazz performance by a group for the album "First Light."

As a young musician, Hubbard became revered among his peers for a fiery, blazing style that allowed him to hit notes higher and faster than just about anyone else with a horn. As age and infirmity began to slow that style, he switched to a softer, melodic style and played a flugelhorn. His fellow musicians were still impressed.

"The sound he gets on just one note. I know he does all the flashy stuff and the high stuff and it's all great but ... he'd play `Body and Soul' on the flugelhorn and it was just that much better again than everyone around him," trumpeter Chris Botti said in an interview earlier this year.

I Remember Clifford - 1984

Body and Soul

Friday, December 26, 2008


SISTER Gail, the most meditative prep cook I've ever seen, sister Mwandishi, her husband and son, Vincents both, joined us for Christmas dinner. We had butternut squash soup, stuffed mushrooms, herb and garlic crusted prime rib, cranberry glazed turkey, butter poached lobster with wine drunk leeks, stuffed peppers, stuffed tomatoes, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, red cabbage, cranberry relish, homemade rolls, sweet potato pie, sweet potato pecan pie, mixed berry cobbler, and a caramel pound cake that created so much drama in the baking, I thought for sure it would be ruined.

I need not have worried. Mwandishi reminded me that Granddad, my biological grandfather whom I never met, had a love affair with caramel cake. Once, back when I first found them, Granddad sat in the passenger seat of my car looking out into the dark night as I drove from Portland to Boston. Perhaps he was making his presence known when that cake was overflowing in the oven, smoking up the kitchen like a barbecue pit.

After we could finally pull ourselves up from the table, stuffed as the stuffed vegetables, we opened gifts. My nephew was the star of the show. Of course.

The weather outside was blustery but mild. Most of the snow from the big storm days before melted. Inside, the wood burning stove blazed. The aroma of cinnamon and garlic and baking yeast mixed with the music of Yuletide as Nat King Cole crooned about chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Growing up, it wasn't until Daddy piped in the great singer's voice from his basement barroom did Christmas officially come to pass in our home.

I miss Daddy terribly. Wanted to call him up to hear him tell me what he he had cooked for the day, but his spirit was all over the place. Looking in the cupboard for something else, I found his Pabst BlueRibbon mug and placed it at the head of the table. Job fought off tears. Mama said she could hardly get out of bed Christmas morning. Spent most of the day at my godmother's and was in good spirits when she got home. Gina was sick as a dog. Most she could do was drop some peel and eat shrimp in a Zatarain's boil like he used to do and call it a (holi)day.

It's only the second Christmas without him. More emotional even than the first.

We carry on.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

President Obama Says Goodbye To His Beloved Grandmother

HONOLULU (Reuters) - President-elect Barack Obama paid his last respects on Tuesday to the woman he called the rock of his family, the grandmother who helped to raise him, before scattering her ashes from a Hawaiian shoreline.

Madelyn Dunham, known to Obama as Toot, short for Tutu, the Hawaiian word for grandmother, took him in when his mother went to work in Indonesia and put him through private school.

Dunham was one of the main formative influences on Obama's life but she did not live to see him win office. She died of cancer at 86 just two days before he won the November 4 election.

The demands of the presidential campaign meant Obama was unable to fly to Hawaii for her funeral. But on Tuesday, he finally bade her farewell at a memorial service attended by friends and family, including his wife Michelle, daughters Malia and Sasha, and half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng.

Obama is in Hawaii for a two-week Christmas holiday before he resumes his preparations to take office as president on January 20.

Media were kept away from the First Unitarian Church in Honolulu on the island of Oahu. After the service, Obama and about a dozen others traveled to Lanai Lookout on the southeast corner of Oahu, scrambling over a wall and down to the rocky shoreline to scatter his grandmother's ashes.

It was the same place where Obama had scattered his mother's ashes after her death more than a decade ago.

Obama's sister said in a statement earlier that the memorial service would allow him to "grieve and emotionally process" the loss of the woman he called the rock of his family and whose name he frequently invoked on the campaign trail.

"She proved to be a trailblazer of sorts," Obama wrote in "Dreams from My Father," his best-selling memoir, saying his grandmother was "the first woman vice-president of a local bank" after starting out as a secretary to help pay the costs of his unexpected birth.

Obama last saw her in October, when he abruptly left the campaign trail and flew to her bedside, saying he did not want to repeat the mistake he made with his mother, who died of cancer in 1995 before he was able to see her.

In interviews and speeches, Obama has attributed many character attributes to his grandmother, who raised him in the absence of his traveling mother and his father, who lived in Kenya.

"She's the one who taught me about hard work," Obama told a packed stadium in Denver in August when he accepted the Democratic presidential nomination.

"She's the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life."

At an election rally on November 3, the day after her death and the day before his election as president, Obama gave his grandmother a poignant epitaph.

"She was one of those quiet heroes that we have all across America," he said.

"They're not famous. Their names are not in the newspapers, but each and every day they work hard. They aren't seeking the limelight. All they try to do is just do the right thing."

(Reporting by Mike Gordon, writing by Ross Colvin, editing by Anthony Boadle)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

On Rick Warren Delivering the Inauguration Invocation

I DON'T like Warren one bit. But I'm not bent out of shape over his inclusion on the program. He's not going to be a cabinet secretary. He's going to deliver a prayer. Barack is doing what he said he was going to do and while I understand some of the outrage, much more of it annoys me in its self-indulgence. GLBT people are hurt by what happened with Prop 8 in California on election day. I get that. But Barack, who was against the referendum, is telling the religious right that he's still willing to listen to them. They are, after all, still part of America. As my mother, who's an evangelical and doesn't "believe in gay marriage" but participated in my wedding anyway, is wont to say, "How can you expect anybody to listen to you if you don't listen to nobody else?"

On divisive social issues, there must be civil engagement between the extremes. Otherwise nothing will change.

Rev. Joseph Lowery is delivering the benediction. He happens to be a Black minister who is pro-gay. I'm not surprised that those so outraged by Warren say nothing of Lowery.

Quiet as it's kept, many white gay activist leaders flatout refuse to look at some of their biases around race and ethnicity.

Comments of Jill Christine Duson, President, Maine Electoral College

December 15, 2008 Augusta, Maine

We meet today to make official, the outcome of the general election held on Tuesday, November 4th, 2008.

We electors, two selected by the statewide popular vote and two selected by the popular vote in each Congressional district, gather here today to cast Maine’s official public ballots for President-Elect Barack Obama and Vice President-Elect Joseph Biden.

We members of the 2008 Maine Electoral College, thank you Madame President, Madame Speaker, Madame Chief Justice and assembled guests for your attendance here today to bear witness as we conduct this momentous task.

I thank my fellow electors for permitting me the privilege and honor of presiding over this historic gathering.

In the words of the first African American to give a keynote address to the Democratic National Convention: “Now that I have this grand distinction what in the world am I supposed to say?”, questioned Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan at that 1976 gathering.

I am Jill Christine Duson, a descendant of Moses Duson, husband, father and a slave on the Jones Plantation near Culpepper, Va.

Born in 1953 in Chester, Pa., I attended segregated schools until a court order required a group of 5th graders to be bussed across town to the white schools.

No one would have predicted this day, for the third of five children of a divorced mom struggling to raise a family on welfare. And now here in the Chamber of the House of Representatives of the State I have called home for 25 years, what am I supposed to say?

Zachary Walker, was the last Pennsylvanian to be murdered by a lynch mob. Next year on the 100th anniversary of his death, a marker will be placed at the site where my great grandmother’s brother was dragged and tied and set afire in full view of the citizens of his community.

Who could have predicted that his great niece would serve as the first Black Mayor of the largest city in the whitest state in America.

“What in the world am I supposed to say ? …? ”


I am STAGGERED by outcome of the 2008 election. I am STUNNED by the overwhelming nationwide success of Barack Obama. I am UNDONE by the margin of his victory here in Maine.

We are here today to ratify that outcome, a victory for Maine, and a victory for our uniquely American democracy. And, a victory that is about so much more then Barack Obama and Joseph Biden.

Congresswoman Jordan said: “The American dream is not dead. It is gasping for breath, but it is not dead.”

With this election, some 30 years later, we drew a deep bracing lungful of air into our democracy. And, if the America that Barack Obama speaks about is a fairy tale, it is a fairy tale built on the hopes and dreams of those who crafted this democracy; it is a fairy tale that many of us believe in.

Just like Mainers all across this state, we electors made this campaign of hope our own. Just like Mainers all across this state, we fully engaged in the work of breathing new life into this democracy. With this election, we take a leap of faith not in a single messianic individual who we hope will deliver us. We take a leap of faith in ourselves and in our neighbors and together we take collective responsibility for our government.

The votes we cast here today will be counted in a joint session of Congress on January 6th. And on January 20th, Barack Obama will take the oath of office to serve as President for red and blue and purple America.

And, just like the incoming administration, we are challenged to transition from campaigning to governing.

Soon a new Congress will convene in Washington and in Maine we will convene municipal and legislative bodies with new and seasoned faces and diverse perspectives and concerns.

In the aftermath of the 2008 election season that energized so many, we will all be winners so long as we stay engaged.

Together we have something here in Maine that others admire. Together, we can respond to those who feel disengaged, unheard and powerless about the direction of our government, our economy and our future, with the spirit of Dirigo, I LEAD.

In so many ways Maine is indeed the way life should be. We have an environment, a people, a spirit worth nurturing and preserving.

Together we can collect and join the pieces required to realize a vision for Maine’s future that is resilient and hopeful, inclusive and doable.

I will close as I began with a quote from Barbara Jordan:

“What the people want is simple. They want an America as good as its promise.”

We four electors, look to the next four years with great hope, deep commitment and personal accountability to our democracy.

And, we say

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The View From Here


Emotional Electoral College Ceremony

THIS PAST MONDAY, I attended the constitutional process of Maine's Electoral College ceremony in the Chamber of the House of Representatives at the State House in Augusta, Maine, to legally elect Democrat Barack Obama the 44th President of the United States. I dressed for the occasion. I took a ton of pictures.

And I wept.

Most of my friends know that I can't stand the Electoral College. I'm a democratic (small "d") purist. Our president ought to be elected by popular vote. One person, one vote. Look what happened in 2000. We're still paying for it.

So while I've heard most, if not all, the arguments for and against, I stand firmly against.

But it's here to stay. I can't imagine the small states ever ratifying a constitutional amendment to eliminate it. Every four years, presidential electors will perform their constitutional duty, like it or not. I wasn't about to miss this one. What I witnessed at the staid ceremony left me breathless.

I could have missed the history of the Electoral College presented by Neil Rolde. The wife of Robert O'Brien, elector at-large and my delegate roommate in Denver, whispered in my ear that Rolde needed to work on his delivery. I responded that he was a perfect symbol of the College - old, stodgy, and white. He finished by reminding us that slaves were counted as 3/5 of a person for the purposes of enumeration and representation in the House of Representatives a mere 150 years ago.

Shortly after this reminder, the electors chose a Black woman to preside over the official proceedings. Portland Mayor Jill Duson, the first Black mayor of the largest city in the whitest state in the union.

In remarks from the rostrum, Duson drew attention to the historical significance of the election of America’s first black president, evoking Barbara Jordan.

Citing the cultural shifts in our history since she attended a segregated school as a child in Pennsylvania, Duson said her role as president of a state’s Electoral College electing a Black president was stunning.

“What in the world am I supposed to say?” she asked. “I say Amen, hallelujah and well done.” Earlier, she delivered a heartfelt rendition of the National Anthem in her soothing contralto.

Jill was also an Obama delegate to Denver so I got to know her a bit. I've asked for the full text of her emotional closing remarks at the end of the ceremony and will update this post when I receive them.

Three generations of Talbots were also in the room. From a local paper just after the election:

Gerald Talbot, 77, was overwhelmed as he watched the TV coverage of Obama's triumphant speech Tuesday night. It shook him as a man and a father. He thought about the pleas he made to his children:

"You can do whatever you want to do," and, "Don't let anybody step on your neck."

Talbot, a Portland native, served as the first black man in the Maine Legislature and has written extensively on racial history. Among his works is a textbook he co-edited titled "Maine's Visible Black History."

Obama's accomplishment felt like an accomplishment for America, Talbot said.

"Your heart does cry," he said."You felt it in your heart, your soul and your mind."

Talbot hopes to attend Obama's inauguration in January, though he knows it may be a struggle getting into what may become the biggest inauguration in U.S. history.

"One of my daughters is working on it," he said.

His daughter, Rachel Talbot Ross, leads the Portland chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, a role Talbot himself once filled.

Rachel was also a delegate to Denver. In fact, she was the one who received the "I'm going to kill all the Black people in Maine" email right after Barack Obama was declared the nominee by acclimation in Denver. She reported the missive to the Secret Service, and within an hour, the man was arrested back here in Maine.

We don't buckle to death threats. Not after all we've been through. Ain't nobody gonna step on our necks. And so the three generations of Talbots who comprised all of the Black people in the room along with Jill, her son Nate, and myself, rose up with all the other attendees and applauded with jubilation when Jill announced that Barack Obama had officially won all four electoral votes in Maine.

It was electric. And while I snapped pictures, I cried a river.

After the ceremony ended, the electors certified the final vote, and signed the sealed envelopes which Gerald Talbot will deliver to the U.S. District Court as official messenger.

The whitest state of Maine's first Black state representative, with his offspring in tow, hand delivered the electoral college ballots for the nation's first Black president.


Obama Taps Adult Adoptee As Secretary of Agriculture

Obama has chosen former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack to head the Department of Agriculture. According to Wikipedia,

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Tom Vilsack was orphaned at birth and placed in a Roman Catholic orphanage. He was adopted in 1951 by Bud and Dolly Vilsack, who raised him in the Roman Catholic faith. His adoptive father was a real-estate agent and insurance salesman, and his adoptive mother was a homemaker.

There's been lots of talk about Obama's diverse cabinet. Add this "category" to the list.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Surviving Tuskegee Airmen Invited To Inauguration

THIS is extraordinary.

Inauguration Is a Culmination for Black Airmen

When the Tuskegee Airmen, the all-black force of elite pilots, emerged from combat in World War II, they faced as much discrimination as they had before the war. It was not until six decades later that their valor was recognized and they received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor Congress can give.

Now, the roughly 330 pilots and members of the ground crew who are left from about 16,000 who served are receiving another honor that has surpassed their dreams: They are being invited to watch the inauguration of Barack Obama as the country’s first black president.

“I didn’t believe I’d live long enough to see something like this,” said Lt. Col. Charles A. Lane Jr., 83, of Omaha, a retired Tuskegee fighter pilot who flew missions over Italy.

“I would love to be there, I would love to be able to see it with my own eyes,” he said, chuckling on the phone as he heard about the invitation. But, he said, he had a “physical limitation” and was not sure he would be able to attend.


Mr. Obama has acknowledged his debt to the airmen, issuing a statement in 2007, when they received the Congressional Gold Medal. It said in part: “My career in public service was made possible by the path heroes like the Tuskegee Airmen trail-blazed.”

My father, as some of you know, was a Tuskegee Airman. He wanted to be an air traffic controller when he returned from the war, but was offered a job as an airport janitor instead. I told his story in my book and read it at his funeral.

He passed away weeks before the Tuskegee Airmen received the Congressional Gold Medal.

And now this.

All the while I was fighting for the election of Barack Obama as president, I felt like I was doing it for my father and toward the end, for my father and my nephew.

I think I'm going to be a mess in very short order.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Monday, December 08, 2008

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Holiday Feast

WE CATERED a private holiday dinner party for 12 guests last night. The group of friends has an annual party every December at the venue in the area, but had never been all that satisfied with the food wherever they chose to go. So they gave us a try this year. Hubby works with one of the guests. I catered her son's graduation party at her house over the summer. The menu:

Thai Shrimp Dumplings in Coconut Milk with Lemongrass

Carrot Soup with Orange and Ginger

Fall Salad with Apples, Dried Cranberries, Candied Pecans in a Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette

Grilled Tenderloin of Beef and Butter Poached Lobster over a Lobster, Corn and Sweet Potato Biscuit with Citrus Butter Sauce and Butternut Squash Puree

Heaven's Cheesecake with Raspberry Coulis and Fresh Blackberries

We cooked all day, decorating along the way, stayed up late into the night, and pulled the whole thing off without fussing. Two of the guests said it was the best meal they'd ever eaten in their entire lives.

The biscuits were an unexpected hit. Even I was surprised. Never built them before, couldn't even find a recipe, so I suppose I can claim an original creation. I concocted the dough early enough in the day and baked one to taste. If they were a complete miss, I'd have a chance for a do-over. Hubby, a biscuit connoisseur, approved.

I also never prepared an entire beef tenderloin. Marinated it for a day in garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine and herbs. Started it outside on the grill so it could get a good flavor and finished it off in the oven. Let it rest, covered with foil, for half an hour before slicing. It melted in the mouth like butter.

Speaking of which, we used 5 pounds of butter to make this meal. Five pounds. And 18 lobsters. The stock pot was ecstatic.

I've worked in lots of restaurants, but only in the front of the house. Much as I've always loved to cook, when watching the chefs and cooks behind the line with multiple pans on the fire, I used to think, I could never do that. Well, last night, as I whisked and stirred and shimmied and shook pots and pans of squash puree and butter poaching liquid (two kinds) and cream sauce and sweating leaks, all the while biscuits were baking and that precious log of beef was resting, I stood outside myself and watched with the same awe.

Like Daddy was standing over my shoulder watching with me to make sure I didn't mess anything up.

Of course hubby was also nearby. He built the dumplings and the soup and served as all-around prep cook, dishwasher, busboy, host, and waiter. We both wore all those hats, actually. Later, as we soaked our sore bodies in the jacuzzi, he said he understands now why so many people in the restaurant business turn to cocaine.

I prefer warm baths.

It's always a bit nerve wrecking to make such a meal when you know you have no margin for error. To hear the moans and groans at first bite give way to the peace-filled quiet of people eating good food made my night.

I went to bed satisfied. And proud.

Sunday With Seal

One last time. The most recent version with a different verse. For Elize.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Big Gamble

GOOD FIND. Obama gambles on Hillary Clinton (Financial Times): This is about as diplomatic an expression of how I feel about her as Secretary of State as I've read anywhere:

[...] the main question is whether Mrs Clinton can subordinate not just her opinions but also her political ambitions to making the Obama administration a success. That must be in doubt. Her husband's financial entanglements and irrepressible flair for scandal are further potential pitfalls. In weighing all this and choosing her regardless, Mr Obama has taken quite a risk -- one that, in our view, is difficult to justify.

Odetta, Voice of Civil Rights Movement, Dies at 77

Odetta at Radio City Music Hall in New York for a "Salute to the Blues" Benefit concert in 2003. Nancy Siesel/The New York Times

Odetta, the singer whose deep voice wove together the strongest songs of American folk music and the civil rights movement, died on Tuesday at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan. She was 77.

The cause was heart disease, said her manager, Doug Yeager. He added that she had been hoping to sing at Barack Obama’s inauguration.

Odetta sang at coffeehouses and at Carnegie Hall, made highly influential recordings of blues and ballads, and became one of the most widely known folk-music artists of the 1950s and ’60s. She was a formative influence on dozens of artists, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Janis Joplin.

Her voice was an accompaniment to the black-and-white images of the freedom marchers who walked the roads of Alabama and Mississippi and the boulevards of Washington in the quest to end racial discrimination.

Read the rest...

Too bad she wasn't able to hang on till January 20. Wasn't meant to be. Here's her singing "House of the Rising Sun."

The View From Here

Monday, December 01, 2008

Day Without Art

The original World AIDS Day. AIDS ravaged the artist community so badly that museums and galleries and theaters were compelled to go dark every December 1. Today, we go dark.

Get tested. Get treated. Get educated. Get involved. Fight the disease. Not people.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Serena Williams Opens School In Kenya

International tennis player US's Serena Williams addresses students after opening the Serena Williams Secondary School in Matooni 161km east of Nairobi on November 14, 2008. Getty Images

KENYA sure is getting a lot of attention. Glad to see my girl doing her thing off the court as well.

Despite an unfortunate stomach injury at the Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha, world No.3 Serena Williams still had one huge milestone to look forward to in November, as she opened a school she has co-founded in Africa. Located in Matooni, in eastern Kenya, the school was built through a partnership with tech giant Hewlett Packard and the charity Build African Schools. Williams, accompanied by her mother and younger sister, officially opened the Serena Williams Secondary School on Friday, November 14.

After arriving in Africa, Williams took a 40-minute helicopter ride to Matooni, accompanied by Kenyan Education Minister Professor Sam Ongeri, where she was greeted by thousands of fans and supporters from nearby villages. After cutting the ribbon to open the solar powered school, she attended a play put on by area children and hosted a tennis clinic. "I feel so honored to be here. Thanks so much for receiving me for my first time in Kenya," said Williams at the opening. "Education is the only way out of poverty – that’s what my parents taught us – so obviously building this school is really near and dear to me," she added.

The school, which was opened in an area that has one of the highest dropout rates in Kenya, will be mixed gender. Williams promised that she would work with the government to bring electricity to the school and to improve educational standards. "This is my first of many schools I plan to open up in Kenya," said Williams. "It’s amazing how education has uplifted the lives of many people, and have empowered them to determine their own future… It is the best achievement that I have done in my life."

She's become quite the humanitarian over the past few years.

Sunday With Al - A Change Is Gonna Come

Can't get enough of that tune.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Jack Nicholson's 1978 Chevy

PRESIDENT Carter wore a cardigan in the White House to show leadership on energy conservation and he was virtually laughed out of office.

Here we are, thirty years later, facing a failing auto industry, a deteriorating environment, and a War for Oil, while Big Oil continues to record record profits.

Heaven help us.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Faces












THE HOST asked me to bring collard greens and sweet potato pie. So I did. But when I got there, he put me to work, mashing potatoes, finishing the squash puree, glazing the carrots, making the gravy, baking the rolls. He took care of the roasted turkey with oyster dressing, the pineapple ham, the pearl onions. Up to 12 of us, many who had no other place to go, gave thanks over all that abundance.

I'm grateful for my beloved husband and my friends, real and virtual. For the memories of my father which make me smile and cry. For my mother in Milwaukee and my sister in California who called nonstop for cooking tips. Not to mention a whole host of birth relatives all over the country who probably won't get a phone call but who, nonetheless, live vividly in my heart this evening.

Mostly, I'm grateful for the gift of my health. As I sit and reminisce about all of my ancestors and my close friends who are now ancestral, I must be thankful for still being here, alive and well, and enjoying this heaven on earth.

And last, but certainly not least, I'm grateful for all of you for stopping by and reading my musings.

Obama Family Visits Chicago Southside Schoolchildren

THE QUALITY is poor.
The content, priceless.

Lord have mercy.

The dam has broken.
I can't stop weeping.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

WHILE the world bleeds and children hunger, give thanks for what you have but also give thought and prayer to those less fortunate.

Take care of your blessings.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Eating Crow

"ALL OF THESE articles about his boyhood in Indonesia and his life in Hawaii are geared towards showing his background is diverse, multicultural and putting that in a new light. Save it for 2050 ... I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and values. The right knows Obama is unelectable except against Attila the Hun." -- Mark Penn, March 19, 2007

"This year's primary results show no sign that Obama will reverse this trend should he win the nomination. In West Virginia and Kentucky, as well as Ohio and Pennsylvania, blue collar white voters sent him down to defeat by overwhelming margins. A recent Gallup poll report has argued that claims about Obama's weaknesses among white voters and blue collar voters have been exaggerated - yet its indisputable figures showed Obama running four percentage points below Kerry's anemic support among whites four years ago... Given that Obama's vote in the primaries, apart from African-Americans, has generally come from affluent white suburbs and university towns, the Gallup figures presage a Democratic disaster among working-class white voters in November should Obama be the nominee." -- Sean Wilentz, ignoramus, May 23, 2008

"When he is forced to fight, Sen. Obama's inexperience shows. His record, slight as it is, is tough to defend. He's got a glass jaw, and he will fall into the trap of identity politics. In fact, he already has. The "could we beat Obama?" conversation is purely academic. It's over. The Clintons have defeated him already, because he is leaving South Carolina as "the black candidate." He won't win another state. Even worse, in November Hillary will carry 90 percent of the black vote, despite their cynical, race-based campaign against the first viable black presidential candidate." -- Michael Graham, January 26, 2008

"[P]olarizing the contest into whites versus blacks will work just fine for Hillary." -- Dick Morris, January 23, 2008.

"Sen. Obama cannot possibly believe, and doesn't even act as if he believes, that he can be elected president of the United States next year." -- Christopher Hitchens, September 24, 2007

"As I wrote last December, "[t]he pundits can talk until they are blue in the face about Obama's charisma and eloquence and cross-racial appeal. The fact of the matter is that Obama has no chance of being elected president in 2008." I am more convinced of this conclusion than ever." -- Steven M. Warshawsky, American Thinker, August 11, 2008

(via Andrew)


A woman is overcome with emotion after meeting Democratic presidential candidate Illinois Senator Barack Obama at a rally on October 3, 2008 in Abington, Pennsylvania. (STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Reverend Jeremiah Wright Breaks His Silence

Jeremiah Wright, in a rare media appearance, told Sirius XM Satellite Radio's Mark Thompson that he understands why Obama distanced himself from him, but doesn't forgive the media the way it covered him.

His reaction to Obama's victory, he said, was a "mixed bag of being proud of him and being blessed to have lived" through the moment, and pain at being "put up by the media" as a "weapon of mass destruction to destroy his candidacy."

Wright, who posed what may have been the deepest challenge to Obama's candidacy, and provoked its most racially-charged moments, is now a footnote to a winning campaign. He opened little new ground, and expressed joy that his former friend was now president, and no remorse at his own role.

The negative press, and the final wave of negative ads, had been particularly painful, he said.

"I sort of never realized how that affects my family, what that does to my kids or my grandkids," he said.

Wright also seemed to dispute the notion that the inflammatory moments that aired on cable television and the Internet were out of character, though he said they were out of context.

"I’ve been preaching the same thing for 40 years," he said, saying that white audiences couldn't be expected to understand a form of worship they'd never seen, and was once practiced in secret.

He also said that Obama's chief political advisor had been the one who pressed for rescinding his invitation to perform the invocation at Obama's campaign launch in Springfield, referring to David Axelrod's "not wanting me to give a public invocation."

Wright also repeated his perception -- which helped convince Obama to cut him off after initially refusing to in his speech on race -- that politics was part of his former congregant's calculus.

"He’s running for the presidency of the United States of America, which is a country where blacks are a minority," he said. "To get the votes that he needs in electoral politics, he has to distance himself from me, because his support would dry up when certain parts of the constituency found out who I was."

His greatest disappointment, he said, wasn't in Obama, but in some of his fellows in the black church, who "just rolled over and played dead while we in the black church continue to be hammered for who we are."


I was angered by the ads that ran in the final days of the campaign because they were gratuitous and harmful. But they didn't work.

God don't like ugly.

Monday, November 24, 2008

First African American Woman Wins National Book Award for Non-Fiction

Annette Gordon-Reed, a professor of history at Rutgers-Newark, has won the 2008 National Book Award for Non-fiction for her work "The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family."

An interview with the author.

Gordon-Read is the first African American woman to win the nonfiction award.

In addition to teaching at Rutgers, Gordon-Reed is a law professor at New York Law School.

She co-wrote with Vernon Jordan, Vernon Can Read: A Memoir.

Gordon-Reed is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School and lives with her family in New York City.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

The View From Here

Adoptee Rights On The Horizon In Maine

AUGUSTA -- Tears came to her eyes when Lee-Ann Bragdon held up photos of her father, grandmother and great-grandmother.

Bragdon, a retired dance instructor from Windsor, and her 17-year-old daughter, Bianca Badershall, talked Monday at the Statehouse to introduce a new law that allows adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates.

Starting Jan. 2, 2009, adults who were adopted in the state of Maine will have access to their original birth certificates at the state Office of Vital Records.

Maine has joined seven other states that adopted access-to-birth-certificate laws, including New Hampshire.

The 44-year-old Bragdon, an adoptee, recently found her birth father, Daniel Price, an air traffic controller in San Diego, Calif.

Bragdon said she came to the news conference to support Original Birth Certificates for Maine, a grassroots group that succeeded in getting legislators to pass the law.

She pointed to a copied, black-and-white photograph of her grandmother holding her dad as a toddler.

"See," she said nodding at her daughter in the chair next to her. "She and my dad look almost alike. When I first tried to find him, it was for medical information. My daughter was diagnosed with a pervasive developmental disorder, which is a form of autism, but when he found out about me he said it felt like the day I was born. There was an instant bond between us."

Now he calls her every Sunday and once or twice during the week and is coming to Maine in February to meet Bradgon and her family, she said.

Sen. Paula Benoit, an adoptee, co-sponsored the legislation, which Gov. John Baldacci signed June 25.

Benoit said the law restores rights that were taken away in 1953 when Maine passed a law requiring adoptees to obtain court orders in order to get access to their original birth certificates.

Read the rest...

I missed the press conference. Couldn't get myself together in time to make it to the state house, but I was there in spirit.

In less than 60 days, all adopted adults in Maine who want to see a copy of their birthright, their unaltered, original certificate of live birth, will be able to do so, joining all non-adopted persons who've always been able to enjoy this right.

I've seen mine and I can say it remains one of the biggest spiritual breakthroughs of my life.

Obama Proposes Public Works And Job Creation

In his second YouTube address, our next president lays out the framework for his new New Deal:

Good morning.

The news this week has only reinforced the fact that we are facing an economic crisis of historic proportions. Financial markets faced more turmoil. New home purchases in October were the lowest in half a century. 540,000 more jobless claims were filed last week, the highest in eighteen years. And we now risk falling into a deflationary spiral that could increase our massive debt even further.

While I’m pleased that Congress passed a long-overdue extension of unemployment benefits this week, we must do more to put people back to work and get our economy moving again. We have now lost 1.2 million jobs this year, and if we don’t act swiftly and boldly, most experts now believe that we could lose millions of jobs next year.

There are no quick or easy fixes to this crisis, which has been many years in the making, and it’s likely to get worse before it gets better. But January 20th is our chance to begin anew – with a new direction, new ideas, and new reforms that will create jobs and fuel long-term economic growth.

I have already directed my economic team to come up with an Economic Recovery Plan that will mean 2.5 million more jobs by January of 2011 – a plan big enough to meet the challenges we face that I intend to sign soon after taking office. We’ll be working out the details in the weeks ahead, but it will be a two-year, nationwide effort to jumpstart job creation in America and lay the foundation for a strong and growing economy. We’ll put people back to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing schools that are failing our children, and building wind farms and solar panels; fuel-efficient cars and the alternative energy technologies that can free us from our dependence on foreign oil and keep our economy competitive in the years ahead.

These aren’t just steps to pull ourselves out of this immediate crisis; these are the long-term investments in our economic future that have been ignored for far too long. And they represent an early down payment on the type of reform my Administration will bring to Washington – a government that spends wisely, focuses on what works, and puts the public interest ahead of the same special interests that have come to dominate our politics.

I know that passing this plan won’t be easy. I will need and seek support from Republicans and Democrats, and I’ll be welcome to ideas and suggestions from both sides of the aisle.

But what is not negotiable is the need for immediate action. Right now, there are millions of mothers and fathers who are lying awake at night wondering if next week’s paycheck will cover next month’s bills. There are Americans showing up to work in the morning only to have cleared out their desks by the afternoon. Retirees are watching their life savings disappear and students are seeing their college dreams deferred. These Americans need help, and they need it now.

The survival of the American Dream for over two centuries is not only a testament to its enduring power, but to the great effort, sacrifice, and courage of the American people. It has thrived because in our darkest hours, we have risen above the smallness of our divisions to forge a path towards a new and brighter day. We have acted boldly, bravely, and above all, together. That is the chance our new beginning now offers us, and that is the challenge we must rise to in the days to come. It is time to act. As the next President of the United States, I will. Thank you.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Beatitudes of Joseph Craig

I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!
—Numbers 11:29


Brilliantly blessed are those who know.

Brilliantly blessed are those who forgive themselves, for they will be able to forgive all others their greatest wrongdoings.

Brilliantly blessed are those who walk with courage through the depths of their own sorrow, for they will walk also through the greatest joy and their Spirits will grow exponentially; for them, a healing will come.

Brilliantly blessed are those who share what they have with those who have not, for their generosity will be rewarded with even more to share.

Brilliantly blessed are those who seek perfection not in people or things, but in the process of Loving itself, for they shall possess clarity of insight.

Brilliantly blessed are those who walk with courage through the depths of their own fear, for they will Love from the bottom of their hearts.

Brilliantly blessed are those who belong to the trees and the animals, for their voices will grow plants like the sun and their kindness will kill the anger of strangers.

Brilliantly blessed are those who strive to create unity out of vast diversity, for they will experience Heaven on Earth.


from Fumbling Toward Divinity: The Adoption Scriptures

Al Gore: Obama Election 'Redeems The Revolutionary Promise Of Our Declaration Of Independence'

The full interview will be on this Sunday's Fareed Zakaria: GPS on CNN.

I want them to know that right after the election, Republicans who had campaigned strongly against Barack Obama were interviewed everywhere right after the election saying, 'I'm so proud of my country.' You know, regardless of the differences over issues and politics, this was a watershed election that really...just everyone a feeling of great pride in our nation's ability to transcend our past and redeem the revolutionary promise of our Declaration of Independence that every human being is created equal. It's electrifying to redeem that declaration.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Al Qaeda Calls Barack Hussein Obama A House Negro?

The Al Qaeda video discussed in the news today seems very suspect to me. And timed to attempt to take advantage of situations stateside. Like, say, the right wings renewed attempt to appeal to Black voters around the "gay agenda." A gay and secular fascism, as Newt Gingrich called it yesterday.

Since when has al Qaeda cared about what an honorable black American is? Since when has al Qaeda invoked Malcolm X? Since when has al Qaeda used the jargon of slavery to describe an American statesman?

Color me skeptical that this bit of propaganda didn't come right out of the west with the intent to create a wedge around race in the black American electorate for future elections.

Methinks the right wing has once again overplayed its hand.

Monday, November 17, 2008


60 Minutes: Barack and Michelle Obama Give First Post Election Interview

60 Minutes, Chicago, Illinois

(CBS) Since Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States 12 days ago, he has largely remained out of sight, getting high-level government briefings and conferring with his transition team. But he surfaced on Friday afternoon in Chicago, alongside his wife Michelle to give 60 Minutes his first post-election interview.

It covers a wide range of subjects including the economy, the ailing automobile industry, the government's $700 billion bailout program, their visit to the White House, the emotions of election night and the quest for a family dog. You'll hear all of it. But we begin with the president-elect and his thoughts about the new job.

Steve Kroft: So here we are.

President-elect Barack Obama: Here we are.

Kroft: How's your life changed in the last ten days?

Mr. Obama: Well, I tell you what, there seem to be more people hovering around me. That's for sure. And, on the other hand, I'm sleeping in my own bed over the last ten days, which is quite a treat. Michelle always wakes up earlier than I do. So listen to her roaming around and having the girls come in and, you know, jump in your bed. It's a great feeling. Yeah.

Kroft: Has this been easier than the campaign trail?

Mr. Obama: Well, it's different. I think that during the campaign it is just a constant frenetic, forward momentum. Here, I'm stationary. But the issues come to you. And we've got a lot of work to do. We've got a lot of problems, a lot of big challenges.

Full Transcript

I love this interview. Barack and Michelle are so colored. It seems like just yesterday folks were running round talking about how he wasn't Black enough.

All joking aside, their love for each other and their children jumps through the screen. What an example of strong values the next First Family will be. What a message for all families here and abroad. Already, the world loves us again. With these pure souls as our beacon, that love will only grow.

I'm so proud of our country.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Photo of the Day

A man wearing a hat made from newspapers clippings of President-elect Obama in the heartland of the latter's Kenyan family in Kisumu. President-elect Obama, who has become the East African nation's favorite son, has an 86-year-old grandmother still living in the region.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Guess Who Came to Dinner?

The following story, set in the late 90s, is an excerpt from Soul Weaving, my current novel-in-progress (which may never be completed) that explores the relationships between black gay men and black women. In light of the gay marriage vote in California and the hot topic of homophobia in the black community, I've decided to repost Dessa Rose Flowers' story today.

THESE TIGHTDRESSED HEIFERS is always lookin for a full meal ticket, while these homosexuals don’t want nothin but appetizers and will try anythang and everythang on the menu, many times over. That’s the majority of folks I see: these little heifers ain’t got nothin on their minds but trying to get them some man and don’t know no other way except to throw him the goods, and these damn homosexuals who ain’t seemed to learn nothin from all these diseases goin round.

My own boy Richie and that boy he’s been hangin around with: Lord have mercy, in all my years I ain’t felt the need to worry and now this. Well, it makes me wanna scream. But I’m too damn old, too damn tired. And besides, I done screamed enough to last this lifetime and a few more down the road.

I suppose I should consider myself lucky though. When Richie’s mama, my sweet baby sister Sadie, passed on some time ago, God rest her soul, I took in her cute little bundle of joy and raised him as my very own. He ain’t never really caused me no trouble, but everybody from old Hattie Mae Holierthanthou over at Mt. Zion Baptist, to all the ladies I’ve played Bid Whist with over the years, told me that Richie was different somehow. Hattie Mae went so far as to say, “That child sure is strange that way. You better watch out for him Dessa Rose.”

Different. Strange that way.

Well, what child wouldn’t be different or strange that way if his mama was taken to the Lord before he could barely walk, and he never even saw his daddy. Which was no fault of his. No fault of his daddy’s, I mean. That’s right: Sadie never even told the man she was pregnant. Now, back in the day, you didn’t see womens actin like that: not even tellin the daddy about the bun in they oven. But Sadie, God rest her soul, was always doin things her way. Some might even say she was ahead of her time on some matters. Like most babies of the family, she was the independent one. Now, I know, these days, girls havin babies, babies havin babies, and ain’t nobody tellin the daddies till it’s way past any time appropriate. Well, I, for one, ain’t into all them politics and such, but if this is what women’s lib was all about, then we messed up somewheres. Any daddy’s better than no daddy, and it’s about time we got that through our liberated heads.

Well, I was gone make sure that little boy got it all from me, no matter what my friends were trying to warn me about. Like Mildred. Now, Mildred is good people and all that, and I don’t like to talk about folk like they do me sometimes, but Mildred would spit the stupidest mess out her mouth with nary a thought for nobody. She comes round the house to drop off her famous coconut cake for Richie’s tenth birthday party. She finally got some real respect from the folk down at Mt. Zion after the first time she brought that cake to a bake sale down on the church lot. After she tasted a piece, I thought Sugar Waters was gone start speaking in tongues right out on that parking lot. She fell over. Umh-humh. Yes she did. A small woman she was not; it took three or four Deacons to scrape her off the concrete and hoist her back up on her feet. Most of the congregation out there flocked round the table to partake in Mildred’s special taste of the Holy Ghost.

The first time Richie laid his lips on that sucker, I could hardly get him to eat regular food. I had to wean him offa that mess for a while. But for his birthday party, I decided to have Mildred make a big one—special too.

She comes in the house with her prize-winning recipe, gives Richie the once over, as if she’d never seen him before, and Lord knows he’s been up in church with me more times than a heathen, flashes her diamondstudded gold teeth, nearly blinding me back, and declares, “Dessa Rose, baby, is you sure that nephew of yours is all right? He so timid and mosta the times he act too sissified for a boy his age. He needs a man around this house. But if that ain’t possible, girl, you better find him some boys to play with.”

If she only knew.

And it wasn’t like Richie was far enough away to even act like he didn’t hear Mildred’s blasphemin. Old Mildred, or Miss Muffet, like I calls her, to this day, might be able to bake her silly little ass off, but she sure can’t see. There was a house full of boys from Richie’s school at the party. Well, a couple at least. All right, it was mostly girls, I guess. It was so long ago I can’t remember all the details. My memory has been known to play tricks on me. Well, you know, the boy just always seemed to be more comfortable playing with little girls; boys could be so mean at times. I know Richie was a quiet child and all. And Lord knows, my father didn’t raise no fool. Do I seem like a fool to you? I knew exactly what little Miss Muffet was trying to say, but I tried not to pay her no mind. I’m sure she thought she meant well.

Doesnt everybody who meddles in other folks’ affairs?

It was kinda embarrassing, though. Not that I was ever really ashamed of Richie. Disappointed would be more like it. But I would look at him trying to cope without his mama and daddy, and know he was already going through a lot. I don’t usually take no mess—don’t like to let folks know they gettin to me. You can’t let’m see you sweat. I’m sure I’ve been too kind to most of my friends, and mosta the times folk wanna confuse kindness with weakness, but they don’t know how strong I knew I was. Strong enough to protect my boy from ridicule:

I told that bitch to shut up and get the fuck out of my house.

That was only after I got that delicious cake.

AS RICHIE GREW OLDER, I got closer and closer to wantin to find out if he was the way I felt he was. But I had to keep back. Not wantin to push too hard. Try to figure out how Sadie woulda handled it and do the same. And sweet Sadie was one of the most patient womens I ever knew, God rest her soul. So I just figured her little bundle of joy wouldn’t want me breathin down his neck tryin to figure out if he was, what he was doin, with whom, and for how long.

Well, when he enrolled in that beauty school, suffice it to say, I didn’t have to ask any questions. And it’s not like he didn’t useda sit down in fronta that TV and watch all them silly beauty pageants when he was growing up. I couldn’t see what that child saw in all that fake mess. Of course, this was before anybody thought Black was beautiful, so there was nothing but a bunch of skinny white girls prancin around, showin off too much cleavage, wearin way too much makeup. I guess the winners were supposed to do something for the human race and become somebody later on in life.


I knew you didn’t need to be no white Miss America to do somethin good for folk. That’s why I became a nurse. I got the calling to help people at a really young age. Everybody look at me knew I was gonna be a nurse or doctor, one. Not too many women doctors back in the day, so I always felt like I’d have a better chance at becoming a nurse. Especially since so many folk expected Black womens to take care of’m. Daddy always told me and Sadie we could be whatever we wanted to be, something to make Mama proud and respect her memory. Mama died givin birth to Sadie, so whenever Sadie got sick, I took care of her. I was tenyearsold going on thirtyfive. Daddy did the best he could, but it was hard raising two girls all by himself.

All the kids in school useda call me the First Aid Girl cause I was always the first one who wanted to and knew how to clean up the little cuts and scrapes a bunch of high energy kids was liable to get during a fifteen-minute recess. I was set up to put the school nurse out of business at the ripe old age of twelve. Once, this white girl called me Florence Nightingale. I didn’t know who the hell she was, but I figured she musta been somebody special with a name like that.

I started nursing down at Deaconess Hospital in the emergency room. A lot of trauma. After seventeen years, that wore me out. As much as I felt alive and important, this woman knew when to stop. In the early eighties, I left all that behind and ended up working at Boston City Hospital in the STD Clinic. I thought there would be less trauma.

That was about the time when all these folks, mostly young boys, started comin in with all kinda diseases. Diseases I hadn’t seen the need to treat since I started nursing. Usually, a shot in the butt or a week or two of drugs would cure’m up, but the same ones be back in a matter of weeks or months with something else. I don’t wanna bore yall with the clinical names of these things, but I hadn’t seen the likes of this in all my years nursin. Later, I’d see some of the boys I treated walkin around the hospitals with splotches all over their bodies, looking old and skinny. Some were admitted one day, dead the next.

Folks in the business started callin it gay cancer. Gay cancer. I didn’t know much at the time, but I knew it was more than some gay cancer. Nobody wanted to say anythang about the street folks, a lot of’m with tracks running all up they arms. I tell you a fool knows what that’s all about, and it’s a damned shame, I tell you, a damned shame. Nobody wanted to say anythang about the young girls and their babies who was comin in with the same symptoms. Nobody wanted to say anythang about that woman who got the blood transfusion. She was a young, white, married woman with three children who turned up in the emergency room with the same kinda pneumonia they found in one of them pregnant prostitutes. I tried to find out all I could, but there wasn’t too many places I could read about it that I could really understand.

Then the church started burying all these young Black boys. Mt. Zion Baptist Church was having more funerals than revivals and prayer meetings. There was Ronelle from choir. And I’m telling you that boy sang like a bluebird, yes he did. We lost something really special when he passed. And there was Charmain, the organist before Paulie. He could raise the roof off the church the ways he made them organ pipes testify. And then there was Dwayne Mcghee, Arthur and Wanda’s only son who had just won a scholarship to Yale that he never got a chance to use. And these boys wasn’t being shot up in the head on the streets neither.

Before you knew it, folks started burying sons you never even knew they had.

Right now, there’s this frail child that sits in the front pew most Sundays who nobody talks to. If he takes communion, nobody drinks after him. Now it’s been said that he Hattie Mae’s boy, but you’d think the two of them didn’t even know each other. Like I said, I don’t like to talk about folk like they do me sometimes, but if that there downright uptight righteous woman can’t even deal with her own flesh and blood...

Don’t get me started.

Being down at that clinic and treatin all those young boys, I got to worryin bout Richie. Like I said, my Daddy didn’t raise no fool. Do I seem like a fool to you? I put twoandtwo together real fast. That’s when I really wanted to ask Richie some questions. But I kept tellin myself to be patient. I wanted to find out how others was dealin with all of this, but nobody—and I mean nobody—was really talking. Not about the weekly funerals, not about the young girls, not about the babies, not about nothing. Even now, we know what’s causin AIDS and how folks can keep from getting it, but only a handful of folk in our community wanna talk about it. And for all the information and scoldin I’ve given out to a bunch of strangers over the past seventeen years, I still can’t bring myself to raise it with my own hard-headed boy.

And it’s not as if Richie hadn’t given me the opportunity to say somethin. He moved outta here not too long ago so he could have some privacy—that’s what he says anyway. He used to bring me by flowers every weekend, but lately, he ain’t been comin by as much. He calls to tell me he’s been busy.

But I know better. So I pushes him on it a little bit. He finally admitted that he been seein somebody. “This is the Real Thing Rosie,” he says. That’s what he likes to call me. He wants me to meet him.

Humph. Real Thang, my ass. I still can’t see how homosexuals can have the Real Thang. I try not to let it matter. But Richie won’t let up. Here he is tryin to get me to cook dinner and have’m over.

Now, I ain’t no fool. This must be something serious. I don’t get how they do things, old fashioned as I can be sometimes, but I know this must be making him happy, because when I do see him, he’s walkin round glowin like a pregnant woman.

I do worry, though.

Did I tell you that in the midst of all of this confusion and loss, I became famous? No, not because I was one of a handful of Blackfolk tryin to do anything about AIDS. That woulda been too much like right. This was different. I walked into the Talented Tenth, that Black bookstore we had some years back, and staring back at me from the shelf was a book with my name on it in large print.

I like to fell out. I don’t who I was named after, if anybody, and I never known nobody with my name. But then here I was on the cover of a book written by some Black girl named Sherley Anne Williams. Well, Alice Walker had nothing but good things to say about it, and since I liked that The Color Purple so much, I decided to pick up my namesake off the shelf.

Fifteen minutes of fame for a book I didn’t even write.

It don’t get no better than that.

I FINALLY GAVE IN. I decided to go on and cook dinner for Richie and this Real Thang he was talkin about. I don’t know what got into me, whether it was God or the Devil himself. Whatever it was, I couldn’t beat it. So I used it.

On that Friday, I had a most interesting day at the clinic. My last patient was this young, pale white boy who came in for a gonorrhea treatment. He had it in rectum. Yes, this may be more than you want to know, but even in the age of AIDS, folks are still gettin gonorrhea in the back side cause they ain’t using precautions. Most boys seem to be immune to the shame that goes along with this, especially when I wrinkles my brow. But I could see this boy was different: he was wracked with guilt: so I unwrinkled my brow. I didn’t want to get all in his business, but I have to do a brief interview about his recent history of sexual partners anyway so they can come in for treatment. I try to be as understanding as a woman like me can, but I didn’t hesitate to have a serious discussion with him about his choices in this day and age.

He didn’t really wanna focus in on what all his guilt was about, but I got the feeling it went much further than just not using precautions. But I didn’t push. He probably wouldn’t tell me any more than I needed to know. Not really my business no how. So I scheduled his test-of-cure appointment, sent him on his way, wrapped things up at the clinic, and went on my way. I had enough of my own goin on anyhow. I had to pick up my groceries.

Everything seemed like it wanted to take forever that Friday night. I waited on that bus stop for what seemed an eternity. I swear that bus didn’t wanna come, no matter how many cigarettes I lit up. When I finally got to the store, the clerk behind the register, this new girl I’d never seen before, had to check on the prices for nearly everythang I bought. She was slow as molasses in January. I knew I shouldna got in her line. It gave me much more time than I needed to get nervous about dinner. Hell, I went on and splurged a little bit and got me a cab home from the grocery store.

Now, no matter what the situation, I wasn’t gonna let no friend of my boy get secondary treatment, so I decided to cook up a nice downhome meal for us: collard greens with smoked turkey—I don’t use ham hocks no more, not since my cholesterol has gotten kinda high—country fried chicken, hotwater cornbread, candied yams, smothered corn, fried green tomatoes, macaroni and cheese, some hot peppers, a little leftover ham, and sweet potato pie for dessert.

Since everything was takin forever that Friday night, I got a late start: I’m sure you must know that the doorbell rings much earlier than I want it to. I turn down the stove, pull in a good breath, and go to open the door. Richie comes on in, and here comes a skinny little white boy after him. I do a doubletake and wouldn’t you know, it’s the same boy I saw not three hours earlier at the clinic. I like to fell out.

You shoulda seen the look on his face.

“Rosie—Rosie—Rosie!” is all I hear Richie say at first. Once he gets my attention, he says, all proudlike, “Auntie Rosie, this is my lover, Timothy.”

Lover? Humph. And white at that. Umph, umph, umph. You gonna try and tell me...? Now you can call me old fashioned, but I still ain’t understandin nothin bout men, or womens for all that matter, truly lovin each other in that way. Mavis Mannery told me Agnes Head’s boy went off to Washington D.C. some years back and got married, or somethin like that, in some mass ceremony they had during some political march or rally or some such. And I’m lookin at the two of them wonderin if they gonna go off and...

Let me not even think about that.

Well, you could imagine dinner is much more difficult than I already expected it to be. I forget all about what’s on the stove and get to wonderin where Timothy picked up that gonorrhea. I can’t let myself even believe it coulda been from Richie. But since Timothy didn’t tell me nothin at the clinic, my mind starts to wandering. I know I really shouldn’t be gettin in to all his business, but my Richie’s involved and I have to talk to somebody. So when Richie comes back up in here, don’t you dare let on that I told any of this to you, all right. I don’t know what I would do if he ever found...Well, he won’t. You got that, sweetie?

We go on ahead with dinner as planned, with me and Timothy swallowin much more than the food, while Richie just sits there, still a glowin, oblivious to everything. Honey, they don’t write’m like this on them trashy TV shows. Fortunately, I didn’t burn any food, and it turns out to be the kind of meal any boy would wanna wrap his lips around. But Timothy looks at his plate like something’s growin on it. Richie shoots him a look as if to say, “Don’t ask. Just eat.” I know my boy can cook, but I’m wondering what, if at all, he’s cookin for Timothy, among other things, cause Timothy sure don’t look like he had any downhome cooking before.

By now, the pauses is pregnant enough for triplets. My mind is a spinnin out of control, and halfway through my chicken I just blurt out: “You know STDs amongst homosexuals are on the rise these days.”

Timothy drops his fork and spits out his cornbread. Richie tries to clean up the cornbread but his elbow knocks his wine all over the tablecloth and in his plate. I reach over to try and save his food and get corn gravy all over the front of my new blouse.

It’s a mess all right.

“Rosie this is not the appropriate dinner table conversation,” Richie says, pretty calm for the situation, which, I must say, surprises me. But I’m even more surprised when I look closely at the two of them: I reckon from how they each react that Richie don’t know nothin bout Timothy’s little visit to the clinic and I look at Timothy in a completely different way. He excuses himself to go to the bathroom. That’s when Richie goes off: “Whada think you’re doing? You ain’t never brought any of that safe sex preachin at me—ever—much less to the dinner table and in front of my new—have you lost—? I know you care, Rosie. I do. But you need to save that partyline for the faggots who really need it and leave me and mine out of it!”

“Now baby, I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s come over me. I told you this wasn’t gone be easy. But I just—Look. Are you bein safe? Ain’t no tellin what you might pick up from this here boy,” I say. I’m trying my best to watch my mouth. I don’t know whether to blurt it all out or not. After so many years of nursing, of course, patient confidentiality keeps my mouth closed about some things easier than others. But my own flesh and blood could already have some infection or might get something from this boy this very night, seein as it takes a couple days for that treatment to get rid of everything, and I feel as if I oughtta be able to say something.

Timothy comes back from the bathroom and puts a momentary end to my confusion. He tells Richie he thought it best that he get going. He comes over to me, looks all sheepish in my eyes, and thanks me for the meal. Now, under the circumstances, this is quite gracious, so at least I know he was raised right. He and Richie exchange something over by the door. Richie comes back and tells me that he’s leavin too. And I’m left sitting there, alone, with a big old mess on the table.

How many places a day can go.

Richie ain’t been back by to see me since. I don’t know what to think about any of it. Maybe Richie’s the reason why Timothy seemed so guilty. Or maybe even Richie is the one—Oh no, no, no: I can’t think that about my boy.

Please don’t tell him I told you all of this. But when he comes in tomorrow, please tell him that I miss—well...

No. Don’t say nothing.

I just hope my boy’s gonna be… all right.

©2006 by Craig Hickman. All rights reserved.