Monday, June 30, 2008

The World's Fastest Man is Homosexual!

RIGHT BEFORE Tyson Gay ran the fastest race a human has ever run the Olympic trials yesterday, the commentators talked about how Gay looked up to the world's first Black Olympic champion in the 100 meters.

I wanted to be Jesse Owens, too.

Gay, perfect form just like his idol, ran a remarkable race. I've never seen anything like it.

I've never seen anything like this either:


Enter, a biased news site funded by the AFA, or American Family Association, a far right-wing (and James Dobson-friendly) organization whose own web site decries the "homosexual agenda."

As some discovered over the weekend and this morning, the site has a filter set up on its news results that automatically changes the word "gay" to "homosexual." I think it's an odd substitution, but I'm sure they've done some kind of research that shows that "gay" has a more positive connotation than the more literal "homosexual."

How did this attempt at framing backfire on and the AFA? The answer comes from track-and-field.

From the Boston Globe:

When Tyson Gay crossed the finish line in the men's 100 meters yesterday, the crowd at Hayward Field gasped. The clock displayed 9.68 seconds. Everyone at the US Olympic track and field trials knew what that meant. Gay ran the fastest 100 ever, regardless of conditions....
Engage homosexual filter! To people visiting, this was the headline:



I refuse to click on a website that has anything to do with James Dobson, so I have no idea if these headlines have changed or not, but I find this fricking hilarious, even if kind of sad.

But, hey, this is where we are, people. This is where we are.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday With Chet

CHET BAKER live in Tokyo, 1987. His voice has always haunted me. In a good way. This is my favorite version of my favorite song sung by a male vocalist. And, oh, how he can he blow that horn. Enjoy your Sunday with Chet.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Nelson Mandela at 90

Nelson Mandela Foundation

ELDER STATESMAN Nelson Mandela celebrated his 90th birthday yesterday with a huge celebration in London.

Queen, Leona Lewis, Amy Winehouse and a host of African stars led tens of thousands of music fans yesterday to salute the great man.

Proceeds from the show will go to to 46664, the AIDS charity named for the number Mandela wore while imprisoned for opposing South Africa's apartheid regime.

Mandela was released from prison in 1990 after 27 years. He retired from politics in 1999.

For more on the celebration, visit his website.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Say it Again

“THE REPUBLICAN Party is a dead rotting carcass with a few decrepit old leaders stumbling around like zombies in a horror version of 'Weekend With Bernie,' handcuffed to a corpse.”

Larry Hunter

The View From Here

Backyard. Click to enlarge.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Photo of the Day

Click to enlarge
Getty Images. Click to enlarge.

SERENA WILLIAMS wins her first match yesterday at Wimbledon.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Always and Forever

JUNE 23, 1946. 62 years ago my parents vowed, "Till death do us part." They kept their promise. With my father's passing last March, today is a bittersweet day for my mother.

Her man's gone now. Ain't no use a listenin' for his tired footsteps climbing up the stairs.

But I'm sure she can still feel his presence on the day that will always be one of the best days of her life. Always be her wedding anniversary.

And he'll always be her one and only love.

I honor your union today, love birds.

Even death won't part you now.

Your 50th wedding anniversary celebration

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Lady Day - Fine and Mellow (1957)

SO FINE. So mellow. What supreme musicianship. A performance for the ages. Watch the whole thing.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Mary Juanita

I am the mother of sorrows,
I am the ender of grief.

—Paul Laurence Dunbar

How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…

—Luke 12:34

“I don’t know what Hazelle is talking about. You’d be better off listening to a fool. Pay him no never mind, you hear what I say to you? He’s always talking and don’t know what he’s even talkin bout. I did not ask him to dance. I did no such thing, I say to you. No such thing. I was sitting with my girlfriends on this long wooden bench, and your father came over and said something to me, but I wasn’t studying him one bit.

“But he wouldn’t leave me alone. Yeah, he was handsome and all, dressed up nice and sharp—think he was wearing a navy-blue suit—but I wasn’t really trying to be bothered. I only went because my girlfriend, Mattie, asked me to go with her. You know, she didn’t want to be alone.

“But he persisted and persisted, I say to you, and he just wouldn’t give up. Finally, we danced.

“Yeah, he’s a good dancer. Real good. He danced me right into marrying him.”

Click to Enlarge

And it came to pass in those days, that the decade roared and roared. Flappers decked out in beaded chiffon spaghetti-strapped tubes and cloche hats cut up the dance floors to the music of Duke Ellington’s big band. Bessie Smith, empress of the blues, stunned her crowds with great singing and something more. George Gershwin and Al Jolson became legends in their own time using colored people’s music. Langston Hughes published his first book of poetry and the Harlem Renaissance was born in salons around Manhattan. Al Capone and other back-alley, speakeasy gangsters raked in the cash from moonshine and violence. Nicolo Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti suffered electrocution at the hands of the state. Henry Ford gave the driving kind its beloved jalopies. Those with a spirit of adven-ture—and money—took to the skies in the Wright brothers’ invention. Radio was all the rage and Herbert Hoover made a catastrophe of the economy.

The second daughter in a family of three children, Mary Juanita was born just before the Great Depression in Wish, a little township in eastern Ohio. When she was seven, Wish was wiped away by a flood. After raining nonstop for several days, the Ohio River spilled out of its basin.

And kept on spilling.

“From our front stoop, you could actually see stoves and tables, even a few bodies, floating in the river down what was left of the street,” she used to tell her children while she dropped dumplings in pot liquor and built heaven. “It was crazy, I say to you, some kind of crazy rain. It didn’t stop for twenty days and nights. I ain’t seen nothing like it since, and hope to Christ I never do. We were lucky, though. As the good Lord would have it, we only lost the outhouse in the woods out back. It was a miracle, I say to you, a miracle.

“Imagine working as hard as you could most of your natural life for your family and then have it all washed away in the blink of an eye. The trials of Job, I say to you, the trials of Job. And there wasn’t no such thing as flood relief back then like they got now. I don’t think that came along till Roosevelt. He did so much for the poor and downtrodden, you know.

“I don’t know what we would’ve done if we’d lost everything. Like Mister and Missus Warren did. And they had seven sons, God bless’m. Seven sons. Can you imagine? I wonder what ever came of them. I think your grandmother told us that Mister Warren had some family up near this way himself so I think they all ended up here in Milwaukee. Or maybe it was Chicago. Or was it St. Louis? Detroit? The devil if I know. Wherever they are, I sure hope they was able to get back on their feet.

“Seven sons. Have mercy.

“The Lord works in mysterious ways, I say to you, mysterious ways, yes He does. We were some of the lucky ones. We didn’t lose much ourselves. No, we didn’t. That outhouse out back and a lot of your Grandma Magnolia’s antiques and sentimental things that she kept down in the basement from her time in Arkansas and Alabama before the Great War. Ours was about the only house that hadn’t been rocked right out of its foundation from the force of the rushing river. After the basement drained and we cleaned it out, we might’ve been able to stay put. But since the rest of the town was gone, we had to get up and go too. Just as well. If it wasn’t for the flood, I might’ve been stuck in Wish right today and never met your father.

“I think back on those days sometimes, missing my home. Sitting on your front stoop in a town no bigger than a bird’s nest and knowing everybody from the slaughterhouse butcher to the sheriff by their first names. There’s nothing like it, I say to you, nothing like it.

“Citified folk. That’s the way of the world now. Everybody aching for these citified ways. I can’t let myself dwell on Wish and the past for too long. Just have to fold up that memory like a quilt and put it away. Ain’t no going back now even if I wanted to. My hometown is gone. Wish’s washed away. It ain’t even on the map no more. Imagine that.”

To hear her tell it, it was hard sometimes to determine if she was happy to have left Wish or full of regret. But she moved on, just like the Warrens had to.

Her father Timothy, who’d been a railway porter most of his working life, had some relatives nearby. So he took his wife Magnolia, Mary Juanita, her younger brother, Timothy Junior, and older sister, Juniper Belle, just across the Pennsylvania border to the township of Washington.

For the next four years, Mary and her siblings watched the Depression ruin their parents’ marriage; they divorced when she was eleven. Magnolia stayed in Pennsylvania, remarried and had seven more children: Perceval, Celestial, Mitzi, Wellington, Priest, Minneola, and Sela. Their father, James Marshall, who was of African and Shawnee Nation descent, had the surname of a small fruit, so Magnolia Price, née Coleman, became Magnolia Littleberry, a name belonging to no other.

And so it was that Timothy moved his children to Milwaukee where he searched for a new life. He’d heard about all the factories and breweries there and he hoped the Depression increased a man’s thirst for beer. But the breweries were brewing with a short list of employees, and most of them were immigrants from western Europe. Still, Timothy was never one to let circumstances get the best of him. He always had a little something up his sleeve—coveted, efficient, unpredicted. He connected with the right players in the right places and put food on the table running the numbers. After a few months, he settled into his job as a chauffeur and drove the likes of Joe Louis, Louis Armstrong, and Jack Johnson when they had business or pleasure in the Brew City.

Timothy also found a new wife in Alma Leigh, a young woman with a flair for fantasy. And she was quite young—barely older than Juniper Belle, his oldest child, who was thirteen.

Now Alma Leigh wanted to be a jazz singer. Only problem was: she couldn’t carry a note in a handbag. But that minor detail didn’t do a damn thing to keep her from wishing on big bands and a bigger sea of faces, all blues and mystery. Despite being laughed out of the church choir behind her back, thank you very much, Alma Leigh prayed that someday Count Basie himself would discover her in some no-name smoky jazz club.

“Alma would get all dolled up, stand in front of this full-length mirror we had in the front hallway. Hair pressed and set just so with some Madame C.J. Walker, lips red as Scarlett O’Hara’s, she would put an Ella Fitzgerald or Lena Horne seventy-eight on the victrola and begin her mirror act, mouthing the words to ’Stormy Weather’ or ’A Tisket, A Tasket’.”

Craig loved his mother’s monologues, many of which she’d relate without even being asked anything. They came out of nowhere, verbal reflexes to a stimuli only she could feel.

“I’m telling you she would slink and shimmy all sultry-like in her hip-hugging red dress and swing her mink stole round her neck for dramatic effect whenever a song changed keys. She musta thought she was one fine jazz singer, the cat’s meow, singing to the big old audience of herself. Only thing is, I could never understand why she always wore that same red dress every time she served up her show.”

Mary Juanita was a little wary of Alma at first, but at least she tolerated her enough to talk to her. Juniper Belle thought Alma was surely touched, and not by an angel. But Alma Leigh never gave up on her wish to be a jazz singer. It just had to mean something to birth, nurture, and hold on to a wish, no matter how thin the prospects for fulfillment. Especially since she couldn’t birth any real babies.

That’s right: Alma Leigh was barren. This mattered none to Timothy—he already had his mouths to feed.

Alma Leigh loved her husband for his Hollywood good looks and tender ways. But she adored Timothy precisely because he wanted no more children. Now she had the chance to help raise his kids as if they were her own, fulfilling her desire to be a mother.

But what young woman could wrap her whole heart around the belief that she could raise children only five years her junior, especially if she didn’t have to? If anything, Alma Leigh was more like a big sister than a mother, and the trio of mouths made it clear they didn’t want one of those. Alma Leigh never talked about any of this, but she wore the conflict on her face like makeup she could never remove.

Juniper resented her stepmother simply for being there. For occupying space in a place where absence had been easier to take. Throughout their remaining lives, Juniper said nary a word to Alma Leigh, but that’s a whole other story, full of rolled eyes and padlocked lips and no one is searching for the key. Not even Mary Juanita, who was able to unveil mysteries.

For Mary Juanita, concerns of the supernatural were no mystery at all.

At some point in her life, Mary was a devout Methodist. No. Actually, she was a Baptist churchgoing woman. Almost everyone she called a friend came from some church.

“This here is Clyde and Laverne from Mount Zion, and this is Kozelle and Shirlene from Garden of Gethsemane, and, oh, now here—here go Buford and Mary Alice from St. Phillip and the Redeemer,” she’d tell her son, pointing over his shoulder as they looked through her photo albums. “Hickman, you remember me playing Bid Whist with them on Tuesday nights when we lived over on Thirteenth Street?”

Nobody loves the Lord more than she does, but that love has been tested time and time again. Mary Juanita wanted to give Hazelle several children from her womb and raise them up in the ways of her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But her Lord had other plans. She would conceive several times, but never bear fruit.

She pondered these things in her heart. And so she prayed. Not being able to bear fruit became the genesis of her sorrow. Like a disease with no cure, her sorrow would remain the rest of her life, defying her effort to fold it away.

And so she prayed.

She would begin to see that the Lord meant for her to raise children, not bear them. This was her purpose and she knew it with the conviction of saints, for concerns of the supernatural where no mystery to Mary at all.

But Mary Juanita kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

Hazelle thought it was his fault. And so he drank. Perhaps this was the Lord’s way of teaching him a lesson regarding all the Filipino women he’d loved during his time on the islands during the war. Who did he think he was anyway, Lot’s wife, his seed turned to salt for having looked with favor upon so many women? Mary would’ve told him how ludicrous that was had he ever confided in her. But he hadn’t. Never could.

And so he drank.

Had he ever confided in her, it wouldn’t have mattered anyway.

Mary knew her purpose, and it had nothing to do with her husband’s made-up earthly punishment.

And so she would encourage her children to find the women who gave birth to them when they were ready to find them. For what woman in her right mind and true heart could carry a child for nine months, move this child out of her womb in excruciating pain, hear its first cry, maybe even see its face, name it, give it away, and never desire to see it again?

Mary could not fathom there was a single woman dead, alive, or yet to be born who would never desire to see her child again. See how she smiles, or whose nose he has. Does he walk like his father, talk like me? Will she have the temperament of her grandfather, the creativity of her second cousin? Suffer these little babies to come unto me, Mary prayed. She would prepare a way for them to go to the mothers whom they chose to come through.

Ten years after they married, Mary Juanita’s prayers were answered and she and Hazelle helped raise three foster children, Freddie, Reggie, and Arnold, the sons of a woman having a difficult time in life.

Ten years after that, her prayers were answered again and they adopted their first child, a beautiful ten-month-old girl, and named her Gina Louise. Daddy had his little girl, and there wasn’t anything you could say to him in those early days to wipe that ever-present smile off his face. His high cheekbones, inherited from Blackfoot Indian ancestors, rose even higher.

Gina Louise, who, at age three, won her first kiddy contest at Alma Leigh’s church, was the pride and joy of the family that lived on the second floor of the brown house with yellow trim on Thirteenth Street, near the corner of Finn Place. The Hickmans rented from the Davidsons, a black couple that lived downstairs. The Davidsons had adopted their two daughters, Debbie Rae and Donna Mae, and offered encouragement and support for the Hickmans in their quest to extend their family.

The Davidsons also introduced the Hickmans to their camping group. Once Gina came along, Hazelle and Mary wanted to expose their dearest daughter to more than the inner-city neighborhoods. No way would they deny their offspring a life with varied scenes and experiences, even if they couldn’t afford to travel very far.

But the Hickmans were brilliantly blessed in every way. They purchased a tan and white Volkswagen van and took their first camping trip with the Davidsons and their camping group in the summer of nineteen hundred and sixty seven, the summer Jennifer was pregnant—and under house arrest.

A brief record of the genealogy of Joseph Craig the son of James, the son of Timothy:

James was the father of James,
James was the father of Jennifer Minnie, whose mother was England
Jennifer Minnie, of whom was born Joseph, who is called Craig

Timothy was the father of Timothy
Timothy was the father of Mary Juanita, whose mother was Magnolia
Mary Juanita, who adopted Joseph, whom she named Craig

And it came to pass in those days, that the Supreme Court had yet to issue its decree, and abortion was illegal throughout the land. So Jennifer Minnie White went up from the city of Milwaukee, in Milwaukee County, in the state of Wisconsin, to Madison, in Dane County, in the state of Wisconsin, because she was with child, unwed, and in college. Her mother England was caught up in a terror-filled spinning. England did not want to bring public disgrace and shame on herself, on the good White name, and so she secretly sent her daughter away.

And so it was, that, while she was there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And so she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in her arms, and named him Joseph, and gave him up for adoption because there was no room for him in the White house.

And there was in the same neighborhood where she lived in Milwaukee, a family awaiting the birth of their second child, a son.

And in April of the nineteen hundred and sixty-ninth year, the family went to Children’s Services Society of Wisconsin and the social worker said unto them: “I have good news for your entire family. We have found your son in a white foster home in DeForest, Wisconsin. You will meet him next Saturday, and take him home with you the Sunday after that.”

And so it was that on Sunday, the twenty-seventh of April, Craig went permanently to the home of Hazelle and Mary Juanita Hickman on Thirteenth Street in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, right around the corner from the White house.

excerpted from Fumbling Toward Divinity: The Adoption Scriptures, all rights reserved.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Happy Juneteenth Day

JUNETEENTH is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.

Later attempts to explain this two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years. Often told is the story of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another, is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. And still another, is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. All or none of them could be true. For whatever the reason, conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.

Today Juneteenth commemorates African American freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. It is a day, a week, and in some areas a month marked with celebrations, guest speakers, picnics and family gatherings. It is a time for reflection and rejoicing. It is a time for assessment, self-improvement and for planning the future. Its growing popularity signifies a level of maturity and dignity in America long over due. In cities across the country, people of all races, nationalities and religions are joining hands to truthfully acknowledge a period in our history that shaped and continues to influence our society today. Sensitized to the conditions and experiences of others, only then can we make significant and lasting improvements in our society.

Continue Reading about Juneteenth Day...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Blacks at the Net: Black Achievement in the History of Tennis, Volume Two

PERHAPS the most important ingredient in a thorough overview of tennis history is examining the role that race, gender, class and region have played in setting the course of the modern global sport. That’s what Sundiata Djata argues in Blacks at the Net: Black Achievement in the History of Tennis, Volume Two (Syracuse University, 2008; 255 pages). It’s an ambitious and comprehensive examination of black achievement in one of the world’s most popular, yet, traditionally, white sports.

Continue reading...

Cyd Charisse, 1922 - 2008

REST in peace.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Legally, Today; Spiritually, 55 Years

SAME-SEX couple Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon exchange rings as they are married by San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom in a private ceremony at San Francisco City Hall June 16, 2008 in San Francisco, California. Martin and Lyon were the first couples to be married in San Francisco as same-sex marriages become legal in California. By Marcio Jose Sanchez-Pool/Getty Images.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The View From Here

Fireworks. Click to enlarge.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day

To all fathers, enjoy your day. Honor yourselves.

To those of you who have fathers, appreciate them while you still have them.

To Frank, my birthfather, thank you for bringing me into the world.

Daddy, I miss you terribly. Rest in peace.

Daddy's Boy

In loving memory of my father

ISAIAH JEREMIAH Lamentations Ezekiel Gates awakens at 4:46 a.m. when he hears footsteps and the peculiar noise of gurgling water rushing from the kitchen faucet. Soon, the aroma of hot water washing coffee grounds tiptoes under the bedroom door and kisses his nose.

Good morning, Daddy, he thinks. The crisp sounds of cereal crackling against porcelain and glass catching ice arouse him.

He can almost feel the steam from the percolator gliding down the frosty window over the sink; almost taste the burnt-brown bread springing up out of the toaster.

Every weekday, without fail, Emanuel "Iron" Gates woke up the house before the sun seeped into the deep indigo sky. Uniformed in a gray shirt with “Iron Gates” embroidered in red thread above the left chest pocket, navy blue pants and black round-toed shoes, Iron went off to the brewery. Never late. Hadn’t missed a day in over twenty years. Proud to provide for his better half, girl and boy. So proud. The kind of pride that jumped out of his voice after parent-teacher day at Isaiah’s school.

"Son, your teachers say you sure are gifted. You can write your own ticket someday. Do anything you put your mind to. Don’t ever settle for second-best. I love you, my one-and-only son."

Barely hearing Iron’s shoes descend the hall stairs and the back-door lock click, Isaiah turns over, curls both knees to his chest, and smiles his way back to sleep.
Like a tape, Iron’s words rewind over and over in Isaiah’s head as he lies under the darkness.

Daddy really loves me, he thinks, and wants the best for me. He wants me to succeed and I will. I’ll do anything to make him proud now and always

Isaiah picked up the phone on the fourth ring. "I’m all settled in at my hotel. For cryin out loud, I got in earlier that I thought. That musta been one helluva jet stream. I’m looking forward to that rib place you been talkin bout for lunch tomorrow, but is there any chance you’d go out with me tonight as well, or am I pushing it?"

"Well, I don’t see why not. My rehearsal tonight was canceled, so I’ve got no plans. I been wantin to check out the jazz scene out here. We should go on over to this little place I read about in my Downbeat Magazine on the way in. Wally’s is the name. You been there before?"

Jazzed remained one of Iron’s strongest passions. An avid record collector for more than forty years, he boasted a couple thousand albums arranged alphabetically on some big shelves he built in the basement when his Isaiah was seven.

When Iron used to entertain his friends, Isaiah would feel the floor pulsate with the driving beats of Weather Report, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, or the Modern Jazz Quartet, among others. Iron’s wife, Pearl E., who considered listening to any music except gospel music, a sin worthy of fire and brimstone, would yell, "Tell your father to turn that bass down," as she nearly bounced off the couch in the front room trying to take her naps.

"Not in a while, but the local musicians are good and it’s a pretty laid-back crowd," Isaiah finally responded. Actually, he was there just last weekend, but he couldn’t let his father know that he, too, had developed a need for the music, pretending to dislike jazz simply because Iron worshipped it.

"We can relax, have a brew and get a head start on all the catchin up we gotta do. Whatcha say?"

Isaiah could hear Iron smile through the phone. Although he hadn’t spoken with his father about anything more than the weather in nearly two years, he reluctantly obliged.

"I need to study a few scenes and grab a bite. I’ll come by around nine. We can walk over from there; it’s not that far from your hotel."

Isaiah grabbed his cigarettes, lit one of the last few, and took a long, deep drag. I swore I was going to quit this habit today, he thought. I’ve already made some big changes for the better, so I guess I have to let myself off the hook and wait a little longer. Cold turkey. Besides this visit with Dad is going to really work my nerves, so tonight might not be the best time. Not now.

Isaiah put on Shirley Horn’s Here’s to Life, took a Tupperware container out of the refrigerator and threw it in the microwave. Red beans and rice. Mama’s recipe. He cooked a big pot last week because he knew he’d be too busy this week to cook every night and eating out was not an option.

Isaiah was relieved it was the end of the batch because if he had to eat one more helping, he might turn into red-brown mush and the freezer was already stocked with chicken soup for days.

It was a season for forgetting. Isaiah’s body drove the past deep into the obscure reaches of his mind. While eating dinner, he stared up at the Jacob Lawrence print hanging above the alcove table. He loved expressionist art and someday intended to paint watercolors as he had in the seventh grade.

Matted newspaper clippings containing the critics’ praise for his work at the Boston Center for the Arts caught his eye from the wall above the stereo. Such praise drew attention from producers and directors alike. No stranger to the encouragement and support of those he had worked hard to impress, Isaiah depended on the approval of others to sustain him, chasing parts and projects and if driven by insatiable hunger. He was writing a play, waiting tables overtime at the Charles Hotel, and had just finished a successful run in a popular biblical burlesque comedy based on Purim as told in the Book of Esther.

Although his schedule could hardly afford it, Isaiah made time to visit Little J.B. Underwood in Roxbury every weekend, if only to see the child’s eyes sparkle when he saw his Big Brother coming to take him out to play.

His incessant activity drowned the eternal yearning for something that forever eluded Isaiah; he knew it was there, as close and constant as his own breathing. But this was the season for forgetting—for forgetting how loudly his heart rattled in its cage. He would claw at anything to stop that noise.

The phone rang. Isaiah let the machine take the call. When he heard Thomas’s voice, he lunged across the living room, tripped over his makeshift cocktail, and snatched up the phone, catching his breath.

"Hey, brother, how you doing?"

"Just got in from work. These folk are working me like a slave. What about you? Your father get in yet?"

"I talked to him a little while ago. We’re going to Wally’s later on to talk, but I don’t think I can handle a face-to-face with him just yet. I don’t know why I agreed to go."

"Because your heart told you to. You better trust it, baby. I know you and your Father haven’t been tight for a long time, but you said you wanted to get closer to him. Now’s the chance. He’s your blood. What’s the worse that could go down?"

"Actually, he’s not my blood."


"I thought you knew I was adopted."

"I guess I forgot."

"It’s okay; that really has nothing to do with this anyway. We just don’t see eye to eye and I don’t want to make a scene."

"It’s not going to go down like that. Spirit is thicker than blood, and I know he’s your spirit. It may be rough, but you’ll hang tough. Everything’ll be cool. Where’s your faith? I got to be up early in the morning, so I’ll be asleep by the time you get back. But if you need to call, you know I’m here for you. I’ll send a prayer up for you."

"Lord knows I need it." Isaiah paused and carried his dishes into the kitchen. "Thomas?"


"Oh … nevermind. Talk to you later."

The clock read 9:30 p.m. Already? Where did the time go? Isaiah put on his khaki flight jacket, a black beret, grabbed his green wool scarf off the coat rack and headed out the door. He stepped into the corner store. "Camel lights, please."

The black woman behind the counter wrinkled her brow. "Young man, I thought I sold you your last pack yesterday."

"Maybe tomorrow."

The crisp, cool evening air chilled Isaiah’s face. A teardrop gently caressed his left cheek. Christmas lights adorned storefronts and apartment windows throughout the city. The John Hancock tower glistened against the starry sky. It was a night for holding hands, for painting postcards, for revisiting the past.

When Isaiah arrived at the hotel, he paused with a hesitation so powerful it drew the attention of passersby. Why prolong the separation any further? Isaiah genuinely missed his father. But fear crept over his body, stealing away reason.

Breathing so heavily the fog funneling from his mouth blurred the insignia over the entryway, Isaiah lifted his face to the heavens, let out a deep sigh and listened for the faint echo of Thomas’s comfort in his head: everything’ll be cool, everything’ll be co…

"Is that you, son?" Iron said, hearing a timid knock on the door.

Iron hadn’t aged much since the last time Isaiah saw him. His solemn face wore the same bags under the eyes, the same receding hairline, the same droop beneath the jawbone. Although a few more age spots crept down his forehead before the gray-blue waves of hair, his face bore no wrinkles, not even a distinguished laugh line. For a man in his seventies, Iron looked exceptionally well.

"Lemme put in my eye drops so I can get a good look at you." Iron moved tentatively toward Isaiah. Avoiding an embrace, Isaiah suggested they head right over to the club.

They arrived at Wally’s just in time to avoid the line that formed immediately behind them, as if they were the main attraction. As Isaiah reached into his back pocket to retrieve his wallet for the six-dollar cover, the burly man standing in front of the door announced, "I need to see some ID, boy."

Boy? Isaiah thought. What kinda sh... Boy. This mess is tired. Who does he think he is? Boy. It ain’t 1796. I ain’t nobody’s slave, driver, or butler. I’m a grown man perfectly capable of taking care of...Boy. And comin from a brother, too. He oughtta know better. I swear, if Dad wasn’t here, I would haul off and kick his, buck-toothed, disfigured—

"Sir, this is a father-son affair." Iron interrupted Isaiah’s internal tirade. Eyebrows lifted, chin held high, Iron gazed, unflinching, directly into the man’s eyes, a twenty-dollar bill dangling from his outstretched hand. Isaiah saw his breath and felt his fists unclench. The pitch of Iron’s voice and his confident, yet condescending expression reminded Isaiah of the many faces Iron wore during his arguments with Old Man Jenkins from down the street over a plethora of topics about which Iron knew nothing. Nothing. But he had the full-fledged routine down pat. He churned out data so fast and with such conviction, Old Man Jenkins could do nothing except concede. Without another word, the doorman handed Iron his change, moved aside and let them enter.

The aroma of victuals from early evening’s happy-hour fare still lurked amidst the smoke in the crowded room. The music’s electricity danced over and carried them into the party. The entire room and everything therein throbbed in time to the bass and drum rhythm. Ice cubes struck notes on tumblers and stemware in tune with the cascading, rainfall tinkle from the piano. Tenor-saxophone riffs wailed measure after measure in call-and-response with the vibrato of laughter from a woman sitting at the bar. Piercing laughter. A mama’s-talking-on-the-phone kind of laughter. The joint was jumpin.

Iron led Isaiah over to an empty table near the stage corner. Before they removed their coats, a waitress sped over to take their drink order. Brandy straight-up and a draft beer back. Thank you Ma’am.

"I’ll have soda water with lime, please," said Isaiah, the drop of acid in his voice directed more toward Iron than toward the waitress. When they sat down, Isaiah lit a cigarette.

"You still smoking."

"And you’re still drinking." Damn, Isaiah thought, that’s getting us off to a good start. He could hear Mama’s mantra, Your smart mouth is gon be your downfall someday, rippling about his head. "How are your eyes? I talked to Nella last week and she’s been worried about you."

"Well, you know how your sister is, worryin bout me way too much. My glaucoma is well under control. Last checkup, the doctor say the pressure’s gone down a few points. For cryin out loud, if these eye drops keep workin, I won’t need that laser surgery he been talkin bout."

That was good news. Isaiah certainly didn’t want his father to go blind. Unwilling to think of anything else to say, Isaiah absorbed the music and surveyed the room. The woman at the bar who was laughing when they came in was feeling awfully good now. Swaying to the music, she could barely keep her hips on the stool. A drunken man vying with himself for her affections became too eager. She tried to remove his hand from her waist, but he resisted. She stood up, hands-on-hip and with sharp neck jerks, still in time with the music, made her point as clear as the clarinet’s throat: "Get your hands offa me you drunken motherfu..."

With the music’s crescendo, the man raised his curled hand, shouted, You old siditty bitch, and struck her across the face. Twice.

The drama intensified as two bar backs restrained the man and dragged him away. And Isaiah went away—way back to bed that night when he was ten-years-old and Daddy dragged himself home at two a.m., woke him up, and ordered those dishes washed, dried and put away.

Mama! Tell Daddy to leave me alone!

What I say boy? You do as I say boy!

No! Mama!

What?! Boy!

Isaiah’s skin burned after Iron’s blow. It burned again and again...

"Stop it. Please, stop it!" Pearl E. finally intervened. Iron grew weary, stumbled into their bedroom and passed out.

"Thank you. We’re going to slow it down a bit for you now and play some blues. This one’s called Don’t Explain. Hope you enjoy it." The voice from the stage brought Isaiah back.

"You aawl right?" Iron slurred. Iron had seen this look on Isaiah’s face before, but he couldn’t let himself remember when. He threw back another shot of brandy.

"I just spaced out a little. This place is pretty intense, huh?"

"Better than I expected. Go on, man, blow your horn," Iron hollered toward the stage. He took a gulp of beer and turned back to Isaiah, touching him firmly on the shoulder to get his attention. "Now, looky here, whatcha plans? I’m talking bout plans. What kinda plans you got? You applyin to law school any time soon?"

Here we go again. "Law school’s out of the picture for a while. Actually, I don’t know if it’ll ever be in the picture again, Dad. For the time being, I like what I’m doing. I’m learning the craft, people are taking me seriously and I’m working on a new show. Didn’t you get the reviews I sent you of—"

"I don’t know nothin bout what you sent me. All them letters is too damn small for me to be reading anyhow."

"So what did you do, Dad? Throw them away?" He tried to fight back the heat stirring in his stomach, but he was losing the battle.

"What’s it matter to ya? For cryin out loud, you think you was sendin me a write up from the goddamn New York Times about some big court case you won that was gon make things better for our people. All that damn money spent at that uppity school wasted on your hard-headed nonsense. If only your mother—"

"Don’t you dare throw Mama up in my face," Isaiah shot back through gritted teeth. "And since you’re operating on so few brain cells as of late, let me remind you that that uppity school was all you seemed to be able to talk about to your friends after I got accepted."

"Don’t push me, kiddo. I’m still the father here, and I ain’t gone tolerate your backtalk." Iron looked away to get the waitress’s attention. "Look at me when I’m talkin to ya. A man’s gotta earn his place in the sun. You still tryin to get where I been, and you’ll be damn good and lucky if you make it this far. And what’s a man gon do when his luck runs out? I’m more’n seventy-years-old, got the scars to prove it, and I still gotta listen to the man upstairs. I knows what I’m talkin bout. Now looky here, don’t you think you should—"

"I’m doing fine."

"Don’t you raise your voice at me. You ain’t too old for me to.... Looky here, this actin or whatever it is you call yourself doin ain’t gon secure no future. You need to listen to your father, boy."

Isaiah winced. His heart raced. He felt every ounce of his blood rush into his throat and nourish the large clump there. Before he had a chance to think, to measure his next move, he jumped up, eyes bulging, and his voice blurted out: "This boy is a grown man perfectly capable of taking care of himself. This boy doesn’t need you or anybody else telling me what to do. Anybody. This is my life and my future, and I’m the only one who’ll decide how to live it. What I need is your support for my decisions. But what I don’t need, what I really don’t need is your unsolicited advice about what I should be doing. Got it?"

Isaiah threw some money on the table, grabbed his belongings, and moved for the door. Iron pursued him as quickly as he could. "Son. Wait. Don’t go like this. I’m sorry. Sit on back down here and lemme talk to you."

"Did you say—?"

"Yeah, I know, I said I’m sorry." Iron sat down hard in his chair, almost shaking the drinks off the table. The weight of forgetting shifted, the heat of remembrance rose up through the smoke like an offering. "Now looky here. You’re right. You all grown-up and I shouldn’t be tellin you what to do, but you just don’t listen." He motioned to continue, but stopped and reached down. The moment, heavy as the shroud covering his heart, hung over the rim of the shot glass for what seemed like eternity. "I just want you to be happy."

"I am happy." Isaiah took a sip of water. "Are you?"

The dissonant languor of the blues meandered by and colored Iron’s face. "You know, son, your mother and me, we did the best we could. But life’s short and unexpected things happen. I hate what’s happened to us. But lemme say…well…if there’s anything. If there’s anything I"—this time, Iron let himself to remember that night, and many more like it—"if there’s anything I ever did wrong to you. Well. Lemme just ask ya one thing. Look at me."

Isaiah turned and looked into Iron’s bloodshot eyes.

"Son. Please. Forgive me."

This will take more willpower, or want power, or whatever-kind-of power than it’ll take to stop these nasty cigarettes. But this he must do. He had to. Across from Isaiah a phantom transformed into a pillar right in front of his eyes. Across from Isaiah sat the man who taught him about discipline, respect, honor, dignity. About how to rise up after being knocked down. How to dream great dreams. How to love. To live. The only father he ever had, the only father he’d ever have. And deep within, beneath the layers of fear, resentment, anger, contempt—somewhere beneath his navel—he knew this man was the only father he ever wanted.

Through clouded eyes, Isaiah could’ve sworn he saw the tiny droplet of water that had collected in the far corner of Iron’s left eye trickle down his cheek. "I love you, Daddy," Isaiah whispered. Iron almost had to read his lips. But Iron didn’t mind. He had so firmly memorized the memory of the look in his ten-year-old son’s eyes the last time he saw those words, he knew what Isaiah was going to say before his lips moved at all.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert Dies of Heart Attack at 58

MEET THE PRESS. After vacationing in Italy to celebrate his son's graduation from Boston College, Tim Russert collapsed and died at work today. His legacy of journalism with a capital J will live on, but Sunday mornings will not be the same.

My prayers go out to his family.

The Meaning of Life

THANKS to's live video feed I was able to see Barack Obama's town hall in Kaukauna, Wisconsin, and thanks to Political Punch, I'm able to print his great answer to a young man's probing question.

"What does life mean to you?" the man asked, instructing the Democratic nominee that he be as intellectual or spiritual as he would like.

And so Barack answered.

"Oh goodness. What does life mean to me?

"I don't know where to start on a question like that. Let me just say a couple things. Right now what I think about most is my daughters who are 10 and 7. And not that I'm biased but they are perfect in all ways.

"When I was your age, I thought life was all about me. And how do make my way in the world and how do I become successful and how do I get the things that I want. And right now life for me revolves around those two girls. And I think about what kind of a place am I leaving them.

"Michelle and I have been incredibly blessed. As long as God's looking over, my girls are going to be OK. They can go to great schools, will be able to afford college, are in good health and will be well cared for if they ever get sick.

"Are they living in a county where there’s a huge gap between a few who are wealthy and a whole bunch of people who are struggling every day? Are they living in a county that is still divided by race?

"Are they living in a country where because they’re girls they don’t have as much opportunity as boys do?

"Are they living in a country where we are hated around the world because we don’t cooperate with other countries as effectively as we should? Are they living in a country where they are threatened by terrorism and a nuclear explosion could happen in a major American city? Are they living in a country in which because of a lack of sensible energy we are not only ransoming our future, but we’re also threatening the very livelihood of the planet?

"What life means to me is that every day I wake up trying to figure out how can I secure their futures and the futures of all children. How can I make sure that we are giving a planet and a country to them that is better than the one we got? And, you know, so I guess what I’ve discovered is that life doesn’t count for much unless you’re somehow giving yourself to something larger than yourself. And that’s part of my Christian faith. It’s also part of the reason I am running for president of the United States."


Words from the leader I want in the Oval Office. If he's your choice, why don't you take this exchange, put it in an email and send it to everybody you know. There's no reason that smears are the only emails making the rounds.

Know hope.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

‘The Hottest Ring in Hell’

WHEN DID the Democrats grow spines? When Barack Obama became the presumptive nominee. This from Senator Richard Durbin, the man who encouraged Barack to run now instead of later.

Dick Durbin at the Maine State Convention

O'DONNELL (Watch Video): Can I ask you, too, about what Maureen Dowd wrote in today's New York Times about the Republicans targeting Michelle Obama. She wrote: "It's good news for Obama that Hillary's out of the race. But it's also bad news. Now Republicans can turn their full attention to demonizing Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama is the new, unwilling contestant in Round Two of the sulfurous national game of 'Kill the witch.'" What's your reaction to that?

DURBIN: Well, I know Michelle. She has been my friend and a friend of my wife for many, many years. She can take it. She can handle herself. She is a very accomplished person. But I will tell you this: the hottest ring in Hell is reserved for those in politics who attack their opponents' families. And if there are some Republican strategists that think that's the way to win the election, I think they are wrong.

O'DONNELL: Wow, well, there you have it. That's a line. Senator Durbin, very interesting, thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

A pitbull with geniality. I love it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mother Earth is Saying, 'Enough'

BARELY into the second week of June and the temperature in Maine has already broken 90 degrees Fahrenheit. It's still spring.

After days of nonstop rain, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Iowa are flooding as I write this. Iowa rivers are expected to overflow soon.

Snow dumped on the Pacific northwest today. It's June.

Deadly tornadoes, twisters, and waterspots have touched down all over the nation, and in some unlikely places.

A giant sinkhole sunk in Texas a few weeks ago.

A southern Illinois earthquake in April sent aftershocks into Tennessee and Alabama. And Canada.

Brush fires have ravaged California and Florida.

A tsunami recently destroyed a chunk of Burma.

An earthquake recently destroyed a chunk of China.

Hurricane season in the Caribbean is expected to be vicious this summer.

And this is a short list.

We must take better care of our planet.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Celebration of the Day

WE GOTTA MAKE this land a better land than the world in which we live. Yes we can can.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Happy Birthday

TODAY is my birth mother's 59th birthday. I found her seven years ago.

Happy birthday and thank you for bringing me into the world.

She's one of the two people in my life who brought me to the truth about Barack Obama.

She shares a birthday with his youngest daughter who turns seven-years-old today. Happy birthday, Sasha Obama.

Hillary Clinton Endorses Barack Obama

I GIVE HER CREDIT for her speech. She said almost all the right things. (If I nitpick, I believe some use of the the word "fairly" near the word "victory" would have made it perfect, but at least she didn't act like she had won on a technicality.)

And she delivered it well.

Sounds like Barack's speech writers wrote some of that speech.

She didn't need to mention John McCain. It wasn't about him.

Now, let's see what she actually does to try to get Barack elected. Actions speak louder.

I haven't forgiven her for her campaign, but I can admit that it's time to look forward and she did that with her speech.

I'll get around to forgiveness when I get around to it.

But this was the first step toward unity and I'll always give the devil his due.

Andrew has a more devastating perspective. It's worth a look-see.

It's also time to turn the page.

Know hope.

Celebration of the Day

A LITTLE BLACK GIRL cries while listening to a speech by US Democratic presidential candidate, Illinois Senator Barack Obama during a rally to officially kick off the general election campaign on June 05, 2008 at the Nissan Pavillion in Bristow, Virginia. By Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images. (via Daily Dish)

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Times They Are A-Changing

BOB DYLAN endorsed Barack Obama today in the Times Online (via Daily Kos):

In an exclusive interview with The Times, published in T2 today, Dylan gives a ringing endorsement to Mr Obama, the first ever black presidential candidate, claiming he is "redefining the nature of politics from the ground up".

Dylan, 67, made the comments when being interviewed in Denmark, where he stopped over in a hotel during a tour of Scandinavia.

Asked about his views on American politics, he said: "Well, you know right now America is in a state of upheaval. Poverty is demoralising. You can't expect people to have the virtue of purity when they are poor.

"But we've got this guy out there now who is redefining the nature of politics from the ground up...Barack Obama.

"He's redefining what a politician is, so we'll have to see how things play out. Am I hopeful? Yes, I'm hopeful that things might change. Some things are going to have to."

He added: “You should always take the best from the past, leave the worst back there and go forward into the future."

Dylan's endorsement contains much symbolic significance. The legendary singer-songwriter, who has an art exhibition opening in London next week, became a focal point for young people worldwide when he released the album 'The times they are a-changin'," including the famous song of that name, in 1964.

I was always more a fan of Dylan's poetic lyrics than of his music, and that voice, but every once in a while, everything came together in a way that stirred my soul.

And, like all artists, he's still able to tell us who we are.

Celebration of the Day

Say It Again!

“THIS CAMPAIGN is going to be a crusade to save the soul of America.”

Rep. John Lewis, Georgia

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Barack Obama Makes History

WHEN I SAW this image on the television, I burst into tears.

And again when this one flashed.

And by the time he finished the following speech, I was weeping.

Remarks of Senator Barack Obama
Final Primary Night
Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008
St. Paul, Minnesota

As Prepared for Delivery

Tonight, after fifty-four hard-fought contests, our primary season has finally come to an end.

Sixteen months have passed since we first stood together on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois. Thousands of miles have been traveled. Millions of voices have been heard. And because of what you said – because you decided that change must come to Washington; because you believed that this year must be different than all the rest; because you chose to listen not to your doubts or your fears but to your greatest hopes and highest aspirations, tonight we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another – a journey that will bring a new and better day to America. Tonight, I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States.

I want to thank every American who stood with us over the course of this campaign – through the good days and the bad; from the snows of Cedar Rapids to the sunshine of Sioux Falls. And tonight I also want to thank the men and woman who took this journey with me as fellow candidates for President.

At this defining moment for our nation, we should be proud that our party put forth one of the most talented, qualified field of individuals ever to run for this office. I have not just competed with them as rivals, I have learned from them as friends, as public servants, and as patriots who love America and are willing to work tirelessly to make this country better. They are leaders of this party, and leaders that America will turn to for years to come.

Continue reading...


We made history.

Weekend in Maine: A Letter for My Father

FRIDAY, May 30

I almost changed my mind.

When I walked up to the Augusta Convention Center and saw all the campaign signs and professionally printed flyers plastered on all the entrance doors, the makeshift nametag I'd thrown together using clear packing tape, Glue Stic and an old name tag holder from a Book Expo years ago seemed totally inadequate. What did I think I was running for, anyway? Student council president?

No way could I compete with any of this. I'd had no idea what to expect, and I surely didn't expect this. Perhaps my quest to get elected as a national delegate to Denver would have to remain a dream. Like the recurring one I have of you walking up our driveway with that look of love always on your face to see the completed renovations, which you never got to see before you left us just over a year ago.

With Memorial Day just last weekend and Father's Day right around the corner, you've been on my mind constantly. I'd been singing Luther's "Dance With My Father" nonstop for most of the week and listened to it on the way to the center to pick up my credentials.

You can do anything you put your mind to.

The line was long. Candidates and exhibitors were pushing buttons and stickers and flashing smiles. After about an hour, when I finally neared the registration table, a very loud, "How many of you were Jesse Jackson delegates back in 1988?" broke through the voices of doubt spinning in my head.

The man who shouted the question was about 60-years-old, heavyset with a rose-colored face and white mustache. He sounded like Rush Limbaugh.

Behind me, a man said that the Democrats always have to make it hard on themselves. "We're gonna put up a black man or a woman. I don't know if either of them can win. But if one of them can, Barack can. I just don't think the country wants another Clinton."


Walking around the huge building, proudly sporting my credentials like a gold medal, it became clearer how unprepared I was. My inkjet-printed handouts weren't going to cut it. Even though my name would be on the ballot, there was no way any of my efforts before noon the next day would be enough. May as well forget about campaigning altogether.

But what about all the time I'd already put into my candidacy? All the effort getting the signatures for my nominating petition? I couldn't waste all that could I? I guess not.

Lucky to live 15 minutes from the convention center, I begrudgingly decided to drive back home, redesign and print out my handouts. If they couldn't be slick, they could at least be better.

On the way out, I passed the two Obama field organizers who'd been staying with us since last Thursday.

"Craig, did you see the delegate booklet?" the woman of the couple asked.

Tracie, an Obama delegate and candidate for the national delegation and presidential elector, had put out a call a few days ago for short profiles of the Obama delegates running for something over the weekend. I'd submitted my profile more than three hours late and assumed I'd missed that boat. Apparently not.

"I read your profile and it's gotten very good feedback," the field organizer said.

That was encouraging. I'd decided to scrap the well-recommended format of filling in the blanks after Describe Yourself, Obama Experience, Political Experience, and Why I'm Running and used my 250-word limit to write this instead:

Seems to me—author, artist, activist, blogger, poet, farmer, and bed & breakfast host—that many of us don't need anyone to tell us who Barack Obama is. We can research his record on our own. We can compare his positions now to what they were before he announced his candidacy. We can understand that he might fail as president. We can equally understand that he might be a great leader.

For many of us, it's not about ideology or experience at this point.

It's about hope. People like to dismiss hope, but hope is powerful.

And it scares the crap out of people. I mean: really. What would happen if a new majority actually came to pass? What would happen if we became a nation that cared for the health and well-being of all our citizens no matter race, religion, region, gender, sexuality, class or any other label that divides us? What would happen if our trust for our elected officials increased because they became transparent and open and honest? What would happen if we improve diplomacy with other nations, if the perception of us in the eyes of those who want to destroy us improves?

That's pretty scary stuff. But courage doesn't exist in the absence of fear.

No risk; no reward. It appears a throng of Americans is willing to take a risk by believing in hope and showing the courage to cast a vote for Barack.

A vote for Craig Hickman is a vote for Barack Obama.

Included was a headshot way before the dreadlocks. It's all I could find on short notice.

Very good feedback. And the delegate booklet would be available for free to everyone attending the convention.

In that moment, hearing those words, I believed I could do this. And then I could've sworn I heard your words. The ones you repeated to me everyday when I was little.

You can do anything you put your mind to.

So I made up my mind to do it.

:: ::

I plastered the place, Daddy. Turned myself into a walking billboard. Had to call Job to bring me the flyers I didn't have time to cut before I rushed back so I could campaign during the opening ceremonies.

Job misses you as much as I do. He talks often about you calling me and asking "How's Job?" as soon as I picked up the phone. About how you always called him your son.

I remember how you were there for us during one of our roughest patches. Reminded us that we were all we had so we better stay by each other's sides no matter what.

He's one of the main reasons why I paid any attention to Barack in the first place. He helped awaken me from political slumber. And here he is helping me in my quest to go to Denver.

You'd be happy.

Gwethalyn Phillips, our add-on superdelegate

Adam Cote, 1st District Candidate

Later, at the welcome reception the Obama campaign arranged for our state delegation, I had a margarita and geared up for a fullscale charm offensive.

"When are we gonna get outta the war!"

It was the heavyset man with the rose-colored face and Rush Limbaugh voice again. Another cry out of nowhere that silenced the room for a moment. He was no joke.

By the end of the night, several delegates in a few other counties in the first district said they'd help spread the word at their caucuses tomorrow.

When I returned home, all the delegates we were expecting had arrived at the house. We donated all the rooms at the B&B to the campaign and had a house full of Obama people from around the state.

Job said he told them if they didn't vote for me, provided they could, and help me distrubute flyers Saturday morning then they couldn't stay over.

Politics is vicious.


Saturday, May 31

Mustard-brown leather pants. Totally inappropriate at 6:00 am, no? Which is exactly why I chose to wear them. County caucuses were scheduled to start at noon. I had a small window to make a big impression. I needed people wondering who the hell the guy in the inappropriate pants was and I didn't think my dreadlocks would be enough.

Another Obama delegate reception was scheduled for 7:30 am. I planted myself near the entrance and begged for votes. After a few welcoming remarks and a Q&A, the field organizer opened the floor to the candidates.

Candidates wait to address Obama delegation

When it was my turn, I told the people I was a poet, not a politician and then I performed my poem "Field Trip." Totally messed up the beginning. Hadn't delivered the piece in years and had the audacity to hope I could pull it off without incident.

No one seemed to notice the blunder. I finished strongly and ceded the stage. From the room's response, I suspected people would spread the word throughout the morning.

With the help of many folks I didn't know, and a few I had come to know, including our own Colleen, word got around.

Sometimes it's a good thing when people talk about you behind your back.

:: ::

I summoned Job to the convention center around 8:30 am to help me campaign. He's tall and handsome and charming without trying to be. He can stand in one spot and people come up to him without his asking. He told everyone to whom he handed a handout that he was my husband and that they needed to send me to Denver because he needed a break. Needed to enjoy the house all to himself for a few days. He said most of the delegates, especially the men, laughed and said they'd definitely vote for me.

Whatever works.

:: ::

The Barack Obama floor show was otherworldly. Like nothing I've ever before been a part of.

What seemed like a multitude of supporters gathered at the back of the auditorium. When Barack's short video ended, we marched down three aisles toward the podium, signs held aloft, chanting, chanting, chanting...



The handsome man, you know how bad I am with names, who spoke on Barack's behalf gave such a fiery speech, the multitude of cheers lifted the roof off the joint.

It was like an altar call in a Pentecostal church. But Barack wasn't even present, so the vortex of energy that tingled in my bones wasn't about him. It was all about us.

I know you were right there with me.

:: ::

"Are you supporting him just because he's black?"

This from a Hillary supporter who had previously called me the happiest Obamaniac she'd seen as I campaigned throughout the building. I swear I saw her everywhere I went.

And then out of the blue, she pitched her poison.

I didn't swing. Except to say that there was nothing she could say to pick a fight with me. Her comrade interjected, "We don't even know where he came from."

"I know. It's too bad that you don't."

"If he's a Muslim, he shouldn't try to hide it," barked another who immediately turned her back to me after barking.

And here I thought this was a Democratic convention.

These two cheered me right back up.

:: ::

I tried to ask a few questions of US senatorial candidate Tom Allen, but he was all talking points and little personality, moving about the crowd as if he was in a hurry to get somewhere.

Not at all like his primary opponent Tom Ledue. The other Tom was warm and engaging, taking the time to answer all my questions. And he never took his eyes off mine.

The other Tom won't get the nomination since the party has already anointed Allen. But Ledue will get my vote in the primary because I know I can vote for Allen in the general.

And that's when it hit me. Despite the silliness from those Hillary supporters earlier in the day, I would bet that a slew of the votes she's received since this nomination has been all but wishful thinking for her campaign, which was right after Wisconsin from where I sit, were cast by voters who'd already accepted she wasn't going to win.

Despite the (over) analysis and speculation by the chatterati, primary results since Pennsylvania might reflect the pure simplicity of this logic. Why not pull the lever for the losing candidate now and the winning candidate later? Then you get to say you supported both of them. A win-win.

:: ::

It was just past noon. I'd handed out all my flyers. It's time for the county cuacuses, right?


There were major problems with credentials. Apparently, the information in the database was messed up. Alternates couldn't be upgraded to delegates until the problems were solved.

While we waited, one of my neighbors showed me a money clip with the relief of a Ku Klux Klan member. She'd purchased it at an antique shop in our town. She had challenged the shopkeeper for selling such a thing in the first place.

Tina said the shopkeeper dismissed her complaints by citing the image as a simple historical reference. I asked her to let me have it so I could take it back to the shopkeeper and challenge him about it myself.

She obliged.

I thought of the stories you shared about the lynchings you witnessed in Tennessee before you went off to war. The ones you witnessed when you returned. Before you migrated north to Milwaukee and met Mama in 1946.

I sit thinking of all this while waiting to state my preference for Barack Obama, the next President of the United States, the son of an African man and a white woman from Kansas. A man who, in your day, would have been considered the son of miscegenation.

I'd love to see the look on your face right now.

More than three hours later, the Kennebec County caucus began. By then, the room was muggy and hot and...

"When are we gonna get out of the war!"

The heavyset man with the rose-colored face and Rush Limbaugh voice.

There was more technical drama before we could sign and cast our ballots for presidential preference. During this process, Rita, the caucus chair, decided to allow candidates an opportunity to make their cases. She and I were the only two candidates from the county on the ballot for our district, but she had already given her stump speech for DNC position, so she called me forward do my thing.

The second time felt much better. I didn't mess up the beginning. The language seemed to come from some other dimension. I almost didn't recognize my own voice.

I returned to my seat. I was full with emotion. Just as I felt like I might lose it, Tina said, "Wow. Performance art as campaign."

They loved it, Dad.

Performance art as campaign.

That struck a deep chord.

Afterall, it was you who encouraged me to think big, to go to Harvard, to get a degree in government, to pursue a career in law and politics. It was you who arranged my first government internship during my first summer home from college. You knew it was my passion but I found out the stage was my calling. And now we've come full circle. Performance art is the only way I know to campaign for national delegate to elect as the Democratic nominee for President a man who received his law degree the year after I graduated from the same university.


I don't have to imagine how proud you'd be. I never had to imagine that. You always let me know.

"Do you know Bobby Rush?" The heavyset man with the rose-colored face and Rush Limbaugh voice stood over me.

"I know who he is."

"I knew him back when I lived in Chicago. Knew Barack, too. Jesse Jackson. Some of the other Chicago politicos."

His name is Roger. And like Rush, it turns out he's got a radio talk show. Radio Free Maine. He continued, "I moved out here with my wife. It was her turn to pursue her career. Now we're divorced. Isn't that how it always goes?" A roar of laughter emerged from his round gut. "That was some poem. I'll send you to Denver."

:: ::

I missed the first half of Senator Dick Durbin's keynote. Partly because we were so behind schedule I lost track of time. Mostly because when I finally arrived in the auditorium, an enthusiastic black man who, in one long run-on sentence, welcomed me into the Democrtic party, urged me to stay with it, and outlined the problems the state committee seemed to have with the power of the grassroots efforts, which earned Barack a blowout in our caucus back in February.

A crash course in race, class, and insider politics in Maine.

Senator Durbin received thunderous applause when he reminded us that he was the one who encouraged Barack to run now, that he was the only Senator who endorsed Barack for nearly a year since the announcement.

Tired as a mule, my whole body aching, I forced myself to stay for the keynote reception.

There, a black woman in line for the bar told me she and her husband had voted for me. I recognized her from the registration line earlier in the day where I stood and begged for votes from every Obama delegate who passed by.

Turns out she and her husband had moved to Portland within the last five years from Chicago. She said they used to live next door to Barack.

As we spoke, the ballots were being tabulated. I was beginning to like my chances.

Senator Durbin walked in. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw me approach while he was talking to a circle of people. After the woman to whom he presently spoke made it clear she was finished, he held out his hand and asked me who I was. I told him. We shook hands. I thanked him for his vote against the war, for his mentoring of Barack, for encouraging him to run for President now. He posed for a picture.

You would've loved him, Daddy.

Later, when he was walking by me in a small crowd of people, he acknowledged me by my first name and went back to his conversation.

A true mensch.

When I returned home after midnight, three of our guests were still awake in the living room talking about Barack.

I slept for the first time all week.


Sunday, June 1

County caucuses didn't reconvene till 9:00 am so I had a few moments to update my tennis blog. We're right in the middle of the French Open.

I arrived at the conference center a little after nine. I figured we'd hear about the results of the district level elections in caucus, but when I walked into the lobby, a woman whose face I didn't recognize said "Congratulations" as I walked by.

Surely she wasn't talking to me.

Before I could turn to find out, the wife of one of the district level candidates from Cumberland County rushed over to me with her arms outstretched and shouted, "You won! You're going to Denver!"

We embraced. Her husband won too. I asked her how she knew.

"The results are right here." She ushered me over to a board that I'd walked right by.

I saw Tracie's name. I was happy. Without her booklet...

I saw my name. I was in awe. Quite frankly, I still am. Which was what I told all my friends at the Daily Kos sometime between then and now.

I'm going to Denver!

The man whose wife I embraced is going to be my roommate.

Of course I already called everybody. Mama's thrilled. So's your daughter who'll always be your little girl. Job got all emotional. I wanted to talk to you over the phone too but, alas...

How I'd love, love, love to dance with my father again.

You can do anything you put your mind to.

Yes, I can.

Thank you, Daddy.