Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Nine Years Alive, Part One: 2005

While you likely spent the Age of Twenty fucking and forging your own way in this R. Kelly-loving world, I spent most of Twenty trying not to die...in addition to forging. And fighting. Not much fucking that year.

Next week, I will celebrate nine years of living, thriving, learning, falling, and growing since my lupus diagnosis. Almost a decade removed from that day in April 2005, I have amassed a Metrick Fucktonne of revelations, realizations, and reasons to rejoice that I lived long enough to watch Michelle take a tumble on 106 and Porch. Life is truly beautiful.

As April 25 approaches, I will reflect on each of the years separating me from that day.

2005: The Year of Looking Terrible
That year, 2005, specifically the second half of it, was jam-damn-packed with learning. Growth. Tears. I learned that it was alright to be my own loudest advocate when dealing with doctors. I learned that psychosis is real. I learned that chemotherapy, while effective in my case, is the most savage thing that I hope to ever experience, including that time I stumbled upon a Mary J Blige live a capella.

The horror.

That year, similar to my arrival in Panama, I learned 100 things each day about myself, the boundless love of my family, and the importance of LIVING. After being discharged, after later being diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, I had weeks upon weeks of solo time to sit alone with my thoughts. Well, my thoughts and the orgy of side effects of coreg, hydralazine, cytoxan and prednisone.

Greatest hits:

  • Night sweats (worst. thing. ever.)
  • a monstrous appetite AND decrease of bladder and bowel control
  • raging acne
  • moonface (prednisone)
  • depression
  • major weight loss
  • hair loss (chemo)
  • nausea
  • delusion and paranoia (prednisone)

...and many more!

What a fabulous time it was:

While trapped in the house, I would have friends bring me Taco Bell late at night. We would eat somberly and pretend like everything, despite my new disabilities and disfigured appearance, was normal. It was humiliating.

My monstrous appetite meant I could eat a bisonly man's portion of food and would be painfully hungry an hour later. Despite consuming more than twice my normal intake, I continued to lose weight daily. It was maddening.

After being granted permission to drive, because I had seemed to misplace my beloved bladder control,  I had to either carry a plastic urinal with me or remain within sight of bathroom at all times. When I realized I needed to piss, it was most likely already too late to escape the situation with my dignity unscathed. Once, I felt that familiar, frightening bladder pressure while pulling up to 7-Eleven, I almost crashed into a gas pump while trying to simultaneously park the car, reach for my plastic pisser and unbuckle my pants. Most of the piss went into my lap and down my leg while I struggled to prop myself up and to the side, seething and crying, in the driver's seat. That day, I wished for a swift and painless death. It was mortifying.
lost hair and hospital bracelets

At a friend's college graduation shindig, where homies and classmates I'd grown up with and known since middle school gathered to celebrate, my walker and I made our social debut. I had graduated three years prior and hadn't seen many of these folks since we walked across that commencement stage and down our respective paths. I looked terrible. I saw the poorly hidden wide-eyed gasp from the girl I met back in Mr. Hawkins' US Government class. That clank when I lifted and placed my walker inside the door's threshold and refused a helping hand to step into the house? Painful. Chatter ceased for an eternity as curious glances volleyed to and fro. I inched from the front door to the living room sofa a few feet away, where I remained seated for the duration of the event. I sipped sparingly, convinced that overindulging meant I would urinate on myself in front of everyone and melt in a puddle of piss and despair. They all smiled, wished me well, and offered to fix plates and drinks for me. "So, I heard you almost died?" a guy from our track team said. It was humbling.

My first time out with my best friends post-coma was to dinner at Uno's Chicago Grill, the same chain I worked in when I fell ill months prior. There at the table, amidst the awkward silence and forced chuckles, in that fog of uncertainty and politeness, I realized along with everyone else that I was now drowning in my clothes. (A friend would later burst into tears, while laughing, when telling me I looked like a little boy that day.) By then I was the smallest I had been as an adult--down to a paltry 155 pounds from my normal, brawny 175--and covered with acne. Now, with a cane at my side. Plus, due to the life-ruining and life-saving steroid prednisone, my face was round and misshaped. There was a moment when I checked out while peering at the bones jutting from my arms. I had never paid attention to these sharp alien elbows and the newly visible distinction between meat and bone in my forearms. I looked up and met my friend Lee's eyes for half a second as he studied the same pointy bones and sharp knuckles. Sadness from him. Shame from me. I looked away, wanting to implode. It was depressing.

And so on. Short version: I finished chemo. These dancer's legs made weak by weeks of inactivity were strengthened again by physical therapy and lots of falling and standing. Bruises healed. Prescriptions finished. Lives were demolished and rebuilt, better than ever.

I survived.

Catching a whiff of death does wonders for the soul.

Tomorrow: 2006.

-alex

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Year of (Occasionally) Well Packaged Chaos.


I left Panama one year ago today to pull it together in New Orleans. Here is my attempt to put that time into words.

One of the last, best things I did in New Orleans. Great day.

Sometimes you have to crash. Sometimes that’s the only way you can assess what’s happening or not happening around you. Sometimes you can’t see the murky sludge of sustained chaos surrounding, suspending, and supporting you until you crash at the bottom and roll over, filthy and undone, to see all the fucked up shit you coasted and crashed into on the way down.

Not you directly. I mean, I don’t know your struggles. Apologies. I mean you, person who saw the paintings on the wall shake and watched your world tremor, crumble, and pulverize in slow motion but didn’t fully understand just what was happening in the moment, and are on the other side of something ugly and trying to make sense of it. Or, maybe I should just speak for myself.

I spent the end of twenty twelve and the great majority of the days between January 1 and April 8 in two thousand thirteen chained to a never-ending to-do list in a self-designed hell of romanticized self employment and unconvincing alrightness. Let me back up.

So:

I moved to Panama to teach English, learn Spanish, teach dance and learn about my family’s Panamanian and Jamaican ancestry. ¡Bumbaclot! “…and to, youknow, try something different!” I would say, beaming. Llegó el día en que I realized that I did not move to Los Angeles from New York, farther from home and mom’s macaroni and cheese in Virginia to be a stellar waiter who enjoys getting hit on by customers, who dances and writes, who, honestly, won’t be on any tours any time soon without the offering of peen, handjobs, and letting ‘em call me peaches in exchange for gigs and acknowledgment. And so: a one-way ticket to Panama.

Long story kind of short, I:

  • Parlayed a love of English, past journalism experience and brilliant yet infrequent blogging into teaching English to Spanish speakers. Independently. 
  • Did very well. 
  • Learned Spanish. 
  • Became comfortable with Spanish by teaching CardioDance and Zumba-adjacent classes in Spanish. 
  • Was the only Black person in that whole bitch. 
  • Got more English clients. 
  • Wore “nice” clothes and was still detained, eyed vigilantly and questioned “at random” by police. 
  • Had an amazing, pero an amaaaazing body. 
  • Popped bottles in the la discoteca with my PanaNiggas and the Fly Mamis in ambitious tops with daring eyebrows worn only by Those with the absolute most fucking nerve. 
  • Hired some white people.

  • Fell for someone who was always “busy.” 
  • Went from being told “I’m tired. Come anyway,” in Spanish mind you, to “I’m tired. Talk tomorrow?” 
  • Consumed a hundred Black stereotypes’ worth of soul-caressing fried chicken from the gas station across the street. 
  • Was unable to not work because “if I don’t work there is no money for chicken,” I would say, proud of being busy
  • Never got ahead because of good months and BAD months. And poor planning. 
  • Tried longer than I should have to make it work with Mr. Busy. 
  • Was always “fine.” 
My old view.

  • Bid farewell to a roommate (one who broke a bunch of shit in that rented apartment). 
  • Rented the room to a traveling White Guy who did programming and made a nice bisonly gal heave and heehaw on my rented furniture in the heat of the humid Panamanian night. With the air conditioning on 24/7 despite my beseeching his ass to not do that shit. 
  • Made some money. Got lazy. 
  • Grew to resent Panama and its brand of deep-fried dysfunction. '
  • Took poor customer service personally. 
  • Got angrier. Forgot to breathe. 
  • Grew to resent Panamanians. 
  • Became a citizen after a valiant yearlong battle against incompetence and newly empowered idiocy. 
  • Lied about being “fine.” 
  • Picked a date, and
  • Gave away all my books and clients and fled from Panama in a huff


Then, I DID New Orleans. Ate well and fucked a good amount in Virginia. Moved back to Panama. Taught more. Had a moment. Wrote some nice things. Had a valley. And another, deeper valley. And am here writing to you today. Hi.

Before this past spring in New Orleans, I had never taken a walk.

The act of simply leaving the house without a predetermined destination, turning corners on a whim, enchanted randomly, easily. Looking into shops. Wandering. Being led by my surroundings was a pleasure unknown to me. This was something reserved for carefree white women whose kids had strategically considered social calendars and weren’t to be bothered with checking the prices of the organic groceries they dropped into their carts in the aisles of Whole Foods Paycheck.

I never made time for such frivolous pastimes. Simply waaaaalking as opposed to walking to…was not part of the plan. There had to be a where. And for what was a mandatory part of the equation.

My New York life as a young dancer was one of sniping for extra work-study hours, timing train rides from Brooklyn to allow ample time to secure a nice spot in classes at Broadway Dance Center where I stretched, struggled, and strived for attention (and affection), gliding gracefully around tables as a waiter, occasionally closing down the restaurant to return hours later to open it, drifting to ballet and modern from hip hop, being a great then horrible boyfriend, hurting and being hurt, afterhours sinning, scheduled heart-to-hearts with friends, and the rare stroll from class in Times Square to meet a friend in Union Square.

In New York, if I was walking, it was most likely to the train.

My Los Angeles life was one of sniping for work-study hours, awkwardly hovering on the outskirts of dancer/choreographer social circles, being a good-but-not-great dancer, heavy partying (not “partying” in the Los Angeles sense), again setting hip hop down to pick up ballet, afterhours sinning, and gliding (with authority and an extra dollar per hour this time) around tables as a waiter, occasionally closing down the restaurant only to return hours later to open it.

There, if I was walking, it was to or from my car.

There was a countdown until "Getting the Fuck Out."
My Panama 1.0 life was different. Having decided against working for anyone else, I figured it was time to run the damn show. I committed myself to the hustle, and thus, an existence ruled by an ever-expanding To-Do list: Hip hop dance classes. CardioDance. English clients, private and small groups. Spanish classes. Calorie consumption. And an ongoing study known as “Cross-Cultural Mutual Sexual Behavior Observation” in which I accepted the challenge of planting my seed all over Panama. It was a lot.

All of that + trying to “establish a system.” One that was at least a half step above tally marks in a notebook with a name beside it and a series of brown envelopes: some in a red rubber band with client names, dates, and prices and another stack in a blue rubber band with more tally marks, payment stubs and teachers’ names scribbled in my lunatic’s penmanship. “I need something scalable,” I would say, struggling. I had a language “company.” English clients. With deep pockets. Two Spanish teachers teaching for me. Four nice, marketable, nonthreatening White teachers giving classes on my behalf. And not one scalable system that doesn’t induce anxiety in sight. This was before my Panamanian citizenship and a bank account and ease of life.

I would make a To-Do list of things I wanted to accomplish at some point in the future, some short-term, some long.

I would then chain myself to this to-do list, be it on a legal pad, note card, or dry erase board. Coordinating payments with clients, following up with prospective clients, translating my site into Spanish, and hiring teachers, and dressing nice when entering offices, training teachers, providing teaching materials, making copies, masturbating. Everything.

I would then agonize, at the end of the day, over the four things out of 15 that I didn't get to that day. I found it hard to celebrate being a Black boy running a business (abroad) and holding the upper hand with these White people because of these things I had not done today. I beat myself up for not doing more things better, faster, more efficiently and then slid those four things over to the next day. They piled up. Every day. I had a handful of moments there in my apartment looking at that list.

No waaaalking at all.
~~~~~
On Learning As You Go
I dropped out of college in my first semester at Virginia Commonwealth University to dance in the fall of 2002.

Long story.

I have been a million things in a million places since then. Lacking a degree has fostered tenacity and used to foster the occasional questioning of suitability. Creativity and seasonal fearlessness. And tenacity. And disbelief that people think you need a degree to do banal customer service work.

Knowing the people you and I both know should prove that a degree means as much for guaranteed intelligence as Black producers and directors mean for a modicum of graciousness, humanity and fairness in the crafting and portrayal of Black characters in the Age of The Perry Plague and “a check is a check”: not fucking much.

I’ve done things that my degreed friends wish they could do. Surviving lupus and escaping Virginia’s fire pits and overabundance of buffet options has granted me the gifts of resilience and resourcefulness. I can make some shit happen, but not without some struggle. Not due to lacking something bestowed upon college niggas, but mere inexperience. But my willingness to plan, leap and build my parachute on the way down has gotten me farther than a handful of degrees will get the next dummy bitch.

Sure, packing your grits, jock straps and books into a body bag and taking a fantastic voyage to The Platano Belt sounds like it would make a great John Singleton-helmed flick. With all due respect, though, it’s dizzying and terrifying to be tasked task yourself with making your Black ass family proud, looking respectable yet humpable, being masculine yet vulnerable and clockable when necessary and learning how to run a business as you go and at once executing decently as the livelihoods of a handful of White people and two adorable Panamanian ladies depend on you keeping it the entire fuck together. And sangria. So these lessons you’re learning are expensive lessons. People will be proud of you, though.

Bonus round: You’re prone to anxiety attacks.

It’s a lot.
~~~~~
So, here in Panama, I walked, sweatily, to class. To eat. To “sin.” From buses to the intense classes with weights and steppers and the quasi-appropriative Zumba-adjacent ones. And to and from taxis through seedy areas and nice, unColored areas. 

That first time in Panama, if I was walking, it was to or from teaching. Never just waaaaalking

But.

I waaaaalked in New Orleans.

When I left Panama, I had planned to transition from face-to-face English classes to Skype-based classes. I had built an impressive Wordpress site one plugin and shortcode at a time. It was going to be glorious and “I will be completely, yaknow, location independent,” I would say, optimistic. I did a lot of sighing, but kept pushing forward. That lasted about one month in Louisiana.

And so, the seams burst one day. And I cried. A lot. Got very high very often and slept a lot. If I were an artist preparing to release an album perhaps called The Velvet Rope, I would say I wrote my way out of it. And I did. I then learned to be kind to myself.

I danced and ate and fucked and ate and loved and laughed and wrote my way out of it. I allowed myself to set aside any business ambitions and be a regular nigga. I bought some stylish skid-proof sneakers and worked in a restaurant with highly interesting white people who offered coke as if it were gum. My first payday: “Soooo we were thinking of going in on an eight ball. You want in?”

I declined. But I had a great time working there. I walked everywhere and nowhere. I was kind to myself and I went to daiquiri shops in the middle of the day and bought a bike and ate sushi and burritos. I whiled breezy mornings away making fish and yellow grits with creole seasoning and sharp cheddar and avocado with cheddar bay biscuits and mimosas for my sisterfriends. I rode and wrote and danced in the street with soulful whitepersons.

And saw the first five months of this beautiful girl’s life. All but her debut and the first hour or so because I was at getting a chicken sandwich combo from the Rally’s around the corner with a boy, but I was there in spirit. You understand.

I LIVED in New Orlean. I learned to enjoy small pleasures and was kind to myself. For that moment in time, I wasn't hard on myself. It was lovely.

I self-medicated. And I sat and looked in journals for the patterns in my life that ended in moments like this. What typically precedes the crack in the foundation? What am I not being honest with myself about? Who am I trying to impress? Why am I doing this for? What would make me happiest? And so on…
############
...while in New Orleans:

The sky cracked open and a cleansing deluge overtook me. Surrounded me—us, rather—the sky’s peace offering for the engulfing moist heat that covered each of the day’s tasks with a thick film of arduousness since waking that morning.

Crossing the bayou and creeping to a halt at the end of Esplanade, the golden glow shining through the windshield vanished and returned as an enveloping bloodshot blaze. Knowing and judging and final, this intrusive glare, the only immediately discernible element in my now blurred surroundings. A wisp of smoke tumbled from my nostrils, unfurling in the space before me to dance on the dashboard and rebound off the window before spreading throughout the truck’s interior.

I stared out the window, not into the nearing crosswalk of South Carrollton Avenue, but into an unending void of nothingness. Into blackness. Smoke tumbled toward the dashboard. Me: tensely gripping the seatbelt strap, then flattening my palm with pressure against my chest, the coronary drumbeat doom-ba-dooming with a troubling quickness. Then gripping the strap. Then pressing both hands against my chest to prevent an explosion, apparently.

Saphira eased on the brakes as we approached Orleans Avenue. She looked my way with her usual calming half smile, the whites of her sleek half moons as red as I assumed my sleepy ovalines were. The golden glow again retreating as the arresting red light, like the rain, washed over us—me, rather, as we rolled to a stop.

I closed and flipped and opened my hands, studying the joints and haphazardly strewn deep pink life lines that stretch across my pale pink palm in amazement as if noticing them for the first time. Sweaty palms and splayed fingers anxiously shearing my thighs. Gripped hands wringing fitfully amidst more unfurling clouds. The only certain thing in the universe in that moment was that I was, officially, having a panic attack.

Am I dying?

“Breathe,” she exhaled.

Smoke danced.

I inhaled deeply and exhaled. Inhaled and exhaled and inhaled and exhaled and sheared my thighs and took in and blew out more smoke. Ascending in a hot air balloon to elude the wave of hysteria sent to take me under. 

This moment of pressurized bewilderment, like the others, commenced with the sensation of a girthy rump sitting my chest. 

Then, historically, comes worry about whether this was an attack of panic or an attack of the heart sure to result in me being one of those people you read about who has an attack of the heart in their late twenties, moonwalking into the afterlife just as they were transitioning from General Fuckup to Person With Promise. Such a shame. 

Then the indecision about if this is actual pain or invented pain. Before long, I become aware of my quickened heartbeat and begin to panic about the chest pressure and the hasty heartbeat and about the panic itself. 

I’m at once terrified and angry with myself, knowing this self-manifested crisis is avoidable with one easy fix:

Life Rule Number 24
Don’t be a lunatic.

This time was no different.

There in the truck, turning from South Carrollton onto Cleveland Avenue, things didn’t play out as they normally would. Normally: I would know to sit and breath and cry and work through this and avoid balconies. The usual helplessness was there. This time, figuring I could outrun the wave of hysteria by ascending via the unfurling smoke, something else became clear: I was now high.

So two things were certain…
############


What I’ve gleaned from The Year of (Occasionally) Well Packaged Chaos is this:

one. I’m willing to bet that most of us have someone or a rowboat full of someones who has offered us a couch or a bed or a shoulder or a lovingly prepared—free—meal that we were too proud to accept. Perhaps I was “Okay, but thank you anyway.” Maybe you were going through it and Aunt Shirley kindly demanded that you come stay with her to rest Rest and Recharge your soul. Maybe you were too proud to say, “Yes, of course,” as you wanted to.

Look. Most of us know someone who knows us and has, in other, more diplomatic words, offered to love on us and help soothe the wounds that you don’t know they can see. Not in a jones-in-my-bones-to-get-boned-by-you, Creepy McCreepington kind of way. Rather, a wholehearted, there­ for you like a bowl of perfectly seasoned grits with just the right amount of pepper jack cheese and butter for a real dairy-loving lightly lactose intolerant thug such as myself when the world is straight trippin’ kind of way. LET THEM. Say yes. Allow yourself to be loved on. It doesn’t make you weak. It makes you human. Even Meteor Man let himself be hugged, ya heard?
My grandmother blessing me with that to-go plate.

two. I’ve done a lot. You’ve done a lot. We’re proud of these things that we’ve done, you and I. Sometimes we downplay these things that we’ve done, but we’re glad to have done them just the same. Inside.

When you do new nice things, you tend to move away from your old nice things, and that’s a normal part of progress. Natural. But: When you’re ready to discard (and/or dismantle or downplay) that old thing you worked and once cared deeply for, remember that there’s someone scratching, praying, degrading+kowtowing for that very thing. So appreciate every thing. It doesn’t make you corny. It makes you human. Even Janet appreciates The Jermaine Era after upgrading to Wissam.

three. Have you ever been tired? No. Not drowsy in your cubicle after a phat ass night of Straw-ber-Ritas and unphotographable failures. I mean ***TIRED. Spiritually. When it hurts to think about thinking? That was me, last year as I packed all my shit up and fled from Panama on that afternoon a year ago when my celebration over getting a row to myself was thrwarted by that bisonly, talktative young chap and his apparent love of onionlotion and his ignorance of the Universal I Don’t Give A Shit About Anything You Could Even Dare To Think About Thinking Sign: my headphones. And: soooo much talking. Despite my bursting with angst+anxiety+tasting freedom and my headphones. But, yeah. I was tired of being tired of being tired. And so: a one-way ticket to New Orleans.

four. It’s okay to not be okay.

five. It’s okay to not know.

six. It’s the principle of pleasure.

seven. It’s okay to not do anything.

eight. Nobody will be disappointed in you if you step down or pull back or say "No" more often when you get in over your head. Most likely, you're easing off of something they admire you for doing. Those who matter will understand. Nobody will be less proud of you.

nine. Check in on your people. No. Not the people who you keep on your Facebook feed because they have great faces, an insatiable need for public validation due to them being a swamp donkey up until they hit the gym a few years in the not too distant past and, it just so happens, a beautiful body. Not them. Your homies. The ones who’ve seen you at your post-Kevin Federline Britney Spears and loved and walked beside you in public when you were at your lowest Lauryn Hill Unplugged. You never know how badly that person needs the right person to go beyond cordiality and ask, “No, I mean, how are you really doing?” I uncorked and spilled everything to my two closest friends last week, and I felt freed.

There’s freedom in talking your shit out, rambling, to someone, to anyone. If you were typing your thoughts out and hit a tangent or stray thought, you would likely delete it or cut it short rather than rambling and letting that thought go where it needs to go until you stumble upon your aha moment. So go past, “I’m fine” when it counts. You may save a life.

ten. It's okay to ask for help.

There.

Have you ever wanted to unplug from the matrix any and every thing and person who wasn’t delivering food and retreat to your bat cave or mama’s couch to sulk and simmer, hygiene be damned? Guess what? It’s fine.

The good news is that we’re all a little fucked up and, plot twist: that’s okay.

(A gong sounds in the distance.)

We all have our moments and leave the house unshined from time to time. Well, at least we did before The Age of Instaggrandizing Narcissistic Selfie Promulgation and forgiving photo filters. Through a system of checks and balances of collective shortcomings, in which the world continues to turn and my lackings lean against yours and someone else’s and Mariah Carey inexplicably continues to release music post-The Emancipation of a Misbegotten Charmbracelet-Wearing Geisha Named Mimi, everything somehow works out. Except.

The truth is: underneath the nose-contouring, jawline-softening sorcery and Junot Diaz-level wordplay and bundles upon bundles of some fucking nerve with this job title invention in these social media bios…underneath all that, lies a being for whom cocaine will eventually lose either its effect or its necessary nostril human who needs affection and chicken, loves and wants to be loved, gets spiritually tired on occasion. 

That’s you, me, everyone. Even. Except. And when you’re spiritually tired, you can either sit the fuck down or have life sit you the fuck down. You’re no use to anyone if you’re dead. That “They sleep, we grind” shit ain’t cute once you’re 29 with a hard living, leather-skinned 59-year-old’s face. Sit down. Or that at least that is what I did. It didn't make me weak. It made me a better human. 

 -alexander hardy


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Monday, March 31, 2014

Across The Aisle #6: Rituals of Tribal Dance


WARNING: Across the Aisle features a weekly helping of extraordinary, yet exploratory, writing, gratuitous pop culture abuse, and complimentary Funyons. Due to our conscious decision to explore familiar themes in an inimitable, though inherently divisive, manner, such brilliance is solely intended for mature reading audiences. This is Hive Mind 101. That glorious moment when Wonder Twin powers activate. Jay Connor. Alex Hardy. The triumphant return of Voltron. These ain’t no studio tricks. Enjoy.

Episode 06
Rituals of Tribal Dance

Jay Connor: My name is Jay. I like long walks on the beach, banjos, “Clarissa Explains It All” reruns, and I hate the Electric Slide. What? Too soon? Did I ruin this date already? Look, before you clamor to have my Black card declined at the nearest barbershop (or “routine” traffic stop), can I at least state my case? First and foremost, ain’t shit fly about that goofy ass spectacle ya’ll call a dance. I can’t tell if you’re trying to stomp out a fire, start a lawnmower, or depant yourself without using your hands. “It’s Electric! Boogie-woogie-woogie!” my ass. That song’s soul was at peace and Marcia Griffiths snuck into the graveyard and went all Dr. Frankenstein on its corpse. Golf, White women, Nick Cannon… leave it to a black person to always fuck up a good thing. But hey, if public displays of synchronized embarrassment are your cup of tea, then by all means live your life and enjoy the fruits of your WorldStarHipHop labor. Infidels.  
Alex Hardy: Look. My earliest memories of Black and Black Panamanian life all include the Electric Slide. Rice, bay leaves, grits, and the Electric Slide. Wack according to your Hungry Man meal and Cheeto-eating opinion or not, that is Black History right there, bitch. The Electric Slide is an institution of ChocoLife for more variations of Blackfolk than I had ever imagined. Along with debates over whose potato salad is worse and collective bashing of your auntie’s raggedy sperm donor with six kids by 12 women, this Classic Negroidian Line Dance is one of the few things that can mend broken family wounds. I’ve seen relatives who would rather eat unseasoned chicken than make eye contact with one another reunite in Group Niggardom during the Electric Slide.
You haven’t lived until you’ve seen somebody’s Meemaw hurriedly suck the meat off a chicken bone at a cookout and shuffle to the dance floor before that first kick-pivot and quarter turn. I recently observed a guy mocking the Electric Slide before a group of Blacks. But when he threatened to bust it out in the middle of the restaurant, the only part he did was the part where you rock/dip forward, then back. Again. And again. No side shuffle. No kick-pivot-quarter turn. His friend assured him, “WAIT. Listen. DO YOU KNOW HOW TO DO THE ELECTRIC SLIDE?!?! If you don’t, just tell me in my ear. It’s okay.” (He didn’t know.) Is that what this is? Have you transformed your Niggershame into disdain? It’s okay, man. We’re all friends here. Except.
Your nimble meemaw.
JC: See, but I really feel as though a Soul Train line serves the same purpose, give or take a couple thousand style points. The Electric Slide is unsavory, American Bandstand-esque performance art, whereas a Soul Train line is like a soulful orgy where the wet spot magically sleeps on itself. One cultivates heresy, the other a healthy competition in which dominance is dictated by who can clap loudest prior to busting out The Running Man.
AH:  The Soul Train line is a tricky thing to pull off well. Many things need to be in place. You need a decent amount of people who are ‘bout it and respecting the natural rhythm order of things and know which counts get a clap and which gets a head bop. Nothing worse than some clown (or auntie) with little Beat Awareness and a lot of Fucking Nerve inventing counts while easing on down the road. It’s like Diddy’s verses on the Last Train to Paris album. Fucks everything up. Unless everyone is slizzard on your Uncle Hosie’s famous jungle juice, in which case none of this matters and you don’t realize that your cousin has the grace of a siamese goat. Don’t hate on the Electric Slide, though, nigger. Next thing you’ll tell me is that you don’t like grits, in which case this whole shit is over.
JC: Grits are just porch monkey tofu, but that’s a discussion for another day. Besides, and most importantly, can The Black Clap™ even precede the Electric Slide?  
AH: The Slave Descendant Dancefloor Palm Slap™, that which signals the cutting of rugs, can do anything it wants.
JC: The Pickaninny Paw Pummel™? The “Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww SHIT!!!” Applause™? If this social gathering ritual, indigenous to dance floors, weddings, and subway cars, doesn’t come from a colored person, it’s just cheap imitation palm gonorrhea.
AH: Agreed. I had to actually learn to NOT bust out the ( ) before dancing way back in the day. It’s one of my favorite Negroidian Idiosyncrasies and is a pretty good indicator of the level of Funky Blackness present in a potential mate’s childhood. A beautiful distinctly Black thing of beautifully Black beautifulness . Right up there with The Funky Black Stank Face. Have you ever heard a White woman exclaim during those important first five seconds of the intro, “THIS. IS. MY. SAWWWWNG?!” as hips her Of course not. We so spirited.
Our cookouts were never this cool.
JC: And coordinated. Never forget. Who needs the likes of Laurie Ann Gibson when we can just Wobble the thralls of our inferior socioeconomic standing away? Line dances and inside jokes must’ve been separated at birth, because if you ever find yourself on the receiving end of an explanation for either, that sound you hear is your God wiping his ass with your entire existence. This isn’t intramural sports, there’s no film studies or playbook. And good luck finding a G-Slide for Dummies series to thumb through in order to salvage your dignity. When you relinquished the deed to your virginity, did it come with a practice round? If you want to be as Black as the rest of us, you better tuck your nuts, negotiate some elbow room, and come get a slice of this dance floor pie. Leave the training wheels for the paraplegics.
AH: What was the go-to dance at your clan’s gatherings? The Sharecropper Shuffle? For me, Mom’s Panamanian side guaranteed lots of soca and tons and tons of Black folks moving their arms in big circles, because EVERY Black person thinks they “can salsa.”
JC: You’re asking the wrong person. I grew up in a home bereft of digestible cuisine, extended family members, and superfluous R. Kelly remixes. It was heavily religious, extremely strict. Kind of like AC Green’s vagina. The pre-divorce incarnation of our matriarch wasn’t about that sinful secular life, so the only dancing we did involved tambourines and altar calls. That said, my first exposure to that synchronized seizure known as The Electric Slide was in The House That Tithes Built, and my cognitive well-being has been quarantined since. But these days, the only minstrel shows I audition for are of the Cupid Shuffle variety. It’s the booty call of Negroidian line dances, so no hand holding or kissing in the mouth in public. I get in, get out, and spend the rest of the week booed up with the Macarena.   
AH: I see. The Cupid Shuffle. I have zero connection with this song. I’ve seen and heard this Negro anthem at cookouts in dense pockets of non-Northern Blackness where 32-year-old grandmas sway with wine coolers, 5XL polos engulf engorged bellies, durag capes fly proudly in the breeze and Newport cigarettes dangle defiantly from lips that enclose brown gums that bear very few dental fruits. It’s the kinda song that accompanies the sweet sound of dominos being slapped aggressively on a fold-up picnic table as sizzling pork provides the soundtrack to some good ol’ fashioned artery clogging and waistline expansion. Mmm. Like the Third Ward in the springtime. I don’t know much about this deep-fried Electric Slide offshoot, but it was certainly exploits that thin layer of inherent ridiculousness found in all line dances. It’s earnest this-could-just-as-easily-all-be-a-parody lyrics and soulful talksinging provides ample opportunities for red cup-fueled communal cooning and bonus level Niggering. I totally get its hymn-like appeal.
JC: So outside of starting your invisible lawnmower the Electric Backslide and spear chucking, are there any other poorly choreographed, collective tribal dance rituals of which you partake?
AH: Well. Let’s see. When I was in New Orleans, whiling my days away in a paradise of caloric excess and drive thru daiquiri stands and [ahem], some friend and I thought it would be a good idea to learn the Blurred Lines line dance. Meets the three requirements for Black Line Dances: Simple. Teachable. Can be done while fucked up. Now, we never actually went out to perform it, but it was a nice thought. Old school line dances are predictable and typically repeat after about 16 counts. They’re simple enough that even your lush uncle could follow along while under the spell of his beloved $2 bottle. The same uncle who made liquor, jobs, and hope for a better tomorrow disappear with astounding ease. That guy. But these new shits? I’m a dancer. I think that a Global Negro Line Dance and Fish Fry Jamboree could rival All Star Weekend both in size and economic impact. And my ass still struggles discerning the patterns in these new shits that are ultimately 5 minutes of actual, non-repeating choreography. Like this one, the Terminal Reaction. The fuck is this? Now, I feel less than. I polled Twitter yesterday, and they also agree that qualifies as Some Bullshit. Safe to say, like demand for an album from Eve, that timeless factor that unites multiple generations, under God, with hypertension and red cups for all like The Wobble and The Electric Slide doesn’t happen often.
JC: Yes, because unlike blackmail, Black Friday, or Black Jesus, #BlackTwitter has all the answers. Though most line dances entail tacit “cultural allegiances”, it takes a certain degree of charm and contagion grace for one to throw on the cap and gown and graduate into a full-fledged dance floor pandemic. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was this atrocity. So thank you line dances, for unifying us in ways that even sex, cigarettes and bigotry envy.

Read Episode 05: "Exploration, Conquest, and Sonic Colonization"
Read Episode 04: "Melanin (and) Manipulation: The Jackson Legacy"
Read Episode 03: "Principles and Practices of a Bobby Browned Childhood"
Read Episode 02: "Posture and Promiscuity"
Read Episode 01: "Fundamentals of Separation Anxiety"
___________________________________________
A million thanks to my partner in crime:





Jay Connor is a prized pupil of the esteemed Professor Xavier and a Los Angeles based freelance writer. When he’s not preoccupied with accruing overdraft fees while chasing the dream, he can be found disseminating terrorist threats on Twitter and Facebook. Direct all business inquiries, sexual innuendo and Nigerian email scams to deathtoadverbs@gmail.com.








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Monday, March 24, 2014

Across The Aisle #5: Exploration, Conquest and Sonic Colonization


WARNING: Across the Aisle features a weekly helping of extraordinary, yet exploratory, writing, gratuitous pop culture abuse, and complimentary Funyons. Due to our conscious decision to explore familiar themes in an inimitable, though inherently divisive, manner, such brilliance is solely intended for mature reading audiences. This is Hive Mind 101. That glorious moment when Wonder Twin powers activate. Jay Connor. Alex Hardy. The triumphant return of Voltron. These ain’t no studio tricks. Enjoy.


Episode 05

Exploration, Conquest and Sonic Colonization


Jay Connor: Academics and adolescence. One I cherish, the other was only good for wet dreams and my driver’s license. But as if the grave, fascist injustice known as detention wasn’t enough, four times a year my teachers were endowed with the mutant power of free reign to shit on my pubescent parade. In time, the alphabet became my mortal enemy. All it took was one too many D’s or F’s and my TV, VCR and CD’s would be MIA ASAP. It was checks and balances, consequences and repercussions. The Day of Atonement, crammed into my Trapper Keeper and sent home for express delivery. But in hindsight, Judgment Day wasn’t just a youth laden with growth spurts and Scarlet Letters, but a catalyst for growth. Change: the same verb Obama was bloviating about. So in a world in which “Thrift Shop” has been christened the greatest Rap song of all-time (Oh, you missed the memo?), clearly something is awry. And by “awry” I mean, fuck this shit. So White rappers, Biebers, and practitioners of siphoned Soul, this will be the last time you defile the Soul Train line with your malignant hand dancing, because your report cards hath arrived. And now a word from our sponsor, Vitriol.
Alex Hardy: I laughed the heartiest laugh that had ever been laughed when I read about how Macklemorefish enslaved them charts and solidified his place in hell history with that song that makes my armpits and eyeballs itch, ensuring that we’ll be hearing his name for many years and herpes outbreaks to come. Anyhow, I feel that it is our responsibility and right as Keepers of the Cool to judge those who borrow, jack, bastardize, imitate, profit from and destroy that which Chocolate Wonders before us worked tirelessly--likely with the aid of that booger sugar because that was the thing, mind you-- to orchestrate. I don’t know who deserves to be brought before the tribunal first, but I feel like all trespasses should be punished by extended viewings of Black ass concert footage. And waterboarding, right? Seatbelts, please.
JC: If you’re gonna slay a dragon, you go for the head first, right? Well, if that’s the case, you’re up, Mr. Mathers. The execution will commence after you put on your blindfold.
Rap Hands – A+
Catalog – D
Abuse of White Privilege – B
Cultural Appropriation – D
Fashion Sense – F
Urinalysis – D
JC: First and foremost, I don’t give a good gotdamn what Benzino says, Em is one of the most disgustingly talented individuals to ever touch a microphone. Period. Now that we got that out the way, his catalog is equally as grandiose an embarrassment. What’s the 8th Wonder of the World, you ask? How White people keep buying this fuck shit. How do you go from this to this? That said, though painfully reluctant to accept this unconditional approval, Em has always been very vocal about The Man concealing his ensemble of faux paus behind American Music Awards and platinum plaques. So at least there’s that. Also, I give dude props for being authentic in who he is, and imbuing the trailer park contingent with hope for a stolen lottery ticket that final B&O Railroad piece. But since he’s a first ballot Rap Hands Hall of Famer, with movements so majestic that even Drake and Lupe Fiasco’s wrists must bow in reverence, I’ll forgive him for that whole du-rag shtick. Because who doesn’t want waves?
AH: Look. Waves are serious currency in the treacherous Land of Rhyme Spitting White Supremacy Beneficiaries. Being melanin-free with that ill swirl in your head is like finding a secret world on Super Mario Brothers on Super Nintendo. It’s approaching Teena Marie Affirmative Action Soul Brother/Sister status. A backdoor to Blackness, if you will. Just ask this kid:

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So I can’t fault Mr. Mathers for his Wave Wishes and Coon Coif Dreams. His D for Catalog, though, is unfortunate, as any boosts he had to his legacy in the start of his career were bound and gagged, placed in the back of a ‘76 Cutlass and banished to the bottom of Lake Erie so that his new alter-ego, Ringmaster of Em’s Angryman Wackstravaganza, could flourish. I give him credit for sticking with his Unimpressive White Dude In A Hoodie aesthetic and not letting fame change him. That boy’s OG Pill-Popping Slacker swag is on 100 kazillion dozen hundred. The only modification I’d make to your scoring is as follows:
Abuse of White Privilege – A+
...because his performance as the Voice of Angry White American Male Angst is admirable. That bitch has committed to this role. He knows there will forever be an audience for Sometimes-Druggy Formerly Abusive White Dude Jingles. That is privilege if I’ve ever seen the shit.
JC: Sorry, Marshall. If you hated your mother before, I’m sure she can’t wait to return the favor after you bring home these grades. Who’s next on the menu?
AH: Miley Virus. The devil at my doorstep. Her masterful magic carpet ride from wholesome honky tonk pop tart to Diluted Ethnic Behavior Performance Specialist Numero Uno was motherfucking phenomenal. How she managed to at once piss off We Who Respect Ourselves and crown herself the current Monarch of Privileged Mindlessness is nothing short of legendary. I initially paid attention to her because a close friend danced on her tours for years. Plus, I have two nieces who were into that and have since seen the light. Basically, I know more French Hannah Montana lyrics than a grownup should. But once she happened upon Convenient WhiteBlackness, I could no longer stay on board the Porcelain Coonery Express. For the sake of everyone onboard, help me gather my things, for this is my stop.
In short, If I want to see people doing Black shit terribly, I’ll watch a Tyler Perry production. Miley steppin’ to the bad side is precisely what happens when her skinfolk and the old White suits who pull the strings figure it’s time to take urban music for a spin as a means to mark a transition from Pure Young White Woman to Worldy Dame. And what better way to intentionally shake off your purty than by cavorting with The Niggers?! See: Britney’s In The Zone, when she trotted out THE FUCKING YING YANG TWINS to inform you, who may or may not have known, that she “got that boom boom.” Also see: Christina Aguilera Xtina’s darkness safari with Dirrrrrrrrrrrrrty” when she called up Redman and rented a few dozen sweaty, shirtless Latinos for the video. Anyhow, back to Miley Virus and her antics:
Use of Black Bodies as Props – A+
Paula Patton’s Ire – A++
Twerking - F+  
Lower Back Vibrations - B+
Advanced Shamelessness - A+
I must, regretfully, concede that her cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” was not terrible. Now, her being dressed as if she’s late to dancer auditions for a TLC video after getting dropped off by her Black boyfriend is a whole different thing altogether.
JC: Some parties in the USA are meant to be crashed. And burned to the ground. Hopefully this is just a phase and she’ll return to her privilege senses after her butt cheeks rid themselves of that nasty case of Parkinson’s. In other news, I’m sure we’ll find that Malaysian airplane before we ever find the rest of her “ass”. But onto bigger fish to fry:
Affability – A+
Public Speaking (a.k.a. But He Speaks So Well)– A
Bitch Choking – C
Improvisation – A+
“What’s Happening!” Cast Familiarity – F
Chicken – F-
Fear not: he knows showtunes.
Well, hello there. Welcome to the enigma that is Wayne Alphonso Brady. Oh sure, he has his flirtations with the Dark Arts, but for the most part he’s the one guy you want in the car when the cops pull your black ass over. Because nothing staves off trumped up charges and police batons like a jovial “Oh hey, Chuck! How are the kids? Is there a problem here?” The physical embodiment of post-racial America, the anti-Kwanza, Wayne Brady might be the only Caucasian male in the history of Western Civilization who doesn’t dance with his hands. That said, don’t mistake his melanin deficiencies for weakness, a lesson Superhead’s boyfriend learned the hard way. But with police profiling and segregated water fountains out of the question, I suppose the only way we’ll ever get concrete evidence of Wayne’s ethnic standing is when his annual credit report comes back. Because numbers never lie, nigga.
AH: I’d give Brady F Baby a few extra points:
No, but you’re not like other Blacks - A+
White Fear-Disarming Knowledge of Showtunes - A++
JC: Aaaaaaaaaaand who’s next contestant on the Summer Jam screen?
AH: I reckon the most shining candidate for euthanasia Experimental Retroactive Adult Abortion and the mascot of the inescapable locust-like plague of porcelain people’s musical fuckshit we’re witnessing slithered on the scene from Canada. No, I’m not talking about Drake’s Jewish half. This is something satanic, self-destructive and dastardly. We are bearing witness to The Niggerization of Justin Bieber. I suppose that because I’m not the target demo and prefer my Blackness fresh from the source, rather than from concentrate, I can’t support what he offers unto the world. His one man fight to the death, as of late, produces more headlines than his music, and I feel like it’s time to whip out that countdown  they used for Britney when she was getting her privileged trainwreck on with the world watching. Since I’m not a post-pubescent girl whose family once likely owned slaves, I’m not the target demo for his antics and so I rarely hear any of what he does unless it’s alongside some rappity rap person  and even then I still can’t seem to care. As he was unleashed unto society cosigned by Uncle Usher, he’s been marinated in the finest Negro-derived extra virgin soul drippings and prepped for relentless Public Assholery. Elaborate stage shows and mucho choreography: check. Bonus-level emoting and ridiculous R&B person fuckery: check. Now, if he could just keep his clothes on and his nose clean, he will live to see 28 blossom into a full-grown Culture Vulture like those who have BlackWhited before him.
Annoying The Fuck Out of Black America - A+
Ancestral Embarrassment - A+
Black Job Creation - A+
JC: Oh, Other Justin. You were so much more tolerable before one too many late night BET Uncut binges magically transformed you into Malibu’s Most Wanted. It was a slippery slope, but thankfully your transparency will always afford you the luxury of a foam pit of entitlement to descend upon.

AH: It can't be easy walking that tightrope betwixt privileged existence and being the one who catches taxis for the homies Darkishly Cool. For every Eminem and Action Bronson there are twelve Pop & B falsetto-loving over-emoters who retreat to their tower of ivory immunity in the face of a scandal, arrest, or onslaught of criticism. The list of siphoned Soul practitioners who pick up and put down cultures as album promo dictates lengthens weekly, and they are far too plentiful to strap into one electric chair cover at once. Let's file this under TO BE CONTINUED and revisit this in the near future. Because as long as Chocolate Wonders keep (effortlessly) supplying Cool by the pound, the market will stay packed with bargain bin beige Blackness.

You're welcome, universe.

Catch up on all Across The Aisle installments, here.
___________________________________________
A million thanks to my partner in crime:




Jay Connor is a prized pupil of the esteemed Professor Xavier and a Los Angeles based freelance writer. When he’s not preoccupied with accruing overdraft fees while chasing the dream, he can be found disseminating terrorist threats on Twitter and  on Facebook. Direct all business inquiries, sexual innuendo and Nigerian email scams to deathtoadverbs@gmail.com.



Follow me on Twitter: @chrisalexander_
LIKE me on Facebook: Colored Boy







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