Friday, December 24, 2010

Noel




I’ve become painfully aware of the tragic fact that Christmas has gotten shorter. No longer do I come home, dazzled by decorations and holiday music for the weeks in the run up to Dec. 25th. I was dazzled instead by how many different ways a person can get diarrhea.

There are A LOT. You might have diarrhea right now.

And then I head home, remembering that no Christmas shopping has been done, and there are no lights in front of the house a la Ebenezer scrooge. So to cram some christmas spirit deep down into my soul as quickly as possible, I turn on the Christmas carols and the television to see what other people are doing for the occasion around the nation. But, what I see on the television nowadays around this time of year begins to concern me more than put a song in my heart.

There was a TV special about oversized gingerbread houses made by Disney that require thousands of pounds of ingredients. My famished body said yes, but my mind said no, there are starving African children who would just love to lick that bowl. How dare you engage in that Christmas tradition with your family?

Another special was about outrageous Christmas displays put on by individuals across the countries. A few of them were competing with others in their neighborhood, but some did it out of the sheer love of the word EXTRAVAGANZAAA and, in the spirit of the season, the desire to give--little children their first epileptic seizure. Merry Christmas!

It used to be magic. Now, excess is the word du jour. This isn’t a “lets get back to the true meaning of Christmas” rant. Excess IS the true meaning of Christmas. There’s nothing we celebrate at Christmas that can’t be done year round, but this is the time to show it, and show it big…. And if you don’t? Well, Grinch isn’t such a nice nickname.

So here's to you and yours getting minor lacerations, crying over spilled egg nog, sweating more than santa going down a lit chimney, or otherwise going and above and beyond to make sure that your bells jingle louder than your neighbors'. Merry Christmas, all!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

6'0", 6'12"




Weezy in top form, with punch lines flowing like, well, punch at a holiday party. Looks like that jail time did him a bit of good.



Lil Wayne - Six Foot Seven Foot (Feat Cory Gunz) by pigeonsandplanes

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Not if it Pleases the Court



Every time I watch daytime talk shows and court TV, a few things happen: If I’m standing up, I sit down. If I’m already sitting down, I sink deeper into the couch. I feel like shredding my schedules. I get the urge to eat a twinkie or squeeze some E-Z cheese into my mouth.

I’m just trying to fit in, of course.

As a parting shot from the Big Apple, the managers of the last building I lived in in New York City decided to keep my deposit, which added another notch in the hate column of my love/hate relationship chart. So the Attiah camps fights back and files a small claims suit.

A few weeks ago, Mother Attiah calls me laughing and informs me that to The Peoples’ Court television show called the house interested in televising my case.

I think this is where you pause and look up at the ceiling and take stock of how your life got to this point.

My first thought was no. My second thought was maybeeee, and then I thought of friends and residency directors and future spiteful in-laws playing clips of the ordeal at the wedding reception. And then my children seeing the video of that video and laughing. And then my wife filming that and showing it to my grandchildren. Then the video of the video of the video getting played at my funeral and becoming a family heirloom.

What I want to know is who has such good sense and direction in life to tivo an entire season of Maury.

Reality television is successful because it takes an already interesting subject such as dating, addictions and rich spoiled children and eating maggot-infested spoiled cheese and just throws it on television for us to be disgusted by human nature at its worst. In that way it’s kind of like watching gladiators slaughter each other or a public execution. The problem with court TV is that it televises the huge portion of life that is too boring to be televised (read: too boring to occupy a primetime TV slot). The only reason my case would make good television is if I acted like a fool or was provoked to do so by a “no-nonsense” judge or an exceptionally belligerent defendant, neither of which I feel like doing, much to the relief of my wedding guests. Or to the dismay of my jokester best man.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Splitting Hairs

I have a secret,
Don't tell anyone
I think I might be a killer
Or, at least I feel like one.
Excuse me, what aisle are the strait jackets in?
I ask
I have this urge to hold an axe
And it fills me with dread
What I want to do is grab my axe
Go out on the town, swinging it 'round
And paint the town blood red.
Shh, you're reading too loud!
No no. Instead, me and my axe will stay safely at home
And I'll listen to sweet nothings as it puts me to bed.

Am I crazy?

I found it next to a light blue Dodge,
And it's grown on me since then
Quod nutrit me destruit on its hilt
like it knew I was coming and when!
My axe's blade curve is supple, of perfect proportion
Light enough to play a game of "catch" with the kids
I can fit it in my windowsill at night
So it can glow in the moonlight to let
everyone outside know where a lunatic lives

I know my marbles are here somewhere...

So go ahead and judge, yeah
YOU be the jury
Ill play executioner, let me slice dice
and bury in peace
Because you promised not to tell
my secret, if asked
That I'd rather not look at the man in the mirror
When I can see my reflection in the blade of an axe.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Tale of Two Cities


First you see the lips coming together in a straight literary dash, like the sea and the sky meeting a thousand miles out from the shore. The two sides are locked in a stalemate. Then something goes into the eyes, or the ears out of frame and (we're in slo-mo now) the see starts its campaign upwards. The dash starts to curl at the ends like a hair in 100% humidity. The lips quiver in a vain attempt to stop the inevitable. Then the world comes apart to reveal hidden treasures, and in this case, pearls are much more valuable than gold.

And no matter what language you speak, you would be able to participate. They say that a smile is a universal symbol. My last 5 years in New York City have led me to believe that "they" are either ill informed or overflowing with feces.

I've recently noticed that I have a peculiar habit. Every time I walk through a doorway, I do this little half-turn to see who's behind me. I do this not because I have a paranoid schizophrenic fear of being stabbed in the back or sneak bear-hug attacks. I am checking to see if there is anyone behind me within 15 feet. If so, I hold the door open for them.

I came to realize that this gesture, in certain large east-coast cities is a faux pas comparable with having a paranoid schizophrenic fear of sneak bear hug attacks. Unforgivable!

And so it started. Walking slow became an offense on par with walking nude through the Vatican. Addressing groups of three or more people directly with the contraction "y'all" became equivalent to cursing at the Queen at high tea. Blessing someone who sneezes became bible beating and witch-hunting and the Crusades rolled into one.

A smile and a wave, that universal sign, became not so universal anymore.

If there's on thing New York has taught me well, its how to be a cynic. When someone asks me where I'm from and I say "guess," I'm really adding another data point to my 5-year long survey.

"Hmm... California?"
"No."
"Mm, youre not from the south..." I smile.
"D.C.?"
"You'll never guess."
"Connecticut?"
"Nope."
"I give up, tell me!" They are now an eligible candidate. When I tell them I was born and raised in Dallas, Texas, its becomes obvious to them I'm joking around and I really meant the Galapagos or the Moon or somewhere else less outlandish.
"Really? You're from Texas? But you speak so-- You don't sound like a Texan. Wheres your accent?" They have now become a statistic. This is the most common branch of the conversation, but it has gotten more interesting:
"What kind of stuff do you DO in Texas?"
"Do you hunt?"
"Do you have a pair of cowboy boots?"
"Do you have a cowboy hat?"
"Are there cows on the side of the street?"
"Do you have a gun?"
"Are you a Republican?"
"Do you have a string tie?"
"Do you go to rodeos or gun shows?"
And from the east coast natives who pride themselves on being cosmopolitan, open-minded, tolerant, and above stereotyping, the downright bizarre:
"Eww you're a Texan! *poke*"
"I didn't even know they had black people in Texas"
"Have you ever ridden a horse to school?"
"Do they celebrate Christmas in Texas?"
"Do you feel safe, like, is there bad racism down there?"

And all the outliers are included in the survey, of course.

It's funny, the bad news is that the honest answer to that last question is that I have been stereotyped more as a Texan in New York than I ever have as a black person in Texas.

These actual, half-joking sound bites amused me at first, then annoyed, then angered, now amuse me again as a reminder that even though a smile is a universal symbol, a symbol can mean two completely different things to different cultures. A smile and a wave, a friendly greeting in the Lone Star State, is often rejected with mistrust as a possible threat in New York City.


Maybe I should've worn ten gallon hats and cowboy boots. I think the crowds around me would thin as a walked down the street. 'Cuz i jussst might be carrying a six shooter and a lasso too.

Having experienced two sides of the spectrum lifestyle-wise in this country, I can say that neither side knows very much about the other, though they'd like to think they do. I owe a lot to NYC, aka, the greatest city in the world, aka Babylon, aka "the City of Satan" (as a church member told my Dad before I went there) where I spent the last quarter of my life, in a love hate relationship (I love it, but it hates me). And just like any one-sided abusive fling, the city that doesn't sleep is great for a time, but as I'm writing this, I'm turning 22, and old men need a little more sleep and brotherly love. So the Good News is that I am not forsaking the east coast; this old man is going west to Philadelphia, where I hear it's always sunny.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Excellence



Given that you've never heard about them before, I can be very unpleasant when I talk about my kids. This isn't because I talk about how terrible the brats are or how bad I'm going to beat them when I get home, but because I use no qualifiers. I see your face shift ever so slightly at the words "my kids" to that perfect storm of surprise, disgust and that awkward feeling you get when you find out that the person who's mother you've just been insulting is standing behind you. And their mother just passed away. You go a little quiet, and I keep on going. I have taken no notice of your discomfort until it becomes clear that I am not talking about my biological children, but the kids that I teach. I smile on the inside at getting another victim. Shame on you for assuming.


My children were born from a pregnant silence. On the first day I met them, weaving through the walls of New York Presbyterian Hospital without a word, we made our way to the maternity ward of a classroom. I opened with two words, which my kids remember to this day. It would set the tone for the rest of my time with them, so you could say they were engraved on their birth certificates.


The then-seventh graders from Washington Heights were almost never silent after that. Following a serendipitous meeting on campus, I was swept up into this hurricane of destiny that no job description would have covered. I would be doing an injustice to the Lang Youth Medical Program if I claimed it was just one thing. Science enrichment, mentorship, test prep, college preparedness, tutoring, essay help, dream realization and horizon expansion. The program doesn't just wear many hats, it is the hat store. I was charged with the task of helping middle school students become more comfortable with the written word and the inner workings of the human body. Amada, Jokeyni, Annabell, Naysha, Jianny, George, Shelley, Cristal, Dionis, and Olena were their names, I believe. My 2.5 years as their advisor almost made me feel like a cameo appearance on Magic School Bus marathon. That would make me Miss Frizzle, and oh the places that bus went: A Sikh temple, an environmental justice field trip, through all the major body systems, a cow heart and eyeball, a basketball tournament, middle school graduation, relay for life, Nuyorican Poet's Cafe, martial arts, debates, ethics, movie making, scandal, laughter, heartbreak, trials, tribulations, and redemption. All before dinnertime.

Have you ever seen a middle school student handle what they are convinced is actual urine? Hilarious.

They say that nothing really prepares you for parenthood. But teaching my group the OutLangers...well okay no. There really is nothing. But, if there ever was a group of kids that I would have the honor of having no idea how to go about parenting, I wouldn't mind if they were like my children at Lang. I wouldn't mind at all.

I don't think teachers do what they do out of some grandiose sense of social justice, giving back to the community or positively shaping the minds of tomorrow. I am convinced they do it out of a deep seated masochism. Lesson planning, that crux of any teacher's agenda, is as enjoyable as trying to pull your eyeballs out through the soles of your feet. Actually, I think the eyeball thing has a slight edge, by a hair. This isn't to say that what teachers do everyday for you ingrates isn't noble. It is, just as an exercise in self-denial. You thankless churls should give them a standing ovation. Next time you see one, please give them a hug and tell them it was from me. Then tell them I was all out of apples.




I told my kids for the longest time that I'd write an entry about them. So here's the worm for you hungry birds: You guys are my favorite accidents. I hope you were paying attention to what I was saying, because here, as far as I know, is the abridged guide to excelling:
-Nincompoop is a word.
-6 is terrified of 7.
-Egyptians walk suspiciously like black people
-Bruce Lee would beat Chuck Norris in a fight.
-Do Better.
-A little tact goes a long way.
-There are good books outside of the Twilight series.
-Sometimes, pressure makes perfect.
-Just because your eyelids droop and you head dips doesn't mean you're asleep. Quite the opposite! Really!
-Your pen is not the most important tool for making beautiful poetry.
-Don't burn your bridges.
-Speak with Authority!
-No, people in Texas don't ride to school on horseback.
-The key to life is not big words or loquatiousness. See?
-The key is your relationships with others.
-You all are an inspiration to me.
-I'll be a hop, click, and a train ride away, if you ever need me.

Well, the bad news, children, is that I cannot be your advisor anymore. You knew that. The Good News is that, well, I'm still waiting to hear the good news of all the great things you all will do in the future. Hopefully, when you all become great, you'll remember that, once upon a time, everything you taught me and that I taught you was summed up nicely in two shining words:

Be Excellent.

I have no doubts that you will.



Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Adspace Awards: The Most Interesting Man in the World




His personality is so magnetic, he is unable to carry credit cards.
He once had an awkward moment, just to see how it felt.
He lives vicariously through himself.

Not only does he have a life that would put any auto biography to shame, he also gives sound advice on a range of topics. Wouldnt you want to meet him? Of course you do, and he already knows that. Now he can add an Adspace Award to his resume, because he is

...The Most Interesting Man in the World.

I wonder what would happen if he and Chuck Norris met. Maybe I should send that idea to Dos Equis, eh?

Enjoy, and stay thirsty, my friends.