Audaciously Regular

The other night, I sat on my sofa wishing I could blend into it without being noticed, in part because my kids were in the other room arguing.  Over nothing.  How do I know, you ask?  Because I was within earshot.  I’d hazard a guess that 97% of their arguments are over nothing.  They get along when no one is watching, and save the fireworks for me.  Most days I rise to the occasion, but lately more often than not, I’m just whipped.

Typically, I’m good at filling all of my roles.  I’m a “good” mom, daughter, sister and friend.  I bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, clean the aforementioned pan, love, pamper, cheerlead, advise, provide a great shoulder and a welcoming ear.  But I have this terrible habit of being human, so I’m rarely good at all of these things at the same time.  

When I’m being supermom, that means I haven’t seen my friends in ages.  If I’m being powerhouse there for you sister friend, I probably haven’t talked to my dad and step-mom in a month.  Even if I talk to one of my siblings every day, I have four, so someone is left out and lacking.

It spreads you thin.  At times, it makes you resentful.  Being the sofa chameleon the other night gave me an odd cocktail of anger, sadness and defeat.    Sometimes, I get so overwhelmed with the demands life puts on me at any given moment, that I can hardly see straight. There are days where the light at the end of the tunnel feels like a pinhole that moves a mile for every step I take.  Thoughts of being a failure burrow deep into my flesh and attach themselves to my bones.  I cry just as often as I laugh, and the sobs hurt more than the belly laughs heal.  I’m 34, and I still don’t completely have my universe figured out.

But you know what?

To hell with it.  Because I’m in it.  I’ve got my arms and legs wrapped around this life thing, and I’m biting into it for extra measure.  Decorating myself with a bunch of kick-ass adjectives would sound nice:  “strong,” “talented,” “dynamic.”  But the truth is, I’m a regular chick with a dream that occasionally gets scared of how big the dream actually is.  But I’ll be damned that if I turn into the jackass who doesn’t try to get as close to that dream as possible.  Figuring it all out may never happen.  Quitting will never happen.

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Tig Ole Bitties

Or How I Had to Talk Myself Down From Jumping Off The High Rise

So every morning, my parents would proceed  on the LOOOONG trek of bringing my father to work, then dropping us off at school Uptown.  Every day, we passed the dreaded entity, known to all New Orleanians as “The High Rise.”  The mere act of getting on THR was a major feat.  It often meant the difference between getting a ride and being told to kiss someone’s ass:

“Can you drop me off?”

“Um…I’ll see.  Where do you live?”

“On the other side of The High Rise.”

“SHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

It was high, it was fast, and people had this habit of driving like the other side might not be there once you reached the apex.  (Either that, or the entire city was filled with morons, completely unaware of the laws of physics.  ACCELERATE!)  It was basically the bridge to Downtown, and Uptown, and Mid-City, and anywhere else that wasn’t New Orleans East.  Of course, this made it prime ad space.  There was always some huge billboard or another.  Around my sophomore year of high school, Hooters advertised there.  We passed it daily for months sans incident.  Ultimately, it was too much for my mother to handle.

“So…what is this Hooters?”

“It’s a restaurant,” Daddy replied, CLEARLY not wanting to continue the conversation with my three sisters and I in the car.

“But…Hooters? What’s that name about?  It doesn’t make sense to me.”

“It’s something about the women that work there.”  He really wants this to be over.  He REALLY doesn’t want her to ask another question.  But Mom isn’t letting up, and at this point, she’s giving him the complete Scooby Doo “ruh?” face.  “Hooters is a slang term.”*

“Slang?  For Women?  Like ‘yahoo’?!”

At this point, my sister and I look at each other in horror.  What in the name of all the fuck shit are they doing in that bedroom?   Yahoo? Bruh…bruh…my damie.  No.  I guess Moms Duke didn’t get pregnant five times playing gin rummy, but still.  Gross.

At this point,  Pops is over it, so he sighs deeply and says, “Lou, Hooters is slang for BREASTS.  All of the women who work there have extremely large BREASTS.  [How YOU know, my n-word?]  So they named it Hooters because of the theme – BREASTS.”  (Yes, he emphasized it each and every time.)

And Mom, cool as a fan says, “Well I guess they won’t be hiring me.”

There are things you can never un-hear, and the fact that I did not slide open the door to our Aerostar and make my peace with Jesus is really a testament to my ability to survive anything.

That’s also probably why, when I started driving myself around, I took the long way, aka the Danzinger Bridge.

*Yes, my dad said “slang term.”  He also says relations or intercourse, and refuses to use the word gay, it’s always “homosexual” – for men and women. He has no time for your fancy talk.  Sometimes, I really just can’t with that dude.

I’m not yo mama, I’m yo grandma!

I’m becoming my parents.  More and more every day.  As a woman, I knew turning into my mother was inevitable, but my father?! The Fanny Packer?! Hell to the no!  (Heh heh…I said Fanny…Packer. Get it? In retrospect, saying this about my father is beyond gross on several levels so…)

Both of my parents were wise.  Both were giving.  Both were given to temper.  I think some of this comes from two people coexisting for 18 years.  Even though I wouldn’t count them as one of the great love affairs of our time, they did have a certain level of respect for one another as partners, so the grew from each other in many ways.  But then there are nuances that are specific to each of them that I have managed to absorb.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the evidence:

Exhibit A:  The Squint (Daddy)

Ladybug: *to me as I look at the computer* Ooooh, I see why everyone says you look like Paw Paw.

Me: *horrified to the Universe* NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

My pops has this very distinctive squint.  The only other person I’ve witnessed even come close to replicating it, is my aunt; and apparently, me.  It’s a combination of raising his head, looking down, squinting so that his two front teeth are exposed and wrinkling his nose.  Sort of like a middle-aged near-sighted bunny rabbit…with forehead wrinkles…and thick black hair…and enlarged pores-LOOK! The point is, someone snapped a picture of me doing this, and I wanted to die.  At 34, the last thing you want to hear is that you look like a middle aged man.

Exhibit B:  Literal translations of everything (Mama)

My mother enjoyed arts and music, but once things passed the realm of what she decided was “decent,” you could cancel Christmas.  One of our most hilarious memories of our mother is when she was trying to be cool.  Her idea of being cool was  letting us listen to rap music.  I was 11, and “Supersonic” came on.  See, I loved to beat box, so Baby Dee was my hero, therefore, her verse was my favorite.

Me: *mimicking the radio, word for word* You see my beat box is fresh, it’ll blow ya mind/and if you don’t like my beat I’ll go DIG ON YO BEHIND! *proudly doing the snake*

Mama: *horrified* DIG IN YO BEHIND?! *click*

My ass was Supersonic no no more.

Fast forward to 2010.  The radio is on, and Trey Songz’s “Bottoms Up” came on.

Finge: *mimicking the radio, word for word* Oooh, oh oh OHHHH! IT’S MISTA STEAL YO GIRL!

Me: *totally unamused* That’s how people get stabbed. *click*

Exhibit C:  Calling the kid into the toilet (Mama)

I staved it off for YEARS, but I managed to have received that gene where I have to forget something each and every time I go to take a shower.  Of course, once I’m in, I can’t leave until it’s mission accomplished.  I may never get back in here.  My son escapes this bit of indignity, but my poor daughter does not.  To add insult to injury, I found myself yelling at her “DON’T LOOK!”  One day she gave me the “BITCH? WHY? WOULD? I? EVER?” stare.  I managed to stop saying that to her.

Exhibit D:  Deep Sigh Followed By “Alright” then the explosion (Daddy)

You can literally tell my father anything.   Anything.  He’ll give a disappointed sigh, then seem non-plussed.

Me: Daddy, I just shaved my head, joined a cult and married the reincarnated spirit of Saddam Hussein.

Daddy: *Deep sigh* Alright Mel.

But once you get that alright, you better know when to hold ’em and know when to fold em.  ANY subsequent information you provide is liable to set off Mt. St. Pops.  It’s typically the most innocuous thing in your laundry list of shenanigans.

Me: Yeah dad.  We robbed a bank, sacrificed two virgins in  pagan ritual and I shot a senior citizen for making fun of my blue socks.

Dad: BLUE SOCKS?! BLUE SOCKS?! Look, I didn’t work at the phone company for 30 years and sometimes take on two jobs for your ass to run around this city wearing blue socks.  I really don’t know what to say about you.  My GOODNESS!  Blue socks *off the phone to the step0mom “yeah…BLUE! I know!”* So, you’re just a blue sock wearer huh?  Hmph.  I’m gonna have to call you back.  I’ll call back you AND your blue socks.

I have become a delayed reaction person myself.  My kids can tell me any bad thing they’ve done, but they’d better cut their losses.

Me: WHAT THE HELL YOU MEAN YOU RAN OUT OF PAPER?!  So I go to work for you to not bring paper to class.  You just want to be a paperless student?  Just…borrowing paper from everybody you see, huh?

Son: But…the principal is in the trunk though.  This doesn’t bother  you?  Because I’m pretty sure it really should…

Me: Well, does she have your paper?!

It makes no sense.  I’m working on it.

I always knew about the curse, “I hope you get one just like you.”  Apparently the unsaid portion of that is, “And you’ll be just like me.”  I thought it would really bother me.  I thought it would make me feel old, and tired, and maybe just a little defeated with the knowledge that I in fact do have to deal with myself as a child.  Then I remember that they handed me the blueprint.

Truth be told, I’m not so sure I mind this metamorphosis at all.

Hook ‘Em

"If you know like I know..."

Hip hop lost one of its greats yesterday.  Nate Dogg (born Nathaniel Dwayne Hale) passed away due to congestive heart failure.  He’d experienced health problems for quite a while, but I, like many, hoped that he would recover.  It is very unfortunate for any man to pass away at a mere 41 years of age.  It’s too soon and too sudden.  Nate left us being known, above anything, for revolutionizing the art of that all important element of hip hop: The Hook.  Most of us probably wouldn’t have known (or cared about) one syllable of “Regulate,” were it not for Nate’s smooth West Coast vibe and vocals.  He was the best to ever do it.  This morning, Russ Parr played an excellent mix of songs featuring Nate (where I discovered that I subconsciously know EVERY WORD of Luda’s “Area Codes”), which had me glued to the radio for a good 20 minutes hoping for more.

In honor of him, it’s fitting that today’s post highlight my ten favorite hooks in hip hop.

10. Whatta Man – Salt N Pepa ft. En Vogue

Any 90s girl worth her salt (no pun intended) loved SNP, and this song was the anthem for every one of us.  If we didn’t have a man like that, we were actively campaigning.  The women were fierce, the men were fine (and the video had Tupac, but I digress).  En Vogue’s harmony was the icing on the cake.  Seventeen years later, the hook is still so great, it makes me ignore that lyric about Arnold Schwartzenegger. How were they to know he would become a blobby and disgusting?

9.  Ms. Fat Booty – Mos Def

I have a special place in my heart for Mos.  He’s endearing in concert to the point that you don’t mind when he’s late.  (He’s always late.)  This song is an automatic crowd mover, in large part due to the ill bass line and the sampling of Aretha’s “One Step Ahead.”  Fun Fact:  With it’s groovy sample of an old school gem, most people want to give production credit to Kanye West. Not so, loves. It was in fact produced by Ayatolla.

8.  Cherchez La Ghost – Ghostface Killah ft. Goldie & U-God

If you pay attention to the URL, you may have guessed that I am most undoubtedly a GFK fan.  This song took a page from Tina Turner’s playbook.  “We’re gonna take the beginning of this song and do it easy.  Then we’re gonna do the finish…ROUGH.”  A few of my friends and I have a running joke about the fact that what Ghost speaks isn’t quite English, but he does it in a way that is ingenious.  The sweetness, almost understated tone of the hook sets it up perfectly.

7.  Beautiful – Snoop Dogg ft. Pharrell

When you discuss hip hop, it’s hard to ignore the Neptunes.  When you discuss hooks, it’s hard to ignore Pharrell.  The way this song comes together makes it catchy, enjoyable and timeless.

6.  You Got Me – The Roots ft. Erykah Badu

Love them. Love her. The song is mellow. Everything that needs to be said between two people who are apart manages to be covered in that hook.  “Baby, don’t worry. You know that you got me.”  If that’s not enough, Dave Chappelle’s Block Park gifted us with this live rendition, with the soul shaking vocals of Jill Scott added to the mix:

Magnificent.

5. I’ll Bee Dat – Redman

Oh Reggie Noble, how I love thee. Aside from the fact that this song contains a personal motto of mine (“If you gotta be a monkey, be a gorilla”) and one of my favorite declarations (“Watch how you sniff, son, I’m highly octane!”), this hook gives me life on the regular.  I pull out my meanest of mean mugs when this gets played.  As an added bonus, and because I love you, I threw in the hilarious (albeit edited) video.

4.  U-N-I-T-Y – Queen Latifah

“Who you callin a bitch?!” This time period in hip hop had a little bit of everything, but there were tons of great songs empowering us, not only as black men and women, but as humans.  The Queen was great for coming up with songs meant to empower, or even bridge the divide.  This is not only one of my favorite hooks, it’s probably one of my favorite songs.  “You gotta let ’em know, you ain’t a bitch or a ho!”

3.  Guerilla Monsoon Rap – Talib Kweli ft. Black Thought, Pharoahe Monch & Kanye West

Unlike Ms. Fat Booty, this song, which samples The Chi-Lites “I Never Had It So Good (And Felt So Bad)” was produced by Kanye West, who gets feature credit without spitting so much as a syllable.  However, what he did with the beat was undeniable.  I feel like I’m at a concert every time I hear this hook.  I would give a whole damn lot to actually see this performed live.

2.  B.O.B. – Outkast

*runs through house knocking all my stuff down*  *getting pissed because I have to clean it up*  Seriously? This needs to be explained?

1. Next Episode – Dr. Dre ft. Snoop Dogg, Kurupt and Nate Dogg

Of course.  This was one of Nate’s shorter appearances, and one might argue this was more of a verse than a hook, but find someone who doesn’t feel that Nate’s “Hold up…waaaaaaaait” doesn’t make this song.  It really typifies what Nate did for your track.  Even if it was “okay,” he had what it took to put you on.  Though I know he will be missed as a father, friend and brother, he will most definitely be remembered and missed for revolutionizing the game.

**Bonus

How could I not?

What are your favorites?

Never Gonna Give You Up

These last few months have shown me how much I depended on work boredom to carve out writing time.  On the one hand, it seems great; making lemons out of lemonade, and all that.  Recently, I’ve given it a great deal of thought, and there’s something symbolically wrong in “borrowing” time devoted elsewhere to pursue my passion.  I can’t talk about scheduling.  I have to be about it.  This week’s focus will be identifying my time wasters/drainers, and limiting, if not eliminating them.  I may not always be consistent, but I refuse to fold my hands and take distractions as signs of what “wasn’t meant be.”  I’m a writer.  I don’t have to compare myself and say “Well, if ___ can do this, so can I.”  I’ll stand on my own greatness and carry that mutha to fruition.

“For I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.”
– Robert Frost

Yes…I just promised you Rick Astley.

Straight Outta Convent

Today is my baby girl’s tenth birthday.  Essentially, I have no more babies, which is totally strange to me.  With each year comes a new set of concerns and responsibilities for me as a parent.  They have stronger personalities, more concrete opinions, and even new sensitivities.  (I remember my own puberty, when breaking into tears at previously harmless jokes told by my parents was the order of the day.)  It also means having to occasionally deal with difficult questions:  that includes being on the delivering AND receiving end.  Last night’s cannonball was fired by her:

Mommy, are you trying to be a nun? Then why don’t you get married?

On  another day, that would have gotten me all up in my feelings.  I’m not always loving the single life.  Frankly, I’m not always loving my life.  These streets can be rough on a girl.  There are days when I feel like Atlas, and there’s some fool that keeps punching the back of my knees.  (Yes, this makes sense.) Even though my kids are of age to take certain responsibilities, I still want them to have a certain carefree nature that comes with being kids.  So this requires me to be Atlas, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Elastagirl.  In my down time, I get to play Medusa, but we won’t harp on that.

Suffice it to say, a partner would be lovely.  Not just to “help me carry the weight,” but just to shoot the shit, watch movies and play Scrabble.  Not this new age Scrabble, where you can be in Boston and your partner can be in Bahrain.  I mean real in your face Scrabble.  Break out the paperback dictionary, turn up your lips, “that ain’t even much a word, yo” Scrabble.

But, I’m a mom.  I’m past the notion of hiding behind my kids because I’m afraid of relationships.  (I have.)  I’m past feeling the need to do everything.  (On the cool, I can, but that doesn’t mean I SHOULD.)  I don’t even believe that their happiness trumps all, but it is a weighty portion of the equation.  They want me to be married.  They want another little brother or sister.  They want a cool dude around to balance my womanly craziness. I’ll even be daring and opine that somewhere in all of this, they even give consideration to my own happiness in having a partner.   I just happen to know that forming and maintaining relationships just doesn’t happen to be easy.  I can deal with stealth breakups.  I have a habit of ending things before they even start, and my kids are none the wiser.  I’m loathe to even have conversations with men that are romantic interests around my kids unless we are actually “going somewhere.”  That way, should things end, there’s nothing to explain.  I’m not crazy about the idea of people disappearing from their lives.  I’m not searching for perfect, but healthy and stable is non-negotiable.

But I’m also not blocking myself.  I’m getting out more, meeting more people, and I have my eye on a hottie (or two…a girl needs options).  I’m not searching for a relationship.  I enjoy my autonomy and desire companionship in equal measure.  I’m praying that when the right person comes around, I’ll be smart enough to happily tip the scale in his favor.

So, don’t work on your rendition of “How Do You Solve A Problem Like Melanie” just yet.  I’d be a shitty nun.