Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tat, Tat, Tatted Up

I love getting tattoos. I love the process of going back and forth about whether to get one, what to get, where to get it, who should do it....It's a microcosm of the deliberative process I go through with pretty much everything in my life.

"To be or not to be, that is the question"

In fact, that is always my question. My Libra / air sign qualities dissuade me from making very many concrete decisions without the proper and necessary or unnecessary deliberations to vet every possible outcome, benefit and ramification of an action. Squarely put, I think too damn much.

So this Saturday, I just woke up and did what I knew I wanted to do before my mind could start working (since it can only work overtime). I went to a great tattoo shop in Adams Morgan, Tattoo Paradise, where Tattoo Artist Shawn Brown (check out his portfolio under the Portfolios section of the site) gave me two new symbols of fresh ink and solidified perspective.

The Nyame Nti


The Mmere Dane

One on the inside of my forearm and one on my left ankle taking my tattoo total to a even magic number 4. I love tattoos and can't wait to get another 1 or 2.

The experience is always a good time. In this case, I got to know my artist well and had great conversation (happens easily when you're getting two tats). It's always funny to me that I'm so cool opening up and establishing a bond with someone injecting multiple needles into my skin to inject me with ink. Bring the pain, son!

I love them. They're beautiful.

The Nyame Nti is an Adinkra symbol for God's grace and mercy. This is to remind me to always be extending and receiving that grace and mercy as I interact and communicate with my world around me.

The Mmere Dane is also an Adinkra symbol for time's changes. The only thing constant in the world is change, and as I walk through this life's journey, my prayer and hope is that I am open to the changing nature, the dynamism of life.

Together, they represent the lessons I've learned and lived by in my life thus far. in fact, I've lived by them so much, that they've become my most intimate mantras, my psyche's song, a melody for me to sing in my soul to keep myself going when times get tough, and to remind myself to be thankful when the sun is shining.

End of the Week Excursus: On to the Next One

God is good. All the time. And all the time, God is good. I know that wasn't expected after a Jay-Z opening. Welcome to the church of what's happening now.

Let the church say Amen.

I've always been blessed to have great jobs. Even when I've complained about a current professional station, I've known in my heart that I was blessed to be in that position at that time. For one, it was usually something that I'd desired in my heart at some point. Even if I had held on to the desire with faith for a considerable amount of time, I knew that I was fortunate in what I was able to do for whatever amount of time each day, for whatever amount of money.

I am realizing more and more that I've unfortunately been living the past 10 or so years of my life in survivor mode. Nomadic almost, I've never really gotten comfortable in any place I was in life. While it appears as confident ambition to those around me, it's actually been a lot of residual fear and collecting. After years of dealing with blows and losses, I learned myself to never rest comfortably where I was, looking for something better all the time in order to not lose what I had in my hands. The payoff has been great, yes. I have been very blessed with opportunities that I know some dream of. That I myself once dreamed of. Truly.

So now as I enter into my last day at a job I worked, and waited for, for another job I've been waiting for, even trying for three times (third time was the charm), I'm really scared again. Scared that something will go wrong and I'll feel setback once again. Even more than that I am also really afraid that I'm running away from something good & comfortable, as opposed to walking into something new and fulfilling....

And I suppose that none of that really matters. One thing I've learned in my 25 sun circles is that the voice of fear is always louder than the voice of reason & truth. This is seen in the body politic as well as the body individual. When we act out of fear, we limit ourselves to a life and a perspective that, while comfortable, holds us hostage and separates us from our inherent reach for progression. The voice of fear though often speaks only from the corners of our heart and mind that house our past experiences, mixed with good and bad. Reason & truth, however can speak from our hearts & bones' past & present vantage point. Seeing not only where we've been, but how we arrived from the point to where we are in the present. With that truth, we can reason that the path from this present point to a future destination will not be entirely dissimilar. Everything works itself out.

Tomorrow is my last day at my current job. A year ago this time I was ready to quit graduate school and move to a remote island to sell coconuts and pot at a joint called Mark's Island Vibrations Shack. I had no idea that a year later, I would have made it through that fire storm, and would be moving onward and upward.

Nervous, slightly scare, anxious...All of the above. The next few days will be spent translating the energy my mind is putting towards those thoughts and feelings into anticipation and expectation of my next move, being my move to my best job yet. My career as a Consultant is in full swing (my dream!) and I know in my heart it's all because I've continued to keep my faith in the Divine Mother and Heavenly Father, so they've kept their hands over me, and in that I've been able to receive the best opportunities life has for me. I don't know what tomorrow is, nor what mysteries and secrets it holds. All I know is that it's a blessing, and that it's my day if I shall receive it as so.

"Many things about tomorrow,
I don't seem to understand;
But I know Who holds tomorrow,
And I know Who holds my hand."

Monday, March 15, 2010

Time's just gonna change itself around

"Take some time
Just hang around awhile
Like to sit this silent moment out
I don't want to lose or let you down
Time's just gonna change itself around"
- "In Time" Zero 7

Growing up, growing older is a confusing process. I just had dinner with a friend and we both talked about how awkward we feel. Not the awkward you feel on a first date. Not even the kind where you call your boss's wife by the wrong name. Like, his first wife's name. Or his second mistress' name.

It's the kind of awkward that I remember from around the 11th grade. Where I didn't feel I quite had control over my body, my mind, or my many emotions that were overtaking me. Thoughts of an independent being would come spilling out of my mouth before I could even fully consider what they actually meant, let alone recognize where they would land. From that point on, I was trying to get to this point, where the independent impulses are within my control to some degree. Now that I feel myself arriving at that point, I feel like time has played the ultimate hat trick. I still feel as awkward as I did then. Even more so.

It's nice though to look back over the past few years and see how time has changed me and those around me. As we plan our lives and toss back and forth ideas and fears, hopes and goals, we each place one more brick into something great we've dreamed of. Even though we've made attempts in the past, only to see our progress crumble before our very eyes, we've learned to recognize when we need a new foundation, or we just need to move to a newer ground. We've learned the mistakes of a mason and applied the lessons of a master carpenter. And now, while the days run into themselves, and we run the rigamarole that gets tiresome and somewhat boring on the surface, I know that beneath it all, we're all building. And that's beautiful to me.

Time has somehow changed itself around in so many ways.

"There are years that ask questions and years that answer." -Zora Neale Hurston "Their Eyes Were Watching God"

When I did PPIA a few years ago, I was entranced by this quote in the Kraus Campo at CMU:


Initially intrigued by the sheer fact that it was backwards! (i'm a simple man with a simple mind at the end of the day), I became so enthralled that the content of the quote itself left a significant impact on me.

Translated: "What Eddington says about the direction of time and the law of entropy comes to this: time would change its direction if men should start walking backwards one day. Of course you can call it that if you like: but then you should be clear your mind that you have said no more than that people have changed the direction they walk in."

So when I encountered this quote, my time was beginning to change. I was beginning to see the joy in life, and feel that my faith was truly bringing into manifestation the bricks and mortar for me to build my dreams. Instead of running from what I'd looked at as ruins, castrated visions of a dreamer, I saw the blessing in it all. Like I could change directions and walk through it all again, just tog et right back to the moment I was in at the time.

Perhaps it's all just a side effect of my own entropy, then and now. Time just seemed to change itself around.

Monday, March 8, 2010

February Top Five

Hello World! There was a slight delay in getting my End of the Week Excursus formulated and out for print. I had a great weekend reuniting with some of my closest & most cherished friends by way of Graduate School, and I found myself making new friends that I hope will be around for the long haul as well. Yeeeeeeeeaaaaahhh!

February is the shortest month, but this year proved that big things truly can come in small packages.

1. Snowmageddon: Who knew that 1) a snowstorm would sweep through the Mid-Atlantic region with such force as to shut down the entire Federal Government and it's economic region for a historic 5 BUSINESS DAYS! Though I worked from home most days (aheemmmm!) I thoroughly enjoyed spending times with my friends in Dorms 590. Playing games and drinking is the new snow day ritual. What used to be hot chocolate and Nintendo has now become Farkle and Yuengling power hours. Said, we movin on uuuuup!

2. The New Orleans Saint's Superbowl Victory: 1) I called it. 2) I wanted it. 3) It happened. Over delicious ribs prepared by my homeslice Ben, I watched the underdog team hold back what should have been a much more difficult offense, and power through what was usually a much more calculating defense. I love Manning. He's a great quarterback...but still...Who Dat Say Dey Gon Beat Dem Saints? Certainly not the Colts, cause then they'd be lying.

3. Homemade Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits: I am not a big chain restaurant fan. I have been spoiled by living in small towns like Eureka where Le Chanticleer (my former employer) is more commonplace than any Applebee's or Olive Garden, and in great cities such as San Francisco where you can not find a chain restaurant for close to hours inland away from the bay. Somehow though, I have always been, and will always be, a sucker for Red Lobster. Specifically, I am a sucker for their Cheddar Bay Biscuits. Unfortunately, there is not one in close proximity to me and the DC metro area (by that I mean within the beltway which is where I have to stay for many reasons). This problem was remediated upon finding this great recipe for HOMEMADE CHEDDAR BAY BISCUITS! I added an egg to the recipe for fluffier biscuits, and further escalation of deliciousness. Fat kid status, HOLLA!

4. Lofts 590 Cocktail Hours: During Snowmageddon, a few neighbors started holding cocktail hours in the lobby of my grown & sexy apartment building. Who knew that there were more lushes living right next door to me! One evening I was leaving to grab a couple shirts from the mall and I ran into a gang of well dressed individuals holding drinks. That's a group I belong in obviously, so I stepped up to the apparent ringleader and the rest is social drinking history.

5. New Job Alert: At the end of February, I received an offer for a Senior Consultant position with Booz Allen Hamilton, the original consulting firm, and one of the global leaders in private and public sector tech & management consulting. Badass status. I consider it a blessing to receive such a great opportunity when the economy and job market are in the condition they're in. Also, I am still growing into what I truly consider a post-traumatic self. Building off many setbacks I overcame in my adolescence, throughout high school, and in getting to college...It still boggles my mind that I'm now a multiple degree holding adult climbing my way up the ladder. God has blessed me beyond my wildest dreams, and sometimes I still feel as though those dreams are where this all is taking place.

I am anticipating the imminent spring, beginning a new job and a new phase in life, and all the rest of the continued blessings life has to pour into my proverbial cup, and the continuous blessing I can be to others in return.

February was also Black History Month. Without the many African-Americans that survived and grew past their own individual struggles and collective struggles, I would not be alive today, nor yesterday to make it through my own struggles, which, in retrospect, pale in comparison to the everyday struggles of those that lived, to die, for FREEDOM and JUSTICE. This is dedicated to them, and to me, yesterday's me and today's me. To all of my compadres, those of us here today, and to those that will come tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

This Week's _____ Please Award Goes To...McNugget Love TOO

Actually, I won't be giving any McNugget love today. Just bewilderment and pure disgust at McDonald's lack of parameters in marketing their food filth to the masses.

McDonald's should not receive all the blame for misguided and shameless promotional activities. Everyone does it, and mostly without any reprimand (my own company for example created a rap to encourage consumers to read nutritional labels as a part of a strategic communication package for FDA, one of our clients...Shameful <--Insert sarcasm font here).

So, R&B and Rap, while both relatively mainstream now due to Viacom owned MTV and BET (MTV's baby cousin with cornrows), still hold a cultural significance to me and many other Black Americans. More than anything, I believe this connection is due to the fact that they represent the sounds we grew up on. I remember my Mother jamming to Stevie upstairs in the living room while my Dad played MC Hammer albums in the basement. For all they both did wrong and right, I know that without a shadow of doubt, my parents both provided me love & support, and nourished my soul with good music as much as they nourished my physical with the Cream of Wheat (Mark Sr.) and morning wheatgrass juice (Lorrie) they provided (or forced down my throat) each morning. To me, R&B and Rap go hand in hand with delicious & nutritious food, and a well supported and well fed body & soul.

The other night, I found myself nostalgically revisiting those times where my parents were my primary sources of growth and development. TV One (God Bless You Cathy Hughes!) now airs "A Different World" and it has spun me into a world of appreciation for the role it played in my childhood, in 30 minute increments. As I once did as a child, I now can not do anything unless I've had my does of Dwayne Wayne, Whitley and the gang at Hillman College. It even occurred to me that I probably dreamed of college with as much fervor and determination as I did because I had this show as a significant part of my formidable years (my lovely maternal Grandmother once recorded all the episodes of the series on VHS tapes for me...Love that lady!)

While on this train of nostalgia, we took a break for a word from our sponsors. Who do we find at the top of that sponsor list. Ol' Mickey D's. RED FLAG #1. TV One, a part of Cathy Hughes' African-American focused media empire should be leveraging it's role and power to sponsor groups working against the over-saturation of McDonald's pushing their saturated fat filled food to a community already riddled with heart disease and diabetes almost to the point of hereditary and habitual demise.

To boot, the commercial was second in a series of McNugget Love R&B themed McDonald's commercials seeming to encourage me and my counterparts to get coital with a McNugget that is made of chicken parts...RED FLAG #2

African-American empowerment and community development goes hand in hand with the recreation of our collective views towards health and our bodies. We can't build wealth if our hearts are gonna give out on us in our late 40's or early 50's. As the descendants of slaves and economically marginalized peoples, we are at risk for many of the residual physical and mental ailments that come from limited resources that have forced the consumption of "parts" covered and coated in saturated fats. One of my personal callings (and that of many friends) has been to strike a more clear balance in what we put into our bodies. Not to say that I don't indulge in practices that are less than healthy at times. I like bacon dammit and don't plan to stop eating it anytime soon. And hold that turkey ish. I'll do that every now and then (when I'm feeling particularly EBP), but game recognizes game, and sometimes there's no replacement for the rich, salty taste of the divine swine.

Not every day though, and never without enough green vegetables throughout the day to counter the heart unhealthy effects of that pork. Herein lies my McDonald's beef (PUN!). There are far too many communities lacking access to resources beyond a McDonald's, a Taco Bell, or a Jack in the Box. With our national economic resources dwindling for an unknown period of time, there is even less incentive to seek out healthy and revitalizing food sources. This is compounded greatly if the nearest non-711 or bodega style grocery outlet is miles from one's neighborhood (no one shopping for a family wants to carry groceries on a bus or a subway train, God forbid if they have to switch lines in the travel process!).

McDonald's is a business though, and will seek out profit margins in the most efficient way possible. It's no surprise then that you will find their outlets in abundance in the neighborhoods that also lack quality grocery stores with safe and fresh produce and foods. Those same neighborhoods are within the fold of Cathy Hughes' media empire targets as well. TV One might have a gap in their sponsors if they booted Mickey D's, or at least countered each McDonald's commercial on their station with PSA's to organize members of the African-American community around food access issues. Someone has got to do something....This problem has persisted for many decades now (see the Good Times episode where Florida has to protest a grocery store that served bad meat and got everyone pregnant)

McDonald's is good for upgrading their menus and business practices based on widespread backlash against the undisputed negative health and environmental effects of over-consumption of their food. What they are not good at doing however, is not engaging in predatory proliferation of their restaurants within vulnerable communities suffering from a dearth of food access. Since they won't do it, TV One should help them out by refusing to allow McDonald's advertisement during their peak viewing hours. In fact, they should replace that advertising with information and education that builds up healthy communities and finally turns the tide in the Black-American community towards what is realistically healthy and what is downright inarguably killing whole sectors of our community.

If you want my McNugget love, you'll have to tell me what the hell is in a McNugget first.

Glossary: EBP = Educated Black Person (aka Uppity Negro)

Y'all better Real Eyes.