As you may or may not be aware, I do a weekly blog for the website Book of Odds. Below is this week’s offering
So, are you gonna get a tattoo for your daughter?
I’ve paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $800 to be written on permanently. I’ve spent what would be the equivalent of a day’s work sitting in various artists’ chairs, smelling that antiseptic aroma you should always smell when getting inked up, listening to the drone of a needle as it etched things I wanted to keep sacred on my skin. I’ve done this to pay homage and now, for the first time, I just feel sort of done with it. You’d think the birth of my first child would be a tattoo no-brainer—especially considering I’m seven deep already—but it’s not.
I always said that I would stop getting tattoos when I had found whatever it is I was looking for. Of the seven I have, more than a few can be attributed to the need to pick myself up out of some mood or other. I like tattoos regardless of mood, but can say honestly that the intent of some of these scrawlings probably falls somewhere in the vicinity of self-mutilation.
I’m loath to say I regret getting any of the tattoos I have; partially because that would be an admission of the knuckleheadery of youth and partly because it’s just not true. I like my tattoos. I’m less thrilled with their placement. Tattoos I can see at any given moment tickle me much less than they used to. When I wanted to make certain kinds of pronouncements to myself and others, they were perfect. But now that the nature of pronouncement has changed, now that I’ve gotten a bit more circumspect with what I offer to the world in the way of personal presentation, a few tattoos just seem out of place. When I reach or stretch or type, I notice my left forearm; I see the appendage of a dude I’m not quite in sync with anymore. Even worse, there are times when I look at other similarly-tattooed people and wonder: What the hell were we thinking?
To give some credence to the knucklehead trope, I can say my theory was half right: Having landed on the path I’m on, I don’t necessarily feel compelled to hit the parlor as I once did. What I didn’t know then is that the person who no longer feels compelled to add to this array would be less-than-pumped about the collection of art on his left forearm.
I’m just a different cat now. I have a few moments where, admittedly, I feel cool and dig my work—don’t let anyone lie to you: the “cool” factor is a lot of the appeal—but increasingly, I feel like the dude holding some other dude’s tattoos until that other guy gets back. Whatever my headspace was previously, my current state of mind doesn’t lend itself to visible tattoos. My shoulders and upper arms? Cool. But as I’ve begun to frown upon opportunities for people who don’t know me like that to know me like that, I’ve begun mulling what to do.
All things considered, the decision seems to fall between three absurd options…
Eddie Effing Money.
Above we see The Franchise, aka The First of the Mohicans, poppin’ off at the mouth, proving the child is indeed mine.
In recent weeks, The Feath and I have taken to calling the kid Juice or Juicy Fruit, not merely because I’m like Diddy with these monikers, but also because home skillet starts gettin’ buck every time The Feath drinks juice.
But what kind of skillet is Juice? A he or a she?
Let’s allow Prince Rogers Nelson to croon a bit
Could you be
The most beautiful girl in the world?
Plain to see
You’re the reason that God made a girl
So, there you have it.
And, in honor of my unborn child, a song which she will be convinced is a nursery rhyme until she becomes the wiser and feels mildly ashamed of her father.
As you may or may not be aware, a new decade will begin on Friday. Since lists are what people do at the end of things because paragraphs with common threads are just entirely too difficult to cobble together, I’ve followed suit with a random hodge-podge of observations, thoughts and things learned over the course of ten years.
2000: We were league champions after going on an improbably post-season run. Knocked off Wheeler, 53-51. In my career, we only beat Wheeler once. Lesson: Only one game counts.
2001: 9/11. Vagina. Lesson: You can learn all things from war and genitals.
2002: High school graduation.Robert Horry hit that shot against the Kings. on my graduation day. Lesson: Robert Horry is the Butterfly Effect.
2003: Yale. The Michelle. Being an idiot regarding several things, mostly The Michelle-related. Lesson: Flattery is the key to infidelity.
2004: The College Dropout (album and real life). Lesson: Being a nightclub bouncer is infinitely more interesting than folding pants at the Gap.
2005: Yale, again. The Justice League. Argentina with The Intercontinental Champ. Lesson: You can always go home again, but it might not be how you left it.
2006: The best and worst day of college happened on the same day. Iberia. Lesson: Sometimes, you have to make trades, especially when you don’t have a choice. Also, sometimes friendship is no friend at all.
2007: Yale graduation. Lesson: Getting in is easier than finishing.
2008: The Spirit Warrior’s Dream. The Feath. The Election. Lesson: It’s usually the one you never saw coming.
2009: Freezing at the Inauguration. Brougham gets married. The Feath begins work on The Franchise. Lesson: It’s about grown man time…
The Feath is apparently not Black.
Sometimes, while icing her dodgy knee or getting her toes done, I look at her extremities, her odds and ends, and puzzle over how different we look. We do not look the same. The above confuses me to no end and, after the time we’ve spent together, I still don’t quite get it.
The Feath is Native American. I tell her many Native Americans in our neck of the woods owe the continuation of their existence to Black men. She denies this not but still insists on being called Native American.
While this musing is generally light in nature, something about it is rather weighty. As a person who, on paper and principle is “You love who you love,” I’m beginning to wonder if I ever really imagined myself with someone who was Not-Black.
The Feath falls in line with what my folks call my “type”–athletic light-skinned girls (and while you can chalk a certain degree of acculturation to that, there is a much more personal explanation which I offer when asked politely). But she is different in that she culturally attributes her lightskinnededness to being a Not-Black person; To being a member of a tribe, people who go to harvest festivals and wear buckskin and own more than a few carved things and really are on tribal rolls and really do get casino money. A tribe. Of Not-Black people.
More importantly, she’s different because I am, somehow, older than I once was and choice in partner has taken on a different complexion. The stakes no longer hinge on The Game weekend or Spring Break plans. Suddenly, for the first time, the reality of my choice has been thrown into stark relief; not because of The Feath’s personhood–her character is maddeningly beyond reproach–but because she not only looks different than I do, she also identifies differently than I do. And suddenly it seems to matter.
This contradiction, though subtle, continues to give me pause because I do not understand.
In that part of me that is small and not progressive, the fact that I cannot place her in a category that I “understand” drives me up a wall. She’s not “White”; she’s not “Latino and or Hispanic”; she’s not “Asian”; she’s…Almost-Black?
The Feath has many “Black” markers–some in the stereotypical ways; others in the ‘Black folks do that’ way. Yet when she talks about Black people, the tone is ‘you all’ rather than ‘we.’
I tell her she sings like a Black person. She shrugs.
I tell her she directs the gospel choir at my dad’s theatre. She says “So?”
I ask her what Native American things consist of. She’s not really sure. She asks me what some Black things are, what are some intrinsic markers of Blackness. I can’t answer quickly.
It’s not because I didn’t think I could call up examples, but because so much of Blackness is nothing less than an indescribable feeling for whom cultural signifiers are limiting and inaccurate; so much of Blackness is between the notes for those with the ears to hear.
I tell The Feath she is Black. She says she is not.
I don’t know what Native Americans from our neck of the woods do differently. That is my struggle. I understand it in practice but, upon observation, I just don’t see the difference. But The Feath insists it is there, insists that there are things done differently.
I just don’t get it. And maybe that’s the blessing.
Riding back from a weekend of family theatricality, I saw an advertisement in the window of American Apparel that puzzled me. I spent several minutes trying to decipher the deeper meaning of the the window display wedged between the faces and legs of disinterested day-glo hip. The sign read
I was baffled. What exactly is that supposed to mean? They couldn’t just be stating the obvious could they?
If you shop at American Apparel–an American label, proudly manufactured in America–you’re well aware that Halloween falls on the last day of October, right? Read the rest of this entry »
Irony only has emergency use. Carried over time, it is the voice of the trapped who have come to enjoy their cage — Lewis Hyde
I want to be a rock star but choose to traffic in snark instead.
The people who know me in that way,as a purveyor of snark and groupie of irony, do so under a certain duress. They do so, they say, because they hate to like some of the things I say, but can’t help it because it’s funny or clever or thoughtful (I have yet to decide whether that is a compliment or not. I imagine it is respect on some level, but I also imagine it’s akin to being a catchy, albeit terrible, pop song. Awful and mildly irresistible).
Most of my compliments–and really, any commentary involving the work that I do–these days revolve around being an asshole with a heart of gold and a serviceable intellect. I spend most of my time making observations through ironic turns of phrase (some good, some trash bin worthy) and I must admit I’ve grown weary of it.
I don’t think I’ve lost my sense of humor or feel the need to be “nice” suddenly; I still think a dash of irreverence can be the very best way to illuminate and I have no illusions about the world in which we live. I suppose that in the myriad headlines and tweets and words devoted to what can possibly be considered ‘critique,’ I have lost sight of what it means to be earnest. Read the rest of this entry »
Is just like this.