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I’m 21, Mom

I’d been both excited and dreading today.

Nick has been in my world for twenty-one years.
I can hear him stirring about in his room. The bedroom door is partially ajar, so I can peek in to see what’s going on. His modest sanctuary is in temporal flux. The décor is part teen, not totally masculine. Bright sunlight pushes against the venetian blinds on the overhead windows. He is sitting on his double-sized bed. Nick is slender. His haircut is freshly trimmed, worn low next to his scalp. Thick black brown punctuate his milk chocolate eyes. The TV is on low while he is carefully peering at his laptop. His fingers are curled over the keyboard. His expression is studious, but I know better. His eyes ping-pong back and forth as he is staring at something on the screen. Probably checking out the birthday wishes on his Face book page.

His various certificates and awards and meticulously aligned on the opposite wall. Atop the surfaces of both his dresser and his desk items are precisely spaced and lined up. Nick is a neat sleeper. He doesn’t thrash about or kick wildly in slumber. He lays flat on his back, allows his head to roll to one side and closes his eyes. When wakes up, he pulls the sheets in place and sits on top of the comforter. I call him “Neat Nick”. Everything must be tidy and in order in his space. Nothing is awry or out of place unless his older brothers comes in and moves anything. Then it’s war.

He’s confided in me his expectations and his excitement. Life can officially begin, he declared. There is so much he wants to do, much he wants to have, and he is determined to get them. He has to get his car. He wants his own place. He wants a nice girl. Not like Santana. She was clingy and pushy and required too much attention. His father threatened she would show up to his birthday dinner.

He can do anything and I know that. A man’s twenty-first birthday is an honored custom. He desires not to drink or smoke. He is steadfast in what he believes. He is such a gentle young man.

A few weeks ago, I’d noticed he posted an online rant. The content of it stunned me. Like most his age, he had to get some ugly vibes off of his shoulders. I take it for granted he doesn’t feel anger or resentment. I take it for granted his feelings won’t be hurt. I am aware of it when he tells me. It’s then I turn into a lioness willing to protect her cub under any cost. It’s been years prompting Nick to tell us if anything is wrong. It’s been harder not to hover over him. It’s been most difficilt not to smooth every path for him.

I confess it’s going to be rough letting him drive! He’s counted over 450 Dodge Neons he’s noticed around Greensboro. It’s his favorite ride. I’d tried to teach him to drive my manual, but he wasn’t comfortable with it.

I wonder if I’m ready for any of this. Resigned to the inevitable, I audibly sigh and roll my eyes.

“What’s wrong, Mom?” he asked, placng a hand on my shoulder.

Once, he couldn’t look at me. Now, his keen brown eyes gazed into mine. Once more, he reminded me he is an adult.

“I don’t want you to grow up, Nick.” I’d harrumphed.

He smiled crookedly, cocking his head to the side. “You have to let me grow up, Mom.”

I’d rubbed his face stubble with a finger.  Autism slammed into our lives like an out-of-control car. It once represented unrest, blame, guilt, and uncertainty. Now, it is represents normalcy and acceptance.

“Yeah” I’d answered sadly, “I guess I do.”

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Sunday Morning

On this second day of 2011, I am fervently forcing myself to do what author Walter Mosley suggests in his “how-to” book for writers .

I should write every day. If you are one of these persons of interest, this is not always an easy thing to do.  When I was younger and more idealistic, I wrote with the most unconcerned abandon!  I didn’t worry about what others would have to say about it because it was my point to produce whatever was going on within my psyche.  During my more devil-may-care moments, I had no hindering negativity and no pressing desire to impress anyone with my clever repartee of word sculpting.   Whatever prose or poetry was available came together almost under its own devices and not my human misgivings.  Afterwards whatever was magically scribed on paper, I would find a trusted soul who offered me the utmost objectivity, and presented my words to him or her as a token of appreciation.   All I knew at that defining moment I had purged whatever was in my subconscious floating about  like a white, fluffy rain cloud.  For me, it was utter relief ..

I am in my room, my current writing space.  How I  miss my den!  It is now occupied by my almost 25-year-old son.  He moved back home a few weeks ago, his essence and mess completely taking over my spot.  My sturdy, refurbished desk, which I had rescued for $5 from a yard sale,  is crammed in my bedroom.  aligned along the same wall as the dresser.  I have two bulletin boards slightly above the desk, displaying various photos, a North Carolina lottery ticket, stamps, college paraphernalia, my “before” picture – me at my heaviest weight, and other visual knick knacks casually strewn about on both surfaces.  I am furiously pecking  on my 10-inch lap top.  In my mind, a would-be artist makes the best of the most horrendous conditions, and so I try.  My husband’s blazingly-loud flat screen is playing “Avatar” again.  Across the hall, Nick’s television is murmuring, adding to my audible chaos.   If I lean slightly to the right, I can just see him sitting cross-legged on his bed.

Hubby is still in the bed, curled up on his right side.  Kovu, the Wonder Dog is laying at the foot of the bed with his eyes closed comfortably.   Outside, the weather is miserable, rainy and damp and chilly.  This is the type of weather which tempts me to return to the warmth of my bed.  Not that hubby hasn’t tried.  He’s desiring warmth too, but not the type I am worried about a the moment.

I reach over to the left, grabbing the box of Goody powder off the dresser.  Pulling out a powder, I wash the bitter stuff down with a sip of cold coffee.  At the right of my keyboard is a bowl with discarded orange peels.

In the past, I would try to go elsewhere to work.  There is hubby’s computer in the living room.  If I tried to go in there, he would interrupt me.  I am not in the mood to fight his ego.

Getting back to Walter Mosley:  he is the creator of Easy Rawlins, the protagonist of “Devil in a Blue Dress” and various other books.  In an issue of Jet magazine, he had suggestions for burgeoning wannabe writers.  The cut-out is another item on my bulletin board.  Mosley suggests to the timid scribe:

1.  Write every day

2.  Learn how to write without restraint

3. Avoid false starts and dead-end thinking.

This is my (unofficial) resolution.

Jo Jo’s

I was once a seasoned blogger at MSN Spaces.  I have a main place where I happily shared the title with my dog.  After much practice and an itchy drive for a more artistic spot, I created a jive called Jo Jo’s.   Jo Jo’s was my literary lover, my joy  In essence, Jo Jo’s was a place to find the deeper recesses of me.  It was a place –  a speakeasy – where fellow poets could share their words.  I could hear the low, toe-tapping melodies and the bee-humming murmurs of the patrons.   There are attentive, knowing  bartenders and smiling, white-clad waiters.  There there are cigarette girls, ladies with questionable reputation, and dangerous-looking men.  Wooden  tables were scattered about the hardwood floor.  Each table had a low lit candles placed directly in the center.   Most of them seated four, sometimes more if a larger group came in.

Surrounding the floor were wall-encrusted booths.  It was east to spot the lovers: they were sitting arm-to-arm and staring into each other’s eyes, occasionally stealing kisses.   The married couples usually sat across from each other.  Now and then, an agitated woman with eyes narrow and angry would burst in, strided throughout the room trying desperately to catch her philandering mate.

The gray hue which hung in the air burned your eyes and burned your visions thanks to the heavy veil of cigarette smoke, its insolent tendrils curling upward and dissipating in the air.  The tinkling of wine glasses punctuated spontaneous bursts of laughter.   A quick gulp of water helped to wash away the  stench of too many bodies and the wall of heavy cologne.

In numerous history books, dictionaries, and other pieces of literature, a speakeasy was basically a joint that provided illegal alcohol.  This a one-dimensional summary and it did little to spark my vivid imagination.

* * * * * *
It was a mystery for a good girl.  She would’ve been warned by her mama, her daddy, and even her worldly, know-it-all cousin not to go there.  It would lure you in, capture your soul, and you would never want to stop coming back, Karen had warned.  So one day, with her best friend reluctantly by her side, she would peek into the nearest, snappiest one called Jo Jo’s.  She was all of sixteen years old, and wanted a little excitement in her life beside cleaning up after her family, and staying home because her daddy could not work anymore because of injuries he got in the war, and a weary mama who was the bread-winner by working at the mill.  Her dreams were just that.  Dreams.
So, she and Tracey peered into the smoke-hazed scene in front of them.  There was a rumble of activity.  The music was sweet. maple syrup in her blood.  The waitresses dodged and weaved all around tables full of three or more party goers laughing and nodding their heads to the jazz music. To the left, in a small area where there were no tables, were couples doing some mad bogeying, and hugging up that was just plain indecent!  To the right, was a large, shiny, mahogany bar where men were tossing back some strong drink, whether to cheer them up or forget something was unclear,  and empathetic bartenders only too happy to oblige..  Slam!  A ruckus erupted between a young buck in a charcoal suit and an infamous Tuskegee airman.  A burly bouncer grabbed the boy by the scruff of the collar and took him to the back.
The combination of heavy perfume, unwashed bodies, and liquor nauseated the wide-eyed girls.  Tracey was pulling her gawking chum towards the street, when a low, melodious wail came from the make shift stage slightly above the dance floor.  The crowd silenced as the songstress, draped in a silk sheath, allowed her feelings to her long-lost love, to lay at the feet of her audience.  Not quite a keen, not quite a seduction, the mood shifted as she expressed various times she wanted to have again.  As a tear slid through her tightly close eyes, she caught everyone, even those drunk at the bar, with her sadness, anger, and regret of not saying goodbye.
As she released her last haunting note, an explosion of applauded echoes throughout the room.  Her piano player bowed, and held out his manicured hand to Lady Soul.  Not quite Lady Day, but a very close second.  She nodded her head, and looking at the eye-catching girls at the entrance, threw a kiss their way.
A few years prior,  she was standing there, feeling the same apprehension, not at all sure she should do.
Maybe her kiss will give them permission to take a chance.
* * * * * *
Do you think haunts such as Jo Jo’s was the earlier settings of what we now call “Spoken Word” competitions?  Poetry Readings? I think so.   So many still haunt me with the allure of mental imagery.
I hope you will join me in virtual wine, tea, coffee, and other imaginings in Jo Jo’s. Feel free to drop your work here anytime, as will I.  DO place your copyright with your work!

Ode to Teena Marie

The first time I’d listened  to the earthy contralto of Teena Marie was one afternoon while riding the family car – a badly abused 1972 Cadillac – which was a second-rate replacement for my dad’s Red Caddy Coupe De Ville.   I had been out of high school for a year and hadn’t been remotely interested in college life, although I was taking a class or two at the nearby junior college. It was of those stolen moments when I cranked up the music as loud as possible and secretly sipped my Budweiser I kept between my jean-clad legs.

If I was lucky I could hear those songs I couldn’t listen to when my parents dominated the car.  You know what I’m talking about!  Rhythm and Blues tunes so hot and racy, it would trigger things within my groin:  Prince, Joe Tex, JT of Kool and the Gang,  and of course “bad bay” Rick James.  When I would hear “Fire and Desire” I would lip sync Teena’s part.  If I was at a dead stop, I’d squeeze my eyes shut, stretch my arms out wide like a true diva, and  I would act like I was with my ex-boyfriend and reminiscing about old times.

Would I have called her anything but Teena?  No.  She was one BAD woman who could hold her own with the wild, scandalous Rick James.  He’d take a toke.  She was smoke!  She wasn’t a color.  She was a soulful singer!  She gave us her “Square Biz”.  She bragged about being a ” Lover Girl”.  She oozed sensual “Portuguese Love” while admitting she had been a “Sucker for Your Love”.

Lady T had her own strut, her own style, her own way.  She was urbane, a sister with down-to-earth class.

The deep-down-in-your-bones thing Teena Marie vocalized was natural.  Her voice permeated race, music, and simply winged itself freely beyond the typical boundaries.

When it was time to break away from Motown – the company refused to release her from her contract nor release some of her music  –  Teena fought to regain power over her music.  Motown counter sued, but Teena was victorious.  The “Teena Marie Bill“, passed by Congress, allows artists’ materials to belong to the artist.     The bill states a recording label cannot legally claim an artist’s material, not keep him bound by a contract if the company refuses to release his record. 

Teena Marie was one classy dame!  Ooh, La La La .. !

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Welcome to my hangout.

I’m a writer from Greensboro, NC. My soul, my passion, is in writing. Creating. Fitting. Enjoying. Words. I love to put them together and make stories, prose, and poetry. I figure as much as I read, I should be able to freelance and earn a little as a side job. Write a book. Have a monthly article in an arts mag! I wouldn’t mind one bit. My floundering courage had been treading water like so many swimmers in Blews Creek. As great as my ideas are (I’m such a dreamer!) I hadn’t been ready to jump feet first into the deep end with every word specialist. I read so much. Lately, I do it critically, sweeping my eyes across a page as if to find a magical key to success. Of course, I compare my stuff to those seemingly more profound. Write like James Patterson? Forget that! I just want to into a steady flow of prose without second guessing myself!

Eventually, I thought what would help me was a formal education! Lord knew how much I wasn’t into it when I graduated high school. My eldest had graduated for high school and in his imminent absence, a chilly emptiness wrapped around me. That’s one grown — I had another son four years younger, plus my dh (A child at time!) — I wasn’t about to stop living! I pushed my doubt in a vacant part in my mind, I became a college student at age 42. 75 percent of my classmates are traditionally young, carefree, and slim! (If you assumed I am pursuing an English major, you’re right!) So, here I am. A full-time working woman who’s a Non Traditional Student with a busy family, a dog, a weight problem (All that sitting!), friends, a fast-approaching graduation in May, and a dizzying curiosity about what’s going on in this thing called “da world’. (Clue in War’s “War”)

Thanks in advance for checking out my groove.