January 1, 2017
The door phone jangled. Cats scampered to their visitor hiding spots underneath the bed. The husband picks up, hangs up and comes in and says you’ll never believe who’s here. Your brother. He wants you to come down to… Talk. My body instantly reacts: uneasy, stomach lurch, heart pounds, foreboding, a pre-weariness descends. Maybe this time will be different. This is the only way for him to get in touch with me since I’ve blocked his number from landlines, cells…. I know what he wants. I know that this will not go well, but I still hope that my big brother will be my big brother. I hope that he will be kind. I hope that he really does want to talk. I hope. I hope. I hope.
I blow a plug of snot from my plugged nose, cough a little more out of my chest and grab my shoes. I steady myself as I grab the essentials for the day and take deep breaths. The husbands asks if I want him to go with me. Yes.
We descend in the elevator. I see him pacing, cat like stalking, his body, his really thin body, ready like a coiled spring. He is scruffy looking with a scraggly, ungroomed goatee. His eyes, murky, milky. I open the door only for it to stop an inch from opening. A couple, the ones with the gorgeous, big, vicious looking blue dog who is really a sweet heart, are walking up to come into the building. I ask him what he’s doing. He says something like we can talk through the crack. Already off to a cracking start. I say please get the fuck out of the way, people need to get in the building. He actually moves. They come in and know this isn’t a good situation. They stop. They wait on the staircase. They watch. He has a litany of complaint, all yelled, all of the usual stuff: he doesn’t want to have anything to do with the family; he doesn’t want to have anything to do with me; I refuse to communicate with him. All yelled, angry, bleary eyed. His eyes so filled with pain. So filled with accusation. I tell him I won’t talk to him when he is like this. Just go home. That’s all I can say. He starts reaching toward a u-lock hooked to his backpack. The husband says, woah there. The couple are waiting at the elevator by now, watching, ready to call 911 if needed. I walk up the stairs and tell them he’s my brother. He has mental illness. He is still yelling. I just repeat: just go home. This makes him rage even more. I know there is nothing to be said or done that will help. This is the pattern and I just need to stop the interaction. Just go home. He yells through the door more. The husband wants to try to talk to him. But I already know that it will only escalate. That’s the pattern. No, just leave it be, there is nothing we can do.
I’ve already walked away, left the situation. He finally lets the door shut and latch, still yelling something, climbs on his bike, gives us a finger and pedals away.
I hadn’t seen him since the day of our fathers memorial service over a year and a half ago. But it is fitting that he came on the last day of the year 2016. See, the thing is, I get it. His anger, his relishing in this life of instability because I dance at its edge myself. I’ve often wondered how can a black man in America not be scarred with mental instability, wondering how I keep a grasp on this so called reality. I get why he won’t seek out help. I get why he distances himself from his family. I get it, but I always hope. And realizing that on this final day of 2016 is what I will take with me. Not the yelling, blaming, fear, failure, all of the shit. Just the hope.
December 28, 2016
Right now, at this moment, I really want to join in on the Fuck you, 2016. And while we’re at it, fuck you 2015! Because quite frankly that was full of shit for me too. But see, if I put that out there and accepted that fuck you, I’d just be drinking more of the kool-aid that I’ve been drinking. Instead, I’m going to accept all the fuck and shit and move on to embracing the fact that so many of my heroes have passed on and are now watching my ass and keeping me even more accountable for what I am supposed to be doing. Not to mention the shattering of the belief that our system of government would actually protect itself from itself with all those checks and balances, even though we’ve seen its disintegration happening for at least the last 30 years. For real!
See, life and death ain’t easy. It’s not suppose to be. It’s all inevitable like death and taxes. If it was suppose to be easy there wouldn’t be this band wagon of fuck you. Think about it. Yes, we are all mourning the loss of so many who meant and taught us so much. But would they be saying fuck whatever. No! They would be working, educating themselves and telling their truth, girded themselves to make this life with all the bitter pills better. It’s what they did and that should be the lesson to us all as we embark on this new life that we all must face.
So instead of fuck you, i’ma say bring it on, you’ve thrown the shits at me, made me slip up, fall down and seen so much failure that I almost lost my breath. Now I know what you are made of, so bring it bitch, because I ain’t done yet.
December 22, 2016
If I keep posting at the rate I do, I should be on a roll with at least one per year. But one of the goals I’ve been thinking about working on during 2017 is just putting it out there and letting it sit wherever or however it is or will be. See, I’ve grown so much more cautious, guarded and private with my personal life, not that I’ve ever been much of a sharer. I’ve taken some hits: death of a parent and the ensuing mess of an estate, death of a beloved uncle, trying to deal or not deal with a sibling with undiagnosed mental illness and all of the life brakes that just happen. All of these things have left me numb, heart pounding and on the precipice of utter shut down. I know we’ve all been there at some point in all of our lives. Re-reading some of my other posts and returning to the gym at Black Box Acting today reminded me that living a full, enriched and open life is not easy, but it is so much more worth it than holing yourself away. I honestly haven’t submitted for many auditions in the past calendar year due to all of the things and namely having a hip replaced. Yep, got a new member of my body. Its name is Johnson.
But for real, really real, real. This past year and some, I’ve felt stalled and paralyzed so much so that it has become the norm. I’ve felt so out of my depth, intimidated and utterly powerless. Recent social and political issues on top of everything else have had me spinning, frightened, mute and still. All of that showed up at a recent audition that I was blessed to be invited to. I was ready when I walked into that room, but my execution was feeble at best. After it was over I had to reassess what I’m doing, why I’m doing and where do I go from that awful, oh so common feeling, of failure.
Today, I knew I was going to be with an open community. Among people who had at the least some of the same shared experiences and that I could be, just be. I was going home. It opened me up a little, gave me the opportunity to not feel so bad about the last year and some, gave me the option to feel, just feel and not judge it before it could get out of me, remember that I have a voice and it is strong and clear. And those feelings were so positive, until it was over. I honestly felt a sense of loss that that was it. Instead of stewing in that though, I’ve decided to write and share it, cause I know that I’m not the only one who’s ever felt those feelings. Now it is time for my fallow period to end. Hopefully, I’ll be better at articulating and being more present, because it is now time to sow and see what grows. Thanks to all of the peeps who’ve called on me to participate and dig around a bit, you just don’t know how much it has meant.
May 15, 2015
So, it has been a minute… Yeah, I am still doing soap. Just taking a short break from that at the moment, one of my buddies bought me out of a few for her wedding favors. And I am actually working on some theatre shizz. Currently, I’m understudying with the amazing folks over at LiveWire Chicago Theatre, BOB: A Life in Five Acts. This is an awesome show full of laughter, insight and lots of stuff. You get to go along on a journey with Bob, who’s one cool guy. If you are local you shouldn’t miss it. You get to be apart of some fabulous story telling in an intimate space.
And I am having a blast workshopping The Healer by Rachel DuBose as part of Pegasus Theatre Chicago’s Spring Muse Festival. The Healer is a story about a young girl coming of age, in a most interest way. But that is only a small part of it. Want to find out more? Come see us.
I also got to participate in a table read of a film script, The Growing Season. The Growing Season tells the story of the case african-american farmers brought against banks for denying federally subsidized loans. I can’t wait to see what develops for this project, because it tells a story that not many people are familiar with. Plus, I got to meet and work with some really cool people for a few hours.
So. That is what I am up to folks. Like I said go see those shows and say, ‘sup, if you see me.
February 22, 2015
Hey, y’all want some soap? Seriously! Cause I make it. For real. I make soap. Yes, with lye. Yeah, I can hear you now. Yes. Like in that movie with Brad Pitt and Edward Norton. Only I don’t go stealing body fat out of biohazard containers.
It started out as a curiosity. This soap making thing. Plus, when I found out about the stuff in commercial production; I was like, shizz, I could probably do one better than that. So, I took to the web for some information and found that this is one intense process and so many different ways, ingredients, techniques and lots of tom foolery by some. You need protective gear so you don’t get chemical burns, which made me even more excited and worried the mister in my life to no end. He was concerned about the potential for things to go awry. But I justified it with: dude, lye is the same stuff put into the stuff that folks straighten their hair. I mean, I spent many an afternoon with my mom applying white cream to my head, scalp tingling and sometimes burning to get straight shiny locks. I have not had the creamy crack in my head for years, but you never forget that feeling.
Soap making also grants a lot of creativity. Combining different oils, herbs, colors, to make a bar that not only cleans well, but can calm the senses and get rid of a nasty itch. Hey, Chi-Town winters can be brutal on skin. And no joke my skin is often like sand paper this time of year. The commercial stuff always claims to make skin soft, exfoliate and transport you. Um, nope. Not the stuff I’ve tried over the years.
Did you know they take some good shizz out of soap. Glycerine. Glycerine is a humectant, that attracts moisture. And most commercial detergent, cause they can’t technically call it soap, takes the glycerin out and sells it separate. Not to mention the other stuff included that don’t really need to be in there to make a bar harder faster or make you feel like it is doing something it really ain’t. Don’t get me stated…
The mister has warmed to the idea of lye being in the house. He sees that I’m careful and conscientious when mixing, blending and handling. And he even has a favorite bar that he uses head to toe. Now to figure out storage of all of the paraphernalia involved.
So, y’all want some soap? Let me know and we can strike a deal.
January 17, 2015
A friend of mine reminded me the other day to keep going. Don’t give up. I was talking about getting my writing back on track and how I felt I was just writing BS. Man, I needed that. Really needed it. Because there was a time when I felt invincible, for real. I was young and had nothing to lose. I’d put myself out there with abandon. Lately, thinking, I’ve been questioning if I should still continue to pursue this life. We all do it as artists, whether you call yourself an artist or not. We all question the choices, decisions and the woulda, coulda, shoulda.
Now this is where it gets good. Really freakin’ good. I walk into an audition, and there on the sign-in sheet, I see the name of an old friend. We grew up three houses away from each other. Yeah, I knew she was acting. And didn’t doubt that we would cross-paths at some point. But this was a high stakes audition, and there we were together! It gets even better… We were in the same group! Man, my mind, heart and soul were blown. I got there later than everyone else in the group, so when they rounded the corner, we saw each other. And then I knew. I am doing EXACTLY WHAT I AM SUPPOSE TO BE DOING! Also, in that group, two of my ensemble mates from The ACADEMY at Black Box Acting. Shizz does not get any better than that!
In that moment, I got an injection of remembering of who I am, what I am doing and that if it was easy then everyone would do it. Would scream from on high that they are artists. See, the thing is, we are all artists. We create each and every day. With each breath we take, we are creating. Having that alchemy of my old hood friend alongside my new posse reminded me, more than anything, I have a community of people, who—when I fall—will catch me. Or at least help me laugh it off. For real, y’all don’t leave me hanging.
The audition? I put it in the success column for me. Because I did my job as an actor in the room. And I had fun. I mean, how could I not with part of my community right outside the door and even more thinking about me, ready and willing to laugh with me if I faceplant.
January 14, 2015
This has been the question asked so many times over my life. Right now, at this moment, and for the last few days, the best answer is connection. On the Meyers-Briggs personality test, I was ranked INFJ (introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging), twice. I took a test back in college in one of my psych classes and I was more extroverted. I’ll get more into that later. But basically, I don’t do chit-chat very well. After I get through the stock introduction and questions, unless I am really on that moment, I clam up.
Being able to look someone in the eye and connect is a special, sacred place for me. Being able to wordlessly communicate, sit in silence with someone and have that silence filled is like a cold drink of water on a hot day. Acting allows me to connect, get past the bullshit and live fully. It isn’t easy. It takes work. I often wish I could be that person who doesn’t internalize everything, all of the time. Isn’t connection what everyone craves? Isn’t it what we are all looking for? I mean, look at all the dating websites, social media and meet-up groups. We’re all looking to connect, to be alive with someone—even for a moment. But I like to connect in a more intense, deeper way.
Yes. It is crazy that I get that fix, that connection, by pursuing an actors life. Cause there is so much mis-connection, rejection and at times painful humiliation involved. Not to mention the auditions that go south, where no connection is made except for the knowing you just missed that one. But I feel my own humanity, its beauty, its ugly, its inspiration…when that spark of connection allows me to take flight. It is a way of living like no other.
So, if I audition with you, or for you, and I get a little squirrely, sorry ‘bout that. Just know that when we meet again, I might just surprise you and myself.
November 14, 2014
A week from today, I will be in the final days of The Acadmey at Black Box Acting. And those final days will be presenting our final showcase. For the past five months I’ve been revolutionizing my artistic world. It has been so many things at once, which I refer to as squirrely. It has been terrifying, thrilling, exhausting, demanding, exciting, inspiring… But above all of that rewarding. One of the biggest and best gifts I’ve ever received. So, now is time to not just launch this site. Time for me to leap out there and fly.