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December 22, 2002


i have a problem with restraint.

it has something to do with the kind of joy i am accustomed to getting when i see a spark of recognition in someone's eyes, or hear it in their words. adam suggested that i join a support group for survivors of gifted childhood. i don't particularly recall what i was talking about when he made that remark several weeks ago, but now that i'm retrieving out of that corner of my mind where i cast unpayable bills and vaguely understood latin phrases, i think i have something to process it with. that is the context of exposition. smart ass kids just never shutup do they? always telling somebodys business often enough their own familys business. sometimes, thats a very good thing.

the moment that brings this to mind took place thursday night in pops' den. on the walls are a couple dozen plaques and certificates of admiration from various legislative bodies and non-profit organizations. intermixed in the natural hues of the large sunken room are west african motifs and some of my cousin's original woodcuts. on the box is gigi, but then finally james brown. we plopped and noshed waiting for my two brothers and cousin to arrive, and i tried to maintain, as i rediscover the true meaning and beauty of olive-clad pimentos, silence on the bloglaunch & cosby show republican project.

everybody arrives, dock with ribs and deet with golden bird. (in order to maintain some reverence for the family, you gentle reader, shall know them as pops, moms, deet, dock and dutz. my cousin podd, in town for the week was to arrive too. ) something pops seems to sense, or perhaps not, is how some strenuous joint activity, like moving impossibly cumbersome furniture is the perfect precursor to excellent bonding - as long as that moving starts before the second beer.

now with everyone full, present and in the absence of back injuries we get down the the business at hand, which is sharing our lives up to the minute, joy and pain. i cant recall the last time the five of us were together. podds wedding was the last time i saw him, this past summer. he has dreadified remarkably since then and stands far past the stage i wimped out. hes looking good. dock is completely clean, head and face which matches his new serenity. he is the warrior and appropriately so, he is a soul of integrity and unencumbered with artifice. moreover he is happy. two hours into the wilderness you empty yourself and become aware of the absolute beauty of everything around you. his beacon is the image of beethoven beaten deaf lying face up at midnight into the million stars and finding absolute peace. deet wears his new glasses turtleneck sweater. as usual he exudes joie de vivre and the kind of humble discipline in maintaining that always makes me say what am i doing? he should manage my money. i am deeply incognegro with the red doo rag, red plaid hunting jacket and baggy jeans completely lounged out in my chair with bits of cole slaw in my salt and pepper goatee. pops, incongruous as ever, in orange fleece sweatpants and mandelas temple-grayed afro starts off the question. how is life treating you?

we go round. the subject is women, mostly. the one thing in our lives that we ultimately manage never to fully understand and control. everything else is, if not some sort of discipline, chaotic within reason. somebody needs a new road manager, somebody needs a new financial plan, somebody needs a new contract, somebody needs a new school. all within grasp.

but the moment is found in the breaks of our talks, a small part of the subtext (of which there is very little, nobody hides or dissembles here) is the lack of existential partners we find. this family circle, even if it only repeats once a year, is all we get. i think we are all thinking the same thing, if spike lee had a camera on these five hours, he would have a film that would have america buzzing for years. and although i hate to make the point, something about me is always trying to make a point, this is part of what we black men need in our lives. if america could see what we just said and what we mean to each other, it would be a better place. i cannot estimate how often what we do happens in black america, but you can be sure it does. and yet podd says that antwone fisher is the first time hes ever seen a black man portrayed like that on film. understanding that we have always been the family we are and this convocation, while infrequent is a simple and natural consequence of the kind of men we are and are trying to be, the point seems almost inconsequential. there ought to be a movie about who we are and what we do and how we relate and deal with the problems of our lives. but the simple fact that we do have and always will have each others love and respect and dont need some film demonstrates the value of the point and the need for it. we know this kind of love and respect works, and all that can be represented and distributed. thats why podds a playwright. thats why im a writer.

this kind of writing i do is unusual. im never going to know, as a woman once told me in a san francisco restaurant, how my writing is going to affect someone. somehow if i could communicate some part of the touching beauty and inspiration we experienced thursday night just by being who we are honestly with each other, well, id love to. its odd that i think of it in terms of a spike lee movie, but thats what weve got.

ive got love and respect and i get so full of joy and inspiration that it makes me wanna holler. and half of that story aint never been told.

Posted by mbowen at December 22, 2002 03:46 PM

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