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December 17, 2004

Something's Got To Give

Things have been going too sweetly. I'm not paranoid enough.

Yesterday, all I did was celebrate the fact that I've got my tax business in line for the year, but in fact my accountant was a no-show. Still, I ran my own numbers and it turns out that I've got a nice pile of cash to spend. But that can't be right.

I'm still running two contracts and I'm trying to wind them down for the holidays. But they still want me working and that means more cash.

It seems all I ever talk about is China around here. Yesterday I found a supportive human being at a joint in Westwood called East Wind Books. The website may be a little cheesy, but the store is right on time. I picked up some excellent books, one geopolitical the other youth rebellion. I have been a little lazy on my lessons, but my accent is definitely improving. I need more vocab. I need more vocab. I keep resorting to French and Spanish..

So I'm in my tactical gear looking like a million bucks just dropping cash all over Westwood yesterday afternoon. All I've got on my mind is 'bluetooth headset', and I'm wondering if I possibly find one. Duh, there are mobile phone joints all over the place. The first one I find has the Motorola that I wanted and the guy sells it to me for 80 bucks. I rip it open and try to link it but it's not charged up, and I say I don't care, give it to me anyway. "Because I'm rollin'!", I say out loud. And add to that a sharp leather pouch that straps my Treo to my arm, I'm looking doubly tactical with he wide wale black turtleneck, green cargo pants, G-Shock watch and Oakley kicks. And did I tell you? I'm growing the full beard back, so right about now I've got the whole Jason Statham attitude working.

Honey, can you take my picture this morning? Yeah, I'm trying to reproduce the very cool look I had yesterday afternoon. Here in the hallway is fine. Try not to get the kid's bookcase in the frame. It's for the blog. Like what? Locutus of Borg? Ha ha very funny. Ok without the headset. Here, wait, it's stuck on my ear. How's that?

I was hungry so I dropped by some Asian themed restaurant that looked fairly swank and had six tables on the sidewalk. It's 1:30 and the maitre says 30 minutes. What? Fine, I head down the block past Scallions (ooh I remember when that was the coolest joint in Westwood, back in the days before the sidewalk vehicular manslaughter when Westwood was Westwood) to the EB Games on the corner. I pickup an old-school XBox controller and the Prima Guide to Halo2. The dude who sells it doesn't have XBox Live.

I am alone, you see. I'm a successful mid-forties black man with no particular hangups. The biggest problems I have can all be solved with money - that is while my kids are still in elementary school. They say that the perfect couple is a man with a future and a woman with a past. I'm holding up my end of the bargain, and of the spousal unit you'll hear no confessions from me. So during this ChristmaHanaKwanzakah, I'm doing great. All the news is good and I'm smiling through my middle-aged grill. But it's mid-afternoon on a Thursday and everybody I know is at work at various places around the country. I call and call on the cell phone and nobody is available. So I'm wandering around Urban Outfitters looking at myself in the mirror overhearing people talk about movies. I'm in the middle of a twilight zone of LA affluence - of upper middle-aged blonde women with unnaturally small waists and large Dior sunglasses - shopping in the middle of the day in the middle of the week. I'm going to be in the entertainment business, in China. I take off the green felt fedora and break the hell out.

Children. It's almost two. I know I have to pick them up. I call the wife. What time was I supposed to pick them up? I know they get out of class at 2:45p and there's some playground time, but how much? She's not available. I swing back by the swanky oriental joint. The maitre apologizes and seats me immediately. I cop a squat on the patio and browse Jimi Izrael on the Treo. It's true, they remember Bob Peete. The waitress shows up and apologizes for the delay. I order a Red Sun and the Lamb. I place the black napkin on my left leg. I check out the Slate article by LeGuin. Ged is dead. BFD. People who look to worlds of elves... The drink arrives, I swig. I breathe. I'm in touch with the abstract world, eating alone.

If you were with me, I could explain all of this to you. It makes perfect sense when I do. But even as I thumb responses into the ether, they come across clipped and biased. But you can't see me out there in text. You need to be sitting with me at this sidewalk cafe watching the alcohol unfocus my eyes and sharpen my wit. You see, I'm at the point where I'm supposed to be responsible for keeping people moving. I can do that, I'm ready to do that, but I need the organization full of bodies. I need to get the cadre mobilized. They need to hear my voice. I need to have the millions. Then it will all make perfect sense.

The lamb is sticky with sesame. The rice bowl is an old comfort in my left hand 5 inches from my mouth and drawing nearer. The lacquered chopsticks get increasingly fumbly as the Red Sun goes down. The meal is one of the great pleasures of life. You could ask. I could answer. But you are not here.

I head home and the 405 is a gob of steel and frustration. I finally arrive at the gap in the chainlink and whistle my kids to the car. M10 says I look like a millionaire, thus the sentence above. F8, who just graduated from F7, asks when we are moving to China. No time soon kids. F9 is all weepy for losing her charm bracelet. We head to Nordstrom to buy Mom some gifts. We find them. The kids are antsy. I feed them Hot Dogs on Sticks. I respond to Jimi's question about blacks and niggers. I thumb it in and regret the tone later. If I had a keyboard, if you were here at supper, I could explain better.

I herd the crew back to the crib. Suddenly, I am exhausted. I forget to make them do what little homework they have. I retire to my garrett. It was a good day. A very good day and my path has put me in splendid isolation. I've been downmarket, head down for three years and an afternoon in the sun has reminded me of when I bubbled and worked the rooms. I put them all to bed and begin watching Omar Epps in 'Brother'.

'Brother' is gangsta. Yakuza bow like Nazis snap their heels together. I keep thinking that when I go to Beijing dressed in my Hollywood suit, I'm going to appear like a gangsta extra in a Chow Yun Fat movie. I can't call it. How many books am I going to have to read, how many stumbling sentences am I going to have to mumble? There, the sit down at lunch isn't going to work. I'll need a third party. Somebody I pay to be patient with my ignorance. Subtlety I can't afford via Dr. Pimsleur.


Today I send M10 off to his biomom for XMas.
(to be continued)

Posted by mbowen at December 17, 2004 08:48 AM

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Hi Cobb.
On Blacks and Niggers: I thought you might be intertested in some of the more recent posts on my site regarding this "debate" on Jimi Izrael's site. In short, I don't think the distinction between "black" and "nigger" can provide us with any useful answers;-to say nothing of useful questions.

Posted by: Negrorage at December 17, 2004 12:15 PM