November 30, 2002

Close Your Eyes and Be Safe

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.It is our Light, not our darkness that most frightens us.Actually, who are you not to be?You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.It is not in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine,we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.As we are liberated from our own fear,our presence automatically liberates others.

-- Nelson Mandela - 1994 Inaugural Speech

close your eyes and be safe

michael crichton says of his new novel 'prey', that when it comes to the laws of unintended consequences, character doesn't matter. the world can be held in nuclear blackmail and it doesn't matter that a nice guy invented the way to split the atom with only the best intentions.

scientific and technological evolutions occur because of the economic opportunity they present. therefore they will continue because of the basic human quality of greed and opportunism. so what happens is what happens because it can happen. evolution plays dice with the shape of human character in the mix, and we are willing partners in our own evolution, for better or worse. the planet is fine; if it fails to support human life, it's still a planet.

crighton's observation provides an excellent rationale for religion. if you apply scientific discipline in search of a cure for cancer you may very well find one. it might turn out to be a doomsday device, but that doesn't matter. the searching has been done and the finding may well have been inevitable, human character be damned. however, if you pray for an eon, god will not show up and provide the miracle, ever. god itself is not interested and is basically silent on the matter. all you have is human interpretation of the cognosphere.

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November 23, 2002

Autumn's Bridge

the love you loved
when you first loved me
was the love i loved to see
t'was all the love i needed
but now today as you turn grey
i find the love you love me with
is something like an ancient myth
i heard but never heeded.

the love i love
now that my love for you has changed
is love so strange i feel deranged and
look upon my former range of love
and find it lacking.

the love we share is heavy air
and hardly where we dared to care
and though my mind is wracking
i feel my heart is cracking.

september love
indian summer suddenly snapped chill
leaving us wondering, blundering
hating at each other
looses bricks, loose words
blown warmly by august gusts
now slam our frostbitten toes
yanked by the gravity of age
youthful desire no longer supports
the love we love

i step unsteady and foot the swaying bridge
i turn about and eye my gleaming children

the kids are ready as the photoed fridge
my stomach churns, i bear them willing
into my maturity but you my bride
are yet a different wraith
from whom i cannot hide
and can't be safe in prior comforts
and must attend without security
my back is what you wish to ride
i tremble and vomit over the ropey rail
and through my spit and spew the pit
of broken homes and death assaults
bodies like mine below for miles in mirrored motion
with gripping claws and working jaws

with envy and resignation.

why are we on this bridge alone?
who cares if we should fall?
what difference does it make if we
survive the winter squall?

is there another spring for us?
can love so twisted be
the source of unknown joy again
the love i loved to see?

i will it so and wish in turn
without the fire of youth
that as we go new love we'll learn
and live in that great truth

yet of this love i nothing know
but name it as it was
and only trust as feelings flow
that save is what it does

for i am lost without a clue
gave every love i had to you
took every love you had to give
and wondered still if we should live

we wobble here on autumn's bridge
astride the chasm of divorce
i'll close my eyes and bear us forth
with faith alone my driving force
and if upon the crested ridge
ahead lies nothing but dispair
i'm satisfied my faith today
in what love could be got us there

my trust in you is faith in love
whomever you and love may be
i dream a blessed spring awaits
let's struggle on, and soon we'll see.

Posted by mbowen at 11:15 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 21, 2002

A Poem

for western girls who have considered surgery when the thighmaster is not enuf


afghanistan they say
is kind to women who in may
are apt to wear from head to toe
the kinds of clothes that do not show
an inch above your heel

and so if you have gained a bit
of weight and when you sit
up straight you still can't see your shoes
and that gives you the blues
well, here's the deal.

fillup your suv with gas
and head off to the kyber pass
there pakistanis guide you to
where the taliban can banish you
and hide you from the world.

to put your self esteem in order
the moment that you cross the border
the mullah has a special plan inside of *his* afghanistan
conducted by the taliban
to set you free from every man
who called you chubby girl.

no man will ever roll his eyes
at your thick thighs
nor dare crack wise
at your cup size
or quote that line about your eyes.

no supermarket magazine
will ever call your size a queen
no complicated weight machine
or diet pill or beauty cream
will make you feel that shameful way
they do in l.a. every day.

no bitches on the maury show
will ever call you a fat ho
in fact i doubt they'll even know
if your waist happens to grow
that is if you decide to go.

one caution i might subtly add
once you're inside jalalabad
it's not assured you can return
despite the calories you'll burn
and pounds you drop through winter.

it's not the civil liberties
(tell me really who needs these)
it's that your old gang won't go green
the real catch is you can't be seen
fourteen inches thinner.

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November 19, 2002

Prepare to Die

my little buddha reminds me peacefully that this is what life is made of. it's not what you can do, but what you choose to do, and what you choose not to do. we are defined, not by our potential, but by our actual selves. the reality of the world is shaped, not by possibility, but by a million movements. yes the universe is infinite, but the world is real-time.

it's a good thing that i have checked out the buddha because i've just had, shall we say, an incident. this incident was one of those little things like a stray flowerpot that just happens to fall on your head. no matter how much you understand gravity, you always think it was pushed. am i talking around in quite enough circles? well, the deal is this, the wife thinks i don't love her, and the fact that i am spending money for my son's visitation has convinced her that i'm undermining the marriage. at least that's my interpretation of her letter. until i can break through her cone of silence, that's about as well as i can express it. like chatter from al-qeada, such messages are easy to decipher but difficult to interpret. you never know.

in uncertain situations which put me out of balance, the best i can do is stand on one foot and recite my constitution. like inago montoya of the princess bride, i recite the line that makes my life make sense. in that compartment that is marriage and family, i state my unequivocal dedication to the partnership that makes the family work. that's about all you can say, it's about love and committment, as opposed to say drama and pain. i don't have to watch eminem's movie to know such things actually can be simple. but today is the day of drama and pain. hopefully that will all be quelled by thanksgiving, considering all i have to be thankful for. but chances are my declaration will sound to her like the latest tape from osama.

so i am prepared to die with the same words on my lips. the only question remains, is she ready to kill me?

Posted by mbowen at 09:51 PM | TrackBack

November 17, 2002

Another Day Another Warning

i'm not sure whether i am being patriotic or apathetic, but i have no fear of osama.

there are rich people in every city of america.

i've started playing chess again.

i have completely forgotten the allegorical context of harry potter.

i believe parents who put helmets on their kids are preparing them to be excellent victims.

i never wished that i had a nanny like mary poppins.

i cannot stand born-again evangelists.

i'm not sure what it means to take eminem seriously.

i'm obviously too mellow to write a blog today - i think i want to be serious maybe this will help.

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November 16, 2002

The Problem with Being Sexy

yesterday, one of my fine, temporary colleagues felt disappointed that he wasn't older than i. the truth serves no man, bele' dat. so i asked a few others and they too were off by several years. proud of my ability to compartmentalize my life, i didn't blush and say thanks for the compliment, but i have been feeling rather ripe now that i know that with a little work i can pass for 33.

mind you, 33 is the perfect age for a man. rather like 27 but with a healthy amount of respect for death and weakness. it is the age at which a man's ultimate weapon (ok a het, american man) is in top form. that weapon? the marriage proposal. a man at 33 knows where he has been, where he is going and is generally well-apprised as to what his prospects are. he can make promises and not worry about falling behind some mystical curve in order to deliver them. because at this level of maturity, one understands the cyclical nature of success and failure and how to navigate them. but perhaps i project the wisdom i have acquired over the past several years onto my previous self... no i don't. the point is at 33, a man can say with enthusiasm and conviction, i can make you my wife and you know it. which is the ultimate and irresistable weapon against the vanity of romantic women.

at this level of maturity, you have a repertoire of physical and psychological moves at your disposal, and you use them with refinement. you are a finely tuned machine of seduction. now the question is really just at whom do you point the business end of your grappling hooks? why break hearts unnecessarily? who really merits your best? who is worth engineering the ultimate seduction? who indeed.

as you age, commit, pork out or otherwise mature, at some point, you have to put all that machinery back into the garage. to use it further is being greedy, vain or stupid. in any case, it is universally understood to be wreckless at best. but, like riding a bicycle, you never lose the skill. despite the fact that you may for various reasons dig those tools out of your old garage, you are psychologically in a different place. fortunately, most people recognize this and tell you how rediculous you look trying to cha-cha.

but sometimes they don't, and that's a problem.

Posted by mbowen at 12:22 PM | TrackBack

Wal-Mart and the End of Death

obviously, i have yet to master the short form of blogging. but who knows, maybe the essay is a more enduring form.

i arrive on this lovely saturday morning in my abercrombie shaggy-end shorts as my gracious host brings a tourist through his castle. naturally, my knees were as ashy as all get out and i get ragged for watching cartoons. i suppose there is something to say for those who don't distinguish between feature length anime and fox kids saturday, but i can't tell you what it is. on the other hand, blogging... perhaps there will be an iowa writers workshop on it someday and i'll say "i told you so", in the meantime, i'm just pleased that i was right about the internet. take that, cornel west.

back to globalism, observe the various people at wal-mart. they are shopping. the mexican man peels off a one hundred dollar bill. the jamaican woman counts out exact change with a surfeit of pennies. the trailer-folk in camo and t-shirts use their providian credit card. i use my paypal debit card. everybody spends, everybody walks out satisfied. this is as good as it gets.

orange juice in winter in the ghetto is easy to get. you should remember this anytime someone suggests to you that america doesn't work. consider the supply chain. they come from south florida or central california, these oranges. they are picked by people A, brokered by people B and graded by people C. at some point, they are trucked across the nation by gruff men with sweaty collars and colorful belt buckles. i've shared a spot in line at the roadside multipurpose facility with these gents on many recent occasions. since i have myself been hauling furniture and other personal goods between los angeles, houston and atlanta this year, i have grown to further appreciate the american highway system. as citified as i tend to be, i know beyond a shadow of a doubt that in any benighted hovel in this nation, there is at least one convenience store, where orange juice is always available thanks to roads, trucks, logistics and schedules beyond belief.

the grand world-dominating master of this business of getting all manner of goods to everybody 24/7 is, of course, wal-mart. they are, at the beginning of the 21st century, what sears & roebuck were at their beginning. a cornerstone of civilization. and despite the bourgie proclivities i was born into and had to beat back with a healthy dose of audre lorde, i have finally come to recognize the style and power that is wal-mart. even though i have been aware for several years as a computer professional that wal-mart's data management capabilities are legendary and that their supply chain techniques are the envy even of ups and the marine corps, there was a little stylish pimp inside my head that said NORDSTROM! now thanks to gw and osama, i am no longer able to afford nordstrom and must acknowledge that even i can be reduced to wearing camo and t-shirts. this is humility in action.

so if the world can be reshaped and humbled into going incognegro, and the imperial capacity of the united states of america vis a vis walmart can bring together mexicans, jamaicans and millions of others into a socio-economic flatland, 'always', who am i to say 'let them all kill each other'?

i am your not so humble blogger, stay tuned.

Posted by mbowen at 11:35 AM | TrackBack

November 15, 2002

More Killing Each Other

remember 'constructive engagement'? this was reagan's
answer to the boycott of apartheid south africa. people like me said
sell american products until the nationalists are out. people like george
schultz said, the influence of american corporations are positive, they
should stay. people like me said, i want to support anybody in opposition
to the nationalists. george schultz said, if you send money to south africa,
you could be supporting a terrorist organization and we can throw you
in jail after a secret trial. people like me said, you make me sick to
my stomach, george, but i aint going to jail to get nelson out of jail.
i was hamstrung, and so were you. so i decided to support constructive
engagement with the following rationale: the corrupt american presence
will accellerate the popular revolt, sell more big macs!

it's very difficult to be a global citizen if your actions
are limited by the state department of an evil administration. ahh the
clarity of youth. the bottom line is that if you're not ross perot it
makes little sense to think globally, because you can't act globally,
not even a little bit. transgressing against the lines set down by the
foreign policy of your own government makes you, especially these days,
essentially a terrorist. this is how we define terrorism / freedom fighting
/ warlording / cartelling. if you don't use the national army (or the
national bank, or the national spy agency), you run afoul of the international
order. it's a national thing.

so you can see how appealing it becomes to retreat into
organicism. i mean who wants to be a crusading american bourgie globalist?
for all i know, south africans might actually think like mark mathabene.
scary, but possible. when you lose the ability to distinguish yourself
from the average american consumer / voter / suburban demographic al-qaeda
target it's a terrible thing. it's like liking just one song from donna
summers' 'bad girls' album and being considered responsible for all of

here's where senseless death and multiculturalism come
in. if you wear a red white and blue flag on your left shoulder and kill
me on orders of gw, then you are a killer protected by national policy.
if you wear a black and white scarf over your head and kill me on orders
of arafat, you are a killer protected by international liberal sentiment.
if you wear baggy pants and kill me on order of tupac shakur, you are
a killer protected by west coast gangsta rap. if you wear whatever you
wear and kill me for no apparent reason at all, you are a killer protected
by whatever defense you can muster at trial. the reason you kill me has
nothing to do with your level of protection. it's simply a numbers game.
more people are likely to sympathize with american national policy than
international liberal sentiment on down the line to your personal insanity.
let me state the obvious: killing me would be a tragedy of world historical
proportion. depending on which regime of truth you can credibly invoke,
your chances for survival of murder charges vary widely.

Posted by mbowen at 07:38 AM | TrackBack

November 14, 2002

Let Them All Kill Each Other

this is the appropriate attitude for feudalists like myself. if you are somewhat anti-imperialist, then you must agree with me. the problem is that i kinda like the idea of an american empire. don't you? i mean if you believe in global justice and human rights for everyone, and you believe like mlk an injustice anywhere and all that, you're a globalist. only bourgie folks have the luxury, and face it, you're bourgie. yes you are, you buy clothes that you hope will express your personality, therefore you are bourgie, and likely to become a pompous ass. i readily admit to being a pompous ass, and what blogger is not? but i'm not so bourgie as you. i don't even wash my car.

i'm a recovering organic. an organic is basically a person like harrison ford in 'the mosquito coast'. somebody who is painfully conscious of their usage of consumer products. an organic is an acquirer of skills as opposed to brickabrak. macguyver is the patron saint of organics. we hate designer labels, we'd rather learn guitar than pretend to like r.e.m., we despise people who are incredibly demanding of waiters and can't boil water. organic women, despite their similarity to janeane garofalo would never be a *fan*. i am not so organic as i used to be. why? in a word, wal-mart. but that's another story.

the point is that if you are a distributed fuedalist in anticipation of dyson's utopia, or at the very least, fascinated by stephenson's concepts of philes, then you understand the value of a healthy skeptical distance between yourself and your more brutal global neighbors. on the other hand, if you nourish hopes for esparanto, java and the global village, then you want an american empire and robocop. and of course, you probably think gw is doing a good job. on my side of the fence, where there is still room for lapsed organics, you hope for the prospects of a *good* al-quaida at best, like medecines san frontiers, a kind of decentralized backpacking civil troupe, and you scour the web for 100 people who can stand you.

now the conflict is that organics have no refrigerator pals. sure we have vpns and anonymous peer networks, but we don't have people whom we let walk in the front door and grab a beer out of our fridge. well we do, but that was back in college and now they live in des moines, oahu and the 19th arrondisment of paris. not likely to have a pta meeting with those folks. so this is where wal-mart comes in. but that's another story.

Posted by mbowen at 01:36 PM | TrackBack

The Next 60 Day Obsession

my girlfriend periodicity was 18 months. i think this was a good thing. my lover periodicity was about 60 days. this was about as much as i could stand the kind of neurotic bimbos who actually had erotic skills. and so i would alternate with various juggling mishaps in the 60 day interim between [more] serious women. don't get me started about good girls and bad girls. in america it's true. how do i know? i have experience with 31 whole women, a fine representative sample. well, ok 3 of them weren't american.

now that i am flypaperly married (there's got to be a lot of underutilized adverbs for matrimonial gerund phrases), i don't get to obsess over women in the previously healthy way that i did. now i must pay closer attention to media entertainments like the resignation of harvey pitt. cnbc has gone way overboard, there has got to be a juicy story in there somewhere. but i like harvey just like i like moe greene. same lynching, different day. but the media entertainment that i can tell, like the dreamy dizzy curve of liana clarke, is drawing me into obsession is called 'metal gear solid 2: sons of liberty'.

i was, yes, one of those bony kids with a flourescent t-shirt that declared me a pinball wizard. i didn't actually win it at the santa monica pier, but that's not the point. i have such powers of concentration and bullheaded determination that it is often confused with obsession. i use the word obsession because it's interesting without being psychobabblish, but honestly i do apply these powers with un-puritanical discretion. so i find no shame in excelling in such arcana for sixty evenings at a stretch.

'the brits eat stuff that i wouldn't run over with my car' -- mark haines.

Posted by mbowen at 07:45 AM | TrackBack

November 13, 2002

The Problem with Blogging

is that it's so shamelessly self-indulgent. i wasn't going to do it, except that some people to whom i've been writing for a couple years said that it would be a shame if i didn't go public. so i have been shamed into shamelessness with the expectation of fame. i have the redliculous burden of doing something to make myself and my writing famous. i need a hook. argh. i don't even like writing about that.

on the other hand, working a type of writing into blogstyle, which i find an interesting challenge, gives this burden some levity. what i'm going to do is serially weave, which means i'll be doing what spike lee doesn't - completing controversies from previous episodes. it forces readers to be serially attentive, but then again, i suppose that's what blog readers are like.

the osama bin laden tape is real, again. osama has no shame, but he's not exactly blogging. it's more like he's delivering a state of the anarchy address. this is the one case in which the out-party reply would be more gripping. even dick gephart could do that.

now dig this on intifada deaths. don't you just love charts? according to the numbers here, we are at approximately 2,400 deaths. not quite a full lynch factor.

if you listen to the news every day like i do, listening to these crips and bloods duke it out becomes extremely annoying. but if the intifada has been going on since '68 why is there no resolution? probably because, like lynching, we just get sick of hearing about it. f' 'em. let them all kill each other off. of course that would probably take 150 years at this rate. that's a lot of serial reading has got that kind of attention span.

Posted by mbowen at 09:32 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 12, 2002

Twenty Four Hours

"you're my little sister and i love you so much, and i just want you to be happy."

this is what big sister says to little sister when she discovers that little sister's husband 'might be a terrorist'. this is how we suspend disbelieve for the interesting fiction that is the fox network's new drama '24'. if you haven't seen it, check the link. here's the problem with 24: too much family values.

in this thriller, a former cia wet boy regains his license to kill now that a bona fide nuke threatens to blow in los angeles within the day. wetboy lost his wife last season. it was ultimately serbians that time. even so, wetboy's misadventures cost the lives of about a dozen highly skilled government personnel. yet his girl-walking womenfolk managed to dodge bullets, not to mention stay awake, survive rapes and car crashes through an incredible 24 hours.

ollie north couldn't get a home security system, much less 3 bodyguards for his family. i'm not sure tha g. gordon liddy even has one. so how does jack bauer merit? he doesn't, but this is the big belief we have to keep. individual families count and won't be sacrificed. this gets my 'yeah right' of the day.

anyway check out the drama. it's got the second best black president of the united states, ever. i think there have been about 6. i'll check the record. the best ever? morgan freeman in 'deep impact', and i do mean best ever. number 2 easily goes to martin sheen.

hmm. i should build some poll software.

ctu has just been hit, and my favorite character has sucked up too much plutonium to last until next season. aw shucks.

i'm keeping the format to this size. sorry about the long first, now, more about the lynch factor.

Posted by mbowen at 09:30 PM | TrackBack

Senseless Life and Multiculturalism

this is probably not the best way to start off a blog, but i might as well get into it. part of the appeal of writing is that this can work out nicely into a radio show. that's how i imagine that i am talking to you america, sorta like bernie mac, tom likus and garrison keillor. ok so much for the fantasy - here's the reality.

every morning, even since before nine-eleven, i open up the muttering to myself 'ok what blew up today?'. since i am of the old-school, i'm not interested in much else. i've got my own people to take care of, and since i've dealt with the life and death in my family, i don't see why i should care about much else in anyone elses. for example, i do not care if your girlfriend thinks you walk funny, and i don't care if oprah has discovered a new way to fix spaghetti. quite frankly, i don't pay much attention to whom gets arrested, and i expect that all ex-cons have paid their debt to society. despite my relative obsession for the ways and means of fueling my feudal kingdom, on the front page, i just want to see headlines about death and destruction. most everything else is beneath consideration at the crack of dawn, with the possible exception of a forgotten trash day. as the evening wears on, we can talk about politics, culture and even fashion. but at daybreak, if it didn't blow up, so what?

as you may have suspected this is going to turn into one of those rediculous discussions about israel and palestine, crips and bloods and other rivals who don't really compare well. despite the fact that i don't want to, my morning question usually ends up with answers somewhere south east of milan. in order to get the proper perspective on this kind of tregedy, i have a kind of shorthand that i am developing. and since i can't stand irrational logic, i tend to stick math into controversy, even if it doesn't really belong. so howsa bout this:

one history of lynching = 3,000 dead. that's roughly equivalent to one nine-eleven. now we could stop and go deep off on that tangent, but i have other fish to fry here.
Posted by mbowen at 09:30 PM | TrackBack

November 11, 2002

The Opening Salvo

the first thing that you should know about me is that i made 6 figures for 6 years and now thanks to osama and gw i'm not. i'm fairly pissed off about both of them, and if i sound 'unpatriotic', it's because a number of heroes died to give me the right to vote gw out of office, but nobody is particularly fond of ununiformed black men using the kinds of weapons america has chosen to use against bin laden. since i am a very practical man, i will spend more time fighting gw than bin laden. i'm not afraid of either of them nor of their defenders whom i find equally deluded, if not equally practical. somehow, when i'm finished talking here, i expect that quite a few more people than those i generally hang around will understand how to put me in the center of the america that repels both of them. that would make me feel very happy.

the second thing you should know about me is that i have a wife and three kids, whom are not the subject nor object of this diary. i will talk about them and their influence on me, but they belong to me, not you. so don't get nosy. on the other hand, my extended family is an interesting and i will discuss them in various ways to clue you in. my mother's family comes from france and st. lucia through catholic new orleans. the men are mostly anonymous, although likely for less noble reasons than i am here. my father's family comes from a somewhat distinguished set of folks in connecticut and north carolina, and while that particular institution precludes me from tracing them back 7 generations as with moms, i know at least one of them served with some distinction in the northern army. my children bear his name in the middle of theirs.

the rest of the things you should know about me will depend on your ability and willingness to read what i write, yes in lower case. this is the web and i don't have an editor. but i guarantee you it will be worth the small effort.

a few summers ago, i was chilling in sydney and enjoyed the olympic games up close and personal. a cat named moe greene proved that he was the fastest man in the world, and yet somehow he has been forgotten. he took a picture which suggested to me that he was very, very proud of his accomplishments. a short time later he took another picture with his american teammates, again with a great deal of pride at the fact that they proved themselves to be the best in the world. but this time, he had the nerve to pose with an american flag. now this picture continues to be a source of inspiration and disgust to me, largely because of the significance of the american reaction to its heroes. they dissed them. now i know it's 2002 and that was 2000. these are off-years to talk about heroism, especially if it not the heroism of cops and firemen. but it occurs to me on this first edition of this currently nameless serial, that we should review that picture.

you see i happen to believe that my fate happens to be tied closely with that of moe greene. i believe that i understand something of his challenge and his frustration. he spent his life chasing a dream. he reached the mountaintop. he raised the american flag, he proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was the best in the world, and his homeland dismissed him. i don't suppose this would be such a bad thing if this nation didn't make people like brittany spears wealthy. do we really need men who can run fast? i mean, most everybody can run. similarly, most everybody can sing. but if greene was the absolute best runner and spears was the absolute best singer and both decided to wave the american flag shouldn't they be accorded the same amount of respect for their accomplishments? ok, enough with the elementary rhetoric. you understand my point, greene didn't rake in the green, spears did. i think moe greene is a patriot, and i think you should think so too. look at the picture again, don't you just want to plaster it all over al queda-land? yes you do. so you are my kind of american. don't you realize how silly you were being now?

today, in accordance with my new sub six figure poverty, i wore a new xxl bright red plaid wool shirt from walmart out and about. this was part of my latest edition of the homeboy suit, recognizeable everywhere by all americans to be the official uniform of the underachiever. i wear these kinds of clothes on weekends for a number complex reasons. today, the reason was humility. so i asked my friend lee, tangential to this humility, whether ours was a culture worth respecting. i like to be consistent, so i seemed to need a reason for my seeming disrespect of 'normal' dress expected of a man of my breeding and accomplishment. in dressing incognegro, i enjoy the anonymity whoopi goldberg spoke of in her book 'book'. right on whoopi, i know exactly what you mean. but i needed more than that.

i'm conscious of the signal i might be sending in siding with the underachievers. later, lee told me about an insight he gained from his fiance. she used to like bad boys. why? because even when they were losers, they always gave the impression of being in control. the truth, especially the ugly truth, seems always to serve those unafraid to speak it. before they become certified losers, bad boys' appeal has much to do with the fact that they have no phony reputation to uphold, and therefore don't fear speaking the truth in the same way disrespected prophets do. so their confidence, as short-lived as it might be, comes from their willingness to live in the truth of their imperfection and their inability to resist clowning everyone else. don't you hate it when knuckleheads speak more honestly than people we are supposed to respect? i do. the bad boy gets the girl, and you sit their with your thumb in your mouth.

in my homeboy suit, with my upper middle class success, checking out the terra-cotta bathroom tile with lee at the expo store just north of downtown atlanta, i possess that same kind of elan as the bad boy. all the clerks are better dressed than i, and yet since they live in atlanta they are more in tuned with those like me incognegro than in the rest of the nation. they are properly polite and address me as 'sir', and i know it's not the grey in my goatee because i blacked it out last week with just for men. i am engaged in an extended bogard, and from time to time it works. aha!

we could get deep into the intricacies of the bogard, and at some point i will include a link here to point you to an excellent backstory or two. but the point has something to do with whether or not any of us americans expected things to turn out as they have; things meaning large new suburban subdivisions of 3500 square foot houses filled with african american families. things meaning black ceos of american express and avis; black founders of sun microsystems, space shuttle astronauts, secretaries of state, matinee idols, mass murdering snipers, exonerated wife killers, and wall street swindlers. it's a bit much, isn't it? especially for guys like me who have to put on clothes every day second-guessing what people second-guess about me. it's facile to decide once and for all to be an overachiever or an underachiever, but my 'drobe spans both extremes. in the meantime, i test myself and the public daily because i never really know what to expect, and neither do you. so since i come from a proud line of folks, i err on the side of ambition. i bogard. i casually instruct everyone by word and deed that whereever i am, i belong. however i comport myself, it's cool because i'm a winner and this is a meritocracy that respects winners.


well, you never know. does anybody remember clarence pendleton? i do. back when reagan first got elected and all of us learned that phrases 'yuppie' and 'neocon', the ken doll we future achievers were supposed to mimic was named clarence pendleton. long before j.c. watts ever made it to congress, republicans told us of this brave black soul who understood the ways and means of the american establishment. soon enough we heard about alan keyes, thomas sowell and of course the king who combined pendleton and sowell's names - clarence thomas.

now i'm going to tell you a secret. i'm a conservative, well more properly, i am old-school. in time, you will come to understand the old-school. but for now think of a cross between... nah forget the analogies. too many americans think about too few role monkeys as it is, and that's part of the problem. but dig this. how exactly is it that those fine defenders of american patriotism made such a poor judgement about which african americans would become successful? i mean, what happened to alan keyes, and how is it that the grand old party completely missed the ascent of bob chenault at american express? i think he would have made a much better example than clarence pendleton. part of me thinks of denzel washington as compared to j.j. walker. back in the day, j.j. was making all the money, he was the establishment's model for all us patriotic americans. somehow we got denzel instead. good thing denzel bogarded; he wasn't expected.

few people talk about sidney poitier any longer, which i think is a shame. what was great about sidney, despite the fact that he had to pick his wardrobe strictly from the overachiever side, was that he established a very subtle kind of bogard. i call it the 'tibbs threshold'. in his time, the homeboy suit wasn't an option, and yet folks didn't even call him 'sir'. they had no idea that they were disrespecting him, that they were crossing the tibbs threshold. they couldn't conceive of his championship. he corrected them like a gentleman. admirable man that poitier.

the great author james baldwin wrote, back when i was in elementary school, "All you are ever told in this country about being black is that it is a terrible, terrible thing to be. Now, in order to survive this, you have to really dig down into yourself and re-create yourself, really, according to no image which yet exists in America. You have to impose, in fact - this may sound very strange - you have to decide who you are, and force the world to deal with you, not with its idea of you." i happen to believe that we've gotten a lot better at creating images, but not quite so good at accepting the reality of success (or deviance) that doesn't fit a particular profile. i think moe greene was an original, who didn't bother to fix himself up to become a symbol. instead he prepared himself, simply to be the best. he achieved that and we left him in the lurch thereby tarnishing our own credibility in being able to accept that truth. we couldn't handle it. we made ouselves subject to the truth telling of bad boys, and we encouraged the truly successful among us to bogard and subvert american culture.

i don't prefer irony and subversion in culture. yeah i've lived it, and i wasted a lot of time. i've understood and continue to understand and respect the necessity for dissent and even counter-culture. but a lot of conflict we engage is needless because at bottom, a great number of us hold the same underlying values. it takes wearing both wardrobes on and off to reconcile the balance. some essays are still best written in lower-case on the web. but let's hope that the bogard they represent can be accepted in triumph, even patriotically.

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