Category Archives: Humor
(read time 7m22s)
I found Trish and settled in the seat to her right. She scored us an ideal location, perfect line of sight to the podium, a couple rows back. The aisle was two seats away, good. There’s the door. Got my noise cancellers around my neck, check. I’m fully prepped to endure crowd anxiety for this momentous occasion: an evening with my teacher, Chuck D of Public Enemy. I open my Darth Vader notebook and prepare to shorthand whatever lessons I can gather today.
I noted my inflammed joints and stiff hip from a week of unusually low temperatures, and imagined what it’d be like now to kick up into a one-handed handstand from a flattened cardboard box. My seven year old hands clapping along to the beat, sidestepping to the tempo, watching my brother attempt to breakdance. As I entered into the obligatory, “Go ‘head, go ‘head…” with the other block rockers, I thought, yo that kid is WACK! Hours spent in my room, duplicating what I observed on the cardboard then snapping it tight. My brother wouldn’t let me join his crew, but I figured, one day I’ll have my own, so I better be ready.
A group of three slide from the left into the row in front of us, and I see the muscular man in a blue t-shirt intends to take the seat in front of me. As I scrutinize his eyes and nose, I feel certain I know him. Personally? Historically..? Been a lot of places/seen a lot of faces… My mental Rolodex is spinning wild. He sits down, and I’m relieved his sculpted shoulder doesn’t impede my view of the podium.
We’ve just finished playing Masters of the Universe and my brother has a swell idea: let’s be DJ s! He orders me, as is his right as the elder, to pick some vinyl records from our parents’ collection. Tina Turner’s Break Every Rule? no… Michael Jackson’s Thriller? no… Commodores..? Hmm. Nah. So I grab Kenny Rogers’ 1983 Greatest Hits. That one’s mom’s. She won’t miss it.
I watch my brother and his friends pull the vinyl back and forth, three fingertips along the grooves, making the now iconic rip rip rawr a la Jam Master Jay of Run DMC. We giggled once the record was left to play, only to interrupt his vocals:
You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille/ rip rip a fine time/ rip a fine time/ rip rip
We didn’t know scratching the record might actually cause scratches to the record, and once mommy told daddy, our DJ days were squashed!
A thought fills my head: what if you get a chance to speak to him? Mr. D..? Mr. Chuck? Can’t just call him Chuck, he’s not your friend. Consummate confusion of mine; how to formally address an emcee. Madame Lyte? Mr. Cool J? I never could come up with a cool MC name. Heck, I wasn’t even a good emcee to begin. Middle school lunch room, two rows decide to enter into freestyle rapping. Me, the closet poet and at the time, theater kid, went up against my best friend. Oh I got her, I was sure, she don’t know about rap! So I busted out something so generic: My name is Vonnie, and I’m here to say… surprised that wasn’t followed by a round of boos. She stands up, smug faced, and I immediately realize I have failed. I still hear the smackdown clear in my ears: C to da A to da R-OL-I-N-E/Sweet/Ahh!/Like caramel candy…
Grimace. Melt. Never battle rhymed again.
The poetic political enemy takes to the podium and I grin big, taking in the fitted cap, the wide stance, then eagerly press pen to paper. Chuck’s voice has a signature resonance, and everytime I hear it, I’m called to listen; I the faithful, he the muezzin. Listening to Public Enemy, these “radicals” telling you to question authority and call out injustices, conflicted with daddy’s job, and the environment we lived in. As hip hop flourished into a global movement, hitting the Armed Forces Network radio airwaves and featured on MTV Europe, daddy was adamant in keeping those sounds and influences out of the home. Disobedience meant repercussions:
Playing Salt ‘N’ Pepa too loud from my little red boom box smack!
Dad home early from work, caught wearing sneakers with no shoelaces twack!
To no affect, of course. I’m still pissing people off with my principles to this day.
— Von Simeon (@VonSimeon) February 27, 2015
My teachers – musicians, storytellers, poetic prophets – provided examples of how to protect my mind, gave me fodder for philosophy, reminded me bruises may break my skin but never my soul. It dawned on me as Chuck D reminded the collegians how valuable intelligence is, Hip Hop saved me from abandoning my wits. The movement, not just the music, fortified in me that my art is just as powerful a weapon as a machine gun, that I could equally call for change or kill a man simply by placing the right set of words together. My teacher lamented that we remain a society too caught up in SocMed to truly understand our reality for what it is: too much individualism, too little discourse, too few moments when information technology doesn’t intercede in decision making. Oh my gosh, I realize, I attack those very issues every day, on this blog, in my prose, and in my freestyle poems. Good job MC Von, you paid attention.
As he entered into the original days of hip hop and the struggle for equal air play, Chuck pointed out, “The Cold Crush Brothers were selling out shows, never blew up, never got their fair share of airplay…” Ah yes, nodding in my seat, I remember the Cold Crush crew, and then Chuck D extends his right arm my direction and says, “Charlie Chase is sitting right there, he can tell you…”
Rolodex stops at Cold Crush Brothers. The DJ. DJ Chase. DJ CHASE IS SITTING RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME.
“Don’t. Explode,” My inner sargent-at-arms instructs. I shudder with pure excitement, then chuckle a bit. My big bro can suck it!!
I wanted to pull DJ Chase towards me and exult, “You know, I used to DJ my friends’ house parties? I love music! I love youuu!”
Phone is ringin/oh my god Get it together..
I still dance but I’m afraid if I start popping I won’t be able to push my bones back into their joints! I may not have vinyl to scratch, but I’ve got eclectic playlists out the wazoo, and I share what’s new to me every week on Turn It Up Tuesday. While my spoken word sucks, my written word is vicious, and now, available in book form.
Knowing there are few moments in life when you can credit people who’ve positively influenced you, after the presentation I quickly, timidly tapped Charlie Chase on his shoulder. He was slow to turn then presented a warm smile once he saw me. I fought the tremors to tell him, “I just wanted to shake your hand and let you know because of you I wanted to be a DJ.” He was kind enough to shake my hand tightly, then asked, “What’s your name?”
What’s my muthafuckin’ naame..?
“My name is Von Simeon. I’m a local artist. Thank you for your time.” Zoom! Towards the door.
“You handled that very well,” Trish complimented. I could feel the tremors building up. There’s no way I can approach Chuck D in this state, so I’ll just follow him on Twitter, @MrChuckD.
Oh. So it is the full emcee name after Mister or Madam. Good to know.
Now this was a cool event. This unique pub crawl, arranged by Wordier Than Thou, a local literary organization, and hosted by businesses in downtown St Pete’s Grand Central District, featured published writers reading from diverse works as the audience enjoyed drink specials and grub! As the night grew later, our presence on the mics were a bit confusing to the normal barflies. I personally found our district occupation revolutionary!
My contribution was a challenge because the cafe did not have a working sound system, so I stage projected my voice for a full 15 minutes! Going from rarely speaking to performance delivery hurt like a muthafucka, but love is pain, and I love to share from my novel, I Blew Up Juarez. :)
Some photos and videos; more can be found on Facebook and at Wordier Than Thou’s YouTube page.
Do not drink kratom right before a performance:
Keeping St Pete Literary:
Wanna play the I Blew Up Juarez Drinking Game? The 12 minute interactive video is posted on the Facebook Page. Go Like and enjoy (alcohol not necessary but highly recommended)
2015 is off to a great start! Bunch of new readers, new follows, Facebook activity is relatively paying off. Good stuff! Appreciate your responses and affections!
Preface: This is not directed at a specific person. You know me…if I have a problem with you, you will know! I have, within the past four months, experienced this very scenario more than twice, which provoked me to prepare this letter. The “You” in reference is an amalgamation of the culprits of this terrible, divisive behavior. Do you recognize someone in your region like this? Do you recognize…yourself? Here we go…
You and I haven’t met personally, but I was in the crowd that night you were the featured author and speaker for a literary event. I love these; they allow me an opportunity to kick back and absorb a fellow literary artist at play, as well as allow me to learn while being entertained. I drove quite a way to get to the venue, and I made it to my seat the moment you stood at the microphone.
You either weren’t in the mood to be there, or you didn’t care if anyone was there to hear your art, for the moment you started speaking, you felt compelled to tell us all we were the unfortunate ones. We fellow composers, we choreographers of words, us language artists fiercely painting the scenario behind the eyes, are nothing without a major publisher. Huh?
Hardbacks of literary interpretations of your world sat on the stool beside you as you extolled the virtues of a true writer: literary agent, book deal, major publishing label. I recall arching an eyebrow, waiting for the punch line, then widening both eyes once it was clear you were being serious! Artistry, soul, technique, a talent for storytelling? None of these attributes came from your smug lips. You admonished those (me) who have gone the route of self-publishing, claiming, “There’s no real style in those works.” To stand there and boldly state the art form has been cheapened by the advent of digital media, sounds much like a person resistant to change.
Dear guest-speaker-turned-hyperbolic-lecturer, pure artistry is change agency. What we plume or type or swipe can never be un-experienced once it leaves our writing surface. Regardless of format delivered in, an accomplished author should savor the fact that there remains, rather strongly too, a voracious reading community, and we should honor their appreciation for our beloved art form by publishing in whatever gawddamn format they want!
Sorry, that seemed a bit proselytic.
The second slap to our faces was when you asked for a show of hands, “Who in here is serious about writing?” Don’t take the bait! I remembered thinking, then cringed when I saw slow wriggles into the air. You told those earnest raised hands they needed to come out of pocket. Invest in conferences. Arrange meetings with agents. Travel out of state to the big conventions. There I felt a bit of relief, because in that moment, you exposed your cards. You’re not an artist, you’re an elitist! How dare you burn those fingers hailed towards you? They, like me, are expecting your wisdom, but in your pomposity, you demonstrated you are a fraud.
You know what you could have done, featured acclaimed author? You could have exercised some compassion. Instead of coming off as Ayn Rand’s disciple – I’ve got mine, you better get yours! – you could’ve relayed some of your challenges when you were at our low level. You could’ve shared with us how you managed your personal affairs while preparing your manuscript. You could have shared how you kept the romance alive with your physical lover while deeply engaged with your spiritual lover. Instead, you jangled your hardbacks triumphantly over your head, as if car keys in the air at a football match, indicating game over, time for you busters to go home.
Were you really that surprised when you asked for closing questions, and nobody asked any? I do have a question for you now, sweet, delusional sage upon the mountain top, and I’d really like your honest answer: What do you value most…the commas separating words, or the commas separating numbers? Such is the indicator of a true literary artist versus a true schlub of an entertainer.
It was in front of him the whole damn time!
You’d think with his constant facing toward the television console, he would’ve caught on.
We agreed on celebrating Valentine’s Day this year, but Book of Mormon was in town only until February 2nd, so I asked to push up my segment of V Day to last Wednesday. He wanted to know who/what/where/why, but I, fully invested in being an awesome GF, told him nothing!
What I did tell him was exactly what to wear, when in the day he would need to be dressed in such clothes, and that he’d need a proper sport coat.
Now, granted, Broadway shows don’t require structured dress in this century, but I’m of the school of thought that, if you are an aficionado of the arts, you need to look the part.
As I predicted, BF looked like Christmas morning once dressed and coiffed. He’s got those awesome eyes which change color depending on his wardrobe, and that evening, his eyes were solid blue.
Myself, I found a lovely red wrap dress to compliment my blood red dye job, then affixed a classic pair of high-heeled shoes to my feet, nicknamed “Run To Canada”! :D (great story there…some other time.)
Over the bridge and to the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, its facade beautifully bathed in majestic purple. We journeyed a bit to our seats (hey, I’m an artist, not a pharmaceutical rep) then immersed in the brilliance that is Robert Lopez, Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
This show, right up our alley. We enjoy South Park and regularly engage in the meta of the show (PEWWDEEPIEEE!) and we also share an appreciation for live performances. Since I met BF, we’ve done outdoor concerts, classical music conciertos, and way more movies in our six month tenure than I’ve watched in the last six YEARS. I absolutely love that I have someone in my life who equally enjoys culture and crass as I do!
No, I won’t indulge you with a review, other than to say, GO SEE BOOK OF MORMON AND LAUGH YOUR BALLS OFF.
As it was late, and we hadn’t made definitive dinner plans, and we were in Tampa, Florida, the BF made an executive decision:
“We are going to The Penthouse.”
Stunned to silence by this glorious declaration, I eagerly surfed their website and hurriedly placed a dinner reservation for 11pm. We arrived on time, and with no wait.
Well, that’s because everyone was around the catwalk!
Ladies freaking out about eating at a strip club steakhouse: do not be alarmed. The poon is well away from the service area, so no lap dances into the lettuce!
We ordered two 12 oz New York strip steaks medium – mine smothered in roasted whole garlic and bleu cheese – then dined to contentment as sparkly skinny women shimmied against gold poles before us.
Blue eyes met brown eyes and agreed to get home. QUICKLY.
I believe I have Valentine’s Day mastered.
Today we’ll move the pin down one.
The hammies were complaining during the stationary bike warm-up, and now on the leg curls, they don’t wanna move.
I can do this.
Look left. Look right. All alone in the gym.
There it goes!
Fluid, don’t smack against the arse. Smooth, smooth, smooth…
Ironically, the song I have set for this week’s Turn It Up Tuesday comes on. Fitting, as we’re moving now to the quads.
I growl through upper body presses, then sigh towards the padded stand.
Lower ab leg curls.
As I stabilize my position to bang out crunches, a heavily obese woman enters the gym. She’s got proper gym clothes on, her water bottle is filled, and she’s motioning towards the cardio machines.
I’m so proud of her, showing the lazy skinny punks how to self-care. Her arrival encourages me to push through side crunches, to the point of making my injured right hip sing.
We did it.
I take my time giving Bobby his weekly bath, and suddenly I remember, I HAVE THERAPY TODAY.
I rush him so I can shower. He’s visibly relieved.
As I happen to swipe my smartphone screen, I notice the misread: two thirty not twelve thirty.
We’ve got time for pancakes!
2:36PM I arrive at the therapist’s office.
“I left the house an hour ago, I swear! Time always works against me…”
We shuffle into the room.
I remove a copy of Night Walkers from my purse. “You might recognize someone in there.”
She chuckles, then proceeds to read my short story, Tokyo Rose.
She looks up. “Metaphorically, what am I examining with this first page?”
“Consider it…the event horizon of a suicide.”
She laughs at the right parts, marvels at the word play, notes my editorializing. I’m pleased that she gets it.
After she’s done, I review with the therapist how this work stems from the memory of my last suicide attempt, now four years ago.
“What does this mean for you now?” Alluding to fame, fortune, popularity.
“It’s me confessing my truths. I put the work out there, because, mainly, I’m not long for this world.”
She mentions Stevie Smith and Nick Drake. I mention Michael Angelakos.
“So it seems that…knowing you’re not long for this world, helps you be part of it?”
I tell the therapist I’m visiting with a spiritualist to understand further the metaphysical dynamic of my existence. As we speak, I’m thumbing through a copy of the DSM-V. She encourages my interest in the science behind psychosis, but reminds me, the DSM is a tome put together by psychiatrists under the influence of pharmaceutical companies.
I mention the show happening tomorrow. She’s visibly proud, but sees I’m not.
I then recall the last time I had a grand event occur involving my art, I ended up in the HPU.
Knowing this, we design a skeletal plan of approach: “How are you going to keep safe?” I offer my initial strategy. The therapist approves of my suggestions. “Give yourself permission to refuse anything that you know will upset you. Allow yourself to be emotional, if you have a reaction.”
“Just remember…you can express yourself, just don’t touch anybody.”
I flip to Bipolar Disorder. “I wish We weren’t the new bogeymen.”
I smirk. “Bipolar is the new gay.”
“We should start making T-shirts. ‘Bipolar Is The New Gay’!”
“Yes.” I clasp my hands, “We just want to belong.”
She laughs. “You’re going to be alright.”
Sigh. “I know.”
I can do this.