Category Archives: Philosophy
Join us Saturday March 28th from 2 to 4pm for Sawgrass Bar’s Afternoon Tea! As you nosh nibbles provided by Ray’s Vegan Soul, me and my Wordier Than Thou pals shall ear-tain you with diverse readings!
Located at 2315 Central Ave, Saint Petersburg, Florida 33713 Donate what you can at the door! See you soon.
all photos stolen from the Internet – Google ‘Victorian afternoon tea’ (why lie)…
Let’s close out Women’s History Month with a musical group who impacted my most formative time-space moments: Cheryl ‘Salt’ James, Sandra ‘Pepa’ Denton, and Deidra ‘DJ Spinderella’ Roper! Collectively, you know them as Salt N Pepa.
I remember my first encounter with Salt N Pepa. “Push It,” came on the radio, and I listened to the lyrics as it played. I had no earthly connection to what they were talking about, but their vocal delivery, their ‘out there’-for-a-tween lyrics, and frankly, their female-ness sent me into an array of emotions: Amazing! Who are they? How cool; they’re rappers…and women! With boom box in tow, I ran into my brother’s room, breathlessly exclaiming, “They’re girls! And they’re rappers!!” in a tone suggesting, “See big brother? Girls are just as good at hip hop as boys!”
He responded, “GET OUT OF MY ROOM!” which, translated, meant, “You are the best sister anyone could ever ask for. You are correct; that is a wonderful discovery and what a historical vault for American womankind.”
During our last art date, Marie and I talked about how “Let’s Talk About Sex,” the seminal Salt N Pepa pop tune that spurred much controversy, saved us from haphazardly jumping into an activity with serious life consequences. The song came out about the same time my classmates were getting physical, yet none of them could answer for me, “Why do you have to have sex?” Here they were, 13, 14, 15 years of age, engaging in mating ritual, without putting much thought to the significance of the act. Then this song came out, and I’m practically stuffing my headphones into my ears. What the hell is this ‘sex’ business about??
Let’s talk about sex, baby
Let’s talk about you and me
Let’s talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be
I set out to talk about it. My mother, when confronted, checked out a copy of “The Joy of Sex” from the library and hid it under my bed, with a simple suggestion to check under there for answers. My best girl friend gave me a copy of Nancy Friday’s “Forbidden Flowers” to peruse. The following summer, I took a job at the local daycare center for Army babies. Oh boy…that’s why everyone’s having sex?? Seems like non-fun.
Salt N Pepa prepped me with life-saving messages in lyrical form. As such, when the guys pushed up, I asked, “We’re friends. Why complicate that with sex?” I had no want for disease or oopsie babies, thanks to my hip hop muses.
I fear today’s young ladies in their formative years aren’t receiving the right empowerment messages. Iggy Azalea prides herself in…what? Guys noticing she has friends and a huge ass (which is how I summate her freshman album)? Nicki Minaj wants to encourage sexual desire, but only on the B side does she refer to its consequences (which is how I summate her sense of accountability)?
Perhaps I’m just a tired old bag who feels the genitals have nothing to do with self-esteem or positive living, but I am glad that, because I listened to my musical mentors and their messages of truth, I own my sexuality. I determined upon my start and still today, when, how, and with whom I engage with sexually. I am a goddess, I only get this one body, and only I am responsible for it!
Thank you, Salt N Pepa, for using Hip Hop to educate, influence, and lift up those within listening range.
If you’re a high-level thinking individual who’s sexy to boot, then you’re already enjoying Aeon Magazine. I appreciate their thought-provoking articles and intuitive content contributors. Recently, I beheld an interesting editorial section, Aeon Ideas, in which they posited: If you could undo one historical event, which would it be? Mr. Haselby responded with the U.S. Government response to the Elian Gonzalez affair. Good one, I thought, as US-Cuban relations are now the hot topic.
Reflecting on the past, I tried to pick an event I would undo. The Holocaust? Pol Pot? Every Kardashian?
It’s so obvious: I’d revisit my SAT exam!!
Let me set the sad story. I moved to Texas from Germany mid-high school. Probably before the end of my first semester in America-American school I realized this country was academically slow. Wherever the America-American curriculum was set at, I’d already completed it before moving to the Western Hemisphere.
Because of this inconvenience, I would cut school, pretty regularly. Kept a decent routine; you know, be present for roll call at the beginning of 2nd period, then throw a few hand signs to a select group of people before excusing myself to the ladies’ room, winding down the stairs to the parking lot, where those who interpreted the signal correctly would be waiting to enter my family’s Ford Aerostar. Lots of coffee and pancakes at Kettle, day trips to Georgetown or Austin. We had a good time!
My first official boyfriend was not into school at all. Like this should come as a surprise to you regulars…he was quite involved in gang activity. When not day tripping to the Salado gift shoppes, I was rolling around town with this wonderful-to-me/nightmare-to-society individual. Lapses in judgment and time resulted in several Saturday detentions, which was fine, because my boyfriend would be there too! Aww, young love…
Still an Honors student, I scored high on my course exams and was ranked in the top 10% of my graduating class despite hardly entering the building (save for Band, gotta stick with Band). Used to being told to show up to the gymnasium, I trotted in one Saturday morning blissfully expecting to see BF and his gangsta cohorts. Instead, I saw kids that were in my Honors classes, looking nervous as fuck.
What happened that got all the Honors kids detention? I actually thought. I was yelled to sit down, so I did. I was handed an answer sheet and a pencil. What the…? Am I in the wrong gym?? Slapped down in front of me was the official examination handbook. SHIT.
Didn’t know, so, didn’t study! I scored a dismal 950. However, stroke of friggin’ luck…in Texas, if you are within the 90th percentile of your graduating class, your SAT scores don’t matter if you apply to a state school. Hurrah!
EXCEPT. You’re also automatically enrolled in remedial courses if you score less than average than the graduating class. Fuck fuck FUCK!
Here I am, a proficient writer in and speaker of the English language, enrolled in collegiate remedial English! Our instructor was a frail, wool-chested, chain-smoking idiot who wore his shirts unbuttoned to his naval. My first paper for the course, I misused a word: condone. To condone is to forgive or allow, I knew that, but I intended to use the word condemn, which is to judge as unfit, as I remember it was a position paper and I wasn’t agreeing with the stated position. Either way, simple mistake, especially for a handwritten, in-class assignment.
Chesty McDickerton marks my paper as a Fail. To the right margin, in creamy, red felt ink, he noted, “I understand why you made such a simple error. You haven’t mastered the English language yet.” Such gravitas!
I went from being one of the brightest and gifted students the Department of Defense Dependent Schools system has ever had the glory to educate to a fresh off the boat, English as a Second Language, special needs student in the eyes of Texas.
All because I kept skipping class.
[read time 49 seconds]
Am excited and nervous about this; hope I pull it off just right!
Regularly I’ll participate in the global hashtag, #TurnItUpTuesday by featuring A song by AN artist, highlighting either my mood or theme, whatever. But this, my friends, is going to be special.
To celebrate Women’s History Month, I plan to feature TWO artists! One, a discovery: new to me, doesn’t mean they haven’t been out there for a while and the other, a reflection: I want to introduce you to musical artists whom influenced my wordcrafting, all women.
I do not review, I do not critique, I merely esconce myself in the artistry. But I’d love it if you all, especially if you’re talented at music critiquing, to please use my Comments field to share your aspect of the experience. And by all means, share share share to the moon and back!
(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)