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.
I finished watching Breaking Bad on Netflix just a few moments ago. I applauded the screen after Vince Gilligan’s name appeared in the final credits. Bravo.
It made me sink into my couch and pop this notebook open, to purge what I’ve been experiencing. An end. A proud moment. A reckoning, delivered, successfully.
Last Thursday morning at approximately 5am, shortly after completing a NINE hour, non-stop, final read of I Blew Up Juarez, I submitted the final proof to my publisher, Trace Taylor Publishing. Little indie operation out of Gulfport, Florida, a place that became, in the last five months, the epicenter of my existence as a writer.
Since Thursday morning I’ve been suffering through small bursts of panic and anxiety, doing my damnedest not to succumb to uncertainty, not let doubt take over. But at this point, I’m at a loss. I don’t know what’s happening. Literally, don’t know what’s happening to my art. I’ve never been here before. I’ve had a lifetime of experiences, but I haven’t been here before.
Trust is key. I have to trust Trace Taylor Publishing is going to fulfill the contract I signed February 20, 2013. I have to trust my final adjustments are applied, my cover artwork transitions to print, my intentions are conveyed. I have to trust that all the effort I put forward to tell the story of Johnny Saucedo was not in vain.
Between panic attacks I busied myself, getting out of the Treehouse, spending time in public, under the lovely Florida winter sun, talking to fellow artists and releasing, really releasing, the feelings I have about this process. The start was exciting, the creative process, a wild surf of my passions, but the end? The end? Here we are. The end.
Before sitting down to dinner and series finale, I took my copy of The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest poolside, doubly to get out of my head for a few hours and to finish the Millenium trilogy so I can watch the movies! Came across this, talking about Mikael Blomkvist, the heroic celebrity journalist: As always when a job was finished and at the printer, and nothing could be changed, he felt empty. I had to laugh. Steig Larsson, are you talking to me right now??
I read Vince Gilligan’s GQ interview a few months back regarding the end of his excellent series. What Bryan Cranston and he put together was a man’s tale of self-recognition and in the delivery of the tale, Vince Gilligan felt all that needed to be said was said. He is proud of the story. It ended correctly.
I feel the same way of this work too. I Blew Up Juarez is Book Two out of four I wrote regarding the protagonist’s life journey. But even in the last few months, as the work went from my creative space to a tangible Adobe file, I saw opportunities for the story to splinter off. The characters Johnny encounters shine well enough on their own. Just as Saul Goodman will be experiencing a resurrection via a Breaking Bad spinoff, there is a high chance I’ll be creating flash novellas highlighting characters from the Juarez story. Even though the story of I Blew Up Juarez ends, there’s way more to experience! Kind of like a dirty bomb; the shrapnel can land anywhere, the bits of shard and metal and stone within could morph into its own thing upon release. I sit here thinking of the future, and it seems plausible that The End is merely marking a Beginning. And a beginning to an end, and ending a beginning.
So there is no end. There just is, the first story.
Send all your positive energy towards my publisher and the press she uses. The **MOMENT** I get updated on the status of the novel, I will certainly blog it up!
Let RiRi convey my emotions with song:
Over on Facebook I’m promoting my upcoming novel, I Blew Up Juarez. Every Tuesday until the book release, I’m gonna feature a character teaser. Last week, everyone met Set, and this week, the brilliant Jah.
His curiosity encourages Jah to make new discoveries, foregoing the consequences, such as warping a simple creature into a destructive demigod. Oops!
Over on Facebook I’m promoting my upcoming novel, I Blew Up Juarez. Every Tuesday until the book release, I’m gonna feature a character teaser. Last week, everyone met Iwan Maclaggan, and this week, the ambitious Set. Humankind is NOT ready.
My inspirations include Storm of the X-Men, 70s era Nightshade (Captain America’s nemesis) and Hapshetsut, the benevolent pharaoh who happened to be a woman.
Over on Facebook I’m promoting my upcoming novel, I Blew Up Juarez. Every Tuesday until the book release, I’m gonna feature a character teaser. Last week, everyone met Mimi Deshpande, and this week, Iwan Maclaggan.
Well. Will ya look at that.
After the obligatory panic attack, I converted to the power of positive thinking: you achieved exactly what you intended to do! After three years of production, I’m 24 days away from releasing my first novel.
Four years ago, I made the decision to do this. I budgeted, I organized, I executed the plan. Et viola! $1.00 left. I. AM. GOOD. AT. THIS.
This is the very first time in my long life I’ve let my bank account dwindle to nothing. This is the first time in my long life I let all my money go towards making MY dream come true.
I admit, however… I do miss steak.
NEVER GO TO BED HUNGRY PASTA
Contrary to popular belief, you can eat well under $5.00. The trick is to invest in the spice foundations and kitchen fundamentals while the grass grows high. Once the grass becomes short and dry, well, you’ve got a go-to dish that’s filling and keeps your energy up.
Wheat pasta – you can get 14 ounces @ $1.00
4 Tbsp. butter/margarine – a 5-pack costs less than $1.00 at most major grocers
Grated parmesan cheese – you can get 8 ounces @ $1.00
1 Tbsp. minced garlic – you can get an 8 oz. jar of ready-minced garlic for $1.00
crushed red pepper
salt to taste (although the fat and cheese will likely be salty enough)
Prepare pasta per box instructions. As it cooks, start another pan. Drop the 4 Tbsp. butter or margarine and melt it down. Add minced garlic and a shake of parmesan cheese, allow both to toast in the butter/margarine. Then add Italian seasoning and crushed red pepper. Move the pan off the heat, but keep the burner on; the pan is coming back shortly.
By the time you’ve prepared the base of the sauce, the pasta should be ready to rinse. Drain the water but SAVE about a 1/2 cup. Add the saved portion of the starchy water and noodles into the pan and bring the pan back to its burner. Toss all the ingredients together, until the pasta is evenly coated. Cut the heat, let the pasta rest 4 minutes, then serve.
This recipe is for two servings, adjust accordingly. This is a good base recipe; as your expendable income grows, you can diversify. Add fresh spices, use olive oil, throw in meats, veggies, you get the idea.
Over on Facebook I’m promoting my upcoming novel, I Blew Up Juarez. Every Tuesday until the book release, I’m gonna feature a character teaser. Last week, everyone met Phoebe Maclaggan, and this week, Mimi Deshpande, a tiny woman with a big attitude!
In this video, Mimi’s attempt to join a sorority is floundered when Johnny needs intel on her brother, Rockaway. WATCH [start at 10:22]:
Over on Facebook I’m promoting my upcoming novel, I Blew Up Juarez. Every Tuesday until the book release, I’m gonna feature a character teaser. Last week, everyone met Capt. C.E. Grant, and this week, Phoebe Maclaggan, professional homeopath and amateur mystic.
Phoebe’s that friend you have who’s always right, always speaking in hyperbole, always trying to prove you wrong. But she’s clutch when needed, and for that, we tolerate her.