08 April 2008
I saw this as I was entering the metro station at M St./Convention Center. So, I've already had the lights stolen off of my bike, and I've only had the thing since October of 2007. There are cuts all up and down the plastic covering my steel lock, signifying that people have been trying to get to my bike. One time, coming out of Cafe Mayorga up in Columbia Heights, after having my bike locked up outside the very close Giant supermarket, a little girl notified me that "they was trying to steal your bike." I have no idea who "they" were, and while they took off with my lights, they weren't able to get to my bike.
I've heard plenty of stories of people having their bike stolen, and after dropping a pretty penny on mine, I've put a lot of effort into making sure my bike is secure (well, except for removing my lights ... stupid, stupid). So when I see someone locking their bike up with a plastic chain, I just really want to hit something. I mean, how can someone be that dumb. Then again, it could totally be an entrapment ploy. Who knows?
It just goes to show you that we each individually have to take responsibility for the security of our own property (especially in this city, jeez). So always be careful; you are not immune to crime!
16 April 2007
Considering the events of today, the continuance of this story is distressingly apropos. At Virginia Tech, 33 people were killed and 29 were wounded in a massacre that left the assailant dead and few clues as to his motives.
There are facts that suggest that the rampage was stoked by the embittered heart of a jilted lover. This… this brings back memories.
After a summer of working at J.C. Penny (sigh…), I returned to school ready to tackle the intricacies of turn-of-the-century Spanish literature, the Kreb's cycle, and the Federalist Papers. I had forgotten about my troubles with Maggie & Neenef. By that point, I had also forgot about the stages of mitosis, which I was supposed to have memorized the previous semester.
As I found out later, Maggie and Neenef's summer experience was more rough than smooth. Their many fights predictably culminated in their eventual separation. So, the next time I saw Neenef, he was a shell of his former self. No longer the threatening, barbaric thug (in his intimidating 5'6" 130 lb frame) I remembered from last year, his demeanor had been pacified. In fact, he seemed dejected.
But I was still angry, and I wanted him to continue hurting. So, I was cold. I barely said hello, did my best to avoid him. Yet, I knew he wanted to resolve things between us. He was looking for an anchor in the sea of desperation that had crashed in all about him. But, I left him alone and I savored the experience.
Sometimes I think I could have saved two people's lives if I hadn't been selfish. They say you're not supposed to blame yourself for things like this. But I do regret. Neenef once told me that, after getting a bad grade from one of his professors (and fearing the inevitable backlash from his parents), he wished he could kill his professor. I thought he was joking. I really thought he was joking. God. There was a lot I could have said or done to prevent what happened that day, but instead, I acted like a spoiled brat.
There was a school dance the night previous and apparently Neenef had seen Maggie dancing with another guy. First came jealousy, then came the shotgun. No one, not even his roommate knew he had it, and everyone who heard the gun shots thought they were something else--a ball being kicked against a wall, an appliance hitting the ground.
The evening after the dance Neenef invited Maggie to his room by instant messenger. A few hours later, a commotion built up around the dorm rooms. Ambulances had pulled up to the dormatories, their sirens silent. No one knew what was happening or to whom it was happening. Eventually, the hubub confessed that Maggie and Neenef were involved, but it wasn't revealed what had happened to either of them.
For some reason, Janae Leafers, Nandani Sonand and I were eventually sequestered in a room in Trowbridge to speak with the school's president. The girls were confused. I was confused. None of the students had any idea of what was going on. The president walked into the room, more pale than usual. Preempting our expected questions, he started, obliviously struggling with an impromptu performance: "I have no idea how I'm going to have to tell a student's parents that their daughter is dead."
Because of the president's tawdry delivery, it didn't immediately set in for the girls. I expected sobbing, but instead Janae said, in an unperturbed manner, "Oh, well I didn't know that she died." She didn't even realize how perfunctory her response was until I let escape, "Oh my god, they're dead."
They wailed. They grabbed on to each other, in a desperate attempt to remain standing. It was a veritably sad moment, and, yet, I refused to let a tear slip. I walked away. I vaguely remember hugging anyone--if, indeed, I hugged anyone at all--on my way out of the building. I do remember seeing Aimee Topacio huddle on a wall, crying unto herself. For some reason that memory stuck more than the others.
I'm not sure why I wouldn't allow myself to evoke emotion that evening, or thereafter. I still haven't cried for their deaths. That's not to say I didn't mourn. I missed a chemistry exam (which the asshole of a professor refused to reschedule--it was a school of about 1200 students; everyone should have been affected) in order to attend Maggie's funeral. Her wake the previous day had been closed-casket.
Neenef had shot Maggie twice, then shot himself once. She was 19, he was 20.
Nearly 8 years later, and the memories of my indolence still haunt me. I like comic books. However, I didn't act particularly heroic when I should have. But really, I just need to cry about it… and I'm scared that I never will.
15 April 2007
They were so damned annoying. How can you be in love and bicker like that all the time?
I lived in the same dorm hall as Neenef during my freshman year of college. He was a quiet guy, yet somehow we became great friends. For a while he and I were inseparable. That was, of course, until he met Maggie. I rarely saw him after that… except when they needed my car to take them to the grocery store. Even so, they were both good friends of mine, whom, to this day, I miss dearly.
After a few months of dating, the two experienced problems, as all couples do. It had as much to do with them as it had to do with their respective groups of friends. Maggie had a set of girlfriends, the normal type--ditzy, gossipy, inconsiderate--that belied her intelligent and caring nature. Neenef had me. And that was it. I was his only friend at school, really. Of course, as mentioned above, that relationship slowly evaporated to make way for Maggie.
I understood. I wasn't hurting for friends. I've never been the most popular guy, but I'm extroverted and genial enough that I could move between several "cliques." Neenef: not so much. He was a bit of a recluse. He was an intelligent, funny guy, but not particularly outgoing. So, in his battle-of-the-friends with Maggie, we was certainly the underdog.
It didn't help that I was (or at least tried to be) friends with Maggie's girlfriends as well. And, I can't even remember what the conflict was about. I think it was as trivial as Maggie's friends complaining that Neenef was not as respectful to them as he could be. For some reason--some insipid, naïve reason--I believed that I could act as an impartial interlocutor between Maggie's friends and Neenef. I just wanted my friends to be at peace--a noble purpose to excuse interference in the personal disputes of others.
I do remember, amidst my discussions with Maggie's friends, that I let slip that Neenef had a very poor opinion of them. I was of impression that his distaste for those girls was readily apparent. I was, of course, wrong. As such, the grapevine being what it is, my alleged perfidy found its way to Neenef, who was none too pleased. In fact, he threatened to kill me if I ever again revealed his opinions to others like that.
He threatened to kill me. His friend. Because of gossip.
And, yes, I was threatened. We stopped talking after that. I cut him off, and let him wallow in his hatred. This was not such a simple task because he lived in the adjoining dorm room. We shared the same bathroom. The situation became unbearable for me, and I asked both Maggie--who had also shunned me--and Neenef, by email, to sit down and talk about the situation like adults. I assumed that Maggie was the more reasonable of the pair, but her response suggested otherwise: "No, we will not have a business meeting with you to discuss our emotions." She, of course, misconstrued the entire purpose of my invitation (I never once mentioned negotiations in commerce when asking to meet with them).
The situation became traumatic enough for me that I felt I had to see the campus counselor. The counseling staff specifically scheduled me to talk to their newest counselor, because they thought he'd be best suited to handle my problem.
I bet this counselor is black… I bet they put me with this counselor because he's black and I'm black.
My suspicions were affirmed: the counselor was a Black man. Nevertheless, I explained the circumstances of the falling out between Maggie, Neenef and myself. The counselor was incredulous and even suggested that I was mostly at fault for the ordeal. That would have been fine if he were a judge with the mandate to assess liability. But, he was a counselor, and he breached the duty of his profession that day by placing blame instead of trying to find a dénouement. At the end of the session, he requested that I schedule an appointment to see him again. I declined.
So, with all my options exhausted, I pulled, from within myself, the strength to ignore the storm around me. Thankfully the quarter was ending soon and people would be off to their separate corners of the world for the summer. Sadly, none of us foresaw the tragedy that would befall Neenef and Maggie upon their return to school in the fall.
To be continued...
14 April 2007
13 April 2007
I wish I could have made a post today. However, with finals coming up, and the news being pretty boring, I haven't had time to really to find anything to post or to write my next metro tale. That's appropriate because I won't actually be taking the metro home tonight, heh heh.
12 April 2007
"Your Mema died," my mother told me on an unimportant Sunday evening. "Well this is going to screw everything up…"
I love my grandmother, but she couldn't have passed at a more inopportune time for me. I was in the process of moving to DC to go to school, which I had completely planned out. I was supposed to work until the Tuesday of the following week, train my replacement on Mon. and Tues, go to my good friends' wedding the coming Saturday, and finally begin my drive to DC on Wed.
"When's the funeral?" I asked. My mom told me it would be the coming Saturday, but I would need to get into Ft. Lauderdale by Friday morning so we could make the drive down to Key West while it was still light out. I was a mess; frustrated because of the passing of my grandmother and the unforeseeable interruption of my plans.
I quit my job a few days early, and left for Ft. Lauderdale that Friday. Upon arriving, I met my mom, her husband and two of my cousins that I hadn't seen in a very long time, Seleste and Lisa. Considering the reason for our gathering, everyone was of generally jovial spirits.
We later picked up my brother from the airport and immediately drove down to Key West. It was a trek that I had done many times before and one I intend to do again, even if I don't have the excuse of visiting my Mema. Along the trip we all caught up on each other's lives, and things were good… things were very good.
At the funeral, things were bad. I don't like seeing my mother cry. It makes me cry. I hate to see that beautiful woman hurt. She's tried all throughout the lives of my brother and me to be stoic, showing no emotion. But she cracked upon seeing her own mother in that painted box. She wept, and I held her… I didn't know how else to console my mommy.
My own pain went unnoticed, I'm sure. That was the intention. I've been vulnerable before; even amongst the shield of family and the love they emit, I won't allow myself to show vulnerability. I'm aware that it's a callow response to broken heart that's long since healed, but it's a response that works… for now.
To counter the lugubrious events of the day my brother, my cousin Seleste, and I decided to hit up "downtown" Key West for the evening, see what kind of trouble we could get into. Of course, as we walked up and down the main strip, I took surreptitious peeks into the several gay bars, understanding that they were off limits for the night. Instead we found ourselves at a generic straight bar. The twenty somethings were all drunk; no one seemed to be having a good time either. They were locked into this pallid ritual of libation and swing, twisting to the rhythm of song which long ago found them surfeit.
I participated… participating makes me hungry, so Seleste and I decided to get pizza from the nearby jumbo slice parlor. She stepped into her place in the winding queue and I… well, I got distracted by an arcade game. She lent me a dollar to play while she waited in line. Per usual, I lost to the computer and subsequently returned to Seleste's side. A considerable number of people had gathered behind her, and they apparently were not happy with my arrival.
One particularly obnoxious girl (she was Jewish; the Star of David around her neck gave it away) made no secret of her ire, accusing me and Seleste of cutting to her friends knowing that we could hear her. So I told Seleste, very loudly, that I like being passive aggressive too. The obnoxious girl then proceeded to call Seleste a bitch (although up to that point, Seleste had said nary a word), and from there it was "on."
The two women began flinging insults back and forth at one another. The obnoxious girl was frothing at the mouth, shouting and raising her fists, agitating not only the other customers but also her friends. Seleste remained relatively calmer, never reacting to the physical encroachments, but definitely spitting venom back. It got to the point where the obnoxious girl's friends even had to admit to her that we had been in line long before them. Yet she was inconsolable. She began taking swings at my cousin and her friends, reacting properly, immediately escorted her from the building.
Finally, as she was being pulled into the street, she screamed from the doorway, "Fuck you niggers!"
Imus isn't the real bad guy
It's rare that you hear black commentators saying things like this. And if they are allowed to speak, they're quickly hushed in order to keep "our" dirty laundry unaired.
Whitlock really hits the point home when he says:
In the grand scheme, Don Imus is no threat to us in general and no threat to black women in particular. If his words are so powerful and so destructive and must be rebuked so forcefully, then what should we do about the idiot rappers on BET, MTV and every black-owned radio station in the country who use words much more powerful and much more destructive?
I don’t listen or watch Imus’ show regularly. Has he at any point glorified selling crack cocaine to black women? Has he celebrated black men shooting each other randomly? Has he suggested in any way that it’s cool to be a baby-daddy rather than a husband and a parent? Does he tell his listeners that they’re suckers for pursuing education and that they’re selling out their race if they do?
However, I'm afraid that messages like this are often lost on the general Black populace in this country. Instead, the words of Snoop Dogg are likely more palatable:
It's a completely different scenario. (Rappers) are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports. We're talking about hoes that's in the 'hood that ain't doing shit, that's trying to get a nigga for his money. These are two separate things. First of all, we ain't no old-ass white men that sit up on MSNBC going hard on black girls. We are rappers that have these songs coming from our minds and our souls that are relevant to what we feel. I will not let them muthafuckas say we are in the same league as him. Kick him off the air forever.
It's the same, repackaged self-victimization argument that people like Mr. Whitlock are trying to extinguish, but the media starlets (or should I say, hoodlums) won't let die.
Here's my opinion. The problem with fatalism and victimization is that the wrong incentives are devised in order to create an equilibrium. The myth is that if it's okay to be less valuable human beings in society, then the devaluation of other human beings may be similarly carried out with impunity. And it's a positive feedback cycle: the more that one is allowed denigrate others, the more he is allowed to self-victimize.
This is a two pronged problem though. The options are to a) rebuke the racism, misogyny, homophobia, and anti-intellectualism spun from the mouths of "our" most visible representatives or b) disrupt the specter of self-defeatism and underdog-ism that pervade this community. Aphoristically, you can't help anyone else until you help yourself; the basis of the problem lies in prong b, but people only know how to deal with prong a.
The challenge thus is to create an atmosphere where positive Black images overshadow the negative ones. Yet, in this BET/MTV culture, where the intellectual castration of the Black man/woman is so economically puissant, that burden is a daunting one. Very few commentators--e.g. John Whorter, Bill Cosby and now Mr. Whitlock--are willing to make such assertions because the Black community as a whole has become inured to, and thereby complicit in, its secondary classification in this country.
Stories like this give me hope that the negative influences of death and hate espoused by some reggae and hip-hop artists can give way to a more tolerant outlook. Excerpted importantly:
"The Stop Murder Music campaign targeted reggae dancehall singers who released CDs advocating the murder of lesbian and gay people. We got scores of concerts cancelled worldwide, causing these murder music artists to suffer huge financial losses.
Faced with this pressure, they have cut their output of homophobic songs and now rarely make homophobic statements."