I made good use of my AMA card (that’s Academy of Magical Arts in case you were wondering) and spent the evening being dazzled at Los Angeles’s Magic Castle–the Hollywood hub for all things great in the world of illusion. I learned two things on this outing.
1. When a grand illusion is augmented by a little card producing, the result is…excuse the pun, magical.
And as a bonus to the cause:
2. People of color do not go to magic shows.
Maybe it’s because historically, POC do not appreciate being tricked by white people.
But a little playful trickery in life is necessary. Without it, we wouldn’t have a political system or effective advertising.
Besides that, the whole Oreo lifestyle relies on sleight of hand, clever distraction and a well-placed trompe-l’œil. How else can we convince the world we are something that we are not?
So pull up a chair in your personal parlor of prestidigitation and get ready to say the magic words as you watch your perceived identity and their lowered expectations…disappear!
I’m not going to pretend that I listened to his music or that I have any ability to make a body move that way-even on WhitePal’s most patient days.
But I do know good, amazing, phenominal when I see it – even if I’m seeing it years and years too late. I know that we lost him before his time. And I know that he will be missed. By all of us.
After bringing it into the theater to provide a selection of ambient classical music while I prepared for my Neil LaBute showcase, my CD case went missing.
Gone are my collections of the American musical. No more are my ATB German electronica CDs. Au revior to my Mozart arias, my Bach sonatas, my Shostakovichian overtures in all their festivity.
But the truth is, those collections are basically replaceable.
Less replaceable, a CD that got me through some of my darkest days. A CD, given to me by a friend with whom I am no longer in contact, that always picked me up when I was low, put a spring in my step where there was none and gave me the strength to journey on.
The Georgetown Chimes.
Ahh, the Chimes. The premier all-male a capella group from the school that graduated President Bill Clinton, America’s Next Top Model contestant Sara Albert and a host of other notables, Georgetown University.
These 10 – 14 masculine voices blend in perfect harmony to bring classic songs to renewed and brilliant life. Nevermind what they do with timeless folk songs like Danny Boy and Loch Lomond, it’s what they do with traditionally ethnic music that makes my heart skip a beat. Motown and Do Wop just don’t truly resonate until they’re sung by a baker’s dozen of boarding school bred boys.
As the CD came from a friend whose contact info I no longer posses and not from amazon.com, the dulcet sounds of The Chimes will have to ring on in my head and never again through my car stereo. I will have to Hoya Hoya Saxa it alone.
Goodbye, boys. I shall miss you dearly.
Lie down forever, lie down, my friends
Lie down. Forever lie down.
So Gatos suggested that we “kick it” again and offered to make arrangements.
Normally, keeping public company with a white person is golden. However, when that person evokes ethnicity, it counts for much less, can be seen as cheating and has the potential to destroy the hard work one has done to this point.
But, he offered to buy the drinks again; and accepting challenging social invitations from a paying companion is a decidedly Hamptonish thing to do, so I accepted.
But not without precautions. There are a few things to keep in mind when arranging such an arrangement.
Location, Location, Location
It’s an old adage, but it’s true. You definitely want to take care to choose the right spot for your outing. Being seen at the wrong movie, restaurant, piece of theater or side of town can ruin all of your efforts. So, after a Vespa tour around a winery, I felt comfortable with Gatos settling in for the hummus and grape leaf tasting that was to be part two of our afternoon.
Evoke Tough Love
You know how it is when you travel to Bath or Oxford, then spend the next two weeks trying to shake the vestiges of the Queen’s English from your vocabulary. You can’t help but through out a “mate,” “gov’nor,” or “right, yeah?” in your once normal conversation.
So is the case when you spend time with a light ethnic. After a couple of hours, I was horrified to notice that I let the word “dope” escape my lips. And I wasn’t talking about weed. I was describing something that I liked and used the offensive adjective to describe it.
And just like my friends put me back in my place when I slip into a bit of British vernacular, Gatos was there to correct me. I was embarrassed, sure. But the fact that he called me on it so that I refrained from such sloppy speech from then on was worth the flush I felt on my cheeks.
It doesn’t have to be fancy, but the flash of a tag from Talbots or Lily Pulitzer lets passersby know which side of the yacht your flag is raised. The right label on your lapel will help repel any lax labeling.
The Use of Key Words and Phrases
When strangers pass by you and your escort, thwart their assumptions by making sure that in a loud, clear voice, you utter phrases like: “Of course you find Fitzgerald insufferable, that’s the whole point” Or: “Oh, come on. You can’t blame Reaganomics. People have a certain amount of personal responsibility.” Or: “I thought AMT was unfair, until I learned two words: Intangible. Drilling.”
Never you mind if these seem like non-sequitors to your companion. He or she doesn’t even have to answer. And all you have to do is bask in the glory of the nods and smiles you will get from those around you as you shatter expectations.
Seriously, Have Them Buy You a Drink
When your mind is consumed with correcting and perfecting an image, it can be hard to actually enjoy what you’re doing. So appreciate a little free booze. Really helps take the edge off.
In honor of Juneteenth (the holiday developed to remember the day that President Lincoln released slaves from a life of forced assimilation into a world where they now had the choice to conform to expectations…or die) I went to my local Borders Books to do some research on “my people.” I thought for a moment that I may have been too zealous in my journey toward Oreodom and that learning about myself would guide me toward a more moderate path.
But a quick trip in the “ethnic” section of the book store told me I was right on track.
In the 20000 square foot big box Borders, about 10 square feet were dedicated to the ethnic section. Out of the tens of thousands of books available elsewhere in the store, maybe 50 titles were in this section. I was relieved to see that CEOs smarter than I dedicate the same amount of space to ethnic identity.
Part of me hoped that I would find on these two shelves, a tome or two that spoke to me. That I would learn something about “my people’s” history that would make me feel like I was indeed a part of this population.
Granted, that kind of self-discovery is challenging, so thankfully here’s what I found instead.
Specific Self Help
Most of the books were fiction and the non fiction discussed either slavery or self help. But the self help was limited to telling one how to seize the day or how to say “aw hell naw” at all the right times.
In terms of self improvement, I am more interested in calorie intake, balancing work and pleasure and laying down the rest of this Stepford-filled baggage.
But since those books don’t seem to belong in this section, I suppose, neither do I.
African American History X…if X > Pump up the Jam
There was nothing in the ethnic section that was published before about 1990. No classic novels or writers here. All post parachute pants prints.
And since I existed before 1990, it seems this is not the section for me.
I Put My Trash in the Bin, Not in the Bedroom
The romance novels here were all trashy and Harlequin-esque. No sweeping tales of love. No sexy, taught dramas. No achingly coquettish stories that made you tense with wonderful anticpation to read them. Just books with pictures of big curves on the cover, giant print inside and the overuse of the words “chocolate,” and “member” in the same sentence.
And since I never compare any part of my partners to food, I guess this isn’t the section for me.
Black People Don’t Like…Things, Apparently.
The area also left out other key sections that sell quite well in the greater Borders book store. There was no “humor” section. No “food” section. No “travel” section. No “science fiction” section.
And since I like to laugh, eat, go places and because I intend on existing in the future, I realized once again: this is clearly not the section for me.
I breathed a sigh of relief as I affirmed once again that I was doing things right by pursuing the Oreo way of life. I smiled as I thought this…just as a sales clerk approached.
“Did you find what you were looking for?” she asked.
“Yes. I did.” I said, with probably too grand a pause between words.
“Good. We just got in some new books for Juneteenth.”
“June-what?” I asked and laughed as I brushed past her, before adding. “Can you tell me where to find the latest issue of The Baltimore Review. I’m going to start it just after The Thought Gang and just before Gun With Occasional Music.”
When encouragement comes from someone you know, who knows you and your struggles, that’s great. Chances are, that person understands the work you’re doing, how important it is to you and how far a few kind words can send you. It’s a good thing.
When encouragement comes from a stranger, who knows nothing of you, what you’re doing or how important it is to you, that is phenomenal.
Imagine my joy today then, when on the phone, a client of mine inadvertantly praised me when he began complaining with very colorful language about people, who I can only assume from his vernacular, are black.
Sure it stung a little to hear people I may well be related to so maligned, but just before I yelled, I realized what good work I had done. Neither the tone, timbre of my voice nor any references I had made during our year of working together remotely clued him into the fact that I had been born ethnic.
So instead of yelling, I gave myself a pat on the back and settled in for a little more abuse that hurt in all the right ways.
If this has happened to you, congratulations Rockstar, keep up the good work.
Oh, and remember, so as not to blow your cover, it’s a good idea to know some of the jokes that will surely come your way in a conversation like this. I have included some helpful punchlines below.
- The pizza can feed a family of four.
- Put it in a book.
- The lights are out, how can you count them?
- It’s gone
- The cop
- “No honey, it’s because you’re 23.”
- A microphone
- They don’t like any jobs.
- An auctioneer
- “Oh, then I use their last names.”
- From the pepper spray
- Raisin Bran
- Crime prevention
- My bike
- Cocoa Muffs
Swap out that inspirational poster for these bad boys and watch productivity soar.