Tuesday, June 28, 2016

And I started Singing the Blues . . .

Before she died, you could hear squeals of delight in her soon to be 50 and fabulous days. We had clashing views because I would continually tell my friend that even though she was not 50 yet, she was already fabulous so stop giving into the border of aging’s narrow confines. Yet, she was not as immersed in the culture of the day as it would have seemed and took life in her own terms.

I started singing the blues when she passed and I blamed myself. She had been going through ripples of transformation and if only I had seen the signs, I could have stretched my reach of help by bringing her to a nurse. It is crazy how we can pay serious attention to everything else in life but our own health.

We used to rely on each other for advice. She sat right next to me at work. I used to tell her all my problems and I would listen to all of hers and we would often behave like kids when laughing out loud at all the oddities we would see around us.

We often say we will not work our lives away until we are too old, but that was our story. We slaved at our desks, went home for the few hours we were there to spend with family and never shutting down for the night because all we would do was think about how much work we did not finish at work, just to turn back around and go back to slave our day away again. We never came away impressed because our days were so mundane. We got excited at the wonderful aroma of finished tasks. We always talked about our goals and the things we wanted to do off the job scene but never got to them and would often aim for another time.

I started singing the blues the day after Independence day weekend when we were all to convene back at our aisles where piles of work persuaded us to sit and not do anything else but type and research. She didn’t show up that day nor the next. The third day, we entered into a different world when she did not show up again and all I remember was receiving a text back after inquiring about her whereabouts when someone else responded with “she is not ready to talk yet.” Not ready? What?

Out across the canal sits a tranquil existence where there is peace beyond knowing. We simply absorb the mysteries of it but she knows it because she lives there. I remember the days she would sit at her desk chanting Bob Marley tunes and now we are here gathered at her living tomb stone where she lies speechless. I remember her easy flowing attitude and her instant search for answers to the pain that suddenly throbbed in her shoulder. Had it captured my attention that it was one of the many signs of a stroke, I could have saved her life. My mind raced ever since with the idea that it was my fault.

I know the value of sleep now because I hardly ever get any. I sit most nights, with wakeful eyes, pouring my heart out into a journal. Perhaps you can say that I have not tried hard enough to close my eyes and drift away into peaceful slumber. Confetti will probably explode into the antiquely dressed oasis that makes up the four corners of my room on the day that sleep finally catches me. The smell of dew in the morning always makes me realize that another day has met me after going sleepless through the night. And I think about how she would wow her audience of coworkers with her stories of St Kitts. So full of laughter she would leave us that the little break from our tasks was like going out for ice cream with sprinkles on it during the course of the arduous workday. But without any explanation, she just never came back and her energy still stays graffitied in our hearts.

Sunglasses perched my nose as I strolled off with my eyes welling from the funeral home. She was on her path with that cool, confident strut she walked with, to the victory in Jesus’ arms in heaven. We were on the path to the office with an empty desk, where she once sat right across from me. No more exchanging pleasantries.  She was no longer there. Just a thought and a memory. And I started singing the blues because there would no longer be a break for that ice cream chatter she would have for us to refresh our page. All that was left were broken pieces of the cone, littering through our minds where we would relive the stories in clusters. And a soothing voice came and said, it was her time and it started to appease my mind. As peace took control, the E groove ended. As always, she sent a gift of healing but now, from 50 feet or more fabulous, above. The squeals of delight will never be forgotten. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Fine Rewind

A Fine Rewind (A Poem)
By Stephanie Jeannot

On a fine spring day,
war wounded from battles
with math at a long day of school

while lugging a heavy bag of books
with assignments to complete,
we scrambled in the nick of time 
to catch a bus
like we usually did
and keeping up with the trends of the way things were
It was no different today.

Dinah always let out a big, hearty laugh
because our strength enabled us
to catch the bus ready to speed off from our stop.
The door reopened and we walked up the bus steps
like we usually did;
and keeping up with the trends of the way things were.
It was no different today.

We got to the top of the staircase,
pulled out our bus passes and showed it the driver.
As usual the driver looked at it and then looked at us.
But something different happened this time.
We didn’t make the cut of public transportation riders
who were at liberty to ride on his bus.
We were dropped from consideration to be in his ride
and so were all the other
caramel and chocolate pigmented people
To whom he told to get off of his bus.
And keeping up with the trends of the way things were.
We listened to our elder and got off.

We decided to pound to pavement
to Avenue L where the bus would normally let us off.
I was too young to understand what happened
and thought it was my fault.
Maybe I did something wrong.
All I remember was making a mental note
of what left a bluesy chord in my heart.
But the drone didn’t last long.
Something different happened today.

I reached the corner of Ocean Parkway and Avenue L
and keeping up with the trends and the way things were,
I stood there waiting 
for the light to change.
A Rottweiler walked up 
into my personal space
and started sniffing me like I was his next meal.
There I was taking the alternative approach
of walking as opposed to the bus
from which I was rejected
and now, fear was growing exponentially in me because of some stupid dog;
almost as equivalent as the white driver to the black passengers. 
It felt inauthentic and I did not like it
and my fear of dogs was no different today.

It felt like a dream when my feet transformed
into weld racing wheels
And I started dashing my way from him
like Lighting McQueen at 330MPH.
The work I was engaged in was of a different nature today.
Instead of my normal, walk home with my friends,

I was stomping my feet
like Stanley Biwott at the 2015 NYC Marathon.
I was trying to keep the dog’s teeth off my body
and all this running was so not my style
and somehow I changed the trend
 from the way things were to the way they became.
I was searching for an escape point that bore my name.
It was like being in a dream trying to find the end of the maze.
An end to this fear; an end to the prejudice. 
All the power that was running through my veins
that lead me to the open door that stood ajar for me.
An open door of freedom; a safe zone of humanity. 
Greg held it open and imagine my content.
A change from the downward spirit the bus driver left
and the memory of the crazy day of which’s memory was kept
and keeping up with the trends of the way things were
my brain scanned everything 
and the thoughts constantly turned.
It was no different today; no mind quietness.
Except for the one bad and good thing that I did not expect;
I got thrown off a bus because I was black
I was prompted to run like I was prompted to write. 
But I won the race against a measly dog, one of the many stories in my life. 

Who knew I would?

Friday, June 17, 2016

His Trampling Feet: A Short Story

All I could hear was heavy feet running across the hard wooden floors through the shallow walls that separated my room from the hallway. He was running like a track star in the midst of spring doing a 400-meter dash.  I heard his energy but it could not magnetize my corpse-like body trying to awaken itself from its peaceful slumber. My ears however, picked up the sound, opened my eyes and the words, “why you doing so much running,” came blaring out of my horn.

I would not have been able to appreciate the music of his gentle toes chiming through my walls a year ago at this time when moments were spent twisting and turning at the idea of having to punch another time card. I would have already made my routine stroll through town to reel in my day at the factory. Still can’t believe that I had just made the age of being able to put a cup of tonic to my mouth without someone saying you are too young to drink.

After years of plans foiling due to overdrinking, quickly developed friendships with new mixed drinks, blackouts and passing out only to awaken to dream-like situations where I lied with tubes all over my body in hospital gurneys, I arrived at the moment where with sobriety, I sat at my desk eager for a change. I was pleased with the money that could pay for the empty alcohol bottles that made up my trophy case but not for the straight and narrow situation that enabled me to create the living that I had made.

His trampling feet were like a direct line of energy that boosted me out of bed into a different world. His smile was like an open channel leading me to the silky blue sea, splashing her water over my body on the most humid day of summer. He embraced me with all his beautiful youthfulness in the merry hour with more soulful love than Luther Vandross ever was able to sing into his music. And though my body laid there like someone whose back went out and was unable to stand up on his or her own, I became keenly aware that it was time for me to stand up and face the day.

Talk about whipping a tambourine in rhythm. My drum never had a problem waking up before, only to decline my portion of wakefulness while on the bus approaching the woods where I would have to be fighting with piles of paperwork to make my micromanaging boss smile. I hated his philosophical approach. To me, he was like a hair pin keeping my twists together that just kept digging into my scalp and after a while became annoying. My spirit started losing altitude. I was drifting out of the happiness that once preoccupied the constructs of my heart. When people were talking about staying after to get more work done, I was looking forward to sharing my next drink with whoever was willing to collect another drama-filled story about what happened during my slow upward crawl of the day. They stumbled home late with extra money in their pockets and I barely made it home because I was so drunk that my blackouts arrived unannounced and I could not even tell cab drivers where to take me.

His smile reminded me of the peace of a dove. It was so innocent, it pacified me like rain to the soil of the earth. The peace of his voice, drew this comfort in me that even sleep couldn’t provide. It was like heaven above was beaming at me and his gentle touch was just enough to allow me to accept my place.

I was racing through another client’s paperwork, trying to rush through the traffic of emails to beat the deadline of what was said to be the turnaround time for its completion. I was so focused on the situation that I had not seen the lady in front of me, packing her boxes to bid her farewell. Every little detail of my client’s situation held the grasp of my attention. The noise of rummaging through her stuff couldn’t even distract me to look up to see what had been going on around me. And then it happened.  My manager hit the thick pane of the glass of my office so we could engage in an open-flow conversation. The conversation however remains a collector’s item in my memory. 

The continuity of my employment had been declined and I was being layed-off. It was not that I had little to respond with, but this was a moment that I had been preparing for. While the other lady was still packing her four boxes from the life she had spent there, I had already started foreseeing my retirement and took things home day by day. While she was springing wells from her eyes, I felt a sense of relief and smiled. I had a bag full of things and my heart beat rushed me out of there onto my next chapter.

Many would call it a hard luck story after years of maturing from my drunken youthful days, to being under construction and now this vintage and experienced Afro-Latina being. Some may come into this situation, miles away from the thought that they may not be sitting at that same desk they had sat in for years. Forever is on the table for them and job security is in their confidence. They concentrate on the music of what has been, never considering that the drum pattern might ever change. But never underestimate the power of a good song and dance. The best effects of it is in the moments when the sound changes.

All I could hear was heavy feet running across the hard wooden floors through the shallow walls that separated my room from the hallway. He was running like a track star in the midst of spring doing a 400-meter dash.  I heard his energy but it could not be magnetized to my corpse-like body trying to awaken itself from its peaceful slumber. My ears however, picked up the sound, opened my eyes and the words, “why you doing so much running,” came blaring out of my horn. He became my rise and shine alarm after all the calm of REM. I had remmed about doing my own thing from the moment my blossom stemmed. And then it happened like I had daydreamed back then. "Darn that dream," I said and wiped the dew from my eyes that my calm waters had dampened.

And then he opened the door and awakened me to life. Tracking it like the star that he was and telling me that he had been running because he wanted me to play his game with him. All I saw was this different world. All I envisioned behind the new door that had opened was a rung with my name on it that I started climbing behind the door they had closed that left a vacancy of time in my schedule. All I heard was my name being chimed and a vision for the rest of my life. All I remembered was putting the bottle down to consume the natural high of the next chapter that I’d rave and sing about over the airwaves of life in a very sober way. And all I know was that his heavy feet on the hard wooden floors, like music to my ears, gave me a reason to get up and grind. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Recycling New York City

Are you someone who lives in the life of the luxuries of things that you no longer use and are unwilling to let go of? Have you ever envisioned the possibilities of getting rid of some of those items that are just sitting as old, dusty furniture that you never use?

Recycling might be an authentic approach to making a world of difference in your living arrangements. Especially if you have items that have been sitting untouched for over a year. In reality, these things are completely ineffectual in firing your heart. Not having them would not diminish the peace in your world. But perhaps they could be an essential part of changing somebody else’s.
I attempted it fearlessly, retiring some of the many things I had collected over the years and allowed others to become as emotionally connected to them as I once had been. It turned out to be a stepping stone for me, clearing the clut and making room for my transition to a different phase of life.
Recycling actually can change the melody of your song. Recycling can take on a lot of different definitions in your lexicon. It depends on how you look at it and how you decide to carry on your interest of trying out this situation.

For instance, the old high line train that opened in 1934 in New York City and ran from Spring Street to 34th Street, has now been transformed into a park where people can walk, see cool recycled trees turned into cars, recycled rails along the path and take on New York City, from a higher level. 

Not only is the seating and 

beautiful scenery refreshing in this 

open expanse, but the siting of the 

old train tracks mingling with the 

grass and flowers that have been 

planted on this cool walk path. 

That is how you recycle the terraqueous.

Another example of a cool way to recycle is the Stop n Swap program that has been making melody in people’s hearts around New York City. You have something you want to give up but are not so sure you want to donate to those many people willing to pick up your old bags of clothes, bring it there and provide for the wants and the needs of others. 

I was surprised by the fact that I walked in, gave my old books, cds and clothes and was able to get books that I never expected I would ever have. I am thankful for the person who wanted to get rid of all their Jerome Kern sheet music books among many others because they became such a valuable part of my life. Somebody else’s junk becomes someone else’s treasure trove. That is what I call truly recycling clothing, books, appliances and all the many trinkets you've picked up along the years. 

If you are ferociously protective of everything you have, then take it one step at a time until you can let go of your old, unused things with a melancholy groove. But just remember that sometimes when you are cleaning out, you are making room for new blessings; so don't be afraid of letting go and be ready for those blessings when they come. 

Talk about Free in New York. Recycling at it's best!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Musical Escape

It’s been almost like a centuries old conflict that you have been having with yourself to simply stagger away from the focus of all your yesterdays, todays and tomorrows to escape all concepts of time, just for a moment. You can’t seem to amputate the worries out of your system, even though your attitude is growing numb and stale. The thought that you need to work and work resonates deeply within and all of a sudden tiredness gangs up on you and there is nothing you can do to defeat it.  You must surrender to the tides of rest and relaxation in order to make your life more manageable.

Take a sunny escapade to a foreign land with the Caribbean sun echoing its light everywhere. That’s what Betty Carter said and it seemed to fire up my heart. My foot etched into the sand and joy is being experienced a-la-carte. Okay! It’s imagined but, Isn’t it amazing how music can somehow give you a vacation from even the most trying situations. You listen and in the moment, you forget about all the crazy things going on in your mixed-up world and boom, you are in a safe place, sipping the hypnotic taste of a solemn groove.

No need to stay caught up on your sorrows. Take a journey away from your problems right now with music and experience the pacifying sounds from an emotional distance. Nothing wrong with taking a break from the stress while life is happening.  Getting lost in a song is an authentic way of relaxing your mind.

I am a firm believer of dusting your hard shell off while ripening and maturing so that you don’t go rotten and wilt before experiencing the sun. Let your heart laugh. Plant positivity within by letting the tide of relaxing sounds wash away some of the residue of stress. Turn on the radio and there you have it; therapy. 

Music is a vacation and the parts that make you sing are the post card. Stamp it with a smile and send it to anyone who needs one. I bet you will not only lighten up someone else’s, but you might surprise someone who only knows you in your weighed down mode. Music can have that effect on you. 

Maybe you will find that kind of comfort in my music. Visit my website to hear some of my original songs that I have written and more at http://www.jnotemusic.com

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Ramblings of an Angry Driver

I am coming to terms with my truth. There is little hope left for me to open my arms wide and wrap them around the idea that bicycles and vehicles are supposed to share the same roads. I tried to get with the scope of it over and over again but still, you must understand my negative reaction to this craziness happening on the road. I want to get where I am going without any nonsense coming my way. It is not enough that I have to deal with always-in-an-accident taxi drivers, cutting me off in the center lane (just seconds of hitting me) to go to the far right lane to pick up a new passenger. 

I can admit that not everyone needs an expensive car that costs more to park a month than insurance. From the moment you purchase a car, its payment after payment after payment as if driving were an everyday need in New York City when both the buses and subways run 24/7. I swear I think that the city aims at drivers when trying to find ways to raise more money for construction jobs that always seem to be happening in the same exact spots for years without end.  Am I the only one complaining about paying $3 for ten minutes of parking time at 11:40PM at a munimeter that may or may not work? Somehow I think the city is trying to eliminate us drivers one by one; and yet, I still do not think I would surrender to a bicycle.

What I might do is walk more.  I’ve done it. 20 minutes of walking and you are a mile away from where you’ve started. 35 minutes of walking and you could be Downtown Brooklyn from Lower Manhattan. An hour of walking and from Wall street, you could be at 65th and Broadway. That is, if you are not someone who decides that the traffic laws do not matter and you can cross any old time that you feel like it. 
Okay, so what if my vision as a driver has been obscured and I do not see you crossing when the light is green for me? Might take you a few months of learning how to walk again before you get to that original destination if you get hit; especially if I start using a bicycle instead of a car and my clumsy, non-riding anal abyssmalistic-self starts riding like a person who needs training wheels, hits you while riding at 100 miles an hour, through signs, traffic lights and right in front of moving cars and perhaps into you.

Maybe I should just permanently park my car, stay home and do everything on-line. That would solve everything! OF course I am just crazy rambling. 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Driving Wild Poking

What is it that pokes at you? For me it is the road. I am an angry driver. I hate traffic and I can’t stand getting on the road with inconsiderate drivers who only think about themselves when they start cruising down 50 mile-hour roads at 100 speed without care of how close they are to the cars they are dipping and diving in front of just to profile on the road.  

I will admit, I might be one of those people lightning bolting it but most likely it would be because I would be 30 minutes away from a job that requires my presence in 15 and I plan on making it. Thank God that the only sirens I heard were of the roaring winds rapping at my window.

But this story is not about my crazy, mixed-up ways on the road.  Like I told you, I experience road rage every day. I do not know how to avoid it and it seems to get me every time. Music soothes it a little bit but when a driver just cuts me off without even signaling, all my loud, behind closed window singing comes to a halt and I’m all ready to curse, honk my horns like a wild woman and start world war III. But my road rage is not only about the driving styles, it also has to do with texting and driving.

How is it possible. I mean, I am such a clumsy person that trying to just balance myself is often a calamity. But to juggle driving, paying attention to the road and to the video that your cousin just posted on snapchat with the phone in your hand; how is it possible? I’ll admit, I apply makeup at the lights. But once the light turns green, I’m gunning down the road. But I don't do it while my foot is on the gas. 

I’m thinking about all the times I had to suddenly brake quickly because of something on the road that needed my immediate attention. How is that possible when a driver is not focused? Can you actually see bikers who care nothing about traffic laws, lights or signs and just cut in front of you without fear that they might get hit? Sometimes I see these things and as a driver, am left bathing in a sea of confusion.

Before your next log-on, which is always because you are always on, even while driving along with the other crazy texting or on Facebook drivers who are poking their fingers at the keyboard or touchscreens, consider how you as a driver feels when there is traffic for silly reasons. What do I mean by silly? As silly as doing an instant on-line video of your speeding and the accident you just caused is also recorded. When you are in I-mode, your eyes are on nothing else but I and not on the real world. Pay attention!  Acknowledge that these gadgets that we are poking at while sharing the road with other motorists are causing drivers to not communicate with each other while on the road.

Don’t you just hate stupid lane closures that cause a lot of traffic for stupid reasons like your eyes and the driver next to you’s eyes are on the Instagram which disabled you from seeing that bicyclist who thought that the bike lanes were not enough and decided to get on the highway with his bike that has a large baby seat carriage in the front while also texting. What the heck? Why were you poking with your head down looking at the screen and not peeking at your peripheral view? 

Only someone who has a living memory of this picture can give a brief account and recreate it the mind of another. You know darn well, you tried to envision it! Let's band together for safer roads. Put your phone down and drive with your "I" on the road.