Friday, January 30, 2009

a b c d...

In the past week, I've somehow ended up with a part-time job that starts on Monday. For three nights a week, I'll be tutoring some of my Saturday kids in reading and math. I've talked in the past about how I feel overwhelmed by the need to do more and this just happened to work out so that I can do something more intensive and one-on-one. Some of the kids are ahead of others, but all of them are still behind.

Last night, I worked with one of my kids who's throwing gang signs in every photo I have of him. He doesn't want to be there at all, but as we were going through the alphabet and reading through a first reader book, he got really into it because he could see how everything worked together for the first time.

I can't imagine getting through life without being able to read and can't remember a time in life when I wasn't able to. I hope that the things that opened up my world will open up theirs as well.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

i hate you chris cornell.

I used to think the Rolling Stones and Johnny Rotten were the primo example of embarrassment in the music world, but I think Chris Cornell has them beat at this point.

Being a grunge kid in high school a few years after the whole thing had died, working back from the horrendous radio rock that permeated growing up in Parma and driving around with your friends to "X-treme" radio, I found my sound in my dad's record collection and the four big Seattle bands (Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Pearl Jam). My dad and I used to listen to Soundgarden together and this was one of our favorite songs.

From there, I started listening to massive amounts of college radio and became a huge fan of the more obscure Northwest acts. I was totally that kid who wore chucks and thermals and flannel and did artwork to the sounds of the Screaming Trees and tried to learn all of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs on the vintage electric guitar I bought because it looked like Kurt Cobain's Jag.

When I think of my senior prom, I don't think about the bad top 40 they played there, I remember driving there listening to Mudhoney, debating the merits of Joy Division, and shouting out requests for Slayer and Rush from our chairs even though all the music had been pre-picked by the powers that be. When I think of my high school prom, I think of "Touch Me I'm Sick" rather than something more romantic and sappy.

My tastes have diversified since I was 18, thanks to friends and roommates who turned me on to world music, good hip-hop and soul, but when any overplayed 90's classic comes on the radio, I always end up rocking out.

I picked up some cassettes when I was in Columbus, namely Living Colour's first album, U2's Achtung Baby, and Soundgarden's 'Superunknown' which have been getting loads of rotation in the Sexy Saturn when it's not 'The Low End Theory'), but this newest shenanigan by Chris Cornell almost makes me want to forget he was part of that band. Good grief.

EDIT: So Youtube is getting rid of any uploads of this song and that's probably a good thing for the sake of humanity.
Dude, you used to be in a band that was actually pretty awesome. Now you're that creepy old guy in the club. You could have aged gracefully like Greg Dulli or Mark Lanegan, or heck, even Robert Plant, but nooooo... you thought working with Timbaland was a great idea. Seriously, the wrath of the nonexistent metal gods needs to smite you right now.

grrr... snow

It wasn't getting out of work yesterday that was bad, it was trying to get there this morning. When I came home, the streets weren't plowed, so I eased myself into a space in front of my double and figured I was all good. It wasn't until this morning when I went to scrape off my car that I realized there was about four inches of tightly packed snow underneath which made moving my car pretty much impossible. So I'm digging it out with an ice scraper as all these trucks and SUV's are driving by and getting frustrated for what I feel is no good reason.

Thankfully, my wonderful roommate gave me a ride to work. I wasn't even super late, and I'll figure out the whole getting home part later.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

a kitten named drama

I was driving home from work yesterday when I saw a car had crashed into the fence at the bottom of the hill on west 65th. There were three girls standing outside the wreck, none of whom looked old enough to drive, and one explained that their crackhead neighbor up the street got high and rear-ended them and driven off and they definitely did not want to call the police.

The one girl's mom shows up and they start cussing each other out. The mom threatens to beat her down but the girl says she'd better not because there's other people here, gesturing to me and the young mom with two kids in the car who stopped to be sure everything was okay. Her mom takes the keys and says she'll claim that she was the one who was driving and I go my separate way, realizing that my life is really not all that messed up.

Dropped off some food for the family of one of my kids last night. Met her dad and her older cousin Jamal who introduced us to his pet kitten named Drama because he says that he always has a little drama around him all the time.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I stopped by the library to pick up some stuff I ordered the other night. I'm waiting in line and these three middle school kids are freaking out because some other kid threatened to jump one of them for his mp3 player. The security guy there tells them to shut up but the guy next to me in line gives them some good advice and such.

I get my newest batch of music and I'm walking to the car when this scuzzy guy comes up behind me and starts asking me to help him. It's not like I have never been asked for money or whatever, but this just set off every red flag imaginable and I ran for my car (thankful for the door opener on my key ring), locked it, and pulled out as fast as I could. Once I turned and ran, he took off too.

As I was driving away, I felt a twinge of unnecessary guilt but that was quickly replaced with anger at being marked as an easy target or someone easy to intimidate. If you really needed help, there were all sorts of people in there and the last person you would need to ask would be a young solitary female walking to her car in a dark parking lot. And I resent that I am ultimately so vulnerable and that I always have to watch my back.

playlist 1/27/09

marvin gaye - t plays it cool
cut chemist - the garden
madlib (yesterday's new quintet) - street talkin'
digable planets - blowin' down
cibelle - deixa
emmanuel jal - elengwen
common - 6th sense
mexican institute of sound - drume negrita
otto - bob (brazil classics, v.7)
dragons of zynth - anna mae
twilight singers -i'm ready
viva voce - let's bend light
team sleep - ever (foreign flag)
boubacar traore - diarabi
erykah badu - in love w/ you
aterciopelados - pendulo
les nubians - voyager
the force 7 - asiko mi ni
juca chaves - take me back to piani
curtis mayfield - ain't no love lost
momojo - cabidela
john coltrane - a love supreme, pt 1: acknowledgement

Monday, January 26, 2009


Didn't end up going to Detroit, ended up staying here and catching up with people that I haven't hung out with in too long.

Did stop home to see my family and help out with some wedding planning for my sister before heading down to hang out with the kids, who I haven't seen in a couple weeks now. It was a good thing I stayed in Cleveland this weekend, because we were shorter on volunteers than usual and one of the kids just took off and ran away. He came back, thankfully, but not before I'm running down to Lorain Avenue hoping that he hasn't gotten too far.

I know that what we're doing is really good and important but I feel like I really don't know what I'm doing. The language barrier is huge and I don't know what life is like the other six days of the week when I don't see the kids. They're dealing with a lot more than I could ever imagine, and I guess I wish I knew that it was doing some good helping these kids get some footing instead of it just being something that I feel good about doing.

I don't feel like I have the resources I need, we don't have the extra people to help that we need. A lot of the kids need some one-on-one work and when you've got two or three volunteers for 25 kids, it's just not possible to even try and do that. I don't know how to communicate because of the language barrier, but I'm ordering a State Department course in Kirundi through the library so hopefully that will help out some.

A friend of mine that used to teach is hooking me up with some of her old school supplies, but we need people who will show up to use them.

Friday, January 23, 2009

watching the clock.

Tonight: retrieving my camera that I left behind in Columbus (and was mailed back by my uncle) and heading out to the east side to catch up with a good friend who just got back from India.

Tomorrow... either roadtripping to Detroit or hanging out in my fair city. I don't make plans. Plans just happen, and they tend to be better than anything I try to do.

A nap might be nice too.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

off the groove.

I am a chronic early riser, and sleeping in late is somewhere between the hours of 8-9:30am. So having a change in my schedule where I come in second shift every now and again really messes with me.

But getting to sleep in that extra bit, chill, clean the apartment, watch the Bad Brains DVD I got from the library... that was nice.

Still need 3 cups of coffee to get going though. I think this means that I'm addicted.

color lines

Despite the absurdity of the previous post, I've actually been pretty serious the past couple days but unable to articulate anything that would be worth sharing.

I've been having really good conversations the past couple days, grappling with history and its implications. I think part of this was actually doing MLK-related things the past couple days instead of treating it as another day off just like Memorial Day or Labor Day where you really don't think about the meaning at all and use it to sleep in.

Watching my roommate play in the orchestra and thinking about how someone like Nina Simone could be rejected from a conservatory because of discrimination just a few decades ago. Looking at the exhibits at the Western Reserve Historical Society with some friends, seeing flyers protesting segregation and photos of people marching in the streets. Me and the roommate were talking last night about how all these problems are still here, but we don't say as much and had no sufficient answers. We talked about how we wanted to sacrifice the way that others before us have, but we're not sure how. A friend of mine wonders today why Michael Vick got such a bad rap but all those police who used attack dogs and fire hoses to harm people are let off the hook.

In the meantime, we are praying, living out our lives with the love of God, and taking steps in the right direction every chance we get, trying to pull each other up instead of complaining or dragging each other down. When I watched Obama's speech, I wasn't inspired the way Hollywood people were, but I did feel like I've been on the right track with the decisions I've been making and the way I choose to live my life. I know that I'm not perfect and there's a lot I need to learn and so much that needs to be done.

Those days weren't that far away from us, and I am thankful that we value each other for who we are and not where we came from or where we grew up. I am thankful that we haven't let the loaded connotations of our local geography get in the way of us hanging out, because otherwise I'd be missing out on so many beautiful and amazing things like this summer photo from last year that I took on one of our graffiti adventures.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

playlist 1/20/09

goodie mob - free
regina carter - higher ground
pinback - unknown track
martina topley-bird - too tough to die
U2 - love and peace or else
steel pulse - handsworth revolution
curtis mayfield - give me your love
digable planets - art of easing
people under the stairs - outrun
daniel lanois - sketches
my morning jacket - it beats 4 u
d'angelo - africa
tribe called quest - can i kick it?
breakestra - how do you really feel
dj spooky w/ saba saba - uganda
califone - pink & sour
amadou & mariam - coulibaly
the clash - pressure drop
bad brains - leaving babylon
fugazi - shut the door
jurassic 5 - quality control
beck - earthquake weather
bajofondo - baldosas mojados
funkadelic - friday night, august 14th / i wanna know if it's good to you

Friday, January 16, 2009

Things that are awesome.

Good friends who chill you out and make you laugh and come over to the other side to hang even when the weather's bad.

The music collection at Cleveland Public Library.

The Columbus cousins that I'll be visiting this weekend.

Free museum admission on Monday.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I took off a little early yesterday because I got sick, and I picked up the 3:40 rapid back to the west side.

As we get to the West Boulevard stop, I hear a scuffle behind me and this woman is yelling that someone stole her phone. The guy and his friends are already up the steps and out the door before anyone really responds. She's borrowing someone else's phone and keeps telling everyone that she has a plane to catch. I understand why she's frantic and demanding but she also looks like an easy target. Most of the kids are laughing as she gets off and the older people just look irritated that they had to wait.

I wonder how we all got so cold.

There's a kid behind me who I see every morning on my bus. He's on his phone telling someone about how he just got kicked out of school but it wasn't his fault and is smirking at the woman while saying to his friend "they're probably all the way down Madison by now. She's not gonna get her phone back." I know that he's right.

Me and the kid get off at the same stop. He's still laughing about the woman and saying she had it coming and that he knows who the guy was who stole her phone but he's not gonna snitch.

I'm thinking about both of them when I get to my car. I saw this whole situation go down and I didn't act at all because I honestly didn't know what to do. It's not like I have anything to say to her, and someone already let her use their phone, it's not like I'm going to chase this guy down West 98th.

I'm not really sure why I'm still thinking about this. I guess it was my lack of response that bothered me just I can't imagine what a logical response would be since I didn't even see who did it and only heard his description. I guess it's the next in any number of times I've seen something go down and either looked the other way or, in other situations, got out of the way as much as possible.

In some ways, this is common sense, but in others, it seems like this is the reason that things can get as bad as they are, when we don't do anything when we should because it's not convenient, not worth the trouble, or it doesn't seem to do any good.

playlist 1/13/09

One of the CD players was down and so was one of the computers so I should've pulled more vinyl. I was starting to wonder if people had stopped listening because my Internet listeners evaporated and I wondered if I had gone into overkill with the afrobeat kick I've been on. Anyways, I got two requests this morning so I didn't feel so bad.

And I forgot how much I like Portishead.

portishead - sour times / roads
ataxia - the sides
mark lanegan - out of nowhere
mission of burma - dirt (live)
the clash - police on my back
the funkees - akula
alice coltrane - blue nile
malatu astatqe - netsanet
jorge ben - ponta de lanca africano
nitty gritty - hog in a me minty
scotty - draw your breaks (harder they come soundtrack)
augustus pablo - lama lava
tuatara - dreamscape
southland singers - trouble all around
bill laswell - babylon site (request)
aricia mess - tentei
damien rice - 9 crimes (request)
the cure - pictures of you
twilight singers - last temptation / love
david usher - st. lawrence river

Monday, January 12, 2009

love is clockwork and cold steel, fingers too numb to feel...

Weekend in almost-hibernation. Finally met some of my neighbors. Thankful I didn't have to drive anywhere. Too nervous to drive with all the slush and ice. Massive block on the creative front is frustrating even though I did make some progress. Starting to figure out what you do as a bridesmaid when your sister is getting married. Drank a lot of tea, listened to music, chilled out.

I don't mind this whole winter thing as much as I thought I would.

Friday, January 9, 2009

almost unplugged

It's always interesting trying to explain how you're perfectly happy without Internet access or cable TV at your apartment.

To be honest, not having Internet bothered me at first, but now it feels liberating in a way. I'm in front of a computer all day so I have no desire to be near one when I'm home.

I come home and it makes me read, it makes me create, it makes me converse in a way that I hear someone's voice. It's a good thing.

Tycho Brahe was THE MAN

Crazy astronomers.

While a student, Tycho lost part of his nose in a duel with rapiers with Manderup Parsbjerg, a fellow Danish nobleman. This occurred in the Christmas season of 1566, after a fair amount of drinking, while Tycho, just turned 20 years old, was studying at the University of Rostock in Germany. Attending a dance at a professor's house, he quarreled with Parsbjerg. A subsequent duel (in the dark) resulted in Tycho losing the bridge of his nose. From this event Tycho became interested in medicine and alchemy.

For the rest of his life, he was said to have worn a realistic replacement made of silver and gold, using a paste to keep it attached. Some people, such as Fredric Ihren and Cecil Adams have suggested that the false nose also had copper.

Tycho was said to own one percent of the entire wealth of Denmark at one point in the 1580s and he often held large social gatherings in his castle. He kept a dwarf named Jepp (whom Tycho believed to be clairvoyant) as a court jester who sat under the table during dinner.

Pierre Gassendi wrote that Tycho also had a tame elk, and that his mentor the Landgrave Wilhelm of Hesse-Kassel (Hesse-Cassel) asked whether there was an animal faster than a deer. Tycho replied, writing that there was none, but he could send his tame elk. When Wilhelm replied he would accept one in exchange for a horse, Tycho replied with the sad news that the elk had just died on a visit to entertain a nobleman at Landskrona. Apparently during dinner the elk had drunk a lot of beer, fallen down the stairs, and died.

got a gut feeling...

I talked to my dad last night and evidently I've been getting all sorts of letters sent to my parents' address from lawyers who want to be my best friend and help me cash in and claim some kind of victimhood. I talked to my friend's lawyer yesterday and gave him the statement so that they could work on his claim, which is fine, because he's the one with the car that's smashed up, but then he starts feeling me out and smells a personal injury lawsuit waiting to happen. I was getting the bad vibes (I tend to trust these, they've almost never failed me) and he seemed shady as anything.

after talking to my dad and then my uncle who's in the insurance business, I'm not going to bother with the other. After a round of jury duty when I was 19, I don't have a lot of respect for ambulance chasers.

I just don't feel right about it even though technically there's nothing immoral or wrong about it either. I know that's what insurance companies are for, but I walked away from this accident with a stiff back I could have gotten after spending all day at Cedar Point and a black eye that is gone now. I'm not even emotionally traumatized. I'm more cautious on the road, sure, but I can drive I-90 without having a panic attack. I don't want to sue anyone or try to get something out of this because it's money I didn't earn and I feel that by doing so I would be perpetuating something that's gotten pretty messed up about my country.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

playlist 1-6-09

erykah badu - penitentiary philosophy
gnarls barkley - who's gonna save my soul
d'angelo - spanish joint
celestine ukwu - okwukwe na nchekwube
kittu - baby let's dance together (bollywood)
soul coughing - super bon bon
morcheeba - on the rhodes again
the verve - rolling people
oumou sangare - djorolen
cat power - cross bones style
his name is alive - your cheating heart
alice russell - someday
dorothy ashby - games
malatu astake - asmarina
don isaac ezekiel combination - amalinja
amadou & mariam - c'est comme ca
joe strummer & the mescaleros - bummed out city
the clash - one more time
U2 - the fly
wanda sa - meditacao
randy watson experience - morning bell
folk implosion - no need to worry

I lost my playlist from last week but here's a smattering of what I played.

the roots w/ roy ayers - proceed
tribe called quest - we got the jazz
kid koala - third world lover
shiffai - never forget
roy hargrove w/ d'angelo - i'll stay
funkadelic - you and your folks, me and my folks
jurassic 5 - break
common - the light
tricky - joseph
femi kuti - beng beng beng
althea & donna - uptown top ranking
cafe tacuba - tengo todo
various 60's era African vinyl
his name is alive - this world is not my home
tanya donnelly - heart of gold (neil young cover)
REM - orange crush
king tubby - meets the rockers uptown

Monday, January 5, 2009

starting it off right...

New Year's Eve was not as epic as it probably was for some, as me and the roommate came home from work too tired to think about going out anywhere. So we had a couple people over, picked up some pomegranate 7-up because there was no more sparkling grape juice, and watched a Bollywood movie.

I had taken the previous day off to hang out with Ryan and one of his awesome friends so I was ready for a chill night.

Hung out on New Year's Day with the family and the future in-laws. My dad had Friday off so we went down to Hoopples to hear Glenn Schwartz play. I've always heard he was an amazing guitarist and the preaching isn't going to bother me as much as it would some, so we finally satisfied our curiosity.

When we got there, he'd just started, and was whispering hymns and old blues tunes into the microphone, crazy preaching about repentance, the blood of Jesus, and loose women and how we've polluted the earth with our cars, but as he got going, it was amazing to watch him shred away as he climbed up on his amp and dragged the strings of his guitar across the signs hanging from the wall. We watched his first set, but then he started ranting about women and Dad and I figured we'd quit while we were ahead. Still, I don't know how I went that long without seeing the guy play because it was one of the most powerful things I've ever seen.

Here's David Byrne's film of it last time he came through.

I still haven't processed that night completely, it reminded me of walking into a short story by Flannery O'Connor where everyone involved is messed up in one way or another but there's something kind of redemptive about the whole thing in spite of ourselves.

Friday, we went to Oberlin and found cool jewelry and hung out with my friend Naomi, and I got to see her baby girl for the first time. We came back and watched 'Black Orpheus' which was sad as anything especially knowing the original story.

But the ending is beautiful.

The highlight of the weekend though was the birthday party for the kids I hang out with on Saturdays. We had a New Year's/birthday party for them (if you don't know your birthday, you're given January 1 when you go through immigration).

I wasn't sure what to expect, but it ended up being over 200 people, between the volunteers and refugee families from two different churches on the west side, seemingly everyone in this city from that tiny country.

my first time enjoying skewers of goat meat fresh off the grill

The kids love it too:

We did games, and they made us all this food, and two pinatas got destroyed, but the best part was watching the kids get to sing.

Click on this one to watch


I'm still in awe. 2009 has started way more interestingly than I ever dreamed.