A river of ones and zeros
It is getting more and more difficult to write daily entries about nothing. But, I cannot give up. I still have more than 200 days left to go. I am thinking of using some of the remaining days to write an autobiography. It means these posts will be a lot longer. That should give me plenty to write about. A friend of mine posted on social media that some things don't belong on social media. They should remain sacred. I guess that would depend on how one defines what sacred means. The thing that I hold most sacred is the ability to share a story. I don't think that I need to be afraid. What happened in the past has happened. There's no reason for me to hide any of it, unless some of it will cause pain to others or get me into deep trouble. Critics and cynics will say that what I'm doing is narcissistic. I agree with them 100%. What I don't understand is why anyone would be surprised. We are right in the middle of the age of Narcissus. The river in which we see our reflections is made of zeros and ones instead of water but the urge to stare is still just as strong. So, as a true man of the times, I fully embrace the idea of telling it all…well a lot of it all. There are some things I still have to keep to myself.
I was born in Cleveland OH, not so long after the death of Martin Luther King Junior. Given the proximity of my existence and the ending of his, you would think that I would have felt the urgency of his fight much more strongly. That's how successful it was I suppose. By the time I had come along, the era of Jim Crow’s colored's only had been put to an end (on the surface). I never saw the signs, could always drink at any water fountain I chose, and sit where I wanted to sit.
I know my childhood lack of seeing the ills of the world was more a testament to my own naivety. Still, I believe I was a new soul sent to earth to experience things for the first time, or perhaps the 10th time, which is still an infinitesimally small number compared to the eons of the universe. My soul felt new. The world was full of wonder and I wanted to see it all. The chaos and turmoil really didn't mean much to me because it did not feel real. The irony is I grew up in the ghetto where violence was a way of life for many. There was chaos all around me, but, since I was brought up in it, it didn’t seem like chaos.
There was also poverty, at least by American standards. Many times I went for days without eating. I once passed out from hunger on the way to school and a young woman with a mother complex scooped me off the bus floor, gave me a candy bar, and cradled me till I felt better. I remember the warm softness of her bosom pressed against my head and her sweet kind voice telling me how everything was going to be OK. She was right everything turned out just fine. How could it not. I am a warrior, newly forged in the fires of Mars. My name and the month I was born in both pay homage to the God of War. I am a fighter and a survivor. There are many kinds of battles to fight. Although I have been in and won a few knuckle throws in my day, my greatest battle was overcoming the gravitational pull of my environs.
Just before I was born, my parents and grandparents had just come from marching until their feet bled and being pressure hosed in the streets for demanding equal rights. They knew, all too well, the pains of life before the civil rights movement. My Grandfather was in the army. He was held in high regard during World War II for his expertise in the communication technology of the day. To hear him tell it, he was treated like a king and given the finest of everything until it was time for him to come back to America. He struggled for a while to make ends meet. He worked at a car assembly factory where men lost limbs to hungry machines. Eventually, he settled down as a security guard for the city’s convention center. He said to me that it was the only work he was allowed to do. Somehow, he supported a family, bought a home, and kept things together on that security guard salary. He worked that job with a towering dignity, waking up every day with the dawn, until he retired. I don't know when he let go of his dream of being a bigshot communications engineer but in his mind society would never allow it so he settled. My grandmother was from Mississippi. That's the Deep South. She told us of how, from time to time, men would come in trucks and raid the small community they lived in. Sometimes they would kidnap a young black man and he would never be heard from again. Once she told us of someone in the town, perhaps one of her relatives, who was dating a white woman. The white men in the town found out about it, chained him to the back of a truck, and drug him until he was torn dead asunder by the asphalt and gravel of the road.
It made sense, of course, that they would tell me when I was a young boy that white people were the devil and never to be trusted. Something about that sentence never quite sat right with me because I could not reconcile the idea that an entire race of people could be all evil. Of course there were some evil people. Perhaps if I had lived in the time when my parents and grandparents had lived and seen first-hand the complicity of everyone in that society, I might have had a different opinion. How did the switch get throne so that everything changed so drastically overnight. As a child, it seemed to me that the America they spoke of was a different America from a long ago age. I didn't realize then that anything that happens before you were born feels like ancient history even if you we're only a few years old. However, if we look at it from today's perspective, it was only just a few short decades ago. I wrote in a previous post about how shyness was one of my strongest characteristics. Another strong characteristic is this shadow of American racism. It has followed me everywhere, even when I can’t see it sometimes. There's no way that I could tell you a story about myself truthfully and not include this information. Don't be nervous about facing the truth. Do not judge me for not having your sense of the truth. I am recounting the world as I understood it.
Because I was a new soul, I did not feel the darkness of the world. How can you feel something that you don't know. It would have been unrecognizable to me. I knew there was evil. Once in the ghetto neighborhood where I lived, while my two brothers, sister, and I were home alone, a man came to the back window, looked in through the curtains and began to pry the window open with a crowbar. My soul wasn't so new as to not be able to recognize immediately that there was danger. Lucky for us no one was covering the front door. We grabbed our puppy and we ran out of the house and went to a neighbor’s. Before we rang the doorbell, we looked around the corner of the building towards our window. Three or four men were climbing inside. We didn't have anything steal. No one did. The whole entire neighborhood was populated by people who barely had two pennies to rub together. We never found out who the men were even though we had seen their faces. We never knew why they climbed in our window that day. It was things like that that made my mother warn me of the evils of the world.
Despite all the madness and concerns of my elders, I actively sought out unknown places. My new soul wanted to know what foods tasted like that I had not eaten before. I wanted to hear songs that I did not know how to sing. I longed to understand ways of thinking that I could not know unless I went to the places where people had those thoughts. I was like a child not only in physical form but in my entirety.
To be continued…
The photo is a self portrait of my shadow with a flower.