‘big sexy from the church’

Over Thanksgiving, I had the chance to volunteer with Occupy Sandy. While helping out at St. Luke’s Church, I met a pretty phenomenal woman. Her name is Tawana, and no, I don’t think that’s how you spell it.

When I first walked into St. Luke’s last Wednesday afternoon, I was sent to help a woman pack hygiene bags which were being sent out to displaced people. The first thing I noticed about the woman was her size. She was large. The second thing I noticed was her industriousness. She was in charge. Tawana told me that she’d come up with the idea of the bags herself, after noticing several boxes of travel sized toiletries. She sat balancing carefully on a small folding chair, filling Zip Loc bags with soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrush, nail file, and nail polish (Tawana knows her essentials).

I sat down, pleased to help.

“So where do you live?” Tawana asked me.

“Crown Heights.”

“Crown Heights? Isn’t that a bad area?” She gave me a once over. “You don’t look like you would live in a bad area.”

I explained to her how Crown Heights 2012 wasn’t the Crown Heights she’d heard about. Tawana lived in Long Island, and hadn’t spent much time in Brooklyn until now, when she’d decided to help out with the hurricane relief efforts.

It turned out that Tawana was a full-time student, in her last year of a Psychology degree. She was also a full-time mother of four, the oldest being 17 and the youngest being one. This blew my mind. Having a series of children between the ages of baby and college student seems absolutely insane to me, but Tawana did not seem phased.

“They always textin’ me. ‘When you gonna be home?’ ‘I don’t want to eat without you.’”

I was like, “Um, I think they love you.”

She was like, “Mhhhmm.”

I have no concept of how long I was there, but Tawana and I must have packed about 100 bags and talked about everything. Well, Tawana did most of the talking. She liked me, because I laughed at her jokes.

“These other people was looking at me like I was crazy. They just don’t understand my dry sense of humor.”

Luckily, I did. And she was funny. She kept talking about one of the workers who kept coming by.

“He ain’t come by not one time til you got here! I think he like you.”

He kept coming by in an authoritative way, sporting his Occupy faux-hawk proudly. If anything, he was keeping us from doing work.

“He better be glad I’m in a church, because if not…huh.”

I think she meant she would have hurt him very badly. Very badly.

Eventually, Tawana got to the important stuff.

“ALL my kids are virgins.” OOOOOK. I, of course, hadn’t brought up the subject of her children’s sexuality. Even the one-year-old? I wanted to ask. But I dare not go there with TT.

“Good for them,” I said. “That’s great.” What else was I supposed to say?

“Mhm, my oldest son and daughter both said they are going to wait until they are married,” she divulged. “I don’t know where they got that from! Must be the church.” Damn church.

Pretty soon, our shift ended. Tawana said that she liked me and suggested that we get lunch or something. We exchanged numbers, and I imagined that one day she would text me saying she was at the Buffalo Wild Wings in Atlantic Center and I had to come, NOW!

But that wasn’t the end of Tawana. Naaaaw, girl! When I went back to volunteer on Friday, with my boyfriend in tow, I ran into Tawana again. She had told me she’d be there with her kids, and indeed, she was.

“Hey, Tawana!” I said walking up to her. She was in a spaghetti strap and jeans, same as before. It was absolutely freezing in the church, and most people were working with their coats on.

“Oh, hey girl!” Tawana said hugging me.

“This is my boyfriend, David.” David waved.

“Oh, he is white!” she shouted. “Damn, and he got blue eyes!” Always the kicker. “Girl, I don’t normally go that way, but he cute, you better watch out!” David laughed nervously, afraid I imagine.

She pointed out her kids spread throughout the church working, but said that she couldn’t find two of them. I think the baby was among the missing, which was disconcerting, but she didn’t seem worried. Unfortunately, our task that day was not the same as Tawana’s, and the next time I saw her was when she’d herded her children together to go home. We hugged goodbye.

Two days ago, I got a text (unedited):

“Hi love this big sexy from the church how are u and brad pit doing? Well u was on my mind so I wanted to send u a smile :)”

Boy, was I excited! She liked me, she really liked me! I texted her back, saying that I hope she was well and that I’d say ‘hi’ to David for her. I really do hope that Tawana and I stay in touch. She’s resilient, and raunchy, and so much fun. Though on food stamps herself, she understands that there are lots of people right now who needed much more help than she does, and she hadn’t thought twice about giving her time. I want to learn so much more about her; about her kids and her sisters (there are four of them, and they are just like the Braxtons…Tawana is Toni, she assured me). I want to know how she found herself in school with four children. If I don’t hear from her soon, I may have to give ‘big sexy’ a text and suggest that we split an appetizer platter and get our talk on.

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Into The Closet

“Quick, put me in the closet!”

Last night, R. Kelly gave a select audience a sneak peek at the next 12 chapters of his hit nonsensical musical soap opera, Trapped in the Closet. Thanks to my friends Lisa and Andrew, I was given the distinct honor of attending. It was all I’d ever hoped for, and more.

Upon arriving at Landmark Sunshine, where the event was held, our phones were confiscated. To ease the blow, they gave us glasses of wine, so I was fine. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but R. Kelly’s words (plus the images projected on the screen before me) are worth 1 million regular words apiece, so that just would have been too many words.

Finally, we (me and all the white people…there were about six people of color in attendance) all made our way into the theater. Most of the seats were taken, so we were forced to sit in the second row. That’s right, he’d be able to see us! I buttoned the top of my jacket in fear. Soon, he walked out, clad in a black suit and red, leather gloves, because…why not? He also held a half smoked cigar. A Cuban, one might presume. I began to cough.

R. went on to thank us for coming. You’re welcome, R. He told us that Trapped in the Closet was an alien, and he was just an astronaut. He was grateful for the astronauts who’d gone on the journey with him. I was a little lost. Wouldn’t Trapped in the Closet be a planet? Were there actual astronauts involved in this project?

And then, it began. Now I’ll admit, I was less impressed with these chapters than I was with the first (especially the starters or “classics,” as I like to call them). But they were, indeed ridiculous. Aside from stuttering Pimp Lucius and his band of prosties (one of whom is blind, obviously), we get visits from Chuck and Kathy (the main characters), Rosie the Nosey Neighbor and her oldy husband (played by either R. Kelly OR Tyler Perry), super buff ex-con Twon, and a really creepy glass eyed kingpin, whose name I don’t recall. It was action packed, and I was thoroughly entertained, and even impressed by R. Kelly’s vocals. I also enjoyed salty popcorn throughout.

After the screening, R. Kelly reemerged to a screaming audience.

“Be honest!” he said, as white people cheered. “Really, y’all. Be honest. What’d ya think?” Still, white people, and Andrew, and I clapped and said “wooooooo,” as you do.

An E! news correspondant sat down with R. to moderate the Q&A. All of the questions had been submitted prior to the film and were chosen during the screening, so that no one would ask a rouge question like, “why did you pee on that girl-child?”

“Will you sing the first part of Bump ‘n’ Grind with me?” was the first question. Lucky for everyone, the asker was in the front row. Not only was R. ready to sing it, but he invited her to join along. It was magical. Everyone cried.

I don’t remember any of the other questions, as they were fairly tame (figures, as they were selected), but I do distinctly recall R. Kelly saying something that almost made me admire him. Almost.

“I’m just having fun,” he explained about the series. He just went into the studio one day and started messing around. With the help of some cognac and a few of his closest auditioned friends, he’d developed a cultural phenomenon. And he was still going with it. I was in awe. That’s what I want to do, I thought to myself. I want to build a career around silliness. And hold a cigar between my red-gloved fingers. 

Say what you will about R. Kelly. Did he, for a period, have relationships with underage girls. Well, yes. Does his facial hair art sometimes go too far. Certainly. But his parties frequently include “food everywhere…as if the party was catered.” And now, at the age of 45, he has embraced the fact that silly sells, and he’s running with it.

One of the best things I learned during the Q&A is that R. Kelly can only write the ridiculous stories that are Trapped in the Closet in rhyme. I found this intriguing, because I too once went through a period when I could only write in rhyme. I was 6.

Kelly reminded us that he is a “scientist of music,” which I either already knew or don’t understand. Then, he said something amazing…that Trapped in the Closet will be coming to Broadway. It was like an Oprah’s Favorite Things episode. People were screaming. I believe I shouted, and I quote, “Ahhhhhhhhh! Whhhhaaaatttt?”

Finally, R. Kelly had a simple request.

“Will y’all sing ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ with me?” DUH!

So, we sang with him. Me, and the other black girl, and Andrew (who is Asian), and all the white people. My heart was beating. I never thought I’d sing with R. Kelly, and I was sure that if I did, it would be “Move Your Body Like a Snake.” I am so pleased that it was not.

This Friday, IFC will show the first 107 or whatever chapters and 7pm, and at 9pm the next 12 chapters will premiere. I suggest you watch (or wait until the next day, when it’ll all be on YouTube). But fret not, 34 isn’t the end. R. Kelly let us know that he’s got 85 of these babies up his sleeve, and he never plans on stopping. Never.

What the Kids are Listening To

Last week, I went home for a quick ‘hello’ and some large plates of food. It’s nice to go home every once in a while, but suburban life doesn’t suit me in many ways, one of those being car culture. I feel weird just sitting in a car, moving the wheel willy nilly until I arrive at my destination. I’d much rather sit in a crowded, filthy tube full of sneezing people, and then walk through crowded streets of beggars to get from point A to point B.

But one thing I miss about riding in a car is the inescapable exposure to pop music via the radio. For a solid period of my life, I knew 90% of the words to 100% of songs on the radio. I was so good at pop. Now, though, I rely almost solely on Pandora for my music intake, which means I’m getting a lot of Frank Ocean, Yeasayer, and Philip Glass. In that order.

So, when I was at home, I rolled down the windows, kicked up my heels (I always accidentally do that when I’m driving), and listened to some Top 40. Some of the songs were not totally new to me (as I go to the grocery store regularly), but I’d never gotten to fully enjoy them. There were several standouts, so I’ll highlight a few.

1. Alicia Keys has a new song about a female burn victim. I was probably in the car for 2 hours total, over the five days I was home. I took a tally, and I heard the song 722 times. Someone should call 911 if this girl really is “on fire.” If not, stop screaming wolf, Alicia. It’s unbecoming.

OH, I get it! Because he’s wearing two chains…

2. There is a rapper called 2 Chainz, whom I don’t really know, but he has a song out with Kanye, so now I know him. The song is called “Birthday Song,” but this isn’t your grandma’s “Happy Birthday.” The entire time I was home, I thought the chorus lyrics went as follows, “When I die, bury me inside the Gucci sto’. When I die, bury me inside the Louis sto’. All I want for my birthday is a big booty car. All I want for my birthday is a big booty car.” First of all, I’m pretty sure Gucci and Louis Vuitton would not be cool with that. But the second half of the lyrics made perfect sense to me. A big booty car, I figured, was a vehicle with lots of trunk space. I once had a PT Cruiser, and I’ll tell you one thing, I didn’t hate it! But just now, I did a quick search, and there seems to be some discrepancy over the lyrics. Some sites (like rapgenius.com) replace “car” with “ho.” Rude! Some sites (for instance, lyriczz.com) replace it with “call.” Sigh. “Ho” is the obvious choice, but I have a feeling 2 Chainz (if that’s his real name) probably wants one of those every day. And I’m not sure what a “big booty call” would be. Like a really extravagant one? Like a date, would that be a date? It’s all too confusing.

Another gem of a line is below:

“She got a big booty, so I call her Big Booty.”

Ahhhhh, clever 2 Chainz! If that’s how we’re addressing people, I have a few Lazy Eyes and Tiny Hands I need to talk to.

3. So, this is a little embarrassing, but there is a song that I really liked, and it’s been in my head for about four days. It’s called “As Long As You Love Me.” And it’s by Justin Bieber. I know! But it’s featuring Big Sean, so…Listen, I didn’t realize that the Biebs was the cool cat on the mic until long after he had cast me under his spell. I don’t know who I thought it was, someone respectable? No, I knew it could be no one respectable. Say what you will, that song is kind of good. I’m going to listen to it right now, as I finish this blog post. Seriously. Yep, it’s playing right now.

4. There is another rapper I didn’t know about until recently. His name is Juicy J, which is gross, but don’t worry, he has a grill…Anyway, Juicy J has a wonderful song called “Bandz A Make Her Dance.” I think he means “bands will make her dance,” but it’s hard to enunciate with a grill. Initially, I thought this song was an admission by a hip-hop artist that some girls like bands. You know, Best Coast, TV On The Radio, Grizzly Bear, and so on and so forth. Well, it turns out that bandz with a ‘z’ refers to rubber bands. I still didn’t get it either, don’t feel bad. A friend spent a long time explaining this to me. ‘Rubber bands’ means stacks of money held together by rubber bands. Nope, I was still lost. The point is that strippers will dance if you throw money at them.

There were lots of other songs I heard in St. Louis, but these just made the final cut. I’m going to have to listen to some more radio and see what all the fuss about this “Taylor Swift” is about.

Fall Backwards

WHAT IS GOING ON? Things are getting a little crazy. Hurricane’s Sandy aftermath is growing bleaker by the minute, and aside from that whole disaster, the presidential election is this upcoming Tuesday (which has understandably, brought this little girl to tears). I was sitting, trying to wrap my mind around it all, when I saw an alarming Facebook reminder (Facebook usually helps me wrap my mind around things, without the nuisance of talking to actual humans): daylight savings happens this Sunday. I nearly vomited on my boots.

This melting clock represents my mind. Also, Roman numerals. Whaaaa?

Now, I’m 25 years old. Daylight savings should come as no surprise to me, as I’ve experienced it a total of 50 times in my life. But each time I realize that it is happening, usually 24 hours beforehand, my world goes into a tailspin. How can I possibly prepare for this? 

I do understand that daylight savings isn’t a horrible thing. Sometimes, like this time around, we gain an hour. You know, for the farmers. But I can never remember at what point in the year we gain or lose an hour, and your silly word tricks don’t help. Fall back, spring forward…or is the other way around? Both could make sense, really.  Anyway, my mind doesn’t work that way. I tend to read into symbolism and metaphors. “Fall back” to me has a negative connotation. Digression. Failure. This must be the bad one, right? We lose an hour. Wrong. We get an extra hour. Why?????!!!!!!

By the time you read this, it will likely be past the daylight savings extravaganza. You probably won’t even know it happened, because your phone automatically changes. Or maybe you’ll be an hour early to something by accident. I don’t know your life. I’m just saying, these “farmers” need to give it up already. We don’t really have crops anymore, and like I said, clocks aren’t real anymore, so…