New York City (01.16.16)

4th Annual Black Comic Book Festival  The New York Public Library - Google Chrome 1252016 22218 PM.bmp

Every now and then I skim through Eventbrite to see if there are any events that I would be interested in attending. I check out events in Philadelphia and in other cities that I would not mind traveling to alone. I look at events in New York, Baltimore, Washington, DC, and Atlanta. Besides Atlanta, these cities are a Megabus trip away. Eventbrite is how I came across the Black Comic Book Festival scheduled for January 16, 2016 at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, New York. It was a free event. Free is awesome so I registered via Eventbrite. I found Megabus tickets for $15.50 for round trip to New York from Philly. Not bad.

I was excited… for a couple of reasons. I had not been to the Schomburg in almost 20 years, not since my Black Women Writers course at Temple University with Professor Sonia Sanchez. We took a class trip to the Schomburg and I was in nerd heaven. I would spend hours in the library. We have a pretty awesome main library here in Philadelphia but the Schomburg was legendary and specific. So, I was excited to visit the library itself. (I’m a writer. Why wouldn’t I be excited about spending hours in a library?) I was excited to take part in the Black Comic Book Festival. And, I was excited to travel to New York, alone.

I still had more preparation to do for the trip. I had to make sure I had proper winter attire. I had to map out my route to and from the event. I had to make sure that I had money to travel and had to check out places in walking distance where I could eat. I bought a coat from Eddie Bauer, wore layers, and packed extra socks with in my travel toiletry bag. I decided I would catch public transportation from Manhattan to Harlem and back.

On that Saturday morning, I woke up about 5:45am, took a leisurely shower, dressed and packed my backpack. My bus was due to leave at 7:30am. I had more than enough time to get there before 7:30am so why was I running to the bus at 7:28am? I made it though.

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Me. Black Girls Are Magic t-shirt via @thepbg

And my adventure began…

The bus ride seemed quicker than driving. It was awesome. I just sat back with my earbuds in and looked out of the window.. and wrote in my travel journal.. and slept. Awesome! I drive all of the time so this was a welcomed break.

1.16.16 8:04am

              “I’m on the Megabus on my way to NYC to the Schomburg Center to attend the Black Comics Festival. I almost missed the bus. I was one of the last ppl on the bus. This morning when I was in the shower I was thinking about the day ahead and realized that I didn’t want to tell ppl what I was going to NY to do for fear of judgement. And to avoid the conversations and name-calling. “You’re weird.” “Why are you going ‘all the way’ to NY by yourself?”  “Books?!” “Comic books?” It shouldn’t be this difficult to be me. It’s not really difficult but rather annoying and disappointing. I don’t want to be caged. Period. I don’t want to be boxed. I’m trying to break free to my level of comfort… 

           I just had a thought. Maybe the people that shoot condensing questions and side eyes at me are actually envious.  I have to remind myself to consider my source. People are living lives that they think they are “supposed to” be living as opposed to living how they want to. I used to do that. But I’m moving away from “supposed to” and toward living happy for me as determined by me…”

 

I followed my Google Maps directions to the 2 train and stood impatiently in line to buy a Metro Card. I noticed that MTA trains are more narrow than SEPTA trains. The train ride was uneventful and I arrived at the Schomburg about quarter after ten. There were vendors set up and some just beginning to set up. There was a registration line that was wrapped around the tiny area. I don’t remember the library being as small as it was. Maybe there have been renovations in the last 20 years? Maybe? There was an exhibit, Unveiling Visions: The Alchemy of the Black Imagination, on display. It was due to end on December 31, 2015 but was extended specifically for this event. I walked into the exhibit area before checking in.

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I met the creator and writer of the Hafrocentric comic, Jewels Smith (@hafrocentric)

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And a fellow Philadelphian, Guy Sims, writer of the Brotherman comics (@bigcitycorp)

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I tried to view the rest of the library because I had planned to do some writing and research but was stopped by security guards. Apparently, I could not access the full library today. The panel discussion I wanted to attend, Images in Action, was not due to begin until noon and I was really hot in my awesome new coat so I took a short walk around the block and took in Harlem a bit. I think I was gone for about fifteen minutes. When I returned it seemed that the number of people doubled in fifteen minutes. We had to wait in line to get into the auditorium for the panel discussion.

         1.16.16 11:58am

          Finally got a chance to sit.  The Images in Action panel will begin shortly.  I am hungry. And I think I’m a little overwhelmed by all of the people in such a small space.  There are so many different types of people here.  It seems to be too different for me.

 

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The panel discussions was interesting. And the audience was interesting as well. While the artists spoke of using their art to advance social justice issues, the audience went for attention seeking behaviors. Their costumes. Their questions. Their long-winded rants. After the panel discussion, I headed over to the Afrofuturism 2.0 presentation. It was located in a tiny room on the lower level. There were only a few chairs set out so it quickly became standing room only. I took a spot in the far right corner. By the time the presentation started, I was tired and hungry and very overwhelmed by the amount of people in a small space. Fifteen minutes into it, I left. My hunger invaded my ears and I was unable to process the words of the presenter. When I finally made it through the crowd to the outside, there was a line of people wrapped around the front of the building waiting to get into the festival. Once I saw the amount of people trying to get into the already crowded building, I’d made my decision to go home.

I texted my friend, told him I was coming home early. The day did not go as planned and the festival just wasn’t for me. I would take it as a learning experience.

I walked down Malcolm X Boulevard in attempt to find a place to eat. I stopped in Sylvia’s, sat at the counter for ten minutes before someone stopped to say, “I’ll be right with you.” I left. I was becoming grumpy and probably should have packed a Snickers. I checked the train schedule and the Megabus schedule. I could make the 3:20p Megabus and hope that it was not crowded so that I could change my ticket from 8:20p to the earlier bus.

I got off the train in Manhattan and walked down 34th Street toward the Megabus stop. There was a Wendy’s on the way. I stopped in and ordered fries. There was a man there attempting to order but the way his heroin nod was set up… security had to escort him out. My fries were ready and I left just as security approached the man. I didn’t see the actual escort.

I was able to change my ticket. I even sat in my preferred seat, the upstairs window seat on the left in the back row. I was back inside of my house by 6pm.

I always try to find the lesson in every experience, especially the uncomfortable ones. In this, I learned that crowds in small spaces isn’t for me. I have to prepare myself for it. What I prepared for was the freedom of a library. (Did I mention the awesome main branch of the Philadelphia library?) I should have just packed a lunch or made reservations at a restaurant that I’d picked prior to that day. I had snacks but I needed a meal. I learned that I’m only marginally interested in comics. I am not as engulfed as people who attend festivals and Comicons are in the medium. I can appreciate the art and the entertainment but it is not my life.

Tired. Hungry. Hot (my coat is the truth!). Foiled plans. Home is where I needed to be to reboot and try something else.

This trip was about overcoming my fear and getting to know myself as a free woman. I have been responsible to and for someone else for most of my life. This is the first time period in which I am responsible to and for only myself. It’s new. It’s different. It’s scary. And, so, I take baby steps. This trip was a baby step.

The next solo adventure will be better.

jo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s that time again

Around this time of year I always seem to be more reflective than usual… and I always feel like a hypocrite. Every year, I vowed to never make New Year’s resolutions, never to start something or stop something at the first of the year. But I always find myself reflecting and promising to myself that I will make changes. It’s unconscious, really. I’ve been socialized to believe that this is what I need to do at this time. It has become a habit that is clearly difficult to break.

But I’m working on it.

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Punta Cana, May 2015     Photo credit: J. Owens

I know that new comes with each sun rise, another chance to get this thing called life right. Only, there’s no huge celebration with singing and fireworks. I would like to point out that I also become very reflective and introspective during the days leading up to my birthday (which is the 9th of July if you were wondering). And I should. It is my New Year. Every day, actually, I want to be better than I was the day before (of course there are days I fall short) and my new year is a celebration of those good and bad days. It is a time that I should reflect, celebrate the successful days, evaluate the not-so-successful days, make a plan to do better and execute that plan.

Having laid this out for myself (just now), I can see the lore of the New Year’s resolution thing. But I am not one to move with the crowd, that is once I realize that is what’s going on. I believe that reflection, evaluation, planning and execution of said plan should be an ongoing process. And, yes, there should be a time to celebrate but in your individual time frame. Not one arbitrarily set by whoever started this thing stating that everyone should celebrate on this particular day. We are all on our own paths. I am on my own path. I do not have to be in accord with other people concerning individually perceived successes and failures and the celebration and/or resolution of them.

As I type this, it feels like I’m against celebrations and the general tomfoolery that comes with celebrations of this magnitude. Oh, please believe that I am not against throwing back a few, yelling over loud music, or even an occasional bar top dance number (a la Coyote Ugly).

The bottom line is that I don’t want to be a hypocrite but I do recognize my hypocrisy right now. I am a work in progress…

So, those New Year’s resolutions that I loathe?

Here are mine:

I will save money. In my defense, I planned this a while ago but with two of my favorite people celebrating their 40th birthdays within months of each other (September and December) I kind of broke the bank in attempts to make it great for the both of them. That’s just how I roll. And now I am rolling on E (empty) until January. So, you can see that things just kind of worked out to coincide with the new year, right? Right.

I will take myself on more dates. This, again, is a coincidence because… well… money. (See above explanation). This also is a continuation of what I promised myself during one of my reflective self get-your-life talks. So, I am basically picking up again after taking a break. That’s all.

I will take the steps to see my business through to fruition. There is no excuse for this. Admittedly, there is fear though. And, again, the whole money thing.

I can go on but I won’t. This is about refocusing to improve. I have my life goals, hand-written, posted on my bedroom wall. I read over them from time to time. I know what I have to do for me. I know what works… for me. I have already planned a couple of solo day trips and I am back to using my calendar and reminders for tasks to reach my goals. I have already begun to change… so are these really New Year’s resolutions or just me being me and that coinciding with the particular date of January 1st?

LOL!

Oh, wait, I do have one! I want to blog more in 2016. WordPress emailed me the year in review for my blog- pitiful! I have been writing this year but I have neglected to post here. This is something I will honestly state as a New Year’s resolution: I will blog more often in 2016.

 

Thanks for stopping by.

Take care,

Nee

 

 

 

Halloween (ROW80 update)

I am not fond of this time of year. When people pretend to be something or someone they are not and purposely attempt to scare you or do things that would scare themselves. It does not make sense to me. And where does the candy come in? Yes, I can Google the origin of Halloween but that would be unnecessary because my increased knowledge will not stop massive amounts of people from painting their faces to look like zombies and attempting to scare away my ability to sleep comfortably at night.

My friend wants to go out tomorrow. She would like to dress up but she said she’s okay with just hanging out as if it’s a regular Thursday evening. Everyone doesn’t participate in Halloween, she says. I know that but there are more people that do participate than do not. Or it may seem that way because most of the people that participate are out on the streets and in the bars for the Halloween parties. And those who do not participate are mostly likely in the comfort of their own homes.

People use celebrations such as Halloween as an excuse to do dumb, crazy stuff and to commit crimes. People disguise their identities and attempt to kidnap or assault or steal from other people. I worry about the children. Why is it that every year parents are reminded to check their children’s candy? OH…..because in the past people have done dumb, crazy stuff like make illegal, harmful drugs look like candy and give it to innocent six year olds dressed like the blue Power Ranger. Or they have put poison in the candy or have done any number of equally dumb things to the candy that is given to children.

Then there is the actual candy portion of the program. Why are we giving our children candy? We are the most unhealthiest country on the planet and we are promoting more unhealthy habits. I could understand having a sweet treat once in a while if most of the time we were promoting healthy living, if our children were not obese. But that’s not the case.

Then, the act of taking candy from strangers is hypocritical because that’s one of the first things we teach our children not to do. Why do we teach our children not to accept candy from strangers? Because people do dumb, crazy stuff and we want to protect our children right? But, on Halloween we display them for the crazies? It does not make sense to me.

I do not like Halloween. I choose not to participate. I do not need my nerves to come undone because I purposely put myself in a position to be on edge, jumpy, and possibly afraid. And I am not nearly as afraid of what someone may do to me or attempt to do to me as I am of what I may do to another person in protection of my life, my safety, or that of my family. Why would I go to a haunted anything (house, asylum, hayride, corn field) to pay for someone dressed like Jason to startle me, leading to their assault (because my natural reaction leans toward fight before flight)? No, that does not make sense to me. Why would I parade my kid around (if I had a kid that wanted to dress up for Halloween) in front of people who purposely try to do them harm? Nope. I do not want any parts of it.

If people want to share and build community and have a good, safe time with one another then there are better ways to do it then behind a disguise.

I may have gone off on a bit of a rant but I state all of the above to state firmly that I will not be participating in tomorrow’s festivities.

I will, however, take the time to prepare for NaNoWriMo. Yes, I have decided (at the last minute) to participate in the National Novel Writing Month writing challenge where the goal is to complete a novel, 50,000 words or more, in 30 days. I plan to complete my book of short stories tentatively titled, Philadelphia Stories.

So, my updated goals for the month of November are to write at least 1,667 words every day for 30 days and to complete my Philadelphia stories. I am not sure where anything else will fit in but I will attempt to post my progress. Even if its a two line blurb on twitter (@wordsXdesign) to update.

Happy Writing! And please be safe out there.

It happens

When I was a child, I would kiss my mother goodbye every morning before she left for work. She’d have to leave early to take my three-year old sister to the sitter and still make it to work on time. One morning, I got off to a late start and was still in the shower when it was time for my mom and my sister to leave. I could hear her through the bathroom door saying her goodbyes to me and to my father. A streak of anxiety traveled down through my chest to my belly. I had to hurry. My mom was leaving without kissing me goodbye. I had to rinse the soap off and get out of the shower so I could catch my mom before she left. As fast as I moved, I wasn’t fast enough. By the time I emerged from the bathroom she had left the house. I dressed in record time and bolted out of the front door after her without a word to my father. I ran down the block, past my elementary school, to the stop where she caught the bus, a block and a half away from our home, but she wasn’t there. The streets were empty. No cars driving by. No people waiting for the bus. No bus. No mom.  I stood on that bus stop, alone, crying. In that moment, I was abandoned. I was seven years old. A teacher from my school saw me and took me into the school where she called my father who came to get me.

I was always close to my mom. I needed the comfort and security she provided. Still do.

On Saturday, October 12th, my friend of 25 years, buried her mother. I can not imagine what she must be feeling.  I attended the service with my mother and my sister. It was a beautiful home going service.

But then, reality hit.

She. Buried. Her. Mother.

If she was as attached to or as close to her mother as I am, then she has become that seven-year old girl on the bus stop, alone, temporarily suffering from pangs of abandonment.

Life… happens.  Throws us curveballs. Some just get us a bit off track and some threaten to take us out of the game.

She has three children to care for. She has a job to return to. But…. life happened.

When things like this happen close to me, all of the things that I find myself fretting over seem way too trivial.

I missed a few check-ins.

I missed a few days of writing.

I missed a few days of jogging.

But, all of this seems trivial.

I pray for my friend, for her mother, and for all of her family.

9th Wedding Anniversary

I left work a few hours early so that I could set up the house for this evening’s surprise. The house was already spotless. I made sure of that yesterday. I started with our bedroom placing the candles and flowers in all of the right places around the room. I wanted the ambience to reflect the love and passion that I have for us.  I laid out the lingerie that I purchase for this celebration. A sheer negligee because that’s all we’d really need. I’ll shower and change after I set the dinner table.

I made our favorite dish. I’m so happy that our tastes are so similar. Those freshly sliced mangoes will be the proper transition to the bedroom.

Tonight, marks nine years of marriage. Nine years of laughter and tears. Nine years of love and pain. Nine years of one another’s everything.

But, tonight, I sit at this table alone. There is no celebratory dinner. No happy ending.

Separation has settled upon our union. I sit alone at this table. A single tear burns a path down my cheek.