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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

I Am In Love

She makes me want to do better.

She makes me want to be better.

She brings a smile to my face and a deep longing for more of her elixir. I. Love. Her.

I told my husband that I am in love with a woman. He knows my penchant for falling in love. It is who I am. It is what I do. Love is woven into my being, into my hair follicles, into my bones, into my name, into everything which makes me me. Over the past two years, though, that which once came so easily to me has been difficult to reach. I have not been myself. I have been an echo, a shadow, an impostor of my true self. But just recently, I believe that I have fallen madly in love with a woman. I may have truly fallen for her.

Her voice.

Her inflection.

Her word choice.

Her language.

Her accent.

Her fierceness.

Her boldness.

Her courageousness.

Her strength.

Her beauty. That illuminates from the inside out.

Her fearlessness. Her ability to go deep into the places, the depths, the crevices that I can not.

I think I love her… or I am obsessed with her. The two look so similar. I guess it depends on one’s perspective.

She is my age. She is amazing. She is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

I am not sure where I have been for that last thirteen or fourteen years but I have finally met the love of my life*. Last year, I was introduced to her via Twitter and decided to purchase her most recent novel, Americanah. So, I have had this book in my possession for close to eighteen months and I have just read the first chapter today (5.27.15). Over the last few months, I began to listen to TEDtalks on YouTube while driving home from work. I would listen to talks about life and finding ones purpose, about education, about love, about sex, about writing, about feminism, and about books to mention a few of the topics that peaked my interest. Last month, I listened to Chimamanda’s TEDtalk entitled, “We should all be feminists.” And that is when she began courting me. Yesterday, I came across a couple of her hour-long interviews about the book. As I listened to the conversation between Chimamanda and Zadie Smith, I could not wait to get home to hold my book, to feel its smooth pages, to dive in and to devour every word. I was so ready for it. Which was odd because, initially I was intimated by it. I looked at the thickness of the book, the physical weight and the weight of the subject matter frightened me. But yesterday, she embraced me with her soul and my fear dissipated.

When I arrived at my house, I raced to find Americanah not even to begin reading it, but just hold it in my arm, nestled close like a baby. But, it was not where I’d thought it to be…. And I tore the house apart searching for the book that I know I purchased. After a few hours, I became desperate and went online to find another copy. I did. I was that upset about not having the book in my possession that I was willing to spend more money to get another copy. I, first, considered going to my favorite Barnes and Noble to pick up a copy but it was after 10pm and the bookstore was closed. So, I put a copy into my online shopping cart along with a copy of White Teeth by Zadie Smith. Before I hit the purchase button, I sat still to calmly think for a moment about where the book could be, in what space did I “put it up?” It came to me in my calm. I knew where it was. Literally, I felt like a light bulb was lit over my head like in the cartoons. I ran upstairs, to the closet in the office/guest room and surely, I found my copy of the book right next to my college degree (TUMF! All my Temple Alum stand up!). I was so elated. And so very much in love again. I carried it around with me for the rest of the evening, slept with it by my side, took it to work with me, and finally cracked it open after work.

I finished the first chapter and started the second. I read with a pencil, as a reader and as a writer, and the first chapter is marked up. Not in a bad way but in a taking notes, ahh haa kind of way. One of my notations on page one is next to the sentence: Philadelphia had the musty scent of history. I’ll take it. I wrote: WE MADE THE FRONT PAGE! LOL!

I told my husband that I am in love with a woman. She sparked something in me. Helped me rekindle my passion for writing again. And I love her for it. I am purposely reading this novel slowly so my review will probably be written in the fall.

I hope I love Americanah as much as I love Chimamanda (or rather my idea of her ’cause I honestly don’t know her personally).

*Okay, the whole love of my life thing… not really… I mean, have you seen my grandboy?

Look at ‘im

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We were on our way to vote on 5.19.15

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.

In my life…

I sat down to finally write this post and this Beatles’ song began replaying in my mind. This is a post that has been brewing for some time. Many months have passed since I last posted, really since I’ve last written anything of substance.

I have thought about the community that I’ve been welcomed into via the blogosphere and I have missed the interaction in my absence.  This year has proven to be extremely tough. I have been going through a marital separation and this stress is unlike any other.

My response to stressors vary but usually all come together when I put pen to paper. Yes. An actual pen filled with black ink on actual paper in a beautiful journal. It helps. I return to the basics when stressed so anything resembling a blog post has been buried in the pages of one of my journals. I was absent from my blog but I held on to my basics to get me through the rough times.

I have learned plenty about myself in these past few months. I’ve learned that I am more resilient than I thought I could be. I’ve also come to realize that my passion for writing, for expressing , for creating is still very much alive and no amount of heartache or heartbreak can quell that passion.

In this new position that I find myself in, I am sharpening my focus. This isn’t an overnight one-hundred-eighty-degree sort of thing. It’s gradual and constant and it feels great. I’ve set goals for myself, not just for my writing but for my life, and am seeing them through to fruition. And it feels great. Fear is beginning to dissolve and my sunshine is beaming through.

I am beginning to do some of the things that I’ve set as goals in the past but did not accomplish them. I’ve been travelling more and getting a better handle on my finances. I’ve been trying harder at a healthier lifestyle. And I’ve definitely let go of so much stress. I actually feel lighter. I’m working on a few short stories and plan to have them done by the end of August. I’m moving. In previous posts I wrote about feeling stagnant well not anymore. I’m moving.

I think this song resonates with me because love was never the issue. It’s still there. It’s still here. And so am I.

In my life…

Thank you

“Thank you for being a friend, travelled down the road and back again. Your heart is true you’re a pal and a confidente. If you threw a party and invited everyone ya knew, you would see the biggest gift would be from me and the card attached would say ‘thank you for being a friend’.” -theme song from The Golden Girls

I love my friends! I’ve known most of them for 20-25 years. They’ve become family. Even the friends I’ve met in recent years, virtually and in real life, have become like family. They know I’m emotional and flighty and, ummm, strong-willed, to put it lightly. And they love me anyway. I appreciate each and every person that has been placed in my life, whether it’s been ten years or ten minutes. But the people who stick around just for the smiles, the word love is not big enough for you. Those people who are, what I consider a friend, some of whom have morphed into family- I appreciate you. I understand that life gets in the way sometimes but I’m just a phone call away. And thanks to social media, I’m also just a click away. I have people in my life that I may not talk to in years but when we get together its like no time had passed. I just want to take a moment to say thank you. Thank you for being a part of my life. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of yours.

I am so sad that I lost friends. At times, tears stream down my face before I realize I’m crying. Their lives cut short. It makes you think about your own mortality. I can say what I want done or not done once I pass, but the reality is I’ll have control over nothing. I just pray that people remember the smiles, the laughter, the fun, the joy that we’ve brought to one another while we had the chance. Everyday that you are topside (as opposed to six feet under) is another opportunity to be a better you, an opportunity to improve yourself and, in turn, improve your relationships.

I was called an idealist. I’m good with that. I just want everyone to be okay. I can’t see how thats a bad thing.

Love ya’ll.

A Special Check In

Today marks the last day of my 34th year.

Tomorrow, July 9th, is my 35th birthday! I plan to do so many things differently starting tomorrow. Of course, personal change does not  literally happen over night but I gave myself until my birthday to get my mind right in order to begin putting action to my goals.

I become reflective and very sentimental around my birthday. Sometimes, sickeningly so. But this year, I give myself a pass. My friend, Paul, and I share a birthday. Paul died last year. August 9th. This year, I reflect on my life from the perspective of a person who has lost a friend.

I have regrets.

We think we have time. We place emphasis on trivial things. And then, suddenly, time is up. We have regrets.

Well, I do. Unfortunately.

I try to find the lesson in all of my experiences, especially the particularly difficult situations, to help me to heal and to grow.  From Paul’s passing I learned that I need to live while I still have time. Not just merely exist. Not live in fear but truly live. Enjoy life and be the best me that I can be. It does not happen over night. It takes some time to break out of old habits.

So, I am living.

I wrote a birthday wish list of simple pleasures. Nine of them.

9. A handmade card- My dad used to make me cards because, he said, the time and love put into it gave it more meaning

8. A flower- I love Calla Lillies! They are so beautiful!

7. A home baked cake- yellow cake with chocolate icing… Mmmmmm

6. A song- I love music. Having music just for me would be awesome! Even if its just a few lines, my smile would be SO big!

5. A book- I love to read and I love to write so a novel or a journal would be awesome!

4. A toast- add me in the dinner toast with your family or come visit and we’ll toast to another year

3. A photo- I’ve known a lot of people for many years. I’m sure there are pictures out there of memorable times. Send me a copy or let’s take pictures together now.

2. A hug- Hugs are great. And they don’t cost a bit. They help squeeze the “blue” out or intensify the glee if that’s my mood.

1. A prayer for Paul.

 

Finally, here’s my update:

While I have not written every day, I am still averaging 250 words per day. I’m still working hard to write everyday though.