They’ll Make Your Legend For You – Part II: Dolemite is Dead

Dolemite, the heroic pimp king.

I’d heard the character’s name as far back as the mid-’90s, thanks to Snoop Dogg and a few other rappers. I’ve always been ambivalent about black pimp culture. On the one hand, I love it because it expresses real wonders of creativity, style, poetic beauty, and the sheer human audacity of the African diaspora. On the other hand, I lament its basis in grotesque woman-hating violence, abuse, and domination culture. It valorizes and heroicizes some of the most horrible symptoms of post-traumatic slave syndrome.

I saw the original Dolemite film back in 2005 or so, when netflix was still a DVD rent-by-mail company. I found it somewhat tedious, corny but charming in that way that a lot of low-budget ’70s movies are, particularly the “blaxploitation” films. Criticize their political faults and I’ll happily join you, but no amount of critique can diminish the power of Pam Grier painted on the cover of Coffy, or the performance of theatre-actor and Karamu House alumni Ron O’Neal in Super Fly, the greatest of these films.

While I failed to fully appreciate Dolemite at the time, watching it in 2019 feels like a journey to a lost and beautiful world. It’s got everything—evil white men, sell-out gangsters, a philandering reverend, junkies and drunks, gorgeous women, stylish clothes, floating boom mics, an all-women karate class, and a full funk band performance. It also possesses a tantalizing erotic atmosphere of the kind now lost forever to film in the era of total pornification, predatory sexuality, pervasive shame, and all our machine-mediated impostors for sociality.

Dolemite the character is a rascal, but also a hero—a man who moves with the best interests of his community at heart. I can imagine theaters packed with all-black audiences cheering when he dumps a bag of cocaine on a pair of crooked cops, then stuffs the empty bag into one’s mouth.

There’s a scene in Dolemite that made me a true believer in the power of Rudy Ray Moore the very first time I saw it. A group of men gather around him as he’s getting out of his cadillac, and plead with him to prove that he’s really Dolemite. He launches into a hilarious toast about the Titanic; the men pass around a forty bottle, laughing and slapping hands. Moore was masterful, and I’ve carried this scene in my heart ever since.

Later in the film, he surpasses himself with probably the most famous scene in the movie: the story of the signifying monkey. His arrival to the stage is heralded by tribal drumming and the afrocentric Dolemite Dancers, which includes a man waving a pot of smoke—a genuine shamanic moment.

As an authentic piece of dated pop culture, Dolemite is the perfect candidate for sneering hipster post-ironic masochistic “enjoyment.” Michael Jai White got ahead of the game with Black Dynamite, a rather disgusting and barely funny film that parodies something most of its audience has never seen, thereby replacing it in the cultural memory. Laughing and sneering at itself, like every post-ironic piece of pseudo-culture, Black Dynamite “pays homage” to cultural artifacts of the past by making them look primitive and stupid—anyone who really enjoyed the original stuff is clearly a moron, like everyone else in the past. Authenticity is a self-conscious, primitive joke in our brave new world.

The magic of Dolemite also makes it a perfect candidate for either a remake (as They did with Super Fly) or even worse, and what we’re about to get: a bio-pic.

Take a good look at this guy:

Craig+Brewer+15th+Annual+Hollywood+Film+Awards+AJ-65aJ-qKnl

Once you’ve had the chance to soak that image in, take a good look at these guys:

Scott-Alexander-Larry-Karaszewski-GQ_22Apr_rex_b

I’ll come back to them.

The western european babylon empire machine brought Africans to Turtle Island to feed on us. I think everyone is more or less clear on that. Our bodies were put to labor as chattel (chattelcattlecapital, all terms from the same root) to build wealth for slave masters, and therefore wealth for the U.S. Along with the wealth gained by sacrificing nearly the entire living community of the continent, the wealth generated by African bodies is the foundation of the capitalist economy.

What a whole lot of folks don’t seem to be too clear on is this: They continue to feed on us. We are Their entertainment, Their athletes, Their prison-labor, Their source of Cool, Their sexual id, Their fetish objects of right-wing hatred and left-wing paternalism.

Without any real collective social resistance to TechnoBabylon—and without, it often seems, even the possibility of such action—identitarians are left to champion the cause of “representation.” If we see people who look like us in popular media, i.e. the simulation, then this must be a step forward in the utopic march of Progress.

And thus, negroes fall all over themselves in excitement and anticipation every time hollywood trots out their latest attempt to cash in on our imagery. I would say that Obama’s run for president back in 2008 really kicked this off; folks really believed there would be some grand “change” in this country, that the BLACK PRESIDENT would be something more than yet another stooge of Global Capital and its war machine. The power of this delusion was awe-inspiring; even people I thought would know better were taken in.

In the realm of movies, Black Panther and its financial success set the tone—OMG, a movie with a mostly black cast made ALL OF THE MONEY, holy shit Batman!

Black Panther, in addition to a load of other destructive subliminal messages, would have us believe the tribal elders of the most technologically advanced civilization on the planet, which has maintained its complete autonomy through literal invisibility for countless generations, would consent to putting a complete stranger in charge of the whole country—provided he can defeat the current king in a fist fight. Rules are rules! We must follow tradition! In other words, indigenous people are hopeless fucking idiots.

While I’m on the subject, where do you suppose they dump all the toxic waste from mining and refining vibranium, and all the other artificial materials they use to build the towering cities of Wakanda? Maybe they just send it to South Africa; if it’s good enough for De Beers and the Anglo American Mining group, it oughta be good enough for Wakanda. Who there would even notice a few thousand more tons of toxic waste?

I also find myself wondering what the resident panthers, forest, birds, fish, and insects think about Wakanda’s technology. If this were a real indigenous culture, the elders would consider this in their deliberations. Then again, if this were a real indigenous culture, the community would also be thinking about the effects of “development” on their descendants in, say, seven generations from now. Which means, of course, that the technology wouldn’t exist.

Back to Dolemite, back to the white dudes in the photos I posted. The first guy is Craig Brewer, a director who has built his career on exploitation of black imagery. His breakout commercial hit was Hustle & Flow, a movie so degrading and insulting to both black people and hip hop culture that now—more than a decade after seeing it—I refuse to revisit it, even to critique. He followed that up with Black Snake Moan, which I refused to see at all; the movie poster told me everything I needed to know.

The guys in the second photo are Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, a screenwriting team who first met while undergraduates at USC, a private college for rich kids. Among their credits is The People vs. Larry Flynt, a movie that turns the abusive, exploitative pornographer Larry Flynt into some kind of free speech exemplar.

These three evil bastards teamed up to make Dolemite is my Name, a bio-pic of Rudy Ray Moore, coming soon to a netflix screen near you, starring Eddie Murphy and one of the Key & Peale clones. I watched the trailer a few days ago after someone posted it on FB; I’d like a cookie for watching the entire thing, thank you. It was horrible. Degrading. Insulting. Full of eye-winking coonery. Oh how I wish Eddie Murphy would have simply vanished to enjoy his money after being caught picking up tranny hookers; instead, he’s spent the last 20 years shitting on his own legacy.

The tagline on the “poster” for Dolemite is my Name says, “Make Your Own Legend.”

Or better yet, have Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski make it for you.

Now a whole generation of young black people hungry for some validation of their existence, looking desperately to their simulation-media, will be robbed forever of yet another opportunity to discover an aspect of their cultural past on its own terms. It’s been eaten, drained of vitality, repackaged, shit out, and sold back to them. Like every other aspect of their innermost selves in this horrid machine cult, it’s been colonized. Invaded. This is their tragedy; watching it happen is mine.

Too bad for them, I guess. But Zion remembers. And so do I.

Dolemite is dead; long live Dolemite!

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

They’ll Make Your Legend For You – Part I: The Origins of Identitarianism

Identitarianism is not an accident or some kind of historical mutation. It’s exactly what it’s supposed to be: a symptom, and a weapon.

Since I write these pieces to be read by real people, not philosophy assholes or “intellectuals,” I’ll spare you the journey through theory-speak and explain, in as straight-forward a manner as I can, what’s actually happening.

As long as there have been pyramidal, caste-based domination cultures, a.k.a. “civilization” (about 6000-8000 years–less than 1% of the time the human species has been on the earth), those cultures and the kings, dictators, invaders, and other loathsome gremlins who benefit from them have been fucking it up for everyone else.

The latest incarnation of this, which we generally refer to as “capitalism,” has accelerated the destruction of the living world to such a sorrowful extent that, most likely, it’s already a wrap for life on this planet. Sorry to be the one to break it to you. But actually, you probably already knew–in your spirit, if not in your consciousness.

As long as this has been happening, there’s been resistance in all forms. Life wants to live. Whether in the form slave revolts, sabotage, rebellions, riots, or the flexing of tree roots breaking the surface of suffocating cement, we have never gone gently into that good night.

The “Historical Movement of the Social,” that is to say, human resistance of communities against domination culture, coalesced into a myriad of european philosophies and movements back in the 1800’s—socialism, communism, syndicalism, anarchism, feminism, etc. As I pointed out in another piece, most of these euro-philosophies were still hopelessly industrialist; by and large they all quibbled about who would control the factories, without ever questioning whether or not we should have factories.

That movement came to an abrupt halt in 1989 when the USSR disintegrated. Now the rule of money became like unto a Law of Nature; with no more Evil Empire to cold war with, Capital took over the planet. Predictable fuckery resulted.

Every power needs mythological and philosophical justification to perpetuate itself. Enter: secular humanism, a.k.a. “liberal democracy.” The old TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation is my favorite example of propaganda for this philosophy, which is why I describe its adherents as “riding for Starfleet.” During the six months or so that it took me to watch every single goddamn episode of that show, I dearly wish I’d taken note of how many times someone (usually the Good English King himself, Captain Picard) made some variation of the following speech:

“Yes, yes, we humans used to be primitive and violent, just like you savage aliens. But after awhile REASON and ENLIGHTENMENT finally won out, and we achieved a peaceful utopia that freed us to journey into space and blah blah blah.” Free to Manifest their Destiny throughout “the Final Frontier,” hurling through the universe in plastic-walled boxes of minimalist décor—the future as Apple Store and Yuppie Hive. Colonization, mining, and other dubious practices of “Western Civilization” then went intergalactic. By Picard’s time, even the savage darky Klingons joined the team, although they remained intent on performing their role as the violent and sexualized Id of triumphant Starfleet.

This philosophy, this entire way of being, is based on Total Environmental Destruction (they call it “development”), the mass-scale conversion of the living to the dead (they call it “production,”) and an unquestioned assumption that “civilized” industrial humans are the only beings who have value, or indeed, who exist at all. They regard the rest of the living world as “resources.”

A caste-based worldview cannot seriously examine class issues, nor can it question the murder and domination of Mother Earth. However, in its Capitalist form (mutation), it can always find new shit to sell you. You are a marketing category.

Enter: Identity politics. We can be black, brown, queer, trans, whatever… as long as we “invest” in the products. And those products are not merely material, oh no my friend. Those products include philosophies, worldviews, ideologies, “lifestyles,” language, ideas, and activities. Capital claims the right to occupy all space, and convert all value into its own terms. How could you possibly be a good Liberal Social Justice Warrior(tm) unless you were buying “organic” food, driving an electric car, and using all the Approved Lingo?

Now, thanks to the mad science of Technobabylon, the “social” itself has abandoned the physical world of bodies and breath and devolved into a 2-dimensional simulation of itself: “social media.” We talk to machines instead of each other. All interaction is mediated. All “real experience” becomes a photo-op, surveillance culture, etc. etc. etc. People’s ideas, thoughts, opinions, and expressions are now collectively determined almost entirely by their interaction with these machines.

Which brings me (finally) around to what I really want to talk about: Dolemite.

Stay tuned for Part II.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Late Night Musings on the Technopacalypse

“Reach out and touch someone.” The slogan of some phone company from ye olden days, goes back at least to the 80s. Bold in its basic assertion, because “touching” someone is exactly what you DON’T do when you’re talking on the phone. No shared space. No shared air. No in-person-ness. Humanity was already failing.

And yet, the warmth of the human voice coming over the phone feels like a hearth fire compared to the universal-heat-death machine coldness of what now dominates: texting. Or some variation of it, courtesy of whatever antisocial media platform.

The cold distance of words on a screen makes it easy to be cruel. To be selfish. To disregard someone’s feelings. Disembodied. I can ignore or block you, or I can say horrible things to you that I likely would never say in person. I can disregard your basic humanity. I can cancel plans at the last minute, no problem. Everything is tentative. Insecurity as social principle in the era of technopacalypse.

I’m disconnected, the worst thing you can be in the cyborg era. People attempt to send me links and files and other tech hoodoo through my phone, because that’s how everything is done these days. Since I refuse to get a spacephone, that means there’s a lot of “communication” that I am more or less unable to get from folks. My flip-phone has no idea what you just sent me, and therefore neither do I. I have to wonder if it was really that important. Everyone has become a spam-artist.

Everything is so depersonalized. Why bother to call someone and tell them about a show or event when you can just send them a “digital flyer?” Funny how terms that are already old-fashioned become re-purposed as digital clones. Who the hell makes actual flyers anymore? I see them at record stores, and other random places; mostly business advertisements. Every time I see a poster for a show stapled to an electrical pole, I nearly weep. Remember when things were still physical?

No more of that; consciousness has been uploaded. Everything we do, we do here, in the no-place place of the net. Machines stand between us and most of our interaction. All our activities are mediated by faceless companies. There’s an app for everything, they get a cut of every pie. We’ve all become unpaid “content creators.” I put songs on soundcloud, soundcloud gets that many more hits, their advertisers keep paying them, their stock value goes up. I get… what? The occasional (rare) satisfaction of a listener comment?

But really, I’m shocked when I encounter anyone who actually listens to music, rather than treating it as a universal life soundtrack. Today my neighbor was mowing the lawn and blaring pop music from some “digital radio” station; I know people aren’t listening to music anymore, because no thinking human being could possibly tolerate the sheer inanity of the lyrics in these songs. They’re an insult to songwriters throughout time.

You know how touring musicians survive these days? They don’t. In order to “survive,” they have to transform from musicians into Lifestyle Brands(tm) and become glorified merchandise vendors. Nobody gets paid by ticket sales; they get paid by t-shirts, and if they’re Hardcore enough, by vinyl. You want a music career? Start playing at weddings. That is, if they’ve got money for a band. A serato DJ is way cheaper, and really, who gives a shit?

Buy music? Who does that anymore? I’ve yet to meet anyone under 25 who owns a CD player. Even most of the folks older than that don’t have one anymore. You haven’t heard? Music is no longer a product, it’s a service. Which means, essentially, that the only people getting paid are the people providing the “service platform.” Spotify might give you a quarter of a cent in royalties if you get 100,000 streams, but really, who needs you or your art? As for “listeners,” “fans,” and “the audience,” well, they long ago signed up for the heaven of infinite streaming music. Why buy something when you can listen to whatever at will? Back in ye olden days of napster, when mp3s were something that only college kids with their T1 internet connections had heard of, if I heard more than 3 songs from an act that I liked, I would go out and buy their album. Most people I knew did the same. Find me one person who’s bought anything from an act they discovered on a streaming service.

This, of course, is all a plot by the tech mafia, that mutant offspring of industrial consumer capitalism. When everything is digital, everything is streaming, the people who design and control the access ports control everything. You want photoshop? Well, you can pay for access to “the cloud,” and you can keep paying us forever. Products are for primitives; this is a “service” economy. The port masters stand in between us and everything, so they control everything, including the money, which contributes to a handful of assholes getting richer while everyone else is sentenced to destitution.

School teachers spend their disposable income to get basic supplies for their students, meanwhile code-writers and other such swine are shuttled to and from their padded rat cages by private air-conditioned buses. How long will it be before governments surrender even the pretense of governing, and simply hand over the reigns to google? Life as a live/work community under the soft computer voice and all-seeing camera eyes of tech. Is there any humiliation, any degradation that can’t be sold and bought to us? You already know the answer.

Kooks, cranks, and crackpots have been hollering and gnashing their teeth for decades about the Coming Evil of One World Government, and yet none of them seem to have realized that it’s already here. The internet, the digital, the technoverse IS the one-world government. It has no mind of it’s own (thank god, and a curse on everyone who would have it otherwise), but it does have an infinity of human servants and slaves. Just because there’s no terminators marauding around L.A. blasting people with laser guns doesn’t mean that skynet isn’t running things.

I would prefer having the terminators, actually. At least it would give me something to shoot.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Through the Haze at Worlds’ End

Looking to the northwest from my back porch, there’s a sliver of visible skyline framed by the old walnut tree in my yard and the sharp leaves of a palm in the adjacent yard. At night, through that frame, I can see the yellow lights from across the bay waters.

Tonight is the first time in over two weeks I’ve been able to see those lights. They have been obscured by the smog of End Times, smoke blown all the way from devastating fires in Butte County—over 150 miles away.

I’ve woken up every day to the pale, reddish light of a sun obscured by smoke. There’s been a haze in the house. With no job to go to, and little money to venture out on the town, I’ve been more or less trapped in the house for weeks. No neighborhood walks. No stretching and kung fu practice in the Redwood Ring on the other side of the local creek. Just walls and corners and restless wandering from room to room.

The phone has been a lifeline. There are a few people with whom I can talk for hours on end. But eventually everything is said, or life intrudes, and it’s back to wandering the castle. I’ve got a mountain of library books, and endless boxes of comic books, but I often find myself too restless to read, or do anything really. The thought-neutralizing allure of streaming television can only hold me for so long. There’s a layer of dust on my drawing table, and another one on the case of my condenser microphone.

Nothing much inspiring about the end of the world. Just isolation and loneliness. I emerged from my journey to the underworld—a trip that came courtesy of the constant relay between my life and my comic stories—and had to make some painful decisions that forever altered certain relationships in my life. Nobody ever said being a chief would be easy.

I could feel the difference in the air when I woke up this morning. I came outside to see a sky that once again had a tinge of blue. Tonight, I can see the moon, nearing fullness. I took a short walk through my neighborhood, and made it about two blocks before bursting into tears. The haunting beauty of shadowed yards and silhouetted trees, the gates and driveways, the eternal mysteries of living in a high population area where everyone is a stranger.

I wish I could wander through every house, dig through every garage, soak up every secret and story of all those faceless lives. It would take months, if not years, to learn all the important things about just the people within a three-block radius of here. I wish I could see and hear it all. Even the desire for this seems to pour through my fingers like sand. The harder you hold onto it, the faster it dissipates. Every house is different, intricately crafted by scions of a bygone era, before everything was prefabricated and lifeless, designed to fail and fall apart.

There’s nothing left to futurity; only the most deluded minds imagine that anything remains on the horizon but further atrocities. The world is burning, the machines are poisoning us. Life has migrated to the screen—everybody is a star, and one of the easiest ways to shine brightly is with a loaded gun and roomful of civilians.

So what do we have? Judging from an informal observation of the lives and mindstates of people I encounter, I’d have to say, “not much.” Distraction culture—the constant inundation of audio and visual stimuli—everybody’s life has a soundtrack of streaming music, everyone’s got plenty of buttons to press. Simulated digital lives, people watching their most meaningful events through the screen of their phones. Your best friend is a robot.

There’s always nostalgia, I guess—longing for a past that will never return. Remember when mainstream comic books were lettered by hand and movies were more than just a two-hour music video of cartoonish special effects? Remember when videogames were something you grew out of, rather than the dominant life-mode of the species? Remember when there were trees and clear skies and deer and raindrops gleaming in the spiderwebs? Yeah, me neither.

There’s always love, or so I hear. People still get married. A friend of mine did it recently. People still have children. My niece did it recently, making me, for the first time, a great uncle. I’ll say this about love: I’ve been in it a few times, and it has yet to leave me with anything besides lessons, memories, and scars.

Now that I think about it, that sounds like a pretty accurate summary of life generally.

Alternatively, one could be a superhero, and dedicate one’s life to the pursuit and defense of Truth & Beauty. Of the available options, so far this is the only one that provides me with something besides suicidal ideation. It’s also the most work, the most frustrating, the most difficult, and the least appreciated by what’s left of “society,” i.e. the people you still occasionally see “in real life,” as they say. It helps if you were blessed with a few god powers, and perhaps a foolhardy and obtuse stubbornness.

On the subject of powers: I’ve spent most of my life developing and refining an array of physical skill sets that I broadly classify under the heading of “kung fu.” I shed a whole lot of blood, sweat, and tears in the process of acquiring them. Most of these skill sets are at least indirectly related to the art and craft of creating cripples, corpses, orphans, and widows, commonly referred to as “martial arts.” However, as I have been fortunate enough to live a life with very little need for applying those skills in such a manner, they mainly serve as a source of joy, amusement, and physical release. Stagnation is decay is death. Movement is life.

The other night, trapped in my house, I was walking from the kitchen to the living room with my hands full; in the upturned palm of my left hand was a plate with my dinner on it, and on the upturned palm of my right hand was a small plate with my desert. I tripped on something as I walked, and the small plate began a journey of its own. Out of reflex, without thought, without worry, without fear or panic or any other spike on the Bad Feelings meter, I shuffled my footwork, kept up with the plate, and regained control of it without ever losing contact. My dessert didn’t even shift position.

I smiled.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sing ‘Em Out

Weaponized grief, you could call it. Shame warfare.

I often wished for such power. To be able to stare into the pale eyes in a pale skull and wipe away that arrogant, privileged smirk with the power of my voice alone. Like, if I could just look at your whiteboy face while you tell me some ignorant shit that you think is worth hearing because EVERYTHING IN YOUR ENTIRE EXISTANCE has given you one UNIFIED MESSAGE as the ABSOLUTE TRUTH and that message is that YOU AND ANYTHING YOU SAY ARE ALWAYS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE ROOM… Where was I? Oh yeah. If I could just look at your whiteboy face and turn you into a puddle of snot-dribbling grief with just my words. Words that carried every atrocity in them like gel capsules.

I imagine it would go something like this:

Whiteboy: “Well, blah blah whiteboy shit blah blah—“

Me: “INDIAN BOARDING SCHOOLS!”

Whiteboy: “AAAIIIIIEEEEEEEE!” (Collapses into a sobbing heap, will pontificate no more forever.)

I knew a girl who had that power. Like a lot of people with god powers, she wasn’t really using them right. Sometimes she did. There was a co-worker we had, his friend got shot dead. She sang him a mourning song in one of the Old Tongues and you could just see the weight of anger and sadness pouring out of him, lightening him up enough for that first bit of healing to begin.

But mostly she was just a drama queen. And trife. She was pretty trife. Spent most of her time turning her bundle of ancestral anguish into destructive romances and painful friendships. She did us dirty.

Imagine if she figured it all out. Unleashed that power and really put it to use in a good way. I figure in the right space, with good acoustics, she could sing the devil out of at least a couple thousand white folks at a time. I’m sure some of them are evil enough to be immune, but most of them would succumb. Thousands of pale bodies thrashing on the ground in utter despair.

We could get 20 or 30 storytellers to work their way into the crowd after that. I use the word “storyteller,” but unfortunately it’s an english word and therefore mostly empty. It doesn’t say what I want it to say. It doesn’t say what it is. When I say storyteller, think of someone who does with stories what this girl I mentioned does with song.

So we get these folks, have them each take a group in the crowd, and Tell Them the Story. Lay down the one cosmic law we’ve known for all time—we need to be in good relationships with every facet of the living universe, from the stars to the stone. Tell these groups how their machines are destroying everything. Show them what needs to be done. Convert these hellish bastards.

It could be like a carnival. We’d just weave our way from the west to the east in reverse Manifest Destiny, like a backwards sun, bringing the light that removes heads from asses.

This could work, I’m positive. Sure, we’d have to dynamite all the media infrastructure and hack all the digital satellites, shut them all down long enough to give folks a break from the Anti-Life Screen Eye Beam of Soul Destruction. Otherwise these folks would just wipe their eyes, go in the house, and start livefeeding about how transformed they are. Soon, the urge to purchase something would re-emerge, and we’d all be right back where we started.

So yeah, it would be a challenge. But it could be done.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Panels of Doom

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately on the history of the comic book industry. It is fascinating. As someone who was born in an era when Marvel and DC had already emerged as The Big Two publishers of mostly superhero comics, learning about the origins of this corner of the publishing industry is eye-opening, to say the least.

Before TV conquered the time and the minds of the public, comics was a much bigger business in this country. Hundreds and hundreds of titles published every month, with the popular ones selling in the millions. In contrast, the highest-selling comic book published in 2017, Marvel Legacy #1, sold around 300,000 copies. The tenth highest-selling book, another Marvel title, sold just over half as many: Secret Empire #0 at around 160,000 copies. Even the most popular newspaper of today just barely reaches the heights where comics once reigned—the best-selling newspaper in 2017 was USA Today, a paper clearly written by and for imbeciles, at a circulation of about 2.2 million.

By the time I started reading comics, c. 1988, the business was already full of people who had grown up reading comics, and went into the business with drawing/writing comics as their professional ambition. Back when comics publishing started, it was the bottom of the barrel for commercial artists. It was a profession nobody would admit to, and the more ambitious folks used it as a springboard into commercial advertising illustration. Comics publishing was a laborious dungeon mill with demanding schedules, sharp deadlines, embarrassingly low pay, and zero conceits of being a worthwhile medium for intelligent adults to work in.

Because there was no “comic art” for them to be influenced by—the early comics artists were essentially inventing the craft as they went—most of the artists were trained commercial artists. They brought styles and sensibilities to their art that were directly linked to commercial illustration. It was a long time before Jack Kirby’s dynamic and exaggerated action became the default mode of mainstream comics. The characters in old school comics mostly look like regular people, straight out of advertisements, embarking on whatever adventures are required by a given genre. And the biggest-selling genre of comics, up until the Censorship Mafia came to crush them, was Horror.

One of the comics-history books I got at the library recently (The Horror! The Horror!: Comic Books the Government Didn’t Want You to Read! by Jim Trombetta) is specifically about horror comics , the culture they reflected, and the furor of censorship and moralizing that ended their dominance as a genre. As someone a couple of generations removed from the world that birthed them, I find something endearing and deeply humorous in these comics. I feel that there’s a strong narrative in this culture that wants to believe the 1950s were defined by some kind of “innocence.” All you gotta do to put the lie to this myth is talk to anyone black or native or poor who was alive at the time, and old enough to be conscious of the very real horrors they had to live with every day.

The horror comics of that era are like the dark id of this “innocence narrative.” Watching good, upstanding, suit-and-dress-wearing white folks get terrorized, punished, and mutilated by every conceivable horror is, quite frankly, hilarious.

I’m currently thinking through the subject, and will probably have more to say on the matter. For now I’ll share one more take-away point: until reading about these horror comics, and reading some of the actual comics that are reprinted in Trombetta’s book, I had no idea the extent to which the narrative and visual tropes of these comics had influenced comics generally, and therefore my approach to making comics. I just finished the newest issue of my genre-bending comic The Concrete Shinobi, which has strong horror-comics elements.

I’ve developed a soundbite response for people who ask what my comic is about: It’s about a shamanic bartending ninja and his adventures in the occult underground of Los Angeles, circa 2008—semi-autobiographical.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Defining Success

Like every other chucklehead who ever stepped in front of a condenser microphone to record a rap album, I had dreams of making a comfortable living doing what I loved. Actually, let’s be real; we all dream of endless piles of cash, millions in the bank, groupies, fancy cars, and luxury hotels in exotic places. I never wanted to be famous; I think anyone who does is sick in the head. The seed of True Desire in these dreams is pretty simple: freedom. Everybody wants off the plantation. The lower you are on the economic pyramid, the more important the pursuit of money becomes; it defines success.

I believe it’s important for people to have meaningful work in their lives, however one defines work. However, having one’s time—one resource none of us can ever recover once it’s gone—controlled by other people and entities is an insult to life and humanity. Who hasn’t had an asshole boss? Who’s never woken up and gone to a job wishing they could stay home and go back to sleep? Poverty raises the stakes; if you don’t go out and do all the shit you don’t want to do, selling your time and labor for a pittance, you may find yourself without shelter or food. As anyone who’s ever been homeless or studied the stories of people who are, once you fall that low it’s almost impossible to get back up.

I’ve known plenty of people who have experience in what I’ll call “underground pharmaceuticals.” I have yet to meet one who was in it for the thrill and glory. Being a “drug dealer” has plenty of dangers as an occupation—your safety, your life, your freedom, and your conscience are on the line. But that risk also comes with many of the benefits of being self-employed: setting your own hours, choosing who you do business with and under what circumstances, and being boss-free. Tax-free income is nice, too.

I’ve also known quite a few people in high-paying professions. They’ve got plenty of money, but their time belongs to someone else. I’ve often said that if I could find someone willing to pay me $200,000 a year to do a job, I’d work the job for three years, save as much as possible, and then fuck off for the next fifteen or twenty years. As a single man with no big debts hanging over me, I could live quite well—even adventurously—on thirty grand a year. Funny thing; I have yet to meet a professional who has done anything like this. I’m sure they’re out there, but it’s not common. Usually people just keep working the job.

Americans, being hopelessly addicted to consumerism, never get their freedom even when they make big bucks, because they spend whatever they make. If they start making more money, now they’re spending more money. I used to work at a restaurant where a couple of my friends on staff got promoted to management. If you’ve ever managed a restaurant, you know that once you take the job, the company pretty much owns your life. In my friends’ case, the promotion came with a substantial increase in pay. Both of them went out and bought brand new cars within a month. Both of them bought houses. Almost ten years later, they’re still working there; they’re stuck.

I, on the other hand, got fired, and after a three-year journey through the non-profit industrial complex, I now live a life of functional poverty as a freelance educator. But I have something my restaurant buddies will never have—my time belongs to me.

Most artists in any medium, if they’re true to the creative spirit, want more than anything for others to experience and enjoy their work. This is the Yin/Yang of being an artist—behind closed doors you get the pure joy and satisfaction of creating, and out in the world you get to see that art bring joy and satisfaction to others. It takes a lot of work and dedication, but it’s always worth it. No less a talent than Charles Schultz, creator of Peanuts, once said that cartooning will destroy you. This from one of the most financially and culturally successful cartoonists ever. I would add that there’s only one thing more destructive for a cartoonist: not cartooning.

I’ve been recording rap music and performing for over 10 years now; haven’t made a nickel from it yet. In fact, I’d rather not think about how far into the red it’s taken me. If I were to add up all the money I’ve spent over the years on supplies and equipment, it would probably hurt my feelings. However, my failure as a commercial artist led to my current success as a freelance educator; what I really wanted was my freedom, and now I have it. Took me a long time to get it, and I could lose it much faster, but for now, I have it. Victory! Success!

However, there’s still the matter of that burning desire for the Yang of creativity; getting it to other people. Finding an audience. I don’t currently have many fans, but I’ve got ’em. Last summer I was humbled and blown away when I man I only see once a year at ceremony quoted me an entire verse from a song I released back in 2012. When I start to get in my feelings about my lack of “success” as a musician, I think of that. I also think of something a young woman said to me once, back in my Concrete Shinobi days in Los Angeles—she told me that she listened to my CD every night before she went to sleep.

If I’d never taken the leap into becoming a recording artist, none of us would have had those experiences. If I’d never put on that mask or gotten on that mic, I might be spending my Monday afternoons shilling for some company instead of writing blogs in my pajamas.

Now that I’m making comics too, it’s kinda like starting over again on a creative journey. Making comics is far more difficult and arduous than making rap albums; you wrack your imagination to come up with great stories, you spend countless hours hunched over a drawing table, all to produce something that takes a person about five to ten minutes to read. And when they’ve finished, sometimes they say the thing I both love and dread to hear: when is the next one coming out? They have no clue how much went into the book they just breezed through, but ultimately it doesn’t matter; they’re hooked.

Victory! Success!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Value the Spirit

Everything is going to be okay. And if not, it’s still going to be okay because someday you’ll die and whatever it is—and everything else—will all be over.

Someone gave their life today. You’d giggle or sneer or maybe smile at my eccentricity if I refer to them as a “person,” because slave cultures only recognize the personhood of one nation: the human nation. This person I’m speaking of walked on four hooves, and faintly remembered their ancestral status as Chief upon the largest bioregion—the largest community—on planet earth: the Great Plains. On that land, the human nation of thousands once recognized their kinship with a nation of millions: tatanka oyate, the (Buffalo)(People/Nation/Community/Tribe).

This one died to feed the people, to feed the ceremony. I hope you like buffalo soup. If not, it’s okay; I’ll enjoy it on your behalf, and keep you in mind when prayers are offered.

“Call for help,” said Cooper-as-Dougie-Jones (see: Twin Peaks season 3, available on DVD or bootleg near you). Yes, call for help, and when it comes one must be thankful. It’s a simple formula, really; if you value something and you are grateful, then you get the most out of what you value. Anything you take for granted, along with everything you don’t, will someday be gone. Simple truths.

A few days ago I was reading an interview that comics legend Will Eisner conducted with Phil Seuling, who is the man more or less directly responsible for the existence of both comic book conventions and comic book stores (Will Eisner’s Shop Talk, Dark Horse Comics 2001). I’ve been reading comics for as long as I can read, and started buying comic books regularly around the age of 9. When I first discovered there was such a thing as a comic book store, my world instantly became that much more magical. Weekly trips, stacks of books, my one-stop depot for the amazing. My first comic book convention blew my mind, and multiplied the magic even more. Phil Seuling gave birth to both. Incredible.

Phil Seuling died in 1984, at age 50. I was four years old. In 12 years, I will be the same age he was when he died.

Sometimes things come along that make you feel the time crunch.

Imagine if you knew you only had 12 more years to live. What would you do? How would you live your life? No obsessive bucket-list fantasies, please; your surviving family members might inherit your credit card debt, or your shame, or both. How much time has already gone by? How much of it did you spend in front of a TV, or playing video games, or being a miserable sonuvabitch? Or (insert waste of time here)? How much more time do you want to give to such things?

No judgment on your choices; they’re yours after all, not mine. I don’t give a shit. These are just words on a screen, something to think about. Besides, I believe that in many areas of life, particularly in our relationships, we get what we want.

Not what we say we want, or what we think we want, but what we actually want. You can tell by what people have. For example, everyone’s got at least one friend in a romantic relationship with someone trife (if you don’t have that kind of friend, you probably are that friend). These friends spend years burning moments off your life, telling you what a shitbag their girl/boy/x/friend is, and yet they continue to choose to be with the shitbag in question.

And you, being a good friend, will dutifully listen, perhaps sympathize, and maybe even encourage them to jettison the dead weight. They never do. You know why? Because they want to be in a relationship with a shitbag.

And you want to be friends with someone who spends years burning moments off your life talking about their shitbags.

Is wanting to play video solitaire on your spacephone for six hours a day worse than wanting to be in a relationship with a shitbag? I think not, but you might disagree. Point is, we all make choices. We all choose whether or not to claim our choices AS CHOICES. You can choose to be grateful for (whatever you have to be grateful for), or you can choose to not be grateful.

“I really should be grateful for…” said in a whining voice riddled with shame and guilt. FUCK THAT, in capital letters. It’s as if the content of “should” was defined long ago by some disembodied and absent power, and that content always adds up to the same thing: I’m not good enough. If you’re looking for ideas on what you should be doing, I’ve got plenty and I’ll be happy to share, because I know just as well as you do that you won’t act on them anyway. You can choose to (whatever) or you can choose to not (whatever.) “Should” can eat a bag of dicks.

I’m going to be bold and say there’s a proper way for humans to exist on the earth—in a state of active humility to the great mystery of life and the living world. Active, meaning “acted on,” not merely spoken into an echo chamber of virtue signaling. I realize that in the MegaTech era people think the sign and the signified are the same thing, but work with me here because this is important: action is action. The humility I speak of is inherent in the cultures, beliefs, and behaviors of humans who live with the earth. Savages, you would call them, if you were being honest. I prefer “organic.”

What makes this way the proper way is that it keeps people from taking too much or concentrating power. The desire for Total Control is anti-life, as we can see clearly here at the event horizon of The End of the World; it only took four or five millennia of pyramids, grids, and machines to bring this planet to the brink of uninhabitability. Does life on earth have 12 years left? 50?

Stay tuned.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cherry Blossoms and Dancing Cars

Helicopter rotors rumble in the air like mechanical thunder. Sirens, roaring engines of passing cars, combustion, the tapping of my fingers on the keyboard. Motorcycle engines and sound systems loud enough to set off car alarms. I can hear voices from the neighbor kids occasionally, but there is no other organic sound here. Sometimes I hear birds. This is not one of those times.

A walk through the streets of my east Oakland neighborhood—the first thing I think of is: metal bars. Most of them spiked at the top, most painted black but not all. Gates to parcel off the grid of ownership stand like visible markers of an invisible separation; outside this barrier is a different world. When I walk by and you’re watering the plants or working on your car, we’ll all pretend that the other doesn’t exist. Inside these lines is a private world; everyone intuitively understands the unspoken agreement—these invisible walls are not to be violated.

Wires carve up the sky, hanging like a curtain over the street where I rent a half-dilapidated old house. From the front porch, here on the crest of the hill, you can look out toward the skyline of the bay, and after awhile you won’t even notice those rubber-coated metal cobwebs, like you don’t notice the frame of eye-glasses impinging on your vision. It’s just part of the scene, like the turgid gray air on the horizon in every direction.

Every house is different, and there are hundreds. You can walk for blocks and blocks to the north, south, or west without ever really leaving a residential area. The houses of the Chinese and the southeast Asians are easy to identify—fruit trees, affectionately tended and semi-wild gardens, splashes of colorful plant life that shame the concrete beneath them.

Cars everywhere, parked on every block, on every street. Mid-price range sedans and coupes, crunchy 20-year old Japanese imports, the occasional fancy luxury car, freshly washed, chrome rims gleaming. You can tell which vehicles promise to have Latino owners; well-worn pick up trucks full of yard maintenance and construction tools, a miniature Mexican or Salvadoran or Guatemalan flag hanging from the rearview mirror.

In this city, the cars dance. At every intersection in the neighborhood the asphalt is covered with streaks of tire-rubber. They dance at any time, day or night.

If you head a few blocks west and turn south, you find yourself on a street that dead-ends at the entrance to a park. The last house on the block has a steep stairway leading up from the sidewalk to the front porch, and a woman who appears nearly as old as the city itself lives there. I know this because once when I was passing by, she flagged me down from porch and asked if I would get her mail out of the box that was two-thirds of the way up the steps. Even to descend and return the handful of steps to the mailbox would have been a harrowing and dangerous adventure for someone whose body is crippled and worn by so many decades.

There are rarely many people at the park, especially during the week, during the day. In one distant corner, tucked up against the back fence of a house, there are a couple of tents set up; the park is home to at least a few people. There are two tennis courts, unused except as a place of rest, conversation, or mischief for teens and tent people. The courts are covered in dead leaves and branches shed by the local redwoods and evergreens. A blacktop path winds through the park, beginning at the old woman’s house and winding downhill, through redwoods and park-grass that has already begun to yellow in the summer sun.

The path ends at a main artery, a two lane street with its own exits from two major freeways, and a drawbridge leading to an island, another city. It takes forever for the traffic light to flash the green man when you want to cross this street, because in this artery the citygod gives priority to mechanical blood cells. But your patience will be rewarded when you cross and keep walking. At the end of the block is a court, bordered by apartment buildings. The edges of the court are littered with garbage; car parts, liquor bottles, plastic wrappers, old tires, and every other thing that can wash up on the fringes of a dense urban landscape. The court is a constant host to a few apartment residents who perform mechanical surgery on broken-down vehicles; theses folks smoke cigarettes and look with suspicion on strangers; nobody wants trouble.

A path through wild grass along the court leads to a trail that follows a creek. Just like that, you turn a corner and it’s almost as if you were no longer in the city. Except for all the chainlink and deteriorating wooden fences bordering the other side of the creek, and the rumble of combustion engines, and the gray, and the wires, and the tumors of buildings growing out of the hills in the distance. There’s running water in the creek, buzzing bugs, a few birds, and the occasional feral cat. It took many thousands of years for this creek and her community of swimmers, flyers, runners, and crawlers to come into being; in less than a century, that community has been decimated by concrete infection. And yet the community clings to life with quiet tenacity.

A short walk along the trail will lead you pass a concrete canvass; known only to the local Spray Can crews of midnight marauders, there’s rarely more than a piece or two on the wall, but they are always elaborate, gorgeous works, exploding with color and attitude. Every once in awhile the government Gray Paint crews will remember this place, and spend a few weeks dutifully destroying beautiful art before they forget about it again and move on.

Cross the street, continue on the trail. On the far corner of the next block is a small patio with several folding tables. At least once a week, someone from somewhere brings boxes of bread, fruit, and vegetables and leaves them out on the tables for the locals—a lot of elders, a lot of black and brown and yellow skin tones. Even on the in-between days, when the goodies are gone, you’re likely to see a couple of elders trading stories; an older black man mimes the action of an exciting play from a televised basketball game for a middle-aged Latina.

Cross the street again and enter the Cherry Blossom Tunnel, the length of a two whole blocks where the trail is bordered by cherry trees. In summer the blossoms have long since fallen, but the arcing branches still block out the stun and the sky wires with their maroon leaves. Don’t trip over empty pint bottles of cognac, brandy, and vodka. Dodge the paper shopping bags full of trash, don’t step in abandoned dog shit. A few cats are nibbling at a pile of kibble. They too look on strangers with suspicion. Nobody wants trouble.

Nearly to the end of that second block of Cherry Blossom Tunnel, you’ll come to the temple; a nearly symmetrical circle of eight redwood trees near the edge of the creek. There is a proper way to enter this circle, much like the sycamore grove of Twin Peaks; I know because the Good Folk, the spirits, the gods, the djinn told me, in voices of synchronicity and bird-feather signs. A temple suitable for bodhisattvas, where the King of the Apes comes pray in movement to Guanyin, to heal his sicknesses by running through Taoist exercise routines—Stretch Sinews, Open Bones; Ten Great Heavenly Stems; the choreography and freestyle play of Form-Intention Fist, Eight Trigram Palm, and Supreme Pole Fist.

Then it’s back home, back through the tunnel, cut over to the main artery, past the autobody shop and the liquor store. In need of an old stained mattress, some new used furniture, or possible a busted stereo receiver? It’s an open air flea market here, and no money is required; the only price you pay is your freedom.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Follow the Spirit

Today is the summer solstice, longest day of the year. It’s been over ten years now that I’ve looked upon each of the solstices and equinoxes as an important time—a time for reflection, for gathering my energy, and occasionally for mourning.

Seven days ago was the one-year anniversary of me being canned from the non-profit industrial complex. I’ve been fired from every corporate job I’ve ever worked in my adult life, so really, it was only a matter of time. There were some substantial differences this time around, though. In a regular job at a regular business, everyone is clear on the goal, the very point of being there: making money. There’s not a business on earth that has high-minded conceits of accomplishing anything else—it is impossible, because a business is a non-living entity. It exists only to expand and produce money. Whatever the people behind the counter or in the boardroom may tell themselves and others about their goals and purposes, ultimately everything is subjugated to this one, cold, basic fact.

Most businesses are exploitative by design and nature—the people at the bottom work to benefit the people at the top. There’s no ownership, no stake, and no illusions regarding the contract that is signed when one begins employment—you, the company, will pay me whatever paltry amount to do a job, and extract profit from my labor. Most employment is “at-will,” which is an obfuscative way of saying they can fire you at any time, for any reason, with or without notice.

The non-profit business world is likewise based on exploitation, but with the added layer of claiming some kind of social benefit. It may not be required for employees to consider themselves Heroes crusading for a Better World, but it’s common for them to do so. You’ve gotta have some kind of psycho-emotional crutch to get you through the days of low-pay, overwork, uncashable checks, and frequent uncertainty about whether or not the company itself will survive. Exploitation becomes not only financial, but emotional; you’re working for The Cause, which you Care Deeply About, and therefore will tolerate all manner of bullshit in service of your ideals that otherwise would be unthinkable.

Most non-profits, like most businesses of any kind here in the states, are started and run by white people. This fact comes from a simple calculus of demographics—there are more white people in this country than any other kind of people—and historical privilege—they have the resources and means to do it. So when I got the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a clearly rag-tag, canvassing-based non-profit spearheaded by a black dude, I took it.

Those facts were not what attracted me, though. I was following the spirit. I had just decided that week to quit my job as assistant general manager at an upscale fast-food restaurant (that feels weird to say), on account of the general manager was a cokehead douchebag white man whose modus operandi was to treat all of the employees like scum and garbage, while doing as little work as possible himself (and possibly while pitching peen to the queer owner, but that’s purely conjecture).

This was early July in 2014. I planned to quit on the 4th, when the restaurant was closed. I told the entire staff except the GM that I was planning to quit, so they would be prepared to be short-handed. I’d also spent over a month taking statements from them, and documenting the GM’s rampant abuse. The day I quit, I sent all my documentation to the company owner, but also to his accountant and all the staff members. Since I knew the owner had some weird cult-of-personality-like romance for the GM, I didn’t trust him to act on my information unless that information was public enough that he would be pressured to do so.

It worked. There was an investigation by HR that resulted in the GM being ousted. I left that job a hero to the staff; from that time until the restaurant closed in 2017, I never once had to pay for food there. One former co-worker told me she believed that God had sent me to rescue them from their abusive boss. Given the path and nature of my life, it’s not the most outrageous possibility.

In the few days between when I decided to quit and when I actually quit, I was coming out of the grocery store in Alameda when I spotted some canvassers outside. They were wearing shirts that said “HIP HOP” in all caps. One of them was a dude I vaguely recognized from the local hip hop scene; I approached him, he gave me the pitch for donating and for taking a job as a canvasser. Turns out he was the Executive Director, who I will now and forever refer to as Crab Cakes. I gave him $10 and took his card.

What really got my attention was the hip hop education program they (supposedly) had. I’d been brainstorming for at least a year to figure out how I could work with young people and teach them about hip hop culture; here was an organization that (supposedly) was doing exactly the work I wanted to do, and I encountered them right when I was about to become jobless.

This is what I mean when I say “following the spirit.” The world is always guiding you if you know how to listen and what to look for. I’d long since realized that my health and sanity depended on listening. So even though the pay was minimal and the work, as a street canvasser, seemed inherently degrading and horrible, I decided to apply for the job, hoping to become a hip hop educator.

It worked. Eventually.

It was months before I recalled any details of my first encounter with this dude at a show, but it speaks to his general character, so I’ll tell the story: I went with my nephew and hip hop partner DJ Innalect to a small indy show out in Berkeley, and Crab Cakes was in the headlining act. Me and Innalect were with the crowd of smokers outside when the door open and this dude comes swaggering out. My exact thought at the time was: “This asshole really thinks he’s something special.” It was written all over him. I sneered, blew a cloud of smoke, and went back to chatting with Innalect. I eventually remembered that “this asshole” was in fact Crab Cakes.

Once I started working at Hip Hop Fuck-Shit (HHFS), as it will hereafter be referred to, I discovered that their “education program” was mostly a fantasy ambition. Crab Cakes had conducted less than half a dozen workshops, mostly arranged by friends and associates who were school teachers. I wrote this off to the newness of the org; it had only been in operation for a little over a year.

Within five months after I started working, a series of unfortunate events occurred that led to a near-complete implosion of the org. Crab Cakes got into a personal conflict with the Assistant Executive Director—a creepy white dude from an upper-middle-class background who had a master’s degree in non-profit administration—and this conflict led to all of the staff, myself included, resigning in a fit of disgust. It’s a great story, but I’ll save it for another time. Suffice for now to say that I ended up returning to the org, for the same reason I started there to begin with; I felt the strong guiding hands of the creator and my ancestors nudging me to return. Actually, in the case of my ancestors, they were quite forceful (and loud). I followed the spirit.

Crab Cakes, being a certifiable narcissist, had no genuine interest in “educating the youth,” despite his incessant, self-promoting lip service to The Cause. He put me in charge of the education program, knowing it was the reason I was willing to return. I loathed the idea of going back to canvassing, but I realized this was a unique opportunity, so I bit the bullet. I did my first series of workshops within a few months, and kept building.

Within two-and-a-half years, I’d taught workshops in over 40 schools, colleges, and youth programs, for a total audience of over 8,000 students. In doing so, I’d brought in around $30,000 to $40,000 dollars for the org. For the last year I was there, my salary was more than I’d ever made in any other job, a whopping $19/hour, full time. As someone who had committed myself long ago to participating in the minimal amount of employment necessary to survive, and as a person who had no debt, I was, in my reckoning, a rich man. Hood rich.

I was also losing my mind.

It didn’t take long for it to become clear that the only real force restraining Crab Cakes’s tremendous irresponsibility and fundamental incompetency had been the creepy white dude with the master’s degree in non-profit administration. With him gone, the org ran like a leaking ship. Every single effort the rest of the staff made to plug those leaks was met with warfare by Crab Cakes (too much of a challenge to his ego), and more leaks. He never met a dollar he couldn’t spend, never met a person he wouldn’t exploit, and—for the last two years I was there, at the least—never met a powder line he wouldn’t snort. I spent a good portion of my last six months there convincing other staff members to refrain from beating him unconscious. Sometimes I wonder if that was a mistake; but then again, these are great people, and I didn’t want them to end up behind bars over this guy.

As a direct result of Crab Cakes’s incompetency, the org was constantly on the rocks; there was not one single pay period in the last nine months of my employment when any of the staff members were able to cash their checks on time. One member of the admin staff discovered he’d been underpaid—to the tune of thousands of dollars—for months. I personally discovered that my medical insurance had been canceled without anybody bothering to notify me, yet the money for it was still being taken out of my check. For three months, I was paying (the org) for medical insurance I didn’t have.

Beginning in January of 2017, he went on a particularly egregious series of hijinks and fuckery that destroyed whatever flagging morale that remained to the staff. It got to the point where I was not only doing my job, I was doing Crab Cakes’s job as well; I was working with other members of the admin staff to develop training programs, strategies, and tactics to make sure the org could sustain itself. Nobody’s really sure what he was doing during this whole period of time, other than a lot of cocaine.

I was so disgusted with his exploitative, abusive, and irresponsible behavior that I was having actual dreams about kicking his ass. I stopped even pretending to give a shit about his ego-fueled diatribes about all the miraculous things the org was accomplishing; they’d always been a waste of my workday, and now they were infuriating. I attempted to coordinate with other admin folks on strategies for taking basic day-to-day business fundamentals out of this guy’s hands, so the tasks would actually get done.

Every toxic social environment with a villain in a position of authority is going to have its apologists and collaborators—people who facilitate the abuse by covering it up, pretending it’s something other than what it is, or finding scapegoats. These motherfuckers are just as evil and dangerous as the abusers themselves, if not more so; without a lot of help, abusers can’t get away with their abuse. Hip Hop Fuck-Shit was no different. Somebody, probably a couple of people, got in his ear about what I was doing. Between that and my refusal to powder his booty every time he had a stroke of inspiration to Act Like a Boss, it was too much for him. He fired me.

As soon as he did, I knew I was finally free.

Having run the entire education program autonomously, I had connections, networks, friendships, and opportunities in the school universe. I struck out on my own, committed to never working for anyone but myself ever again. Other than my sporadic work at an event venue that I do mostly for free concerts and excuse to socialize, I have been my own boss for over a year now. I’m still doing workshops, and I have both the time and the energy to continue working on music, comics, and events. I got my freedom, I got off the plantation, I got my mojo and my life back. I set my own schedule and I work where, and when, I want.

And I did it by following the spirit.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment