Monday, July 28, 2008

Hey, Mr. DJ! Do You Have to be So Good?

Stop It! You're Killing Me

© 2008 Leighann Lord

A life time ago I dated a DJ. His specialty was House Music and I was a House Head. It was love at first beat. This is back when DJs spun on turntables, carried records in milk crates and could save your life with a song. It's not brain surgery but DJs have a hard job. The success or failure of a party lies in their hands. No matter how long you wait on line to get into the club; no matter how expensive and watered down the drinks; no matter how grimy the bathrooms; if The DJ is on point, all is forgiven.

A great DJ is like a mind reader; seeming to know intuitively what song will make you jump up and yell, "That's my jam!" They have the challenging task of playing the right combination of songs that moves the crowd. Knowing what song to play when is critical. A packed dance floor will clear out in seconds if the DJ plays the wrong song. The collective expression on the faces of everyone returning to their seats is, "The DJ messed up."

The more diverse the crowd, the harder the job. If you've ever been on a cruise ship then you know it's like a floating United Nations, with crew members representing over 50 nationalities. How do you DJ a party for a group like that without causing an international incident? At one crew party I attended the DJ kept the crowd happy by playing a little bit of everything. He was literally all over the map. I heard music I've never heard before, and will probably never hear again (Egyptian Trance doesn't always make it onto HOT 97's play list) but I enjoyed it.

It reminded me of a night club I partied at in Rotterdam. The DJ played such a wide variety of music I thought he was schizophrenic. Within minutes he went from Michael Jackson, to Frank Sinatra, to Biggie and the crowd was with it. They just wanted to dance and have a good time. The only thing that would have made them angry is if the music stopped entirely.

Such a disparate repertoire might not have gone over as well here in the States. In the melting pot we don't seem to care for music mixing. If we go out to hear House, the DJ plays Country & Western at his own peril.

It all comes down to your point of view. If the DJ plays music you like, he's good. If he doesn't, he's not. But sometimes no matter how good the DJ is there are some folks he just can't reach, namely The Wall Flowers. I used to get an attitude when I glanced up from the dance floor and saw people leaning on the wall. I would think, "If you're not gonna dance, go home. Why are you standing in here sucking up my fresh air?"

Sadly there are some folks who are Wall Flowers because they don't know how to dance. These folks have my deepest sympathies. Unless you were raised in Elmore City, Oklahoma (the town "Footloose" was based on) you should know how to dance and if you can't, I blame your parents.

Dancing is an important social skill. If parents can stimulate a baby's intellectual development in the womb by playing classical music, then they can put on a little R&B, Funk, Rock, or Rap and teach Baby how to keep a beat. It doesn't have to be "Mad Hot Ballroom" or "Dancing with the Stars" but teach them enough to get them off the wall and enjoy themselves.

In my arrogance I never realized that there could be another type of wall flower. Those for whom the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak; or more accurately the arches are unable. These people aren't leaning on the wall sucking up the fresh air as much as they are just trying to catch their breath.

You don't realize how athletic dancing is until you haven't done it in a while. In your mind there is no gap between the last time you cut a rug and now, so you jump on the dance floor with both feet. In your excitement you may not even pace yourself and hey, why would you? You invented dancing didn't you?

The body, having only vague memories of such public vigorous movement, may not react as your mind intends. Even if you're in good shape, the muscles required to lift weights or run on a tread mill are not the same muscles you need to do the Chicken Noodle, the Harlem Shake or whatever organ jarring gyration being done these days.

I learned a little about this at the crew party I attended. Somewhere between a salsa and working it to the bone my body said, "Hey, I didn't sign up for all this! I quit." Actually, my whole body didn't quit all at once. It started with my feet. My bad, I was wearing the wrong shoes but who wears Hush Puppies to a party? Other parts of my body turned in their notice over the next few days. I'm sorry. I didn't know you could get whiplash from doing the Wop.

Despite what my body says, the Axis of Evil (my Pride, Ego and Vanity) have let me know that they are not ready to be relegated to wall flower status. So I've come up with a plan: stretching out before a party, finding cute shoes with good arch support and praying for a bad DJ.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Fear of Flying Coach

© 2008 Leighann Lord

I'm a platinum level frequent flier on American Airlines; at least I used to be. Since elite status is determined by number of miles flown in the last calendar year and not the lifetime number of miles, I've been demoted. As Joni Mitchell so correctly crooned, "You don't know what you've got till it's gone."

When I had platinum status I went through a separate security line at the airport. The TSA agents smiled sweetly as I breezed through the screening process. The search itself was a mere formality because it's common knowledge that elite level fliers can't possibly be terrorists.

Once at the gate I was invited to board the plane early; critical if you want to secure precious overhead space, or guarantee yourself a blanket.

I was first on the list for an upgrade. I still remember the first time I flew first class. I was treated to a pre-take off beverage, a necessity so you don't become parched with the effort of getting comfortable in your spacious leather seat. It was pre-9/11 so not only did I get a hot meal, but I ate it with real mini metal silverware. Before the meal of course was the hot, moist, lemon-scented towel I was given to wipe my hands.

You meet the coolest people in first class, too. On an early morning flight I once sat next to Maya Angelou. She boarded the plane, sat next to me, and all I could think was, "Oh my god its Maya Angelou! I am sitting next to The 'Phenomenal Woman' herself!" I was in the presence of greatness.

When she took out her laptop I thought, "Oh my god, Maya Angelou is gonna write a poem right now!"
My curiosity got the best of me. When I peeked to read what she was writing, I saw she was playing solitaire; an integral part of her creative process I suppose. When the flight attendant came by to take our drink order, I asked for a cup of tea; Maya ordered a vodka and OJ. I guess now I know why the caged bird sings.

But alas those days are gone. When I didn't rack up enough frequent flier miles with American Airlines, my status dropped from Platinum to plebeian. The transition has not been easy. It's like using an outhouse once you've had indoor plumbing. It's like returning to the cubicle after having a corner office. It's like replacing your Ipod with a Walkman. Coach by comparison seems light on the amenities. No pillow, no movie, no peanuts. Instead there's "Food for Purchase." I can either be fiscally sodomized in the airport or at 30,000 feet. Delightful.

And then there's the seating. I'm very particular. I like the window on the right, or the aisle on the left, and if I don't get it I'm cranky. I'm cranky a lot when I fly with my Husband. Marriage has doomed me to the middle seat. Apparently when couples fly together, the man – who's taller and more entitled to stretch his legs -- gets the aisle seat.

I could still opt for the window and let a stranger sit between us but that might be awkward in case of an argument. I've tried sitting directly across from my Husband in the other aisle seat, but that’s not very romantic. It's difficult to snuggle up and put my head on his shoulder when people insist on traipsing back and forth to the bathroom, or I'm being knocked in the noggin by a runaway beverage cart.

Some people find it hard to sleep on a plane. Some can surrender to the arms of Morpheus as they're fastening their seat belt. Sadly, some of these folks are also as quick to snore. There's a lot of snoring in coach. That’s probably because of the uncomfortable angle of the seats, the lack of pillows and quality of the cabin air.

I once found myself in a two-seater next to a man who was, as my mother would say, calling hogs. I turned up my Ipod to drown out the sounds of his undiagnosed Sleep Apnea but it bled right through my Marcy Playground:

"I smell sex and candy..."


"Who's that lounging in my..."


"Who's that casting devious stares in my direction..."
That would be the other passengers. But giving disapproving glares to a man who's not awake to see them is as effective as going to war in the Middle East without an exit strategy. So I tried a little something that usually works at home: I elbowed the man in the stomach and then pretended to be sleeping. And whilst I pseudo slept, I dreamt of early boarding, smiling flight attendants, hot meals, and warm lemon scented towels...

"... Mama this surely is a dream..."
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Why Is Jesse Jackson Talking?

© 2008 Leighann Lord

Can someone please tell me why Jesse Jackson is talking? Better yet, can someone please ask him to stop? He accused Barack Obama of talking down to Black people. Really? I must have missed that speech. I've called a few friends, sent a few emails and it seems the Black people I know don't feel talked down to at all. In fact we feel rather giddy and uplifted; which begs the question: Is Jesse jealous?

And I know there are times when gathered amongst themselves men might speak a bit crudely to and about each other, but publicly threatening the nether regions of the man who might be the next President of the United States is no way to secure a possible place in the new administration.

Not only is Jesse Jackson talking, he's talking on FOX News. Is anybody buying the excuse that he didn't know the mic was on, or as we say in the business, "hot?" Jesse Jackson is an international media savvy figure. If he didn't know, it's time to retire. If he forgot, it's time to retire. If he knew, and did it on purpose, it's time to retire. But then again, he can't afford to retire; not with a second extramarital family to support.

Between this and the ill timed comments of Reverend Wright I am worried. What other old Black men will feel strangely compelled to say uncomfortably inappropriate things about Barack Obama? Morgan Freeman, Danny Glover, Darth Vader? "Obama accused of having ties to The Dark Side; News at 11!"

Will Frederick Douglas, the 19th century E.F. Hutton, put in a word from the Great Beyond?

As the election approaches we need to circle the wagons, put all the eggs in the basket, and keep our collective eyes on the prize. We each have to do our part. I think Jesse’s part will be to please stop talking.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

It's All Fun and Games Until You Marry The White Guy

What's Love Got to Do With It?

© 2008 Leighann Lord

Almost everyone in my family has been kind, gracious and accepting of my Husband. If they have a problem with our marriage, they have had the good sense to keep it to themselves. Unfortunately though, I do have a cousin -- Cousin X -- who will not speak to, make eye contact with or acknowledge my Husband in any way. To be fair Cousin X doesn't hate my Husband directly, just by association. My Cousin hates white people. My Husband is white. So, Logic 101: My Cousin hates my Husband.

And this is no idle hatred. Cousin X has written a few books on the evils of white folks and has said publicly (at least once that I know of; isn't You Tube great?), "We have to exterminate white people off the face of the planet." You can see why I didn't invite him to the wedding. An assassination attempt might have put a damper on my big day.

Les Brown, one of my favorite motivational speakers says, "You have to cut the negative people out of your life." This is easy to do since we don’t live near Cousin X, but when we ran into him recently at a local event his continued disdain for my husband was palpable. I was again glad that I hadn't wasted a stamp on a wedding invite.

I am amazed that Black racists and White racists aren't better friends, what with all the hate and ignorance they have in common. White supremacists don’t believe in interracial relationships as it "dilutes the race." I think I would rather dilute the race than diminish my humanity.

I have heard the theory that Black people can't be racist because we don't have any power. Really? The folks at Black Enterprise who compile the annual BE List of the Top 100 Black Businesses in America will be surprised to hear this. I bet the Congressional Black Caucus and Senator Obama didn't get the memo either.

For those who doubt that racism exists in the Black community, I ask you to ponder if Barrack's presidential bid would have as much support if his wife, Michelle, were white. To be fair, John McCain's chances might be equally less rosy if his wife, Cindy, were a woman of color. We're just not that evolved as a species. Our collective racial baggage is way too heavy.

Sadly, I am not immune. I've had my ignorant moments as well. I'd be lying if I said I'd never looked at a Black man with a White woman and wondered, "What is he doing with her?" The answer is: none of my freakin' business. Time is too precious to be worried about what others are doing with theirs.

I think people are more tolerant of an interracial relationship when both people in it are either superstar gorgeous or conventionally unattractive. Alex Rodriguez and Madonna? Okay. Lyle Lovett and Star Jones (Post Surgery)? Okay. Halle Berry and Stephen Hawking? Not so much. That union might move Minister Louis Farrakhan to call for another Million Man March.

Speaking of which, the looks my Husband and I get from Black men can be the worst. They scowl at him as if he has stolen something from them. I'm actually not sure if they're mad that I'm not with a Black man in general or that I'm not with them in particular. Testosterone is funny like that. But if sameness of skin color and culture were the only criteria for a successful relationship, dating would be completely unnecessary. Color coordinated marriages would make divorce obsolete.

Sometimes I wonder if it would have been easier if I’d had an agenda. But alas I didn't marry a white guy to further the cause of diversity, improve my credit score or to make up for all the white women who have married Black athletes and actors. I made the mistake of simply falling in love, and thus we have subjected ourselves to a lifetime of stares and glares that all seem to ask "why." None of your freakin' business, that's why.

I might be a little biased here, but I think my Husband is a great guy. Cousin X might have found that out if he'd sat down and actually had a conversation with him; or even found a reason to dislike him based on something more substantial than his color. They could have bonded over sports or battled over "High School Musical."

But that's not gonna happen. My Husband is many things, but a turn-the-other-cheek kinda guy, he's not. At this point in their "relationship" he probably wouldn't spit on Cousin X if he were on fire. I would; assuming of course I was spitting gasoline, and said precious liquid didn’t cost over $4 per gallon. Personally, instead of getting flak for marrying "outside" the race, I want credit for marrying "inside" the species.

My parent’s marriage had its naysayers. People said it wouldn’t last. I don’t know why. They’re both Black, and color scheme is all that matters, right? Well, this year they’ll be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. I guess the best revenge is a long happy marriage, outliving all the people who called it wrong. Me, and The White Guy have seven years and counting. We’re looking forward to the next 43, racist assassination attempts not withstanding.


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Monday, July 7, 2008

On Your Mark, Get Set, Stroll

Countdown to Boring
© 2008 Leighann Lord

So I'm strolling through lovely downtown Lincoln, Nebraska, when I notice that the "Don't Walk" sign has a count down timer displaying how many seconds you have to make it across the street. Half the fun of crossing the street is not knowing how much time you’ll have to do it. Can you saunter or will you have to sprint?

How and when you cross the street says a lot about your level of risk tolerance. When you see a "Don't Walk" sign do you stand complacently on the corner waiting until it's perfectly safe to cross, or do you seize the chance for a little exercise and excitement? The rush of it gets your blood pumping. That's why we ride roller coasters, visit haunted houses and attempt to do our own taxes. It's a momentary fear with the subconscious conviction that we will survive. And when we do, it's exhilarating. We have looked death in the face and gave it sexy wink.

The truth is, even if we have the right of way to cross the street it's never perfectly safe. Drivers run lights. Car brakes fail. If you're ambling profile reminds a heart broken driver of the back stabbing ex who recently did them wrong, you might want to hustle it up.

On the risk-o-meter it's not sky diving, parachuting or running for public office, but there are quite a few variables to calculate when the "Don't Walk" sign is flashing: distance, foot wear, health, reaction time, time of day, flow of traffic, the patience level and attention span of the drivers.

Admittedly, the consequences of not making across the street in time can be dire; fatal even. A count down timer is a simple, yet logical addition that helps improve public safety. I’m sure there are days when even the most adventurous appreciate the heads up, but it does lower the fun factor.

There was a safety campaign many years ago that encouraged pedestrians to "Cross at the Green. Not in Between." But like the yellow light for drivers, there is something about the "Don’t Walk" sign that just eggs us on. It speaks to our inner daredevil, goading us to go for it. Whether it reads "Don't Walk" or shows a picture of a stationary figure the sub-text is all "Dirty Harry:" "Do you feel lucky?" Don't we always.


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