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1990's Tidbits, Random Thoughts,Trivial Pursuits (30 second "brain dump")
FLASHBACK to the 1990's - For some reason this week I've been having a "flashback" to the 1990's. Of course there is a whole lot that I could write about the 1990's, but here are a few items that came to mind last week...
1. IRAQ - Are we getting ready to go to war either in/with Iraq for yet a 3rd time? The 1990's Gulf War was the first time. Are we now compelled to go for a third?
2. ICE CUBE (AMERIKKKA'S MOST WANTED) - I was watching the ESPN 30/30 special on the University of Michigan "Fab Four" NCAA Championship Team. Ice Cube makes an appearance in the documentary and he talks about how much that team inspired him and his music. That made me think of Ice Cube's first solo album called "Amerikkka's Most Wanted." I'm almost certain that many of you reading this haven't heard this album. However IMHO "Amerikkka's Most Wanted," is one of the most stunning debut album's that I have ever heard. It's a GREAT concept album that approaches Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" as a statement of political/social commentary. Of course the language is foul/offensive & about as far from politically correct as it is possible to get. However it is all in the "context of the conversation" that Ice Cube is trying to have. It's fast/furious/funky, produced by the PE Bomb Squad, with cameos by Chuck & Flav + tons of great samples! And it's all worth going back to take a listen to in 2014.
3. HILLARY CLINTON - At this point it seems all but certain that she is going to be the next President of the United States. A whole lot can happen between now and the next election, but she seems poised to become the next President. I just wonder if that will truly be a step forward or a step backwards?
4. BRANDY (I WANNA BE DOWN) - Earlier this week I got a new artist submittal from a female artist, in the form of a YouTube music video. That is hardly unusual. What was unusual was the video stylistically had much in common with the music video for Brandy's debut single called "I Wanna Be Down." I loved that song. For me the song "I Wanna Be Down," harkened back to 1970's slow jams like "I Love You For All Seasons" by THE FUZZ, "So I Can Love You" by the EMOTIONS and other sons of that type, all sung by teenaged girls. When the song first came out, I totally fell in love with it within the first 30 seconds I heard it. For me this was UTTERLY COMPELLING music! And for the next several months the song played over and over again inside of my head. Unfortunately for Brandy that song was her artistic height in my humble opinion.
5. ORENTHAL - Recently there have been a number of TV specials that have reprised the whole saga of OJ Simpson. I still find it quite ironic that this "dumb jock," who always maintained that he considered himself to be "colorless," was the central figure in a saga that provides something of a "tipping point," for race relations in the United States. There are so many layers of complexity to the story and I doubt if we will ever know if he was guilty or not. A compelling case can still be made either way. However that may not really matter. What mattered is that his saga gave the citizens of the United States the chance to have an extremely complex public dialogue with each other about the topic of race and IMHO that was a good thing.
6. MILES DIED, STEVIE RAY DIED - And neither Jazz nor Blues has recovered from their early 1990's passing.
7. "TRAGIC" JOHNSON - Last night I watched the 90 minute ESPN documentary called "THE ANNOUNCEMENT," which is all about the events/aftermath of the time when Ervin "Magic" Johnson announced that he had been diagnosed with the HIV virus. I can remember that day with absolute clarity. I was driving home from work and the press conference was being broadcast live over my car radio. When I head Magic's voice come thru my car speakers saying that he was retiring from the NBA because he had contracted the HIV virus because of unprotected sex, I pulled my car over. I sat on the side of the highway crying. As a long suffering fan of the NY Knicks, Magic Johnson was my favorite basketball player. In fact it didn't even bother me when the Lakers won championships, because I loved Magic so much. I suppose that I liked him so much, even though he didn't play for the Knicks, he truly exemplified the "NYC style of play." He was a superstar who was also unselfish, quite an oxymoron. He had a huge influence on me. To this day if someone asks me to describe my management/leadership style." my response is: "Magic Johnson....I make everyone around me better..." Today Ervin Johnson is anything but "tragic," isn't he?
8. JOHN LEE HOOKER - is still who I wanna be like whenever I grow up. (boom, boom, boom, boom) & in the 1990's he made a record with MILES DAVIS!!!
Remembering What I Thought I Forgot...(July 4 2014)
I originally wrote this essay, back in 2002. I wrote it on the 4th of July. I re-publish it each year around the 4th of July, because I re-read it each year, quite simply as a way to "check my head." For me it's even more important today to "check my own head," than it has ever been before. As I re-read it again today in 2014, I can see very clearly that in hindsight it was truly my own personal take on the 1990's.
1. On a personal level, in looking back the 1990's was the last decade when I could gather my whole "tribe" together. By that I mean all of the generations of my immediate family, and the friends who truly meant so much to me growing up in school and as a young adult. The entire tribe was intact and looking back, having them all intact at that moment in time made me healthy, although I didn't really know it at that time. Today many of those people from "my tribe," aren't here anymore.
2. On an external level, One of the people that I met during the period of time that the essay discusses is a brotha from DC by the name of John Ellison. In the essay one of the things I discuss is the creation of my first website. John was around at that time and has stuck around Soul-Patrol all these manny years. You could say that John was a part of Soul-Patrol, before Soul-Patrol ever existed. It took him awhile to get around to it, but today John Has his own website (Funk in The First Degree w/host John Ellison), which I encourage you to visit. And of course it takes much of it's inspiration from Soul-Patrol, which makes me proud, because all Soul-Patrol was ever supposed to be from the beginning was an inspiration for others. As such John represents the many people that I have met during the 1990's who have taken things to the next level. I won't name them all here, for fear of leaving someone's name off of the list. But John is a great example and I encourage all of you to support his efforts.
It is a very therapeutic thing for me, because each time I re-read this essay it helps me to understand just what the reasons were that I originally wrote it. Of course it's very important for me to understand the essay because despite all of the different topics that I discuss in the essay, the essay is really all about me and my own personal struggle to "grow up." Over the years, many people have provided me feedback on the essay and told me that it resonates for them as well. It's a very personal thing.
Our society tell us that "growing up" is really a bad thing, because it's often associated with "getting older" and our society frowns on "oldness." However the biggest secret about "oldness" is also it's biggest benefit. The most important thing that is acquired along the path to getting older, is wisdom. You simply can't be "wise" when you are younger, you haven't experienced enough of life's up's & downs, in order to have acquired wisdom.
Today on this 4th of July, I am happy to report that I feel completely "grown up." I feel that I am now exactly the person my parents raised me to be and that I am today a fully formed and capable human being who is now capable of fulfilling my potential & destiny.
And of course that potential & destiny can now be fulfilled, because is that I now understand that it is the recognition of when wisdom walks thru the door and the embracement of that wisdom is quite possibly the second most important thing that I have left to do in my remaining time left on this earth.
....and that the first most important thing is to pass that wisdom along to someone else who needs it, so that they can in turn pass it along to someone else.
Remembering What I Thought I Forgot...
Back in the 1970's I was an optimist...As I got older, I became more and more pessimistic.
And then, one day......I woke up and decided to start:
"remembering the things that I thought I had forgotten".
I started thinking about what a great time I had as a teenager and as a young "twentysomething", back in the 1970's. I thought about all of the wonderful people that I knew at that time and how much of an influence on my life that those people had.
I wondered whatever became of those times and those people. There was indeed a "vibe" that I shared with those people at that time, which is often difficult to put into words. If you were a person who was there, you know what I am talking about.
There was a "universal groove", which often transcended things like race, geography, age and more.
The whole world seemed full of potential, and as a young man I was a believer in that potential. I thought it could really happen. I thought the "groove" would last forever.
. With one group of people I would wear my Eleganza suits, my nik nik shirts, platform shoes, applejack brim, wide bow ties...
. With another group of people I would wear my army fatigues, tie dye t-shirts, overalls, tie a bandana around my head...
Sometimes I would get confused and wear the "wrong clothing, with the wrong group".
Even when that happened, it didn't make any difference because I was also wearing my "starchild", rose colored glasses.
It didn't matter to me. The joints still rolled up the same way and the "groove" was still positive. Back in those days, each experience was a learning experience. Later of course, I changed. I changed in concert with how the world around me changed.
The "groove" became less important.
(Although I didn't cut my afro, till 1985)
The ca$h was slowly becoming the overriding factor. As the world changed even further, I changed right along with it.
. I found myself working in the very center of the corruption, that back in the 1970's I would have been willing to destroy at the drop of a hat.
. My world during the 1980's became consumed with money, degrees, titles, power, false prestige, gaining influence, making the climb towards goals which today seem quite hollow.
. I was keeping up with the times.
. I was the very image of that species known as...Black Urban Professional (ie; "buppie")
In fact, some people even thought of me as a role model and I was invited to talk with their children in schools and homes, with some hope of influencing them into a more positive direction. I realize today that I had very little impact, but at the time, it made me feel good because I had done it.
. And "feeling good", was what it had become all about.
. And I thought that all was cool, because that is what was expected of me.
. Of course I now realize that it is far more important to actually have some impact, than to just "feel good".
. I also began to wonder how it was possible for me to "feel good", in the face of all of the "human carnage" that was in front of me. People around me were drugged out, in debt, selfish, etc.
Interestingly enough, during this period of time, I lived in BOTH the north and the south. In retrospect, the cultural differences between the two had been largely erased. Of course it made little difference to me as I tooled around both Houston, Tx and New York/New Jersey in my sports car that could take sharp curves at 75 mph. and my "GQ" wardrobe.
Although, by material standards, I may have been considered to be "healthy", In fact I was sick. I can only see that now in retrospect, it was all superficial.
Even worse, I was also asleep. I was consumed by a very deep coma. Then one day, in 1993 I started to wake up.
I was at work, sitting at my desk, about to leave to attend yet another "business lunch" where I would once again be the only person of color there, once again to be a "credit to my race" in a forum where it has little context.
It was exactly 12:22 pm, and I will never forget that moment.
The giant skyscraper I was in shook. I didn't know what was happening. I could "feel" the direction it was coming from. Like an idiot, I rushed towards the direction that I could "feel". I looked out of the window and saw that the even bigger skyscraper, located right across the street was on fire and that the smoke was pouring out of the parking lot inside of the building. I immediately rushed back to my desk and called my wife and said...
"Something just happened at the World Trade Center, I don't know what it is, but I'm sure it will be on the news, I'm getting the "F" outta here, cuz if I don't leave now, I'll be trapped here..."
I hung up the phone and started to haul azz...I passed co-workers who asked me where I was going and I said... "Same place you should be going..." I passed my boss and told her the same thing.
When I got down to the street, there was complete pandemonium. People were running all over the place. The smoke which I had seen earlier now became a very real thing to me. The entrances to the subway stations were blocked off.
I ended up walking from lower Manhattan to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. When I got there I heard a news report that said...
"Someone tried to blow up the World Trade Center..."
12 people were killed, many more were injured...That was in 1993
And with that event, I began to..."remember the things that I thought I had forgotten"
And with those memories, I began to wake up from my "drunken slumber". The event was a catharsis for me. I can only see that now in retrospect. Vision is always "20/20" in retrospect.
It wasn't long after that event when I built the very first web page I ever built at: http://www.soul-patrol.com/funk/rbd.htm
That page is a reflection of where "my head" was at in 1993. I wanted to say something about the "polarities" and how the extremes and conflicts of those "polarities" had impacted me. It hasn't changed very much at all in the 9 years that it has been up on the internet, because "my head" is still in a similar place. The concept was inspired by someone named Charles Isabel. I have never met him. I have never talked with him. But I feel like I know him.
As the days and weeks passed, there were reports on the news that the people responsible for bombing the World Trade Center had been caught and would be brought to trial. Soon the names and faces would appear on my TV screen and I got angry.
It became clear to me that these people weren't just attacking a building.
They were attacking an entire way of life. As I thought about it further, it was a way of life that I also found some conflicts with. These people had the guts to try and destroy an entire way of life, much as I might have also been willing to destroy it back in the 1970's.
. They showed the "blind cleric" on TV.
. The interviewer asked the "blind cleric"...
. "Did you mastermind the explosion at the World Trade Center..."
. The "blind cleric" said...
. "What explosion, it NEVER HAPPENED..."
At that moment in time, all of my other concerns seemed trivial, because I began to emerge even further from my "1980's & 1990's COMA". Much has happened to me since 1993. The "fast lane" and "buppie" lifestyle afforded to me by my "Wall Street mentality" of the early 1990's seem to be a distant memory. My focus is far different now.
I write this because today is the Fourth of July. The Fourth of July was always my very favorite holiday of the year. When I was a teenager, it was a day of bbq's, block parties, and more. As an adult, I would always have a BIG BLOWOUT PARTY at my house each year. Each year the party would be bigger and bigger, with more and more "buppies", but also with many good friends and relatives. In retrospect, those parties were an exercise in "conspicuous consumption". "Clarity comes with time..."
This year as I sit here on the Fourth of July, I sit here in somber reflection over the events of the past year and think about how much my life has changed since 1993.
At the heart of that change has been a rediscovery for me. I have indeed... "remembered the things that I thought that I forgot"
And it is the details of those memories that shape the focus of my activities today. It has nothing to do with "nostalgia". It has everything to do with the future.
My future as an individual and my future as an American.
. I think that my own generation has been lost in the wilderness for many years.
. I think that other people are also "remembering things that they have forgotten"
. I also think that some of us are slowly but surely finding our way back.
I think that my own generation, the one which was supposed to change the world, is actually the cause of much of what is wrong with the world right now. I think that it is the responsibility of my generation, now approaching the age of 50, to fix the mess that we have created.
I think that we need to act quickly and decisively because time might just be running out on us.
Since 1991 I have been living in the suburbs of Philadelphia.
. A great place for me to be at this time in my life.
. Philadelphia is often called the "cradle of liberty".
. This was a concept that I didn't understand until recently.
. Visiting the historical places that I learned about as a student has been an eye opener for me, because it takes things out of the conceptual realm and into the realm of reality.
I now truly understand why the concept of "America" is something that we should all cherish. The concept of America, while sometimes being quite distant from the reality of "America" is what allows us all to sometimes do stupid things, and then later redeem ourselves.
In the 1970's this country tried to "redeem itself". That is something worth remembering.
In 2002 this country once again has an opportunity to "redeem itself".
. It's not going to happen as a "mass movement"
. It's going to happen on an individual basis.
. It has happened to me.
. I think that it has also happened to many people of my generation.
I think that they remember what America is supposed to be like. And I think that they have begun to remember that America can't be the way it's supposed to be unless we are all in it together. It's actually one heck of a concept.
However it's a concept that becomes meaningless unless each person is willing to commit on an individual basis.
Finding a way to commit is difficult for people who are still "asleep".
. It really is TIME TO WAKE UP.
. It really is time to understand the past, so that we have a direction for the future.
. It really is time to understand that direction and be proactive in implementing it.
In the 1970's we knew that we all had to be in it together.
In the 1980's and 1990's... (WE FORGOT THAT). In 2001... (WE REMEMBERED
And I think that things will be different going forward...
I am once again, an optimist and today I will be wearing my..."rose colored starchild sunglasses"
"what a long and strange trip it has been..."
--Bob Davis 7/4/2002
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