Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Place Called Alabama

     Knox McLaney on his farm cooking to feed the 1048 Irregulars.

In a place called Alabama, I have friends that are both white and male. As the lone African-American woman in a group of white friends, I know we are special.  You won’t read about us in novels by bestselling Southern scribes. You won’t see us on TV or in movies. In a place called Alabama, where live oak trees shade the land my ancestors tilled with their hands as slaves, where history declares my friends racist because of their grandfathers’ sins; we call ourselves a family.  

Over the span of 20 years, Tom, Wayne, Knox, John, Bart, Warren, Jon, and I converged on the 1048 Jazz and Blues Club in Montgomery to share cold beer, talk SEC football, tell lies about conquests, and raise absolute hell about politics. Adriane, Fran, and Donna always brought grace and class and laughs and extra beer, in case we needed to hit the dog track.  From what I've heard, Wayne, Tom, and Knox met each other when they stood on the right side of history during the Segregation Era at the University of Alabama. I could completely be wrong, but it wouldn't be the first time a 1048 Irregular took a myth and spun it into absolute fact.

Tom Cork at the one and only 1048 Jazz and Blues photo by Irregular Donna Davis of the Sunshine State Irregulars

  We’ve coached each other through life’s biggest defeats, and cheered each other through the smallest victories.  We discuss race and gender openly and honestly. We solve the world’s problems, and then we gossip.  We take up collections for friends in need. We visit each other’s kin in the hospital.  We are not like family. We are family.

Portrait of Wayne Greenhaw by Artist and Irregular, Adriane Butterfield Duvall

Tom was the first of our group to pull up a barstool at The Big Happy Hour in the Sky. In May, Knox passed away, and sadly, our beloved Wayne died an hour before Knox’s funeral.  My heart is overgrown with the kudzu of unspeakable grief from losing my brothers.  I now live 730.3 miles away, but I know in a place called Alabama there is always a barstool, a cold beer, and a friend waiting for me.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Blame Dave P: How The McBrothas Got Their Name

I apologize in advance for the racial undertones, overtones, highlights, and lowlights, but this is the story that must be told.

                                          Exhibit A: Baby Daniel

A few weeks after Daniel was born, I walked into 1048 to show everyone pictures of my sweet little boy. He had hair the color of a new penny and eyes the color of a back-to-school pair of Levi’s. He was beautiful. 

When the pictures got to Dave P( bling, blong, blaow), the lead singer and harmonica player of my favorite band, Blues Old Stand, he said, “Damn, Tange, that’s one white ass baby. You should call him Blackie McWhiteBoy.” 

I laughed. Hard.  P.Moe was absolutely right. Daniel was the whitest black baby I had ever seen. He was the perfect mix of DaddyFixIt and me. He was as white as his dad, and had blue eyes. If it hadn’t been for his perfectly pouty little mouth, I would go to my grave believing some white woman down the hall and I had been victims of a soap opera caliber baby swap.

When I got home from my adventure in Cloverdale (It wasn’t a full Happy Hour. I couldn’t drink, because I was pregnant, yet again.) I told the husband what Dave P said. I fully expected him to hit the roof. We had had a couple of full on brushes with some pretty snarky comments about our race mixing.  While I thought Blackie McWhiteBoy was the funniest thing I ever heard, I wasn’t so sure about Old Daddy. To my amazement he laughed. Hard. He picked up his son and said, “Well, I guess you are Blackie McWhiteBoy.”

                                          Exhibit B: Baby Adam

Nine months later Adam was born. His eyes were even bluer. His hair was even lighter. Rene and I started calling him Whitey McBrotha. Adam looked nothing like me. At. ALL. I still think he may have been switched.

The boys are just getting to the age where they recognize that we all look a little different.  Daniel is noticing it more. The other day, he pronounces Old Daddy to be “Pink, Strawberry Ice Cream.”  Daniel said he and Adam were “Kinda Yellow Ice Cream,” and “Mama, you’re my favorite. You’re Chocolate!” Rene and I had a good old laugh off of that. I’m just glad I’m still my little boy’s favorite!

 As the McBrothas grow up and move out into a world that can be very harsh to people of all flavors, I hope that they always remember that the love Daddy and I feel for each other and feel for them will never have a color. We are a Neapolitan McFamily.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sunshine Day!!!!! It Could Be Worse...

I woke up this morning feeling bad. The gloomy, post-Earthquake, pre-apocalyptic, damn, winter is coming, again, depression had set in all over the little house in the hood on the prairie. After last winter in Snoklahoma, I just want to pack up and go home. Le sigghhhhhh.  Then, the sun came out, and gosh darnit, I feel great! Life has a way of taking you on twists and turns. No matter how bad things get,  they could always be worse.  I decided to take stock of my totally awesome life! Le sigh, part dos. Ok, things are not perfect, but I am very happy. Really, I am. Seriously. For reals, dog.

Today, I'm thankful for the following:

1. I am not a Kardashian. (Damn Armenian KEEPERS! Give back the ring, Miss Thing...)

2. I am not one of Ann Coulter's Blacks. ( I suspect She will be trading Herman Cain for, like, Lil' Wayne in her Fox News Fantasy Black People League... sorry, the wind makes me snarky.)

3. I am tall enough to ride the rides. ( I'm  mathy like that.)

4. I know how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. (None. I hate them thangs.)

5. I have a hole in my favorite socks, but I have all ten of my big, ashy, windblown toes. (Thanks, Oklahoma.)

Enjoy the video. Be thankful Sherwood Schwartz didn't make like a billion dollars off of your awkward puberty, and cut you out of all merchandising and syndication profits in perpetuity. Be thankful you didn't have to go on Celebrity Fit club to re-launch your acting career. Lookin' at you, Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!
As I sit here and #OccupyMySnuggie, I constantly remind myself: I could be Oliver from the Brady Bunch. Y'all, things could always be worse.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Oklahoma Earthquake!!!!

This is my take on the Oklahoma Earthquake. Yes, It was scary! Since I've been here I've lived through a BLIZZARD, 117 degree heat, and straight line winds that knocked me into the Dollar General!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Little Lessons on the Prairie: Birthday Letter to My Children

Dear Ashlee, Daniel, and Adam:

I love each of you. You each bring me immeasurable joy. You each have traits that shock and amaze me. Ashlee, your ability to “cut through the crap” will serve you well as you grow into womanhood. Daniel, you are kind, loving, and sensitive. These traits will make you an incredible father. Adam, your fearlessness scares me and makes me jealous that I’m not as fearless as you. As your birthdays roll around this year, I wanted to let you all know I am glad that I am your Mom.

I got to spend my birthday with MeMaw. I knew on that day it would be the last time I would ever see her on my birthday. I was filled with pain and sorrow and joy. Grandma Ella was special to each of you, as she was to me. If you put her life in perspective, she was an extraordinary woman. She was the three worst things a person could be in Alabama when she was born in 1941: poor, black, and female.

She taught me some very valuable lessons about life and love. I want to share some of them with you:

Never say no to love. Love comes in so many different forms. Grandma never flaunted her romantic relationships for the world to see, but she never hid the fact that she loved her children and her grandchildren with great abandon. She never rejected people for being gay or white or rich or poor or crazy. She always had a plate to feed hungry people. She always found a dollar to give, even when she didn’t have enough for herself. She loved everybody. She treated every single person like they were a child of God. Approach every aspect of your life with love. Sometimes people may hurt you, but often times they won’t. I’m not saying put yourself in a situation where you can physically or emotionally be hurt. There are times, too, when you must love someone enough to walk away.

Never think you are alone. I am here for you. If I can give it to you, I will. If I can’t, I will do everything in my power to help. Mama opened her doors to me, and let me come home when things got really awful for me. She never made me feel bad. She never made me feel like I had to beg or be ashamed. As your Mama, please know, you can always come home to me. You are not alone.

Never underestimate the power of prayer. Mama walked a groove in the floor in our apartment on Edgemont. She would walk and pray. We came to Montgomery with literally the clothes on our back. She prayed that God would bless her with nice dresses to wear to church. She had one dress when we came to Montgomery. She wore it every Sunday for 4 months. When she died, she had three closets filled with beautiful dresses, hats, shoes, and purses. She always believed in looking good to go see Jesus. She prayed to see each of her children graduate; we did. She prayed that we always had a roof over our heads and food in our bellies; we did. She prayed that we would have happy marriages and happy children… sometimes things don’t work out, but Miss Ella wanted the best for us all.

Never pass on a chance to laugh. Mama loved to laugh. She loved to make people laugh. She never let anything stop her from finding the humor in everything. Her favorite comedy bit of all time was that crazy parody video “We Miss Robert” by Ricky Smiley. She told me to see if I could find a spinning rim to put in her casket like they did in that video. She was dying, but able to find something funny. We must have laughed at 100 things over those 4 days. We laughed about 3 year old Ashlee going to my college graduation in a fancy dress and no underwear. We laughed about Daniel singing and dancing to his favorite song “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones. We laughed about both the boys trying to put a stop to me and their Daddy getting married. We laughed that Adam told her on the phone, “Look, MeMaw, I’m busy. I can’t talk to you.” She thought that was hysterical. When I look back on the time I spent with her right before she died, I will always remember the laughter. Her favorite old school saying was, “Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying.” She was right. So laugh, kids.

Your Grandmother was an amazing woman. She raised 4 kids of her own and 6 that were not hers. She loved music. She baked the best sweet potato pie and pound cake you ever put in your mouth. She’d whip your butt if you needed it. She’d hug you and wipe away your tears, if you needed it. She made us all feel like we were special. She was proud of each of us for different reasons.

When I close my eyes, I can see each of your little faces looking up at me the first time I held you. Each time, I thought my heart would burst from the love. Your Grandma Ella was there for each of your births. Ashlee, the way you took care of Mama during her cancer and while she was dying was a very heroic act. You were there the day she died. One day, I will die. I hope on that day, you will each be able to say what I say about my Mama: “She did the best she could with what she had, and I know more than anything; that lady loved me.”

Happy Birthday, Babies!