A master of distraction attempts to create a character.
Echo Park Rising was my first taste of the expressive charm of Soul Scratch when the band performed at The Lost Room to a packed audience. That was two months ago but luckily they were playing again in the basement of downtown’s historic Pershing Square Building in October. Although nights had gotten cooler, the heat of anticipation or beverage consumption gave the pursuit of music a particular buzz.
After descending the white and black tile stairs to a balcony stretching along the perimeter of Mrs. Fish, I moved toward the seductive seating area and blue hued bar in the upper corner. To the left was the main lower level where Gramps The Vamp opened with brassy-swanky funk rhythms. At some moments, it almost felt like listening to an eerily cartoonish soundtrack. This explained why the railing behind and above the stage was lined with people propped and engaged.
I found a spot between two couples overlooking the band played and noticed people bunching and dispersing at the base of the staircase of the entrance. A monstrous fish tank suspended from the ceiling where new guests arrived and bombarded into the congestion for drinks. The glass bottom gave sight to lively colored creatures and suddenly became an emblem of the fishbowl experience I was having behind the band and discretely shadowed by the cobalt beams of light cast against the wall.
Regrouping with friends became a significant priority but easily accomplished with the temporary height advantage to help with sorting through the crowd. Making sure we got a good space to listen to Soul Scratch was another pain objective but seeing how late it was and they still hadn’t arrived on stage, I figured there was plenty of time for a cigarette. Squeezing a way up the stairs was a little easier than going down and the bouncer swung the door open but the atmosphere was so chill, not a curl of hair was pushed out of place by the greeting of street breeze.
I nearly dropped my lighter in excitement upon seeing Dale, the vocalist of Soul Scratch, standing on the curb already a few steps ahead as he exhaled a cloud of smoke in front of the tightly clad passersby. He was caught off guard but I was enthused to meet him. His expressive use of voice with the band quickly became the focal point of our conversation was cited as coagulation with funky flows of a trumpet, saxophone, drums and guitar. Shortly after a few exchanges, he finished his cigarette, then fled through the door and down the stairs in preparation for his entrance to the stage.
The yellow and amber tint of downtown’s streetlights spread across the busy pavement and gave way to a attractively distracting scene. However, Soul Scratch was due to perform shortly inside and luckily the bouncer recognized me so there wasn’t much of a wait behind the growing line on Hill Street. By the time I entered and found a seat on the patent red leather couch, the lead vocalist was beckoned onto the stage after a groovy introduction from the band. In the same fashion as the performance at Echo Park Rising, Dale made his introduction with a walk through the audience and swooned everyone through the night with vocal nods to Aretha, Etta and Otis over a funky swag of melodic pleasantries.
In the dining area of a building, there were seven treats on the floor ready to be picked up by seven people in attendance. Mr. F watched the first hand grab a treat but he was unsure if he was going to be the next as he noticed no one else’s movement. Restless noises trailed from another room and disturbed the energy to the point when Mr. F turned his head and then faced dark space underneath his desk. A pain throbbed on the left side of his neck while he tried shaking his hands and shoulders awake from an awkward attempt at creating a pillow on the speckled blue desk chair. Its pattern made one feel peaceful in the warmth of a hotel’s uninspiring repetitions of color and shapes.
While he straightened his torso, Mr. F slid his seated half very little into comfort. He hoped no one saw his desperation for a nap in the midst of all the chattering in the hallway as students exited and entered the lunch area. Slowly the paralyzing needles crept over his legs and arms as they came to life. Energy drinks were wedged at the top of his briefcase so he snatched one and tossed it into his left hand, pulled his desk drawer open with his right, patted around for a straw and plunged it in the can after he popped it open. He needed to check the time but the alarm didn’t go off so he knew there was no emergency.
He stood up as though he were just checking his briefcase for the smallest piece of information. Nearly jolting by the memory of responsibility, his eyes moved across paper piles on his desk of grades in need of records. To his left he saw the reflection of students giggling as a teacher scolded them for not lining up properly and quietly. It was amazing how little regard students paid to rules and persons of authority, perhaps even comical on a rare occasion. However, deeply troublesome premonitory feelings arose when Mr. F speculated outcomes based on behavioral patterns, which contradicted great ambitions by some of the most uniquely sheepish individuals.
Who was clumsier, the students who couldn’t stay quiet or the teacher who couldn’t manage a night without something to soothe the nerves? It was a question Mr. F was going to write down for another moment’s contemplation until Principal H entered his room and asked, “Good afternoon, Mr. F. How are you?”
Mr. F’s expression shed light on his feelings about her arrival earlier in his classroom but as he casually responded, she angled her head to resemble pouring out any negativity before arriving just in front of him to continue. “I’m not sure you received the email but we’ll need your help starting this afternoon at lunch in the cafeteria. Could you help us with that?”
“Of course. How long do you think this will be?” he inquired.
“From eleven forty until twelve ten,” she replied flatly.
“No issue, just wanting to make sure.”
“Great, well, Mr. L is there now and I’m sure you’ve heard the students already moving,” she stepped back and into a steady pace toward the door. Mr. F couldn’t tell if the turn or passing students interrupted her final words but he took heed and took a final sip before tossing it in the small plastic trashcan on his way out.
While in a district court and on
my way to the second floor to
elucidate a foreseeable outcome,
my eyes were struck by a statue
named Lady Justice whose eyes
were covered by a blindfold
and whose hand contained a scale.
Witnessing the stone’s grey color
and precisely carved skin and cloth,
I smiled with curiosity as the question
passed of deeming a sense frivolous
when using judgement to determine
culpability. Objectivity may be
its purpose but when layers of
contradictions and reports are
used to give a ruling member of
the court an impression of one’s
history to determine a course of
action before a dismissal of a
person in question, it seems
strange to rely on this decision-
making system in the midst of
quite blinding chaos. Ah, decisions.
How they demand attention and are
responsible for changes of varying forms.
A song was written
about a young woman
and charm of a person
by which she’s smitten.
The rhythm was off
but the theme was evident
of a romantic pursuit
forced to remain secret.
Why in this season
do energies shift
and influence admirers
to reveal an eerie twitch
when trying to determine first
whose number will be uttered
and consequently lend to the
spreading of various ignorances?
Rhyme and reason do not enough
in explaining the dynamics
of amorous affairs.
This New York experience was intriguing
though quite unsettling. I lost my phone
the first night of debauchery as well
as a generous amount of almonds and
blah blah. New York is exhausting. I don’t
know why I find it so enticing but I can
see why some are fond of Jersey. It is
such a different pace there I can’t help
but feel like it’s a lovely escape from
the chaos of the city of Manhattan and
its surrounding boroughs. As I sit here
in LaGuardia peering around the tablet
station, I see a woman looking at the
cost of education within the Butler
University website. There is also a
hearing on Syria military action with
Secretary of State John Kerry playing
on the television in the corner of the
large window. I noticed he stumbled
upon his words when responding to a
question about support being provided
by the government. I can’t really pay
attention to what’s being discussed
mostly because of a hangover that
hasn’t really gone away since I woke
up after eleven in the morning and
rushed as fast as possible to Queens
to gather my belongings and catch the
bus to travel for an hour and forty
minutes in order to get to my flight
in time, which wasn’t departing until
four thirty but for some reason seemed
to be sooner than I had expected. This
city does that though—influences a
sense of urgency among its residents
and visitors no matter what the activity.
Even as I sit and wait for my computer
to charge completely, it’s like I cannot
stop thinking about life but that doesn’t
really mean anything. I guess the pace
of my brain is so swift with nothingness
it’s kind of comical. I wish I could take
photos but my batteries are dead. I
thought about purchasing new batteries
for my Nikon camera but my feet are so
tired and my body wants nothing but
cheesy carbs on a level that deems
movement of the body frivolous. So
silly this does feel as I ramble on.
He said, “Think twice not
about such a scandalous fraud
as stability tightens in throngs.”
Though to himself he applauded,
foreboding reproach did flutter and dawdle.
Oh, the day’s been long
and it’s not quite ten.
Brain cells may very well flee my head.
So long, I hear myself say to the boss
until I think about the inevitable money loss.
Change may come but never fast enough.
Perhaps slow it needs to move
while one sits in wonderment
of where the spirit should travel.
I remember the days I would daydream
on the vast school playground
watching clouds float by
and other kids move about,
never present was I
rather in a flight of listless thought.
Pausing to contemplate
the movement of my body
as it rotates in a chair,
the scent of salmon
in the midst of oil and butter
soothes the day’s exhaustive chatter.
[This is meant to be hummed/sung as an exploration
of the blues through an omniscient narrator.
Think Pink Anderson, J.D. Short, Otis Rush, Sonny Terry]
Through the screen of a window, the sun shines brightly
illuminating leaves small and still dangling
from branches reaching far above the lazy streets.
Suddenly, a sweet female voice shouts with fury
to confront a gentleman whose tone’s so raspy.
Their argument resembles the blues
if two voices could be used
to show how emotions
can lead to such confusion.
Words are unclear until the woman exclaims,
“Boy, you’ve got me sitting idly
only to tell me someone’s waiting on you.
I said why you got me sitting idly
when someone’s already waiting on you?”
The gentleman sways his body weight to the other side,
flings his arms up, then loudly declares,
“Now, now, now don’t go chasing me with your insanity
just cause you couldn’t come to that party,
though I won’t deny seeing you then would have been mighty nice.”
To which the woman responds with an extraordinary howl,
“Don’t you dare try that move,
I hear about what you’ve been up to.
It’d be best to use less trickery
so I don’t keep feeling like such a fool.”
With disbelief, the gentleman replies,
“I wonder why you act so funny
but your words show me you misread
why I have to go run and hide.
I guess you don’t, no, you don’t know much about me.”
The woman can’t help but laugh with a bit of surprise,
“Honey, hasn’t there been enough time spent
reflecting on our likenesses?” Even as he nods his head,
with pity she says, “Don’t talk to me
like I’m a fool who shouldn’t walk the line.”
When the gentleman pauses, his eyes widen
and jaw drops so he can express,
“This only proves what wasn’t meant to be.
Damn, now I see what woes may come
in more forms ’an one by over thinking compatibility.”
Hidden behind her hands, the woman gasps incredulously,
“I can’t believe I wasted time
helping you find comfort in being divine.
Oh, why does this happen
whenever I help minds of a new light?”
All of a sudden a car in the distance
screeches noisily to a halt
but the two continue bickering
as though nothing happened at all.
Before the gentleman opens his mouth,
he points to the smoky scene,
“Maybe that’s a sign you ought to consider
in saving some of that energy.
Yea, you may want to learn how to use that energy.”
This makes the woman cringe and reply abruptly,
“You take and take but stand without
any respect for my universal love.
So silly, oh, so silly to think
you’d be there in my time of need.”
Stomping her heel against the ground
making cement seem quite hollow,
she advised him, “Send me no more temptations
to things you know I like to doing.
Time enjoyed was heaven sent, was it ’cause I’m such fool?”
The woman repeated, “I said the time enjoyed was heaven sent,”
then the two said in unison,
“And I’ve met the self I’ve suppressed for so long.
Maybe you’re the reason why
it’s easy for it to be hidden and found.”
What can be said about the Guantanamo hunger
strike if information is not being shared honestly
by those who can deem information appropriate
for public consumption? How surreal it must
be to live in a community in which top tiers
of a hierarchy can be occupied only through
hospitalization as a form of identity preservation.
Are there more examples of working toward self-
hospitalization as we strive in the direction
of goals with fulfillment being the least
contemplated aspect of relevance?
A way to recover from the horrendous facts
of the prison’s deterioration is to celebrate our
purpose, determine how we can share our strengths
and dismantle the umbrellas of power, which create
and bombard chaos. A wave of hope enters the mind as
Mykki Blanco is elucidated as an entity known to
celebrate the self and declare eccentricities as a
culmination of a powerful character. Discussions
of progression with one’s identity, whether focusing
on educative or frivolous tangents, can reap innumerable
benefits for future generations in the realm of promoting
identity awareness and expression but who can think of
the self when prisoners with alleged criminal backgrounds
are treated so horribly as national leaders have yet
to address or implement viable solutions for the violent
treatment of individuals making claims of injustice
with the only tools of protest available, which are
losing stamina to strive as body mass shreds
as quickly as their dignity within Guantanamo?
Do diplomatic responses to troublesome matters
usually invoke questions of societal contribution
to the matter rather than speak directly to the
topic at hand with clear indications of a plan
to address abusive marginalization? Sluggish
resolution with immovable forces seems
strikingly similar, in the midst of conflict
regarding identity especially in terms of
restrictive energy and the absence of viable
alternatives for the security of prisoners, while
progressive efforts are made in expressing one’s
identity. These topics seem so prominent at
this hour, on this day, through these tinted
lenses which conceal a swollen eyelid but why?
Maybe Mr. Quattlebaum’s persona is an epithet
of overcoming trials and tribulations while securing
in space and time an opportunity to share with the
world ideas worth contemplating, much like prisoners
are fighting in space and time to uphold rights
and ethical codes in the face of undisclosed
withering operations whose progress is unknown.