Stories/Lessons From Grandma


When they were teenagers, my grandmother helped saved her sister’s life. A snake bit my great aunt Susie; she screamed and took off running. My grandma chased her down while others ran for help. Grandma tore a strip of fabric from her own dress and tied it around around aunt Susie’s leg tight above the wound to keep the venom from spreading. Then, someone cut a baby chick in half and pressed it against the bite to draw the poison out. The half chick turned black–proof that the poison was being transferred to it.

Though she survived, Aunt Susie was “marked” by the snake for a little bit–her tongue would flicker out on it’s own.

To make homemade wine, you will need 1 gallon jug (if you use a milk jug, wash it out), a bowl, a funnel, a pound or so of white grapes, sugar, bread, water, a dark corner and time.

Rinse off the grapes, pull them from the vine and put them in the bowl.

Mash the grapes. You can use your hands or a potato masher. Make it good and pulpy.

Using the funnel, pour/push the grapes (juice, pulp, skin etc) into the gallon jug.

Dry the funnel. Then, use it to pour the sugar on top of the grapes. You want a layer of sugar on top of the grapes but not too much. Eyeball it.

Take your slices of bread and tear them into pieces. Not to small (crouton size), not to big. Push them into the jug (no funnel) until you have a full layer on top of the all of the sugar.

Fill the rest of the jug with water, seal it tight, give it a good shake and put it in a dark corner–the back part of the basement is best.

You’re going to leave it alone for 6 months to a year–except every few weeks or so (when you remember it’s there), go down and give it another shake.

When the wine is ready, pour it out of the jug, using a cheese cloth to strain out the skin, seeds, bread etc. The liquid that’s left is your wine. If you are planning for the wine to be ready in time for a holiday, make 2 jugs worth. Keep one for you and your family, the other you can pour into mason jars and give as gifts to your friends.





Goodnight, TW

At The Grand Canyon

Tamara, a friend that was really more like a sister to me, died unexpectedly early May 10th. She was 42 years old. This has been a really hard week.

We used to text and or/talk to each other every day. That last week we were talking about Lemonade – she found herself quoting it in everyday conversation and I joked about her being sucked into the Beyhive. We were excited about the summer. Any day now we were going to pull out our calendars to plan our annual beach trip and figure out which prides we were going to hit.

The beach trip would probably have been Asbury Park. I always fixed up the cooler with sandwiches, fruit and drinks. Martina drove. Tamara would bring the chips. She enjoyed finding new, weird snacks for us to try. If we liked something, she would smirk and refuse to divulge where she got it from. It was most likely Trader Joe’s—she loved that place.

Tamara at Martina's Birthday Party

Tamara and I met online, in some AOL chat room about 20 years ago. We were part of the same email group-Sistahnet- and she said “hi” because she recognized my screen name/email address. We met in the flesh in 1997 at Black Gay Pride DC. It was a meeting that almost didn’t happen because of a misunderstanding. (I was 24, she was 23 and we hadn’t quite gotten to the “no more drama” stage of our lives.) However, I showed up on her doorstep, we talked it out and have been buddies ever since.

At Niagra FallsTraveling was one of her favorite things. When Jet Blue had it’s All You Can Jet promotion, she took advantage of it and visited several cities in 30 days. Every place she visited, she had a list of things to do and places to explore. She had lobster ice cream in Cape Cod, in San Francisco she sat quietly with the redwood trees in Muir Woods. She took photos of raccoons in Vancouver, British Columbia—despite rabies warnings posted on the fence.

Tamara got away from organized religion as soon as her grandmother couldn’t make her go to church anymore. She had rituals – celebrating nature/the equinoxes. On Facebook, this is how she described her religious beliefs: Doing the right thing without a promise of heaven or a threat of hell.

Last year, Tamara was right next to Martina when I came out of surgery. I wasn’t sure it was going to happen until the morning of. I told her it was happening—and she was there.

She always claimed that she didn’t like horror movies. Sappy, romantic lgbt films were her favorite. Yet, she’d text me when Friday the 13th was on—because she was watching it…

Tamara has heard all of my weird, awesome, goofy ideas and strange ideas.

I’m going to miss her.

2 Pisces Under A Super Moon

2 Pisces Under A Super Moon


Just Pay The Lady And No One Gets Hurt


I don’t understand why people are upset by the fictional woman Rihanna plays in the BBHMM video. I mean, I understand, but really, I got a question…

Like many mystery/thriller movies, the last couple of scenes of the video fill in what the viewer didn’t “see” before:

Did you see the look the accountant had on his face when his wife(?) kissed him goodbye? He knew trouble was coming. Then, after she was kidnapped, he went on a spending spree–other women included–and refused to pay the ransom to get her back. (This is why earlier you see Rihanna slamming down phones, etc.) He could have saved that woman at any interval–how come no one is mad with him?

Dude betrayed his client (Rihanna’s character) and his wife – but people are mad with the client’s response?

The kidnap of a loved one is not a new plot device in mystery or horror fiction. Yes, the kidnap victim was topless and upside down for a few seconds (gasp!) but she could have been treated so much worse. Rather than sunbathing and a forced slumber party, R and crew could have used the wife’s body to make back what the accountant owed. They didn’t. They could have killed her when it was clear he didn’t care enough to save her. They didn’t. (She’s alive when they bring her back to the house.)

If the video were from the point of view of the kidnapped woman, it would have probably showed her coming to grips with the fact that her man really could care less about her.

But this video ain’t about her…

Did you hear what Nina said? (Everybody knows)


Whenever I see someone in a social media comments section trying to explain an ism/phobia to someone who just doesn’t “get it” (especially if the confused person is a self-proclaimed ally), I want to encourage the explainer to drop it and move on.

Tired of trying to explain your humanity? Stop doing it.

Tired of trying to justify your upset? Stop doing it.

Tired of having to say the same thing to the same types of people every time an incident (racist/sexist/transphobic/etc) happens? Stop doing it.

The person who can’t “get it” — especially about racialized oppression? They know.

You’ve heard this song before, right? Have a look/listen, but pay attention to the lyrics AND the audience.

Your clueless friends and acquaintances know.

Just like their parents knew.

Just like their grandparents knew.

Even the commenters who show up openly hostile to pick a fight–they know.

Okay, so maybe some people don’t know that they know. Denial is a thing. Well, there have been enough blog posts, articles and books written — and being written–for confused folks to get what they need on their own. Even better, there are people who get paid to teach! Let the true seeker of knowledge invest in a Google search, a library card or a “recognizing an ism and doing something about it” training.

I know you’ve seen this too:

“The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”

-Toni Morrison

The person who (either gently or with rage/hostility) always needs you to justify/explain yourself/teach but never “get’s it” is also a distraction.

That “explaining” time can be turned into “self care” time. It could turn into “community conversation and healing” time. It can turn into a “let’s concentrate on our own powers and how we can strengthen each other” time.

The seeker of knowledge is not showing up in the comments section — under a post where someone has expressed grief/frustration/sadness – asking someone to help them understand, challenging someone to explain, or engaging in hypothetical “what if” scenarios – etc. If someone puts the onus of their “education” on someone else – then they don’t want to know.

It hurts to have to explain, exclaim, reclaim and defend your humanity over and over again.

And don’t forget – some people enjoy watching you suffer.

To make a long story short (too late!), stop entertaining strangers and leave your clueless ally friends in their confusion. They can find their own way out.

Tell’em, Nina:

WILTW: Bad Science Reporting

If you are trying to eat better, one giant obstacle is sorting through all of the “information” that’s about. Low fat? Low salt? High fat, low carb? High carb, low protein? Protein, no carbs? Red wine and dark chocolate are a winning combo? Meat protein over plant protein? Vegan? And it goes on and on and on…

How can this be? Thousands and thousands of scientific studies floating about–conflicting left, right and sideways. How can you separate the good studies from the bad one? How can you tell which ones are really significant?

If you have any faith in news media to help straighten it all out…nope.

What I learned this (last) week: there’s a good chance that the journalists working on the science section/segment of whatever news media you consume are regurgitating press releases and study summaries rather than actually investigating and reporting.

John Bohannon purposely did a flawed study, submitted the paper to a scientific journal and newspapers across the world just repeated his “findings” despite the red flags.

It was, in fact, a fairly typical study for the field of diet research. Which is to say: It was terrible science. The results are meaningless, and the health claims that the media blasted out to millions of people around the world are utterly unfounded.

You can read his whole confession: I Fooled Millions Into Thinking Chocolate Helps Weight Loss. Here’s How.

Once the major news media reports on a health study, smaller outlets, bloggers, etc pick it up–everyone remixing or rewriting the same thing–with few people casting a critical eye on the actual study itself.

Fortunately, there is an organization/website dedicated to actually reviewing science news stories and science news press releases. HealthNewsReviews reviews the big news stories of the week and scores them based on 10 reasonable criteria, including whether or not the article is exaggerating a study’s conclusions. Even when a story passes on a criteria level, HNR still points out if readers should be weary.

For example, here’s the HNR review of an NPR story on headaches and migraines.

HNR doesn’t cover every news story. What it means is that readers of science news, especially in regards to diet/nutrition/medicine/health, have to take even articles from reputable news outlets with a grain of salt. Or, if you prefer, a pinch of chocolate.

Dark Chocolate & Caramel Fudge (with sea salt!)

Dark Chocolate & Caramel Fudge (with sea salt!)

What Gall!

The blog has been quiet, but I’ve been busy:
*Turned a year older (long live Pisces!)
*M & I celebrated 18 years
–surprised M with a painted sketch from Odera Igbokwe
* Had a gallbladder attack/surgery — nothing like being rushed to the hospital with a belly ache that can’t stop, won’t stop
–note: both being obese AND losing weight can be a factor gallbladder attacks. I bet when doctors encourage patients to lose weight, the tend not to mention the gallbladder risk thingy.
*I’m fine now and can lift heavy things again
*Visited Foxwoods for the first time (and last). They don’t have the technology to keep cigarette smoke out of common areas of the resorts.
*I created a pinterest board for lectures, talks, etc featuring black/poc folks. Only things that I’ve actually watched (and enjoyed), will be pinned.


Through The Looking Glass and What Helen Found There

Candyman Candyman Candyman Can-

Don’t worry, you have to say it 5 times for the ultimate Sugar Daddy to show up.🙂

I’ve been thinking about Candyman lately. Quick recap: Candyman was the son of a slave who fell in love with a white woman–who’s father showed his disapproval by gathering a posse to kill him. The lynch mob cut off his hand, covered him with honey and chanted “Candyman” as the bees stung him to death. Residents of Cabrini Green housing project believe that if you call his name 5 times, he shows up and kills you.

Actually, I haven’t been thinking about Candyman so much as I’ve been thinking about Helen–the one who calls him. She’s a white grad student studying urban legends who hears about the Cabrini Green version of Candyman from older, black janitorial staff at the college. Unlike the other “call the killer in the mirror and he will kill you”  stories, it’s tied to a current, unsolved murder and Helen is intrigued. Immediately, she goes into urban archeologist/explorer mode. Helen is going into Cabrini Green (interact with the actual residents) and introduce the story of Candyman to academia.


Well, Helen is naive on two fronts.
1) Turns out that someone else in academia had already done Candyman research. Lucky for the movie, this doesn’t deter her.
2) As a young, educated white woman, she thinks her status/place in society is secure–and she is untouchable.

The real horror of Candyman isn’t the murders – it’s Helen learning how easy and quickly one can lose perceived place/status/privilege.

The first reveal of this comes early on when Helen learns that the very condo/apartment building she is living in was originally built to be a Cabrini Green like housing project. Because of the location of the building, the powers that be decided to put wallpaper over the cinder block, upgrade the lighting, and charge unsuspecting yuppies and arm and a leg.

bernLike peeling back wallpaper, Candyman just pulls back the fancy exterior of Helen’s world/life. Over the course of the movie, she gets sucked into the criminal justice system, institutionalized and, in one way or another, loses everyone she loves. (Alas, poor Bernadette.)

Helen doesn’t feel the full brunt of these systems – their money does have some influence – but it’s still devastating.  She goes from arrogantly walking into Cabrini Green feeling no one would dare touch her because they think she’s a cop* to being pursued by the cops.

What’s interesting about the movie is that her redemption comes in not giving in to despair. Though her life has been devastated (good bye marriage, potential career, freedom, etc), she’s still willing to save someone else. If this movie were made today, Helen would somehow magically get back everything she’d lost. But it wasn’t, so she doesn’t.

Helen sacrifices herself and becomes a saint of sorts. Just don’t say her name 5 times.


Lesson: In the wave of a hook, you can go from being one of “us” to being one of “them”.
What you summon in the mirror is really what you are calling forth from yourself.

*She’s actually wrong about this, too.

Fortified with Vitamins and Spirituals

The Watching

Transgression in Public Spaces: A dialogue between bell hooks and Arthur Jafa

The Feeling/The Listening:

Skunk Anansie – All I Want

Some quotes from About Writing by Samuel R. Delany

aboutwritingsrdI read a good chunk of About Writing by Samuel R. Delany on my morning commute. I borrowed the ebook from the library; there are no page numbers for the quotes but I did reference the part of the book it was found in.  This is just the tip of the iceberg, but highlighting and bookmarking passages on the iPhone is a trial. I need to buy a physical copy that I can mark up accordingly.

*In talking about the writing process, teaching writing, talent and (or vs) skill, etc – SRD touches on a lot of other topics.

*While I love these quotes and love that they “stand on their own”, I would encourage you to borrow/grab a copy of About Writing and read them in context.

*Also, in one of the letters he criticizes heavily The Bluest Eye. He “went all the way in” on it–made me want to re-read the book with his pov in mind.

An Introduction: Emblems of Talent

“To learn anything worth knowing requires that you learn as well how pathetic you were when you were ignorant of it.”

“A reason knowledge/learning in general is so unpopular with so many people is because very early we all learn there is a phenomenologically unpleasant side to it: to learn anything entails the fact that there is no way to escape learning that you were formerly ignorant, to learn that you were a fool, that you have already lost irretrievable opportunities, that you have made wrong choices, that you were silly and limited. These lessons are not pleasant.”

“Older children tease us for what we con’t know. Teachers condescend to usas they instruct us. (Long ago, they beat us for forgetting.) In the school yard we overhear the third graders talking about how dumb the first graders are. When we reach the third grade, we ourselves contribute to such discussions. Thus most people soon actively desire to stay clear of the whole process, because by the time we are seven or eight we know exactly what the repercussions and reactions will be.”

“We say we are weeping for lost innocence. More truthfully, we are weeping for the lost pleasure of unchallenged ignorance.”

A Black Clock Interview

“Every era’s art is constrained by that era’s concept of vulgarity. The artistic is precisely what is not vulgar. (Until Dante, the language the people actually spoke was outside the precinct of art.) Vast areas of experience always remain outside the literary precincts.”

“More accurately, literature (in its largest meaning) might be seen as the battle of the unsaid to enter the precincts of the articulate.”

A Poetry Project Newsletter Interview: A Silent Interview

Now people desperately love all that wonderful-sounding ambiguity–just as I desperately desired it when I was beaten and confused and exhausted by life and overwork. “I belong to me category; I straddle them all …” It sounds romantic-decadent, but somehow still transcendent. When we pursue such ambiguity, mistakenly we feel it’s a way to escapte social accountability. That we crave such ambiguity is the sign of just how wounding the categories can be or have been. Still, espousing that ambiguity was and is a way of saying: “Not me…I’m above all that, outside of it, not a part of it.”

What I learned is that precisely when one says, “I’m not a part,” one is most trapped by one’s identity, most paralyzed and most limited by the greater society, and that is the sign one has given up, given in; that one is precisely not in a condition of freedom–but of entrapment. Saying, “I am not a part” is very different from saying, “Because I am a part, I will not participate in that manner.” The first is delusion. The second is power–which is inimical to the cry of powerlessness that you quote–and is the other way discourses are changed.

Sorry, Charlie.


I was cleaning up files on my computer and came across notes that I took for a potential blog post on the Charlie Chan mystery novels and racism.

I had a grand plan – I would read all of the books and discuss the race issues. Reading all of the books wasn’t a problem. When I sat down to write about them, it felt more like an academic research paper (ie work) than a pop-culture blog post and all of the enthusiasm went out of the window.

Putting a research paper online that I wrote for school? Not a problem. Writing one for the heck of it? Nope.

From the notes:

  • I am NOT the audience this book was written for—and neither are you. At a time when Chinese characters in fiction were villains, Charlie Chan would be seen as a big change.
    • real world: anti Chinese immigration, etc
    • CC is “safe” and uses his cunning/etc in the course of justice; he is a former houseboy who worked for a wealthy family (before joining police force)
    • CC cast against “lazy” native Hawaiians and treacherous Japanese
  • In the novels, upperclass people tend to be “liberal” but a subtle bias shows through.
    • Wealthy/affluent characters don’t express anti-Chinese at all; they are more than welcoming to the detective.
    • occasionally, a woman from the elite class breaks into a monologue about her knowledge of “orientals”
    • Still, they don’t quite give him the respect they give other policemen
  • Overt racism is reserved for the lower classes (servants, occasionally a policeman)
    • A butler challenges Charlie Chan because he’s not accustomed to having a Chinese gentleman walk throught the front door instead of the service entrance.
    • In “The Chinese Parrot” – it’s the sheriff who instantly wants to arrest CC for the murder of another Chinese because, “I know these Chinks. They think nothing of sticking knives in each other.”
  • In The Chinese Parrot, CC has to go undercover as a houseboy and must play to stereotype.
    • narrative the pain of having to debase himself in pretending to be ignorant/uneducated
    • this also underscores the idea that his normal (“safe”) disposition is real and he’s not

And at that point, I started to have academic flashbacks and stopped.

But here are Some critical perspectives on Charlie Chan and Race, Region, Rule: Genre and the Case of Charlie Chan (pdf).


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