Category Archives: Brain Burp

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:

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

Flash Fiction #2: Witness



Tawanna Sullivan

Tracking down the country home of reclusive actress Monica Little hadn’t been easy, but Longworth wanted the money shot. As darkness settled over the isolated estate, he crept along the bushes with his lens trained on the back of the house.

Waiting for the star to appear, Longworth was startled by a gunshot. Henri, Monica’s latest lover, emerged from the woods dragging a sack behind him. He stopped next to a freshly dug hole—a grave—and fell to his knees.

The bag stirred.

Fueled by terror, the paparazzo rushed Henri from the side and smashed his camera into the Frenchman’s jaw. Reaching for the bag, Longworth felt warmth…flesh and bone. Tearing apart the plastic, he finds—a deer.

Henri struggled to his feet. “Idiot,” he hissed through a bloody mouth. “I don’t bury her! I dig her up!”

The rejuvenated woman ascended from her retreat. Lose bits of earth fell from her brown, ethereal frame as she bathed in moonlight. The smile she graced Henri with turned vicious when her gaze fell upon the interloper. A tongue flickered over jagged teeth.

Monica Little was hungry.

(c) 2013

*You can find an explanation and flash fiction #1 here.

Flash Fiction #1: Famished

About this time last year, I had two flash fiction pieces accepted into an anthology…that has now been officially cancelled.

So, what the heck, I’ve decided to share them here. Story #1:



Tawanna Sullivan

It started when I let Tim have a taste of the chicken cordon blue. He talked about how lucky I was to have a woman who could cook. His old lady didn’t know how to crack an egg. I had to chuckle at that.

It wasn’t so funny when he became obsessed with my lunch. Every day, salivating over my beef wellington or eggplant towers—the man was a nuisance.

One day, Lauren stopped by to drop off my wallet and love hit Tim like a cast iron skillet. He grumbled ’bout how a beautiful woman like that deserved better than an old bulldagger.

First came the late night phone calls. Then, Lauren began going out with “friends” I’d never met. Tim stopped looking me in the eye.

When she moved in with him, Tim thought he had scored a coup. Fool maxed out his credit to give Lauren the kitchen of her dreams. Come lunch time, though, all he has to show for it is watery tuna salad on stale bread.

My ex can’t cook worth shit.
(c) 2013


The Poet, The Essayist & The Golem

The Poet
Conversations with Nikki GiovanniConversations with Nikki Giovanni
Edited by Virginia C. Fowler
ISBN: 9780878055876
(c) 1992

The is a collection of interviews with and articles about Nikki Giovanni from 1969 to 1992. The pieces are in chronological order and it’s interesting to see how her views on a host of subjects (writing, poetry, racism, sexism, revolutions, movements etc) shifted over the years. At the same time, the “Nikki” that we “see” is also influenced by the point of view of the interviewer–through the questions they ask and their additional commentary.

It’s hard to pick out highlights, but you absolutely have to read the pieces where Ms. Giovanni is in conversation with older civil rights/black lit icons:
*an excerpt from A Dialogue (1973), where a “young” NG talks with James Baldwin about “the black male” and responsibility
*an excerpt from A Poetic Equation: Conversations Between Nikki Giovanni and Margaret Walker (1974), a “hot” conversation about generational differences in response to violence, individuality vs community responsibility, etc.

I am tempted to pull out quotes–there are some great zingers here (especially in regards to her early 70’s views about the feminist and unisex movements)–but I really think they should be read in context.

Okay, maybe a couple of quotes. This is from a 1983 interview with Claudia Tate where Nikki Giovanni explaining why she doesn’t read her older prose pieces (p 145):

“But I’m very much afraid to be trapped by what I’ve said. I don’t think life is inherently coherent. I thing what Emerson said about consistency being the hobgoblin of little minds is true. The more you reread your prose the more likely your’re going to try to justify what you’ve said.”

“If I never contradict myself then I’m either not not thinking or I’m conciliating positions and, therefore, not growing. There has to be a contradiction.”

The Essayist

devilfindsworkThe Devil Finds Work
James Baldwin
ISBN: 978-0-307-27595-0
(c) 1976

This is a book length essay in which James Baldwin talks about his relationship with movies/film. It’s personal reflections and autobiographical bits filtered in with observations about movies and, to a smaller degree, theater.

Seeing “classic” movies through the eyes of Baldwin was really eye opening for me. For example, I’d never thought about how a black person who lived through the 40s, 50s and 60s would view the (race fantasies?) In The Heat Of The Night (1967) or Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner (1967). I felt a powerful “yeah!” is the scene where Endicot and Mr. Virgil Tibbs exchange slaps:

But in 1967 would a black audience have rolled their eyes at this? Would the reality of life hinder a suspension of disbelief. Heat and Dinner were written for mainstream audiences, feel good movies about progress. Well meaning, but for Baldwin, missing the mark in so many places…

He talks about Lady Sings The Blues in contrast and comparison to Billy Holiday’s real life–as well as his own adventure as the writer a biographical screenplay in Holiday. Basically, never forget that every biography you see on screen has been crafted for entertainment and not truth.

Another great thing about this book is that it introduced me to several movies that I’d never never heard of. Before the 70’s horror movie with a similar title, there was I Spit On Your Graves (1959). According to Mr. Baldwin, the film version (like most adaptations) veers away from Boris Vian’s 1946 novel–which I’ve put on my reading list.

Let’s have a quote from this one, too. In discussing the the superiority of theater (not the sanitized, Broadway version) over movies (p 35):

“Here [the theater], nothing corroborated any of my fantasies: flesh and blood was being challenged by flesh and blood. It is said that the camera cannot lie, but rarely do we allow it to do anything else, since the camera sees what you point it at: the camera sees what you want it to see. The language of the camera is the language of our dreams.”

The Golem
The Golem of HollywoodThe Golem of Hollywood
Jonathan Kellerman and Jesse Kellerman
ISBN 9780399162367
Pub Date: 9/16/2014

Picture it: you are a Jewish police detective suddenly assigned to a special, secret division that handles particularly unusual murders. You get to a crime scene and find clues that suggest that this strange, new killer appears to have ties to the Jewish community. The more you delve into the investigation, it becomes clear that this murder is not a singular event. In the midst of the human carnage, could there be a supernatural force for Justice muddying the waters?

This book is over 500 pages but it’s a fast paced and action packed. There’s a likeable but flawed detective, a mysterious woman and an intriguing case that incorporates Jewish culture and mythology.

Don’t know what a Golem is – it’s a man-made creature made of clay created to serve a master. Think of it like Frankenstein but powerful Rabbi and clay–not mad scientist and stitched up body parts. Actually, the concept pre-dates Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein and it’s thought that she was inspired by Golem mythology.

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