The dark side..


First I would start by saying that I do not know why this particular memory popped into my head. This is from a very long time ago. I’m going to date myself by sharing a few things in this story. This incident happened when I was about 12. I was still in junior high school. One of my classmates was having a party at their house. It was somewhere in the projects. I can’t remember who or where exactly, but this all took place in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn. Back then all you needed for a party were colored lightbulbs, preferably red, some music and some wine. Yes wine at 12. Shit gets real fast in the hood.

 I remember being in the living room where the party was happening. It was very dark so you couldn’t make out the faces of everyone there, but you could distinguish male from female. We were a bunch of horny adolescents. There was slow music playing and your mission as a guy was to find a girl to slow dance with you. Mind you I had no idea what the fuck I was doing, but I had to play it off like I was an old pro. I remember there being a small group of girls sitting on the sofa. Daring rejection, I reached out to one of them who seemed to have a really nice body. To my surprise she eagerly accepted my invitation. I remember her holding me so tight. I remember being lost in the smell of her body. My body reacted in ways that I had never really experienced. We stayed locked together for at least three songs. At one point I felt her fingers digging into me wanting more. She let out a breathy moan that turned me on to a point where I was about to explode. I kissed her and she went with it. I’m thinking to myself, I am the fucking man. Mind you I’m only 12. I had no idea what the fuck I was doing really but it seemed so natural. As the music ended, we separated. I couldn’t think of anything else but how to take this experience to the next level.

As the party ended, we both went out into the hallway which was brightly lit. It was the first chance I got to see her face.  She was a few shades darker than me and she had this huge birthmark on her face. It looked as if she had been in a fire. I remember saying to myself holy shit but trying not to show a reaction. I knew this girl from school. I had seen her being teased relentlessly about her looks. I know what you’re thinking, looks aren’t everything, but at 12 they are every fucking thing. I was disappointed but she was so taken by the fact that some boy had found her attractive I didn’t have the heart to show it.  She was heading home and I felt the least I could do was walk her home. So I did. 

We got to her house a little brother answered the door. He asked, Who is this? Almost as if I wasn’t there. She replied, this is my friend. Mind your business! To which his reaction was, ooooh Cheryl got a boyfriend! Cheryl got a boyfriend! He yelled this at the top of his voice running down the hall in the house as we came in behind him. I was thinking to myself,  I have a little brothers and I know they are stupid so that really didn’t bother me. But what happened next is why am telling you the story. Her mother and another sister were in the kitchen. I could hear her mother saying What? What? incredulously. The three of them stood in the doorway of the kitchen staring at me in disbelief. They were literally in shameless shock that some guy liked her. Her mother insisted that I come in so she could get a good look at me. Everyone was aghast staring at me. The girl was totally embarrassed. Her mother was completely blunt. She said that she never thought that her baby would ever find a man. Mind you, I’m only 12. This was blowing my mind beyond blown. They were looking at me as if I had come from another planet. I got asked a few questions about myself my age and things. I navigated it politely and excused myself to leave. Cheryl walked me to the door and apologized for her family. She said that I was the first guy that had ever shown her any interest. She also said something that I never forgot. She said it’s OK, I know I’m ugly, but thank you for the best night of my life, gave me a hug and closed the door.  

I think I may have seen her one other time at school after this. She was too shy to speak and I didn’t pursue. It was crazy awkward and I was unprepared. 

There was a lot to learn from this experience. I learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about sexuality. I learned a lot about maturity. I also learned that girls were way more mature than we were at that age. I believe that it was the first time that I had seen someone tell a brutally uncomfortable truth about themselves up close. I can do nothing but respect her bravery.

Beauty isn’t something you see..


It’s something you feel.

So, I go on photo walks to get some pictures of nature..everyday life. To really appreciate life, you have to look to nature..not the nature of our every day life, but the deep structure of matter. Accepting that life is an emergent property of the structure of the universe is just mindbogglingly beautiful and mysterious. Function arises from structure all the way down to the fabric of space time. You, me, everything between your eyes and these words all are part of the singularity that gave rise to our existence. I think about that every day and it puts things in perspective..

(thanks for visiting..you guys are making me very happy right now!)

Man crushed


I was laying on the couch listening to some old Stevie Wonder songs and today being Monday, a lot of folks participate in this social media theme #MCM or Man Crush Monday. (No luck on that front this way haha) But the combination had me reflecting back asking myself who were my crushes? My mind took me back to an incident that I totally buried until today that I will share.
When I was in high school, there was this girl named Crystal. She was in the music department. I believe she played the clarinet. Anyway, Crystal wasn’t the girl you’d notice at first glance, She wasn’t doe-eyed exotic or voluptuous..the types I’d usually pine for at that age, but she was average I’d say. As a matter of fact, we talked for a while before one day we were having a convo and I took the time to really check her out. She had the most perfect complexion I’d ever seen..milk chocolaty and buttery smooth. There was something about her full lips that just drew me in. I could literally hear myself saying to myself, ah man she’s beautiful. I realized that I was staring and so did she, to the point where she said, Why are you looking at me like that? Is something wrong? To which I replied, no there’s nothing wrong. I just like what I see. Mind you..this was way bold for me. I didn’t even have the time to check myself before the words just came out of my mouth. She just looked at me with this look of incredulity, like are you serious?

A little background is needed here. I was very popular in high school, but exceptionally insecure. I would joke around a lot as a means of deflection and to channel my anxiety at being the center of attention. A lot of girls found me attractive but I hated myself because of negative images put in my head about the typical black man’s features over the years. Whenever anyone would compliment me or say anything about my looks, I would get totally fucked up awkward. I convinced myself they were just saying that out of pity. So that’s why for me to say something like that to someone’s face was way way out of character. She laughed it off but her friend, Evelyn (yes, I’m calling you out too) was like, you go girl! So now we were both miserably embarrassed and changed the subject. It wouldn’t end there though.
Not too much longer after that, one day Crystal comes to tell me that she’s leaving PA (Performing Arts) and going to another school. I was fucking crushed. It was like my heart beat one big thump and then my soul left my body. I can remember us standing there in mutual disbelief of the power of that moment looking at each other in the hallway. I felt betrayed in some way. We weren’t dating or anything but it felt to me like abandonment. I struggled with those feelings for a bit and then I finally got the nerve to ask for her phone number. You see, I could tell that she liked me but was unsure how far to let it go. There were many rumors about me with girls, a lot was just talk. I had admirers but at that time, but nothing was happening with anyone else.
I can’t recall how long it was after that this situation I’m about to describe occurred. It was summer like.
I’d called and made arrangements to come by her house. I remember begging because she was very reluctant to have me over. She was fighting the feeling, I said to myself, and that’s not going to stand in my way. So off I went.
She lived in Harlem, in a housing development. I remember being intimidated that I was heading into another hood that I’d heard so many bad things about. It turned out to be nothing but hype. When I got to her place, I was greeted by her father. He was a huge individual. When he shook my hand, his hand covered my whole hand and part of my wrist. I was like wow, there is NO way I’m gonna go ANYTHING to piss this guy off. I bet if he slapped me, my sneakers would’ve come off. He was on his way to work, so we just exchanged pleasantries and he went out. Her mother was there doing something..not sure, but she was in the kitchen. Crystal was in the process of doing something with her hair. I think they were going out somewhere later, but she her hair was wet and she had a towel covering her head. She invited me into her room to talk, which I was very nervous about but went anyway. She excused herself and then came back in a tee shirt with that towel on her head. She might as well have been an Egyptian goddess. She was talking to me and I got caught again. She said, Darrell what? I’m like what what? She’s said, Why are you staring at me like that? Are you staring at my boobs? Which by the way were extremely visible and her nipples were like doorbell buttons waiting to be rung. At first I tried to restrain my mouth but I was again, caught up in the moment and just said I find you to be irresistible. She was like, stop being so damn cute and came to hug me. Then it happened. We looked at each other and I went in for the kill. I don’t know how long it was but I was completely taken away by how good this kiss felt. I’d never kissed anyone with lips as full as mine but it was incredible. She was enjoying it too. So much so that neither of us heard her mother open the door. All I heard was, Crystal..when you’re done, I want to speak with you, and she closed the door. We were like OMG! OMG! OMG! I immediately started apologizing. I was in a panic. How could I fuck this up so bad on the first move?? Her father is going to destroy me. I have to move to Canada.
It wasn’t over just yet.
She walked out, closing me in her room to confront her mother. I was sitting on her bed in total shock. I could hear them arguing. All I could make out was, get him out of my house. Needing no cue, I got myself together and started to head out. I stepped out, said to her mother, I apologize. I was wrong. I’ve disrespected your home. it was all me. I meant no harm but I will go. Crystal then did the totally unexpected. She said, No..you’re my company. You leave when I say it’s ok to leave. I’m like no no she didn’t..no she did not just nuke her mom in front of me. Realizing that a save was seriously needed in that awkward moment that followed, I said, no..You’re mother is right. I have to go and I headed towards the door, with as much intention as to end this disaster and to save my own life. Crystal then grabs me and says, “You’re not leaving without me”. I felt like I was in a bad dream that would eventually end with me getting shot at this point. Her mother roared back, “You’re not going anywhere”. To which Crystal replied, “Watch me” and proceeded to get her keys and a jacket. I was dumbfounded at this point. I’d never ever ever seen a black girl speak to her mother like that and live. She got her stuff and walked me back to the train station. We talked for a bit. I was so concerned about what was going to happen to Crystal that I would have done anything to make it better. She assured me she’d deal and thanked me for coming. I then said the magic words..I love you. She grabbed my mouth and said, “Don’t say that! Just don’t! Ok??” I was completely lost. She just kissed me and walked away. I called her later and she said she would explain. She agreed to have me come to her new school. There was a show that she was in. So I went.
It was there as we sat in the auditorium that she told me she had a boyfriend, but she liked me as a friend. No sooner than the words came out of her mouth did he show up asking her Is everything ok? She dismissively introduced me as her friend from the other school and he went on. That train ride home was one of the longest of my life..

Grandma’s hands


I find it especially weird that a lot of people don’t remember their childhood but I remember practically every moment. The other day I was in the grocery store and I came across a jar of Grandma’s molasses. I said to myself, wow it’s been a long time since I’ve even seen this. So I bought it. Mind you I’m on a diet but I decided to have a couple of spoons of molasses in low fat milk instead of a meal. This is something I used to do when I was a kid but for a different reason. So after having a swig, I started having flashbacks.
When I was younger, I used to spend a lot of time with my grandparents down in North Carolina. They lived very close to the earth. By that I mean everything that they ate was homegrown. One of the favorite things that I loved was buttered biscuits and molasses. I can still remember seeing the steam coming from a freshly opened hot homemade biscuit. Dipping your biscuit in a small part of molasses and wolfing it down was my version of nirvana.
I also remembered my grandmother canning fruits (and a various assortment of other things). I remember asking myself why do they call it canning when you’re putting stuff in jars?
One of my other favorite things was the way my grandmother used to make corn off the cob. She had this tool, for lack of a better description, that was essentially a piece of wood with an opening in it. This opening had a metal blade in it and it was used to strip the kernels from the corn. I can still hear her humming as she was preparing a batch for dinner.she would stir-fry this in a pan with butter and it would be so frigging good. Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe I’ll make some myself soon.

So, there I was, in my kitchen with my molasses milk, which I was having in a mason jar, souvenir courtesy of Joe’s Crab Shack, in complete awe of how many memories one sip could bring.

The year that was


2014 was as year that re-shaped and reignited my desire to be creative. To delve deeper into who I am. Peeling back layers of changes I’ve gone through over the years trying to please others or focus on someone else’s agenda. That’s the kind of person I was in relationships and over the years I kinda lost myself. I realize even more so now that you should never shut down who you are and anyone that insists on it is not for you.

These are a few shots I want to share from this past year that I thought came out pretty good. I think the measure of a good photo is that it should pull the viewer into the moment. That is what I tried to do. I used different processing methods for added effect. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did attempting to reach that goal.

The Persistence of Memory


This past Friday, I attended a gathering of my high school friends in NYC. They aren’t just “friends” in the literal sense. Our relationships go way deeper than that. It’s to a point of undescription.(yeah I made that up). With them it’s not about doing things together..it’s all about being in the same space and basking in an energy that recharges the soul.

As the night progressed, the year books came out. Typically, this is the stage where we each share tidbits about our classmates, giving updates on their last known whereabouts and rehashing embarrassing moments…then someone had brought a yearbook of the class that graduated a year ahead of us.  I will preface this story with the fact that I talked to a lot of my upperclassmen from practically day one, so there was a lot of history there. I was not prepared for how much. Each turn of the page was as if vast forgotten swaths of my consciousness were being revealed to me. How could this be? How could I have forgotten so many that were so dear, so profound, so much a part of who I am? For a moment I felt displaced..out of body, then profoundly sad. How did I let this happen? I felt like I was reliving transplanted memories of someone else, someone that used to exist across a great empty chasm of time. A pause and then a realization that this very moment, that very feeling, was why it was necessary to be there, to take it all in, hold that moment in my heart and never let go.

The good fight


I’m sorry just tell you that my friend, Dwayne Cunningham, lost his battle for life. He fought the good fight, but in the end that diabolical disease of lupus was too devastating.
A few weeks ago we had a conversation. He was in rehab but he had a relapse and was considering going back to the hospital for more surgery. During that conversation he said to me that he was tired and felt like giving up. Normally one would encourage the person not to think that way, but something inside of me told me that I should just listen. I truly understood the level of his suffering and encouraging him to endure more seemed selfish and unrealistic. I knew that he was near the end at that moment. It was hard to say goodbye to such a close and dear friend. The only solace I can take away from this is that he is no longer suffering.